Whose tweets are these anyway? (What happens when election campaign tweets get deleted?)


Today, there was a bit of a flurry of tweets after the official Twitter account by SPD candidate for chancelor, Peer Steinbrück, sent this tweet:

deleted tweet

… and then deleted it. (Screenshot from Politwoops)

Because it can be hard to read, the tweet says: “Wann hat sich ein Kanzlerkandidat irgendeiner Partei schon mal für Netzpolitik interessiert! Wann? cc @pottblog” (translation: When did any party’s candidate for chancellor have any interest in net politics before? When?)

In general, deleting tweets isn’t considered good style. Fair enough.

Before I continue, full disclosure: I once was an advisor to the federal youth campaign for SPD, back in 2009, and as a student job I worked on the SPD 2005 campaign as well. I don’t have any business relationship with the party now.

So, now that that’s out of the way, I think there are several aspects to look at this.

One, overall etiquette. Should tweets ever be deleted (if so, when is it acceptable), and if they are, should it be marked? I tend to go a pretty pragmatic way: If something’s posted accidentally, delete the tweet or say it in the next tweet. This, and that’s important to stress, doesn’t serve to hide the information, but to help prevent the spreading of information that wasn’t intended to be published. In other words, both the deletion and the clarifying statement serve (IMHO) as a statement of intention: “please don’t spread this, it was an honest mistake and not intended to be published”. If something’s tweeted on purpose but simply wrong, never delete but own up. Also, be aware that no tweets stays deleted, ever, because what’s out there is out there.

Two, if something is tweeted, like in this case obviously, accidentally on one account but was meant for another. (According to Twitwoops, the fantastic services that archives tweets deleted from politicians’ accounts, the tweet in question was deleted within half a minute.) If, in other words, something that was meant to be a tweet from the personal account of a member of the election campaign team that has access to the candidate’s twitter account as is normal and as it should have, then what’s the best next step? Does a tweet, even if by technical/human error sent from a candidate’s account, count as “their tweet”? Frankly I don’t think so.

Here’s the original tweet, from the owner, and surely it’s harmless enough in this context:

Tobias Nehren (Fison) on Twitter

So, I don’t know what the best practice is. But I do know that a bit of common sense helps put this things in context. In my experience as someone who pretty much posts stuff online all day and who’s also been heavily involved in election campaigns where things tend to move very fast, more often than not there’s no intention to hide things but simple, honest mistakes. We’re all human.

Drumbeat Berlin



Yesterday Mozilla held an event in Berlin to build ground support for their new open web initiative Drumbeat. For the super-brief version of what Drumbeat is all about, let me quote Mark Surman from the first Drumbeat blog post:

At its simplest, Mozilla Drumbeat is about everyday internet users using technology to make and do things that will keep the web open for the long haul. Diversity will be a critical to this. Drumbeat needs to engage the huge diversity of people who use the web in their work and play. Teachers. Artists. Lawyers. Filmmakers. Children. Everyone. It also needs to reflect — and be shaped by — the diversity of cultures that make up the web. Drumbeat needs to be truly global right from the start.

So with Mark, Henrik Moltke (Drumbeat Project Producer), Allen Gunn and a whole bunch of other crew members, Mozilla brought in the big guns, so to speak. And showed that they’re serious about Drumbeat. This is support building as it should be. The level of enthusiasm and energy was contagious. (And made me feel even worse for coming in way late.) It was a room full of folks from all walks of the web that share a mission: to keep & make the web as open as possible. And in this mission, I guess, is the key to what makes Drumbeat special: rather than an initiative, it felt more like there’s a movement building up.

I’m curious to see how to best get involved, and where this will take me. But trust me, this is going to be big.

Thanks a lot to Mark, Henrik, Allen and all the others for putting all of this together. You guys rock!

Support Creative Commons (Campaign)


As you might know, I’m a big fan of Creative Commons (CC), a very easy way to share your content online and thus contribute to an ever-growing pool of freely available body of text, picture, videos and music to work with. It’s not a replacement to copyright, but an addition that gives the content creators (that’s you) more rights to share their works and others more rights to use them. Creative Commons is a building block for a free culture.

