Tagconferences

Monthnotes for August 2017

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August came and went quickly: It was a comparatively short month here at The Waving Cat once you subtract vacation time, and so we spent it largely distraction free, heads-down, on writing.

A quick note: I’m doing capacity planning for fall & winter. If you’d like to explore working together, get in touch now. First come, first serve!

Talks

I have a few talks coming up:

  • On 1 September (ie. this coming Friday) I’ll be speaking at Netzpolitik‘s annual conference Das ist Netzpolitik!, in German, about tensions inherent in the power dynamics of IoT as well as the regulatory environment: Das Internet der Dinge: Rechte, Regulierung und Spannungsfelder.
  • In October, I’ll be giving a lecture on communications and IoT at Dresden University, where if logistics work out I’ll be chatting a bit about the practitioner’s side of IoT. (Details TBD).
  • On 9 November, also in Berlin, I’ll be at SimplySecure‘s conference Underexposed (program). My talk there is called The Internet of Sneaky Things. I’ll be exploring how IoT security, funding and business models, centralization and data mining, and some larger challenges around the language we use to consider the impact of data-driven systems combined all form a substantial challenge for all things related to IoT. But it’s not all bleak. There are measures we can—and through ThingsCon, we do—take.

Trustmarks for IoT

Consumers don’t necessarily trust connected devices (IoT). Maybe more importantly, many products that are part of IoT do not deserve trust. Too many security holes, too much data gathering and sharing, bad business practices are all all-to-common occurrences.

So I’m very happy to be working on two projects in this space. (For completeness’ sake, some early thoughts of mine on the subject.)

For Mozilla, I’ve been doing research into the potential of trustmarks for IoT. The research and report are pretty much wrapped up after August. We’re currently gathering a last round of feedback from key stakeholders, and there’s a last round of final copy-editing to come. Then the report should be done and published in full within the next couple of months. (Disclosure: My partner Michelle Thorne works at Mozilla.)

I’m particularly excited to hear whispers that some core recommendations might be used in the national IoT policy of a major nation. If this truly comes to pass, then I’ll know why I do what I do. ?

The second project is the #iotmark initiative, co-founded by Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino and Usman Haque (both friends, collaborators, and ThingsCon alumni) that tries to develop a consumer label for IoT products. Together with Laura James of UK charity Doteveryone, my role is to look into governance questions. There are a lot of moving parts and open questions, but we’re all slowly getting organized, and I think it’s a tremendous group to be part of.

View Source: Shenzhen

Our friends & many-time collaborators over at The Incredible Machine have just flipped the switch on the new site for View Source: Shenzhen. All our research & documentation from our two research trips to Shenzhen in one place. It’s all there, waiting to be explored by you. What are you waiting for?

Learn more about View Source: Shenzhen.

ThingsCon

ThingsCon didn’t really take a summer break, I guess! Instead, the new ThingsCon chapter in Copenhagen will host their first ThingsCon Salon as part of Copenhagen Tech Fest (6 Sep). The annual ThingsCon Amsterdam conference is shaping up to be the biggest global ThingsCon event yet (30 Nov – 1 Dec). The chapter in Antwerp is even pioneering a new experimental format: A ThingsCon Comedy Special. There’ll be another round of ThingsCon Salons in Amsterdam, Berlin, Cologne. And we’re hopefully-almost-nearly ready for announcements spanning the globe from Pakistan to the Philippines, from Manila to Nairobi. All the details are up on thingscon.com/events.

Also, the founding paperwork for our members association in Germany has finally been processed: The Verein is now eingetragen, officially making it ThingsCon e.V. This will make it a lot easier to interface with other organizations for advocacy, fundraising and partnerships.

Zephyr Berlin

Over at Zephyr Berlin, we have a summer sale on—free shipping worldwide! Use the discount code SUMMER to get your pair today!

What’s on the horizon?

The next few weeks will go into wrapping up/advancing the Trustmarks for IoT project, as well as planning for the rest of the year. Besides the talks mentioned at the top of this post, I’m also looking at Mozfest and some #iotmark-related workshops, yet to be confirmed. Then, starting in October, it looks like there’s some availability, so hit me up if you’d like to discuss new projects.

Monthnotes for June 2017

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One day you plant the seeds, and later you harvest. An old freelance friend used to say this to remind herself and me at the time of the cyclical nature of work. First you put in the work, then later it pays off. June is such a month of harvest: We published not one but two full-scale reports.

For this and much, much more: Keep reading.

If it seemed a bit quiet here last month it’s because it was the proverbial quiet before the storm, aka launch month.

