Categorycitizen journalism

Liveblogging from The BOBs (27 Nov)


THE BOBsOn 27 November, Deutsche Welle will announce the winners of The BOBs, the Best of the Blogs awards. The BOBs are pretty big internationally, it’s probably the world’s most important international blog awards (for blogs, podcasts, videoblogs). With 11 languages, it’s a truly international effort. (More on the BOBs in the FAQ.)

Among the nominations are a lot of truly amazing blogs, and it won’t be easy for the jury to decide who to give the awards to. But one thing is for sure, it’s going to be extremely high-quality stuff. So I’m really excited that Deutsche Welle asked me to come and liveblog (or is it: blog live?) from the awards ceremony. (Full disclosure: It’s a paid gig.) The ceremony is open to the public, by the way, and takes place in the Berlin communications museum, in the evening of 27 Nov.

So drop by if you’re based in Berlin. For those who can’t make it, I’ll be liveblogging here and on the BOBs website.

How video is changing young people


…and turning them into reporters, commentators, producers. This video is quite impressive in its being so simple, yet compelling.

While tapping into some very interesting points in itself, the clip was produced by Demos, a “think tank for ‘everyday democracy'”, as a teaser for their report on Network Citizens (PDF). From a first glance, the report looks like it digs into some interesting points. From the executive summary:

Social networks are providing tremendous opportunities for people to collaborate. But until now, thinking has focused only on how organisations can respond to and capitalise on networks. This report argues that we have to look equally at how networks use organisations for their own ends. That is where the new contours of inequality and power lie that will shape the network world. We have to face networks’ dark side, as well as their very real potential.

Interestingly, the report concludes that in economically tough times, networks are even more important than at other times:

The kind of networks considered in Network Citizens–relationship ties between workers in different types of organisation – are likely to be more important in difficult economic times. Our analysis suggests that the ‘ties that bind’ within organisations are important incubators of innovation and productivity. Networks contribute to organisational resilience, a vital attribute in an economic downturn.

This is something I have thought about quite a bit recently and hope to get around to posting some thoughts on this blog soon.


Two interviews: Likemind in NYTimes, Berlinblase on Trackback


Usually I don’t get interviewed often, but rather interviewing others, like for Berlinblase or Blogpiloten. So you can imagine I was pretty surprised to show up in two traditional media yesterday.

A brief, but fun email interview with the New York Times about likemind (which I had the chance to co-host recently – thanks Henrik!) got me a quote in the NYTimes Fashion & Style section, ranting about professional networking:

TO Erin Middleton, a 27-year-old brand strategist in Dallas, the word “networking” calls to mind “stodgy business types in suits,” who are “very uncomfortable and poor at engaging conversation,” she said in an e-mail message. Melissa Clark, an advertising account manager in Minneapolis, said there is “something smarmy” about the word. Peter Bihr, 28, a media consultant in Berlin, was even stronger in his denunciation. “ ‘Networking,’ as a word, makes me feel like I get a physical reaction, I hate the term so much,” he wrote in an e-mail message. “It sounds all like strategically talking to people and trying to be their friends. It’s not authentic.” So, what exactly, are these three doing at 8 a.m. on the third Friday of each month, meeting with other young professionals at their local coffeehouse? They are participating in likemind, a monthly kaffeeklatsch for creative professionals, held in 55 cities around the world, including Mumbai, São Paulo, Shanghai, and Malmo, Sweden.

The article is a fun read: That Business Card Won’t Fly Here.

Then, Saturday evening I was invited over to Potsdam for an interview with Radio Trackback to chat with Marcus Richter about Web 2.0 Expo, Barcamp and, most of all, our collaborative content mashup Berlinblase. This was, I think, my first radio interview, and I loved the atmosphere in and around the studio. There’s not much going on at the station’s grounds, so it’s very calm and quiet, and everybody was quite easy-going. Anyway, you can listen to the interview here (roughly seven minutes from 5:40 to 12:20).

Also, here’s a pic I took while we got ready (more here):

Radio Trackback interview about Berlinblase

(Thanks, Marcus!)

Some thoughts on Barcamp, Web 2.0 Expo, Girl Geek Dinner, Berlinblase


This has been some crazy week for me. Starting last Friday, there has been no day, and no evening, without some kind of web-related event: Barcamp, Girl Geek Dinner, Web 2.0 Expo. And all the events surrounding those, like Pitchparty, LateCrunch and of course the “official” Web 2.0 Expo party. Which is why I took a break this morning and went to go see the least webby thing I could think of: The Pergamon Museum, Berlin’s archaeological highlight. Nothing gets you back to the ground like some huge chunks out of historical buildings dating back to A.D. times. That, and some sleep to get over the sleep dep.

