Summary of workshop discussions

Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 15:52 | Posted in Estonia, Finland, helsinki, internet, Media, social media, tallinn | 7 Comments
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This is a summary of discussions in the workshop  “Bloggers, portals and social media” in Helsinki Tallinn Euregio Forum in Tallinn.  The workshop took place on 14th September 2010. My Finnish live reporting of discussions on 15th December is here.

Social media workshop

Social media is not going to set up the agenda of a future twin city but it is a tool in composing and developing it. It offers tools for citizens, businesses and administrations to discuss and and share their arguments and goals.

Community tools, such as video blogs and map based community software make it possible for grassroot communities in both cities to interact directly. A good example of this is the similar character – historically, demographically and visually – of Uus Maailm in Tallinn and Käpylä-Kumpula in Helsinki. Tools of social media make it eaiser than hitherto to common interest communities like these to “discover” each other and interact both virtually and in “real” life.

The idea of a twin city region is not new. It has been discussed for years but very little has materialized. Both these discussions and – hopefully – ideas that will eventually become reality should be recorded for future. The idea of a community composed wiki arose in our discussions and we warmly support it.

As businesses have learned, a successful usage of social media is not free. The platforms are in general free but you need to allocate resources. This goes for the public sector as well. If you obligate a worker to maintain a large and time consuming visability in channels of social media you can not reasonably expect them to carry on with their other obligations.

People using social media on behalf of their public sector employer have a legitimate concern of mixing their public roll with their private personal profile in social media, Facebook in particular. Luckily, most platforms, Facebook included, offer tools to address this issue. Public sector employers need to actively draw their personnel’s attention to this kind of problems.

Not only were our discussions deep and good in quality. We addressed a broad range of issues and it would be impossible to give you a full acoount of everything. Luckily, the discussions were recorded both by Tallinn TV and by volunteer participants of the group. The former recording is going to be made available at Tallinn TV web site and the raw material of the latter may become available as a downloadable torrent and Common Creatives licencing.

It has been said that the purpose of the Talsinki Hellin twin city concept is that the two cities will grow together. This does not mean that Helsinki is going to become a suburb of Tallinn. Much less so the other way round.

The process of growing together into a real twin city, a twin city with living people, prosperous businesses and a good government must be fulfilled for the benefit of the people, by the people. Social media can offer a channel to distribute the will of the people.

Edit: You will find most of the presentations at the forum here.

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The giant cocktail party called social media

Thursday, September 9, 2010 at 14:21 | Posted in Estonia, Finland, helsinki, internet, Media, social media, tallinn | 1 Comment
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This post is a part of my preparations for the  Helsinki-Tallinn Euregio Forum to take place in Tallinn on 14th and 15th September 2010. I am going to co-moderate with Barbi Pilvre a workgroup for bloggers, portals and social media. I have posted related links onto the Facebook page of the group.

As Seth Godin says on this video clip, the Internet is a giant cocktail party which certainly also goes for social media. It does not matter if you have 5000 followers in Twitter because you tell a dirty joke every two hours. If you want to be connected with people that matter for you, your input to social media needs to add value for them. You need to build your relationship with your contacts in a way that promotes your goals and theirs equally.

Vesa Ilola writes in his blog (Finnish) about organising a business oriented cocktail party in social media. While the post (as well as what Serh Godin says in the clip above) relates to businesses, the basics also apply to public sector. A cocktail party hosted by a government on any level (local, regional, central) takes place in the same giant ballroom whereby creating and maintaining contacts that matter happens much the same way.

No matter whether you are an individual, corporate or private business or indeed a municipal government you need a plan, a manuscript of your virtual cocktail party. While the platform is (more often than not) free, you still need to allocate resources such as time, staff and intellectual effort to keep your party going smoothly and to reach your goals. You also need to listen, interact and breathe together with your contacts in social media.

