Week 59

A week packed with Next Conference curation, a panel on the future of education, a Third Wave retreat, a blog series on the Quantified Self and some updates on Cognitive Cities.

Phew, what a week. What a month, really! Turns out November is easily one of the busiest months in the year, that much of a pattern is becoming obvious. Not that we’re complaining, quite the opposite. So what’s been happening?

Igor’s back

Igor had been over in New York and San Francisco for the better part of two weeks, to meet a whole bunch of awesome people and attend Science Hack Day. He summarized his trip in last week’s weeknote. Now he’s back, and we hardly had time to catch up before throwing him right onto a big pile of projects we’re working on. Good to have you back, buddy!

Next Conference

We’re glad we get a chance to curate and host two tracks at the Next Berlin Conference next May. On Monday, the curators met up for the first time, and I can tell you, it’s a good group of folks. More on our ideas for the program soon. But I can give you a tiny glimpse already: We’ll be featuring experimental, innovative topics ranging from the Quantified Self to digital alter egos, from Arduino hacks to the Internet of Things. Also, some hands-on stuff to tinker. And a best-of of the user votings of sorts. Speaking of which – you can still submit proposals here.

Research, research, research

We’re still digging deep into the inner workings of both our client, Postbank, and the ins and outs of the whole digital banking sphere. The whole sector is changing rapidly, and we really want to understand it from the ground up – of course, as always, with a focus on the digital strategy and social media aspects.

The Future of Education & Coworking

Wednesday night I was invited to join a panel on the future of education, and how coworking can learn from and inspire more traditional learning institutions. The panel was the first of a series of salons with an education focus, and quite good fun. I was baffled & inspired most by a school project that I hadn’t been aware of before – a school where the students learn very self-directed and autonomously, and are not treated like someone to watch, but someone to assist in their own endeavors. What better place to learn about education than while actually being on a panel about the very topic? Audio recording of the salon might be up on the salon page at some point.

Panorama photo

Third Wave Retreat

Sticking to our well-established tradition of going on regular retreats to think freely about the future of Third Wave itelf, we headed for a few days up to the Baltic Sea. We rented a cozy place up on Usedom to talk strategy, business development, optimization, vision – and which fish restaurant to frequent, of course. We’ll be talking more about this over the next few weeks and months, but the gist is: We’re still learning, and fast, and we’re headed in the right direction.

The future of Cognitive Cities

As for CoCities, we’ve been thinking hard for quite a while. Where to take the brand, how to further develop the topic? We’re all sure we’d like to dig deeper, to work in this emerging field, to keep thinking and exploring. Which shape this is going to take isn’t one hundred percent clear yet. Pending a number of very interesting conversations we’ve set up for the coming weeks, we might leapfrog the topic, or take smaller steps.

One thing is becoming clear: There isn’t going to be a big CoCities Conference in 2012. We simply won’t have the time to put it together in a way that would match or top this year’s CoCities Conference.

That said, over the next few weeks we will have some updates, which might be very exciting if things work out. Follow this blog and our Twitter accounts @thirdwaveberlin and @cocities for updates.

The Quantified Self

Today, we’ll kick off a series of posts about the Quantified Self and body tracking. Over the next few days and weeks, watch the list of posts grow here. Over the weekend, I’m also going to be at Quantified Self Europe Conference in Amsterdam.

Quantifying future

On Thursday, I was in Hamburg following the invitation by the lovely people from Brainjuicer to speak at their WINnovation event. I always enjoy an opportunity to go to Hamburg, so I went and talked about Quantified Self and Cities.

On Thursday, I was in Hamburg following the invitation by the lovely people from Brainjuicer to speak at their WINnovation event.

