Free standup! Win a pair of tickets for Josie Long live

by James Glazebrook

Josie Long by Idil Sukan @ drawhq.com

Josie Long by Idil Sukan @ drawhq.com

[EDIT: this competition is now closed. Click here to see if we’re running any open competitions]

Hands up who likes standup comedy? Right, everyone without their hand up can get the fuck out, because there’s nothing better than listening to a funny human’s stories and thoughts and jokes and that. And there are fewer funnier than Josie Long, who’s been smashing it on British telly, the Edinburgh Fringe and countless stages for years now. So if you still have your hands up, put one down and use it scroll down to the bit where we’re giving away two pairs of tickets to Josie’s Berlin show next week. I don’t know what you should do with that other hand – maybe make a fist or a peace sign or something.✌️

If you don’t know Josie, check out her awesome “Romance and Adventure” show below, or this appearance on one of our favourite podcasts, Scroobius Pip’s Distraction Pieces. You can get full details about the two Berlin shows over on Facebook, buy tickets to Friday’s performance via Live in Berlin, and win tickets for Thursday below. Enjoy!


Do you and a friend want to get your giggle on next Thursday? Just answer this question in the comments below:

Who’s your favourite standup? Include a link to something we can laugh at!

You have until 6pm on Friday 2nd October. Good luck!

The Boring Bit (yawn, RULES):

1. You must be at least 18 years old to enter.
3. We will keep a record of each comment in a database and then a random number generator picks the winner.
4. Remember to include your full (real) name and email address or we won’t be able to put you on the guestlist!
5. We will notify the winners via email.

How to work at a startup: 3. Cover letter and social media

by Guest Blogger

By Federico Prandi.

Ever wondered why cover letters are called cover letters?

That’s because they’re a cover-up, a fraud, a final attempt to reinforce all the lies you’ve shamelessly written on your resume and spice them up with some hardcore lip service. A good cover letter is something you can’t have your wife and children read without them thinking you’re willing to trade your family for a part-time customer service job at an internet startup.

Now, in order to write a convincing cover letter you have to be able to write a regular one. I know that nobody writes proper letters anymore, but in our childhood we’ve all done it in (at least) two specific circumstances.

#1 Love Letters

I remember middle school as the place where my first literary attempts took place. All the guys were pouring their hormonal intensity into odes to girls who either wouldn’t let them touch their breasts or didn’t have breasts at all. One of my letters was so successful that a 12-year-old girl in my class pulled me aside and kissed me, making death poems suddenly look like a better idea.

#2 Letters to Santa

Growing up in a catholic family, I could either write my Christmas wishes to Santa or to baby Jesus. I always picked the former, assuming that the old man wouldn’t be up to date with my sins. In hindsight I feel like I was never really filled in on the magic of Christmas and as a result all my letters to Santa sounded like financial scam against a vulnerable senior, as if I had to convince him to spend all his pension on my presents. Also, I probably looked down on Jesus, thinking that a baby born in a shed wouldn’t be able to discern between the real Little Mermaid merchandise and those cheap rip-offs.

Anyway, the perfect cover letter takes something from both examples; it combines the pained longing of the teenage love letter and the manipulative hidden agenda of the Santa letter; it makes big promises but also claims big rewards; it tells a company that you’ll be their dream, you’ll be their wish, you’ll be their fantasy. You’ll be their hope, you’ll be their love, be everything that they need. You’ll love them more with every breath (truly, madly, deeply do), you will be strong, you will be faithful ’cause you’re counting on a new beginning, a reason for living, a deeper meaning, yeah.



My name is Federico Prandi Barry LaVaughn [PRO TIP: use a name that oozes out awesomeness: fake IDs aren’t as expensive as you think!] and I’m applying for the position of Online Marketing Manager after applying to three others and being rejected finding the job posting on some random Reddit thread the company website.

I’ve spent the past year watching every season of Survivor on my couch traveling around the world, but now I need money feel like it’s time for a new professional challenge. I’ve been keeping an eye on NAME_OF_COMPANY for the past seven minutes, while simultaneously shopping on Amazon years and I was always impressed by your constant achievements in terms of growth and marketing efforts.