So why am I writing all this? Partly to have a decent wrap-up for all the things that happened on the web and off. Partly to look back on what happened and what I found remarkable. Also, I think criticism is important, but so is paying respect where respect is due. So this is highly subjective, you might have had a very different experience at the same events. (If so, please share!)

I had a great time connecting face-to-face with all these folks I usually interacted with primarily online. (Only occasionally did I encounter awkward conversation like: What’s your name? Who are you on Twitter? I think I’m following you!) This is what community events are so important for: To get folks together in the meat space. It really makes a difference. There’s so many projects, startups and cool folks around, we should try to get all of those groups connected even better.

So here are some thoughts on the web events themselves.


Barcamp Berlin 3: Deutsche Telekom Berlin HQ by flickr user hebig Barcamp Berlin 3: Deutsche Telekom Berlin HQ by Heiko Hebig

Barcamp Barcamp Berlin 3 was only my second Barcamp, but sure not the last one. It was huge (some 600 attendees per day), so I guess not everybody got to contribute, and in the Deutsche Telekom Berlin HQ, which doesn’t exactly seem a natural match. Traditionally, DT and bloggers aren’t exactly on the best terms. So this might actually be the real historical legacy of this Barcamp: It became clear that both sides actually can get together to organize kick-ass stuff. While during the first hours or so the blogger crowd and the on-site security and staff seemed to give each other suspicious looks, by the end of the first day everybody got along great. Respect to the DT techies and community guys to blend into the crowds. That’s no easy feat (what with German bloggers being traditionally very critical and outspoken) and it worked a charm. (By the way, wireless held up, despite basically everybody running at least one mobile device. Need to say more?) The location worked fine, despite some minor sound problems: Some of the workshop rooms were divided by dividers rather than walls, so you could regularly hear the neighbor session. Oh well, if that’s the only problem!


Girl Geek Dinner Berlin by Andrea Vascellari Girl Geek Dinner Berlin by Andrea Vascellari

Girl Geek Dinner Nicole and Michelle were kind enough to invite me to my first Girl Geek Dinner (short: GGD). (Thanks!) Even though Nicole stressed that the event is neither just for girls, nor just for geeks, nor does it include dinner, it was great being there. What a difference it makes to have a web event with more than 50% women! Also, it’s fun to have to be invited: Guys may not enter without an explicit invitation by one of the female attendees. It seems like there should be more girl geek events, which is also what was discussed in a Web 2.0 Expo workshop on gender in Web 2.0 careers (I liveblogged). If you’re female and work in the web industry, do organize meetups. If you’re male, do encourage your girl friends and colleagues to overcome to attend web events, even if it can easily seem intimidating for the first time.


Blogger roundtable at Web 2.0 Expo Berlin by flickr user luca.sartoni Blogger roundtable at Web 2.0 Expo Berlin by luca.sartoni (licensed under CC: some rights reserved)

Web 2.0 Expo Most surprising was Web 2.0 Expo Berlin. I said before that I enjoyed last year’s Berlin web season around W2E, but many, many others disagreed. (Disclosure: I was there on a media pass, both years, so I was very well off there and got great support.) The main points of criticism were: Location (ICC sucked), catering (somewhat meager), attitude (seemed arrogantly organized), atmosphere (seemed like a replay).

So what was the surprise? To be honest, basically everything. It was great, from beginning to end. Except for really minor mishaps (at some point, free coffee was limited, which was fixed right away; at peak times wireless was slow) everything worked perfectly fine. The location great (BCC at Alexanderplatz, right in the heart of the city), it was small and cozy and had a kind of 60s retro charm that’s hard to describe, but really works. The food was yummy. The atmosphere was intimate and familiar. But the point that I’d like to stress most is the different attitude O’Reilly and TechWeb showed.

