Google Collaboratory Report #1


Collaboratory ReportIt’s done! Over the course of the last few months I’ve been part of the German Google Collaboratory “Internet & Society”. The expert group is part of Google’s effort to reach out to multiple stakeholder groups and discuss with experts the challenges and opportunities our society faces. We discussed a whole range of topics from privacy to media literacy to democracy, and conducted a survey among the German web community about all this. We crunched the numbers and interpreted the input we got.

Today, the final report was published. Download the report here (PDF, 1.9MB, language: .de). (Update: find all reports here.)

Together with Henning Lesch of eco and I focused mainly on privacy. You can find the results and essence of the research under the headline “Datenschutz & Privatsphäre”.

What really struck me – in the expert group as well as in the survey and in the discussions we had with politicians – is how hard it is to come to any clear solutions in this field. It almost seems like we, as a society, need to have some in-depth discussion on which exact questions to even ask, and how to define all the buzz words. Do we need anonymity online? How much? Absolute or relative anonymity? What exactly does anonymity entail? It’s really not all that simple.

Although I will say that personally I strongly favor an internet that allows for anonymity over one where all action can be tracked. In fact, I believe that the opportunity to discuss open and free and without fear of repercussion (in other words: in anonymity) is an important basis of a strong and free democracy. (Luckily, many, many of the participants of our survey hold a similar view.)

Long story short: I tremendously enjoyed working with all these smart folks. And I hope this report can help foster a good discussion about where we’re headed and how we’d best get there.

As it is today, there is much to discuss, and not all of the folks in a position to make the relevant decisions seem to be up to speed. (And you can’t blame them, there’s just too much on everyone’s plate!) In the US, Code For America exists solely to support the decision makers in DC with external expertise in all questions related to the web. If there’s demand for something similar in Germany, sign me up. We as the web community shouldn’t stand back and complain about politicians, but instead offer a hand to work with them. There’s no other way forward.

Full disclosure: I’m a member of the Google Internet & Society Collaboratory and I worked with Google before.

Weeknotes #188


Das Fest 2007: Skateboard-Miniatur

It’s Tuesday and that means: it’s late weeknotes time!

Bioplastics, wallet, vinegar

Jay showed us how to make our own bioplastic wallets. Now I have one too, and apart from my own bad stitching I like it a lot. If only it didn’t smell so strongly of vinegar… but I did realized that I really like the very compact form factor. Forces me to cut down on stuff in my wallet, and that’s a good thing. Make sure to check out all the different workshops offered at Open Design City. (You can ask for different workshops, too!)


We’ve had the first event of the Google-initiated Collaboratory “Internet & Society” with politicians to discuss the initial results of a survey we conducted. Quite an impressive and stimulating event actually: After an initial presentation of survey results by Google and the research team, the topic cluster “godparents” gave some insights into the wide range of answers we got. (All topic clusters hat one or two members of the expert groups as so-called godparents to split up the work. Yours truly was responsible for Anonymity On The Web.) Then we all split up into group discussions for an hour and had some in-depth discussions. Good stuff. We’ll be chewing the results to write up a final report.

Geek dinner

I was told one is random, two’s a trend, three’s a tradition. Or something. So I won’t hesitate calling our geek dinners at Kimchi Princess a tradition now. Lovely, inspiring dinner with Michelle, Igor, Johannes, Caroline, Matt, Ronen, Jan, Boris and plenty others. Nothing beats inspiring conversations with great folks over yummy dinner and cold drinks.

More speaking

Seems like there’ll be a number of speaking gigs coming up, both at smaller conferences and in-house client workshops. Also seems like this always comes in waves. One day I’m sure I’ll discover a pattern there so I’ll be able to line up a more coherent travel plan.


I’ve been trying to root my HTC Hero to update to at least Android 2.1 (or even Android 2.2?) without much success so far. (No damage either!) Hints are very welcome!


If you had to describe weeknotes in one word, which would it be: a) annoying b) useful c) don’t matter ? Feel free to let me know in the comments or any other channel. Turns out it takes more discipline than expected, and there’s only so many things I can write about at any given time while others I cannot discuss for awhile. So I’m not sure if I should keep sending them out or if you’d prefer not having them in this place. Thanks for your feedback!

