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Posts tagged with: Social Media

The Aarhus EU Twitter Top 30

I gave a speech about EU online communications at Danmarks Medie- og Journalisthøjskole in Aarhus last year, and yesterday John Frølich – one of the professors there – e-mailed me to ask if I could suggest 20 to 30 EU Twitter accounts that his students ought to follow. So rather than just e-mail back some names, I have made a Twitter list of the 30 accounts, and I explain my rationale for including each of them here.

My emphasis here is on friendly and engaging people – the sorts of Twitter users who, if you ask them a question, they will reply, and people who do not use Twitter just to try to show how important they are. The list could easily have been twice as long, so apologies to those who did not make it. I have also included only personal accounts, and tried to achieve some sort of institutional balance.

So who are the 30?

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Struggling to come to terms with the establishment

republicaTomorrow at re:publica, the annual tech and politics gathering in Berlin, Tobias Schwarz (from Fistful of Euros) and I will talk about 12 years of blogging about European Politics and the EU. Fistful has been around a little longer than my own blog; I’ve been writing here since July 2005.

The biggest thing I’ve ever done – the Atheist Bus Campaign – brought me to re:publica in the first place, in 2009 (pic is from my speech that day). The Atheist Bus Campaign worked because it had edge, and we did it at the peak of Facebook hype. Facebook was booming back then. Meanwhile much of the networking for the early stages of the campaign took place among independent bloggers in the summer of 2008. Bloggers without editorial teams or production budgets still had a role; they do not to the same extent now.

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Politicians blocking users on Twitter

IMG_7731Yesterday evening I was browsing Twitter, and saw this tweet about serious allegations of election fraud by UKIP from Labour politician John Mann (Bassetlaw) retweeted into my timeline. Oh, I’ll retweet that I thought (I’m on John’s side here, not UKIP’s), but Twitter prevented it – it turns out my main Twitter account (@jonworth) is blocked by @JohnMannMP – see screenshot.

This perplexed me, as I have only ever twice tweeted John Mann – both of these tweets from 27 November 2013 (it required searching to locate as I couldn’t even remember them – thanks Andrés):

In these tweets my critique is at least as much levelled at Crick as it is at Mann, although confusing a social democrat with the populist right wing is a bit of an error in my view. But as those are the only tweets I have ever written to John Mann, I can only presume those are the reason I am blocked. I of course cannot tweet John Mann to ask because, well, I am blocked, and hence have no way to reach him on Twitter any more. I am also not the only one to be blocked by Mann, and be perplexed as to why. Are those tweets really reason enough to block someone?

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Why Twitter works better than Facebook for discussions about the EU

timmermans

Following my earlier blog entry about Twitter chats I was confronted by a familiar charge – ah, Frans Timmermans is a Facebook guy. He doesn’t like Twitter. That’s the problem. There are probably some pretty good reasons he likes Facebook, and not Twitter, and I will come to those at the end of the post.

But, sorry Frans, but I don’t “Like” your page on Facebook, and I have some pretty good reasons for that.

The first, and most minor problem, is my issue with the word. To me “Like” implies endorsing something. Follow (on Twitter) does not. I in no way endorse Frans Timmermans. Oh, you’re exaggerating will come the riposte, yet when I “Liked” Guy Verhofstadt in his bid to become Commission President, friends of mine fired back the accusation that I was wrong to Like Verhofstadt as he’s a liberal and I am leftie. What you like on Facebook comes with a social norm attached. If I saw a journalist Liking politicians it would raise a question mark about their impartiality, and there are personal friends of mine who refuse to Like anything political on Facebook because they fear what work colleagues will make of it.

Second, Facebook is useless for thematic discussion. I might have some interest in what Timmermans does on Better Regulation in Brussels, but I also have interest in what a dozen other politicians might have to say about that. Putting it another way, I want to be able to consume content from people and to consume content by theme. Only by Liking the Facebook pages of a dozen politicians could I possibly follow a thematic debate, and even then it would be split up all over Facebook without any coherence. Hashtags on Twitter are what can hold a thematic discussion together – hashtags on Facebook have never proven to be nearly as effective.

Third, Facebook controls what I see, while on Twitter I am to a much greater extent in control of what I see (and my obsessive use of Twitter Lists and filters in Tweetbot helps further). The problem is Facebook’s News Feed, and its algorithm that will only show me – on average – 1 in 20 posts from a politician’s page, and then according to factors Facebook determines rather than ones I determine. That might be handy for information I was not looking for (it throws up significant developments in friends’ lives, for example) but it’s pretty horrid if I am trying to follow a debate.

Those then are the reasons Twitter works better for EU political debate than Facebook does in my view.