View Source: Shenzhen

We went to Shenzhen to explore opportunities for collaboration between European Internet of Things practitioners and the Shenzhen hardware ecosystem—and how to promote the creation of a responsible Internet of Things. You can read the result here: View Source: Shenzhen

ThingsCon Report: The State of Responsible IoT

The ThingsCon report The State of Responsible IoT is a collection of essays by experts from the inter-disciplinary ThingsCon community of IoT practitioners. It explores the challenges, opportunities and questions surrounding the creation of a responsible & human-centric Internet of Things (IoT). You can read the result here: ThingsCon Report: The State of Responsible IoT

Trustmarks for the Internet of Things

My research into IoT labels to increase (and justify!) user trust in connected products continues.

As part of this research went to the Open IoT Definition (5 years later) hosted in London by Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino and Usman Haque. Just like the first convening of this loose group, it was excellent and intense—and we started a process to try and develop an #iotmark (iotmark.wordpress.com). It’s currently a v0.1 document open for input.

While I’ve been doing expert interviews for a broad range of input, we’ve also just launched a small online survey. If you work in IoT or adjacent fields, I’d love to hear from you!

I’m also planning to host a brief workshop on this attached to the ThingsCon Salon Berlin on 13 July. Please ping me if you’d like to participate (likely 15:30 to 17:00 or so).

Updated website

Perhaps a little less concrete but also relevant I think, I’ve reworked the company website to better reflect the types of work I’ve been doing these last few months and aim to continue doing. There were some seriously outdated things there.

The two core areas I’d sum up as strategy and research.

As a boutique strategy, research & foresight company we help guide our clients’ strategies regarding business, product, and research.

This top-level description now explicitly includes research and foresight, for reasons.

Maybe more notably I’ve introduced a dedicated research section because it’s something I’ve been doing with collaborators in almost all recent projects, but that basically wasn’t reflected at all on our website. Needless to say, I favor qualitative over quantitative.

To lead and advance the field, you need to look ahead and understand what’s on the horizon—and what’s possible. In future-facing areas like emerging tech, quantitative data doesn’t cut it: We provide—and help you apply—foresight & qualitative research so you stay ahead of the curve. This includes a wide range of methods and types of input and output. Because we are tapped into the backchannels of a large network of leading experts and collaborators, we have a powerful and fine-tuned radar for the near future.

You can find most of it on thewavingcat.com.

I’m curious to hear what you think!

ThingsCon

We launched ThingsCon report on the state of responsible IoT (see above), and are preparing a whole wave of ThingsCon Salons for July: Amsterdam, Berlin, Cologne & Darmstadt are all ready to roll.

The salons are also a great occasion to catch a screening of the View Source: Shenzhen video documentation that The Incredible Machine has been producing throughout our two Shenzhen trips!

The impact of a community also grows with its footprint. In that sense we’d like to get more ThingsCon chapters online: More cities, more local communities, all working together.


This map shows where ThingsCon events happened in the past or are currently planned.

Over on the ThingsCon blog we wrote:

ThingsCon is a complete community effort, driven largely by volunteer work. And that’s a feature, not a bug! This community has a seat at the table because lots of us show up when important decisions are made, and when the future of this industry is discussed.

Also:

We’re hoping that by the end of 2017, we’ll see 15 new chapters, including 5 in the global South! Combined with the existing chapters, this could easily make for a total of 50 more events just this year.

It’s easy to get involved. Let’s go!

Zephyr Berlin

Holiday season is coming up. We still have a (small & shrinking) stack of ultimate travel pants. Get yours now!

While we’re looking into (potentially! no promises!) running one more small batch, we’re super curious to learn how people have modded, hacked or repaired their Zephyrs. If you have, send us a pic, will ya?

Writing, talks, media

At DevOpsCon, I had the pleasure to talk Shenzhen with Stephanie Koch. Our session was called Shenzhen: IoT going rogue and we had a full house:

Photo by Markus Andrezak (Thank you, Markus!)

I also had a blast of a time discussing the challenges and opportunities of IoT and security at the Transatlantic Digital Debates with a group of smart fellows from both sides of the Atlantic.

Speaking of smart fellows: Together with Meike Laaff I ran a 3 day weekend workshop with stipendiaries of Heinrich-Böll-Foundation on the future of work and how digital, AI, IoT and adjacent technologies impact how we work, and how we think about work.

As for writing, in addition to the two reports listed at the top of this post I wrote:

What’s on the horizon?

Some writing, lots of research to be published later this year. I’ll also be speaking at ThingsCon Salon Berlin (about our Shenzhen trip), and at Das ist Netzpolitik! Also, we have 4 ThingsCon Salons coming up in July alone! Right after, in mid-July, I’ll be off on a vacation for a few weeks. If you’d like to talk about projects for after, ping me!

