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22 Jul

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So this happened in the first half of 2014

July 22, 2014 | By |

 

Personally I always have a tendency to think that I’m not doing quite enough: Not pushing hard enough, not putting enough hours to learn new skills, not shipping enough. Partly that’s certainly true (especially the part about making time for structured learning). But partly it’s hard to see progress and get an overview while you’re working on something. You can’t see the forest for the trees.

A friend made that pretty clear to me in a recent conversation where we caught each other up on the things that had happened in our lives, both privately and in our work: As we talked, it surprised me when he asked how I could possibly have been involved in so many projects – a thought that had barely occurred to me before. To me it’s pretty much business as usual to be working on several things in parallel.

Looking at the first half year of 2014, though, he was right. It’d been unusually productive (and explains why I’m really feeling like a vacation). The list of things I did or (in most cases co-)created just earlier this year is longer than I had realized:

  • ThingsCon #1, a conference about the future of hardware businesses & the IOT
  • UIKonf #2, a conference for iOS developers
  • NEXT Berlin (as program director), a conference about the macrotrends that shape digital businesses
  • Connected, an printed essay collection about the Internet of Things
  • Dearsouvenir, a prototype for a souvenir finding service
  • The Indie Conference Organizer Handbook, a handbook for running an independent conference
  • Was invited as a speaker to six events or conferences, including biggies like O’Reilly Solid, in Berlin, Amsterdam, San Francisco and Tokyo, mostly about the Internet of Things, emerging technologies, the exchange of skills between startup land and the German Mittelstand, and Berlin as a tech hub
  • Contributed quite a few interviews & articles, mostly around the Internet of Things or 3D printing and other emerging technologies
  • Set up my new company as an umbrella for all these activities

Currently in the making: the next issue of Connected; the next steps for Dearsouvenir; a digital magazine about maker culture; ThingsCon 2015; and a few early stage ideas that might or might not materialize.

So that makes, what, three conferences, two publications, a prototype and a bunch of writing and talks. Seeing it like that I now know what my friend meant. And yet, this seems to me to be the default, if not the only way forward, for this industry and the model I choose to operate in, which is always about collaborative explorations of emerging technology.

What I find interesting (and what I’m a little proud of) is that besides NEXT Berlin – who I’ve enjoyed working with for a long, long time by now – these projects are all self-initiated stuff, in other words not client work but built from the ground up. This is something I’ve set out to do a while ago, and it’s great to see this working out so nicely.

So on that note, on to the second half of the year. Can’t wait!

 

PS. If you want to get occasional updates about projects I’m working on, often a little bit before they get announced here or elsewhere, why not sign up to my personal newsletter. Say hi if you do!

27 Dec

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Thanks & Happy Holidays: That was 2013

December 27, 2013 | By |

This is my sixth end-of-year post (all prior ones here). Stunned!

So what happened?

Friends & Family

 

In the spring, I married M, and couldn’t possibly be happier. This alone would have made my year perfect.

I’m very happy that more friends married, and that some had babies, and that my goddaughter is growing up nicely, and that my family is healthy & happy & overall very well. So that part’s all good.

That alone would make for a (very happy, but also) really boring post, so here goes.

Travel

Once more, I feel very lucky in that I got to travel a lot. Destinations include (in alphabetical order) Bad Herrenalb, Bad Kreuznach, Belgrade, Brighton, Buenos Aires, Hamburg, India, Karlsruhe, Kassel, London, Portugal, Rijeka and Scotland and Wales, spread out over about 15 trips and about 102 days total. Among other things, I got to spend about a month each in Buenos Aires and India, and got to hike in Scotland, Wales and England.

In this order: India, England, Buenos Aires.

A year of experimentation & learning

Even more than in many previous years I got to experiment and learn a lot. I got to dig into a whole slew of tech & business ideas, work with old and new collaborators, and generally just opened up the possibility space really wide before slowly starting to narrow it down again. Maybe the biggest change for me in terms of business thinking was to slowly adjust away from the mental model of client work (which is all about billable days) and into product/dev work (which is all about progress first and cashflow/billable time second). If, like me, you’ve worked almost always for clients (ie. sold services) this is a big change, and one that takes some getting used to. It does feel great, though, to invest time into building something new.

