The Flensburg Files at the Intercultural Blogger Cafe Conference

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LEIPZIG- More than 35 people from different aspects of the globe were on hand last night at the first annual Intercultural Blogger Conference, which took place at the Poniatowski Polish Bar and Restaurant, located outside the city center of Leipzig. Hosted by Ana Beatriz Ribeiro, founder of the online column Leipzig Glocal, the conference featured presenters of eight different blogs, together with good company among people either from Leipzig or just passing through to visit. Of the eight, the Flensburg Files was one of the blogs being presented by founder Jason D. Smith that evening. However other blogs based in and around Leipzig were presented as well, one of which included a book that was recently released in time for this weekend’s Leipzig Buchmesse. Here are the highlights of the event from the author’s point of view:

The Leipzig Glocal: Ana Beatriz Ribeiro started off the conference with her story about the creation of the Leipzig Glocal, where according to her speech and a video, an English-speaking guide to the events in and around Leipzig was needed, especially for those new to the area. Since its launch in March last year, the Glocal has attracted over 1200 followers on facebook and even more visitors on its website, which you can click here.

Alexandra Köppling talked about the importance of food in Europe and how and where people can find food products (for vegans, organics, etc.) in and around Leipzig, let alone make some yummy entrées, as she contributes to the Glocal as a food correspondant.

Alexander and Juliane Klinger talked about goats and things to do in Leipzig, especially for families with little income, through their blog Heldenstadtbewohner, one of a pair of German-speaking blogs featured at the conference. The audience took very kindly to the goats, asking if they thought about a blog about that as it is a hobby. 🙂

The first presentation that spawned interest and discussion on creating blogs came with the presentation on the Flensburg Files by Jason D. Smith. The origin and development of the Files can be found here. This is minus the film and a couple other tricks. After the presentation there were questions about audience visits and discussions on articles as well as questions and advice to people wanting to create a blog for their interest, such as Italian food recipes, African themes and art. Nice to know that the interest is blogging is really high. 😀

Stewart Tunnicliff (a.k.a. the Linguo Guy) presented a Prezi-style topic on how to create a blog with wordpress, one of the most popular platforms  for blogging. During this most colorful presentation of the evening, Stu walked the audience through the steps of creating a wordpress site, while reemphasizing the importance of “backing up your shit!” In other words, have back-ups and protection against hackers and potential disasters online. 😉 He has two blogs: The Lingo Guy  and The Leipzig Writers.)

The Stadtschwärmer, featuring Babett Börner, Franziska Müller, Katrin Hofmann und Stephanie Schmidt, presented a combination blog and book of their own, one that is highly recommended when visiting Leipzig. In comparison to the mainstream places and events, their most recently released tour guide features the sides of Leipzig that many don’t see except from their point of view. Some of that has to do with the job of two of the members as city planners, the others because of the other blog founded by the other two members of the quartet, going by the name of Kiss and Tell. Some ideas for another book are being sought and created, so stay tuned. 🙂

The last presenter was Kerstin Petermann, who talked about her blog, Peterfrau, an online blog which almost solely focuses on pop music and interviews with musicians. For people loving music, this one is a treat. 🙂

The conference ended with a combination of book exchanges (an article will come afterwards), donations for the event, good food and drink and some lively conversations among presenters and audience members, as well as those interested in creating a blog. One of the lessons learned from this conference is no matter how interested the people are, if one has an idea and will to present a topic to the open, then there is a way to do that, no matter what platform is used and how it is designed. In the end, the best columnists are the ones who are most informed of the topics surrounding them (even if it means looking up some information), and the most confident and able to market onesself to the audience. The more confidence and ways to get your audience’s attention, the more likes and followers you will have. You just need to find out what you like in comparison to what they like (also to read about). For this conference, it gave many, including the author of the Files, an idea on how to further develop their blogs further. For those who have not started one, it gave them a few ideas on how to start theirs.

This leads to my closing remark on this conference, which will continue to be hosted, and to the bloggers out there:

TO BE SUCCESFUL IN LIFE, AIM HIGH AND LET THE HEAVENS DO THE REST! 🙂

The Flensburg Files has a gallery of photos taken by the author and several people who were at the event, with some highlights of the events. Please check back often as more will be added. If you are interested in participating in or helping out on the next blogger convention, please contact Ana Beatriz Ribeiro at the Leipzig Glocal. The contact info is on their webpage.

 

And BTW, the film in connection with the Files’ presentation….. 🙂

http://goanimate.com/videos/0jyP_uPJ5kd0?utm_source=linkshare&utm_medium=linkshare&utm_campaign=usercontent

TIP! 🙂  Located on Kreuzstrasse 15 near Augustusplatz, the Poniatowski Bar and Restaurant offers a wide array of Polish food and drink, inlcuding the famous Stille Josef vodka, which comes in many different flavors. (The author tried one with wild berry which was really fruity). The restaurant was named after a patron, who visited the restaurant very often until his untimely death. The owners renamed the place in his honor. To be acquainted with Polish food, drink and culture, as well as know the patron, click here and check it out while visiting Leipzig.

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Odds and Ends for Christmas

With two weeks left before Christmas, many of us are scrambling to find the right gift for the right person, let alone find the right time and the right place to celebrate the holidays, let alone find the right time to do the right things at the right place. Most of us are trying to make things right for the holiday season so that the mood is right for everyone.  But if you are in a rut regarding finding the right gift or the right activity for people to do, or planning on finding the right place to meet for Glühwein and all, the Flensburg Files and the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles are here to help.