ThingsCon in London, Shanghai, Shenzhen & Amsterdam

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Note: cross-posting this from the ThingsCon blog

We have an exciting few weeks coming up for ThingsCon with four great events in (just about) as many weeks:

London (29 Oct): At Mozfest, as part of a whole day of Good Home activities, Peter will be hosting a session titled “ThingsCon: Responsible IoT for Consumer Rights Orgs“. We want to support consumer rights organizations in this area and are looking for allies, so we’ll be hosting a group discussion of the major pitfalls and opportunities for consumer rights groups in that area. If you’re at Mozfest, come swing by!

Shanghai (4 Nov) & Shenzhen (10 Nov): In November we’ll team up with Simone Rebaudengo for a ThingsCon Salon Shanghai. Then, moving on to Shenzhen, we’ll be co-hosting another salon with the Just Things Foundation and Mozilla Open IoT Studio. More details soon.

Amsterdam (1-2 Dec): Early December, ThingsCon Amsterdam is on once more. It’s the biggest ThingsCon event of the year, and you really don’t want to miss this one. The speaker line-up is just getting started and already is mind-blowing. Among the confirmed speakers you’ll find stars like Usman Haque (Umbrellium), Ame Elliot (Simply Secure), David Li (Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab), Justyna Zubrycka (Vai Kai), Alper Çu?un (writer), Susan Cox-Smith (Changeist), Ricardo Brito (Futurice), Michelle Thorne (Mozilla Foundation) and many more. Next to the plenary speakers program we will give a lot of attention to the in-depth sessions both on Thursday and Friday morning. Expect these around farm-hacking, the internet of bikes, the sneaking smart home, product as agents, fashion tech, design fiction, IoT design tools for ideation, smart citizen and many more. One session we’d like to highlight is a deep dive into the Shenzhen internet of things approach where David Li and ThingsCon delegation to Shenzhen share their experiences. Registration is open and we know from experience that the event will sell out, so register now: thingscon.nl/register/

See you at a ThingsCon near you!

On freebies, externalized costs and carrying your own weight

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There’s one slightly awkward dark side in the conference business: Over the last few weeks many, many people asked me for freebies of one sort or another. That’s not unusual or unexpected: Being involved in three conferences, there are always some who cannot afford or don’t want to spend the money for tickets.

But what genuinely surprised me is the profiles of the people who asked.

A trade or a freebie?

I expected mostly educational organizations or charities asking, which is perfectly fine because if at all possible, of course I want them to be able to participate. It’s not always possible at the desired scale, but usually there’s some wriggle room. We had some of that, and it lead to a large student presence at ThingsCon for example, and lots of students at UIKonf, too.

What I also often see is a proposal of a trade of some wort. Free access in exchange for XYZ. I hasten to add that the goes for conference organizers like me, too, who often ask speakers to speak for free in exchange for something or another like attention, travel, meetings, etc. This can all work out nicely if the chemistry is right.

But this time ’round, it wasn’t charities or schools or students asking for free access. It was predominantly for-profit companies, startups and even a surprisingly large number of venture capitalists. This struck me as deeply disturbing on many levels.

Externalizing costs for future profit

As an early stage startup, being bootstrapped is a fact of life. It’s both normal that people (like conference organizers) accept that and try to help out. It’s also clear that the so-called bootstrapping phase is a calculated move by the founders that serves the purpose of getting a maximum of product, traction, reach or attention before inviting investors, ie. it’s a conscious investment into future financial leverage (through exits or otherwise). In other words, bootstrapped startups asking for special treatment externalize their costs – in exchange, really, for largely nothing. It’s not like they’ll pay for other startups or educational institutions or the company behind a conference once the money comes rolling in. Still, that’s something we are all happy to help with, after all many of the founders are our friends, and it could be one of us one day. So that’s all good.

Can you trust a VC who wants a free ride?

But then there are the surprisingly large number of VCs and related companies who not only have the budget, but make it their business to invest this same budget, who ask us for free access to our conferences, in exchange for absolutely nothing at all. This, frankly, disgusts me personally – more importantly though, it makes me wonder: If a company doesn’t carry a minimum of their own weight by even just purchasing a ticket to a conference that’s commercially relevant for them – if, in other words, a company is too stingy to play a valuable role in the ecosystem but rather actively damage it – then how can we trust them not to screw over their investees?

The number of people who approached me saying their (investment or incubator or large tech) companies are “running lean”, or “think like a bootstrapped startup”, or “are there to help startups” and hence should get through the door “for free” was staggering.

“For free” is anything but.

Of course “for free” in this case isn’t free at all. Every person in the room incurs a significant cost. That very real cost usually is much higher than you’d expect from the outside. (Even after years of doing this, it surprises me.) No, “for free” means “free of charge for this particular attendee, at the cost of someone else”.

