Martin Luther and 2.0 Technology: How to Convey the 95 Theses

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“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Communication: a commodity that is underrated, undervalued and underloved. Whenever we communicate our ideas and concerns to others, we intend to get critical and sometimes degrading feedback, which causes us to keep silent for a long time, if not ever. When we see a post on facebook, where a person balks another behind his/her back to please his “friends,” we feel offended because it shows that that person would rather be a coward and promote psychological guerilla warfare rather than be involved in any direct discussion. When we get into a discussion over a post, we intend on going below the belt, through insults, death threats and “echo chambers,” to a point where we get exhausted by their acts of cowardice and take that offender off the friends list.

The Elections of 2016 in the United States clearly showed the true colors of these people indulging in such acts. The victor, Donald Trump won because he had engaged in satanistic acts of hatred and encouraged others to engage in these acts deemed fattening, illegal and even unintelligent. They fall even below the lines of evil wicked pro-wrestlers, like Big Van Vader, Sid Vicious, The Wrecking Crew and the Demolition Crew (just to list a few), who not only submitted their weak opponents in brutal ways, but broke every bone in their bodies doing it.

Yet his brutal acts consisted of demonizing Hillary Clinton and those who didn’t follow the now “President” by using the form of communication we know, use and sometimes abuse a lot these days: the internet. And in particular, 2.0 technology!  Consisting of social networks, such as facebook, selfie networks, like Instagram, and blogs, like wordpress, as well as online (chat) platforms, like Moodle, 2.0 technology is one of the most effective ways of communicating with others thousands of kilometers away as well as conveying important messages to the audience. They have, however, been tools for mudslinging and making death threats to a point where people look for ways to block that person, in order to be protected and have one’s serenity back. In my case most recently, after a below-the-belt spat with three Trump supporters on facebook, I not only blocked them directly, but also indirectly.

While doing this, I had an idea for a work on the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses by Martin Luther. One of the most important questions that came to mind was this: How would Martin Luther use 2.0 technology to convey his message about the Church to the public and how would the Church respond? How would the public react to his Theses online and in social media?

We need to remember that 500 years ago, when Martin Luther posted his thesis outside the Cathedral in Wittenberg, the only form of communications that existed featured paper and pen, the horse, and word of mouth. That meant that Luther’s way of getting the news around was by addressing the faults of the church through speeches with the audience, whereas his followers spread the word around to people in other communities, even on horseback to towns, like Erfurt, Jena, Weimar, Leipzig, Halle, Zwickau, Coburg and other places, which took days to complete, and it required lodging at different inns, houses, and even in tents along the way.  Gutenberg’s printing press, created in 1440,  made it easier to copy and spread the news around.

Like in the present-day debates where there is opposition and even misinterpretation that can be posted with a click of the mouse, supporters of the Church worked together with the pastors, cardinals and bishops to not only argue against the revolution being sought by Luther but also apprehend him and bring him to his senses. This all occurred by word of mouth and by having couriers send letters around, going up the hierarchy of the Church until that day on January 3, 1521, when Pope Leo excommunicated Luther, and three months later when Luther spoke the truth with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at Worms and was subsequentially declared an outlaw.  Sometimes debates with the church ended in violence, which if compared with the Elections of 2016, without 2.0 communication, there would have been more fist fights in saloons, bars, restaurants and on the streets than at the Trump rallies. With 2.0 communication all the fighting can be done with the keyboard, emoticons and a click of the mouse.

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We do know two variables that go along with social networking and blogging: the messages can be conveyed much faster than by horse, mouth or even the press. The audience would be reached in larger masses than at that time when the 95 theses were posted,  for Luther’s revolution was focused on eastern Germany first and it took four years until it spread to the south, towards Rome. It would take another 150 years until Lutheranism spread to all of Europe and parts of Asia and eventually to America.  In other words, with 2.0 technology, the whole world would have known about the faults of the Church within a matter of four minutes, instead of four years!