“Is the public sector, especially municipalities, flexible enough to interact in the ever-changing media space?” That is one of the crucial questions the Helsinki-Tallinn Euregio Forum is seeking to answer. Corporate businesses may have hard time understanding that social  media is a two way street where you need a totally new approach to interacting. Municipal government has traditionally been an environment where creative thinking and flexibility have not exactly been encouraged. But municipal bodies just have to rethink their approach unless they want to get alienated from their citizens and the everyday life of citizens.

Incidentally, politicians who (are supposed to) run the government, seem to have even a bigger problem with orientating in the rapidly changing giant ballroom environment. In this interview in Kansan Uutiset (Finnish) Jussi Lähde predicts that right or wrong approach to social media is going to make a huge difference with several seats filled in the Finnish parliamentary election in April 2012. Do you still think that social media is something that does not effect the way a municipal government works? Think again!

The media landscape revolution is not only a future prospect. Much of it has already taken place and most municipal governments (politicians and civil service alike) are lagging behind. They can not afford to ignore the giant cocktail party called social media or they are going to be ignored themselves.

Still not convinced? Just take a few minutes to watch this clip and digest the facts displayed!

Twin city tourism in social media

Friday, August 27, 2010 at 2:10 | Posted in Estonia, Finland, helsinki, internet, Media, social media, tallinn | 1 Comment
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In my previous post about Helsinki-Tallinn Euregio Forum I wrote that I had not detected active usage of social media by any governmental or municipal organisation in Finland. I did write, however, that there is a growing interest in social media in administrations of Tallinn and Helsinki and it is probably being used “in a light scale” by both.

Today I discovered that Helsinki City Tourist office, in addition to their traditional web site, also have an active presence in YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I would have embedded the lead video clip of their YouTube channel but they unfortunately seem to have disabled embedding. Something to reconsider?

In context of Helsinki-Tallinn Euregio Forum, tourism is one of the very core areas of a common information space since it is one of the few areas – if not even the only one – where the twin city concept already works in practical terms. Not only do Estonians and Finns frequently visit each other’s capital cities. An increasing number of tourists from elsewhere, while having either Helsinki or Tallinn as their main object, also spend a day or two in the other.

It would accordingly  be in the best interest of both Tallinn and Helsinki to attract tourists to the twin city region in the first place. Whichever city the potential visitor may choose, chances are they would bring in some revenue to the other city as well. This seems to answer one of the questions that the Forum’s group V (Bloggers, portals and social media, moderated by Barbi Pilvre and myself) is expected to discuss: What are the chances for common information space bridge building in social media?

Let us have a look at what the Helsinki Tourist Office have done! Their main focus seems to be in Facebook which is understandable, given the huge penetration of Facebook among target groups. The site is well done and frequently updated. Even more importantly, comments and questions are being responded to. I am positively surprised!

As I mentioned above, embedding video clips is disabled in the Visit Helsinki YouTube channel. I would strongly advice to enable it because allowing to share is exactly the way to spread information in social media. Those clips are real nice and nice videos are definitely helpful in bringing visitors to the twin city region if redistributed by bloggers, tweeps and in Facebook. The good content is right there, why prevent people from sharing it?

@HelsinkiTourism in Twitter seems to be orientated the same way as many of the Estonian governmental organisations I wrote about in my last post. There is a lot of useful info to be found but it is a one way street. Notably, they have 254 followers but just 10 are followed back and those 10 seem to be their partners. It is by no means wrong to use Twitter this way but a crucial part of potential of the social media is being missed if you do not interact and discuss.

Now, back to the common Helsinki-Tallinn information space which is the main topic of this year’s forum! As I mentioned tourism is one of the key areas where a common information space is easy to build up and practically certain to bring in positive response and practical advantage in a very short term. Tallinn has an ambitious tourism portal of its own but I have yet to discover any usage of social media (forgive me if I am wrong).

Why not join efforts with Helsinki to build up a twin city presence in social media?

