Categoryinterview

Interview: ThingsCon & responsible IoT on RBB

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RBB Kulturradio RBB, a public broadcast radio in Berlin, invited me to chat about smart homes and responsible IoT. So I put my ThingsCon hat on and headed over to their studio earlier today. You can listed to the stream (in German) over on their website:

RBB Kulturradio Tagesthema: Wie intelligent sollen unsere Geräte werden?

A few things were noteworthy to me.

  • Of course a short show like this (with two interview partners and call-in listeners) can only ever scratch the surface.
  • IoT in general and smart homes are areas both simultaneously so vague and concrete that everybody has an opinion and projects all kinds of hopes and fears. (Which is why I advocate breaking IoT discussions down into the most concrete areas—or arenas—possible.)
  • Lots of fears are of course proxies in which one particular technology or feature stand in for a larger personal or societal fear, like unemployment through automation, loss of control, or invasions of privacy.
  • Somewhat unexpectedly to me, Roombas featured prominently. The show’s host, at least one caller, and I all have a Roomba at home and it seems it’s one of the most relatable, most universally considered “useful” appliances in the connected home. That is, if you want to include a Roomba as part of the connected home suite – after all, most models aren’t connected to anything. However in conversations before, during, and after the show people mentioned the issues with the complexity of formerly extremely easy-to-use appliances like connected TVs or radios.

This show is as consumer-oriented a show as there could be rather, so listeners are unlikely to be involved in shaping IoT as practitioners. So we didn’t get to talk much about ethical or responsible IoT as much as I’d hoped to. But it’s also very clear that the topics we’ve been tackling with ThingsCon are arriving in the most mainstream circles, and that there’s a lot of work to do.

Users/consumers/citizens don’t really trust connected systems, and maybe they shouldn’t. Or rather, they shouldn’t unless they know these systems have been designed deliberately to be responsible, ethical, and built for humans. Which is exactly what the ThingsCon community works towards.

During the interview I also mentioned labels or trust marks for connected products/services/systems. A consumer-readable, simple labeling systems to allow for better informed decisions is, in my mind, essential going forward. I’ll certainly try to poke at this and see if we can make something happen, one way or another. I think this won’t be easy, but is far from impossible given the right partners—and I’m confident we can find them.

Berlin’s Baristas: Shawn Barber

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Berlin’s coffee scene has been exploding over the last few years. It’s fantastic! So I figured it’s time to go to some favorite baristas and ask them a few questions. Starting this mini series Berlin’s Baristas today is Shawn Barber, who (along with his partner in crime Chris Onton) kindly provides me with a delicious cup of flat white just about every day.

 

Companion Coffee logo

 

Tell us about yourself and your shop!

My name is Shawn Barber I am co-owner of Companion Coffee. I’ve been working with coffee for 10 years. Mostly in Canada where I first learnt about coffee and went on to help various businesses open cafes or to develop their current offering. I opened Companion in January of 2013 with long time friend and collaborator Chris Onton. We shared a lot of similar ideas about coffee, service and ethics. Tired of working for places we struggled to get behind ethically we wanted to branch out to do our own thing that we could be proud of. Companion is a Berlin based coffee and tea business with a focus on quality traceability. We offer training as well as our range of directly sourced tea to other cafes, catering for events, and operate a small cafe in Kreuzberg.

 

Chris hard at work providing coffee for a few hundred people at UIKonf 2014.

 

What brought you to Berlin?

I came to Berlin years ago as a tourist and ended up sticking around to help kick start the non-existent Berlin coffee scene. With my consulting background I was offered a gig to help local a business man realize his dream of owning a cafe. Once that was over and I was back in Canada I found myself missing Berlin and it’s laid back ways. When I got an email asking if I would consider returning to put together a coffee roaster I jumped at the opportunity. Shortly after returning I left that project to do Companion.

What is your signature drink?

I don’t know if I really have a signature drink… At the Cafe we offer a rotating selection of espresso from various roasters. I think over thirty high end roasters in the last year alone. So I guess I pride myself on a well extracted espresso.

