Thanks & Happy Holidays: 2010 Wrap-Up


??? - Maneki Neko

“Two is a trend, three is a tradition”, I once heard. If this post makes my annual (#2008, #2009) round-up of the closing year a tradition, then so be it.

As round-ups go, they tend to be more interesting for the author than the readers. Like every year I say:

The longer version below will be more interesting for me than you, probably. If you skip this post I won’t be disappointed. I promise ;)

So bear with me, and feel free to skip this one. Or comment away, whichever you prefer. I always enjoy hearing from you.

So here’s my 2010, a year that turned out to be a nodal point for many vectors going on in my life, and that I certainly won’t forget. Also, a year that felt like it set the course for a whole lot of awesome stuff over the coming years. Onwards, in bullet points!

Biz! Business-wise, it was a year that had a (surprising, for me) focus on broadcaster clients. As opposed to 2009, which was all about politics and political campaigning, 2010 brought plenty of work for public broadcasters, and a few publishers. You could think I turned into a media guy. (Fear not!) Super interesting to learn more about the ways large broadcasters work, and learn about the challenges and opportunities they face adapting to the social web. That was the first half of the year, as a freelancer. The second half was dedicated to starting a new company – see below.

Learnings! Early 2010 also brought some insights into long-term planning (diversify!), as well as the notion that good tax advice is totally worth it (ouch). Note to self: read this, every year. Some mistakes are too dumb to repeat.

SXSW! Early 2010 also brought me to Austin, Texas, for SXSW, and before to NYC for a few days. My close friend Igor Schwarzmann joined in on that trip, and of course we had a blast both in New York and in Austin. What none of us were expecting at that point is that our conversations there would eventually lead to Igor, Johannes and me founding a company just a half-year later. (More on that later.) Also, until about 48h before the conference kicked off I had no idea I’d be hosting a panel at SXSW. Phew. Good stuff, but phew.

Trips & travel! According to Dopplr, 28 trips lead me to 15 cities in 6 countries. Roughly the same as the year before (and likely much less then next year), but what a time I had.

Conferences & conventions! I had planned for a while to cut down on conferences and only attend the ones I definitely wouldn’t miss. This year, the conferences & conventions I attended were SXSW, republica, reboot/Ersatz, Picnic and Mozilla Drumbeat – not a single one I would’ve wanted to miss! In addition I co-organized Ignite Berlin and TEDxKreuzberg, both of which I enjoyed a lot, too, thanks to our great speakers and audience.

Punditry! Just kidding. I’m not a pundit (haven’t ever been one). However, I was psyched when my friend and long-time collaborator Dr. Max Senges invited me to be a member of the Google Collaboratory on Internet & Society. Also, much more media attention for all my pet projects than expected.

Research! Somewhat missing the kind of in-depth digging you can do in an academic context while studying, Christoph Fahle and I did a mini study on the social situation of coworkers at Betahaus Berlin. This wasn’t just one (of many!) collaborations with the fantastic Betahaus crew, it also shows that the good folks working at Betahaus and in coworking spaces across the city are advancing the city’s creative industry against some pretty messy circumstances (in terms of support by the government). Keep it up folks! The same goes for Betahaus – these folks have established themselves so firmly in the city’s landscape, and become such a focal point for all kinds of awesome activities: Thank you guys!

Third Wave Berlin! Before heading over to SXSW in March, Igor, Johannes and I had joked about collaborating at some point, but I believe that none of us had ever considered it for real, or anytime soon. (I certainly hadn’t.) But energized at Austin, and after a quick round of emails and conversations, it dawned on all of us that we all were at a point where we knew it was time to move on to the next level. And not just that, but also that we were at a perfect point in time, and pretty darn great position to start our own thing. And after some brainstorming and hand-wringing, and a lot of laughing, we found a name for this gig (Third Wave) and founded the company as quickly as our planning and our ongoing contracts allowed. From the very first idea (mid-March 2010) to launch (4 Oct 2010) it was hardly half a year. (Not bad, given that most work contracts in Germany won’t allow you to quit in less than 3 months.) And after the first (almost) three months I have no doubt that this was the absolutely right decision. There isn’t a day where I’m not happy about how things are evolving. (Thanks, guys!)

Thanks! So 2010 has been quite a ride, and I learned plenty. It was an intense year, and a fast one, and for next year I’ll probably change gears again and turn it up another notch (“to eleven!“). But what really blew my mind was the incredible support I got throughout the year from a whole bunch of people (none of who owed me anything), who just shared so many things, including the insights, experiences and nerves of steel, with me, and also with my co-founders. I really hope I can pay all this back, or forward, at some point. (Thank you so much – you know who you are.)

Awesome Foundation! One of the small ways I found of paying it forward is the Awesome Foundation, of which we set up a Berlin chapter. We already gave out our very first grant, so watch out for more! Also, I hear that the chapter is about to grow by quite a bit – and it makes me really happy to see so many people in Berlin (!) are willing to pitch in with their private cash (and with absolutely no business interest whatsoever) to foster awesome projects that wouldn’t happen otherwise. Go Awesome Foundation!