A few days ago, the annual fundraiser campaign has kicked off. As you can imagine, like many industries, non-profits like Creative Commons have also been hit hard by the economic crisis as they have to rely on donations both by institutions and individuals.

Before getting into the details, though, a quick intro video for those of you not familiar with Creative Commons. A good place to start is the video “A Shared Culture” by filmmaker Jesse Dylan, known for the “Yes We Can” Barack Obama campaign video:

A few brief examples how Creative Commons is relevant to my work:

  • Practically all the images used in this blog are licensed under CC. The blog itself is licensed under CC – with one of the most liberal licenses (CC Attribution). Anybody can use all the content that I created here as long as they point out who it’s from (that’s the “attribution” part), no matter if for non-commercial or commercial uses.
  • My photos on Flickr are all licensed under a slightly more restrictive license (CC Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike), which means anyone can use them as long as they point to me as the creator, but they may only use them in a non-commercial context (because I wouldn’t want a friend of mine ending up in some kind of commercial or anything along those lines), and as long as they share the work based on my photos under similar conditions (thus also contributing to the growing pool of available works).
  • In practically every client project I argue for sharing as much as possible on the web, and usually a Creative Commons license is the easiest, most reliable (and most legally sound) way of doing so.

For different kinds of uses and content, Creative Commons offers me the chance to pick just the right license and keep the rights I want to keep while giving up the ones that aren’t important to me. That’s the main difference between the old model you know from old-school copyright aka “all rights reserved”. With Creative Commons, it’s “some rights reserved”.

The official fundraiser kick-off post has the details on the campaign (and a neat CC shirt motif), Joi Ito has some more background.

So what can you do to support a free culture? You can spread the word, share your content (thus enabling others to build on it while also building your reputation), or donate cash, which helps fund the (small) organization behind the scenes:

Here’s more ways and hands-on tipps on how to support Creative Commons and spread the word. Thanks for your contribution.

German Election Voter Mobilization Videos


With only a bit more than a week to the German Bundestagswahl (federal elections), it’s time for a brief recap of the (supposedly viral) videos that have popped up over the last few weeks. Take this post as a starting point as it’s most certainly far from incomplete as of yet. Also, please take into consideration that very likely I saw more of these videos from one side of the political spectrum than the other.

The theme tying these videos together is basically: Every vote counts, so go vote, or you support some non-candidate or another.

Time permitting, I’ll be adding more videos as they’re coming in. Please let me know of others if you know them. Also, thanks to Thomas for a first collection. (I’m still thinking of putting all the US versions right next to them. Could be good fun.)


German Young Voter Campaign Copies U.S. Don’t Vote Video


identical storm troopers All of them are looking the same. In the Imperial Army that’s probably good. In political campaigning, not so much.

Now here I’m in a bit of a dilemma. Check out this German knock-off version of the Don’t Vote video. (Both versions at the end of this post.)

On one hand, I’m always glad about anything that encourages folks to vote. I’m very politically interested, I supported a much-talked about recent online petition (see my blog posts), signed a class-action lawsuit against data retention, interned at – and later briefly worked as an editor for – German online politics magazine and think tank, did all kinds of stuff, mostly outside party politics. These days (disclaimer!) I’m an adviser to the youth online campaign of the SPD, more concretely Jusos.

All that to say: I really appreciate any effort whatsoever that individuals, and organizations of any kind take to get more people to vote, because I think political action in general and voting in particular is incredibly important.

But. And it’s a big but. But on the other hand, the German internet scene has long since gotten the reputation of just copying U.S. web services. (I’m looking at you, StudiVZ, but not only at you, there’s many more cases just as blatant as that.) And in this sense, there’s this video here, called “geh nicht hin”, which translates into “don’t go there”, referring to the federal elections on 27 Sept.

The video is done, I’m sure, with the best of intentions. Produced, as far as I can tell, by, a well-respected TV production company, and, the very online politics magazine I used to work for and that I highly respect. The whole thing was done, in other words, by the good guys.

