Tagend of year

Thanks and Happy Holidays: That was 2017

T

This is end-of-year post #10 (all prior ones here). That’s right, I’ve been writing this post every year for ten years in a row!

So what happened in 2017? Let’s have a look back: Part work, part personal. Enjoy.

Globally speaking I’d file 2017 under shitty year. So much so that I’ll try not to go into anything global or all too political here. But in terms of work it’s been quite interesting and impactful, and personally it’s been a pretty damn great year.

So, right to it!

The theme for 2017

Last year I wrote (and I’m paraphrasing to keep it short):

“(…) even in hindsight 2016 didn’t have one theme as such, but rather a few in parallel: 1) Growth & stabilization, in the business generally speaking, but also and specifically in all things related to ThingsCon. 2) Lots and lots of collaborations with close friends, which I’m grateful for. 3) Also, 2016 was a year for a bit of overload, I may have spread myself a little thin at times.”

Again, lots of collaboration with old and new friends. But this year I was a lot more focused, with lots of research that allowed me to go deep. I’d say in 2017, the theme was first and foremost impact. Impact through large partners, through policy work, through investments into research.

My work was with some large partners with big picture themes, like our work with Mozilla on trustmarks for the internet of things.

I hope to continue this high-impact work in one way or another.

Friends and family

Overall a bit of a mixed bag.

The bad: Some family members had health issues. Some friends received some nasty diagnoses.

The good: Some of the health issues were solved, we got to spend lots of time with close friends and family. Also, lots of babies were born among our friends, including one of our own. Welcome, little K! To be honest, this alone would make me love 2017. So yay, personal 2017!

Travel

For years I had been trying to cut down a little on travel to a somewhat more sustainable level. It kinda-sorta worked in 2017, at least a little bit. Still ways to go, but it’s a start.

Looking at my Tripit, this is what comes up. Tripit stats are a little fuzzy. (Did I mention I still miss Dopplr?) As far as I can reconstruct it on the quick, including vacation time I traveled to 7 countries on just 9 trips, and spent about 89 days traveling. (As opposed to 21 trips to 12 countries for a total of 152 days the year before.) So that’s great, even if it sounds like I might have missed a couple short trips.

pyrenees

Work

There was a lot going on in 2017, so I had to consult my monthnotes to refresh my memory. The focus is still, and ever more so, at the intersection of strategy, emerging technologies, and ethics/governance.

Lots of work around trustmarks and consumer trust generally speaking around the internet of things. Increasingly, artificial intelligence has also solidly established itself as part of the emerging tech canon I’ve been watching closely.

I wrote a lot. I mean, a lot. And I’ve enjoyed it tremendously. Outside my blog and some project-related newsletters and Twitter I did some long and short form writing:

If the writing is part of my overall communications landscape, then so is my website. So I relaunched that completely and restructured it for much more clarity.

I also got to work more with foundations, which is always fun. From workshops with Boell Foundation to research for Mozilla Foundation, the non-commercial, impact-driven sector is certainly an area I’d like to spend more time in.

Very Fun Side Projects

Then there are two “side projects” that have been especially fun this year: ThingsCon and Zephyr.

ThingsCon, our global community on a mission to foster the creation of a responsible & human-centric IoT, has been growing steadily. Milestones in 2017 include:

  • Another research trip to Shenzhen, the Silicon Valley of hardware.
  • We had a bunch of ThingsCon-labeled publications, including about Shenzhen and IoT trustmarks: View Source: Shenzhen, The State of Responsible IoT, A Trustmark for IoT.
  • We launched the ThingsCon Fellowship Program to recognize achievements and commitment that advance the ThingsCon mission of fostering the creation of a responsible and human-centric IoT generally, and support for the ThingsCon community specifically. Shout-out to our most excellent six initial fellows, Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, Ame Elliott, Dries de Roeck, Iohanna Nicenboim, Michelle Thorne and Ricardo Brito. I hope we’ll get the fellowship program into full swing in 2018!
  • New cities with salons or conferences around the world. Let me use stats from November: At that point ThingsCon events have happened in 20 cities across 12 countries, from Berlin to Brussels to Amsterdam and Milan to London and Shanghai to Austin and Copenhagen and Nairobi.