Image: Das Fest 2007: Skateboard-Miniatur, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from leralle’s photostream

Weeknotes #187


You Too Can Be Like Us

Still trying to get the hang of writing weeknotes. I’ve been blogging more regularly recently, which makes it harder to tell anything new in the weeknotes. So here’s some of what’s been on my mind last week:

Collaboratory Prep

At the Google-initated Collaboratory on internet and society where I was kindly invited as an expert we’ve wrapped up the analysis of the first round of survey data we gathered. This Wednesday we’ll discuss the data with politicians. Should be interesting. Will report.

Ersatz Conference

There’s sadly no reboot conference this year since Thomas is taking some (very much deserved) time off to reboot. Reboot is one of my all-time favorite conferences. (See here.) Turns out that there are some great folks out there who appreciate reboot just as much and stepped up to run an ersatz conference called: Ersatz Conference. It’s 18/19 June. I booked my flight right away. Can’t wait to go.

Cognitive Cities

No formal announcement yet as we haven’t figured out the details. But we’ll run an event of sorts this fall, too, around the topic of smart cities. Details soon. Also, the good folks and friends behind the Cognitive Cities blog invited me to join them as a contributor to the blog, which I’m excited about. Thanks Igor, Johannes, Axel, Welf!

Conference Wishlist 2010

With Cognitive Cities, an offspring of sorts of atoms&bits, and Ersatz conference mentioned above, I’m getting close to making my conference wishlist 2010.

Open Design Wallet on Boingboing

I already mentioned it: After Jay Cousins showed me the wallet he made from self-produced bioplastic I was blown away; I posted some photos and submitted them to boingboing, who ran them. I was quite surprised to see the post, but of course excited. What I hadn’t thought of was providing a better link. Nonetheless, it seems like there’s quite some interest in this kind of stuff. So Jay volunteered to run a workshop this Thursday. It’ll be at Open Design City (Betahaus Berlin), check Jay’s tweets for updates & details.

What else? Random notes.

I’m re-reading Pattern Recognition (.de link). Even in the third round I’m discovering new stuff. I found out that internet access in some Dubai hotels is about US$45/hour. WTF? The Homesense project tries to make real sense out of smart housing, should be interesting. Facebook keeps freaking me out, particularly with their ever-present “I like” pop ups. Diaspora, a planned distributed social network with a focus on openness and privacy, has been overwhelmed by support and raised $174,007 (instead of the $15,000 they asked for). I still wish I really understood what exactly they are aiming for (An alternative to Facebook? A way to get your data out of Facebook? Something else entirely?) or if they’re are capable of doing it. (I most certainly hope so!) It shows two things very clearly though: There is a huge demand for a more privacy-conscious alternative to Facebook as many of us are pissed off by Facebook’s behavior. And if you have a good idea you can easily get the support you need from the community. Both of those are great to know!

And with that I wish you a great week!

Image: You Too Can Be Like Us, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from atomsandbits’s photostream

Google Collaboratory Internet & Society


Recently I was invited to join the Collaboratory on Internet & Society, and we’ve started a survey. Since it’s conducted in German, here’s the official announcement in German, too. (Full disclosure: After being invited as a regular member of the Collaboratory, I was also hired to help out with organizing the survey. I’ve also worked with Max Senges, who’s managing the project, on many occasions before.) I think this covers a really important topic – where to take the internet and how to preserve it as the essential space that it has become for all of us – and this is a great place to gather thought and input.

Here’s the German version:

Das Collaboratory ist ein Expertenkreis, der Akteure aus Wissenschaft, Verbänden, Daten- und Verbraucherschutz sowie aus Internetunternehmen zusammen bringt. Es wurde von Google Deutschland initiiert, um gemeinsam an Lösungsansätzen zu gesellschaftlichen Fragen rund um das Internet zu arbeiten. Eine Teilnehmerliste der Collaboratory Expertengruppe finden Sie hier. Als Mitglied des Internet & Gesellschaft Collaboratorys habe ich die Umfrage mitentwickelt.

Ziel der Umfrage ist es, ein Meinungsbild zum Themenfeld Internet, Gesellschaft und Innovationskultur in Deutschland zu erstellen. Dieses soll als Basis dienen, um Grundlagen einer Innovationskultur der Informations- und Wissensgesellschaft zu erarbeiten, die den technischen Eigenheiten und wirtschaftlichen Chancen des Internets sowie den Grundwerten unseres Gemeinwesens gleichermaßen Rechnung trägt.? Bitte klicken Sie hier um die Umfrage zu starten.