Now here I am, as I said, in a bit of a dilemma. It’s a good video, it’s a great idea, it’s smart, and it supports a cause I also support. But it’s a direct, 1:1 copy, a total knock-off. And to make matters worse, it’s a direct knock-off of the U.S. elections. Campaigners Germany-wide have talked for a long time about how Obama campaign blueprints can be adapted to the German elections. (I don’t think they can.) It’s become almost a joke: “Well, let’s do it like Obama!” But here we are, different country, different political system, different parties, candidates, issues. Different campaigning system even.

Still, this video just copies this American video (which I found pretty good), and just translates it. Which makes it look rather sad. And sure, you could argue that people here haven’t seen it and that a good adaption of an idea can still be valid, and that’s true. But this left me with a bit of a bitter taste.

(The website is showing a technical error message while I’m writing this, but the video is visible there.) Update (29 July): is live and working now.

So here’s the two videos. Top: German version “geh nicht hin”. Bottom: U.S. version “don’t vote”.

Much more funny, by the way, is this video response by German bloggers. It translates to: “don’t go outside!”, poking fun at the cliché of geeks hiding behind their computers and avoiding the outside world:

Photo by Jeremy Mates (Creative Commons)

Social Media: Not about marketing, but changing the company


Don't just talk. Listen! Just broadcasting with more & smaller megaphones: Not the way you want to go.

There’s one good thing about the live-streamed and much discussed Vodefone press conference where the telco presented their new brand strategy: We have another good example to discuss the relationships between companies, brands, social media and advertising.

For those who haven’t been following the discussion, here’s the short-short version: Vodafone are re-branding themselves. Hired to help them is Scholz & Friends, a large ad agency. From now on, they target what they call “Generation Upload”, the new generation of consumers that’s always on and shares their stuff online. Also, Vodafone now wants to treat their old, trusty customers at least as good as new customers.


Anyway. Back to the point. Thomas pointed out:

[…] Scholz is an advertising company. They are not business consultants. And social media won’t change that. They talk to marketing directors about ads, not about products. They might talk about products over coffee, but they will never change a companies behaviour. Claiming to do so, claiming to listen, claiming to put the customer first and then not living up to the expectations is worse than not even rise all sorts of expectations that can never be fulfilled.

This really nails it: You can’t just use social media for marketing and advertising and hope that anything will change. It won’t. Not a single one of your company’s problems will be solved, not a single customer more happy with you. (Your management might be happy ’cause everything seems new and hip, but this shouldn’t be the benchmark.)

Social media – and more importantly, underlying principle of dialog with your customers on eye level – requires a corporate culture, and structure, that allows for dialog. Requires it even! In some areas, that’s perfectly normal and doesn’t require a large change: If you buy clothes, you can always expect that the sales person will talk to you, particularly if it’s a small owner-run business. Nothing new there.

For larger corporations, sometimes it’s not as easy. They need to change. A lot. To change, you don’t hire an ad agency.

(Although some common sense might come in handy, as Johannes points out.)

It’s a problem many companies have, it’s hard to figure out who to hire to help you navigate this weird space that’s called Social Media. (I’m not pitching my services here – I’m just a one-person outfit, not in competition with said large agencies, although I sometimes work with them.) Instead of ad agencies, hire business consultants. Let them help you. (If instead you still want to hire communications consultants of any sorts, be prepared to change after their advice.)

(Edit: If you’re an ad or PR agency, here’s your part of the deal: If you offer social media services, make sure to negotiate the privileges required to change your client’s company, not just their image. You, too, face a very different challenge than a few years ago.)

It’s not about finding a new wrapping for your old dusty product. It’s about inventing a new product. Maybe that requires tearing down your old factory and building a new one.

Just for completeness’ sake, here’s a screenshot I took today (almost a week after the press conference) on the Vodafone website:

so-called vodafone flatrate Screenshot: A Vodafone offer touting a smartphone and the “SuperFlatInternet” plan (not a real flatrate)

Not only is it – as far as I can tell – not a new product, but it’s also a prime example of intransparent, misleading pricing. (Quoted prices: Monthly 44,95; monthly 49,95; monthly after six months: 59,95.) And there’s not a trace of a true internet flatrate.

Not following up on new announcements: Bad. Also, another example Why The Telcos Are Doomed.

Update 16 July 2009: Point in case, Laura Porto Stockwell over at Digital Dialogs came to the same conclusions and has a neat Forrester report to back her up. (via Johannes)

Photo by ehnmark (Creative Commons). Screenshot (Creative Commons).