 

 

Your current…

…favorite roast? I have a hard time picking a favourite roast or roaster. I will say that in the last few months Workshop from London and Square mile (also London) have been putting out some very consistent product. German based I like JB Kaffee and Five Elephant. I am also very excited about a Paris based roaster called Belleville who have been getting better and better ever since opening about ten months ago.

 

…favorite piece of kit? Well, I always like a good grinder. I think its the most important instrument in making good coffee. The new Nuova Simonelli grinder called Mythos 1 is brilliant.

 

…coffee at home? I do filter coffee at home. I use a Baratza grinder and a Hario V60 with a Bona Vita temp-controlled gooseneck kettle and naturally a set of scales.

I also drink a lot of tea at home. Something I have been really getting into the last year is quality tea. Not in a classic history based “let’s drink tea man” but in a more serious scales and thermometer sort of way. I really respect the process of tea and see it getting a lot more attention in the years to come as a culinary item.

A memorable experience with a customer?

I have to say at our shop we are very lucky to have a lot of great customers. We are not that easy to find and have a pretty limited offering. As a result most people who come do so for exactly what we do well. One great moment that pops to mind was on a consulting gig. We had helped them set up a coffee bar in their office about a month before and done a series of trainings. I went by to make a change to their grinder and ended up having one of the best espressos I’ve had all year made for me by one of the guys.

Any announcements or notes you’d like to share?

I don’t know if I really have any announcements… One thing I am really excited about is tea. We are waiting for new packaging to be designed for our tea and once it’s complete we will have six new teas on offer. These are teas I’m really pumped about and feel will mature and evolve our current offerings.

 

Learn more about Companion:

Interview: Apotheken Umschau / Volle Kontrolle über mich

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Apotheken Umschau

File under “unexpected media appearance”: A few weeks ago I was interviewed about personal analytics and the Quantified Self by a good old institution in the German media sphere, Apotheken Umschau. It’s one of those magazines that fly very much under the radar, yet have an incredible circulation of about 10 million printed copies (and 20 million reach): You can pick them up for free at any pharmacy, so they’re pretty much everywhere even if you’ll never see anyone reading it. Mysterious, eh?

Anyway, long story short, along with other familiar faces like Florian Schumacher of the QS Munich meetups I got to give my two cents on personal analytics. As the magazine is aimed squarely at a mainstream, non-technical audience, it’s all pretty much on the surface of things (which also explains how I turned into what looks like a stock photo), but it’s these opportunities to spread the word outside our bubble and immediate networks that I always enjoy – this is where stuff gets applied to real lives, after all.

So if you live in Germany, for two weeks you can pick up a copy for free at the pharmacy near you.

Interview in Fit for Fun

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So I was interviewed for this.

 

So Fit for Fun interviewed me about self tracking & body tracking. The interview is in the recent print edition, but doesn’t seem to be available online in full (yet?). The editors made self tracking out to be a mainstream trend, and took the “freak” angle out of it, which I appreciate. Still too many main stream outlets out there that label people as somehow freakish or a-normal for regularly checking up on their running habits or pulse.

For more depth than a short interview, I’d recommend you jump over to the good old Quantified Self series we published at Third Wave a little while back.

 

ps. I try to keep an up-to-date list of media appearances here.

Interview with BR

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Interview time! Over at Third Wave, we’ve been getting some pretty amazing media attention. Not exactly sure why, but this last week alone between the three of us we gave four interviews. Not exactly our weekly average.

Bayerischer Rundfunk, a state-level public broadcaster, asked me a bunch of questions about the Quantified Self and why I had my DNA analyzed by 23andme. Full QS special here, my interview here.

There’s a couple more coming up over the next few weeks. I really enjoy this, particularly if the interviewer asks questions I hadn’t thought about before. I’m pretty bad about repeating the same spiel over and over. Much more fun to explore stuff in the conversation.