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7th November, Berlin – Dany Cohn-Bendit, Ulrike Guérot at European Disputes

ilb14_DISPUTE#2_log_WEBOn Friday 7th November I am a panellist at a conference entitled “European Disputes” that is part of the Internationales Literaturfestival in Berlin. I’m on a panel with both Dany Cohn-Bendit and Ulrike Guérot – that’s quite a privilege!

Ulrike is one of Germany’s sharpest minds on EU matters, and Dany is former leader of the Greens in the European Parliament and 1968 radical, and capable of making speeches like this:

The event runs between 1000 and 2030 in the Otto-Braun-Saal of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Potsdamer Strasse 33, 10785 Berlin [map]. You can download the whole programme here, and more info about the event is here. I’ll be tweeting about it on #EUDisputes. It’s free to attend, so do come along! 

Review: Raleigh Nightflight 8G Men 2013

NightflightA year ago, immediately after moving to Berlin, I made one of the biggest single purchases I’ve ever made – a new bicycle, a Raleigh Nightflight 8G Men 2013, purchased from Radhaus Pankow for €649 (recommended price: €799). For 2014, Raleigh released a slightly updated Nightflight 2014, and I presume will do the same in 2015, but with so many features in common I think it is still worthwhile to write up my experience.

It is worth noting that I bought this bike, rather than any other, not out of any sentimental reasons (my father grew up near Nottingham, the original home of Raleigh bikes – although this bike is actually made in Germany), but because it offered the best features for the price. I was looking for a fast city bike, without suspension forks, and with a hub dynamo, LED lights, mud guards, and pannier bag rack.

Overall – 9/10
This is the best bike I have ever owned, by some distance – admittedly compared to previous city bikes I have owned that cost half the price. It is always good to ride, and does everything you might ever require of a city bike, and is reassuring to know I can jump on it and it will be reliable and functional every time. I have had no serious problem with the bike, and use it at least every other day. Continue Reading

Photo sharing on Twitter – making sure as many people as possible see your photos

For years I’ve been using Twitpic to share photos on Twitter, but now it’s closing down I need a new solution. It’s a great shame Twitpic is closing for two reasons. First, it allowed you to get a RSS feed containing all your Twitter pictures and that was handy for other purposes, and secondly, I am a big supporter of third party services for Twitter – I want as diverse as possible application environment on Twitter, not just everything run by Twitter itself.

Anyway, so what am I going to do instead? My starting point was to test what works.

I registered the Twitter account @PhotoTestEU and tweeted pictures using that account. I included pictures from Twitter’s own image uploading system, yfrog, CloudApp, Droplr, img.ly, Mobypicture, and Twitpic (for comparison) – these are all the image uploading options in Tweetbot for Mac, my favoured Twitter client. I additionally tweeted a pic from Hootsuite, and pasted in links to pictures first uploaded to Flickr and Instagram.

I then looked at these tweets in a number of ways – at Twitter.com, Tweetdeck and Hootsuite in a computer browser, in Tweetbot on my Mac, in the Fenix for Android and Twitter for Android, and in Twitter for iOS. The test was to see whether the images appeared in the stream, required an extra click but were obviously images, or appeared simply as links. These are the results (click to enlarge):

twitter-apps-pics-lowresThe basic result is a simple one: only images uploaded to Twitter’s own photo share service appear in the stream across all platforms and apps. Beyond that, Flickr, Hootsuite and Twitpic appear in the stream on some platforms, but by no means all.

The result then: if you want to maximise the number of people who will see your photos, then just use Twitter’s own photo sharing, not a third party service.

But that’s not all… What happens if you want to do anything else with the images you share onto Twitter, to use them for other purposes – automatically? That was the joy of the RSS feed from Twitpic – you could use this as an input for IFTTT and do all sorts of super things.

So, not to be deterred, and sadly aware that Twitter has removed its own RSS support, I found this code from Fogcat that makes an RSS feed out of a Twitter stream. With a bit of messing around I tweaked the code to deliver Twitter images into to the RSS stream, using this tip. The RSS stream I will then use for photo sharing is here. I’ve then filtered this stream in four different ways using Yahoo! Pipes (1, 2, 3, 4) to make 4 separate RSS feeds. The relatively unfiltered feed is used in IFTTT to backup photos I share on Twitter to Dropbox. The three more narrowly filtered streams are connected to three Photo Albums on Facebook, and to Flickr too, also via IFTTT.

So my photo sharing system is complete – whatever picture I upload onto Twitter, it will also – completely automatically, and according to the rules I have set – end up where I want it on Facebook, Flickr and Dropbox. Yes, it took me hours to work out, but from now on when I’ve snapped the perfect shot I can rest assured it will end up where I want it!