It was a last-minute kind of thing after David – the man with the Weavrs – arranged the conversation. Nonetheless, I always enjoy an opportunity to go to Hamburg and in this case I even was asked to talk about Quantified Self and Cities. In essence, it was a short talk version of the workshop David, Peter and I gave at PICNIC only a few of weeks ago. I wasn’t perfectly sure about the setup of the event – as I said, it was all very last-minute –, I really didn’t know what kind of a crowd would be there and on what level people would be on this topic. Hence I decided to go into a deep dive, offer the people who are already familiar with the topic a few insights and leave everybody else with enough ideas to build their questions. Seemingly, it all worked out fairly well.

Somebody told me later at the dinner that he didn’t fully understand the topic, but it seemed as if it showed a potential future. This made me smile, because that is exactly what we try to do at Third Wave.

This might sound a bit over-the-top, but all in all that it’s pretty much spot on. Not all our projects are based on the fringes, no. But we expect from ourselves that we know what is happening on those fringes, because every time we sit down to work on strategy for our clients, we can provide them with something that is not focused on the next few months, but actually can survive the next few years. In many cases, those fringe topics don’t have a big impact on our client’s business model (yet), but they might at some point – and being prepared for it helps in the long run.

There will be a video of the talk soon. Follow us on twitter (@thirdwaveberlin) and grab the link there.

Week 49

A busy week of workshops and strategy work is behind us, so we move into a week all about the future of cities. Also, an overview of the events and projects we’re contributing to over the next few weeks: PICNIC, Social Media Week, People in Beta and Chefsache.

I couldn’t have asked for a better start into a week full of discussions on the future of cities: Right now I’m on my way to Frankfurt to visit the Audi Urban Future Summit which I was kindly invited to. The conference boasts quite a line-up of speakers including Carlo Ratti (MIT Senseable Cities Lab) and Chris Anderson (WIRED). Later this week Igor and I will be headed for Amsterdam to do a workshop with David Bausola (Weavrs). We’ll be prototyping concepts for mashups building on two huge bodies of data: human data (think Quantified Self) and city data (think Cognitive Cities). You can follow our progress on this QuantifiedCities tumblr, and we’ll be sure to follow up in next week’s weeknote.

What were we up to last week?

Johannes took part in a workshop about digital magazines at one of our clients. He provided some market overview and explored the continuous struggle of publishers to let go of their print heritage to embrace their customers’ new reading habits. Many publishers are still in that stage where they think about simply transferring their print content to new devices, but haven’t developed an understanding of how their customers actually use these devices. Fortunately, we can work with clients who are getting the hang of it.

I spent two days in Hamburg, both on client workshops and to meet up with a whole bunch of lovely people. It’s always great to be in Hamburg.

We also presented the social media strategy for a strong brand we all grew up with – internally for now, but maybe we can follow up on this more publicly soon.

Also, our friends Freunde von Freunden celebrated their international launch: Congratulations again!

In other news, we’re getting ready to move offices. Our office neighbors Gidsy need more space and so do we, so we’ll expand a little and set up our new HQ over the next few weeks. We were lucky: our address will stay the same.

So what’s up next?

At Social Media Week Berlin I’m looking forward to hosting a panel (Social Media Strategy and the Future). (Disclosure: I’m on the advisory board of SMW Berlin.)

On Saturday, Johannes will give a Pecha Kucha style talk at Chefsache Meets Berlin about how to cope with information overflow.

Betahaus invited us to be part of the People In Beta Festival (1 Oct 2011), which combines the best of maker, coworking and startup culture. We’re glad we can pitch in (among other things, Johannes will give a more in-depth presentation on information overflow, too). More on that soon.

Our travel schedules this week

Johannes will be embedded at a client most of the week. I’m in Frankfurt today. Igor and I will be at PICNIC in Amsterdam from Tuesday to Friday. (If you’re there, ping us!)

Cognitive Cities, Amsterdam

Sometimes, in a quiet moment, when nobody is watching, I do ask myself: why are we so successful with Cognitive Cities?

It has been months since we organized the conference and still, wherever we go, this at-one-time little project that became an international conference, seems to open all kinds of doors for us. It became a brand in itself. It can be a bigger brand than Third Wave, potentially.

