Autumn in Riga: first snow of the season

It’s October 26, today. Autumn is in full swing, and some trees are trying hard to hold on to their leaves. But winter is coming to Latvia, and quick. The first signs arrived today. When we woke up and looked out the window, we saw the first snow. Time for a first snow of the season post.

Snow in the morning, this is what we woke up to

Snow in the morning, this is what we woke up to

That was only the beginning. There was more snow in the morning, in what to some seemed a blizzard. Enough snow fell for the first snowmen to come out of hiding.

Snow men came out of hiding

Snow men came out of hiding

Of course, we went for a walk, and B made his first snow tracks of the season.

B making tracks

B making tracks

In Viesturdarzs park, the autumn colours and snow created a beautiful landscape.

The colours of autumn and winter in Viesturdarzs

The colours of autumn and winter in Viesturdarzs

Trees and statues all got a new top-coat, like this statue of big cats playing.

Pumas or tigers? In any case: a fresh white coat

Pumas or tigers? In any case: a fresh white coat

Even our beloved dog run has turned white.

Our Sunu Pastaigas Laukums (dog run) turned white

Our Sunu Pastaigas Laukums (dog run) turned white

One more photo from Viesturdarzs, with the Triumph Arch.

And one more look at Viesturdarzs park

And one more look at Viesturdarzs park

Lessons from a recognized enthusiastic user

Recently I referred to myself as a ‘recognized enthusiastic user’, when asked about my involvement with a certain online platform. And from a user, or customer, perspective, I think that’s an accurate description. The platform in question (OpenIDEO, an open innovation community for social good) is something I care deeply about, am an enthusiastic user of and therefore talk about it often in a positive way on several social media channels, all the while trying to convince my friends and followers to participate as well. So enthusiastic user seems accurate. Regularly I get mentioned on the social media channels OpenIDEO uses, and once I even was invited to join a workshop. That’s what I mean when I say recognized.

And it’s not only on OpenIDEO where I see myself as a recognized enthusiastic user, it’s also in the Quality Hunters community initiated last year by Finnair and Helsinki Airport. Again, it was my enthusiastic use that led to me being regularly mentioned and awarded a perk. A big one, in that case, as I traveled to Stuttgart and Hong Kong on their invitation, to blog about ideas for service improvement.

But it doesn’t need to be a matter of perks like that. Because of where I live, I often fly airBaltic, if I fly. If I have a question for them, I often ask it through Twitter, and get a quick reply, or direct assistance. To me, as a regular user of airBaltic services, this is also a form of recognition. Good service, and publicly answering questions and bringing solutions also make me feel like a ‘recognized enthusiastic user’ of a product or service.

Now, how can you turn this into valuable knowledge for your brand or organisation? Well, it’s rather simple. If you want to turn me into a brand advocate, make me a recognized enthusiastic user. Don’t put me in a call-center holding pattern with music of your choice that, even if it by chance is not horrible music, sounds horrible through the phone. Answer my questions on social media channels, and make it easy for me to share. Recognize me as a user.

Of course this starts with having a good product and great service. And if you throw me an occasional bone, or make me a key figure in a user forum, you have turned an user of your product into a brand advocate.

Sunday Spotlight: @cactuslouise

Louise Wilson, or @cactuslouise on twitter, is one of the wonderful people I met on the OpenIDEO platform. I have greatly enjoyed, and have been greatly inspired, by her contributions there. She also has a blog, that I really like to read. One of the posts that really stuck with me was made last year, right after the riots that shocked the UK and the world. She wrote about how her neighbourhood picked up after the riots, cleaning the streets and creating a ‘peace wall’ by putting sticky-notes with messages on a boarded up shop.

More recently, Louise was one of the winners of an OpenIDEO challenge with her idea to launch a site where young entrepreneurs can share their stories of failure, and lessons learned, so that others can learn from that: My Fail Tale.

Next to that, she often tweets and blogs about interesting topics, especially around community building. Louise is definitely worth following.

About Sunday Spotlight
Sunday Spotlight is my way of saying thanks to those members my online communities who have made an impact in the past week. It is also a nod to Ana Isabel Canhoto, and the way she interprets the popular #FollowFriday meme on Twitter. I even had the honor of featuring in this week’s FollowFriday post on her blog. How awesome is that?
In every Sunday Spotlight post I will introduce you to one or more very special people. These people have stood out in my social networks, and that’s why I think they are worth following. They might impact your life as well.

Is it right to award the EU the Nobel Peace Prize?

Commemorative freight car in Auschwitz-Birkenau

Commemorative freight car in Auschwitz-Birkenau

This summer, I visited the museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest concentration camp of Nazi-Germany. It’s an experience that is very hard to describe. The vastness, especially of the Birkenau camp, and the extreme focus on extermination, combined with the tranquil silence of the area is extremely surreal. The fact that the site now serves as a museum, and as a strong message that this is something we don’t want to see happening again, is, I think, very important for those of us who have not lived through the horrors of wars and times like that. And, I repeat, the message is clear: never again.

This is exactly the idea that was at the basis of the European Union. Never again wars like the two that had ravaged Europe in the first half of the twentieth century. Never again the horrors of blaming economic hard times on groups of people based on their religion, ethnicity or whatever artificial accusation. Peace and prosperity, through economic cooperation. And since the end of the second World War, Europe has come a long way. Maybe not far enough, yet, there’s still some more integration to do, and I hope to see a time where we’re not talking about bailing out one or two or three Euro-countries, but about one integrated political and economical union. But we’ll get there, eventually. What has been accomplished: over 65 years of peace, and it’s not looking like that’s going to change any time soon, in a region that used to be at the heart of many violent conflicts.

So, if you ask me, the European Union might not be finished yet, and might not be perfect yet, but it is a very deserving recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Three honoured men of Riga

Map of the statues and streets honouring Kalpaks, Blaumanis and Rainis

Map of the statues and streets honouring Kalpaks, Blaumanis and Rainis

Within in the distance of only a slightly extended dogwalk from our home, there are three Latvian men honoured with a street being named after them, and a statue. Now, this should not be surprising in the capital of a country. And national heroes are a great subject. But what actually did surprise me, is that in all three cases, the locations of streets and statues do not coincide. Rainis, Kalpaks and Blaumanis have statues that are not placed on the boulevards and streets that carry their names: Raina Boulevard, Kalpaka Boulevard and Blaumana Street. I just think that’s interesting. Just as I think it’s interesting that two of these men (Rainis and Blaumanis) are poets/writers. Good people to have as national heroes.

Statue of Blaumanis in Bastejkalns park

Statue of Blaumanis in Bastejkalns park

The statue of Rainis in Esplanade park

The statue of Rainis in Esplanade park

Statue of Kalpaks, in Esplanade park

Statue of Kalpaks, in Esplanade park