Before traveling, I worked for two months years at a marketing agency whose main focus are on-site and off-site SEO. When the company started offering a wider range of services, the fact that I have a Twitter account with more than 6 followers my holistic approach to online marketing came especially handy and I was given new responsibilities. My professional path gave me practical experience in stalking people online conducting detailed on-site audits, developing actionable inbound marketing strategies and researching keywords in a clever way. My team left the boat before it sank swayed between “very small” and a “one-man-show”, which made me cry in the shower at night called for crazy organizational skills, high versatility and alcoholism a talent for setting priorities.

In my private time I tend to read and write Harry Potter erotic fanfic in a lot of online places (forums, blogs, e-zines, online newspapers, social media…you name it!); this gave me a very sharp sensitivity when it comes to anything futile in life contemporary online trends and the language of the web.

Having read the profile you’re looking for, I am going to ignore all the requirements I don’t have and apply anyway think I might be a valuable asset to your team and at the same time have a chance to grow as a marketer.

I look forward to hearing back from you and dive deeper into the selection process.



Ta-da! You’re all set!

You have the perfect CV, the perfect cover letter and you’re now ready to pack everything together and send your application via email.

Bonus Track: Clean up your social media



There is one more little thing that needs to be done in order to make your application really really perfect.

Hire a private investigator (or me if I’m bored) and ask him to turn the internet upside down in search of some dirt about you. As much as you consider yourself an amazing human being, that time you made fun of coat-hanger abortions on Twitter may not be well perceived by everybody.

Delete the tweet and, since you’re at it, replace it with a photoshopped picture of you hugging a koala bear (which, in my opinion, is exactly what restored Luke Perry’s public image after 90210).

Bingo – you’re all set!

Federico is an Italian in Berlin. He blogs, tweets, infiltrates the German language, and is currently employed at a cool internet company based in Berlin with a million open positions.

If you liked this, read the rest of the series here. And check out our observations on the Berlin startup scene, and get more practical advice about landing a startup job (with more GIFs!).

On blogging: The great “viral content” swindle

by James Glazebrook

Günther Krabbenhöft street style original photo

You may have seen this dashing fellow on the Internet recently. You might have even seen these photos. If you did, the site you were looking at stole Zoë’s photos, published them without her consent, and used them to generate traffic and, most likely, revenue.  

It all started when So Bad So Good shared some photos to their Facebook page, of the alleged 104-year-old, posing on the platform for the U1 at Kotti. It isn’t clear where they got those images from, as they didn’t include any kind of credit. But we do know that the man pictured, Günther Krabbenhöft – represented by “agents for unique characters”, We Are Unlike You – isn’t 104. More realistic estimates put him at around 70.

Spotting an opportunity, I commented on the post with a link to our own blog post, a streetstyle shot of Günther walking through Graefekiez. Sure enough, that brought us a lot of clicks – about 40% more traffic than in the previous month – but it also brought the attention of websites that pride themselves on finding and sharing viral content. They refer to it as “sharing”, but we call it what it is: stealing.

The biggest, and probably the first, of those was Bored Panda (no, we aren’t going to link to them!). We found them via a trackback, a notification that WordPress sends us whenever someone links to one of our posts. Clicking through, we were shocked to see Zoë’s photos being used in a post that (apparently) now has over 180,000 views, 50,000 Facebook Likes, and is surrounded by ads that make money for the site’s owners. Alarmingly, there’s an “Add post” button that allows anyone to create their own article, with terms of use that place the responsibility for copyright compliance on the “author”.

The offending article on Bored Panda

Bored Panda set the tone for all the other articles we were able to find through trackbacks and Google reverse image search (which we learned about from @eljojo – thanks!) Have a look here – each of those thumbnails leads to at least one article that has used that image in those dimensions. That’s just one of our three images of Günther, and it doesn’t included photos edited beyond recognition by Google’s bots.

Most of the articles we found included the 104, many with that weird get-out that “the Internet” is getting its facts wrong, and all featured images alongside ours from sources who presumably weren’t contacted for permission either. A lot of them completely ripped off the “original” Bored Panda article. But, as it’s not their content anyway, why should they care?

