A happy commuter

Sunday, July 24, 2011 at 3:42 | Posted in Estonia, railways, tallinn, traffic | 2 Comments

The Tallinn commuter train service is just great. I live well outside the capital and do not visit it too often. It makes sense to buy a single ticket rather than having a monthly card.

I do not need to have cash with me on board. There is a card I can upload either money or travel time to. Debet card payments are not accepted on board but other than that, I am happy.

Last time I uploaded balance to my rail card, it did not work with Firefox. Chrome was the only of my options to work. Of course I complained in Twitter.

Uploading yesterday, I detected suddenly that there was no problem with Firefox. The Elektriraudtee have a Twitter account of their own and it seems they follow feedback as well. Not to mention their real time updates whenever something extraordinary happens.

There is also a wifi network on trains, allowing me to spend the 70-75 minute journey doing something useful on line. When the rails and trains get modernised there will not be very much to hope for.

I am a happy commuter.

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.

Winter belated

Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 2:53 | Posted in helsinki, tallinn | Leave a comment

Image: E v a under Creative Commons License (via Jens-Olaf)

Just as in Tallinn (image), a snow storm left Helsinki covered with more snow than we have had during all of this exceptionally mild winter. There has not been a winter to talk about as the temperature has never stayed below freezing point long enough so that any snow would have stayed. And now that the spring is supposed to be around the corner we get the lot of it during 24 hours.

In early February, which normally would have been the peak of the winter, the ground was bare, the temperature went up to + 10 °C and some early flowers made a premature attempt to blossom. As everybody thought that this would be one of those rare winters that never came, spring season preparations were being made as can be seen in the picture above. This late winter is particularly bad for the business of bars and pubs, thanks to anti smoking laws both in Estonia and Finland. Who would want to have a pint and a fag at an outdoor table under such weather conditions?

While kids and cross country skiing enthusiasts certainly say better late than not at all, I hope this misplaced winter would go away rather soon than late. Be it cold or warm, some sort of stability and predictability in weather conditions would be appreciated.

Heading for a conference in Tallinn

Sunday, November 11, 2007 at 11:48 | Posted in Estonia, tallinn, web 2.0. | Leave a comment

I am in the middle of Gulf of Finland sailing for Tallinn where I am going to participate in  a conference discussing the Estonian government’s program for fellow countrymen abroad. The current program is effective for the period 2004-2008 and the conference, organized by the Ministry of Education, will discuss the frameworks of the next program period. I am one  of the three delegates representing the Association of Estonians in Finland.

I am planning to cover the conference on line in real time primarily in the association’s blog. There is also a Facebook event for the conference. I hope to get as much feedback from people both in Estonia and abroad in order to present suggestions received from readers to the conference.

While most of my coverage is naturally in Estonian, I am going to try to make a few summarizing posts in English as well. So if you want to learn about the issues discussed, keep an eye on this space and the Facebook event. The conference will open tomorrow morning and close on Tuesday afternoon.

By the way, I already received some good suggestions in comments added to my Estonian blog. Those will be discussed as soon as I meet my fellow delegates and we are going to present the ideas either in the floor or in committees.

Hello Tallinn

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 at 6:40 | Posted in Estonia, tallinn | 2 Comments

I am about to take off to Tallinn for the day. It is just a regular shopping tour to fill in my supplies. I’ll be back ast home in the evening.

An arrogant statement

Monday, April 30, 2007 at 18:31 | Posted in Estonia, russia, tallinn | Leave a comment

A delegation of the Russian State Duma is visiting Tallinn and is hosted by the Estonian Parliament. The delegation met today among others with representatives of the Parliament’s Foreign and Defense Committees. While the title of this blog has “shameless remarks” in it, I would never publish anything as arrogant as the statement of Mr. Nikolai Kovaljov, the leader of the Russian delegation.

Mr. Kovaljov called for nothing less than the resignation of the Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip! It is one thing that I find some of Mr. Ansip’s policies questionable. While he and his cabinet have generally managed the current crisis well, there may be one or two details to deserve criticism.

That said, Mr Kovaljov seems to have forgotten something very elementary, sitting on his high horses as he is. Estonia is an independent country, not a Russian province. The Estonian government is subject to confidence of the Estonian Parliament, not the Russian Duma! Members of Parliament demanding the government or the Prime Minister of another country to resign should ask themselves what they are doing in politics in the first place.

As for the Bronze Soldier, it has been erected in the military cemetery of Tallinn today and is accessible by the general public and indeed the delegation lead by Mr Kovaljov. The official opening ceremony of the monument is going to take place on May 8th and representatives of the allied countries fighting against the nazis (i.e. Russia, Great Britain, USA and France) have been invited. Part of the remains of Soviet soldiers buried in the former down town location of the monument have been recovered. They will be re-buried with due ceremonies once the bodies have been identified in accordance to international treaties.

Background of the Bronze Soldier

Monday, April 30, 2007 at 8:29 | Posted in Estonia, russia, tallinn | Leave a comment

I have wanted to write a background article about the recent riots in Tallinn but due to a busy weekend I have not had a chance to do it. I was planning to write the article tonight or tomorrow. I now detect that my friend Jaanus has written a well balanced and thorough article on the subject. As I agree on every word he wrote, I feel that there is no reason to duplicate his writing. I sincerely recommend everybody to read what Jaanus wrote, that is if you really want to learn the Estonian view of the historical truth.

