Summary of workshop discussions

Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 15:52 | Posted in Estonia, Finland, helsinki, internet, Media, social media, tallinn | 7 Comments

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.

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

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

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 | 3 Comments

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.

PR 3.0

Monday, February 9, 2009 at 10:10 | Posted in Media | Leave a comment

On this clip some top PR professionals give their two cents on how a succesful PR professional will work in the future. I would add that most of this already applies. And the traditional media as it is today can by no means be a channel which would make it possible to work like that.

via Vare&Jaakkola

Bullocks – no Star Trek for you

Saturday, October 11, 2008 at 18:10 | Posted in entertainment, Media, youtube | Leave a comment

YouTube an CBS have reached an agreement on legitimate streaming of CBS content:

CBS wasn’t ready to share its ad revenue with Hulu in March, but the network is alright splitting those dollars with YouTube. Today, CBS began streaming content on Google’ video site. For now the network is showing a random smattering of shows that include “MacGyver,” “Star Trek,” the original “Beverly Hills 90210,” and current episodes of “The Young and the Restless.” Season premieres of Showtime’s “Dexter” and “Californication” will also be available.

While the content does not sound like my pint of beer, it is positive per se that the network is taking steps in a more sensible direction in terms of making their content available in the web. As it turns out, though, I need not bother anyway:

No cookie for me. Did not want one in the first place so I do not mind. I suppose anybody hereabouts who want to watch this sort of shows can continue to do so without any revenue floating to CBS and YouTube. It is technically illegal but I do not think they mind.

German social democrats in turmoil

Sunday, September 14, 2008 at 22:46 | Posted in Germany, Media, Politics, Radio | Leave a comment
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Business is not as usual  within Germany’s second largest party SPD. The social democrats have been in crisis since former chancellor Gerhard Schröder resigned after 2005 federal election to get a lucrative job as head of the shareholders’ committee of Nord Stream AG lobbying for the controversial oil pipeline to be planted in the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Party leader Kurt Beck unexpectedly threw in the towel and resigned for a week ago. Beck is the third party chairman to quit within three years.

As if that was not trouble enough, the SPD leader in the state of Hesse, Andrea Ypsilanti, was subjected to a practical joke by voice inpersonator Jochen Krause who, working for Radio ffn, called her office pretending to be Franz Müntefering, a prominent SPD politician. Ypsilanti and the phoney Münterfering spoke party business for seven minutes before Krause exposed himself. The radio station agreed not to broadcast the prank call.

However, parts of the conversation were apparently uploaded in YouTube and later deleted, much to the dismay of some curious web commentators. It has been brought to my attention that  an mp3 file (1 minute and 45 seconds) allegedly containing the beginning of the prank call may be downloadable in a secure server.

Steve Job’s obituary “accidentally” published by Bloomberg

Thursday, August 28, 2008 at 22:59 | Posted in Journalism, Media | 2 Comments
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We all die once but not all of us are considered as important enough to deserve an obituary. The more of a celebrity you are, the more likely it is that major media outlets write your obituary well before you are even close to death. Speed is an essential factor at the contemporary news business so it would be inexcusable waste of time to start composing an obituary when a celebrity actually passes off.

Since obituaries are being written about persons well and alive, they also need to be updated occasionally. It would be inexcusable to omit somebody having been awarded the Nobel prize at their late years just because the obituary was out of date. So in course of a routine update, the unthinkable happened at Bloomberg: not only did they update Steve Job’s obituary, they also went ahead and published it. Accidentally, as they say.

This is not, of course, the first occasion of a premature obituary. As Mark Twain is said to have responsed to his obituary: “The news about my death have been grossly exaggerated”.

At Bloomberg, search of the guilty and punishing the innocent is reportedly in progress.

Thanks, Kalle, for bringing this incident to my attention.

Sarkozy’s Internet tax is a theft

Wednesday, January 9, 2008 at 11:50 | Posted in internet, Media, TV | Leave a comment
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The French president Nicolas Sarkozy proposes new taxes for Internet access and mobile phone use to finance two new government run TV channels. Since the channels would be ad free, 800 million euros in advertising revenue collected by the state television would flow over to private broadcasters.

