Lessons from Go


Recently, I’ve been trying to get back to learning Go. I had dabbled a little a few years back, but then (like now) at a very basic beginner level. My friend Franz has kindly volunteered to teach me a thing or two, and ever since I regularly get my ass kicked. Which is fantastic as it helps me learn.

Note: If you’re a well-versed chess or Go player, you might want to skip this post. All these observations are from my beginner’s perspective and it’s quite possible they don’t do the game and its nuances justice.


Go is a very complex, rich, nuanced game. It’s probably more strategic than chess, has a strong layer of tacticts as well, and lastly there’s a code of mutual respect to be observed. Rude playing is frowned upon, maybe more than playing weak.

Being based on a military metaphor, it’s key to figure out in advance what your goals are – the strategy for the whole field, the big picture. Digging up good old Sun Tzu, we know that the art of war is to fight wars without actually having to do battle. Now, in a game of Go you won’t get by without some actual up close fighting, yet it’s quite possible to capture large chunks of the field without a fight. That is, if your strategic plan is so good that the opponent doesn’t see a chance to break through and claim that same ground.

In that very early beginner stage that I’m in at the moment, a fair bit of the learning experience is to test the waters by trying out variations of strategies and moves, and yet lacking the foresight to play out certain scenes in my mind, there’s an element of experimentation. In other words, quite often I slap down a stone on the field to see what happens.

black and white

While legit to learn, one thing becomes painfully obvious: Without a thought-out strategy, you’ll invariably fail. Playing against Franz, who’s a few levels more experienced and more skilled and helps me analyze the game while it’s going on, there are some moves that have a clear intention and may or may not be played well, but their function is clear. Then there are the experimental ones, the ones where I don’t know what I’m trying to accomplish. Poking in the dark, basically. It is these moves that lead to a thoughtful frown on Franz’s face, as he tries to find the meaning in my move, where really there is none. And again, invaribly these moves fail spectacularly. (In quite educational way, note!)

Another common mistake is to be too reactive. If you’re under pressure, or if you don’t have a clear strategy that you work towards, it’s easy to fall into the trap of reacting to your opponent’s move. In many cases, though, it would be much better to follow your strategy, to be self-directed, thus increasing the pressure on your opponent. Reacting is necessary sometimes, but mostly you should be shaping the game rather than letting someone else control your moves. A clear strategy is the first step. Getting your priorities right is another.

As someone who makes a living giving strategic advice, of course I should know better than to move without a strategy. Yet, it’s a good reminder that if you don’t know the parameters or are lacking actionable information – possible courses of action, the competition, basic knowledge etc – you’re down to guessing if you don’t have someone to support and coach you. Also, often times it’s better to work out a strategy that may not look big or ambitious or powerful, but start with something you know how to handle and then grow from there. It’s often said that 80% of success is to show up; if that’s the case, then I’d wager that another 15% is to just avoid obvious and stupid mistakes.

So I’m going to continue to get my ass kicked until I get around to putting together a solid strategy from all those black and white stones, and how to connect the dots to a coherent picture. Then, using the strategy as a guiding vector, the tactical pieces should fall into place, and some battles are lost, or won.

brief intro: my two partners


meet the crew, igor schwarzmann, johannes kleske, peter bihr

Just to get everybody up to speed on the new boutique agency I’m setting up with two friends: We can now officially announce all names involved.

So besides me it’s going to be two close friends of mine:

Igor Schwarzmann (at the moment still at KetchumPleon‘s Düsseldorf office). Some links to introduce him:

Johannes Kleske is currently at Neue Digitale/Razorfish Frankfurt. Some might have seen him recently on a BrandEins cover or in the German Apple ad. Some links to introduce him:

Not only are they two close friends of mine, they are also two of the fittest people I know in the industry. Needless to say, I can tell you: I can’t wait to get this thing rollin’.

Images (not to be taken too seriously): Rajue, myself

Re:publica 2010 Wrap Up


Bonanza coffee heroes

Below, in short, you’ll find: Thanks! International geeks! Interview! Party photos! Food! Smart cities! Drumbeat!

