Monthnotes for April 2017

A bird’s-eye view of Shenzhen’s HuaqiangBei market road

Sitrep: I’m in Madrid, fighting jetlag with strong Americanos in a lovely little neighborhood café. When I got up from the last real bed I had been in Shenzhen. In the 30 or so hours since then, I rode cabs, ferries, metros and planes; I strolled through Hong Kong and tried not to fall asleep in Abu Dhabi. But now I’m here, and using the temporary downtime of a rainy post-lunch Saturday Madrid afternoon to write up these while everything’s still fresh on my mind.

April just flew by. A deep dive in not one but two writing projects followed by the above-mentioned trip to Shenzhen meant it was a month full of intense input and output—lots and lots of both.

Writing project I: IoT labels
What started out as a bit of background research turned into a fairly solid piece of writing I think. It’s not quite there yet, and there are still client considerations to take into account, but it’ll be published in full soon.

The fully renovated HuaqiangBei market street. Since it’s undergone renovation and been turned into a pedestrian area, it looks quite like any old regular retail street. Oh boy, nothing could be further from the truth.

Writing project II: View Source: Shenzhen
From our last Shenzhen trip in the fall (View Source I) I wrote up a ton of travel notes. Based on these, and lots of conversations and interviews, and on my (yet to be incorporated) notes from this recent trip (View Source II), I started writing up something longer, a bit more substantial. More clearly structured and formatted. Most likely it’ll turn into an ebook. The current word count is in the range of 15K, so it seems the most appropriate format.

David Li of Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab (SZOIL), who kindly hosted ThingsCon Shenzhen. Here he’s giving an impromptu workshop on how to source components and service providers in Shenzhen.

Two firsts this month! ThingsCon Salon Cologne (here’s Simon’s write-up) as well as ThingsCon Shenzhen (my notes). The Shenzhen trip was also under ThingsCon banner, organized by ThingsCon Amsterdam. Mind=blown! As always, an up-to-date overview at

One night, we tried to squeeze everyone on the trip on one table. Maybe that was pushing it a little.

Shenzhen trip
As mentioned above, under the code name View Source we’ve done two research trips to Shenzhen to understand this hardware ecosystem. It’s where the majority of all global electronics come from, and thus the origin of a great many IoT products. We visited factories, maker spaces, and designers, interviewed makers and entrepreneurs, and held a ThingsCon event there. So, so good.

Speaking of things in Shenzhen, we saw some quite interesting bits of (often banal, sometimes wonderful, frequently hilarious) technology on this trip. I’m starting a little mini thing to share them on Twitter: #ArtefactsOfShenzhen. I’ll be posting a bunch over the next few days/weeks. If you have more, please join me in this hashtag.

ThingsCon Report on the State of Responsible IoT
Slowly but surely, the pieces for our ThingsCon report are falling into place. Still lots of unknowns (but mostly known unknowns, so it’s all good!), but we got the authors for this first-of-its-kind report all lined up. Now it’s a question of turning the incoming content into a coherent overall publication. This is going to fill a good deal of May, and it’s going to be so worth it. We aim at launching it in Mid-June, at ThingsCon London.

While technically a ThingsCon dinner, this also happened to be the largest Zephyr backer meetup to date.

Zephyr Berlin
At some point during a group dinner in Shenzhen I noticed that there were, I believe, 7 (!) people in the group that had their Zephyrs with them. That means that this dinner was easily the largest Zephyr backer meetup to date!

Writing & media
A quick overview of some of my written output this month:

  • View Source II: Shenzhen, my personal travel notes from our Shenzhen research trip and ThingsCon Shenzhen.
  • AI: Process v Output: Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are beginning to govern ever-greater parts of our lives. If we want to trust their analyses and recommendations, it’s crucial that we understand how they reach their conclusions, how they work, which biases are at play. Alas, that’s pretty tricky. This article explores why.

What’s on the horizon?
Lots and lots of writing, and hitting “publish” on the writing mentioned above. A presentation at DevOpsCon. More ThingsCon events, including another Salon in Berlin.

The End.

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