Like in the 2016 Elections, Luther’s 95 Theses would have impacted global society within a matter of seconds. Luther would have several forms of social media at his disposal to convey his message to the world, yet the easiest way for him to do that was to produce a new blog, facebook account and even Instagram and spread the word on his treatsies in the following order:

  1. Luther would post his 95 Theses on his blog. As we saw in a couple example literary works about the Theses and the Sojourns and Sayings, Luther was a man of quotes and short sayings by pen, but a man of long speeches by mouth, which inspired an audience of the dozens. This means that Luther would have been forced to describe each of his theses in detail so that the reader would understand his logic. As only one in 1000 do not have a Smartphone or iPhone in their possession, chances are most likely that Luther would need more time than what he actually did in the past to write about it in his blog, let alone speak about it in a video provided that he had a youtube account. 
  2. After posting his theses online, he would have to post it on his facebook page- both in his own profile page as well as in the group pages he either is in or administers. In actual reality, it is easier to spread the word when a person is involved in multiple groups that have the same values. Even pages that involve Christianity can be found on facebook in many languages (Even the author is in a Christian network for central Germany).  Luther would have to be careful to not overkill his theses by posting them everywhere, where the themes are either contradictory and can spawn hefty discussion or irrelevant. In short, posting his 95 Theses page on the JC Insurance Agency facebook page, which sells indulgence insurance would be a definite no-go unless you want a discussion with Pope Francis. Or putting them on a Jesus-freak facebook page would turn off all the followers as it would have nothing to do with Jesus and Mary Magdalena. 😉
  3. Then Martin Luther would have to have an iPhone or a Smartphone in order to have an Instagram page, where he could photograph the plight of the poor, beggers and real believers of Christ who want access to his teachings but are denied because of lack of money. By using the features to “doctor” the photos and add some commentary, Luther could try and make the scenes as graphic as possible to catch the eye of the viewers. 

By doing all this using the key social networking pages, the news would spread in a matter of minutes, pending on how many followers Martin Luther would have. It is much more effective to have friends of the “friends” in your network receive the piece, as well as followers and members of the clubs you are in, so that they can react, comment and share the post, than it is when you only have your profile page and that is it. Given his popularity as a revolutionary in Wittenberg and the surrounding area, with about 1500 people in his facebook network, Luther would not have had any problems conveying the message.

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However, the responses from the people are a much different story……

Going back to the debate over the election of Donald Trump as President, as mentioned at the beginning of the article, people who didn’t support him became targets of slurs, insults and echo chambers. One needs to understand that in a social network, regardless of your identity and views, you are always in the minority and anything you post may be used against you, where you least expected it.

In my facebook profile page alone, over 80% of the 1000+ people in my network are Trump supporters, which has resulted in me splitting the account into two and separating the people between the toupeed pumpkin supporters on one side, and the cosmopolitans and open-minded Emma Watsons on the other- the latter representing the minority!  While that measure may be unkosher to some, the  most effective way to protect yourself from trollers and harassers is not only unfriending them, but also blocking them- directly if you had them in your network but also indirectly, where you can look up people not in your network in the directory and block them there. In either case, when you are blocked, you can never find him ever again.

Martin Luther’s response to his 95 theses would not only have been with emoticons, likes and dislikes, but it would have produced discussions and insults from over 75% of the people in his network, mainly those who held firmly to the Church and its beliefs because it was the only institution where the fittest as well as the spiritually and financially strongest people are the ones that are granted immunity from the evils of the Earth, a belief that Luther strongly disagreed. Luther would probably have been forced to spend an average of half his day in front of the computer responding to the critics and indulging in hefty conversations, thus neglecting his job as professor at Wittenberg, as well as his marriage to Katharina von Bora, who would have thrown out his computer, cursing it as the devil, and would have taken him to a psychiatrist who would help him with his online addiction. 😉  Or even better, as computer jobs can put on weight, if Katharina was an athlete, he would have been forced to go running with her. 😉 <3

But putting aside the effects on a powerful, yet fragile relationship between a professor and a nun, the response to the theses would have been two-fold. On the one hand, there would have been more unity among supporters of Luther and his teachings and therefore, the Lutheran Church would not have been fragmented into hundreds of different denominations as they are today, like the Mennonites, Methodists, Episcopalians, Calvinists, Jehovas, etc. And if the fragments, then in no more than eight of the key ones, 2-3 of each representing a region in the world where Christianity is in the majority. People would have received Luther’s ideas more in open arms for they would have had a possibility to read his work and interpret them in a way that they would either agree or disagree with him. In other words, the followers would have been a thousand-fold as many as in Luther’s time when he posted them. Discussions would have fanned out almost instantly, which would have resulted in negative impacts on Luther.