Then finally my feeling about why Facebook appeals to Frans Timmermans: because Facebook inspires a kind of fan-like fervent following for this most supremely confident and charming politician, who gives the impression that he is rather a fan of himself (perhaps with good reason). Frans seems to be more about Frans than he is about the issues – you Like Frans because he is Frans and worth following. That feels good for his ego. And that’s a perfect match on Facebook.


Commission Twitter-chats: interactivity-washing

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 14.40.50At 1600 CET today, First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans will do an online chat on Twitter and Facebook* – tag is #AskFrans. Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc will do the same on Monday 27th April at 1400 CET – tag there is #ITS2015chat.

Oooooh, look, little users of social media! Come and ‘chat’ to the Commissioners for an hour! Look at how interactive I am!

So the Commissioners can thereafter resort to form and then broadcast out pictures of them shaking hands with people, or retweet quotes of theirs spoken at events, for the rest of the time.

Put it another way: Twitter chats are convenient interactivity-washing – they demonstrate some engagement, but strictly on the Commissioner’s own terms, and at a time they themselves set. In the case of Bulc and Timmermans it therefore means that @-replying them at any other time is like tweeting into a black hole. Not only is next to impossible to get a reply from either of them, but it is also a perfectly reasonable assumption that none of the everyday tweets written first person in their name are actually written by them. If you doubt it, look for any sort of normal Twitter interaction here from Timmermans or here from Bulc – you won’t find any. Malmström and Georgieva are the exceptions in the Commission, not the rule.

That doesn’t mean these chats are useless – they are better than nothing. But they are far from being the solution for good online communications from Commissioners!

* – yes, I am aware that Timmermans is more of a Facebook fan than a Twitter person, but Twitter is the social network for EU policy discussion, and all Commissioners are present on it.


Slave to the freelance life

I am sat writing this in the train between Berlin and Brussels. It’s the 7th time I am taking this trip (or the opposite direction) in 2015; in 2014 I did it 25 times. Yes, I could fly, and pump some more CO2 into the atmosphere to save myself 90 minutes each time, but that’s not the issue here.

I am off to a city – Brussels – that I visit too often for work purposes, to do work I have done too often and is hence no longer as fun as it once was, for pay that is inadequate given the time and responsibility it entails.

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Two very special #EUtweetup dates – 23rd April, Brussels and 29th April, Berlin

EUTweetupsKnollAndor

I am very happy to announce two further dates in the #EUTweetup series. For the next two tweetups we have some special guests!

On Thursday 23rd April, from 1600, in Brussels at Wild Geese (new location – Metro Maalbeek (map)) we will be joined by Jason L Knoll – follow him on Twitter @JasonLKnoll and his blog can be found here. My connection with Jason is one of those extraordinary things that can only happen on Twitter – he is a high school teacher in Madison, Wisconsin, with a fascination for European politics, and I have even done a Skype call to his class to explain the European Parliament to them. Yet I have never met him in person – to be put right on 23rd April! Please note: due to Jason’s schedule he will be present from 1600 until approx 1800, and thereafter the tweetup will continue!

On Wednesday 29th April, from 1830, in Berlin Gorki Park (normal location – U8 Rosentaler Platz (map)) we welcome László Andor, former Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion in the Barroso II Commission. You can follow him on Twitter @LaszloAndorEU and his Wikipedia page is here. Andor was one of the most interesting Commissioners to follow on Twitter, known for his forthright comments to journalists, and his views about his country of origin. He is now a Fellow at Hertie School of Governance in Berlin.

Please note that the precise location of these Tweetups has not yet been confirmed, but put the dates in your diaries folks! I’ll add the venues here as soon as they are confirmed. For these tweetups the format is as it ever is – anyone is welcome, come along for a short while or stay the whole evening, and meet in real life the folks you argue with on Twitter. No need to register, and follow #EUtweetup for the latest information, or tweet that tag if you have questions or can’t find us on the night!


The vexed issue of politicians on Twitter – is it really them?

malmström-barrosoI’ve never met European Commission for Trade Cecilia Malmström in person. But from tweets exchanged over the years with @MalmstromEU I have some picture of what Malmström must be like as a person. From serious discussions about the implementation of Schengen (her previous Commission post was Home Affairs), via deleted tweets about TTIP, to joking about Barroso’s farewell speech (see screenshot), so I develop a picture of a straightforward and open person, someone ready to listen, and one with a sense of humour. And all of this even though I politically disagree with her. Twitter in other words allows me to separate the person from the issue to a certain extent.

The crucial issue here of course is that the tweets in question actually come from Malmström herself. No member of staff would ever dare write the tweet about Barroso and the Bye Bye Barroso bingo game!

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