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The Europe Roundup: Is a Twitter Interview Enough to Engage People?

BY Antonella Napolitano | Friday, July 29 2011

  • Spain | Spanish elections: is a Twitter interview enough to engage people?
    Earlier today Prime Minister Zapatero called early elections in Spain, which are now set for November 20th).
    The situation is troubled. The country is suffering from a huge crisis and the established power has been questioned by the Indignados movement, a youth-led and peaceful protest that spread in many cities in the past two months.
    How will politicians react?
    As Zapatero is not seeking reelections, the Socialist Party's candidate is Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. Rubalcaba is working to establish his online presence: he has profiles on FacebookYoutube, Flickr, Slideshare and Tuenti, a social network that is very popular in Spain).

    Rubalcaba has also a Twitter account, usually updated by his staff - Rubalcaba signs his own tweets with RbCb. The news is that he decided to use it as a way to be interviewed: on July 24th his followers were asked to send their questions via Twitter usign the hashtag #Rubalcabacontesta, and the PSOE candidate replied the next day. The account gain more than 1.300 followers and a thousand more during the week.
    It may sound innovative - though the first political Twitter-interview can be traced back to a year ago -  but is this the way to create engagement?

    Expansión's political commentator Gonzalo Toca thinks that Rubalcaba lost his first 2.0 challenge: he wasn't able to give compelling answers and from a political point of view, in fact, it may looks destabilizing to read answers from a candidate that was part of the departing government and doesn't show any trace of a different program. 

    On the political communication side the experiment wasn't considered succesful: popular Spanish blogger Enrique Dans in fact defines this use of Twitter as manipulative.

    Un uso de Twitter que podría calificarse de manipulación: de la misma manera que azuzar organizadamente a tus militantes para que entren a criticar a un foro determinado es manipular, el lanzar consignas en forma de hashtags para lograr auparlas a trending topic coincidiendo con un acto electoral concreto instruyendo a equipos coordinados de cuarenta personas también lo es. Y lo es porque es, sencillamente, falso. 

    According to Dans, the main output is mainly a one-day trending topic, just a way to get followers to talk about it without providing any actual value. And critics were quick to adopt the hashtag #Rubalcabayaestaba (Rubalcaba was here before - meaning that he's more of the same).
    Dans concludes that this use of Twitter is an example that clearly shows the mentality of politicians that do not consider social networks as a vehicle for expression of citizenship, but simply as one more way to broadcast their message.

    From @PdF_Europe Twitter account

    Spanish people are expecting a significant change and this election will show if traditional politics will be able to understand citizens' stance on the most important issues and politicians will need to do more in order to gain credibility.

    Are we seeing more cases like the Torrelodones's Mayor election?

  • Italy
    Among the Open Spending project's dataset is one that puts together data from the regional public accounts. In the past weeks this dataset has been used by Italy-based data visualization agency Visup to show the value of using simple and effective information visualization solutions to gain more insight into data.

    On the OKFN blog, Visup's CEO Daniele Giffa explains how they worked to decide how to organize the visualization of date:

    We started by combining other data-sets. The first one was the cartography (in order to understand WHERE the money was spent), and the second-one was a 7 year-series of data about population, helping us understand the amount of money spent for each single citizen during a specific period.
    After some discussions we came to the final design of an interactive visualization. Features include: 
    * a geographic map of Italy, where each region could be used as a filter to slice data focusing on a single specific region. 
    * a list of all the functions, ordered alphabetically, that could be used to filter the data-sets. 
    * the time-range filter, listing all the years with available data (2002-2008) 
    * the calculation-mode filter, that allows data to be calculated as a total or divided by citizens. 
    * a detail box, to get punctual information about the filtered data-sets.

  • France | Adieu to Minitel
    The Minitel, France's forerunner of the Internet, is going to be shut down in a year.
    The telecommunications operator has decided so despite the service still being profitable, reports the Wall Street Journal:

    For 30 years the toaster-sized screen weathered the Internet revolution. Despite a text-only service, basic graphics and snail-like speed, the terminal generated €30 million ($43.1 million) in revenue in 2010, with around 85% redistributed to service providers such as banks and weather forecasters, according to France Télécom SA, which operates the service. 

    On Business Insider Paris-based entrepreneur Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry writes about the "good old times" and states the importance of the device:

    This Paris-based writer still fondly remembers looking up addresses and locations on the Minitel, and even looking up standardized test results. (By the time I was old enough to be interested in the sex services, I had graduated to the real Internet.) The Minitel's weaknesses were also strengths: because it was text-only, what you looked for appeared on the page as soon as you hit enter, which is satisfying in a way today's computing can't accomplish; because everything was in a neat directory, you always found what you were looking for. 

    Somebody blames Minitel for delaying adoption of the Internet in France but Gobry claims that the French way to the Internet was different from others but proved to be successful:

    Now France has the best and cheapest broadband this side of Korea, largely thanks to telecoms disruptor Free, founded by Minitel entrepreneur Xavier Niel.
    France has amazing online entrepreneurs, startups and investors, many of whom cut their teeth on the Minitel.[] 
    It showed many what was possible. It still holds fond memories. And for that, I'll miss it. 

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