Sunday 1 December 2013

Angry cyclists v Christmas Spirit: You reap what you sow on social media

The headline of your social media message can have a profound effect on both the tone and way people respond. Two personal examples follow. In each case I had quite a number of responses - but with totally different outcomes.

1. The Angry Cyclists

I have to start with an apology to Cambridge Cyclists. My obviously eye-catching blog title “80 percent of Cambridge cyclists are illiterate! A cultural survey”, in true Red Top Newspaper style, immediately got a response – primarily through Twitter. Cyclists were deeply offended!

I thought I’d written a light article on the different ways people would respond to the sign “Cyclists Dismount” in the UK and Germany. Message: In the UK you basically ignore it; In Germany you would probably ignore it – unless there were other people around.

What I’d actually done was land in an existing pool of simmering rage within the cycling community about meaningless advisory signs, such as the “Cyclists Dismount” one.

Most responses were educational, generally negative and verbally robust – along the lines of “insult me – and I’ll give as good as I get!” Some respondents managed to reply simply or even with some humour and they have my special thanks.

The post with 93 hits had 4 comments and at least 21 twitter responses within 24h. Of these, 2 did state that they would choose to dismount if there were pedestrians.

Do have a good look at the responses in the appendix below. They are in the public domain – just summarised here.

2. The Christmas Spirit

I would like to thank all respondents on the Anglo-German Business Network in LinkedIn. With Christmas coming up and remembering the German Christmas Markets, I posted a question to the group, “Do you have a favourite (German Christmas Market)? Which ones would you recommend? Which ones will you be going to?”

LinkedIn items have a longer response time and are still coming in after 12 days of the original post.

So far, this has resulted in 16 responses (including my own). All are positive and informative. In fact, if you want to visit a German Christmas Market, whether in the UK or Germany, there are some great personal recommendations there.

Again, as the items are in the public domain, they are summarised below for your convenience.

You reap what you sow

The question you have to ask yourself when putting material out on social media is – what sort of response do you want?

A Shock-Jock headline is likely to get a lot of robust responses. Great if you are trying to boost radio show responses. Bad if you are trying to make a positive connection. Humour is a double edged sword. Not everyone may share yours and you could equally well land face down in the mud.

Appealing to people’s better nature will generate a positive response, but only if it is relevant or of interest to them.

So what am I going to do? Definitely tread more carefully!

Cyclist responses

Christine Jones (Carter)26 November 2013 10:55
Blue signs are advisory, legally you don't have to dismount. Yes this sign is optional and you are an ignoramus.

Cab Davidson26 November 2013 11:01
The blue sign there is entirely advisory, carrying no compulsion. A no cycling sign has a bike on a white background with a red circle around the outside.
I put it to you that most of the cyclists there know this - and you do not. Neither conclusion you draw - Brits see rules as optional or that cyclists are illiterate - is reasonable. 
Your blog post reveals your own ignorance of the rules as they stand - nothing more.

William NB26 November 2013 11:30
Really? You're accusing cyclists of being illiterate, when actually you are the only one that appear to be. And if you're not illiterate, then you are certainly ignorant of the law.
As others have pointed out, "Cyclist Dismount" signs are advisory. This means it is like a request, and cyclists are under no obligation whatsoever to adhere to it. Moreover, as is the case nationally, that sign is used contrary to DfT guidelines. This means it simply should never have been placed there. 
But don't take my work for it - go do some research, eradicate your ignorance regarding this and then do the right thing: publish a new blog post that clearly admits how wrong you have been, and also go post several tweets on Twitter, again admitting your ignorance.
And while you're at it, why don't you read the Highway Code - yes, ALL of it.
Then go write a ranty, insulting post on driver that don't yield to pedestrians crossing the road that the drivers are turning into, drivers that park on pavements, drivers that encroach on ASLs and similar everyday occurrences that are a WHOLE bunch more important and dangerous than cyclists (justifiably!) ignoring a Cyclists Dismount sign.

rich25726 November 2013 12:38
All you have demonstrated is that 'Cyclist Dismount' signs cause confusion. Cambridge Cycling Campaign have been asking for 'Cyclists give way to pedestrians' signs here and elsewhere

Rob Haynes favorited a Tweet you were mentioned in
26 Nov:  .@miltoncontact sign is advisory carrying no compulsion. The cyclists are not 'illiterate' - they simply know the rules better than you do

abby chicken ‏@photochicken 26 Nov
@miltoncontact that's nothing, 87% of your tweets are meaningless #madeupstats

 MJ Ray ‏@mjray 26 Nov
@hushlegs @gnomeicide @miltoncontact if I either dismount or wait at the one nearest me, walkers panic, rush and glower #noWin #betterToRide

Mike the Moustache ‏@MikefromLFE 26 Nov
@WilliamNB @miltoncontact Well said William! I always thought that those signs were giving information ­čśä'some cyclists dismount here'

Cycling Front ‏@cyclingfront 26 Nov
@miltoncontact @gnomeicide Lots of innumeracy and colour blindness in Cams too. Signs with a 30 inside a red circle

 Cab Davidson ‏@gnomeicide 26 Nov
@SpanishPirate1 highway code also tells you right near start blue rectangle signs are information. @AsEasyAsRiding @miltoncontact

William ‏@WilliamNB 26 Nov
@miltoncontact You, sir, are an idiot for a) calling cyclists illiterate and b) launching such an attack on incorrect information.