When we contacted Bored Panda, we received an email from the article’s author saying that they’d decided to remove the images. The fact that they responded so quickly, to an email sent via a form that actually has a field for “removal request”, leads us to believe that they subscribe to the school of thought that one should “ask for forgiveness, not permission”.

Günther Krabbenhöft close up

Bored Panda were only closing the barn door after the horse had bolted. By the time our images were taken down from that site, they were all over the “viral” Internet. It takes just one website to turn stolen content into fair game, and other sites are happy to rip off photos, as long as they include the name of the source, and a link to it. Those second-tier sites are legion, and rarely have contact details through which to demand a removal.

A couple of bigger websites approached us for our permission (denied), and, when pushed, a national British newspaper offered an insubstantial amount of money. Given the circumstances, we were almost flattered that people had thought to ask us, but Zoë can’t pay her rent with “credits”, and we can’t build an audience on the clicks of curious people wanting to ogle an apparently ancient “hipster”. Our uptick in traffic came primarily from my comment on So Bad So Good’s Facebook post, and those people won’t be back. If we were playing the same “viral” game as these websites, those clicks would translate into money. But we aren’t – we’re focussed on creating original content.

And that’s the most depressing part of all of this: watching the Internet cannibalise itself. As soon as one online entity had a “hit” with the Günther photos, everyone else had to have them. Major newspapers and best-selling magazines aren’t above this – everyone wants the hot new thing to post, in the hopes that their improved Google rank will inch their audience, and profits, up ever so slightly. This “viral” layer of the web relies on content creators like us to thrive, but we won’t be able to create the content it needs if we can’t make a living. It’s pretty disgusting to see this up close.

So where does that put us? We’ve been advised that we are in a position to demand our content’s removal from all these websites, and to even invoice them for the revenue they likely generated from it. But how do you contact a site that doesn’t feature so much as an email address, and what are your chances of getting a response, let alone compensation? Right now, we’re focused on INTERVIEW.de, who aren’t responsive despite me taking to Twitter and Facebook to complain (sound familiar?) We think they’re taking Andy Warhol’s art of appropriation a little too far…

Let’s be clear: we love it when you share our content. When you tweet one of our photos and @-mention us, you could bring us followers; when you link to our website, we may gain readers. Sharing the photo without a credit isn’t exactly in the spirit of Twitter, but at least you wouldn’t be making money from our creative work. To all our genuine fans, thank you for sharing!

And to all the people out there creating unique content, keep up the good work. Take solace in the fact that this is one of the few cases of plagiarism we’ve (knowingly) experienced, and it can be traced back to us “putting ourselves out there”. Let us know if you ever encounter anything like this, and we’ll be happy to share our learnings and give you some support. Together, we’ll kick some web ass!

Günther's kick-ass shoes

EDIT: INTERVIEW.de have since responded to my Facebook post and taken down the photos. However, I still take exception to them using the photos in the first place. Here’s how that conversation is developing…

Berlintercourse: The GIF Guide to Sex Party Etiquette

by Guest Blogger

My first trip to a sex club was about five years ago. I had come to spend yet another weekend visiting a dear high school friend living in Berlin and, on a whim, we decided to go to KitKat. The bouncers let us in after first telling us to remove some of our clothes, and my friend happily obliged, keeping nothing but her panties on. I took off my dress and entered the club wearing just a jacket and my underwear.

The rest of the evening is kind of a blur, but I vividly remember enjoying the fact that we were able to dance wearing close to nothing without any creeps following us around. Which brings us to the first – and maybe most important – lesson:

Sex clubs are meant to be safe spaces, so if you visit one, please make sure you help it stay that way.

Having been a guest at several sex parties now, some at pretty tame yet fun nights like GEGEN and some more adventurous ones where almost everyone ended up getting some, I have come to realise that there are a few things you should know before getting involved. To help out my fellow sexplorers, here is what I have learned so far:


“Alles kann, nichts muss”, as the Germans say. What this means is that the fact you are attending a sex party does not necessarily mean that you’ll end up having wild group sex on the dancefloor. Only if you feel like it and only if the party allows it. While many people probably assume that sex clubs are places where everything is allowed, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

During the sex party I attended a few months back, a significant portion of the evening was dedicated to reciting the event’s rules, and it was made very clear that whoever ignored them would be shown to the door in no time. At this particular party, voyeurism was not welcome – but this isn’t always the case, so make sure you know about the event’s specifics before you misbehave. You will usually find that information on the club’s website but don’t hesitate to reach out to the organisers via email if you have any doubts.