Along the way, I started and subsequently pulled the plug on one company and one service, started two conferences that are going strong (UIKonf, ThingsCon), and am in the early stages of launching another thing with a much-esteemed partner. Long-time collaborator and office mate Matt and I also built several prototypes of digital-to-physical print things, one of which hasn’t made it past the “print-out-a-test-dummy” phase, one of which is about to go into production. All of these also serve as an example for my previous point – it’s a mental shift from billing hours to investing into product development.

ThingsCon & UIKonf & Ignite Berlin & NEXT Berlin

If anything, chairing or programming (and sometimes initiating) conferences has taken on a whole new quality for me this year.

There’s NEXT Berlin of course, where like the last years I’m a curator and program director along with the fantastic Monique van Dusseldorp. (Disclosure: SinnerSchrader/NEXT Berlin are clients of mine.)

Then there’s Ignite Berlin, which has now been going strong since 2010 I believe – we just had #4 a few months ago.

UIKonf was such a resounding success that Chris, Matt and I aren’t just continuing it into 2014, but also incorporated to make it easier to run sustainably.

And then of course there’s Things, which started out with a harmless conversation with Max & Simon and then took on such a life of its own – my mind’s blown. We’re just getting started, and already we’ve been getting so much fantastic feedback on all the backchannels that I can’t wait for the day.

Wrote some stuff

I got to write a few things, and give some talks (actually, mostly panels this year).

Wrote the cover story for this issue on T3N.

Didn’t actually write for this second issue of The Alpine Review, but did manage to contribute at least some content, interviews & contacts. Here, the copy doubles as backdrop for a planning call for UIKonf.

Oh yeah, over at KANT, we also expermimented with a topic sprint, aka five people in a room for a day cranking out a report that will be published come night-time, no matter what. Super interested time constraints to work with. Curious to refine this process some more.

Firsts & some things I learned along the way

Along the way, I learned some things and did some things for the first time.

I take enough steps every day. I should sleep a little more. Standing desks are great, but improvised standing desks are only so-so. Getting funding for a product is both harder and easier than expected. Kindles break easily if you twist their display. Built a lamp, and poured something out of concrete. Well-made shoes are awesome. It’s worth locking the door all the way. Travel is good and productive. Went to Argentina, Croatia, India, Serbia, Wales for the first time.

Some things I’ll try to do (read: resolutions!)

Policy input. For quite a while I’ve been wondering how to best make a contribution to how we can get Berlin/Germany/Europe ready for the 21st century on a policy level, namely what a digital agenda for Europe should look like. It’s a super relevant issue (rather, a whole slew of issues) that I feel a certain obligation to contribute my part in. How? Not sure yet.

Learn more languages. In terms of actual languages, I was lucky to attend a school that gave me a very solid prep. And even though I lost most of my fluency due to inactivity in French and Latin and stuck mostly to English (and my native German of course), it gave me a broad base to build on. So, no more excuses not to learn Spanish. I’ve been training a bit via Duolingo, and want to intensify it. But also I feel like brushing up on my meager coding skills. Codecademy & Co to the rescue!

Figure out how to best consolidate all the roles and hats I wear professionally depending on context. Most likely, I’ll just roll them all into one company to make it easier for others to understand, and to minimize administration.

More family visits. Been getting better about this over the last year or two, and I’ll try to make a point of seeing both my parents and my sister more often. Neither of us is getting any younger, so there’s really no good reason not to make the effort.

So what’s next?

I’m typing this on my way to a brief holiday trip to my family and later to see some friends. Back in Berlin, I’m looking forward to a pretty intense 2014. Between three conferences more or less back-to-back in May that will need quite some preparation in the first months of the year, a talk in January in Amsterdam, client work, a new venture and quite a few upcoming work-related trips, I won’t be bored anytime soon.

Happy Holidays

On that note, I got nothing more to say than Happy Holidays. I hope you’ll have a great start in 2014. See you on the other side.

20 Dec

By

Thanks & Happy Holidays: That was 2012

December 20, 2012 | By |

So that was the year – time for a brief look back at what happened, as I’ve been doing for the last few years. (This is the fifth year in a row – crazy, eh? Here are numbers one to four.)