I might add that the post stalinistic Russian government is acting utterly hypocritically in this particular issue. Similar monuments have been removed in several Russian cities with less respect than is being shown by the Estonian government. So the real issue is not the monument but their wish to attack Estonia which Russia still regards as its own back yard. Hence, the Russian media does not publish the truth about the events and their background. Unfortunately, many Russians living in Estonia mainly receive news and information through the Russian media.

The Russian police have generally no problem stopping peaceful oppositional demonstrations against their own government in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia. I do not therefore believe that they would be unable to stop the vandalizing of the Estonian embassy in Moscow which has been taking place these last days. According to latest news, about 600 persons are surrounding the embassy building and throwing stones at it. Nobody is able to enter or exit the building.

This comment added to my earlier post demonstrates how people may be thinking who have not access to proper and truthful information. Just as if looting and vandalizing would be a normal thing to do when you disagree with something. May I also point out that the Bronze Soldier is intact and is likely to be erected in the military cemetery in Tallinn as early as today?

The EU should support Estonia and urge Russia to immediately stop provoking any violent actions. Recognizing historical facts could be a first step but I guess the Russian government is less than interested in plain truth.

Bronze soldier re-erected today

Monday, April 30, 2007 at 6:40 | Posted in Estonia, tallinn | 1 Comment

According to Estonian Radio, the Bronze Soldier monument which has been used as an excuse for the recent riots in Tallinn is going to be re-erected in the military cemetery in Tallinn possibly as early as today. The archeologic burials after the remains of Soviet soldiers assumed to be buried at Tõnismägi in down town Tallinn were started during the weekend. If remains are found and they are going to be recognized as bodies of Soviet soldiers, they are later going to be re-buried at the proper burial place with due ceremonies.

I shall try to return to the background of the events later today or tomorrow.

Russia provokes national anger against Estonia

Sunday, April 29, 2007 at 2:48 | Posted in Estonia, russia, tallinn | 5 Comments

I was in Turku all day on Saturday, chairing the annual conference of the Association of Estonians in Finland. While most of the debate was about organizational and social matters, the hot topic of the unrest in Tallinn in connection with removal of the Soviet monument Bronze Soldier was briefly discussed. It was the unanimous opinion of the conference that Russia is deliberately provoking national hatred against Estonia.

Meanwhile in Tallinn, the night has been calm. The police are actively interfering if large crowds try to gather. The number of persons detained during the riots of the last couple of days is 800, according to the police.

Sales of alcoholic beverages between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. have temporarily been banned allover Estonia. Pubs and bars are allowed to serve customers. The restriction is scheduled to be lifted on 3rd may at 8 a.m.

Edit: The web site of the Estonian government is currently not accessible from abroad as it was on several occasions attacked yesterday. Crackers placed Russian language messages against the government on the site.

Second storm

Saturday, April 28, 2007 at 5:50 | Posted in Estonia, tallinn | 3 Comments

Six members of police force and about 50 hooligans are reported to be injured during the second night of riots in central Tallinn. 300 persons are in custody. The Russian mob caused serious property damage by demolishing anything they saw and looting shops. Minor riots also took place in the north eastern Estonian towns of Jõhvi and Kohtla Järve where the majority of citizens are Russians.

According to the police, the situation in Tallinn is calm since 2 a.m. Things went out of control shortly after 10 p.m. yesterday evening. According to film director Ilmar Raag who observed the events together with Estonian TV’s camera team, the number of riot police is too small to promptly establish control.

Calm before another storm

Friday, April 27, 2007 at 22:21 | Posted in Estonia, tallinn | 1 Comment

Hundreds of Russian youngsters (although less than last night) have gathered to locations in central Tallinn. Many of them are reportedly drunken and obviously seek a conflict with the police. No major riots have taken place so far.

About 200 persons actively behaving disorderly have so far been detained last night and today. 30 of them have appeared in court and 7 have been arrested by court order. The police is attempting to prevent large crowds to gather at one single spot.

The present situation can as best be described as calm before another storm. I am going to post about the developments briefly tomorrow morning. I am going to travel to Turku tomorrow and return on line in the evening. I’ll post all essential developments and hope to be able to write a background article either during the weekend or May 1st holiday.

Edit at 23.07 local time (2007 GMT): Unfortunately I was proven right. Estonian radio news reports that the mindless mob is moving about in central Tallinn and demolishing whatever comes in their way. Shop windows are being broken and traffic signs and lights vandalized. Police estimates there are about 500 persons in the mob.

Riots in Tallinn

Friday, April 27, 2007 at 11:45 | Posted in Estonia, tallinn | 8 Comments

Estonian officials last night removed the Soviet monument Bronx Soldier from central Tallinn and transported it into a military cemetery into an unspecified location to be later placed in a military cemetery. The monument is under police protection. Archeologists started were supposed to start burials after remains of Soviet soldiers that are assumed to be buried where the monument was raised in 1947.

Hundreds of drunken Russian youths rioted in central Tallinn last night. According to eye witness report by Christian in Tallinn, shop windows were broken within a large area and loads of alcoholic beverages stolen by the mob.

The city government has temporarily banned sales of alcoholic beverages after 2 p.m. The National Library is temporarily closed due to damages caused by the Russian mob. Additional police forces from elsewhere in Estonia have been called to support maintaining public order in Tallinn.

President Thomas Hendrik Ilves is to appear in Estonian TV in approximately 15 minutes.

Edit: President Ilves called everybody regardless of nationality to remain rational and calm. He said he was convinced that those who performed violent acts last night will be caught and prosecuted. He urged the people to refrain from provocative acts and statements.

The situation in Tallinn is calm since early morning. However, further demonstrations are expected during the weekend.

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