Thoughts about (local) government and social media

Friday, August 20, 2010 at 3:47 | Posted in Estonia, Finland, helsinki, internet, Media, social media, tallinn | 2 Comments
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I have been approached by Helsinki-Tallinn Euregio Forum to participate in the event which is going to take place in Tallinn 14th and 15th September. I am going to write more specifically about what I am going to do there closer to the date. My input is connected to the workshop “Bloggers, portals and social media“.

The Forum is a biannual event organized in one of the two capitals, this year in Tallinn. It involves the local governments of both of the two cities plus regional administrations of Uusimaa in Finland and Harjumaa in Estonia. The twin city concept is an essential part of the Forum. This year’s event discusses developing a common Helsinki-Tallinn information space.

As a part of my preparations for the Forum I am going to discuss related topics both in this web space, my Finnish and Estonian blogs and elsewhere. One of the places is the Facebook page “Helsinki-Tallinn Capital Regions Common Info Space“. To kick it off I am posting some loose thoughts about (local) government and social media. Since the idea is partly to build up my own input and partly to give a chance to anybody interested (whether they actually participate in the event or not) to contribute, your comments are most welcome either here in the blog or at any of the two Facebook pages linked above (1, 2).

If you browse the web sites of Helsinki and Tallinn you do not easily detect signs to suggest that social media would be actively and systematically used as a tool by either city. Yet I know that there is a growing interest in social media in both administrations and it is probably being used in a light scale by both. It is more than likely that neither Helsinki nor Tallinn has yet a comprehensive social media strategy, i.e. they have yet to figure out how to use it and what for.

Please correct me if I am wrong but I have in fact not detected any active social media presence from governmental organisations in Finland, neither local, regional nor central government. The picture is somewhat brighter in Estonia. Various levels of government are using the channels of social media in various ways and with a variable level of success.

Most notably, the President of Estonia, Mr. Toomas Hendrik Ilves has a Facebook page of his own. The page is being frequently updated and is very popular (9,575 people like it). Each post collects a lot of comments. The president does not seem to talk back but I do not really think anybody would expect him to.

The Estonian Foreign Ministry has an official blog which is very actively updated by Estonian diplomats around the World and by civil servants of the ministry. The comments are very few and practically never responded to. The blog portraits a colourful picture of life and people in external service but basically works as a one way street.

Returning to the local level of government, the City of Tartu appears in Twitter. The tweets are posted fairly regularly and almost always consist of links to the city’s web site. By following them I get quite a lot of interesting information about current events in Estonia’s second largest city without drowning into a bulk of stuff less interesting for me which would be the case if I subscribed to their RSS feed.

The city does not seem to discuss with their followers. Alas, I conclude that their strategy is to get their message through effectively. Looks like it works reasonably well and does not require very much resources to be invested to. On the other hand, Tartu does no doubt miss the benefits of the very idea of social media: it is a two way street. Incidentally, the University of Tartu seems to have a bit more sophisticated approach: they also link to sites other than their own and even occasionally respond to comments and retweet.

The most boring approach to social media is the Twitter feed of the Government of Estonia. The feed is practically a duplicate of their RSS feed, thus adding no value if followed. Despite having (at this moment) 566 followers they only follow back 8, all of which are governmental organizations or institutions. As you could expect, no replies or retweets to be found.

As you may or may not know, the two European Capitals of Culture next year are going to be Tallinn and Turku. The Foundation Tallinn 2011 has a pretty nice presence in Twitter. Not only do they post operative info about preparations to the year as Cultural Capital, they also discuss with their followers. Add to that their activities in Facebook and YouTube and you get something which looks like an impressive social media strategy for an institution sponsored by a local government.

These are just a few examples of different approaches to social media in various governmental operators. They all have a different strategy (or in some cases lack of it). I hope to soon return to the question of social media strategy more specifically. In the mean time I would appreciate any thoughts you may have.