Depending on how we handle this kind of “free” on the organizers’ side, this could mean that we eat the costs (ie. take it out of our own pockets), or that we externalize it even further by passing on the costs to the other attendees. That latter of course would mean punishing the honest, fair ones who contribute their share.

Would you ask a stranger for money on the street?

There’s a very simple test I apply if in doubt. I try to imagine what it would feel like if I did the same to a stranger on the street. In this case, would I ask a stranger to just hand me over 300 Euros for no good reason whatsoever? Maybe because I don’t feel like I should be spending my own money?

That’s what asking for a “free” ticket is. It’s asking someone to pay for you. Which can be perfectly fine for all kinds of reasons, or it can be really, really totally off. It’s all about the context.

A thank you to all of you who contributes their share!

Of course, for every VC and startup who asks for a freebie, there are dozens who don’t, who contribute their share, and put their money where their mouth is. To those I say: <3. You’re the reason we keep doing this stuff.

You’d like to sponsor, but don’t know what? Get in touch!

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If your company would like to support the Berlin tech ecosystem by sponsoring an event, get in touch, I might have a good opportunity for you (at almost any given moment)._

 

 

Usually sponsor acquisition is a matter of trust and building long-term relationships. That requires, of course, that both parties know each other in the first place. Experience shows that this isn’t always the case, sometimes a little matchmaking or pure luck makes all the difference. At other times, it’s the timing that matters. While community outreach through event sponsoring might be a bad fit one moment, it can be the perfect fit the next moment. It’s always a matter of context, after all.

Sponsoring is tricky to get right (see my Sponsoring DOs and DON’Ts), but if it’s done right it can be magical for all parties involved. A sponsor can be a rock star at a conference, enabling to take the level to the next level.

Since I run quite a lot of events and am tapped quite closely into the tech conference scene – in Berlin and across Europe – I usually have a pretty good grasp of what’s going on at any given time.

 

I’d like to invite you to drop me a line if you ever consider sponsoring an event. There’s a good chance I can offer a great sponsoring opportunity for your needs.

 

Often, I’m directly involved in conferences. To name just some from the last few years: UIKonf, ThingsCon, Cognitive Cities Conference, Ignite Berlin, TEDxKreuzberg. There were more.

The sponsors involved in some of my events range from startups to larger organizations and corporates, so you know you’ll be in good company. To name just a few: Electric Imp, Facebook, Mercedes/Smart, Microsoft, Highway1, Spark, Twilio and Wooga have all sponsored before.

Often times, sponsoring opportunities are very flexible if planned with enough of a headstart. So why not get in touch if you have something in mind, or are considering it for the future. We’ll have a chat and see where it leads, and by the time you’re ready or the next event comes around, we’ll see if things work out!

Conference themes of the last 8 years

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Just re-discovered this list of themes of some of the more well-known tech-related conferences across Europe and thought it might be nice/useful/fun to have around for future reference.

There’s a lot of link rot and not every conference has a theme every year, so there are some gaps. (If you can help me fill one or two, ping me.)

 

Without further comments:

PICNIC Festival

  • Celebrating Creative Genius (2006)
  • Feel, Play, Make (2007)
  • Create the Future (collaborative creativity) (2008)
  • Never waste a good crisis: turning points, exploding media, rebuild! (2009)
  • Redesign the World: Life, Cities, Media and Design. (2010)
  • What are you bringing? (2011)
  • new ownership (2012)

NEXT Berlin

  • next 10 years (2006)
  • Alle Macht dem Konsumenten!? (2007)
  • get realtime (2008)
  • Share Economy (2009)
  • Game Changers (2010)
  • Data Love (2011)
  • Post-Digital (2012)
  • Here Be Dragons (2013)
  • The New Normal (2014)

re:publica

  • Leben im Netz (2007)
  • Die kritische Masse (2008)
  • Shift happens (2009)
  • now here (2010)
  • Action (2012)
  • IN/SIDE/OUT (2013)
  • Into the Wild (2014)

reboot

  • renaissance? (2006)
  • human? (2007)
  • free (2008)
  • ACTION (2009)

Lift

  • Challenges and opportunities of technology in society (2008)
  • Where did the future go? (2009)
  • Hands-on Future (2009)
  • Connected people (2010)
  • dot-Real: Webify the real world! (2010)

CCC

  • Who can you trust (2006)
  • Volldampf voraus (2007)
  • Nothing to hide (2008)
  • Here Be Dragons (2009)
  • We Come In Peace (2010)
  • Behind Enemy Lines (2011)
  • Not my department (2012)

Disclosure: I’ve been involved in NEXT Berlin for a long time, including helping to choose some of these themes.