That meant that the Church in Rome would have been informed of Luther’s revolution right away, and he would have been apprehended within a matter of days, instead of the four years it took to not only excommunicate him but also exile him at Wartburg near Eisenach. Damage control would surely have been needed because of the growing opposition toward the Church. Instead of bishops and pastors taking to the streets as the only measure to attract and keep the number of congregators, as seen 500 years ago, with the use of 2.0 Technology and the internet, the Church would have been forced to issue statements right away, protecting its fundamental values and its reputation, while at the same time, play down Luther’s Theses and its effects on the institution and its people on its website as well as through the homepages of cardinals, and even the Pope.  In reality, the Vatican has its own website, where you can look at its government, how it was founded and the people who run the smallest city-state. Discussions with the Church with negative consequences would have been high and hot on the facebook pages of those working for the Church, including that withe Pope, thus keeping him from performing his duties.

People opposing Luther would have trolled him on facebook and presented their facts supporting the Church, while demonizing him in the process. The discussion about the Church would have been just as intensive if not even more than with the Elections of 2016 because society before Luther was already established, and the Church was its anchor. It was only at the time of the Theses where Luther reshaped the way we believe in Christ, and the respondants would either have praised him and embraced change or opposed it, clinging onto the old system because it was effective in their eyes, despite the flaws. For 2016, we had a traditionalist of the establishment, a quasi-destroyer of the establishment and a revolutionary from the establishment which resulted in bashing the establishment in general. I’ll leave it as that.  😉

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To summarize a rather lengthy discussion of the what-ifs and what could’ve happens, had Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses with the use of 2.0 technology, the word would have gotten out in a matter of minutes instead of years, as with the responses, both positive as well as negative.  The message would have reached the rest of the world in a matter of 150 seconds instead of 150 years like it did.  The Church would have been forced to clarify Luther’s accusations instantly, while summoning authorities to arrest and extradite the revolutionary pastor at the same time.  And given the sometimes misinterpretations of Luther’s work resulting in the Lutheran Church branching off into hundreds of segments, the message that came out online would have been easily read and understood if detailed properly, and there would have been only eight at the most, 2-3 per region in the world.

Whether or not it would have changed the church landscape the way it happened in real time- where Luther was granted immunity by the princes in Germany and in other regions while being pursued by Rome for the rest of his life- remains unclear. However, unlike Luther’s legacy, where he established the church we know today (along with its fragments), when looking at the Elections in 2016, the use of 2.0 technology actually split society into several fragments, each with its own rigid edges, used for defending their rights and privileges, thus changing the landscape of family, friends and even relationships. No matter what you say or state, you are always in the minority.  Had 2.0 technology existed during the time of Luther, it would not have been much different, except that instead of Democrats, Republicans and third parties, we would have seen Catholics and Protestants battling it out on the platforms. It is doubtful that there would be any bloody revolutions like we saw in Northern Ireland, it is clear that people would be on opposite ends of the spectrum, spewing out facts and counterfacts, insults and whineries, to a point where instead of actually killing off the person, like it happened in the 1970s and 80s in Northern Ireland, all the person needs to do is delete the other from facebook, never to communicate to each other again.

Whether they would live happily ever after with their families and friends remains another story………

TIP: In your opinion, had 2.0 technology existed in Martin Luther’s time, how would he have used it? Would he use facebook, twitter, Instagram or XING? What about other apps? How do you think the people would respond to hs Theses? This would be a genial classroom discussion and possible activity to think about. 🙂

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Don’t Swaggartize Our Facebook Posts With Your Politics!

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To begin my commentary, I would like to start off with an excerpt from the book of Proverbs 28:25-6:

A greedy man stirs up dissention, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper. He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.

 

One should perhaps add in the book of Proverbs that one who blindly follows a liar with a potential of interrupting conversations for political promotion is more of a fool than those who are self-righteous and believes not in Jesus but his own tuition.  Since the nominations of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton for US president (even though Jill Stein and Gary Johnson should also be added to the mix), the era of poli-bashing has taken hold on the American landscape. At the family table, fathers and sons are fighting from different political poles, putting others in the middle, like it happened during the Cold War with a divided Germany. Locals in different countries are asking us American expatriates what we think of Donald Trump (which many of us have compared him to Adolf Hitler). Friends are unfriending or even blocking others on facebook because of political opinions, which I think is pathetic and shows me what the late Günter Grass once stated: “If you have 500 friends on facebook, you really have no friends.”

