I have 200ideas for you

Update: the article is now online here.

You will find an article on 200ideas in this week’s Bilan, further illustrating the drama event organizers have to face every year, i.e. being in the spotlight when you are the most 1) tired 2) stressed 3) pale.

Thanks to Stéphane Benoît-Godet for a great discussion capturing the essence of what I am trying to achieve with this new project. I promise the readers of this blog a longer update of my current projects, and on 200ideas: a business event, in French, for local decision makers, happening in ten days in Geneva.

Wikipedia: from 51000 active editors in 2007 to 31000 in 2013

The Decline of #Wikipedia, which went from  51,000 active editors in 2007 to only 31,000. This is the story of how “the encyclopedia that anyone can edit” became “the encyclopedia that anyone who understands the norms, socializes him or herself, dodges the impersonal wall of semi-automated rejection and still wants to voluntarily contribute his or her time and energy can edit“.

Among the significant problems that aren’t getting resolved is the site’s skewed coverage: its entries on Pokemon and female porn stars are comprehensive, but its pages on female novelists or places in sub-Saharan Africa are sketchy. Authoritative entries remain elusive. Of the 1,000 articles that the project’s own volunteers have tagged as forming the core of a good encyclopedia, most don’t earn even Wikipedia’s own middle-­ranking quality scores.

The main source of those problems is not mysterious. The loose collective running the site today, estimated to be 90 percent male, operates a crushing bureaucracy with an often abrasive atmosphere that deters newcomers who might increase participation in Wikipedia and broaden its coverage.


I’ve said this a while ago, one of the flaw in our universe’s design is that openness can not scale.

A challenge for my maker friends

Here is a challenge for all my maker friends: I’m organizing an event in November (more news on this coming next week).

  • I want the public to be able to like the content in real time.
  • Every time a slide comes up, you should have a way to say “like!”.
  • Depending on the number of likes, the color of the light in the room will change. Few likes = blue, lots of like = red.

This will create a nice interaction between the speakers and the audience. The speaker will know in real time how people react to what he/she is presenting. So I need:

  1. a system to collect likes from 350 people (remotes? camera counting number of raised hands? anythine else?)
  2. live feedback on how many people are voting

Then a light operator will, depending on the feedback, do the color changes. What is your solution to do this, knowing I have a pretty decent budget – and only 3 weeks until the event…

Jobs vs automation

I was asked in an interview whether automation was killing jobs. It is a deep topic that will demand a lot of research. But let’s start with this piece that says automation has positive effects on jobs in the end.

At least since Karl Marx, people have been predicting that technology would create mass unemployment. However, these predictions were consistently wrong because they ignored the offsetting benefits of automation. For example, during the 19th century, machines took over tasks performed by weavers, eliminating 98 percent of the labor needed to weave a yard of cloth. But this mechanization also brought a benefit: It sharply reduced the price of cloth, so people consumed much more. Greater demand for cloth meant that the number of textile jobs quadrupled despite the automation.

Something similar is happening in quite a few occupations today. Because ATMs perform many teller transactions, fewer tellers are needed to operate a bank branch. But because it costs less to operate a branch office, banks dramatically increased the number of branches in order to reach a bigger market. More bank branches means more tellers, despite fewer tellers per branch.


Guidelines for Better Lunches

I do my best to support young entrepreneurs and students, and I have regular “lunch with a stranger” meetings that connect me to new faces practically every week. I usually give 3-4 hours a week to other people’s projects; it’s something I like to do as it expands my horizons. I get a lot of requests, for which I am very grateful, but lately my inbox has really been piling up, so to help save everyone precious time, I thought I’d share a few guidelines for those of you who would like to contact me:

  • I cannot read your 60-page business plan. It’s challenging enough keeping up with regular mail, so I won’t even look at the attachments in a cold email. If you are a startup, a business model canvas is about as far as I can go to assess your business model on first contact.
  • Don’t ask me to answer your life questions. Don’t know what to study or research? I’m sorry but these open questions can’t easily be answered, and it would be irresponsible of me to give an opinion without knowing you better. These are hard questions and there are no shortcuts.
  • Be specific. It’s easier for me to help you if you have some idea of what you’re looking for. Don’t say, “I want to meet someone who can help my business”. Say, “I’m looking for a business angel active in the Geneva area that invests in financial startups”. Also, personal messages have a better chance of getting answered. But you knew that.
  • Usually if you have lots of relevant questions I will propose we meet for lunch, either in Lausanne or Geneva. Meeting in person allows me to better understand what I can do for you, and it’s a good excuse for you to focus on clarifying your questions.
  • I try to answer queries as quickly and as diligently as possible, but I am also an entrepreneur who is managing projects, clients, and a busy home life. I am not always available, and if I tell you there is nothing I can do, it’s after carefully reviewing the available options and concluding that there is no fit.
  • I only take advisory roles that are paid and that don’t conflict with my existing activities. I have seen too many informal ‘boards’ become useless because they are never consulted. I believe that if you pay someone to advise you, 1) you will actually consult that person, and, 2) listen to what he has to say.
  • One last thing: please don’t make me feel completely old, call me Laurent 😉

I look forward to meeting you.