Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Proud Internaut

[Cross posted from A Year in Barcelona.]

When we lived in the States and there were considerably less Catalans around with whom to keep up the language, I used to look around on the internet for ways to practice. Several years ago, I found a radio show called L‘Internauta, whose tagline I just love: “a program about technology, but more importantly, about what people do with technology”. I would download the podcasts, and listen to them in my car, incongruously hearing Catalan while seeing America.

But it wasn’t just language practice. The program is directed by a guy named Vicent Partal, who also began and runs one of the most, if not the most, important source of Catalan news online, Vilaweb. He is a great radio host: knowledgeable and self-effacing, warm and personable. Each week he finds really interesting people to talk with on the show: a group beginning a twitter-based book club, a Catalan programmer-cum-entrepreneur who has written award-winning tools for social marketing, a rural group that used the internet as an organizational tool, and many more. And there are also regular guests, who help direct the conversation to the topics of the week, be they new products, viruses, or general technology news. It always seemed like they were talking about just what I needed to know more about, and I learned a lot. OK, and I can't deny I'm intrigued by how Vicent, who is from Valencia,  conjugates verbs!

Those of you who've read my books know that I tend to use a lot of examples from Catalunya. Usually, I just use my own photographs in order to avoid dealing with rights issues, but several years ago, I needed an example of a video on YouTube. I'd never corresponded with Vicent before, but I thought I'd ask him if he wouldn't mind if I used one of Vilaweb's broadcasts. I'm not sure what he thought of this American stranger writing him in Catalan with such an unusual request, but he kindly gave me permission and you can see the results on pages 306-7 of the Sixth Edition of my HTML book.

Over the next few years, as I listened more assiduously to L’Internauta, and read Vicent's editorials in Vilaweb, often about Catalunya's struggle for independence, I would write Vicent emails from time to time. Probably “fan mails” would be more accurate. I was just an admirer, impressed with the technology, his political insight, and his obvious caring about people. Once in a while, I would suggest some collaboration, and even tried translating Vilaweb articles into English for a time.

It's a curious relationship. There are a few people who follow me in this way too, folks who have used my books to start their careers and then write me letters every once in a while, and update me on what they're doing. I think it's part of how the internet works, and I like it. Somehow it connects us all together.

A few weeks ago, they opened a new Apple Store in Barcelona. I used the purchase of Pages (which can now export to EPUB!) as an excuse to go visit. And there among the throngs of devotees, I recognized Vicent Partal. It took me a while to get up the gumption, but I finally went over and introduced myself. He was perfectly friendly, but distracted with the business he had come to do. I still left happy that I had finally met in person someone I really admired.

When I got home, I was pleasantly surprised to find an email from Vicent. And when I told him about my latest book on EPUB, he suggested I be a guest on L’Internauta. That was today. At first I was really nervous, but it was so fun. It's going to sound stupid, but I love talking about EPUB. I love that anyone can publish a book, that you don't need a publisher, or expensive software, and I love helping people do it. I'm totally intrigued with how the whole market is shifting and how publishing is changing, and I've spent the last six months following all sorts of interesting people on Twitter to learn more about it. And it was really special to be on my own favorite radio program!

I think I've explained this whole thing because this, for me, is the beauty of the internet: making connections with people who might be far away and might speak other languages, but who have a common interest and are willing to share what they know. This is what that blog post the other day about print versus ebooks was getting at: How long are you willing to bet against people using things into beauty? I bet on beauty winning out.


  1. What a great story! Congrats too!

  2. Us he escoltat aquest matí i m'ha semblat molt interessant tot el que has/heu explicat. Felicitats per tot!


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