If you are attending a sex event, know that there is no place for politeness. What I mean is that if a situation is bothering you, you should not say so. I have been hesitant myself, but being straightforward is a must, so if you are afraid of making your move, ask someone to do the dirty work for you.

Once in the dark rooms of Ficken 3000, I realised that someone was watching in a very creepy way that I did not feel comfortable with. I ended up asking a friend to tell him, and the lurker was gone within a couple of seconds. As with most things in life, problems are usually solved more quickly if you deal with them directly instead of allowing them to linger on.


Every time I engaged in or witnessed threesomes or group sex, I remember being amazed at the level of consideration couples gave to each other. Much to my surprise, I found that couples that engage in this kind of activity seem to have more balanced and healthier relationships, at least from the outside. They’re the kind of people who will outright say when they are not comfortable with a situation instead of sulking or making a scene. And the other person will take the criticism just fine.

What I learned is that, while you should obviously focus on enjoying yourself, you should always keep an eye on other people’s wellbeing. This is especially true if you decide to engage in sexual endeavours with your significant other: the experience will only be truly rewarding for you both if you make sure you are not being selfish or making your partner uncomfortable.


On a more shallow note, don’t forget that there is nothing worse than attending an event and feeling like your outfit isn’t quite right. In fact, dressing up is a great part of the fun.

Find out whether there is a dress code beforehand, don’t keep all of your clothes on if nobody else is doing so, and don’t stare at people whose sartorial choices are more daring than yours.

When in doubt, remember that this is Berlin and wear black. My go-to outfit is a black bra and black thong, but you could just wear nothing and make Germany proud.


Brace yourself for the fact that you will probably witness a few situations you never expected to. I have seen things that would normally qualify as crazy, such as grown men wearing diapers or a girl holding a knife ridiculously close to a guy’s penis and occasionally poking it.

I did a double take because I was curious, but in the end remembered that everyone has their own dark side and that other people’s should be, at most, considered with a shrug. Try to remember that sex has a lot to do with people allowing themselves to be vulnerable and allowing others into their personal space.


Embrace the fact that this is your chance to try out new things. Most people who attend sex parties on the reg are ready to be your guide if you need them to.

Asking for advice will never be frowned upon and, just as with any regular party, people are usually open to taking new playmates under their wing. If you’re feeling unsure, just look at the way others are behaving and adjust – be emotionally intelligent and empathetic and people will welcome you with open arms.

Don’t believe me? The day after the sex party I went to, I was invited to have dinner with some of the organisers, before heading to a BDSM play party in the evening. That was the night I tried suspension bondage for the very first time, and it was quite the experience. I was incredibly glad to have more seasoned BDSMers around, as they took care of me and shared their precious advice along the way.


While it’s totally fine to be buzzed at “entry level” parties where most sexual acts happen in dark rooms or other dedicated areas, you don’t want to make a fool of yourself while other people are trying to get busy.

I did get pretty, ahem, tipsy during the first sex party I attended, and even though I mostly just ended up dancing and chatting everyone up, I regretted being that person when I woke up the next day. Oh well, it wasn’t my idea to bring all that vodka!


Bring condoms with you (even if you are a girl), but also know that you will always be able to get some for free at the bar – this also applies to Berghain, by the way.

While it can be cute to wake up with a few misplaced love bites the next day because they make for good stories, you don’t want to spend it running from the pharmacy to the STD clinic. Also, nothing says “I don’t respect you” like not caring about this kind of thing. Try to remember what queen Aretha was demanding back in the sixties.