 

Point taken!

 

But there is another trend in social networking which has become an annoying trend: A friend posts a comment about an event on facebook only to have a person on his/her friends list market politics and bash the candidate with his own post, when the story posted on facebook is anything BUT relevant.  Take this example that I experienced  most recently:

 

I post a commentary about me switching bike dealers after they overpriced us (family and me) for bike repairs and inspections, which included overcharging for the repairs on my end but not charging for the inspection on my daughter’s bike when we ordered a part, but giving us the “Oh by the way, you have to pay for the part AND the inspection.” treatment, when the part arrived- in other words, withholding information without informing the customer in advance!   This is in addition to bad service we (as a family) had been receiving prior to that. We basically posted by saying “Have a nice life, your competitor is around the corner!”

 

In response, one of the people in my network had the cheek to market politics by saying:

 

And that’s how capitalism works!! The customers decide who survives and who fails. Now imagine it was a government entity that treated you like that. What is your recourse, especially if you have no other option than to deal with them (i.e. DMV). I’m sure your complaints about one or more government union employees would be handled in a timely and efficient manner… 

 

 

Furious, I had to reply in a fashion similar to Walter Sobjeck in the Big Lebowski which went along these lines:

 

 

You’re a child who loves to enter a cinema in the middle of a religious film, not knowing which actors are playing Jesus Christ, Pontius Pilate, Joseph, Mary and the Three Wise Men, let alone when Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead!

 

In response, another conservative replied with this comment:

 

The government is ALWAYS the issue….they set the prices for everything….you should have gotten into healthcare a few years ago….the money is already spent.

 

And my response:

 

 The government is NOT the issue here. We’re talking about the Geoff Schaffer approach to customer service, which is always making the customer happy (no matter what) and if so, they will come back. This bike shop was a family owned business until they expanded in 2010. Since then, they’ve thrown away the concept of honesty and family friendliest and have started doing the Trump approach which is customer selection- a blow to winning any customers.

 

(The name Geoff Schaffer was used as a replacement of the manager of a restaurant in Iowa whom I worked for during the summer breaks from college,  because of privacy reasons, by the way.)

 

Not to worry though, many people in my network have dealt with similar issues, regardless of which political side they are on. But the point is that the intrusion of personal posts for political gain to provoke a political argument can be best compared to the preaching of televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, whose religious commercialization influenced the lives of many Americans and Evangelicals during the 1970s and 80s. In fact, as a child growing up in Minnesota, I can remember his TV shows and commercials dominating the airwaves, even though we had four key channels, including public television, with every fourth household having cable TV.  His preaching from that bygone era can be seen today, like in this video below:

 

 

Many people loved him, yet there were many who thought he was as annoying as the people who have intruded on people’s privacy on facebook, to a point where his defamation flocking would await him, like in this infamous “I’ve sinned….” sermon:

 

His confession revealed two things that are worth noting in this article:

 

  1. The value of the sermon or lecture spoken unto by one person has to equal one’s actions. One cannot have a double standard like Mr. Swaggart has, but also one’s lecture or sermon has to include hands-on experiences.

 

  1. If one enforces onto others, then one has a problem in life which cannot be dealt with alone but through help.

 

The second one has nothing to do with politics and who is at fault but one where a person’s life is not what it should. Sometimes these people are hanging on to the nostalgia that had existed 30-40 years ago and cannot adapt to the changes that we are facing even as we speak. There are some who have missed one train too many in their lives and are struggling to salvage what is left of their lives. This includes pivotal years where decisions made can have an impact on a person’s life (that is a separate article for next time).  And there are some people whose children have disappointed them in their development- some justified and some not. Their attempts of molding them into their liking fails and they become the black sheep in the family. The same applies to friends and peers, whom they knew in high school but have become strangers since then.

 

All of them have one thing in mind, they have at one time in their lives listened or watch a Jimmy Swaggart sermon and learned a great deal about getting involved in other people’s lives by invading them and impose their ideas . And even though Swaggart has produced some great sermons, the people are following the directions the wrong way.

 

Yes, people like you!

