Tagwrapup

Thanks & Happy Holidays: That was 2014

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Thanks & Happy Holidays: 2009 Wrap-Up

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Happy Holidays!

It’s almost the end of the year, and that means it’s the time to take a minute to think back to what happened during the year, and remember the good stuff, so to speak.

As is always the nature with this kind of posts, it’s more interesting for the author than the readers, so like I said in last year’s post:

The longer version below will be more interesting for me than you, probably. If you skip this post I won’t be disappointed. I promise ;)

So, here’s my 2009. A year which I’m sure will always remember fondly. For me it was a year full of political campaigning, coworking and events galore.

Work-related, I had the chance to work with many new and old clients and partners, and it’s been great. Thank you all – I really feel privileged to be able to have the kind of live I have and get paid for doing stuff I love to do, and I’ve been having an awesome time working with you guys. Thanks, thanks and thanks!

One project I found particularly interesting, and I spent a good deal of time and energy on it: Together with Thomas Praus & Panorama3000 I helped Jusos (the youth organization of the Social Democratic Party, in short SPD) run their federal election campaign. It was, as far as I know, the first time that the Jusos ran their own campaign independently from the party. Even though the election results were disappointing in the end, we experienced a great community of politically engaged young adults and we all learned a tremendous deal.

What else? According to Dopplr, I went on 25 trips in six countries. One of them was to New York, where I spent the whole month of May, working from the great Brooklyn-based coworking space The Change You Want To See. (My friend Matthias, who designed the waving cat xmas motif above, also spent some time there.) The community at The Change inspired me so much that upon return to Berlin it didn’t take much convincing to be one of the first members of a new coworking space in the making in Berlin-Neukölln: When we were introduced to the location, it was a matter of weeks until Studio70 opened up.

At Studio70, a great crowd ranging from fashion designer to tinkerer to journalist and many more gathered, and it wasn’t long until it became clear that an event needed to be held to celebrate this mix. Atoms&Bits Festival was born, and within just a few months we pulled together the whole thing that in the end had reached out to some 30 locations in several cities. It was a lot of work, but also very rewarding to see all these different scenes and subcultures mix and mingle. Atoms&Bits culminated in a weekend of events the same day as the federal elections in Germany, so the weekend of the 26/27 September 2009 was kind of a big day for me. If I had a paper calendar, this weekend would have been circled in a thick, red circle. (But I don’t, and Google Calendar doesn’t do this kind of stuff, so it became just another weekend ;)

Right after Atoms&Bits and the elections, it was time for a little break, so off to a vacation I went. Luckily, a good friend and former housemate from my university time in Sydney happened to get married just then and I had the honor to be one of the brothers/best men, and even more luckily he lives in Singapore, so the destination of the trip was easily decided. After a blast of a time there and seeing many faces I hadn’t seen in years, I came back to Berlin, just in time to receive a notice from the TED crew, informing me that our request to run a TEDx event was approved. So we putTEDxKreuzberg on the map, to be held at, and more importantly with, Betahaus. Again, great fun, and we’re still processing all the things we heard and saw there. (And the videos, too.) And just like last year, we had a monthly Likemind kaffee klatsch at good ol’ St Oberholz. Thomas and I have been having a great time with this and we’ve both met so many cool folks, we’ll definitively going on doing this, so make sure to drop by (3rd Friday of the month, 9am).

To finish the year off, the most recent turn of events led me to Strasbourg, France, where I’ve been spending the last couple weeks (and until some point in January 2010) at Arte, a German-French public TV station, doing some behind-the-scenes concept work.

So that was my 2009. Definitively not bad. And since 2010 always has been the start of the future, we’re bound to see another cool year in just about a week. Hope to see you there.

Image: The lovely xmas motif was done for me by Matthias Pflügner. (Thanks!)

Thanks & Happy Holidays: 2008 Wrap-Up

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The end of the year is always a good time to sit down for a few minutes and think back: What happened over the year, what worked out well (and what didn’t), what was surprising, new, mind-blowing?

Short version: It was an awesome year, thanks all you guys.

The longer version below will be more interesting for me than you, probably. If you skip this post I won’t be disappointed. I promise ;)

Waving Cats in Kuala Lumpur Waving cats in Kuala Lumpur. Some reserved: CC (ny-nc-sa)

So what happened this year? According to Dopplr, I went on 28 trips in six countries. My path has crossed with many a cool folks’ paths which I enjoyed a lot. (Still do, of course.) My sister got married, and several friends had babies (congrats!). The start of 2008 also meant saying goodbye to the small webdesign agency I had been running with my long-term friend and partner in crime Thomas Lacher. We had a great time, but after almost ten years it was time for both of us to move on and focus on our other projects, and I’m curious when we’ll be working together again. I switched to Mac, which even after, dunno, 16 years or so on Windows turned out to be surprisingly hassle-free. Oh, my blog got a new design and a custom-made logo. (W00t!)