In short, have fun, be open-minded, pay attention to what is happening around you, and you will have a blast! I will soon dedicate another column to my favourite sex parties to help you choose the one on which to try out all these tips – watch this space 🙂

GIFs sourced by @p_a_p_i_

On Expat Entitlement

by James Glazebrook

smug face garage door

This was going to be a post about how shitty customer service is in Germany. We’ve all heard about, or experienced, things like: surly bar service, valuable deliveries that dropped off the grid without a trace, unanswered emails, ignored tweets, blah blah blah…

…it all started, as it so often does, with an undelivered package. The bourgeois tosspots that we are, we subscribe to a certain service that delivers recipes and their ingredients to your door – at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. This time, they promised to deliver during certain hours, and didn’t. When I emailed their support team, I was told that the delivery had been confirmed for a different time slot, and I should have been waiting for it. I asked them to check the confirmation message I’d originally forwarded them for proof to the contrary, and the email chain went dead.

I gave them a few days before following up via email. Where was my response? Where was my refund? And the answer to the other question I’d asked? Hearing nothing back, I took to Twitter. After a few unanswered tweets, I started to @-mention their UK and US teams (a move I learned from the indomitable @Fauxlie_). Sure enough, the Brits intervened, suggesting I call the German team. In no mood to ease the situation, I sent a shitty tweet asking why I shouldn’t expect to have my problem resolved via the email support channel they do in fact offer. (I’ve since apologised for that – they were just trying to help.)

And then, after a long, frustrated rant to Zoë, it occurred to me: all of my interactions with this company had been in English. Sure, I apologised at first for my crappy German (auf Deutsch) before asking that we switch to my native language. But I might have been even more annoyed if the response had come back in German. And, despite my natural aversion to actually speaking to people, the real thing stopping me picking up the phone was the knowledge that we’d quickly reach the limits of my second language, and I’d have to suck it up and ask, “können wir Englisch sprechen?

This is bonkers. If I was in England, and didn’t speak any English, there would be a 0.001% chance that someone would be willing or able to speak to me in my native language. Yet here, in the German capital, I get by perfectly well with not-that-great German skills. I’ve rented an apartment, registered as a resident, got a dog, started a blog and a business, paid my taxes, and yes, even had my groceries delivered – all by subjecting people to my crappy German, persuading or paying people to speak echtes Deutsch on my behalf, or just expecting everything to be done in English.

This shit doesn’t fly in other places, or in other languages. I work for a company whose customer happiness (oh yes) rating always tops 90%, and we support millions of people all over the world almost entirely in English. I should remember that for a German speaker to be writing or speaking in English, even with the help of Google Translate, they’re going the extra mile. I’m not meeting them halfway, not remotely. If my email or tweet is dropped, it’s probably not because the person the other end is terrible at their job, but because my query is automatically the trickiest one in their queue.  

But I don’t remember that. We don’t remember that. As visitors to this country, no matter how permanent – hell, as owners of businesses here – we get used to a certain amount of English fluency from everyone we interact with. A couple of years ago we published a guest post that I don’t fully agree with, in response to an Exberliner attack on Melbourne Canteen for having (at the time) menus in English only. While the original article was gratingly holier-than-thou, I find it hard to stand behind our writer’s argument that English is more useful to Germans than German is to English speakers. Presumably, that’s the same stance of another business outed recently as having no Deutsch menus, despite proclaiming themselves to be “100% Neukölln”. It seems that expats’ aversion to German is becoming institutionalised.

Yes, as Berlin becomes more and more international, with new arrivals sharing English more than any other language, it’s possible to envision a day when our common tongue is the city’s second semi-official language, as Spanish is in California. But for now, we’re in Germany and we should (try to) speak German. Anyone who is willing to switch to English with you should be treated like the angel they are – after all, they are part of the reason why your dumb ass is able to remain here.

Remember when you moved here, and you were amazed by how perfect everyone’s English is, and how readily they resort to using it? Hold onto that feeling, cherish it. And repeat after me: when someone is using their second language in a country where you should be speaking their mother tongue, they’re incapable of bad customer service. Just by communicating with you on your terms, they’ve already gone the extra mile.

Is writing about whether Berlin is “over” over?

by Guest Blogger

Scheiß auf Gentrification

by Katrin Strohmaier.