Next year! Next year will bring next steps on all these axes lined out above. One I’d like to point out (besides of course going back to NYC and Austin for SXSW) is an event I’m co-organizing: Cognitive Cities Conference (#CoCities), a conference focusing on the future of cities and technology, that we’ll hold at the end of February 2011. It’s kind of a nodal point (in Gibson speak) for me, the manifestation of both a group interest (emerging from Cognitive Cities blog), the topic cluster around smart cities, tech, data and urban planning, and a stress test for our company’s multi-tasking abilities ;) I’d love to get more involved, both privately and through work, in this field, and running this non-profit conference through our company allows me to do just that. Also, it’s a proof of concept, so to speak, insofar as the way CoCities came about might also work as a template for future emerging interests and ways to apply these interests, or rather to transfer them into actions.

Private! While I share plenty online, I’ve always felt that some aspects of personal life should stay largely off the web, and I’m standing by that rule of thumb. So let’s just say I’m very happy. (Again, thanks to all my friends and M. – You all rock!)

Off the grid! All that said, as of next week I’ll be off the grid for a few weeks, on a serious vacation with no (ok, maybe a little) connectivity. Thanks for the ride, and talk soon!

Photo by mr.beaver (some rights reserved)

Tech year 2009 wrap up: cloud computing, Android, privacy discussions


retro future

A couple of days ago I’ve given a short look back at the year 2009 from a personal point of view. Right after, I realized there were a couple more things with a wider tech perspective that I’d like to include – again, more for personal documentation than anything else. So here goes.

Everything went to the cloud We had been talking about cloud computing for a few years, but for me, 2009 clearly was the year The Cloud took off. I moved practically everything to the cloud, and cloud often equals Google these days. My email has been living inside gMail for years, but in 2009 I’ve ditched my email client altogether. Now I’m IMAP-ing browser-based between my computers and my phone.

Everything but my most sensitive documents live in the cloud, especially most collaborative docs. (Again, Google Docs or Etherpad, but Etherpad has also been acquired by Google recently.) My calendars are 100% up in Google Calendar.

Am I happy about this focus on Google? Far from it. But at this point, I see no equally well-executed alternative. For an overview of just how googley 2009 was, head over to Gina Trapani. Also, I recommend This Week In Google, a great weekly podcast with Leo Laporte, Jeff Jarvis and, again, Gina Trapani.

Still all this is clearly just the beginning. It should be interesting to watch where cloud computing goes in 2010.

Android killed the iPhone (for me) Ok, ok, Android may not have killed the iPhone officially. But ever since I switched to an Android-based phone (HTC Hero), I haven’t felt the urge to get an iPhone. Not a single time. Before I had been playing with the idea, and had always restrained. (I really don’t like the product policy behond the iPhone.) Android is a gorgeous, stable, powerful platform, and it’s all open source. It’s clear to me that while I might change phones a few times over the next couple of years, it’s not likely I’ll be leaving Android anytime soon.

Speaking of open source, 2009 is also the year I ditched Windows for good. I now live a Windows-free live (with a mix of Mac OSX, Ubuntu and Android), and boy, it’s feeling good.

The fight for our data 2009 has also been a year of intense battles in the digital realm, although certainly it’s not the last (or worst) to come. These fights have been along many different fronts, and not all have been going well at all.

In politics, Europe has been covered in conflicts regarding data retention. (German government introduced excessive data retention laws which are now under court review as far as I know.) Also in Germany, the basis for government-run censorship was laid under the pretense of fighting child abuse, search for #zensursula for details. The best German-language resource for these topics is certainly netzpolitik.org, so check them out for more details and updates. Good news, if not a solution to the problem: President Köhler has so far refused to sign the law.

In the corporate world, the conflict lines have been a lot more fragmented and twisted. However, one thing has become clear: Internet consumers will have to make a clear point regarding their expectations in terms of privacy and data control in digital contexts. Be it Facebook and its privacy settings, be it data ownership in other social networks. Important keywords in this field are: Data Portability identification systems like OAuth, microformats or the decentralized social web. (Like so often, Chris Messina is right in the middle of it. Check out the DiSo Project.) The same goes for End User License Agreements (EULA for short). Everybody is so used to just clicking those pages upon pages of legalese away that we’re bound to have a discussion about their use and legitimacy sometime soon. This isn’t new, but hasn’t been solved either, so maybe 2010 will bring some news there.

But worry not, it’s not all lost – these topics seemed to be very niche, and maybe still are. However, everybody in their right mind will come to the conclusion that there’s a line to what consumers have to bear before just moving on to another brand or product. (Even my mom was asking about the insanity of DRM the other day!) It looks like these topics, obscure as they may seem, are getting more publicity and more people to help out. Hopefully we can all collaboratively take some of the load off of the few individuals that have been doing such a tremendous job of raising awareness so far. (You know who you are.)

Obviously I’m happy to be able to end this post on a happy note.

So, again in short: the tech year of 2009 the way I perceived it = year of privacy discussions, cloud computing, Android.

Did I forget anything important? Let me know…

(image source)