Different from average

Friday, March 21, 2008 at 8:46 | Posted in Finland | Leave a comment
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Amen, member of Eurovision winners Lordi, said in an interview for the New Zealand Herald:

What is it like being superstars in Finland?

Since this newspaper isn’t coming out in Finland I can safely say it f****** sux. Finnish people are really, really jealous people. If something good happens for this country everyone is together. “Yeah, we won Eurovision, we are the best”. But in one year it turns against you and they are up there calling you, “Eurovision bastards”. You can’t even imagine it. It’s unimaginable. One minute you are a national hero and then in the morning you’re a bastard. It’s crazy.

Well, what the fuck did he expect in a country where it is not kosher  to be the slightest bit different from average?

Supermarket domino

Wednesday, March 19, 2008 at 21:52 | Posted in Finland, funny, video, youtube | 1 Comment
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The owner of a supermarket outside Helsinki agreed when his son and son-in-law asked if they could organize a huge domino of the store products during Christmas holidays and film it. The stunt eventually ended up in YouTube and that is when the trouble started. Although the authors say that no products were harmed, the local customers were furious: thou shalt not play with food.

The dealer says he is sorry and nothing like this will ever happen again in his store. Pity, because it is a funny clip.

Web censorship in Finland

Thursday, February 21, 2008 at 4:28 | Posted in censorship, Finland, Freedom of speech, information, internet, transparency | 4 Comments
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When you talk about governments censoring the Internet, you would be most likely to think of countries like China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Cuba etc. As I wrote in my previous post, an attempt to block a whistle blower site was recently made by the US judicial branch. As it turns out, Finland has also joined the notorious countries where government agencies under the noble pretext of fighting child pornography are actually blocking a large number of sites that have nothing to do with child pornography.

Some of the censored sites just incidentally happen to be critical about the censorship itself, including this one operated by Matti Nikki. Matti explains exhaustively in English about the background of his site and the censorship issue. Additional information in English and related links can be found in this article by Electronic Frontier Finland.

The Finnish Parliament last year past a legislation in 2006 allowing the National Bureau of Investigation to comply a list of foreign based web sites allegedly including child pornography. The list was supposed to be sent to Internet service providers together with a request to block access to the listed sites. The black list was supposed to be strictly targeted.

Anybody trying to access the listed URL’s in Finland was supposed to be directed to a NBI page informing about the denied access (here displayed by Matti Nikki). Since my ISP has not (yet?) implied the filter, I am currently able to access both Matti’s site and every other black listed site. I am among other things able to establish that blocking all of the Japanese web portal www.iij4u.or.jp can hardly be described as “strictly targeted filtering”. Among other censored sites I fail to understand what this Japanese music store may have to do with child pornography.

The NBI refuse to comment their black list in public. They also refuse to answer the obvious question why they have not made the courtesy of e-mailing their colleagues in the FBI and European law enforcing agencies about sites actually containing child pornography. One must assume they have not informed their colleagues as the sites are still visible. That also raises the obvious question whether their intention was not to block legitimate critical web contents rather than child pornography.

Electronic Frontiers Finland has filed a complaint to the Chancellor of Justice about the legality of the NBI filter list. The complete complaint (in Finnish) can be accessed here. Among their many questions to the Chancellor is how come Matti Nikki’s site landed on the list although it is completely based in Finland and the law allows only foreign based sites to be filtered.

Unusual weather conditions

Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 14:33 | Posted in China, Finland, helsinki | Leave a comment
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Unusual subzero temperatures and snow cause chaos and even death in southern and eastern China.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.reuters.com

Meanwhile here in Helsinki, we should be approaching the peak of winter but this was the view outside my window a moment ago. The temperature is + 3.3 °C with light rain. There are just remains of the snow which landed last week.