I can’t possibly tell you how awesome this is for me to watch and experience. Learn more at thingscon.com.

Zephyr Berlin, the trousers/pants project M and I launched on Kickstarter just over a year ago, continues to be a lot of fun. Just a few weeks back we produced another small batch of men’s trousers, this time with super deep pockets to make things like cycling with large phones super easy. So there’s a new batch of men’s, and a very small number of women’s available. Check out zephyrberlin.com to learn more.

Conferences

A lot less conference work this year. What I did in terms of conferences was mostly for ThingsCon. I always enjoyed conferences (both the curation and the planning, but the curation much more than the planning), but not having a conference to plan isn’t too bad either, to be honest. A lot of my other work, especially the writing, would not have been possible if I had committed to another conference.

As a directly related note, without the fantastic, lovable, smart and endlessly committed ThingsCon Amsterdam crew and their annual ThingsCon event (it just happened for the fourth time!), ThingsCon also wouldn’t be what it is today. My eternal thanks go to Iskander, Marcel & Monique and their team.

Speaking

As part of my cutting down on conference travel, I gave just a few talks in 2017. Most of them focused on IoT and consumer trust.

There were a few at ThingsCon events like in Berlin and Shenzhen, others were at Underexposed, TU Dresden, Netzpolitik conference, DevOpsCon, and Transatlantic Digital Debates. There were also a few (paid) in-house talks.

Media

It was a pretty good year for media and writing. Among others, my thoughts or projects were mentioned/quoted/referenced/etc on CNN, SPIEGEL, and WIRED. I had some interviews—the lovely conversation for Markus Andrezak’s Stories Connected Dots stands out to me.

Things started and discontinued

Started:

  • Writing more, if you’ll forgive me going so meta.

Continued:

  • Zephyr Berlin, producing pants that travel extremely well.
  • ThingsCon as an event platform, and growing it beyond that into other areas of engagement.

Discontinued:

  • My Facebook account, just now as I’m writing this. Bye bye Facebook. You feel like Old Social Media by now, not worth having around.

Books read

Read an okay, but not great amount. I think it was pretty much these: WTF, Tim O’Reilly. Control Shift, David Meyer. The Rings of Saturn, W. G. Seibald. Wiener Straße, Sven Regener. Go: Die Mitte des Himmels, Michael H. Koulen. Babyjahre, Remo H. Largo. American Gods, Neil Gaiman. Death’s End, Deep Forest, The Three-Body Problem, Cixin Liu. Goldene Unternehmerregeln, Bihr & Jahrmarkt. Schadenfreude, Rebecca Schuhman. Rapt, Winifred Gallagher. Shoe Dog, Phil Knight. The Story of My Teeth, Valeria Luiselli. Snuff, Terry Pratchett . Deep Work, Cal Newport. Bonk, Mary Roach. The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene. The Industries of the the Future, Alec Ross.

Firsts & some things I learned along the way

Firsts: Wrote a ton of long form and launched it properly. Cut an umbilical cord. Diapered a newborn. Merged photo libraries.

Learned: How to communicate my work (focus, offering, structure) better (as the website will demonstrate). To make time for writing, thinking, processing input. Some Python. Some more about tech policy. These are all qualitative upgrades in my book.

So what’s next?

It looks like 2018 might bring a fantastic opportunity to continue some of my work from this year and before in a big-impact context; if this happens, I’ll be extremely happy. (If not, I’ll continue chipping away at the same issues with all the means available to me.) I hope to continue doing lots of research and writing. I’ll take some parental leave at some point, and otherwise spend as much time as I can with the baby. (They grow up so fast, as I’m learning even now, after not even a month.) Some travel, and hopefully once more a month or two spent working from a new place.