#Thanks! Wow, what a week. Big thanks and props to the team behind re:publica 2010. Like the last few years, it’s been a blast and incredibly well organized.

#International geeks! Yet something has changed over the last years it seems – to the better in my point of view – and that is: more international geeks. It might just be my personal perception, but I think the number of talks in English back it up: More international geeks have shown up this year. Republica has managed to become the most important geek (“geek” as in “non-corporate”) conference in Germany, and the folks outside Germany started noticing. For me that’s always a good sign, as the web scene here is pretty fragmented and really needs focal points like this. (Small side note: Lots of talks had English titles but were in German which led to some confusion.) So: If you want to get to know the German geeks, republica is the place to go.

#Interview! Speaking of change in the conference scene – and again, this is just a personal feeling – it seems to me that the less marketing and PR and agency focused conferences (republica, SXSW, barcamps and what not) keep getting more and more important. Of course, they’re each aimed at different audiences and different kinds of exchanges take place at these very different event categories (geek vs corporate event, conference vs trade fair etc). To over-simplify: On one, knowledge and personal respect are exchanged; on the other, financial deals are made. Yet, to me it seems like the lower-profile events that are aimed at those that do cool stuff will be giving the much more expensive, agency-centered conferences a run for their money. Let’s see how that plays out. Markus Richter of Trackback kindly interviewed me briefly about the role of web conferences (in German), here. (There’s also a bunch of great CC-licensed music to be found there.)

#Party photos! Also this week, my friends Igor, Caroline and I organized a party with the support of Tumblr, Tribaspace and Ketchum Pleon. Check out the photos!

#Food! Having two foodies visiting, the whole week we were out looking for great food and coffee. If you’re visiting, don’t miss out on: Bonanza Coffee Heroes and Espresso Ambulanz, Korean BBQ at Kimchi Princess and a tea time at Chen Che. Unlike will show you the way.

#Smart cities! Igor Schwarzmann and Johannes Kleske gave a talk on smart cities and how cities can be discovered in more playful manners by using technology. Their talk “Playful Urbanism” will be is up on video soon. (I’ll be posting it here, too.) You can watch their talk “Playful Urbanism” on video below and read up on the whole thing here. Igor had already talked about Smart Cities at Ignite Berlin, and they also write the blog cognitivecities.com. So along with a few others, we decided to have an event this fall around the same topic. Updates and more details soon.

Update: The video is posted below, and here’s the write-up with all the links.


#Drumbeat! Mozilla Drumbeat is all about keeping/making the web open. Drumbeat will be coming to Berlin with a full-day event on 8 May. You should be there. (I certainly will.)

While I’ll catch up on a bunch of links, I might be updating this post to include some videos or more links. But first it’s time to catch some rays.

Update: The good folks over at pl0g asked participants to tag the conference (in German):

Protect your tweets – or don’t


Recently I proposed to add a little Twitter feature, namely an indicator for why you protect your Twitter feed. (Why is this important? To prevent social awkwardness.) Tapio picked up on this issue and asked (among others) me:

You folks out there must have come across that situation: a new follower request comes in, you don’t know the person, what do you do? Simply deny? Feels impolite, doesn’t it? So here’s a meme: Why do you protect your Tweets (or not)?

Well, I’d love not to have my Twitter RSS feed indexed: So my 140 character ramblings wouldn’t be archived by The Google & co. On the other hand, all the cool mashups and extra services like FriendFeed wouldn’t work with Twitter, either. But so far, I figured the following: I’ll keep my Twitter feed public: That way, feed aggregators work, and it’s easier for new and old Twitterers to follow my tweets, i.e. to get in touch. To prevent awkward moments in the future, I’ll simply not write what I can’t stand by; and not post anything while annoyed. Both of which I guess are kind of good guidelines for any kind of communication anyway.

So back to Tapio’s meme: I’m curious, why do (or don’t) you protect your Tweets? Let’s hear from Markus (Twitter, blog), dotDean (Twitter, blog), Felix (Twitter, blog) and Michelle (Twitter, blog)