So re:publica 08 is over, it’s the week after and things are back to normal. I’m only posting this just now since my weekend pretty much went into moving to a new apartment, but now that I’ve settled in, I’m back on a more regular schedule after after a trip to New York and San Francisco and visiting the blogger conference.
One thing that struck me as noteworthy was how many attendees used Twitter. Twitter was all over the place, much more than last year, when the odd (and oddly addictive) messaging service/social network hit mainstream at SXSW. (If you’re on Twitter, say hi.) Probably this was the highest Twitter density ever reached in Germany. Twitter was so ubiquitous that it pretty much made obsolete the SMS wall behind the main panel, so we had several layers of meta discussion at all times: While in the background text messages (and the occasional tweet) were projected, there was a much more lively backchannel via Twitter. Also, this made it pretty clear how much of an echo chamber Twitter still is, with mostly Social Media folks using it while the outside world hasn’t even noticed.
Speaking of echo chambers, Alana Taylor did a fun, brief video poll among students around NYU, asking them about Facebook, Flickr and Twitter:
(Admittedly, I was surprised how few folks were familiar with Flickr, which I always had down as quite mainstream..?)
The whole event was, of course, not just about content, but also about meeting folks, so networking was high on the agenda. The location, called Kalkscheune, is a great venue in that respect, as it has smaller workshop rooms, a big panel room, a coffeeshop-style lobby as well as a nice backyard, and it’s located very centrally in Berlin Mitte.
Someone (who, by the way?) also tried to facilitate networking by printing out Twitter follower stickers, so you could tag, or rather: follow, your fellow attendees Twitter-style with neat little stickers. Of course, this didn’t help the infamous conference-chat, which consists of not locking into people’s faces but at their name tags, but lots of stickers were seen, so obviously the concept resonated.
I had the chance to meet a whole bunch of folks, but since I couldn’t be there all the time, I’m sure I’ve also missed quite a few. If you had planned to get in touch, please do, via email, Twitter or what you prefer.
One of the best panels My favorite panel at re:publica was Henning Krieg‘s panel on law and blogging. At pretty much every other conference I missed out on Henning’s quite famous talks, and it was no surprise to find the room packed to the limits. Relaxed, informal and funny presentation, a lot of value for the regular blogger like yours truly. What about the infamous German imprint (“Impressum”), what kind of content am I allowed to use on my blog, who has rights to this photo, and what will a German judge count as an insult? Plenty of questions from the audience, lots of answers. If nothing else, the audience sure learned that the law can’t quite keep up with technology and common practice.
The slides are already online, but Henning is also planning a series of posts specifically about blogging and law. So keep an eye on his blog, Kriegs-Recht.de. (That is, if you’re interested in German blogging law and are fluent in German, of course.)
Today is day 3 of re:publica 08, the last day of this year’s installment of this conference. Re:publica is the biggest and most important blogger & social media conference in Germany, organized largely by the Newthinking Team (i.e. the net activists whose most prominent member is probably Markus Beckedahl, author of Netzpolitik.org. Thanks Markus, and all the others who don’t get the same media attention.)
So far, it’s been a great event – the organization worked pretty much smoothly except for minor wireless outages, although of course the most interesting conversations happen in between session, in the lobby, the hallways, the surrounding bars.
Right now I’m sitting in a panel on video in political communication with pretty harmonic panelists (representatives of the Social Democrats, the Green Party, ver.di as well as social media scientist Jan Schmidt).
Turns out everybody agrees that yes, video plays a more and more important role in online election campaigns, but no, it’s not crucial yet. Also, I’m getting the impression that while the strategists know very well what to expect and how to use online media, but this seems rather detached from their constituencies’ new media expertise. Basically, whenever it’s time for an election campaign, the parties get out their new media toolkit and are surprised their voters don’t really care as much as they expected; maybe it’s because in between election campaigns the parties are not very active in social media?
I know of a few projects that look promising, like the Social Democratic Party’s social network meineSPD. (I’m sure there are others as well that I don’t know off the top of my head.) But generally, there’s hardly a political social media scene in Germany, although it’s growing. This is also what political journalists told me when I interviewed them for my M.A. thesis on the relevance of weblogs for political journalism in Germany. Their conclusion: There are no relevant, i.e. quote-worthy, political weblogs in Germany as of now. The journalists explicitly wished for better political weblogs, though.
Hopefully conferences like re:publica can help establish this kind of political blogosphere in Germany.