So what happened? Lots and lots and lots, actually, and mostly good stuff, too.

Raygun Gothic Rocketship

Travel

Another year of crazy travel, both work-related and personal. Like many of you, this puts me in an odd position: I enjoy traveling tremendously, yet I’m haunted by the horrible carbon footprint I produce. I’ll need to find a way to get better at this, but have no idea yet how.

Mostly I organize and track my trips through Tripit, which is fantastic but has certain weaknesses on multi-stop trips, so I might be missing a couple here. Anyway, according to Tripit, and unfiltered, I went on 23 trips totaling 91 days and close to 66.000km, which brought me to 28 cities in 11 countries. Chronologically, this would looks something like this:

Bad Schandau & Bad Kreuznach & Bad Orb & Münster & Hamburg & Münster & Cologne & Bonn & Japan & Hamburg & Westerland & Dublin & Hamburg & San Francisco & Sebastopol & London & Osterstedt & Casekow & Istanbul & Hamburg & Kassel & Paris & Karlsruhe & Dublin & Tel Aviv & London & Zurich. And I’m about to leave for another trip to Boston & Karlsruhe to visit both our families as I’m writing this.

Some of these trips brought me, unsurprisingly, to conferences. So I got the chance to attend Republica, Next (as curator), Foo Camp, Open IoT Assembly, Digitale Selbstvermessung (as organizer), Tech Open Air, Next Service Design (as curator), DLD Tel Aviv, Dublin Web Summit, WIRED London, TED Salon London and Mozilla Festival. Among quite a few others. (Phew!)

Work

The trickiest part for me to sum up in a few sentences this year is certainly this section on about my work. For the first half year, I worked on lots of stuff at Third Wave, then left the company in late summer/fall to switch tracks. So I became a freelancer for the second time and am working on new stuff. One is that I’m serving as Program Director for Next Conference. (Disclosure: Next are clients.) At the same time, I have some other gigs going, and am working on something new. As of a few weeks ago, I’m also sharing an office with Matt, and we’ve been working on a few projects as well.

Not to try and be all mysterious here, but some things need honing before I feel comfortable talking about them, so give me some time before expecting any announcements.

Media

Had a few media appearances in (to me, at least) very unlikely outlets like Forbes, Fit For Fun and Apotheken Umschau (shown below, shooting iPhones out of my Android phone), as well as some radio interviews.

Apotheken Umschau Courtesy of Apotheken Umschau, I can now shoot phones out of my phone.

 

Speaking of media, I was (and still am) super excited to be part of the team behind The Alpine Review. It feels like in some small way this allows me to be part of something much bigger and very, very relevant.

The Alpine Review The Alpine Review

 

Friends and family

As these things go, it’s all good in the family. In fact, I’ll be meeting a big chunk of the new family for the first time in a few days, so that’s exciting. Otherwise nothing new to report. (Which is usually a good thing!)

Engaged!

Back in May, I asked the fantastic M. to marry me in front of Mount Fuji (and she said yes.) Am a happy man indeed. This was the view:

Fuji-san

Firsts!

Some things I believe I did the first time in 2012: Visited Japan. Got engaged. Bought a painting. Left a company I co-founded. Bought a really good office chair. (Chairman Bruce might be proud.) Took coding classes online. Installed a developer version of an operating system on a phone. Printed a flip book from an animated gif.

So what’s next?

First, I’m about to leave for a series of short trips to Boston and southern Germany to visits friends & family. Starting around mid-January, M. and I will be doing something that I used to do more regularly before and hadn’t been able to make happen as often recently: We’ll be moving to a city we both don’t know to work from there for a bit. Concretely, we’ll be living and working in Buenos Aires for a month. If you want to meet up or have any recommendations, please share (in the comments, on Twitter, or here.)

Happy Holidays

On that note, I got nothing more to say than Happy Holidays, I hope you have a great start in 2013. See you on the other side.

 

Former annual wrap-ups here.

06 Nov

By

Bruce Sterling on The Alpine Review

November 6, 2012 | By |

Review

 

This tweet made my day.