I’m always up for discussing interesting new projects. If you’re pondering one, get in touch!

But for now, I hope you get to relax and enjoy the holidays!

Thanks and Happy Holidays: That was 2016

T

This is end-of-year post #9 (all prior ones here).

So what happened in 2016? Let’s have a look back: Part work, part personal. Enjoy.

I’m not going to lie: Globally and politically, 2016 was a messy year: Not cool. Political institutions and alliances have been crumbling, there’s been upheaval around the world, and populists have gained ground. I don’t see any big utopian visions, and any larger narratives with a positive angle. Yet, we need shared visions and utopian models more than ever. Also, this isn’t a time to stay quiet, or passive. We’re all needed to make sense of the world, and to improve it in the ways we can.

That said, for me it was personally a very good, interesting, engaged year. I learned a lot, met plenty of old & new friends, got to see many fantastic and fascinating places. Things were happening, lots of them, continuously. Looking back at it now it was a crazy-productive year. (So much so that I had to go through my monthnotes not to forget anything.)

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Thanks & Happy Holidays: That was 2015

T

This is end-of-year post #8 (all prior ones here).

What happened in 2015? What a year, where to begin!

As is the tradition with this end-of-year post, it’s part work, part personal. Enjoy.

The theme for 2015

Last year I described 2014 as “a year of building foundations. Much more than ever before did I focus on creating a stable basis for future things rather than pushing ahead first.”

This couldn’t have held more true: 2015 was for building things on top of those foundations, for growth and new collaborations.

My work this year has also been totally and entirely dominated by the theme of connectedness: Internet of things, connected cities / homes / services.

The company has had a fantastic year, all the IoT & hardware efforts have led to another round of ThingsCon as well as a lot of work around IoT, connected services & smart cities – with engagements including corporate and government work, speaking, curating, R&D, business and product strategy work, and much more. Also, a rather large amount of self-initiated projects including an essay-collection-turned-ebook and more.

Personally I’ve very much enjoyed that I could focus my work a lot not just on #IoT, but particularly on the aspect of user rights and value: The ethical aspects of unconditionally putting users first and the positive impact this has on a business. Championing user rights is something I’ve always done where I could, and it’s slowly but surely become a core aspect of my work – needless to say I’m thrilled, and starting to put this front and center in the messaging of my service offerings, too.

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Thanks & Happy Holidays: That was 2014

T

This is end-of-year post #7 (all prior ones here). Slowly I’m getting into the habit.

What happened in 2014? A lot. Let’s dive in!

The theme for 2014

In hindsight, I’d describe 2014 as a year of building foundations. Much more than ever before did I focus on creating a stable basis for future things rather than pushing ahead first. This goes both for personal and professional life, like the way I set up my new company as an umbrella for all new projects and signing a long term office lease.

That, and strong presence of both Japan and Finland (in the form of trips, client work and collaborations) which I very much welcome.

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Thanks & Happy Holidays: That was 2013

T

This is my sixth end-of-year post (all prior ones here). Stunned!

So what happened?

Friends & Family

 

In the spring, I married M, and couldn’t possibly be happier. This alone would have made my year perfect.

I’m very happy that more friends married, and that some had babies, and that my goddaughter is growing up nicely, and that my family is healthy & happy & overall very well. So that part’s all good.

That alone would make for a (very happy, but also) really boring post, so here goes.

Travel

Once more, I feel very lucky in that I got to travel a lot. Destinations include (in alphabetical order) Bad Herrenalb, Bad Kreuznach, Belgrade, Brighton, Buenos Aires, Hamburg, India, Karlsruhe, Kassel, London, Portugal, Rijeka and Scotland and Wales, spread out over about 15 trips and about 102 days total. Among other things, I got to spend about a month each in Buenos Aires and India, and got to hike in Scotland, Wales and England.

In this order: India, England, Buenos Aires.

