Raygun Gothic Rocketship

Sometimes, even if things are going well and are enjoyable, it’s important to see if where your live is headed, and to change course to make sure to stay on track. For me, now is such a time. I’m leaving Third Wave.

I’ve been running Third Wave together with my friends Igor and Johannes for about two years now, and it couldn’t have been better. We started a kick-ass company out of nowhere, and got lots of good feedback for our work, and had a blast doing it. We ran a few events, and even grew to one employee and a couple of trainees. Personally, I learned lots and lots, and I met a whole bunch of wonderful, inspiring people.

And still, recently I started to realize there’s something else I needed to do, something that the framework of a consulting shop wouldn’t allow. I need to put to test what I’ve been preaching to clients for the last few years.

I haven’t quite decided on the details of my next steps, but I’m drawn to build something at scale, something that matters, with larger impact.

To be perfectly clear here: I don’t think that the work at Third Wave, or strategy consulting in general for that matter, isn’t important or doesn’t have an impact. It clearly does, and always will. Every strategy that helps a large organization get better at what they do has large-scale impact.

My decision to leave is a purely personal one, based on a professional change of direction after some five to seven years of full-time consulting work.

A big, big thank you to Igor and Johannes, to the team, to our clients and everybody who supported us along the way. There’s no way I’ll ever be able to express just how much all that meant for me. Thank you.

For a few weeks or months, I’ll afford myself the freedom to zoom out to bird-eye level, to lose focus, and to talk to a lot of people, bouncing ideas and thoughts. Only then, after some time to re-think how, where and in what context I should focus my energy, I’ll make a definite decision on what’s next. Until then, I’ll look closely at the mental equivalent of Venn diagrams – where my interests and skills intersect, where my desire to work towards scale and my background intersects, that kind of thing.

Also, as I wrote over at the Third Wave blog, I won’t get bored anytime soon. In fact, I have more than enough work cut out for the time being. Among other things, I’ll be service as Program Director for NEXT Berlin Conference 2013 as well as the upcoming spin-off, NEXT Service Design Conference; I’ll keep working on some things with Third Wave; I’m editor-at-large, Europe, for an upcoming magazine code-named Project377 (scheduled to launch next month). And there are a number of side projects that I’ve been having an itch to get started on.

So I’m writing this blog post with a laughing and a crying eye. On one hand, I get melancholic about the opportunities not seized with the great crew at Third Wave. On the other, I’m super excited and exhilarated about the next steps.

Can’t wait to get started.

Notes on Copenhagen & Ersatz Reboot Conference


Ersatz Bike by Sten Jauer

So, no Reboot conference this year. However, a small team stepped up to organize Ersatz Conference for those who crave a shot of Copenhagen this time of the year. (Guilty as charged.) So Igor and I headed over to beautiful CPH and spent a few days there and took a short break from day-to-day work. Ersatz was just the excuse we had been looking for.

Just a few notes about the trip.

First of all: Thanks, thanks and thanks to Claus Dahl for spearheading the efforts to have Ersatz. Thanks also to the whole crew at Ersatz for switching to English during the conference to allow Igor and me to participate. (Along with Gernot Poetsch, we were the only non-locals.) Thanks to all participants for sharing their stories. Thanks to Steffen Christensen, Thomas Mygdal and Mark Jensen for giving us the tour of the new 23 offices and for Mark’s guided tour through the city – great fun!

The conference was an intimate, personal affair. Great stuff actually: Over BBQ and brunch there was plenty of time to share stories and insights, in workshops we could go more formal where needed. Igor and I gave a variation of the talk “Playful Cities” that Igor and Johannes had given before. And found out that quite a number of the projects we showed in the talk are already more or less implemented in Denmark, at least to some degree. I joked that Denmark might be living in the future already and nobody had noticed; in hindsight, I’m wondering if there’s more truth to it than I thought at the moment.

But Copenhagen has more to offer than conferences, and with a few days on our hands we went about finding the best third wave coffee in town. And boy, did we find good coffee. There are two places I’d like to highlight:

First, Ricco’s. Ricco’s is a mini chain, kind of a four-store franchise, and it’s just like an urban coffee shop should be: nice, relaxed atmosphere, intense and interested baristas who care to help you find the best you might want to have, and, well, delicious coffee. Great, absolutely fresh snacks, too. It’s a pleasure. I was only at one of the shops, but I’m sure they’re all great.