Which is fine. We are encouraging it, too. That is one of the reasons why we decided to diversify and, instead of sticking to a once-a-year conference format, do a few smaller events that are scattered around the world. We at Third Wave are perfectly comfortable with the idea of creating things that will be more recognizable than our company brand.

Alas, the first Salon. The decision to go to Amsterdam for the first iteration was an easy one. It is a city full of dedicated people in this field, many, many bright minds. On top of that, we loved the idea of working more closely with Juha from VURB (he is involved in many other projects as well). He was one of the speakers at the main conference and he has an almost intimidating infrastructure in place. So, in essence our investment – time wise – was very limited. Everything was just … there, waiting for an event to take place.

Touw

Every new event format is an experiment. The main conference was one and the Salon as well. We knew from others that Salons usually work very well, but we never organized one ourselves. But as always, the main receipe is: curate the best possible speakers and you will do just fine.

While we didn’t record the talks of Kars Alfrink (Hubbub), Katalin Gallyas (City of Amsterdam), James Burke (VURB) and Edwin Gardner (Volume Magazine) on video this time, we’re happy to point towards some reviews of the event. And if you ever get the chance to see them speak live – Kars for example will be at dconstruct -, do use it.

In that sense, we continue our journey with Cognitive Cities, it has been a smooth run so far. For now, thank you Amsterdam for being so kind to us.

Week 39

A frustrating pitch experience and a great time in Amsterdam with the first CoCities Salon and fine coffee.

Pitch Frustrations

The last two weeks have been frustrating for me when they should have been the opposite. I was supposed to work on a pitch with some of my favorite people from an agency. I knew the client pretty good as I’ve already worked with them. It could have been a great project with a good chance for the agency to win that pitch.

Unfortunately, the client had another idea. First some disagreement with the agency delayed the pitch which gave me some strange “in-between” time where I all of a sudden had nothing to do but also knew that I could be thrown back into full pitch hassle anytime. I’ve learned from these days that I should always keep a list of little tasks that I can do wherever and whenever I find the time for them. As the pitch was finally about the start, the client canceled the whole thing one day before as they had already decided to go with agencies they already knew. Classic.

For a super-small company like us, the cancelation of a full-paid 14-days-project is a big deal. Hopefully, I can make the best of the time that is all of a sudden available and pick up all the inquiries that I had to put off until the end of July. And fortunately, we’re also involved in another pitch that feels much better from the start. It’s well paid, with a decent amount of time and a proper pitch briefing. I’ve not given up hope that just once, after 4 years in this industry, I will experience a nice pitch with a fair end.

Amsterdam

#cocities salon #cocities salon by Johannes Kleske / (CC) BY-NC-SA

The good part about last week was our trip to Amsterdam. We were there for our first Cognitive Cities Salon and had an amazing time. Fortunate for us, our CoCities speaker Juha van’t Zelfde was our local support and did a fantastic job setting the whole thing up. We were happy guests of Trouw Amsterdam, a location introduced to us as the “Berghain of Amsterdam” in an abandoned newspaper printing facility. We didn’t have much time to promote the event as our main sponsor took until the last minute for their decision before they jumped ship, so we had around 40 people attending which made for a cozy atmosphere and enabled a nice round of discussions.

James Burke James Burke by Igor Schwarzmann / (CC) BY-SA

The best part for us was that this time, there was nothing to do through the evening so we could listen to our speakers Kars Alfrink, Katalin Galayas, James Burke and Edwin Gardner. And boy, did they deliver. If you have the chance to see any of them speak, make sure you can attend.

Photo by Johannes Kleske / (CC) BY-NC-SA

We spend most of the next day in our new favorite café (very careful here to avoid calling it coffeeshop when in the Amsterdam context), the Two For Joy Coffee Roastery at Frederiksplein. Super friendly staff, a very “gezellig” atmosphere with comfy sofas and free wifi and decent freshly made food. But the best (and for us most important part, obviously) is their coffee. They have it all Australian-coffee-culture-based Espresso beverages, all the pour-over hype stuff like the Chemex. And they take the time to teach you how to prepare and enjoy the coffee. A place after our heart.