In other words, Sarkozy plans to steal money from Internet users to support both government and private television regardless of whether the surfer watches TV or not. A government can get away with it but if anybody else tried to do something as shameless it would be called grand larceny.

Minister clashes with media

Thursday, December 27, 2007 at 12:53 | Posted in Media | Leave a comment
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Sri Lankan minister of labor Mervyn Silva has had a clash with the local media. The minister apparently entered uninvited the HQ of the state run Rupavahini television to complain that Rupavahini had not covered one of his speeches in the news. The station’s news manager was allegedly assaulted by a member of the minister’s staff which prompted the journalists to demand an apology.

“A henchman of the minister forcefully pulled the news director and all employees are protesting demanding an apology,” Rupavahini’s director-general said.

The journalists then held the minister pending his apology. The government sent special troops to rescue the minister:

An anti-hijacking and hostage rescue squad of army commandos deployed at the Rupavahini state television network to free Labour Minister Mervin Silva who had allegedly stormed the studios with body guards and attacked journalists, officials said.

The action taken by the Rupavahini staff is cheered at least by one blogger:

they have stood up to the state of terror and had hold their ground for the rest of the people of Sri Lanka.
Bravo Rupavahini Bravo.
The bizarre incident today was not the first clash between Mr. Mervyn Silva and the media. Protests against his “abusive language” aimed at media have been reported earlier. There is even some video footage in the web showing the minister personally escort away a member of the press to avoid unwanted media attention.
Edit: Lanka Page has more details about the incident.

Vietnam censors blogs

Wednesday, December 26, 2007 at 14:51 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, censorship, Freedom of speech, Media | 2 Comments

The communist government of Vietnam plans to censor the Vietnamese blogosphere, AFP reports. According to a state media report released today, blogs must be controlled “to prevent the spread of subversive and sexually explicit content”.

Referring to anti-Chinese protests over the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, Nguyen The Ky, head of the Press Management and Publishing Bureau, said in a statement reported by Than Nien News:

“It’s all right when some bloggers have recently showed their patriotism, posting opinions about the Paracels-Spratly Archipelago on their weblogs.

But some have sparked protests, causing public disorder and affecting the country’s foreign affairs. It’s impossible to control the internet, so I think we should bolster technical security measures in addition to creating regulations.”

Than Nien News also quotes Do Quy Doan, deputy minister for Information and Communications, as saying in a national media conference in Hanoi on Monday:

Controlling weblogs is about developing them in accordance with the law, not forbid-ding them. We should provide guidelines that help people know what type of information they can upload online.

Bloggers will have to be responsible for not only their uploaded information but also information they access. Once we have obvious regulations, I think no one will be able to supervise weblogs better than the bloggers themselves.

It would no doubt be convenient for any government, let alone an authoritarian communist regime, if blogs only posted what is sanctioned by the government. That would of course make blogs as such obsolete. The Vietnamese government already controls what is published in the traditional media. Blogging is about increasing freedom of speech which is not what the Vietnamese government wants.

It would be interesting to learn what the deputy minister had in mind when he said that bloggers should “be responsible for not only their uploaded information but also information they access”. I for one, have access to all the information and indeed dis-information in the Internet but I refuse to take responsibility of anything other than my own posts.

Blogs have been around in Vietnam for a relatively short time. Not only the government is confused about the new method of expressing opinion on line. The bloggers themselves and the main stream media also seem to be in the process of learning how to cope with the new media. Chao-Vietnam accounts for a number of blog wars which very much resemble the disputes common in the western blogosphere for a few years ago.

In a related article, 4DM reports that the Vietnamese government are planning to allow privately owned media publications in addition to the current state owned media. On the surface this may sound like increased press freedom but given the plan to limit freedom of speech in the blogs, one has serious doubts about how free the private media could be. By definiton, freedom of speech and a communist government do not go together.