A year of experimentation & learning

Even more than in many previous years I got to experiment and learn a lot. I got to dig into a whole slew of tech & business ideas, work with old and new collaborators, and generally just opened up the possibility space really wide before slowly starting to narrow it down again. Maybe the biggest change for me in terms of business thinking was to slowly adjust away from the mental model of client work (which is all about billable days) and into product/dev work (which is all about progress first and cashflow/billable time second). If, like me, you’ve worked almost always for clients (ie. sold services) this is a big change, and one that takes some getting used to. It does feel great, though, to invest time into building something new.

Along the way, I started and subsequently pulled the plug on one company and one service, started two conferences that are going strong (UIKonf, ThingsCon), and am in the early stages of launching another thing with a much-esteemed partner. Long-time collaborator and office mate Matt and I also built several prototypes of digital-to-physical print things, one of which hasn’t made it past the “print-out-a-test-dummy” phase, one of which is about to go into production. All of these also serve as an example for my previous point – it’s a mental shift from billing hours to investing into product development.

ThingsCon & UIKonf & Ignite Berlin & NEXT Berlin

If anything, chairing or programming (and sometimes initiating) conferences has taken on a whole new quality for me this year.

There’s NEXT Berlin of course, where like the last years I’m a curator and program director along with the fantastic Monique van Dusseldorp. (Disclosure: SinnerSchrader/NEXT Berlin are clients of mine.)

Then there’s Ignite Berlin, which has now been going strong since 2010 I believe – we just had #4 a few months ago.

UIKonf was such a resounding success that Chris, Matt and I aren’t just continuing it into 2014, but also incorporated to make it easier to run sustainably.

And then of course there’s Things, which started out with a harmless conversation with Max & Simon and then took on such a life of its own – my mind’s blown. We’re just getting started, and already we’ve been getting so much fantastic feedback on all the backchannels that I can’t wait for the day.

Wrote some stuff

I got to write a few things, and give some talks (actually, mostly panels this year).

Wrote the cover story for this issue on T3N.

Didn’t actually write for this second issue of The Alpine Review, but did manage to contribute at least some content, interviews & contacts. Here, the copy doubles as backdrop for a planning call for UIKonf.

Oh yeah, over at KANT, we also expermimented with a topic sprint, aka five people in a room for a day cranking out a report that will be published come night-time, no matter what. Super interested time constraints to work with. Curious to refine this process some more.

Firsts & some things I learned along the way

Along the way, I learned some things and did some things for the first time.

I take enough steps every day. I should sleep a little more. Standing desks are great, but improvised standing desks are only so-so. Getting funding for a product is both harder and easier than expected. Kindles break easily if you twist their display. Built a lamp, and poured something out of concrete. Well-made shoes are awesome. It’s worth locking the door all the way. Travel is good and productive. Went to Argentina, Croatia, India, Serbia, Wales for the first time.

Some things I’ll try to do (read: resolutions!)

Policy input. For quite a while I’ve been wondering how to best make a contribution to how we can get Berlin/Germany/Europe ready for the 21st century on a policy level, namely what a digital agenda for Europe should look like. It’s a super relevant issue (rather, a whole slew of issues) that I feel a certain obligation to contribute my part in. How? Not sure yet.

Learn more languages. In terms of actual languages, I was lucky to attend a school that gave me a very solid prep. And even though I lost most of my fluency due to inactivity in French and Latin and stuck mostly to English (and my native German of course), it gave me a broad base to build on. So, no more excuses not to learn Spanish. I’ve been training a bit via Duolingo, and want to intensify it. But also I feel like brushing up on my meager coding skills. Codecademy & Co to the rescue!

Figure out how to best consolidate all the roles and hats I wear professionally depending on context. Most likely, I’ll just roll them all into one company to make it easier for others to understand, and to minimize administration.

More family visits. Been getting better about this over the last year or two, and I’ll try to make a point of seeing both my parents and my sister more often. Neither of us is getting any younger, so there’s really no good reason not to make the effort.

So what’s next?