So Berlin is over. We’ve heard, read and – let’s be honest – said it ourselves on numerous occasions: while we were standing in line for two hours last time we wanted to go to that open air club that only a year ago was still an insiders’ tip; when we went to that new IPA place and a half pint was over €5; when our friend came back tired and disillusioned from house hunting, because after ten years of living in a WG, they wanted to have a place of their own. They had grown up, but so had the city – and all of a sudden, a two bedroom apartment wasn’t €400 anymore, but almost double that. So yes, says the nostalgic little man in our heads – it looks like Berlin is over after all. And yes, says the media, say the bloggers, again and again: Berlin is over.

By that, we obviously don’t mean that the world isn’t interested in the German capital anymore: in February, the Berlin-based newspaper Der Tagesspiegel proclaimed a record-high in numbers of visitors: with 28.7 million over-night guests, 2014 was Berlin’s most successful year in terms of tourism – ever. And just over a week ago, the Guardian published yet another article about young Brits moving away from buzzing, yet unaffordable London, in order to try their luck over here. Many of them are here to stay: according to the newspaper, in 2013 an estimated 10,000 Brits were living in the German capital, and this number increased by 35% within only one year, rising to just under 13,500 at the end of 2014. Altogether, 45,000 new inhabitants were registered in 2014 alone.

When we say “over”, we actually mean exactly that: we’ve been discovered by the world, and now people want in on the utopia that was Berlin when we first came here, or while we were growing up here. And those people bring about change. Now, one thing Berliners too easily forget is this: Berlin embodies the very principle of change. It always has. Without it, Berlin would have never become the open-minded, non-judgmental work in progress that we fled our hometowns for (for many people I know precisely because time seemed to stand still at home). Berlin, on the other hand, lost its status as the capital of Germany, was sliced apart by a massive and deadly wall, was reunited, then “invaded” by thousands of Germans and people from all over the world, who saw the potential to create something new where there was a whole lot of nothingness. Here, it felt, you could be anyone you wanted to be – and be accepted, if not respected for it; you could contribute to social, ecological and creative innovations, turn your squat into a club or a giant collective, or open up a little farm on a piece of fallow land.

Now, it looks like the tables are turning, the focus is shifting: squats and communes have to fend for their lives, many of the new Berlin inhabitants don’t know what VoKü means anymore, and instead open up hipster cafés and over-priced vintage stores all over Neukölln. But look again: social enterprises and innovative approaches to dealing with social, ecological and other sustainability-related challenges are mushrooming in the German capital. To quote another Guardian article from earlier this year “twenty per cent of the city’s GDP flows through the creative and culture industry, while more than 4% is generated by research and higher education. Berlin boasts more than 70 publicly funded foundations along with 40 technology incubators.” Together with those attracted by the (still) comparably unconventional spirit of the city, Berlin is growing up. And it might even have found a way to be different and self-sufficient at the same time: Berlin isn’t running up debt anymore, yet it still is in debt, due to decades of financial dependence on other Bundesländer. And no one in their right mind can want this to be Berlin’s model for the future. It’s not an anti-capitalist statement, a charming part of Berlin’s refreshing “fuck you” attitude towards the rest of the world; it’s unsustainable.

Let’s also not forget that Berlin has long been a city of foreigners – be it from another part of Germany or another part of the world. Some “original” Berliners have always had a problem with that fact (mostly with those having moved from another part of Germany by the way), yet it’s pretty much exactly what distinguished Berlin from many other cities. It is, in the best sense of the word, a melting pot; of people, attitudes, ideas, languages and many other things. And when I moved back to Berlin after a couple of years in London, I was, quite frankly, afraid that Berlin would disappoint me by not being as cosmopolitan and vibrant as the British capital – only in order to be very positively surprised by how much more international (read: not European, but actually international) the city had become. I’m more than willing to trade a few insiders’ tips for my city becoming more diverse!

But with all the noise around whether or not Berlin is over, it is, of course, important to keep in mind that it’s not all about whether you mind people caring about fashion now, or that you have to look for a new favourite club; it’s also about chances – namely about who gets them and who doesn’t. Compared with other European and German cities, Berlin has always offered a life in dignity to those who don’t have a lot of money. And despite it still being comparatively cheap, Berlin is definitely changing for the worse in this regard. According to a Deutsche Welle article, rents in Berlin have risen by up to 50% over the past five years – and that in a city where 85% of residents are tenants. But it’s way too easy to just blame that on the increasing number of people moving here. If you have a problem with this development (and you should), do something about it. What we need is affordable housing being the law and salaries to rise at least as quickly as inflation. There are people who take to the streets and collect signatures for public housing development funds and greater public control of private landlords as well as housing companies – join them!