 

I could point my fingers at Swaggart for his religious “morals”, but it would be the same as deferring responsibility for all the personal problems in life onto Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  But Swaggart’s rhetoric and tactics have given some people the wrong idea of getting others involved- preach on the outside while hiding from the real problems on the inside.  Sometimes too much of a good thing is not good at all, especially when infringing on topics with their own political agenda, almost all of which are irrelevant.

 

So knock it off! Think before posting your political comments on other’s facebook posts. Because one day, you may receive a comment by saying:

 

You’re out of your element!

 

 

And if Jimmy Swaggart is still preaching these days, let us hope he preaches about respecting people’s rights and preferences over politics before the US Presidential Elections. After all he has taught us on how to swaggartize others, he owes us that sermon at least. Only then will he be forgiven of all his sins.

 

Amen!

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Never Meet a Stranger in the Alps

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I am not sure how to start this column entry off as I needed some time to think about what to write about. But being a Methodist who also has a background in other religions in Christianity (mainly Lutheran and Catholic, the latter of which I was baptised at the age of 3 months) and learning some lessons from a devote Christian I met a few months ago, I figure I would start off with a quote from the Bible from the book of James.

James 4:11-12: 11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.[a] The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

The topic I am referring to in this article: politics in social network- in particular, Facebook. And even further, the events in France and refugees. When I joined Facebook in 2010, I did it with the main intention of reconnecting with friends and colleagues whom I lost connections since leaving the United States for my adventure in Germany, while at the same time, establish new friendship with people I met while in Germany, as well as those who have similar interests as I so and those whose interesting life stories have led us to connecting.  And this in addition to connecting with family members.

Fast forwarding to the present, and despite being reconnected with people, who I would put into eleven different categories (including people from five different alma maters, two high schools, the bridgehunting community, close friends, expatriates and family), I have realized that social networking does have worms in them which can destroy connections and friendships. In particular, when it comes to politics.

A few days ago, I had put a post on my timeline expressing my opposition to the petition made by 32 US Governors to President Barack Obama to put a halt to the immigration of refugees from Syria and Iraq, despite their lands being destroyed by ISIS terrorists, and in response to the terrorists attacks in Paris and Beirut that killed ca. 200 people and injured many more. The responses to the posts were outrageous. The respondants showed disrepect towards the President, calling him a dictator even though the US Government system consists of Congress (which passes the bills), Executive (where the President signs the bill into law) and Judicial (where the Supreme Court can determine its constitutionality) Branches.  But what more alarming was a comment by one respondant saying the following to a German in this conversation, who supported the refugees living in Europe and the US: “If it hadn’t been for us Americans, you (…..) would be speaking Russian!” (I think you can fit any degrading comment depicting a German in here) 

You can imagine the author’s reaction in response to the comment, analogizing it with a scene from The Big Lebowski:

If there is a word of advice regarding posting potential controversial topics on Facebook, it would be this: Do NOT mess with a stranger in the Alps. Your enounter will determine your life’s destiny.

This incident opened my eyes to reality in ways that were not opened before- not even during the days of George W. Bush. It went beyond the insult made on my family and friends here in Germany and into an area most sensitive to the human body, mind and soul- our freedom of expression, our freedom to state our opinion and respect the opinions of others.  We were taught the US Constitution in school and I learned about the German Basic Law while living here, both of which feature the right to free speech. Before social networking came about and became an important commodity in our lives, we would enjoy conversations in person where our opinions mattered and we learned from each other. Even when Bush ran the country to the ground during his reign, we kept ourselves civilized and respected each other and our rights.

What has happened to it? With the introduction of social network, we have been getting bombarded by information deemed biased, containing half-lies and leading us to hatred. Whenever we post our own opinions towards topics like refugees or provide questions for the forum, we are received with hate comments even from strangers. Even the information from neutral sources is played down as absurd. And instead of a good chat with a friend far away, we get thrown out of his/her network for expressing our opinions because it does not conform with his/her opinion. It is like with the Miranda Law in the US: Anything you say can and will be used against you, except in this case, we cannot state anything without causing a fight and below-the-belt comments like what I witnessed. Sadly, other people have experienced worse and have even started reconsidering plans to spend Christmas with them.

What in God’s name have we become? Have we lost our sense of reasoning and sensitivity towards others?  Has (at least this latest round of) politics really destroyed the fabric of friendship and family?  When will this hatred on social network finally stop?