Close the comments, Süddeutsche!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at 21:56 | Posted in Germany, internet, Media | 1 Comment
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The German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung have intensified their moderation of comments and therefore closed the comments between 7 p.m and 8 a.m and during all weekend between 7 p.m on Friday and 8 a.m on Monday. This has prompted a massive user boycott: many users no longer discuss the articles themselves but post protests agains the extended moderation instead. This article about Putin’s endorsement for Medvedev is a typical example: most of the commentators could not be less interested in the Russian presidential election.

RA-Blog makes a mockery of the new policy by announcing new rules of commenting. Readers are referred to TV schedules to learn when Thomas’s favorite shows are aired. They must also obtain appropriate information about football transmissions to be able to post a comment when Thomas is available for moderation.

I support full hearted Süddeutsche’s bid to raise the level of their comments but I have a better idea on how to get there. Close the comments entirely! Most of the people posting comments to media web sites have nothing of importance to say anyway.

People who actually think before expressing their opinion do not post comments to Süddeutsche’s articles, they make a post in their blog. So all you need to have a quality discussion about your articles is to display trackbacks of blogs linking to each article. And you do not need to have a moderating staff on your payroll because everybody knows that nobody clicks to links anyway.

What’s the big deal?

Monday, December 3, 2007 at 4:49 | Posted in Media | Leave a comment

In this video clip senior members of the New York Times editorial staff say that bringing digital and paper print newsroom to one single space made it easier to communicate than it used to be when they were five blocks away. I would say it depends on how you communicate. As can be seen in the clip, much of their communicating seems to be verbal, i.e. they have a lot of eye to eye meetings.

That is old fashioned. I do not deny that sharing the room has advantages but my experience is that you can communicate just as well even if you are five blocks away or indeed on another continent. You just need to pick up another set of tools for your communication.

These folks make it sound like an integrated news room is a big deal. I say it is not. As I said, it has its advantages but the same could just as well be achieved with non-integrated arrangements.

via Hildring and

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.cyberjournalist.

Presidents have privacy

Tuesday, October 30, 2007 at 3:38 | Posted in Media, privacy | Leave a comment
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This video (YouTube) shows the French president Nicolas Sarkozy entering and abruptly leaving an interview with the CBS. The president was stressed and did not want to make the interview in the first place. When asked about his wife and refusing to comment, he interrupted the interview as the reporter did not want to let the topic go.

This is a showcase example of cultural differences between America and Europe. A US president can and will be has been impeached if he is caught telling a lie about his private sex life whereas a president telling a lie about illegal and unconstitutional unauthorized wire tapping of citizens could have a fair chance to get away with it. The European and in particular the French understanding is that even a president has a private family life which is none of the business of the general public as long as it has nothing to do with how he takes care of his job of running the country.

President Sarkozy left the interview because the reporter did not drop the topic but repeated her question. On that point I must give the reporter some right. It is customary to repeat an unanswered question. If reporters did not do that, those interviewed would get away with not answering unpleasent questions.

However, this only applies to questions which are asked in the interest of the public. A presidential divorce is not a matter of public interest which is why that question should not have been asked in the first place.

Read more about the incident at the BBC web site.

Linking to a clip

Saturday, October 27, 2007 at 6:20 | Posted in Election, Media, Politics, USA | Leave a comment
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According to the New York Times Caucus Blog, FOX has forbidden Republican candidates to use video clips of their FOX sponsored debate in their campaign ads. The order was first submitted to Senator John McCain’s campaign but it was later sent to all Republican candidates. At the clip Senator McCain criticizes Hillary Clinton for “pushing a $1 million earmark for a museum commemorating the Woodstock festival in 1969“.

Just because I happened to link to that clip the other day, I had a pretty good idea where I might find it. And yes, there it still is, at the Washington Post web site. All of the Republican candidates jumping on Senator C, including the Woodstock sound bite by McCain.

Now, I wonder if FOX is going to demand the Washington Post to remove the clip from their web site. Nothing would otherwise be easier for McCain and the bunch of them than to link to the Washington Post at their campaign web sites.

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