I’m typing this on my way to a brief holiday trip to my family and later to see some friends. Back in Berlin, I’m looking forward to a pretty intense 2014. Between three conferences more or less back-to-back in May that will need quite some preparation in the first months of the year, a talk in January in Amsterdam, client work, a new venture and quite a few upcoming work-related trips, I won’t be bored anytime soon.

Happy Holidays

On that note, I got nothing more to say than Happy Holidays. I hope you’ll have a great start in 2014. See you on the other side.

Thanks & Happy Holidays: That was 2012

T

So that was the year – time for a brief look back at what happened, as I’ve been doing for the last few years. (This is the fifth year in a row – crazy, eh? Here are numbers one to four.)

So what happened? Lots and lots and lots, actually, and mostly good stuff, too.

Raygun Gothic Rocketship

Travel

Another year of crazy travel, both work-related and personal. Like many of you, this puts me in an odd position: I enjoy traveling tremendously, yet I’m haunted by the horrible carbon footprint I produce. I’ll need to find a way to get better at this, but have no idea yet how.

Mostly I organize and track my trips through Tripit, which is fantastic but has certain weaknesses on multi-stop trips, so I might be missing a couple here. Anyway, according to Tripit, and unfiltered, I went on 23 trips totaling 91 days and close to 66.000km, which brought me to 28 cities in 11 countries. Chronologically, this would looks something like this:

Bad Schandau & Bad Kreuznach & Bad Orb & Münster & Hamburg & Münster & Cologne & Bonn & Japan & Hamburg & Westerland & Dublin & Hamburg & San Francisco & Sebastopol & London & Osterstedt & Casekow & Istanbul & Hamburg & Kassel & Paris & Karlsruhe & Dublin & Tel Aviv & London & Zurich. And I’m about to leave for another trip to Boston & Karlsruhe to visit both our families as I’m writing this.

Some of these trips brought me, unsurprisingly, to conferences. So I got the chance to attend Republica, Next (as curator), Foo Camp, Open IoT Assembly, Digitale Selbstvermessung (as organizer), Tech Open Air, Next Service Design (as curator), DLD Tel Aviv, Dublin Web Summit, WIRED London, TED Salon London and Mozilla Festival. Among quite a few others. (Phew!)

Work

The trickiest part for me to sum up in a few sentences this year is certainly this section on about my work. For the first half year, I worked on lots of stuff at Third Wave, then left the company in late summer/fall to switch tracks. So I became a freelancer for the second time and am working on new stuff. One is that I’m serving as Program Director for Next Conference. (Disclosure: Next are clients.) At the same time, I have some other gigs going, and am working on something new. As of a few weeks ago, I’m also sharing an office with Matt, and we’ve been working on a few projects as well.

Not to try and be all mysterious here, but some things need honing before I feel comfortable talking about them, so give me some time before expecting any announcements.

Media

Had a few media appearances in (to me, at least) very unlikely outlets like Forbes, Fit For Fun and Apotheken Umschau (shown below, shooting iPhones out of my Android phone), as well as some radio interviews.

Apotheken Umschau Courtesy of Apotheken Umschau, I can now shoot phones out of my phone.

 

Speaking of media, I was (and still am) super excited to be part of the team behind The Alpine Review. It feels like in some small way this allows me to be part of something much bigger and very, very relevant.

The Alpine Review The Alpine Review

 

Friends and family

As these things go, it’s all good in the family. In fact, I’ll be meeting a big chunk of the new family for the first time in a few days, so that’s exciting. Otherwise nothing new to report. (Which is usually a good thing!)

Engaged!

Back in May, I asked the fantastic M. to marry me in front of Mount Fuji (and she said yes.) Am a happy man indeed. This was the view:

Fuji-san

Firsts!

Some things I believe I did the first time in 2012: Visited Japan. Got engaged. Bought a painting. Left a company I co-founded. Bought a really good office chair. (Chairman Bruce might be proud.) Took coding classes online. Installed a developer version of an operating system on a phone. Printed a flip book from an animated gif.

So what’s next?

