Category Archives: Politics

#455 International Herald Tribune visit

One of the podcasts I enjoyed the most, thank you Thomas Crampton and Michael Oreskes for this International Herald Tribune in Paris visit. See how the IHT is made (“how the sausage is made” as they say) and also very interesting conversations I think around user generated content, blogs and journalism.

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#452 How the Internet is changing politics

We had a very interesting conversation with a group of european entrepreneurs about how the Internet is changing politics, I thought I could give you a short summary in video:

1. more authenticity, transparency, fewer lies

2. new leaders

3. more participation

4. ease to raise funds

5. new way to govern, listen more, govern with the people

6. risk of acting short term rather than long term

7. groups, kids, can have a collective voice (positive: against war in Iraq, negative: terrorists hiring young muslims)

8. making current institutions and media history

9. more global versus more local, raising influence of private internet organisations such as Google, Gates investing more than the World bank

10. power shifting to the long tail ? will current organisations survive the Internet ? (new light organisations can touch tens of millions, such as Bebo few employees but 10s of millions of users)

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Nicolas Sarkozy house warming party tonight


President Nicolas Sarkozy finally organized his house warming party tonight at the Elysée Palace. I know, I know, but I could not help but post this picture. I am hopeless.

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Closing the Sarkozy campaign chapter

As this campaign finishes, I congratulated Nicolas Sarkozy and his team, I learnt a lot and was proud to have the opportunity to be one of Sarkozy’s advisors during this campaign. I was impressed by the professionalism and enthusiasm of team. The work accomplished has been huge. A good occasion for me to come back to how I got involved.

I had never been interested much in politics and as the presidential elections approached, I thought it was a good time for me, as I was 34, to try to understand it better. I started by trying to make a series of podcasts with most political parties, except the extremes, left or right, which I am not very interested in. Thanks to my blog in France and the help of my readers, I podcasted many policital figures from all parties, to get a sense of who were the leaders. In 2006, I podcasted the socialists Dominique Strauss-Khan, Jack Lang, Arnaud Montebourg (before he was spokesperson of Ségolène Royal), the centrists François Bayrou (I was behind the camera for this one) and several conservatist party political figures, the most important one being of course the podcast with Nicolas Sarkozy.

The two political figures who impressed me the most were Nicolas Sarkozy and Dominique Strauss-Khan. After this series of podcasts, I started blogging about french politics and to be transparent with my blog readers, decided to tell them I decided early to vote for Nicolas Sarkozy and I said it on my blog in September 2006. It was for me a choice as a citizen and honesty I thought as a blogger, to say it.

Sarkozy’s team contacted me and offered me to become an advisor on Internet topics, I gladly accepted to participate in an Internet committee every week, a couple of hours, but that was all, I did not even take any membership in the party, and this is still the case today.

I started preparing my conference LeWeb3 in november 2006 and had the crazy idea to invite the three main presidential candidates to talk to the bloggers, at the very last minute. It was not prepared and was not an attempt for me to help Sarkozy as many people thought afterwards, but rather I thought an interesting opportunity for the participants of the conference, coming from 37 countries. Two candidates came, the centrist François Bayrou, who was “the third man” during the elections, and Nicolas Sarkozy. I would have not had any if only one of them, including Sarkozy, had accepted, especially as I said in public I was backing him. Bayrou took questions, Sarkozy delivered a speech without taking any questions -the absence of questions being not very appropriate with a room full of bloggers- and Royal refused to show up. Far from understanding the reaction I would get when I took this decision, I made the mistake of not asking the room what they thought about it and the reaction was huge and I explained myself in a very detailed way.

Six months after the conference, I know that most participants do not blame me for this and were happy about the opportunity. There will be another LeWeb3 in 2007, but I learnt from my mistakes and will be closer to the participants to make decisions, I have heard them. If I regret the way I handled it, I do not regret having had two candidates now a President talking to us, I am proud of it, as I think the Web influencers, the bloggers and the political figures should start getting closer to each other, talk and collaborate, rather than stay in two different circles of society.

