When lobbying meetings range from the obnoxious to the cute

This best represents how I feel every week

This best represents how I feel every week

Over 2 years of not blogging. No time, no inspiration, no….I don’t know. I guess sometimes being in the EU bubble and talking about it induces too much claustrophobia to be enjoyable.

But this week, my usual cynical self had a range of meetings that I just briefly wanted to share, as they thinly cracked my defensive varnish layer of indifference.

The first meeting was about Intellectual Property Rights. I have for a long time been able to slide by the subject in my activities as an Internet lobbyist. The issue is complex to a certain extent because it is rife with emotions and, well, I guess us lobbyists tend to be careful with emotions in the course of our business activities. But sometimes, you just can’t avoid a subject when it becomes so ominous in the debates. So here I was, attending an IPR roundtable. I’m not sure if it was under Chatham House Rules and I won’t bore you with the details. What amazed me was the absolute unwillingness of many around that table to even listen to opposite views. And the anger with which they would present their own. I am used to all panelists on a debate starting with the famous ‘I agree with my co-panelist’ followed by a ‘BUT’ and a cool dismantling of the ‘oppositions’ arguments. None of this in this case: just sheer antagonism and monologues. Well, I guess there’s no age to discover new ways of lobbying.

Which brings me to my second ‘new’ meeting experience, this time in the area of animal welfare (yes, I know, not very obvious to have a meeting on that topic as an internet lobbyist but sometimes you just do something because the cause is worthy :)). Here, my meeting was one also where emotions could be felt, but all of them in the right place: we talked about what is important for animal welfare and how to improve it. And the coolest participant in the room was the beautiful black dog that greeted us upon entering the office (no offense to the other participants) and promptly brought his bone to us, for us to play fetch.

Who would have thought Brussels could still surprise me twice in the same week?

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NATO diplomats could make the twitter leap (with a push by @AlecJRoss)

I had the immense surprise of being invited to a dinner organised tonight by the US Ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, with Alec Ross, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Innovation senior Advisor.

Admit there's worse places to have dinner!

Admit there’s worse places to have dinner!

Though the purpose was to talk about social media and foreign policy, digital diplomacy and democracy, we were warned that the dinner was under Chatham House Rules, a concept slightly foreign to the web 2.0 sphere but probably understandable if you have a couple of diplomats in the room used to a more hush hush approach to life.

I won’t break those rules and hence will not say specifically what was discussed at the dinner (even if nothing seemed to be a scoop in there) but just outline a seried of impressions:

  • at an anecdotal level, Ambassador Rogozin of Russia is every bit the same in real life as he is on twitter: formidable with a quirky sense of humour and a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
  • at a substantial level, Alec Ross can switch from making extremely humane comments (notably agreeing with my theory that institutions don’t only need a voice but also faces) to quoting every statistic you ever thought of on Internet usage, penetration and digital literacy. With a smile.
  • at an institutional level, the wave of change brought by Clinton to the State Department seems incredible when you hear where they come from and where they are aiming to go in terms of external outreach and communication. These people have been living on exchanging information through vetted cables for centuries (as Wikileaks has amply demonstrated) and are now encouraged by the highest ranks of their hierarchy to ‘tweet and like’ as much as they can. It is oddly a situation where the top wants them to speak and the ranks seem a bit overly cautious and overwhelmed.
  • at a personal level, I was amazed by the level of openess of the responses given by both Alec Ross and Ivo Daalder, and by the level of interactivity of the whole event. Everyone could ask questions and did!

I do hope that @alecjross and  @DRogozin will keep on tweeting like they have and extend a warm welcome to @USAmbNATO , the account run by Ivo Daalder and his staff. Yes, institutions definitely need faces.

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Best Wishes and all of that stuff even if the year end is odd

Ho Ho Ho!

Ho Ho Ho!

I am only a couple of hours away from driving merrily to the ski slopes and suddenly thought about wishing all of you a Merry “whatever it is you’re partying about at the end of the year”!

It’s been a busy year for me…fun at times, and oddly disappointing in terms of my favourite comms tool in life, the Internet. Wikileaks and the cablegate “follow-up”, Hadopi, Loppsi, the Hungarian Media law, the half-ok half-notok statement by the FCC yesterday, Venezuela going bonkers too, the UK’s daft idea of blocking porn online (what is that about?),  Censilia…it’s a bit of a rough end of year if you happen to like the good ol’ Internet like I do.

Oh, and I didn’t blog about the Berlusconi and #euco incident ’cause..I frankly couldn’t be bothered. The darn tweetwall is nowhere near the entrance the Heads of State and government use and the whole idea that if democracy gets rough you should interfere into it is a bit odd to me (I’m talking verbally, not physically). And I don’t care…not faced with the perspective of 2011 becoming the year of the ‘muzzled Internet’.

But let’s stop the gloomy thoughts and hope that people will come back to some form of common sense. And I’m off for ten days to do my outstanding and much admired rolling off the slopes like a rhino snowball imitation.

Merry whatever to all of you!

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