Note: This is cross-posted from my weekly newsletter in an attempt to both to make it easier to read this via RSS feed and to have this in my own independent archives. You can subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox.
Welcome back to Connection Problem,
I hope this finds you well and you had a good start to the new year.
If you don’t remember what this newsletter is or why you subscribed to it: This newsletter is written by me, Peter Bihr. This is the first installment of a new season (#08, if you’re counting) after a couple months of break. You may have found and subscribed this through my Twitter feed @peterbihr, my work around responsible tech, IoT and smart cities through my company The Waving Cat, or via ThingsCon which I’m a co-founder of. Of course I’d love it you stuck around, but if this isn’t right for you anymore, you can unsubscribe anytime below — no hard feelings!
Today we’ll keep it lightweight — just a bit of context to get everyone up to speed for the start of the new season, and then you’ll be hearing back next week or a week after: I’m not quite sure yet if a weekly or fortnightly rhythm is best. (If you have strong thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them, just hit reply.)
You’re receiving this because you signed up for this newsletter on tinyletter.com/pbihr or through my company’s website, thewavingcat.com. The Waving Cat is a boutique research and strategic advisory firm; I co-founded ThingsCon, a non-profit that explores responsible tech. To support my independent research & advocacy, why not join the SPECIAL PROJECTS membership? On Twitter, I’m @peterbihr. If you’d like to work with me or bounce ideas, let’s have a chat.
Brief updates from the engine room
(1) State of the Union, so to speak
There will be some changes to my work setup, I expect (details are still TBD). They’re a bit of a mixed bag — some good occasions, some external pressures.
I’m sharing this not because it’s therapeutic for me (it isn’t) but because I think it’s important to address these things openly and this doesn’t happen enough, much to the detriment of a lot of people in this industry:
I’m making changes because a year of the triple-challenge of pandemic plus self-employed/entrepreneur plus taking care of a toddler has led me perilously close to a burnout. So I’m rejigging things to prevent burnout and to be able to focus on the most important and most interesting things while also taking good care of myself and our little one.
Alas, given my experience of the last year I’ve found that if run a small company and also happen to be a parent, the government response in Germany was such that it was basically impossible to plan with anything. Looking at the current debates, I’m relatively convinced that this lack of reliability will continue for many more months. Which is fine, it just means that I’ll be planning for appropriate contingencies for the rest of the year.
But in the end, this isn’t about government intervention. For all our privilege — and we’re very privileged indeed — two parents working full-time from home during a year with only the most intermittent access to childcare means a tremendous challenge to finding time to do the type of work I usually do: Deeply focused, long-term value kinda stuff. Menial tasks are easy to do with a toddler on your lap, or sleep-deprived; doing research and writing longer pieces are not.
So, it was time to clean house. Late last year I started to work towards a clean slate, wrapping up some projects and handing over others; stepping down from a bunch of honorary roles like industry juries; stepping away from work engagements that didn’t pass the threshold of the client work triangle test. This should allow me to focus my time and attention where it’s spent best.
(Most likely, I’ll also re-structure my company itself to be a little more lightweight in structure. When I started it 6 or so years ago, I wanted to have the option to invest in more products and companies, and I’ve done that a little but not enough to justify the more complex setup currently in place. But that’s boring administrational backend stuff, so I won’t get into it here. Not relevant.)
Another thing I’m taking away from this is that the occasion also calls for some projects that are simply interesting or fun, and one of them turned out to be interviewing people for this research project and publishing those interviews as a podcast (supported by my membership program, Special Projects).
Even that might not be technically the most effective use of my time, I find it extremely enjoyable and believe it’ll be useful for others, too. So, I now find myself having a podcast. (Fun fact: This is just about 11 years after I started and stopped one because I thought we were too late to the game.)
Last night, at our virtual annual ThingsCon membership gathering, I officially stepped down from the board of directors. It wasn’t an easy decision, but the time for a change in leadership is perfect.
With my co-founder Simon staying on board and Andrea Krajewski stepping joining the board, I know ThingsCon is in the best possible hands for its next chapter.
Andrea is a long-time super active community member and collaborator, co-editor (and really the driving force) behind the annual RIOT report as well as co-host of the ThingsCon Stories podcast. It’s fantastic to see the two of them take the reins; I couldn’t be happier. And it makes me extra happy that Andrea as someone who wasn’t among the founders has officially joined the board and takes the lead. I’ve had the time of my life with this group of most excellent humans, and continue to be grateful to count them among my friends.
(3) Getting Tech Right
I mentioned here before that I’m working on a research project that (most likely) will turn into a book or equivalent. The working title is Getting Tech Right — A Pragmatic Guide to Thinking About Tech, and it aims to offer a highly accessible resource to policy makers, funders, public sector decision-makers and others for how to think about tech in their contexts — specifically for how to think about potential impacts of technology and how to approach these impacts.
And while it’s aimed primarily at funders and policy makers in that space, I believe it’ll be relevant to a much broader audience.
One of the fun things I get to do as part of my research is to interview a bunch of leading experts and overall excellent humans, and so I figured it might be interesting to publish those interviews. Thus, a podcast was born. You can listen to an interview per week by subscribing to the Getting Tech Right podcast that’s available through all the major apps and directories.
(4) Simply Secure
Simply Secure’s rebranding process is well on its way, and I’m happy to continue to serve on their identity advisory committee where we have regular meetings and calls and the team is making great progress. I love Simply Secure.
Recently on the blog
A selection from the last 6 weeks or so of blog posts:
- Get ready for the post-pandemic world: Responsibility & Resilience for a new better normal
- Pandemic learnings: New Non-State Actors
- Fellowships are the way forward
- Research Project: Helping public & third sector better understand the societal impact of tech
- New offer: Remote sessions for foundation leaders and policy makers around tech & societal issues
- 6 Investment Hypotheses for Foundations & Public Funding Organizations
- What Can Designers Learn From Political Science?
- Government services should be channel-agnostic
If you’d like to work with me or have a chat to explore collaborations, let’s chat!
Who writes here? Peter Bihr explores how emerging technologies can have a positive social impact. At the core of his work is the mission to align emerging technologies and citizen empowerment. He works at the intersection of technology, governance, policy and social impact with foundations, public and private sector. He is the founder of The Waving Cat, a boutique research and strategic advisory firm. He co-founded ThingsCon, a non-profit that explores fair, responsible, and human-centric technologies. Peter was a Mozilla Fellow (2018-19) and an Edgeryders Fellow (2019). Based in Berlin, he tweets at @peterbihr and blogs at thewavingcat.com. Interested in working together? Let’s have a chat.
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