The origin of Santa

Saturday, December 22, 2007 at 9:25 | Posted in Finland, funny | Leave a comment
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Did you know where Santa comes from and how he got to be Father Christmas? Watch this funny clip and you will know.

via Blogging Tom

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.youtube.com

Finnish journalist convicted

Friday, December 21, 2007 at 8:47 | Posted in Finland, Journalism, Press freedom | Leave a comment

A journalist was convicted for insubordination but left without sentence by a Helsinki court yesterday. Staff photographer Markus Pentikäinen of the Finnish weekly Suomen Kuvalehti was covering the violent “SMASH Asem” demonstration in Helsinki in September last year as the police ordered him to leave the spot. Pentikäinen refused to leave and quoted his right as a journalist to cover the event. The ombudsman of the Finnish Parliament ruled in November that the police acted partly unlawfully at the demonstration.

The European Federation of Journalists condemns the court’s ruling:

“This is an appalling decision in a country that enjoys one of the highest standards regarding press freedom. It goes against Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “When a journalist is doing his work during a demonstration that becomes violent, it cannot be that he or she is regarded as acting against the public interest and brought to trial, when they are only doing their job.”

“The government of Finland should carry out a full investigation and reassure all media that they have full access to demonstrations and public happenings,” White said.

Finland has traditionally ranked high in international press freedom comparisons. I have on several occasions pointed out that the self censorship widely applied by Finnish media is not reflected in those statistics because journalists are reluctant to talk about it. Alas, freedom of press in Finland has actually been ranked higher than it deserves. This incident may bring Finland back to reality in the rankings.

The brutal Finns

Sunday, October 14, 2007 at 23:26 | Posted in Finland, History, My other blogs, odd | Leave a comment
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My barely noticeable Finnish blog is getting record hits today on a post I would never have expected to attract any interest outside the small number of regular readers. I just caught a short note in the Swedish paper Dagens Nyheter citing Professor Jerzy Sarnecki (University of Stockholm) that it is a “long time fact” that Finns are more violent than other Nordic nations. The good professor explains this with the legacy of the civil war in Finland.

It does not seem to bother Professor Sarnecki that the civil war took place for almost 90 years ago in a society totally different from that of today. He does also not seem to put any importance on the fact that Finland was very much involved in World war II, fighting against Russians on two occasions (1939-1940 and 1941-1944) and against Germans (1944-1945). He just takes it for granted that the “brutal nature of the society” has been carried out through generations dating back to the civil war of 1918.

The professor quotes research, too, at least sort of. He has apparently studied violent crime statistics in the capital cities of four Nordic countries. As one commentator from Sweden points out, the numbers would have been less flattering for Sweden if the third largest town Malmö had been studied rather than Stockholm.

Another comment from Finland points out that while statistics show a decreasing tendency of homocide, the statistical number per capita is indeed higher in Finland compared to the rest of the Nordic countries. However, these incidents are most commonly connected to extensive drinking which is why ordinary citizens have little to be afraid of while carrying out their everyday activities. The actual probability of being mucked up in broad daylight is very small in Finland.

The topic has been picked up in a couple of forums in Finland and by bloggers in Finland, Sweden and Germany. Nobody seems to take this monster piece of pseudo science seriously which it does not deserve either. My personal guess is that the goal of displaying Finns as violent savages has been established before any “research” took place. Suitable statistical numbers were sought and discovered to support the established goal.

It is of course none of my business how the money of Swedish tax payers is being spent. That said, I do believe there are serious scientific projects in Swedish universities that could have used the money spent on this nonsense.

Criminal record for YouTube libel

Friday, August 24, 2007 at 20:47 | Posted in crime, Finland, Legal, youtube | Leave a comment

As I noted for a while ago, a 15 year old school kid in eastern Finland was charged for libel after his teacher refused to accept his apology and insisted on criminal charges be brought up against the kid. The boy had posted a video in YouTube featuring the teacher singing at a school party. The video was entitled “Karaoke at the mental hospital” whereby the teacher’s name appeared with insinuation that the performer was a mental patient.