The best Twitter app for Android

5144798765_7d9bc93fff_zThis is a blog entry written as a result of frustration.

I am an extremely intensive Twitter user (@jonworth has 12k followers, follows close to 5k, and has produced 54k tweets) and I recently switched from an iOS to an Android phone. A vital question was hence: what is the best Twitter app for Android? Friends gave me plenty of suggestions, and I have tried all of them out, and review the 11 apps suggested to me in detail here.

The short answer is that there is no perfect Android Twitter app, but that some of them are better than others (and none of them are better than Tweetbot on iOS…).

The apps were tested on a Fairphone running Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2. Each app was used for at least one whole day, in a variety of situations – at events, while on the road, as a means to follow news as well as to write tweets, and were assessed according to my own Twitter needs. All tests were conducted in the first half of October 2014.

The criteria used to assess the apps were: Twitter List Viewing, Twitter List Admin (can accounts be added to lists), Can RTs be seen, BitLy Link Support, Alternative image upload tools, Text Mute Filters, Hashtag previews, Notifications, Streaming, Saved Searches, Speed, and Multi account support.

Short reviews of each app are provided below, and a table of each of the criteria used can be found at the very end of the blog post. If you think my review is unfair in some way, or you have more to add, please do comment, and if necessary I will update the blog entry accordingly. Continue Reading

Malmström, TTIP, ISDS and disappearing tweets

This tweet by @BenC42, at 2110 this evening, alerted me to a potentially interesting development in the negotiation of the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP):

This pointed me to a press release from the S&D Group in the EP, dated today but not timed, where David Martin MEP welcomes words by Trade Commissioner nominate Cecilia Malmström that she is willing to remove investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) from TTIP (one of the most controversial aspects of the proposed trade deal).

Then at 2217 comes this tweet from Malmström:

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 22.35.30

This is however only a screenshot (from Tweetbot, my Twitter app, hence why it looks different to the tweet above from @BenC42), because the tweet was deleted within minutes. This was the original URL of it.

Malmström then followed up with this reply to me:

I am trying to get to the bottom of this, because the document that seems to have been the basis of the S&D Group’s Press Release – be that the right version or the wrong version – does not seem to be available in public.

Even if the wrong version of a document ended up going to the EP from the Commission it’s nevertheless interesting that ISDS was potentially going to be dropped in an initial draft, and at the very least this is administratively embarrassing to the Commission.

If I get more background information about this case I will update the post accordingly. Thanks so far to @BenC42, @GlynMoody, @ibuscke and @MalmstromEU herself for the clarification.

[UPDATE - 26.9.14, 2256]
Turns out that what Malmström would claim is the wrong version of the document – which is actually her written answers to the EP before her hearing next week – has been put up on his website by the Green MEP Sven Giegold here. The text that’s caused the fuss is this (my emphasis):

As the President-elect Juncker has committed himself to in his Political Guidelines – and I quote –, “the Commission will negotiate a reasonable and balanced trade agreement with the United States of America, in a spirit of mutual and reciprocal benefits and transparency. Europe’s safety, health, social and data protection standards or our cultural diversity will not be sacrificed on the altar of free trade. No limitation of the jurisdiction of courts in the EU Member States will be accepted in this context; this clearly means that no investor-State dispute settlement mechanism will be part of that agreement.” I fully support this approach of the President-elect and will work in this sense in the negotiations, which are ongoing and where this issue is on the table.

[UPDATE - 28.9.14, 1600]
I have had a crazy schedule the last few days, so haven’t updated this until now, but a few things have happened in the last 36 hours…

This tweet by Nicholas Whyte on Saturday afternoon

examines Juncker’s statement on this issue, that are rather similar to the words used by Malmström, and that statement from Juncker is dated 15th July, confirmed here by Juncker’s Chef de Cabinet Selmayr. So, is this whole thing a storm in a tea cup?

On Sunday Tagesschau in Germany have started reporting on this (text of the news story in German here – and better late than never, only 36 hours after this blog entry first went up!), and that Malmström has sent a re-drafted version of the document in question to the EP. Tagesschau says it has the document, but does not link to it, and Giegold has not published it either. The document should be available tomorrow (Monday) in any case.

Lastly, and slightly tangentially, David Meyer has written a piece about letters from Malmström obtained by a Freedom of Information Request in the USA regarding data protection, seeming to indicate she was undermining Viviane Reding on this issue. While not directly related to TTIP, looking to be too close to the USA might make Malmström’s hearing in the EP next week extra bumpy.