Shortly after the conference, in December 2006, the Sarkozy team invited me to get much more involved, they asked me to join the campaign team as one of the internet advisors, which I accepted. The most intense moment of the campaign for me was when they invited me to be on stage with Nicolas Sarkozy, in front of tens of thousands of French people in the audience, and many more on TV as it was broadcasted live. I liked my role, I was live on the web, took thousands of questions from the Internet, was on IM and monitoring blogs during the entire debates (three of them in Paris, Lyon and Bordeaux). I selected the questions and asked them directly to Nicolas Sarkozy, who answered. When I thought the answer was unclear, I asked again several questions, until the people who asked them were happy about their answer, which was an interesting experience.


photo: Marco Pirrone

I finally joined the Sarkozy campaign as one of Internet advisors and took care about the conversation. That means anywhere on web, in a decentralized way. Based on the previous debates experience, I thought I should start by finding a way to sort the questions and launched a digg-like for Sarkozy, debat-sarkozy, people could ask their question, then vote for the most important one, and Nicolas Sarkozy committed to answer the questions: 1500 questions were answered and more than 8000 comments appeared on the site, a good start.

We started having a very close relationship with bloggers from all political areas of society, invited them to the campaign headquarters every week to meet a political figure, about a thousand bloggers showed support to Sarkozy, many others who would not vote for him were still happy to be in touch with us, and by the dialog that was created. We also created groups for Sarkozy in most social software sites (Flickr, YouTube, Netvibes, dailymotion…). About one hundred bloggers showed up every week at the campaign headquarters, and not all of them were supporting Sarkozy.

I also launched an island in Second Life, l’ile Sarkozy, which has been an amazing experience. The island has been managed by voluntaries who created the buildings and monitored it 24 hours a day, more than 400 avatars joined a Sarkozy group and many became residents of the island. We survived attacks from opponents which were interesting to see, bumbs, naked people, insults, mines dropped, weapons, demonstrations…. The island has been packed during the entire campaign, reaching the SL max avatars limit most of the time. The most interesting for me was when we started streaming the debates at the real headquarters in the virtual hearquarter on SL and had lots of interactivity, we took questions from SL and had the political figure answer them. The conversation and bridge between the virtual and the real life was fascinating. The voluntary work has been impressive.

This is one of the most striking difference between the business and the political world. How much voluntary there is and all so how much aggressivity. For the first time in four years of blogging, I had to start moderating my french blog. Criticism, rumors, out-of-law and insulting comments came by hundreds every day, most of them anonymous. The socialists recognized that they even asked their supporters to get easier on my blog as some of them were just dedicated to flooding me with fake and anonymous comments. My blog has been moderated 24 hours a day and thousands of comments deleted, I wrote a charter of behavior and managed to keep the conversation going, less comments, but better quality, of course criticism is still welcome: I banned mostly insults (we can use normal french language) and anything against the law.

But the most important reason for me to join forces with Sarkozy was because I thought France had to become more entrepreneurial. The Internet can become an entire economic sector in our Country, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs by bridging the economic ecosystem between entrepreneurs, business angels, venture capitalists and other players as it is happening in Silicon Valley. I was pleased to work with Sarkozy’s team on the Internet program of the President and see that most of my proposals were added to the program. The first example is about helping entrepreneurs get funded: up to 50 000 € of wealth tax (that means millions of euros at an individual scale as the wealth tax is a few % of your net here) will be cancelled if the funds are invested in startups. Second example is tax free Internet activity at personal level to encourage people creating their own jobs such as selling on Ebay or blog revenues… The hope is to create thousands of people self employed by their own Internet activity, making them entrepreneurs. The entire economic program of Sarkozy is also very compatible to entrepreneurship: less taxes, more flexibility with hiring/firing, no 35 hours a week maximum, etc. There are many more measures planned and I trust Sarkozy will apply them.

As this Entrepreneur compatible program was seen good by many, I helped gather a list of hundreds of internet entrepreneurs, Internet users and bloggers to support Sarkozy and accept to say they would vote for him in a Country where it is not cultural to do so. Marc Simoncini, head and founder of Meetic the #2 dating site Worldwide, said in a podcast why he decided to back him despite the fact he had voted for the socialists all his life. Marc also wants to be able to create more easily in France and see the French more focused on work rather than complaining all the time. Pierre Chappaz, founder of several internet successes (amongst them Kelkoo, #1 in ecommerce, sold to Yahoo!), also joined as well as tens of other Internet figures in France. I cannot quote them all but thank them again.

The campaign has been a unique opportunity for me to discover the political world that I knew nothing about (and still don’t know much about), and realize that despite the differences with the business world, most people involved are great professionals, impressive by their commitment and seriousness.

It is now that Nicolas Sarkozy is elected that the most important part begins. Change France. Make it more entrepreneurial. More focused on work rather than complaining. More focused on the future than the past. I trust Nicolas Sarkozy to do the job, time will tell. I also trust the Internet will be important for his team.

