Collaborate on a trust-only basis, or why it’s a good idea to go against traditional business wisdom


Kozyndan: Rainbow Narwhal Spirit Animal

I wrote a little thing on the role of trust-based collaborations (as opposed to setting up formal organizations and getting the lawyers involved at or even before the start) over on Medium.

In startup land, as in most traditional business contexts where intellectual property counts as an asset, we’re usually told to guard our ideas, our prototypes, our processes. Here’s a rallying cry to go the opposite direction: To share ideas, to openly collaborate before getting the lawyers involved. To iterate not just on a product, but on the the very nature of our business relationships, our collaborations, our organizations.

Full text here.

startup tools for collaboration and mobility


Being a bit of a geek, I’m always interested in which tools & techniques people use to go about their things. So it’s only fair I also share mine. Here’s a quick snapshot of how we’ve been organizing our company. Keep in mind, what works for our agency of three, Third Wave, may or may not work in your context.

For us, collaboration and mobility are key requirements, so besides a few exceptions working exclusively local isn’t really an option.

Experiment & share your experiences!

Email: Nothing beats Google Mail at this point. Period. Google Apps allow you to use Gmail with your own domain.

Project management: That’s a much more tricky one, as different needs and preferences both inside and outside the company play a role. We’re betting on Basecamp, the web-based project management tool by 37Signals. It’s relatively light-weight, has a fairly comprehensive UI and it’s heavily based on email, which makes it easy to use even when you’re on your phone or extremely low bandwidth (think train rides). This also makes it easier for clients to get involved if they choose to. Hands down the only annoying thing I found so far is that you sometimes have to change through several information layers when moving from one project to another – but it’s doable.

Contact management: Again, we’re going with 37 Signal’s Highrise. Not sure how happy I am with this solution yet. Then again, I don’t know anything better either, so there you go.

Chat & ongoing discussions: There’s always some things that require some discussion, so you need some kind of chat. Skype is very powerful, but also quite invasive. For good measure we’ve been using the third 37Signals product, Campfire. Not all that powerful, but it does the job. Of all the 37Signals tools we use, this is the first I’d give up, but it’s really ok.

Fluid: With all these browser-based services, the tab overkill gets even worse, so you might want to pull some of them out of the browser and into their own app. Fluid for Mac does just that. Make sure to learn how to work the settings and customize them to your needs. If you don’t it’s the software from hell, but once it works it’s a charm.

Phone: Still looking for the best Voip solution, particularly since all of us will be traveling a lot. So far, we’re old school: landline and cell phone, occasionally a Skype call.

Twitter: We have a shared Twitter account (@thirdwaveberlin), but everybody uses their own preferred tool to manage that one.

Files: Dropbox can be very useful in sharing larger files while working on a project.

No big surprises in the whole thing I guess. Always keep in mind that certain projects have security requirements that may not be met by cloud services. Where that isn’t an issue, the setup described above can be enough to get you going.

Tag your laptop


In a discussion with Jay Cousins recently we talked about a small problem: If you’re coworking in a cafe or in a coworking space, you sometimes don’t know a whole lot about the other folks around, or what they’re working on. Online, Twitter or a coworking network like Hallenprojekt.de do a good job transmitting just this information. But if you walk into a cafe and would like to strike up a conversation with another laptop worker, things can get socially awkward. (Plus, of course, you don’t want to make the round from laptop to laptop talking to 10 people until you find someone you relate to.)

Jay mentioned something he had done over at a Barcamp in the UK, which is give people a funny hat with their tags (i.e. interests, skills, companies etc) so you could see across the room who you might want to talk to based on shared interests. So we wondered if there’s a way to reach the same effect without running around in public wearing giant tag-cloud hats.

Here’s a proposal: Just tag your laptop, so people can see what you do:

tag your laptop The important bit: The piece of duct textile tape in the lower right corner, tagged with some projects i’m involved in.

It’s probably too much trouble to update it to a current status, but at least you get a general idea. In my case that you can see in the photo above: I’m interested in #coworking, a regular at #studio70, co-organizer of #atoms&bits as well as #likemind Berlin, and I’m a member of Berlinblase.

Of course, duct tape might not be everyone’s first choice. (If in doubt, double check first if you can remove it without traces!) So get creative: Use a non-permanent marker right on your laptop. Use stickers. If you’re a tinkerer, attach a little display on the back of your laptop. Of course it all works with your Moleskine, too. And next time you’re in a cafe and see someone with the tag #coworking on their laptop, make sure to say hi!