Online Store:  Check out the latest items including those for Christmas at the Flensburg-Bridgehunter Online Shop. They include the newest calendars coming out for 2015, such as Night Travels and the Bridges of Minnesota and Iowa, which are selling like hotcakes even as the article goes to the press. All of which are courtesy of Cafe Press. Ask them about any holiday deals that are going on before Christmas, as well as shipping options available. You can click here to go to the shop: http://www.cafepress.com/flensburgbridgehunteronlineshop

2014 Ammann Awards: For the fifth year in a row, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles are hosting the Othmar H. Ammann Awards, given to bridges deserving recognition in four categories, as well as people deserving recognition for preserving historic bridges and providing the best photography. The voting process started a week ago and unlike in the past, a polling system was introduced where after reading up on the candidate and looking at the photo, you can click onto the link to Poll Daddy, choose the nominated candidate in each of the categories and and send. You can also view the results if you wish.  A link to the Ammann Awards Voting Process is below. You have until January 6th to vote with the winners to be announced on the 7th.

Link: http://thebridgehunter.areavoices.com/2014/12/04/2014-ammann-awards-voting-now-underway/

And lastly, the Files is on tour of the Christmas markets for the fifth year in a row. As you can see from the first stop on the tour, there will be some different themes for this year’s market tour, some of which will be posted in the coming days and weeks. If you are still looking for a place to visit with your family and friends, a link to the places visited on the tour as well as a guide of the markets in Germany and Switzerland are enclosed below. Note that most of the markets will close after December 23rd, with a handful of them remaining open through the New Year.

Flensburg Files Christmas Tour:   http://flensburgerfiles.areavoices.com/tourism-guide/

German Christmas Market Guide:  http://www.germany-christmas-market.org.uk/

These are some of the things you can do to make your Christmas the best holiday season for you and your family. And even if it is impossible to do these things this year- in particular, visiting the Christmas market, it will give you some ideas for next year as well.

And for that, I’m closing with a quote that has a true meaning of Christmas in itself: Sometimes you don’t need the perfect present, Sometimes you don’t need the perfect place, Sometimes you don’t need the perfect food, Sometimes you don’t need the perfect music, Sometimes you don’t need the perfect Christmas tree and sometimes you don’t need the perfect weather to celebrate a perfect Christmas. You just need the people that love you and make you the perfect man you are to celebrate your perfect Christmas.

The Files and Chronicles would like to wish you safe travels and a wonderful holiday season. Merry Christmas, Happy 2015 and stay tuned- more articles to come. 😀

AND

Flensburg-Bridgehunter Merchandise on Sale through Café Press

If you are looking for the best gift for your loved one and are not sure what to get them, or know someone who loves bridges, photography, landscapes or the like, or you want to surprise them with something you don’t find on the shelves of any supermarket, then perhaps you can try the Flensburg-Bridgehunter Online Shop. Powered by Café Press, this year’s items include new calendars from the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, featuring the historic truss bridges of Iowa as well as the bridges of Minnesota, which are selling like hotcakes even as this goes to the press. In addition, merchandise carrying the Chronicle’ new logo are also for sale, including wall clocks and coffee cups. Some of them feature historic bridges that are the focus of preservation efforts.  The Flensburg Files has a second installment of the Night Travel series for 2015, in addition to part I that was produced in 2012 but is available in the 2015 version. This in addition to a new set of photos and journals to keep track of your travels and thoughts. Sometimes journal entries are best with a cup of coffee with the Files’ logo on there.

If you are interested in purchasing any of the products provided by the Chronicles and the Files, click here. This will take you directly to the store. Hope you find what you are looking for and thank you for shopping.

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 and Bridgehunter going separate ways

As musician SEAL would sing it: “The Change is gonna come!”  It’s time to unweave the weave, as many engineers in Minnesota were saying when they indeed untangled the interchange I-35W and Hwy. 62 Crosstown in Minneapolis a couple years ago, and many German engineers are thinking the same idea with the A115-A100 interchange in Berlin-Charlottenburg. Both the Flensburg Files and the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles are going separate ways and receiving a new makeover to make it more attractive for people to follow.

It starts off with the separate Twitter accounts, for both columns were running together on one account for a year. While the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep its old account under the new name BH Chronicles, the Flensburg Files has received a new account, where everything dealing with German-American culture and issues (including articles in German) and guest posting will go there in addition to the posts written by the columnist himself.  The Chronicles will keep receiving posts from the columnist on historic bridges as well as those from preservationists and pontists. All current followers are asked to please take this change to account. You can access Twitter through their respective apps.

Both Flensburg and Bridgehunter will also receive new logos which will slowly but surely appear in the column in the near future. The logos are below:

 

And lastly, both columns will be receiving new apps in the future, many of which are primarily used for education purposes but are worth using for the columns. Already each one has a new Pininterest account which can be accessed by clicking here.  Flensburg will receive most of its pics through that app, whereas the Bridgehunter will maintain both its Pininterest and flickr accounts. As the column received many app toys to play with, you will be informed of the new apps that will be available through the respective columns.

And while the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will continue its series on best historic bridge practice, mystery bridges, and the historic bridge preservation glossary (among other things), the Flensburg Files, after a long hiatus due to many commitments, will have a set of series to work with. Apart from continuing to write on tourism-related topics, such as places to visit in Germany and German-named towns in the US, we will revisit the topic on soccer and its problems while at the same time, open up the political season as the Germans will elect a new chancellor in 2013 and the Files will focus on the political parties involved in the elections, the issues that Germany has and the attitudes of the public towards politics and other topics.  In addition with that, the Files will open a new series called “From the Classroom” where the columnist, with many years of teaching experience, will go behind the scenes and focus on English and life in academia. An introduction to the series will start the series off.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the upcoming article that will be coming, through the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and the Flensburg Files. 🙂

Please note: both Bridgehunter and Flensburg will still be maintaining their facebook sites, so there is no need to panic. You can still like and follow on facebook. 🙂