It’s been lots of fun, learnt a lot, now I am back to business focusing in my next startup.

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#375 Answering blogger friends questions about Sarkozy’s law against “happy-slapping”

There have been many questions from blogger friends about the law to fight “happy-slapping” that Sarkozy defended. I have to say I just learnt about this controversy and the fact I said I would vote for Sarkozy and (try to) help him in his online campaign and his internet programme does not make me somebody who knows everything he does or support all decisions he makes. There are hundreds of people who work both at the interior ministery and the campaign headquartes, I am just a blogger citizen who decided to support him, no more. I am not paid by him, I have no official job there, I am not a politician. I am free to cancel my support to him anytime if there are decisions I do not like. Being a blogger and having done close to 400 audio and video podcasts, for sure I would not support any law going against citizen journalism and freedom of speech, like you. This is not the case here.

Being close to him and his team gave me the opportunity today to tell them immediately about the questions raised and get an answer in a matter of hours. My role ends here I do not answer for him, I took the messenger role, and will be happy to get more questions about this if needed. This is one of the reasons why I think it is good we have more bloggers with any political idea being plugged in the political process and having an access to them.

In my opinion, this is a tempest in a teapot because nobody (jounalists or bloggers) seem to have taken the time to verify what was the law saying in details. It is ok I also blog most of the time without doing a real investigation, but we should be careful about not looking like tabloid writers rather than citizen journalists about this law.

-the law aims at fighting “happy slapping” only (filming orchestrated violence and sharing the images on the web, the intention being to harm the victim)

-the law only applies to “severe violence”, being defined in French law in a very detailed way (such as torture or barbarous acts, causing permanent injuries or death, rape, etc).

-the law precisely explains that it is NOT APPLICABLE when the recording or the broadcasting:

* results from the “normal exercise of a profession whose object is to inform the public”. The journalist word is not quoted, and the law was probably designed a year or two ago when the citizen journalism movement was not that large.

* “it is done in order to be used as proof or evidence” – i.e., to alert the authorities

-the intent of the authors will be taken into account

-the Rodney King case in 1991, filmed by George Holliday was recorded and broadcasted to alert the public and the authorities of the authorities of the abuse, ie. to serve as a proof and would not be prohibited under the law

-severe violence reported by citizen journalism would not be prohibited under the law as long as the citizen journalist did it in order to alert the authorities. The law requests that he not only broadcasts the video but also alerts the authorities ie. it is ok to record and broadcast, but do also assist the victim by calling the police at the same time…
Thanks, Ethan, for the podcast.

Is France more communist than China ?

I had interesting conversations on this quaestion with my friend Bo Y. Shao who created the equivalent of Ebay in China and sold it to them. Bo thinks France is more communist than China and of course posting it on on my french blog generated many reactions from my french readers. I decided to publish a short podcast below on why Bo thinks France is so “communist” and to organize a panel at Web3 between Bo and Pierre Haski (author of Five Years in China and journalist at the left wing close to bankruptcy Liberation newspaper) where we will discuss precisely this question. It is going to be quite interesting I think…


David Cameron podcasts in his kitchen

David Cameron, UK leader of the Conservative Party, has started a very cool podcast series where he is totally natural in his kitchen with his daughter in the background… A new way to discover our politicians. Carry on, David ! via Laurent

My French blog is on fire since I announced I would vote for Nicolas Sarkozy


picture: Paris-Match showing Nicolas Sarkozy surrounded by journalists and a few accredited bloggers at the last UMP university, where 12 bloggers had a press badge, a first ever in France, I’m on the left corner 😉

Hundreds of comments and more than 20 000 page views a day currently on my french blog as I announced that I decided to vote for Nicolas Sarkozy at the next 2007 presidential elections.

The reason I did that is that Nicolas Sarkozy, currently #2 in Government and future candidate is the only politician in France to my knowledge to say he wants to transform France into a “nation of entrepreneurs” when entrepreneurs are often seen as “enemies of the State” these days, so I can only support him. Of course, many people disagree… The French AP AFP and Reuters published the news straight from my blog so it’s also rock and rolling in the press… [-] Here the presidential race will probably be won with a very tiny portion of votes, so I anticipate blogs to play a big role in the elections.

France’s political parties pursue millions of voters in the blogosphere

A Financial Times article by Martin Arnold. There were 10 bloggers invited at this year’s French political party UMP convention with the youth. I will post more later on the topic.