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?
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!
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.
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!
A scene from hell
It always seems that, as Christmas break draws nearer, all conference organisers decide to set up event after event, just to make sure we end the year spending more time in the lobbies of Brussels hotels than at our office desk (or any other useful place, for that matter)…Could it be that it is to remind us why we are called “lobbyists”? If that’s the case, could we please rename the profession to “beddists” (not buddhists) so that we can spend the cold winter months in bed?
ECTA Conference on the wonders of regulation and competition in the telecoms sector, Data Protection conference on why it is important for Europe and its Member States to protect our privacy, Data Retention conference on why it is important for Europe and its Member States to make private companies store lots of stuff in case they feel like breaching our privacy, Ecommerce Conference to explain the wonders an online single market could bring to our economy if only there was one (well, a functioning one)…all of that bundled in one week.
And you know the sad part: at none of these events did I hear (when I attended with my brain on) or read (when someone was kind enough to spare me the need to participate by sending me notes) anything new…nothing…zippo…nada. Europe talks about innovation ad nauseam but why can’t it’s policy makers try to be innovative? OK, that may be asking a bit much so let’s be slightly less ambitious: how come on issues like telecoms, ecommerce, data privacy and data retention we find ourselves listening to the “solutions & views” of 5 different DG’s? Wouldn’t you expect policy-making on a rather “big thing” like the online ecosystem (buzzword alert but needed to place it somewhere after hearing it a zillion times) to be slightly more…centralised? well-thought? coherent? Oh, and while we’re at it: I am not sure that rules should be different online and offline. I actually am pretty sure of the contrary except for one major aspect: applicable law. But that is something I leave for my musings on Lobbynomics, as this blog must remain my place to rant!
Stephen Clarke and myself looking our usual serious selves
I had the pleasure of being invited to participate in a panel at the Centre-Edelman, in relation to the launch of their new study “The 2010 Capital Staffers Index“, which looks at the use of social media and more traditional lobbying means (e.g. writing letters, face-to-face meetings) and how they are perceived by the assistants of MPs and MEPs in the US, at the European Parliament, and in France, Germany and the UK.
I must admit that the results were not entirely surprising, except maybe for the continued attachment by French MPs to handwritten letters….I mean come one: is that a paper or a pen lobby going on?
The panel was made up of myself (for the “view of the lobbyist” touch), Stephen Clark (Head of the EP’s web comms unit, aka @stctweets) and MEP Judith Sargentini (@judithineuropa).
Everyone of us seemed to be on the same wavelength on most issues except, funnily, the fact that both Stephen and Judith disagreed with my perception that Twitter was “time-saving”. It is funny in a way that the general agreement in society at this stage still seems to be that social media induces procrastination (which is true) and this makes you waste time (which, to me, is not true). Though I know the image people have of lobbyists is that of mercenaries cruising the corridors of Parliament to convince naïve politicians with a 15 minute elevator pitch, that makes up, quite frankly, for only 20% of my time (and, by the way, they’re not that naïve). The remaining 80% are split between a lovely 5% allocated to bookkeeping and various fascinating reporting activities to clients and 75% of getting to grips with the issues that I have to advocate on. For that portion of my time, Twitter is just an extraordinary source of relevant information. Yes, it is time consuming but then doing random keyword searches and clicking on non-relevant links is even more so.
So I stand by statement that social media can be a time-saver if used well (and truly: use two screens, it will save your life)! And, by the way, procrastination is sometimes a good way to regain a form of sanity so even there, there are hidden benefits.
Come fly with me at Lobbynomics
It’s funny how once you start blogging (even if I am the first to admit that I am a very sporadic blogger), the limits you have set yourself in terms of blogging initially soon start to become burdensome.
Now in all fairness, I put very few limits on myself when I started blogging on LobbyPlanet, except for the fact that each of my posts should remain (1) light and possibly funny (2) about my job as a lobbyists but not about the dossiers I deal with.
Not too constraining you would think…except it’s very difficult not to feel that tingling to write about a subject you are working and breathing most of your waking hours about..and yes you work on it for clients but also because you happen to be interested in that matter…or worse, care about a dossier (I know, caring and lobbyists without a chequebook involved seems extremely counter-intuitive to most).
So to make a long story short, I have decided to launch a second blog in parallel to this one, that talks about the subject matters I deal with on a daily basis, i.e. the wonderful world of the Internet and telecoms.
Yet again, I have set myself the following limits: (1) funny might be aiming too high but let’s try to at least not be depressing (2) if it’s not thought provocative, I shouldn’t write about it (3) being unbiased is a fallacy, as I am clearly biased by the fact that I am a woman, mother of three, rather a dog person than a cat person, born and raised and Africa, thankful for the fact that we live in a free and democratic society in Europe, lover of the early Internet without necessarily grasping on to the past, etc.
As to why it’s called Lobbynomics? Go find the explanation here.