Open Design by Ronen Kadushin


Yesterday I had the chance to see the opening of Ronen Kadushin‘s Open Design exhibition at Appel Design Gallery, Berlin. (Thanks for the invitation, Ronen!) What’s so special? All the designs are free and open, as in open source, and released under a Creative Commons license (by-nc-sa): Designers and hardware hackers can download the plans for all the pieces, modify them or have them produced for themselves. In Ronen’s words:

The products presented here were designed and produced using an alternative design and development method that frees a designer to pursue creative expressions, realize them as industrially repeatable products and have the ability to globally distribute design. Open Design is a personal attempt to close a creativity gap between product design and other fields (music, graphic design, animation and photography), Which found their creative output in phase with the realities of information technology and economics. The Open Design method is based on the principles of the already successful Open Source method that revolutionized the software industry, and gave birth to a social movement that is cooperative, community-minded and seeks legitimate ways of sharing creativity. In Open Design, the design is a two dimensional “cutout” represented as digital information. It relies on the Internet’s communication resources, to publish, distribute, and copy the designs under a CreativeCommons license. Coupled with The flexibility of CNC production methods, all technically conforming designs are continuously available for production, in any number, with no tooling investment, anywhere and by anyone.

More importantly, though, these are pieces of exceptional beauty. Did you notice that you can’t see any joints? It’s because there simply aren’t any – all these pieces are just stuck together, or folded into themselves. The table and the fruitbowl you see in the pictures below are delivered flat, then folded into shape. How awesome is that?

Open Design Fruitbowl by Ronen Kadushin (photo by peter bihr) Open Design: “Fruitbowl” by Ronen Kadushin

Open Design Italic Shelves by Ronen Kadushin (photo by peter bihr) Open Design: “Italic Shelves” by Ronen Kadushin

Open Design Square Dance Low Table by Ronen Kadushin (photo by peter bihr) Open Design: “Square Dance Low Table” by Ronen Kadushin

“So where’s the business model?”, you might ask. Same as in open source software development. It’s extra services, customization, plus as a rule of thumb: If you want something done well, you ask the guys who made it in the first place. In the case of Ronen Kadushin, there’s also the idea that others can use his designs commercially in a revenue share-like model; if you’re interested, talk to Ronen. Also, at www.movisi.com you can buy designs by Ronen and a couple of like-minded designers.

You can find more pictures on Flickr.

The exhibition Hard Copies – Open Design will be open till November 22 at Appel Design Gallery, Berlin.

I work for the Internets shirt now available in the U.S.


I work for the Internets, CC licensed by flickr user thewavingcatA little while ago, MT and I launched a little side project, a t-shirt series that says “I work for the Internets“. We’ve only sold a few, but we’ve also been asked a few times if we shipped outside Europe which had been quite expensive due to the way our German Spreadshirt shop was set up.

Good news: If you live in the U.S. or Canada, we can now print and ship the shirts to you much cheaper through our new U.S. Spreadshirt shop.

Nearly all of the shirts are American Apparel. (Except the German girl tee with black on black print: for some strange reason there seems to be no black American Apparel shirt for girls in the German store.) We stuck to American Apparel so you know what quality and cut to expect, and I’ve been quite happy with it.

On a side note, we were thrilled to see the shirt in the wild, too, as you can see in the picture below. It was taken at Communia Conference.

Photo by Juan Carlos De Martin, licensed under Creative Commons (by 2.0) Photo by Juan Carlos De Martin, (jdcm on Flickr), released under Creative Commons (by 2.0).

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.

A Swarm of Angels: Worlds Will Shatter


Ground-breaking collaborative film project A Swarm of Angels just released the first video trailer, and boy, I can’t wait to see more:

Worlds Will Shatter – The Unfold trailer from Nine Orders on Vimeo.

I’ve been a proud member of the Swarm for a while. And while it’s not always easy to find a good way to actively get involved in the process of shooting this massive collaborative open-source movie, it’s amazing to be part of something as grand as this could be. It is, seriously, what I think could be a glimpse at the future of movie production.

As of now, it’s again possible to join as a member. For quite a while registration had been closed while things were prepared to proceed. Click here to join for a donation of $47/€37.