In her recent article “Is Berlin over?”, Paola Moretti concluded that “love is resistance and the first love is never outmoded.” I think true love involves accepting when the loved one is changing, if change is good for them; and to help them address the challenges they will face on the way.

Katrin Strohmaier spends her days as a mouthpiece for Photocircle, a Berlin-based start-up connecting photography and humanitarianism.

On blogging: Why we turned off comments

by James Glazebrook

The more observant of you will have noticed that we’ve turned off comments here on überlin.

Maybe you found you couldn’t enter a competition, because I’d forgotten to turn comments back on in those rare cases where we still allow them. Perhaps you were particularly incensed by the latest thing this expat/hipster/douchebag/gentrifier/all-of-the-above had written. Or you might just have been wanting to tell us how much you love us, but couldn’t. Well, here’s why.

Firstly, and most obviously, internet comments are infamously terrible. Sure, most of our commenters have been very supportive and positive, but a minority have split hairs, gone on inexplicable tangents, ranted, singled us out to blame for the (inevitable) changes happening to Berlin, and one even told us in no uncertain terms: go home.

The main reason for this shittiness is that people aren’t accountable when they’re anonymous. If no one knows who you are, you can be as hateful, reactionary, incoherent and misinformed as you like.

Of course, we ask commenters to provide their names and email addresses, but we have no way of verifying this. Even if we used something like Facebook login to verify people’s identities, the Zuckerberg dodgers could use their invented FB names to shroud themselves in semi-secrecy. Besides, even if we could achieve total transparency and accountability with comments, we’re not sure that we should be insisting that people, especially Germans, share their personal data in this way.

So, given a choice between anonymous comments and no comments, we went with the latter.

Another reason for switching off comments is that we’re no longer focused on producing content that provokes comment. Depending on your perspective, we used to be great at/notorious for hilarious/reductive observations/stereotypes about Germans and Germany, and at times, we’ve been guilty of full-on trolling. These days, however, we’re more interested in showing off Zoë’s beautiful photos of places, people and their dogs, and getting to the heart of what inspires the creatives who call Berlin their home.

This is great content, and we think it’s very shareable, but it doesn’t require your input. If you like something, great – feel free to share it with others on Twitter, Facebook, email or whatever. If you don’t like it, that’s fine too – just look away.

And that brings us to the final reason we turned off comments. We received too many comments like “this comedy piece on going to a German supermarket doesn’t discuss the impact of LIDL’s pricing policies overseas”, which could all be translated as: “I’m annoyed that this article isn’t about something else that I’d rather be reading”. I found myself arguing with these people, then trashing their comments (as they were about an entirely different subject than the article, they weren’t relevant), and then deciding: we don’t need this.

As content producers, we accept the fact that we’re doing all this for free. We run überlin for love, not money, and the fact that our content is kostenlos allows it to reach far more people than it would have in the days before a free, open, democratic(ish) Internet. The problem with this is that people don’t always value what they get for free. And if it isn’t exactly what they wanted to see, they’ll be sure to tell you. I wonder if the editors from Lawnmower Monthly receive letters saying “Dear Sir/Madam, I bought your magazine and was disappointed to find absolutely no photos of monkeys riding motorcycles…”?

The point is: everyone absolutely has the right to their opinion. They just don’t have the right to make people listen to it. We spent five years building this site, filling it with content and growing its readership. If you don’t like something on the site, by all means tell the Twitter followers you earned through your own hard work – hell, tell us. But you don’t get to take the megaphone out of our hands and use it to broadcast your own opinions, while hiding behind the mask of anonymity.

Hence (with a few exceptions): no more comments here on überlin. In the month or so that we’ve been without comments, we haven’t missed them at all. We still get plenty of feedback via social media, and we’re always thankful for that. If you have any comments about this post, or anything else we’re doing, hit us up on Facebook  and Twitter. The (on-site) comments are dead; long live the (off-site) comments!