First, I’m about to leave for a series of short trips to Boston and southern Germany to visits friends & family. Starting around mid-January, M. and I will be doing something that I used to do more regularly before and hadn’t been able to make happen as often recently: We’ll be moving to a city we both don’t know to work from there for a bit. Concretely, we’ll be living and working in Buenos Aires for a month. If you want to meet up or have any recommendations, please share (in the comments, on Twitter, or here.)

Happy Holidays

On that note, I got nothing more to say than Happy Holidays, I hope you have a great start in 2013. See you on the other side.

 

Former annual wrap-ups here.

Thanks & Happy Holidays: 2011 Wrap-Up

T

It’s become a tradition for me to write a little wrap-up at the end of the year, both to remember, and to remind myself what the year was like. So this is mostly for myself, but I hope you enjoy it, too.

magical science creature capture
Image by Goopymart, some rights reserved.

Crazy travel

I love traveling, so I do whenever I can. Luckily, my job allows me lots of trips. According to Dopplr, in 2011 I took some 33 trips to 8 countries. Which come to think of it doesn’t sound that crazy, but it’s an average of almost 3 trips per month, which is nothing to scoff at.

Third Wave

My company Third Wave recently turned one. This is certainly the biggie in this annual wrap up: This year for me was largely dominated by our company, which I’m told is normal. Last year this time we had just kicked off, and were just getting organized. This year we have a bit more than a full year under the belt, and that’s a different story altogether. For one, it means that our little enterprise made it through the first year, which is when most new companies fail. So that’s good.

There’s a lot to learn when starting a company, so I’m learning a lot. Some things are more explicit (how does book keeping work?), some more implicit (leadership, criticism, self-analysis, presenting and representing, and overall thinking more like a CEO than a freelancer). All of these are very useful skills way beyond work, so I’m thankful to be learning more about them in this context, for this purpose.

Also, after 15 months we know that not just the company works, but that the three of us also work well together. Obviously we were confident that the team dynamics would work out, but that’s the hardest of all things to plan. I’m enjoying it tremendously to be working with Igor and Johannes, and to see where we can take this whole thing. 2012 will be a good & exciting year.

Cognitive Cities

Early in the year, I had the chance to co-organize a conference, Cognitive Cities Conference, CoCities for short. We did that between our company Third Wave, our office mates Your Neighbours (now Gidsy) and a loose group of friends and freelancers. It was an intense and quite excellent experience. Once you accept that sleep is overrated and go all in, nothing beats the adrenaline high you get from a conference going strong. Plus, I got the chance to meet a big group of very smart and interesting folks both at the event and in the aftermath, which I’ll always be thankful for. In 2012, we won’t run CoCities again, but we’re putting together a number of smaller events.

Friends & Family

In 2011, a number of excellent personal things happened. After a few years, M. and I found a nice place and moved in together, which turned out great. In a relatively rare family trip, my sister and I took our mom to Amsterdam, good fun all ’round. In terms of friends & family celebrations, my dad turned 70 with quite a party, close friends got married and other friends pregnant, and there were some job-related level-ups. I’m happy for all of you!

Tacky Gift Contest

In unrelated news, I was crowned as winner of the Tacky Gift Contest (2005-2011). Two friends from Australia and I have been having an on-going contest on who could find the tackiest gifts possible (certain rules apply, and the budget is set in advance). In each round, two would buy gifts, the third would judge. It’s much more fun than it might sound like, and it’s a tremendously social experience. In fact, I didn’t manage to stay in regular touch with many of my friends from when I lived in Australia, but I still am in touch with 100 per cent of the Tacky Gift Contest contestants. Anyway, I won, and I have a PDF to prove it and all. We’ll open up round two of the contest, and this time it won’t take six years to complete.

Happy Holidays!

I’m writing this at the beginning of a series of short trip to visit friends & family. For the next week or two, I’ll be largely off the grid, but friendly words and friendly faces are always welcome. That said, enjoy your holidays. See you on the other side.

Former annual wrap-ups: 2008, 2009, 2010.