Second, Kaffe & Vinyl. This is an entirely different atmosphere, but just as great. In its tiny-ness it might even be more social. Kaffe & Vinyl, like the name indicates, is a coffee shop & vinyl store. You get to listen to and buy a small, but on first glance very decent selection of records – which are also the source of the music played in store, of course – and an even smaller but equally good selection of caffeinated products. The shop is clearly a labor of love, and it shows. Folks cue up and don’t mind waiting a few minutes to get a cuppa and then sit mostly outside in the sun as there is space for no more than a few inside at any time. While I was there I ended up chatting with a few folks, one of them claiming that besides Bonanza Coffee Heroes (my favorite Berlin coffee shop) and Coffee Collective, Kaffe & Vinyl might be the best coffee shop in Europe. Quite a claim, and there are too many coffee shops in Europe I haven’t checked out (yet), but it’s certainly not crazy to assume that there’s a spot at the top with Kaffe & Vinyl’s name on it. I didn’t make it to Coffee Collective this time, but hey, there’s always a next Reboot and thus a chance to check them out.

Anyway, long story short: Next time your in Copenhagen, make sure to grab a cup at each of those!

Image: Ersatz Bike by Sten Jauer

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

Bruce Sterling at Reboot11 (some belated quotes)


Earlier this summer I went to Reboot11 (and loved it). Sadly, I never really got around to write down all the stuff we talked about there. But here’s a few quotes from the particularly great Bruce Sterling talk.

The quotes are actually not from the talk itself but from David Weinberger’s live blogging summary:

Sterling on geeks and favela chic in the context of different “quadrants of the future”:

The other side of Reboot in power is low-end: Favela chic. You’ve lost everything but you’re wired to the gill and still big on Facebook. Everything you believe as geeks is Favela thinking. This venue is itself a stuffed animal. The unsustainable is the only frontier you are. You’re old in old-new structure, a steam punk appropriation.

What can I say? He’s spot on. I’m writing this from our coworking space Studio70, a lofty, industrial-style Berlin backyard office, where we all sit on table differently arranged every day, working from our laptops, shoving data and information back and forth. We’re sharing desks and meeting room, improvising with every new gadget and feature we build in here, in the room next door a makerbot is being assembled. In other words: it’s a steam punk appropriation.

And on sustainable lifestyle in a geek context:

You’re going to be dead much longer than you’re alive. So you need to do stuff that you can do better than your dead great grandfather. How can you do this, he asks. A geek-friendly approach to consumption. For people of your generation, objects are print-outs. They’re frozen social relationships. Think of objects in terms of hours of time and volumes of space. It’s a good design approach. Because if you’re picking these things up — washing it, storing it, curating it — these possessions are really embodied social relationships: made by peole, designed by people, sold by people, etc. Relationships that happen to have material form. You might argue that you ought to buy cheap things or organic. That’s not the way forward. Economizing is not social. If you economize, you’re starving someone else. You need to reassess the objects in your space and time.

Also, here’s the whole talk, and so worth watching:

Reboot 11


It has taken me awhile to digest all the input from Reboot 11, but I wanted to share at least a few brief thoughts and impressions. (I’ll try to follow up with some more substance, but won’t promise anything.) So here’s a more or less random list of some things that struck me as particularly noteworthy.

There was a RepRap printing 3D stuff, which always feels to me like watching the future. (Note: One piece on one of the two RepRaps broke during transport and the guys managed to print a replacement. How awesome is that?) There were mini lounge chairs. There were great talks. We had great dinner at BioMio and a fun afterparty, too. There was even a wifi bike. (Did I mention spectacular weather?)

David Weinberger, who I always love to see talk, spoke about the web being a morally charged tool, and about optimism:

Bruce Sterling talked about the challenges of the next decade, not acting like we (as a generation) were dead, why we shouldn’t try to beat our dead great-grand dads, and why it’s so important to get a decent bed & chair & other stuff we spend much time with. Sounds weird? Rather inspiring, really, because he nailed quite a lot of things. That’s something you get a lot at Reboot: Inspiration from unexpected places and areas of thought. Here’s Bruce Sterling in a post-talk interview:

To sum it up: It was a great bunch of people there and I think we all took home a lot of new brain food, and met a few new friends. Thanks to all of you, and particularly of course the orga team and Thomas for putting it all together.