A court in Nurmes has now found the teenager guilty of libel. He was sentenced to a fine of 90 €. He is additionally to pay a damage compensation of 800 € to the teacher and pay 2000 € of legal expenses.

So the kid is to pay 2890 € of which the 90 € fine is critical for his future. The court could have opted to find him guilty and impose the compensations be paid but leave him unpunished. Apparently the court did not think that repent, an apology, a public trial and compensations of 2800 € were a punishment enough. They chose to add up the 90 € fine just to make sure that the kid gets a criminal record.

via Janne Saarikko

Update (5th September): Helsingin Sanomat writes that the boy’s lawyer has filed an appeal on the court verdict. He is asking the higher court to reject the criminal verdict and overturn the damage compensation of 800 €. As a secondary motion, the lawyer is asking that his client, if found guilty, be left without a punishment.

Higway bear

Sunday, August 19, 2007 at 8:24 | Posted in Finland | Leave a comment

This just in: a bear apparently entered a highway in southern Finland stopping all traffic. The police have managed to evict the animal back to forest with help of dogs but the traffic is still being redirected.

I bet this is another government plan to cut expenses. The higway bear must have been intended to replace police units in traffic control duty.

Helicopter accident two years after

Thursday, August 9, 2007 at 3:25 | Posted in Estonia, Finland, Personal | Leave a comment
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Click for a large image

This was a happy landing for Copterline Sikorsky helicopter OH-HCI. I remember shooting the picture a few years ago in Tallinn as I was waiting to get on board a hydrofoil boat to Helsinki. Copterline’s landing site in Tallinn is right next to the hydrofoil terminal.

The very same chopper went down and drowned shortly after take off in Tallinn almost exactly two years ago, 10th August 2005. All 12 passengers and 2 crew members lost their life. I was not sure my picture was of the same helicopter until I checked it a moment ago in the interim report of the commission examining the accident (pdf file in Estonian). It was OH-HCI.

I remember the day of the accident. I heard about it at home in Helsinki from Estonian radio news. As I noted in this post, the weather was good that day although there had been heavy storms in Helsinki and Gulf of Finland the day and night before. I also noted that I had never flown on the line although I was interested in doing so. I still have not but not because of being afraid. The ticket is pretty expensive. But I am still interested.

I also heard in the news that the Estonian foreign minister Urmas Paet was on board the previous departure. He flew to Helsinki to meet his Finnish colleague, then foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja. Mr. Paet was certainly lucky that he did not get stuffed in traffic and miss his flight!

When the names of the victims were subsequently released I learned that I actually knew two of them. They were not close friends or anything like that. Just two persons I used to know professionally in late 1980’ies and early 1990’ies. We would have said hello while passing by on the street and maybe exchanged a polite word or two if attending same meeting. I may also have made a couple of business calls to at least one of them.

I do not bother to read all that technical stuff on the commission’s report. Everything checked OK with the helicopter prior to the take off. It was properly serviced. The two pilots were experienced and they did nothing wrong during the short flight. The cause of the accident was unforeseen and lessons have already been learned about it.

While I did not experience a personal loss, I felt somewhat touched back then and I feel the same now two years later. I guess the accident served as a reminder that unexpected things happen all the time just like that, out of the blue. And just because they are unforeseeable there is no point in being too worried above the reasonable caution.

Finnish school kid charged for libel

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 at 21:17 | Posted in Finland, Legal | 2 Comments

YLE reports that a 15 year old school boy in Finland is facing libel charges. He posted in YouTube a video featuring a teacher singing at a school party. The video was entitled “Karaoke at the mental hospital”. The teacher’s name appeared at the post.

Having taken down the video, the youngster apologized and said he regretted his posting. The teacher was not happy with the apology and decided to press charges. The prosecutor has now decided to charge the kid for libel. A trial is expected to take place in September.

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