And I’ve worked on a lot of projects with clients and partners old and new:

With the Netzpiloten I’ve worked on Blogpiloten.de, a German blog magazine. There, I started out as managing editor, then I moved on to project lead and could win Steffen Büffel to take over managing the authors, which has been a great ride. Expect news from Blogpiloten soon. Also with Netzpiloten, we’ve been working on a number of other projects, most of which aren’t public yet, but one we launched in record speed was a website for famous German comedian Thomas Hermanns: Für Immer Disco is his site about Disco Culture. I’ve been working with Netzpiloten for a couple of years by now and it’s always been a pleasure.

At UOC, a Barcelona/Spain-based university with a focus on knowledge society and virtual teaching, I was involved in a couple of projects, most notably a workshop on Web 2.0 in Education at the UNESCO Chair for E-Learning. Also, Max Senges, Thomas Praus and I have been writing an innovation newsletter for UOC (published here), which will really take off in 2009. Really digging my teeth into E-Learning was great – I also learned a lot, and the teaching community in this field is awesome.

For Golf- und Landclub Berlin-Wannsee, Germany’s top golf club, I’ve prepared a major website relaunch in cooperation with Panorama3000. The site isn’t online yet, but will be soon.

For London-based social media agency We Are Social I’ve helped out with the blogger outreach for Germany for Ford’s new Ka launch campaign. Germany is traditionally a hard market for those talking to bloggers. (Sometimes it seems to me that the German blogosphere is still in its infancy, and I wish German bloggers would look more strongly for input from outside Germany. We’ll see where it goes 2009.) With Hamburg-based Colt Communications we’ve been brewing up a fancy new project not to be announced yet. In cooperation with Panorama3000 I drafted a strategy for the European and federal online election campaigns for Jusos, the youth organization of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, SPD.

Thanks to my friends and office mates at Panorama3000, it has been a great year with you guys!

2008 was the year of liveblogging. I was hired to live-blog at SinnerSchrader‘s next08 conference, T-Systems MMSDresden Open Space and Deutsche Welle‘s blog awards The BOBs.

Speaking of liveblogging: Event coverage from insiders for insiders is what we’ve also been doing with Berlinblase.de. Together with the rest of the crew, we went to Web 2.0 Expo Berlin, LeWeb Paris and several Barcamps and reported back to those who couldn’t join in. What started out as a little tumblelog has been growing into a full-blown site and team. What’s really great here is that this is a 100% passion project with no commercial interests. It just works, and the feedback has been great. (Thanks to the rest of the crew, and also to TechWeb, O’Reilly and LeWeb for the invites and your feedback!) In 2009 we’ll ramp up our efforts even more. Expect some cool stuff there.

Berlinblase also got a fair bit of media coverage. The other time I appeared on a media outlet was about Likemind, a monthly kaffeeklatsch I also just learned about this year and that I’ve been enjoying a lot.

Speaking of fun side projects, a few friends and I have been printing and selling shirts, mostly for fun, on two sites. First, keingeschenk.de (engl: “no gift”) is where we sell the designs created by my friend and office mate, freelance illustrator Matthias Pflügner. Even simpler (and feel free to clone away) is the geeky goodness of the I Work For The Internets shirts inspired by my co-conspirator Michelle Thorne. Good fun!

So where does that leave me now? I realized that this whole freelancing thing works well for me, I love my job. And even better, it also worked out from a business point of view. This is of course a great relief. So freelancing it is. For 2009 a bunch of projects is already in the making, it looks like it’ll be an intense and really interesting year. I feel particularly lucky and privileged that I can say this despite the recent economic slow-down out there. Again, a big Thank You to all those mentioned above, and also to those I haven’t mentioned but who made my year (you know who you are).

Now it’s time for a few days off over the holidays. There’ll be plenty of good food and quality time to spend with friends and family.

If you’re wondering how to spread some love, consider joining me in donating to Kiva.org. Even small donations go a long way there. What better gift to give than the initial budget for an entrepreneur in a poorer country who can then start a business that’ll help feed the family sustainably?

Happy holidays and a good start for 2009!