Obama for Germany, or How To Run An Online Campaign for the German Federal Elections


Obama Latte

Since I started working on the online campaign for the German federal elections, I haven’t blogged about it here. (Although I was interviewed twice, by American PoliticsMagazine and by German newspaper Also, see my disclosure at the end of this post.) We’re way into the campaigning season by now. Between that and my time in the US, I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on the online campaigns in Germany and the differences to the American presidential elections. It’s time, I think, to share a few thoughts – mostly on how useful the Obama campaign’s lessons are for German political campaigns.

We’ve all watched the US campaigns closely, and have ever since. I remember in 2004, working for the SPD’s online agency as a student, we watched the Dean campaign for their organizing online and micro donations. This time, all eyes were on Obama, for their organizing online and social media activities. Both times, the US elections came relatively briefly before their German counterparts, which makes them good material for analysis.

So can’t we just clone the Obama campaign and all is well? Now there’s a handful of problems with that. Besides the fact that it would be pretty boring to do that, of course.

There is no Obama in Germany. Obama is a very strong, charismatic character who symbolizes a time of change, who totally hits the zeitgeist. There is no German equivalent. (Although some might disagree on this one.)

Obama was good on the web, but also offline. The Obama team had an excellent online strategy. They also had massive resources: Money, staff, volunteers. But we shouldn’t forget that the Obama campaign also featured the biggest ever budget for traditional media. (Those TV spots are still pretty costly, remember?) Also, the campaign was good about mobilizing offline by coordinating online. In Germany, we need to find the balance between online and offline, which traditionally is a tricky one.

A different political system. Germany has a profoundly different political system from the US. Example: We vote primarily for parties, not candidates – at least not on the federal level: The chancellor is elected by the parliament, not directly by the citizens. This makes it harder to focus a campaign on just one candidate. Also, privacy regulations in the EU make the kind of contact databases that the US campaigns maintained widely impossible. (Which isn’t bad, if you ask me.)

A different political culture. Germany is not America, and the political culture is a very different one. Volunteering, donations, even discussing politics works differently here. Cold-calling your friends to vote for one party? Forget it. Donations are nowhere as important as in the US. Politics are considered a very personal matter that’s discussed only with close friends. Just to name a few key differences, all of which have to be reflected in a successful campaign.

Smaller budgets. (Waaaay smaller.) Not the least important: budgets for election campaigns are way smaller than in the US. Consequently, the teams involved in the campaigns are smaller, too. This gives you a somewhat different framework to operate in.

Germany has a weak political blogosphere. This is a fascinating one, particularly since nobody seems to quite know the reasons: The German political blogosphere is strangely underdeveloped. (Speculations range from Germans being to focused on hierarchies to value non-expert bloggers’ opinions to a lack of need for alternative media because there is a strong and highly diverse media system in Germany.) For my M.A. thesis I interviewed journalists about the relevance of political blogs for political journalists in Germany, and the results were pretty clear: Although the journalists stated that they would love to have more political blogs around, the blogs were mostly irrelevant to their work. That was in 2007, so it has changed a bit. The upcoming elections also lead to an increased activity in the political blogosphere. Again, a different framework for a campaign.

So where does that leave us? We have to look at the Obama campaign, and others. But we cannot, should not, and will not try to clone it. Quite the contrary: A critical look at what was done online in the US will help us more than just using the same tools.

So a mix of a bit of cherry picking plus some genuinely freshly adapted or developed ideas is what we’re going for. And as I said to the editor of PoliticsMagazine: The youth campaign is “all about getting the basics right”. Website and blog need to be state of the art; a solid contact database; Social Media presence where needed; and of course a focus on giving the community the tools they need to organize themselves. So are we on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr? Of course, wherever it makes sense. But that can’t be all. After all, this isn’t about tools, it’s about a strategy, about issues, about the people who make up the community.

Full disclosure: I’m an adviser to the Online Youth Campaign for Jusos, the youth organization of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). All thoughts here, as always, are my personal points of view only, and they don’t necessarily represent my clients’ point of view.

Image: Obamalatte by Jason Permenter (some rights reserved)