To take the kind of flak these guys got last year (and that was frankly quite often really low and unfair) and be open and good-spirited about it takes some (for lack of a better term) balls. The O’Reilly and TechWeb crew around Janetti Chon, Jen Pahlka and Brady Forrest was great. The blogger outreach program was a huge success. When the Berlinblase crew and I were liveblogging a keynote session and mentioned some wifi problems Jen was on the spot within mere minutes trying to see what she could do to fix everything. I almost felt bad for demanding such amounts of attention from those folks. But it’s something the blogger community here appreciated highly. Allow me to quote Johannes Kleske’s thoughts on Berlinblase:

What a difference a year makes. Following the communication of Techweb and O’Reilly in the last weeks you could really hear them making a huge effort of doing it right this time. I mean they could have easily said “Screw you, guys, we’re going to another city where people actually appreciate what we’re doing.” But instead they came back and asked for a second chance. And this time they are not bringing us “the gospel of Web 2.0” but are doing a lot to empower the European web community.

All that just to say: Thanks, and we’d love to have you back next year. Srsly, dudes ;)

Which brings me to my last point: Berlinblase.


berlinblase moo cards by flickr user dotdean Berlinblase Moo cards by dotdean (licensed under CC: some rights reserved)

Berlinblase Exactly one year ago, at Barcamp Berlin 2 and Web 2.0 Expo Berlin 07, Berlinblase was born as a tumblog and content mashup that aggregated everything related to the conference. Ever since, the project has been bubbling on low hear, so to speak. (Apologies for the puns that don’t really translate: “blase” means “bubble”.) For this year’s Barcamp and Web 2.0 Expo, we re-activated Berlinblase, relaunched the website, and got organized. We really wanted to cover the events up close, from the inside and on peer-level with the community. For all those who were there and wanted to have one central location for the coverage, and for those who couldn’t be in town. So we mashed up tweets, videos, blogs (both regulars and live ones), photos – you name it, we got it.

We did this for fun and out of passion, but the feedback we got was overwhelming – both in quantity and quality. (Thanks, everybody!) So many folks approached me over those few days with kind words, project ideas and invites to other conferences that we really didn’t know what to say. (Again: thanks!) We don’t know where this is headed, but it’s been a great ride so far. We started this more or less for fun, but it seems like there is quite some demand for on-site, insider coverage. Get in touch ;)

Also, it’s time for some really warm and fuzzy thanks and hugs: Nicole Simon was deeply involved in all of this: Barcamp, GirlGeekDinner, Web2Expo, you name it. Without Nicole, it seems, a lot of this wouldn’t have happened the way it did. Tobetop and Kai Uhlemeyer, who rocked the Barcamp. (You guys deserve some extra sleep, that’s for sure!) The same goes for Nicole Ebber, Picki, and the rest of the Barcamp orga team. Jen Pahlka of Techweb, Brady Forrest or O’Reilly and Janetti Chon, who did an awesome job at Web 2.0 Expo. Not only did everything work out extremely well, it was great fun to work with you guys, too. Stephanie Booth, you were great. (And sorry for the lack of soup!) Thanks Maureen Jennings of O’Reilly for the great press support, it was a pleasure. Also, thanks to all of you who agreed to sit down with me, or Berlinblase, or the Blogpiloten crew for interviews.

All of you guys did an amazing job. Thanks, a lot! Hope to see you soon, on one continent or another.

Berlinblase is back


Berlinblase.deWith Barcamps abound and the Web2Expo just around the corner, it’s time to once more kick off a few side projects. One I’m particularly fond of is Berlinblase. (I hinted at it here.) Johannes Kleske was so kind to write up a neat brief summary, so please allow me to simply quote at length:

Yep, we’re back! After our first attempts with rather spontaneous group-mashup blogging for the Berlin web week (Barcamp Berlin 2 and Web 2.0 Expo) last year, we intend to take it to a new level this time. Tumblr is awesome and helped us to get things started but we want more. And WordPress looked so damn hot … that’s why we set up this new group blog. Content-wise we will cover a lot more then last year, starting today with the Barcamp in Stuttgart. Look to the top right for a list of all the main events we will be bubbling from. We will still aggregate all the interesting articles, pics and media bits about these events. But we will also bring you a lot more original content and personal opinions from our crew, flavored with tasty podcasts, spicy interviews and of course, delicious live twittering. As you know, we are very passionate about the various spheres x.0. We have met some of the most amazing people and found truly mind blowing ideas in ‘this thing’ we affectionately call “the bubble 2.0”. We love to hype the cool stuff like crazy. But we will also call you out if you give us BS ;-) So, a hot new season of conferences and barcamps is upon us and we will try to be your inside source. But most of all we’re looking forward to meet as much of you guys as possible. Because in the end, we’re in this for the friendships and yes, the cold ones with old and hopefully many, many new friends. Keep on bubbling! Peace.