The same devout Christian from Saxony once forewarned me that I was posting too much and that my political opinions will eventually cause dischord which cannot be reversed. Unfortunately, her revelations were right, but with the latest debate on refugees in the US and Europe, it has affected us all, not just myself. Several people have even reconsidered closing down their Facebook accounts because being on there is like walking through a Wal-Mart store filled with trailer trash people purging the store, destroying items in their path without even paying for them. But as I have many in my network I keep in touch with, it does not make sense. The only solution is to take a few steps back, spend less time with the social network and cease posting political comments and engaging in political discussions. And kick out those who try to start one in my timeline.

Sometimes being away from this junk can serve as a signal for people to think about their actions, to learn to respect the opinions of others and become civilized towards each other. As the statement at the beginning shows, I respect the opinions of others. I want others to respect mine too. Listening to others helps a person grow, too. A little word of advice before posting the next political comment for discussion on your timeline or that of others.

P.S. to that person who advised me to cut back on my posting, in case you read this, I will take that advice in hope to find a bit of peace in light of all the problems we have in the world. In other words, I owe you for this. 😉

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Blogging behind the scenes….

From the Classroom:

When you receive this article, I will be soaking in another session of a seminar called “Mind the App,” a class being offered for students and those interested in knowing how to use apps in the classroom, a topic that will be discussed in a later article. Before digging into this topic: how many of you have your own blog or know what a blog is in comparison to the internet? And in your opinion, what is the role of the news media in response to the blogs that are growing in numbers?

I have to admit, I didn’t know about blogs until a friend of mine (who runs a blog herself at Forum Communications) introduced me to it in the Fall of 2010, in response to a series of photos I had posted on facebook that were in connection with my trip to the US and my involvement at the 2nd annual Historic Bridge weekend in Pittsburgh. And it fitted me perfectly, for another friend of mine (a pontist and Pittsburghian) had previously hinted that I should consider starting a website of my own.  But if you want to know in the simplest terms what a blog is, here it is:

A blog is like a column. Think of the columns that had existed, like Dear Abby or Julie and Julie, a blog that dealt with the cooking of Julie Childs by Julie Powell, or the present ones like SidCast, a sportsblog hosted by Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune, Kaitlin O’shea-Healy’s “Preservation in Pink” or “Oh! A Shiny Thing!” written by Kari Lucin of the Jamestown Sun (part of the Forum family). They are all written by one author, who is also the sole administrator, photographer and (if you allow guest columnists/bloggers) editor, and whose content has but one purpose: to inform people of the themes that one normally cannot find in regular streamline news media. And if you construct your blog to your liking, you’ll most likely have some followers that will read your posts.

There are many advantages to blogging:  It is easy and cheap to open a blog. In addition, you can design your own template without having a web provider do it for you. Speaking from experience of other websites, opening a website may be expensive, even if you have someone build it for you, which may be to your disliking. In addition to that, you can add some apps by yourself for little or no costs incurred on you. For this online column, together with sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, they have the most commonly-used apps you can add on for free, but the others that are available can be added for a small fee.  But most importantly, after finding the template to your liking and adding the headers on your dashboard and widgets on the sidebars for people to easily access, you can go ahead and start blogging, keeping in mind that you are not only the sole writer, but also the sole editor. That means if a mistake is noticed by you or the reader, you have the right to correct it without having to publish a correction for the next edition of a newspaper or magazine.  And if you have the right touch, the right agenda, and the right audience, you may end up having thousands of followers in no time.

If I was to look at the two online columns I’ve had for almost three years, the Flensburg Files has focused on topics that deal with German culture and German-American issues, which includes topics like German-named villages in the USA, the Christmas markets, and places to visit, which have been well-received by the readers. This includes articles extending from a Christmas market in Halle (Saale) to the future of Round Lake in Minnesota after Sather’s Candy Company left town.  As for the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, many topics on historic bridges and ways to preserve them have spawned conversations and comments, most of which have supported alternatives to wasteful demolition for modernized structures and scrap metal, as seen in the last Chronicles’ article on Bellaire Bridge in Ohio. But we also have seen some interest in tours of the bridges in the regions, whether it was in Magdeburg (Germany) or Booneville, New York.  If you find a theme that is of your interest and can attract people, then you can create it.

