New Series: Corona Crisis — Lessons for the Future of Cities


I’m excited to pull back the curtain on a brand new project that I’m doing with Körber Stiftung, specifically with their democracy program.

We’ve started producing a series of video conversations called Corona Crisis — Lessons for the Future of Cities which is about… you guessed it: How different cities respond to the coronavirus crisis.

We’ll talk to local leaders about their specific, local challenges, opportunities and strategies: While some strategies are universal, like washing hands and keeping a safe distance, others are more tailored to the local context. And those strategies are what we want to learn about, so others can learn from them, too.

And while overall we’re pretty broad with our interest in this, there are two focus areas that we’ll be emphasizing: The use of digital tools (and the trade-offs that inform the decisions around them) as well as how engagement with civil society works.

While every city and administration has to find their own way, I’m convinced there are lessons to be learned from others. Over time, a picture should emerge: Patterns of approaches that seem more promising than others, best practices, and maybe some surprising insights.

I expect we’ll start sharing the videos within a week or two. When we do, I’ll update this post to include links.

I hope you’ll enjoy the show. Let me know what you think!

Some drone flying videos from Dolores Park


Over in San Francisco, Tom and Matt had rented a Phantom drone, and they kindly took me along to take it out for a spin over Dolores Park.

Tom just shared the results (see many more on Tom’s flickr):


The San Francisco skyline, as seen from over Dolores Park:


And a (more than slightly awkward) drone selfie. (Dronie? Drelfie?):

Thanks Tom!

All images by Tom Coates, licensed under CC by-nc.

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.)


Online PR is all about community


Spot on. PR firms and brands, please watch this this. Then watch it again, and internalize it. With no further comment:

Online PR is all about Community from RealWire on Vimeo.


Update: A great way to get involved in the community is by the way – in all bluntness – to sponsor a community event. Like the one we’re putting together for late September, atoms&bits Festival. Feel free to drop me a line or read more about it here.

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 politik-digital.de, 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 probono.tv, a well-respected TV production company, and politik-digital.de, 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 gehnichthin.de is showing a technical error message while I’m writing this, but the video is visible there.) Update (29 July): gehnichthin.de 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)