Monthnotes for March 2019


This installment of monthnotes features the wrap-up of a fellowship, updates on a PhD program I’ll be supervising for, a ThingsCon event, and an anniversary. Enjoy.

If you’d like to work with me in the upcoming months, I have limited availability but am always happy to have a chat. I’m currently doing the planning for Q3 and Q4 2019.

The Waving Cat turns 5

The Waving Cat just turned 5 officially. Which is still mind blowing to me. It’s been quite the ride, and 5 incredibly productive years.

In this time I’ve written 3 book-ish things and many reports, co-published multiple magazine-ish things and a proper academic paper. Co-chaired some amazing conferences like ThingsCon, Interaction16, UIKonf and more. Worked on strategy, policy and research across a pretty wide range of industries and clients from global tech to non-profit to governments. Was on a number of juries, and mentored a bunch of teams. Was a Mozilla Fellow. Launched a consumer trustmark. Helped kickstart a number of exciting projects including ThingsCon, Zephyr Berlin, Dearsouvenir and the Trustable Technology Mark. Spoke at about 40 events. Wrote, contributed or was quoted in about 60 articles.

So yeah, it’s been a good 5 years run. On to the next round of adventures.

(By the way, that anniversary is the company’s; the website & blog go way, way further back. All the way to like 2005.)

Wrapping up my Mozilla Fellowship

With the end of February, my Mozilla Fellowship officially wrapped up. (That is, the active part of the fellowship; Mozilla makes a point of the affiliation being for life.)

Technically this fellowship was about launching ThingsCon’s Trustable Technology Mark (which got so much great media coverage!) but it was so much more.

I’m glad and grateful for the opportunity to be warmly welcomed into this fantastic community and to meet and work with so many ambitious, smart, caring and overall awesome people.

Nothing could symbolize this better than the lovely ceremony the team put together for Julia Kloiber’s and my farewell. Unicorn gavels and flower crowns and laminated “for life” cards and bubbly were all involved. Thank you! ?

OpenDott is nearly ready

The collaboration with Mozilla isn’t ending anytime soon. OpenDott.org is a paid PhD program in responsible tech that is hosted by University of Dundee in collaboration with Mozilla and a host of smaller orgs including ThingsCon, and that I’ll supervising a PhD for.

I’m not logistically involved in this stage but my understanding is that the final paperwork is being worked out with the 5 future PhDs right now: The last YES’s collected, the last forms being signed, etc. Can’t wait for this to kick off for real, even though I’ll be only marginally involved. I mean, come on – a PhD in responsible tech? How awesome is that.


The new ThingsCon website, thingscon.org, is by now more or less up and running and complete. Just in time for a (for ThingsCon somewhat unusual) event in May: A small and intimate unconference in Berlin about responsible paths in tech, economy, and beyond. Details and how to apply here.

Zephyrs: going fast

We’ve been making our ultimate travel pants under the Zephyr Berlin brand for about 2 years now. I’m not sure what happened but we must have landed on a relevant recommendations list or two as we’ve been getting a pretty sharp spike in orders these last few weeks. This is fantastic and a lot of fun. But the women’s cut is almost out now. We don’t know if/when we’ll produce the next batch, so if you’re looking to score one of those, don’t wait too long.

The Newsletter Experiment, continued

As I’ve mentioned in the last monthnotes, over in my personal(ish) newsletter Connection Problem I started an experiment with memberships. The gist of it is, I publish about 100K words a year, most of which are critical-but-constructive takes about tech industry and how we can maximize responsible tech rather than exploitation. You can support this independent writing by joining the membership.

It’s all happening under the principle of “unlocked commons”, meaning members support writing that will be available in the commons, for free, continuously. You can learn more in the newsletter archive or on this page. It’s an exciting experiment for me, and hopefully the output is something that’s useful and enjoyable for you, too.

AI, ethics, smart cities

I was invited to Aspen Institute’s annual conference on artificial intelligence, Humanity Defined: Politics and Ethics in the AI Age. It’s a good event, bringing (mostly US based) AI experts to Germany and putting them onstage with (mostly German) policy experts to spark some debate. I’ve been to this since it started last year and enjoyed it. This time, my highlight was some background on the European High Level Group on AI Ethics Guidelines shared there by one of the group’s ethicists, Thomas Metzinger. He made a convincing case that this might be the best AI ethics doc currently, globally (it’s going to be published next week); and that it has glaring, painful shortcomings, especially as far as red lines are concerned – areas or types of AI applications that Europe would not engage in. These red lines are notably absent in the final document. Which seems… a shame? More on that soon.