The downside to online column can be divided up into two segments: the internal aspects and the external aspects. Internally, you need to be aware of the amount of space available for you to post your comments, graphics and photos. That means you cannot post a 3MB pic onto your article or your space will be full before you know it. Without having to shrink your photo size to a point where it’s unreadable, between 200gB and 400gB is sufficient enough for you to post a pic that is readable.  An alternative to this is to try photo websites, like flickr, panaramio or even Pininterest and link your photos there to your article you post on your blog.  I have done this since last year for both online columns for that sole reason and has worked out well.  The other problem is you need to keep up with your blog for two reasons: 1. It will increase your chances to being popular and open doors to opportunities you never dreamed of before if you post on a regular basis and with high quality articles and 2. At least a thousand blogs spring up every day and there are over 160 million blogs in use today, which means your blog is like your “Hour of Fame” flower– it is only popular for a short period of time and if not maintained on a regular basis, it becomes a thing of the past in a short time, to a point where no one really reads it.  The other problem with blogging is what critic Andrew Keen calls the Amateur Effect and is in connection with a theory conducted by T.H. Huxley with a group of monkeys. There, the monkeys were presented with a typewriter and one in seven used it to create their own form of artwork. Keen considers the use of social networks and other mechanisms, like the blog as one that is operated by millions of monkeys as they can present something that can either blur the credibility of mainstream media or create dangers to themselves and others because of the lack of experience they have with them. Many people have lost their jobs or were forced to destroy their blogs by their employers for their content was considered inappropriate to them, even though the writers have considered them innocent. This has lead to many people to create a code of conduct for people with online blogs to abide by. This includes not having online debates but to talk directly with the people involved, restraining themselves with regard to language, reporting people who abuse their blogs or try to insult your blog in any way, and lastly take responsibility for your articles you post- change somethings that are deemed inappropriate or leave them out altogether, and always TELL THE TRUTH. This is something that mainstream news media has to do everyday and it is also expected from a blogger.

In the almost three years I’ve been a columnist for both Flensburg and Bridgehunter, I’ve never had to put up with that, but have put up with numerous SPAM (a topic to be discussed leter) and a couple comments deemed inappropriate. Yet as I have full control over the two, I also have the power to delete them before even considering adding them in the comment section. But for the most part, both columns have picked up a substantial amount of readers resulting in the addition of groups on facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and most recently, Pininterest, with additional apps to come thanks to some that came to my attention most recently and I’m playing around with even as I write this. Already, Bridgehunter was one of the first blogs that was launched in connection with historic bridges and has been taking the lead in news and discussions involving this topic. Flensburg serves as a tool for people wanting to know more about German-American topics in the English language, encouraging more and more people to embrace the respective cultures with more topics to come.

This leads to the last question: If anyone asked me for advice about blogging, I would ask them the following questions: 1. What theme would you use your blog for?  2. Who is your target audience? and 3. How would you design it to make it attractive and what apps would you use to capture the readers’ attention?  These were the questions I had when I started Bridgehunter and Flensburg, but if you can answer these questions and structure it to make it reader friendly, then you are all set. Just keep the blog clean to keep yourself and others out of trouble, maintain it regularly, and market it to attract your followers and in the end, you will have a successful blog, or online-column, as I call mine. Who knows? You may open the doors to new opportunities you never dreamed of….

Author’s Note: Both the Files and the Chronicles may receive some guest columnists in the coming weeks who have never tried blogging before but would like to give it a try. Stay tuned in that department.

 

Flensburg Files News Flyer 5 September 2012

There were a lot of events that happened while I was on hiatus for a few weeks, two of which were spent back in Flensburg and the surrounding area with my family. Most of the events have a zero at the end of each number, marking some events that should not have happened but they did. However some high fives are included in the mix that are deemed memorable for Germany, and even for this region. Here are some short FYIs that you may have not heard of while reading the newspaper or listening the news, but are worth noting:

Rostock-Lichterhagen:

22-24 August marked the 20th anniversary of the worst rioting in the history of Germany since the Kristallnacht of 1938. During that time, Lichterhagen, a suburb of Rostock, the largest city in Mecklenburg-Pommerania in northeastern Germany was a refugee point for Roma and Vietnamese immigrants. However, it was a focus of three days of clashes between residents and right-wing extremists on one side, and the refugees on the other. Fires broke out in the residential complex where the refugees were staying, causing many to escape to the roof. Hundreds of people were injured in fighting, while over 1000 were arrested, most of them right wing extremists originating as far as the former West Germany. The incident cast a dark shadow over the city and its government for not handling the issue of foreigners  properly, let alone having trained police officers to end the conflict. It also set off the debate dealing with the problem of right-wing extremism in Germany, especially in the former East Germany, where neo-nazis remained underground until after the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Over 70% of the refugees affected by the violence left Rostock after the incident. President Gauck attended the 20th anniversary ceremony on 24 August and spoke about the dangers to democracy.

