NEXT Berlin 2013 – a few notes


NEXT Berlin Preshow

NEXT Berlin is over. Two days of magic (and little sleep) that concluded months of work, and I couldn’t be happier about the way it turned out.

There were about 1.500 participants and about 150 speakers. As big events go, if you’re involved in the organization you don’t get to see much of the program throughout the day. But as a curator of course I have the privilege of knowing in advance what’s going to happen – at least to some degree – and I get to poke my head into sessions and talks here and there, or participate in some of them. Mostly, though, I soak up how things are working from the overall atmosphere and the feedback I get from participants and speakers throughout the day: Is everyone happy, did they have inspiring conversations and see inspiring talks? Do faces show exhaustion or are they full of energy? Do people stick around to chat with speakers and fellow attendees, or rush off right away? Are they going to dinner in groups, or dispersing? These are the kind of things that tell me if the event was a success, and if our program contributed as much to the success as it possibly could.

behind the scenes

And don’t be fooled, it’s not all about the program. Behind the scenes, there’s a team of super dedicated folks that work tirelessly for weeks and weeks leading up to the event to sort out logistics, travel, catering, design, etc etc etc. As it’s all behind the scenes, they’re most successful the less visible they are – in fact, only if things fail do people pay any attention to many things like wifi, snacks, tech and many others. (As a game, next time you’re at a conference, try to pay attention to all the things that don’t fail – you might be amazed by how many things you can come up with that could have failed, but haven’t! Also, if you see team members and volunteers, thank them – they deserve it.) That team deserves a huge, huge thank you and all our respect. Thank you!

my highlights

There were a few things, though, that I did manage to see, and that I’ll remember as highlights. Harper Reed‘s enthusiasm and experience were fantastic. Bruce Sterling called our peer group out as the brain and nerve center of the machine that erodes the global middle class. I’d have loved to see him speak longer. The moment just a few minutes before, when he tried out Google Glass and just dryly noted: it’s cute, very 80s. The moment Stephen Wolfram answered a question about the difference between Wolfram Alpha and Google and just noted that Sergej Brin was an intern in his company long before founding Google. When candidate for chancellor Peer Steinbrück talked about Germany’s role in the fourth industrial revolution and pushed heavily for 3D printing as a driving force in this. Many moments like that. But also to see friends and collaborators like Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsinso, Martin Spindler, David Bausola, Louisa Heinrich and all the others on stage, which I always enjoy a lot.

And then there are of course the dozens of conversations behind the stage, before the talks, and on the side lines. Of course much too short, always. (And I apologize to all of you I talked to if I had to run away in the middle of our conversation.)

what can be better

There are of course also things that can be better. Sometimes this includes organizational aspects: Wifi, even though overall it worked pretty well I think. Easier-to-read wifi access codes. Faster registration in the morning. But all of these are in my view really minor incremental improvements. The one big thing that we’ll all have to work on with every ounce of energy we have in us is to further increase diversity amongst speakers and participants. We’ve worked hard on this, and everyone on the team is hyper aware of the challenge.

Sue Reindke did the math: 97 men and 32 women, so roughly 75% male speakers. I’m not sure which numbers she used (program or actual appearances, including workshops or not, etc.), but it’s certainly close enough. This is something that I’m not proud of.

But take it from me – it’s incredibly hard to get a really diverse line-up on stage (in this industry, in Europe, with this topical focus). After all, it somehow is a snapshot of this industry – which is no excuse, just a note by way of explaning. My fellow program director Monique van Dusseldorp and I tried everything we could to find a good balance between (amongst many other axes) male/female; US/European/Global South; “big names”/most interesting; “hands on”/inspiring; etc, etc, etc.

So this will be something to keep working on, and hard. And we will, and every year will be a step in the right direction.


To cut a long story short: I’m as happy as I could be with the way these two days turned out.

So I took it slow today. Tomorrow I’ll get back into the swing of things to prepare for UIKonf next week.


Image by nextconference (CC by). Full disclosure, SinnerSchrader/NEXT Berlin is a client.

It’s NEXT Berlin week


NEXT Berlin

It’s NEXT Berlin week this week, so I’ll spend every waking hour this week around NEXT. If you sent me email, please understand that chances are I won’t be able to respond to you over the next few days.

That said, if you’re going, we’re all very happy with the program we managed to put together. If you couldn’t make it this year, the talks will be recorded and released in public at some point. To follow the discussion, the Twitter hashtags #next13 and #nextconf should be a good starting point.

I’m excited about the next few days. See you on the other side.

Full disclosure: SinnerSchrader/NEXT Berlin are clients of mine.

NEXT Service Design is a wrap


. @samin taking the stage at #sd12

This past Monday I was one of the curators for a conference called NEXT Service Design. It’s part, or rather a topical spin-off, of NEXT Berlin, where I serve as Program Director, and have been involved in a number of roles over the last few years. What we tried was to provide a focal point for the European service design community, a place to meet, exchange ideas, and mutually inspire each other.

I tend to organize events either with a pretty wide topical range – the common denominator being that all talks and speakers have to be inspiring and working on cutting edge stuff, in other words: new-ness – or with a strict focus on one emerging topic I’m interested in exploring (a vertical, so to speak). Examples for the first being Ignite talks or TEDxKreuzberg, the latter more focused beasts like Cognitive Cities Conference.

NEXT Service Design for me was an interesting experience in that it focused on a topic I knew very little about going in (very much unlike my co-curator Blundstone), and so I could learn a lot. Events about emerging technologies or topics are particularly interesting in that you can dig and find great speakers which may not have had a whole lot of exposure – it feels like unearthing or digging up a treasure in some way. It’s part of the beauty of being, in a sense, in the business of mainstreaming ideas. Now, Service Design as an industry and field has been around for quite some time, so it had a totally different dynamic to it. Yet, it’s a field that has been spreading quite unevenly between sectors and regions.

For example, as I learned from Sami Niemelä, in Finland Service Design is everywhere. No need to explain the idea to anyone, really, as all agencies and their clients are fully aware of its importance. In other countries like Germany or Sweden, it’s a different story altogether. As to why we can only speculate, but it’s a good reminder for why meetups (physical and virtual both) are so important – there’s lots to learn from one another, and diverse input leads to better outcomes.

And so it was good fun to first learn a bunch of the basics and theoretical background of Service Design, and then get two of my favorite speakers (Louisa Heinrich & David Bausola) on stage to give their unique perspectives on what’s going on.

So now that NEXT SD is over, time to quickly move on to Ignite Berlin 3, and in quick progression Dublin Web Summit, DLD Tel Aviv, WIRED 2012 and Mozfest. Yes, it’s conference season out there, and that’s the time to soak up as much input both by on-stage talks & hallway conversations as possible.


Disclosure: SinnerSchrader, who run NEXT Berlin, are clients of mine.

Speaker line-up for NEXT Service Design


Things for NEXT Service Design (Berlin, 8 Oct 2012) are lining up nicely. Our initial speaker list:

  • Pedro Custódio (Vodafone)
  • Lisa Lindström (Doberman)
  • Andy Hobsbawm (Evrythng)
  • Alexander Baumgardt (Systemic Partners)
  • Paul Sims (Made by Many)
  • Chris Downs (Method)
  • David Bausola (Philter Phactory)
  • Louisa Heinrich (Fjord)
  • Sami Niemelä (Nordkapp)

More updates on the website or Twitter (@nextconf). Tickets available here.

More soon!

Disclosure: I’m Program Director for NEXT SD and NEXT Berlin. NEXT is a client.