I’m just mentioning this here because there are a few exciting projects coming up that will give me an opportunity to explore the intersection of smart cities, policy, AI/machine decision learning and how insights from creating the Trustable Technology Mark can lead to better, more responsible smart cities, tech governance, and applied AI ethics. More on that soon.

What’s next?

This week I’ll be at the Internet Freedom Festival (IFF) in Valencia, Spain. Then later in the month I’ll be teaching for a day about trustable tech at Hochschule Darmstadt at the kind invitation of Prof. Andrea Krajewski. Otherwise it’s drafting outlines, writing some project proposals, and lots of meetings and writing.

If you’d like to work with me in the upcoming months, I have limited availability but am always happy to have a chat. I’m currently doing the planning for Q3 and Q4 2019.

Have a great April!

Yours truly,

The Waving Cat GmbH turns 3


The company just turned 3. Happy birthday!

As every founder knows, the early years of a company can be intense and the outcomes are often unclear at the outset. Yet, I’m happy to report it’s been three pretty darn great years. And productive, too!

Anniversaries are always a great opportunity to take a look back, like on the company’s first and second anniversary. And an even better opportunity to look ahead. So let’s do both, shall we? (more…)

The Waving Cat turns 2


Today my company The Waving Cat turns two. I’m very happy to say it’s been two great years, and so it’s time to take stock for a brief moment before moving on as there’s tons to do… So!

You might notice that the blog extends back waaaaay beyond two years: I’ve been using that domain for my personal blog for over 10 years now. (These days my personal blog lives at thewavingcat.com/category/personal, whereas the company-related blog posts are at thewavingcat.com/blog.)

That said, what happened in those two years? A lot! You can find a full re-hashing of all the projects on the project page as well as in the regular monthnotes.

For now, let me point out just a few projects that stood out for me


Anniversary: The Waving Cat GmbH turns one!


My company turns one! When I set up The Waving Cat GmbH as a company, my main goal was to use it as an umbrella, an organizational backend and communications device, for the various interests and projects I pursue – for fun and profit. Along the line, I also fine tuned the mission for The Waving Cat as…

…exploring the impact of emerging technologies and helping apply the insights of innovators through consulting, conferences and publications.

And that’s exactly what’s happening. The formats and teams change, the mission is the same. For me that’s super exciting, and I feel lucky and privileged that I get to work and live this way. Thank you all!

It’s hard to believe how quickly this year flew by. And yet, when I just skimmed my records, it’s even more unbelievable to me to see all the things that happened in just a year. More importantly, to see that these things have legs, so to speak, and are going places.

A stack of t-shirts from my conferences. <3

Even more importantly, it’s great that nearly all of them have been happening in close collaboration with people I admire and love working with:

  • Co-founded #iot/maker/hardware conference ThingsCon with Max Krüger, Simon Höher and Emanuel Schwarz, and brought it into its second year, incl. a local event in AMS
  • Written a booklet with Max Krüger: The Indie Conference Organizer Handbook (TICOH)
  • Published two issues of #iot print magazine Connected with Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino/Designswarm
  • Co-directed one NEXT Conf and am working on NEXT 15 with Monique van Dusseldorp
  • Co-organized, and subsequently handed over to a new team, iOS developler conference UIKonf with Matt Patterson and Chris Eidhof
  • Became co-chair of Interaction 16 with Sami Niemelä of IxDA Helsinki
  • Started an executive briefing on emerging tech, The Imaginary Unit, with Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino and Patrick Tanguay
  • Came up with a simple test to determine which client projects to accept and engage with, the Client Work Triangle Test
  • Worked with old and new clients ranging from corporate R&D to agency to industry association to to think tank to government.
  • Became a startup mentor with Highway1 and Hardware.co, and an ambassador for Highway1
  • Published nine or so articles, interviews or publications of some sort
  • Gave about ten talks in Germany, Japan, US, UK and the Netherlands.

What a year. Here’s to the next one!