Next-generation content management for newspapers (is in the making)


Image: Howard Beatty by Flickr User Ann Althouse, CC licensed (by-nc)Steve Yelvington helps newspapers get the web. Newspapers have a hard time adapting the new ways of the web, what with all this user-generated content, changing consumer habits and dropping sales. It’s a huge cultural problem – traditional vs new vs social media – too. (And it’s not that newspapers, their editors or their management are stupid. Of course they aren’t. Still, they struggling.)

Working with Morris DigitalWorks, Steve is working on a next-generation news site management system. Quite a claim to fame, but both his track record and the few details he already shares back it up. So what’s different here?

We’re integrating a lot more social-networking functionality, which we think is an important tool for addressing the “low frequency” problem that most news sites face. We’re going to be aggressive aggregators, pulling in RSS feeds from every community resource we can find, and giving our users the ability to vote the results up/down. We’ll link heavily to all the sources, including “competitors.” Ranking/rating, commenting, and RSS feeds will be ubiquitous. Users of Twitter, Pownce and Friendfeed will be able to follow topics of interest. We’re also experimenting with collaborative filtering, something I’ve been interested in since I met the developers of GroupLens in the mid-1990s. It’s how Amazon offers you books and products that interest you: People whose behavior is the most like yours have looked at/bought/recommended this other thing.

That’s music in my ears. The whole thing is based on Drupal, which has always been strong on community features. Here, it seems, the whole platform will be aimed at creating mashups, drawing in RSS feeds, pushing them around and spitting them out. In the end, you should end up with a pretty lively site full of both professionally produced and user-generated content and commentary. Of course, by providing both input and output channels for RSS feeds, the data isn’t restricted to just the website, it lives on beyond, way in the cloud.

And the best thing: Usability-wise it’ll be aimed not at techies, but at editors. No major coding necessary:

Open tools and open platforms are great for developers, but what we really want to do is place this kind of power directly in the hands of content producers. They won’t have to know a programming language, or how databases work, or even HTML to create special presentations based on database queries. Need a new XML feed? Point and click.

That’s great news, and certainly a project to watch closely. Can’t wait to see the launch. October it is.

(via Strange Attractor)

Note: So far, the CMS code hasn’t been released under a GPL, but they’ve pledged to do so. All in good time.

Image: Howard Beatty by Flickr User Ann Althouse, released under Creative Commons (by-nc)

Did Deutsche Telekom Track Journalists’ Movements?


Over the last couple of weeks, a major privacy scandal has been unfolding in Germany: Deutsche Telekom – the company that also monopolized use of the a certain shade of magenta – spied on their management. Not only their on their management, though, Telekom also spied on journalists.

(Please note: Quite a few of the linked sources are in German only as most material on Deutsche Telekom is only available that way.)

Stasi 2.0 by flickr user skepWhile Germany’s Minister of the Interior & big-time surveillance fan Wolfgang Schäuble says he’s shocked and invites leading Telekom representatives for a nice cuppa coffee, the Telekom managements (both former end current) keep bouncing back and forth responsibility for ordering the super-illegal surveillance. Schäuble, sadly, doesn’t seem to be drawing the correct conclusions: That privacy is worth protecting, and not as he proposes in his interpretation of the war on terror a matter to be dismissed lightly. But back to Deutsche Telekom.

The Telekom had, or so it seems, suspected someone leaked confidential information. How to hunt a mole? Spy on our board of directors, our shareholders, and those pesky journalists. And how to do that best? First you hire a Berlin-based consultancy run by former Stasi spies. And since they’re the predominant German telco, they could just tap into journalists’ phone calls, trace their movements and map their social networks. This stinks.

Fun twist: As of Jan 1, 2008 all telcos (including Deutsche Telekom) are forced by law to save all connection data for six months as part of the war on terror. Well, after all we’ve learned about the Telekom’s data handling, we can surely agree on their trustworthiness, right? Oh boy. Just to be clear: This kind of spying is absolutely illegal in Germany.

I’m curious how this is going to play out. While I’m watching the drama unfold, I’m quite happy that I don’t use any Deutsche Telekom services anymore, and I’ll make sure to encrypt my surfing and my email more thoroughly to avoid being eavesdropped on by not-so-trustworthy organizations.