More info on the incident can be found here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riot_of_Rostock-Lichtenhagen; http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,16194604,00.html

 

Munich:

Today marks the 40-year anniversary of the Munich Olympics Massacre. A Palestinian terrorist group stormed the a house where 11 Israelis were living, held them hostage and later killed all of them as the police tried to set them free. It overshadowed a then successful Olympic Games, which was the first for Germany since hosting the Games in 1936 in Berlin. Germany was in the process of reconciling with the Jews after the Holocaust, only to be reminded painfully through the event that it had a long way to go in order to become a multi-cultural state and be able to mend its relations with the Jews. Since that time, the country has long since healed from the wounds of the terrorist, the relations with Israel and the Jewish community have improved dramatically, but memories of the event are still there and will not be forgotten.  Info here.

The famous slogan that was found throughout all of Sonderburg. Better luck next time.

Aarhus:

Every year in Europe, there is a city that is nominated as a Capital of Culture, based on the cultural diversity and economic state. During that year, a variety of festivals and events marking the city’s heritage take place, drawing in three times as many people on average than usual. While this year’s title goes to Maribor (Slovakia) and Guimares (Portugal) and the hosts for 2013 goes to Marseilles (France) and Kosice (Slovakia), Aarhus (Denmark) outbid Flensburg’s Danish neighbor to the north, Sonderburg to be the 2017 European Capital. It is the second city in Denmark to host this title (Copenhagen was the Cultural Capital in 1996). Had Sonderburg won, it would have joined Flensburg to host the event, which would have made Flensburg the fourth German city to host the event. Both cities will continue with joint projects to draw in more people to visit and live in the region. Berlin (1988), Weimar (1999) and Essen (2010) were the other German cities that were Cultural Capitals since the initiative was approved in 1985. More information here:    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Capital_of_Culture

Mirror reflection of Gluecksburg Castle. Photo taken during the 425th birthday celebration.
Low attendance at the open-air church service due to hot and humid weather.

Gluecksburg:

The castle of Gluecksburg, located northeast of Flensburg,  celebrated its 425th anniversary during the weekend of 18-19 August, with concerts and an open-air church service. Attendance was low due to warm and humid weather, plus it had celebrated the 12th annual Beach Mile a weekend earlier. The castle was built to house of the Royal Family of King Christian IX of Gluecksburg-Sonderburg, whose family bloodline covers five countries including the UK and France. The Castle was vacated after World War I when the Royalty was forced into exile but was later converted into a museum. The castle is one of a few that is surrounded by a lake, making it accessible only by bridge. More information on the castle will be presented in another separate article.

 

50 Years of Soccer in Germany:

Germany is now in its second month of the three-tiered German Bundesliga season, which marks its 50th anniversary. Initiated in 1962, the league featured 16 teams that originated from five different leagues in Germany, including ones from Muenster, Berlin, Munich, Dortmund and Cologne. The league now features three top flight leagues (the top two featuring 18 teams each and the third league (established in 2008) featuring 20 teams). To learn more about how the German Bundesliga works and read about its history, a couple links will help you:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fu%C3%9Fball-Bundesliga

http://www.dfb.de/index.php?id=511741

A couple articles pertaining to German soccer is in the mix, as the Files did a segment on the problem with German soccer. The first two can be viewed here:

Part I

Part II

What was that? I’m being photographed? Well then, here you go!

Flensburg Files now on flickr:

Available from now on, the Flensburg Files is now available on flickr, together with its sister column, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. Just type in FlensburgBridgehunter12 and you are there. You will have an opportunity to view the photos taken by the author and comment on them as you wish. Subscriptions are available. The Files is still available through Twitter and Facebook where you can subscribe and receive many articles that are in the mix. One of which deals with a tour of the Holnis region, which is in the next column.