Nick Kocharhook favorited a Tweet you were mentioned in
26 Nov:  @AsEasyAsRiding @gnomeicide Hilarious! You obviously never seen this mockery, @miltoncontact, long since removed. …

Spanish Pirate ‏@SpanishPirate1 26 Nov
@AsEasyAsRiding @gnomeicide @miltoncontact page 36 confusing … #cyclistsdismount

christine jones ‏@christabelaroo 26 Nov
@cotnm @AsEasyAsRiding @gnomeicide @miltoncontact Wow. How did we get engineers this stupid? I thought Gove said we are a clever lot?

christine jones ‏@christabelaroo 26 Nov
@gnomeicide @miltoncontact Blue signs are advisory, you don't have to dismount. Clearly you are not an academic, best keep away from stats.

Gill Cooper ‏@Tw1tterati 26 Nov
@miltoncontact Erm, the "rule" in question is indeed optional.  Blue signs are advisory only.

Cranky Acid ‏@CrankyAcid 26 Nov
@miltoncontact You have very little idea what you are talking about. Do your research before inflicting your prejudices on the world

Cab Davidson ‏@gnomeicide 26 Nov
@HushLegs ...because like nearly all the cyclists and unlike @miltoncontact I know what the sign means :)

 Cottenham Cyclist ‏@cotnm 26 Nov
@AsEasyAsRiding @gnomeicide Hilarious! You obviously never seen this mockery, @miltoncontact, long since removed. …

Cab Davidson ‏@gnomeicide 26 Nov
@HushLegs yep, me too. If it looks busy I dismount there. If it isn't busy I ride over.  @miltoncontact

Hush Legs ‏@HushLegs 26 Nov
@gnomeicide Entirely advisory. I would dismount or wait if there was a ped, but would continue if it was clear. @miltoncontact is ignorant.

Mark Treasure ‏@AsEasyAsRiding 26 Nov
@gnomeicide Yep, all @miltoncontact has demonstrated is that he doesn't know the meaning of the sign. It's advice, not a rule

Cab Davidson ‏@gnomeicide 26 Nov
@miltoncontact and, frankly, to call others illiterate from a demonstrable position of ignorance is offensive. Retract please.
Cab Davidson ‏@gnomeicide 26 Nov
@miltoncontact sign is advisory carrying no compulsion. The cyclists are not 'illiterate' - they simply know the rules better than you do
 Cab Davidson retweeted you
25 Nov:  80 percent of Cambridge cyclists are illiterate! A cultural survey 

Christmas responses

John Grant
I like the Christmas market at Gelsenkirchen Buer......especially the Gl├╝hwein stands

Susanne Jones
My favourite Christmas market is in my hometown, Bad Wimpfen. The medieval surroundings add extra charm and atmosphere.

Chris Thomas
Thanks John, Thanks Susanne :)

Waclaw Slezak
Birmingham is a great success; crowded, vibrant and all the trimmings. 
German Christmas markets - just those three words create a thousand pictures, hundreds of aromas and decades of memories - from child to adulthood for those lucky enough to have that experience; mine was limited to just a dozen or so years.

Lee Hubbard LCGI EngTech InstRE MCMI
Any Christmas Market, Paderborn, Hannover, Koln, Celle ...... the list goes on. I think I would like to visit a different town or city each year! Germany is defiantly the best place to be in December which ever market you manage to visit!!

Chris Thomas
Now of course we have an additional factor, do you prefer the modern German Christmas markets, or the ones adhering to the older mediaeval form! Essen had both last year.

Colin Perry
K├Âln had a medieval market, but it hasn't been there for the past two years. My personal favourites are K├Âln's markets at the Dom and Alter Markt. My son is going there on a school trip next month - I wish I was going too.
Alex Wieck
Does anyone know of any good ones in Dusseldorf or near to Dusseldorf?

John Grant
There is bound to be some within the D├╝sseldorf altstadt area, a great place that i frequented a lot when I lived in D├╝sseldorf for over even years.

Alistair Starling
Having just moved to Berlin with Cambridge English, I'm really looking forward to the Berlin Christmas markets...

Der N├╝rnberger Christkindl Markt!! Absolutely fantastic. Spent a week down there at Christmas time two years ago and it made a big impact! The highlight for myself was the "Biggest Feuerzangbowle in the World", with the famous German Christmas Classic "Die Feuerzangbowle" from 1944 projected onto a white building next to the Pegnitz river that meanders through the town. We also make a point of visiting the Goslar Weinachtsmarkt near the Harz Mountains once every year. It´s not so big and crowded, and is in a nice picturesque setting. I LOVE GERMANY AT CHRISTMAS TIME!!!!!

Robert Partridge
I would say Koln was pretty close, but Dusseldorf will have it's own. 
Personally I like Koln, adore Monschau a little village between Koln and Aachen but for a really interesting experience the Valkenburg Caves in Limburg in the Netherlands just over the border takes some beating...especially when you reflect on its historical background during WW2 and that it could accommodate seemingly 35,000 people in the event of a nuclear attack during the Cold War!

Robert Partridge
Koln is without doubt the best in Germany we have visited along with the pretty little village of Monschau, but you should try the Valkenburg Caves in Limburg just over the border in The Netherlands...natural caves where soldiers took cover during more troubled times and also where seemingly there was accomodations for 35,000 people in the event of a Nuclear Attack during the Cold War...quite a venue for a Christmas Market I can assure the prices are cheaper!

Michael Clarke
Manchester's Christmas German Market is huge, thousands of people from all over the North West of England are drawn to it, its so big they have added a French section and a Spanish section too. It is also a great opportunity for lots of small artisan supplies from all over the UK to take advantage of the Christmas trade in the UK's second biggest city.

Barry Davies
There is an excellent market in Kempen (near Krefeld) which specialises in 'home-made' goods. The town itself is also very interesting. Check first though for dates/times. If you do go to the K├Âln market go by public transport (the parking is horrific). 
Of the Berlin markets the one around the Gendarmenmarkt is the most spectacular. But do get out to Spandau for a contrasting experience.

Marleen Mertens CertRP

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