[UPDATE 29.9.14, 1015]
Euraffex has more on the story here. The section of their piece entitled “A new version – the mystery continues” is the crucial one. The new version of the document sent to the EP now makes no commitment from Malmström herself to get rid of ISDS, but lays this firmly with Juncker’s earlier statements, as explained above.

[UPDATE 29.9.14, 1535]
So perhaps it wasn’t just an administrative error of the “wrong version” after all. From Malmström’s hearing:

The difference between politics *on* the net, and the politics *of* the net

5339417741_6a54da4db7_zWhen I meet people offline and they hear I write a blog that relates to the EU, and that I am active debating politics on Twitter, they very often ask me about issues such as data protection and net neutrality and what the European Union is doing about these things. Questions of this nature arise most often in Germany where the debate about Netzpolitik (structured in part by the famous blog of the same name) – the politics of the net – is fierce.

The thing is that the politics of the net is not my thing, or at least not in a particularly central way. I know what net neutrality is, and why is is important, but I am not heavily engaged in advocacy for it, or in working out the best technological way it could be ensured. I have my own concerns about data protection, and do what I can to be aware of my own data footprint. But I am not manning the barricades shouting Datenschutz!

Instead the politics on the internet is my thing. How does the internet shape our political systems? Our political parties? Our campaigns and causes? How can it be used from everything from helping a candidate to campaign to working out how patient views can be better heard in the healthcare system? Can the internet be effectively used to debate everything from transport policy to social care? Can it help drive up turnout in elections, or – through open data – even help deliver better government services? At the most basic level the internet changes the relationship between the governors and the governed, between politicians and people, and that is deeply fascinating.

Politics on the net is hence not the same as the politics of the net. Die Politik im Netz ist nicht das gleiche wie die Netzpolitik.

(and yes, of course there are some overlaps (net neutrality could promote better debate for example) but the basic point stands – politics on the net, and the politics of the net are not the same things)

David Cameron EU Referendum Speech 2017 (find-replace from Aberdeen 2014)

CameronClactonMockupFast forward to 2017, and somehow David Cameron is still Prime Minister, and the UK (or rUK?) is facing its referendum on remaining in the EU. The polls show a clear lead for keeping the UK in the EU (the NO side), led by Cameron, until Nigel Farage calls upon Alex Salmond style tactics, the polls narrow, and in the last week the Westminster political class panics. YES to leave the EU could win. Cameron dusts down his speech made on 15th September 2014 in Aberdeen, runs a find and replace, and gives it again, this time about the European Union, at Clacton-on-Sea in Essex.

The find-replace was run as follows:

“country” replaced with “continent”
“United Kingdom” replaced with “European Union”
“UK” replaced with “EU”
“Scotland” replaced with “United Kingdom”
“Scots” replaced with “British”
“Scottish” replaced with “British”
“Brit” replaced with “European”
“Edinburgh” replaced with “London”
“London” replaced with “Brussels”
“British Parliament” replaced with “Westminster”

So here’s the speech. The Aberdeen original is here. The idea to do this came from tweets between @alberto_cottica @adrianshort @dominiccampbell @svaroschi and I.

Continue Reading

Switching from iOS to Android (Fairphone) – Part 1

At the start of the summer I realised I needed to make some changes to the technology I use. This was motivated by my 2008 iMac, 2009 MacBook Pro, and 2009 iPhone 4S all not being as snappy and fast as they used to be. This led me to a series of reflections about the technology that I use, and what to do about it. I concluded I did not have enough money for new computers, so put a SSD drive into my MacBook Pro to speed it up (details on how to do this here – it’s highly recommended!), and will do the same to my iMac soon.

But what about the phone? Even the iPhone 6 that has just been released is not a major step forward. To all intents and purposes it’s a faster and larger iPhone 4S. So I started to look around for alternatives… My decision was to switch to Android, and – for ethical reasons rather than performance reasons – to buy a Fairphone. It is a middle of the range Android phone where parts and metals are fairly sourced, and workers treated fairly too – more about it here. The increasing lock-in enforced by Apple over its iOS devices was another reason to look elsewhere (this lock-in is not yet so pernicious on Mac OS).


The challenge then comes: how the hell do I, someone who has relied so heavily on Apple products for so long, some to terms with a new operating system? And, while I am at it, how do I avoid jumping out of the clutches of Apple and straight into the ever deeper clutches of Google (who are behind Android)? I have also made sure not to give Google my credit card details – I’ve used a €25 pre-paid card for the Google Play store to pay for the few apps that were not free.

Continue Reading