Archive for September 7th, 2009

September 7th, 2009

@jeffjarvis bigotry against French & dissonance in general

by Laurent François


I’m a bit sad today.

I read the reaction of Jeff Jarvis which affected a lot of French observers, like me. And specifically this charge against French journalists and…to a certain extent, French in general:

“Last night, I got email from a Le Monde journalist who said, “I’m on the way to write an article about Google facing a rising tide of discontent concerning privacy and monopoly.” She went on to wonder whether these critics would move to Bing and, at the same time, whether Google would become the next Microsoft with a negative image and government pressure (aren’t those two questions inherently contradictory?).
I wanted to know if it was possible for you to respond to my questions?

I threw out my glass of Bordeaux (it had turned) and poured a nice American cabernet and then responded:

There’s one problem: I do not buy the premise of your story. I’ve seen this story again and again, especially from France. I’m not sure what it is the French have against Google, but it’s some form of national insanity, I think. Most French publishers rejected my book, What Would Google Do?, because they said they wanted a diatribe against Google – that, it appears, is the French reflex. Only after I blogged that did my brave publisher come forward and publish it as La méthode Google.

Do some people complain about Google? Yes, it is often the same people who complain about the internet and about change and technology and simply use Google as their target simply because it is so big and so innovative.”

Few points:

  • Jeff does probably not read foreign newspapers & social media, but the French context is pretty tensed against Google because of the BNF issue. Funny enough, French citizens are not talking about a fight between BNF vs Google (the little Gaulois vs the American monster) but more about the future of some historic ressources. A library is made for the common good. Google for business. It can appear normal to open a debate. And Jeff, you’re the one who talks about our supposed “reflex”. Let’s have a Brouilly and discuss why a Bordeaux cannot be compared to a Cabernet (just a provocative sentence, but after all, it’s part of your business)
  • about the “same people who complain about the internet etc.“. One more time, it’s pretty sad you don’t read French-or don’t ask French for a little explanation. People who brought Google into BNF are not the top technological / internet gurus. Moreover, the people who brought the media attention on this specific topic are clever guys, very open to the Internet and even more aware of knowledge-sharing issues. I’m a bit surprised you wrote the opposite
  • finally, about the publishers’ stuff: you’re right, the French context is complicated, and there’s often a kind of Omerta for some little kingdoms. It’s a pity you discredit the whole French in general whereas a lof of us are on your side

Jeff, I hope you’ll go back to Bordeaux soon. And assume that internet is made to break stereotypes, moreover on such complicated topics.

September 7th, 2009

MODEM Summer university embedded: social media at stake

by Laurent François


I had the opportunity this week-end to take part to a conference @Modem summer university – centre party in France (too complicated to get into details) around new possibilities thanks to online activism.

I don’t go too further on my own speech, as a video will be broadcast in few days. Basically, my point was to break 4 stereotypes that are promoted in general opinion about social web:

  1. “social web is not mainstream nor “real life””
  2. “you need to make a buzz to be heard in digital political field”
  3. “the young are the only producers of information”
  4. “it’s anarchy online”

But what really matters and what really interested me are the questions that the Modem activists asked:

  • how to be authentic? aka there are internal debates that must remain confidential, but how to involve observers/citizens in the whole process
  • how to centralize and coordinate the actions?
  • who are those bloggers?
  • how can I leverage at my local level some digital influence
  • etc.

What I really appreciated is the pragmatism they had, and the focus on value proposition:

we have great ideas, we first need to agree on a common storyline, to listen to people in the meantime, and then in probably 2/3 years we’ll be ready for engaging deeply citizens.

And that’s the key trouble trouble, though. As Thierry mentioned in his very negative post about the event:

“avoir une vraie idée dans une vie, c’est beau. Être capable d’en sortir 150, c’est absurde. “
(rough translation: to have a single idea/purpose in life, it’s great. To have 150, it’s absurd/non-sense)

So digital influence work could be a way to change their internal organisation and to help it structure assets, programs, stories. Digital influence is far more than promotion of ideas: it’s a matter of management.

I’ll keep you posted!