After the travel craziness of the last weeks, it looks like we’re going to spend some more time in Berlin in the next weeks. Good to be home for a change. See you on Friday at #FatSIX.

Week 38

People keep telling us that they like our week notes a lot. Thanks for reading them.

But at the last #fatsix somebody mentioned to me that while he likes our approach, we do sound very chipper about everything that is happening. I like hearing this kind of feedback. An outside perspective is very, very important. While we try to analyze our own behavior as much as possible (sometimes to an almost unhealthy degree), there are limits to what we can achieve by our own. In that sense, please do tell us your perspective – positive encouragement is important, but it’s equally important to hear what we don’t get right.

(In this context, I want to once again point out how incredibly insightful and inspiring Matt Webb’s last BERG week note was. It shows his ability to reflect and point out on the things that do work, those who don’t and what keeps him awake at night while running one of the most exciting companies I know.)

So, what’s not running smoothly at Third Wave? Well, while we do not suck at it as much as we used to, the bureaucratic side of things still occasionally gives us a headache. It has never got to a point where it became a big issue, but while some things just work naturally for us, this part of running a business still gets us all a bit edgy sometimes. We are trying to figure out how to implement the right processes for the three of us. We knew from the get go that this will be our Achilles’ heel. None of us is a manager by nature: Peter, Johannes and I … we want to be working on projects, with clients and just be out there. That makes it difficult to find a textbook solution for us, but those usually don’t match with how we structure our company anyway. If you have any recommenations of what we should be reading or who we should be talking to, please let us know. We are eager to learn.

Sometimes I muse about the distant future of Third Wave, one that does include more people than the three of us, and I do ask myself: will we be able to find someone like Matt Webb? I don’t have any doubts about the fact that BERG success is highly correlated with the fact that it’s being managed so effectively without having to much overhead structure that sucks up the time that should be used for creative output. Or will one of us grow into this role? While we don’t see each other there yet, who knows what will happen in say … two years?

There you have it, we too sometimes lie awake at night.

On another side of things: We are currently working on many client projects. Johannes will be in Frankfurt for most of the next three weeks, helping out an agency. Peter will most likely travel to Zurich a few times where he is doing some heavy lifting for another agency in a big international team.

All three of us will of course be traveling to Amsterdam for the Cognitive Cities Salon next Thursday.

Week 36

We’ve been thinking about diversification a lot, we had a BBQ, we’ll visit London and there’s a Cognitive Cities Salon coming up.

We’ve been thinking a lot about diversification recently. Let me give you a few words of background to put this into context. From the very beginning, we’ve worked with this quite basic model:

pattern recognition and output channels Image: Sketching our basic business model / the waving cat / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

We analyze how technology changes human behavior (“pattern recognition”) to help our clients understand and adapt to these changes and create a game plan for all things digital and near future. This output part would take, on a basic level, three different shapes: (1) Consulting, the most straight forward of all three; (2) Publications, which could range from a simple blogpost to a trend report or a book or anything in between. This part has come a bit short so far, but (teaser!) we’re cooking something up as I’m typing this; and (3) Events, like Cognitive Cities Conference earlier this year and the upcoming CoCities Salons (#1: Amsterdam, 30 June). Basically, consulting would be our bread & butter whereas publications and events would give us the opportunity to explore the more cutting edge stuff that’s not directly client work-related but important for us nonetheless.

Those are three categories of work that have served us well, but it’s not the only way to categorize what a business does. You could also sort out work by time frame (short vs long term), by client type (startup vs agency), by topic (advertisement vs innovation vs media), type of work (strategy vs concept vs execution), your company’s role (service provider vs network hub vs owner) or any other way that fits the framework you’re working with. We try to be very diverse in all of these categories – mono culture is never good, and diversity isn’t just more fun but also helps us leverage our network and skillsets by connecting the dots between different fields of operation.

Long story short: Over the last few weeks a whole bunch of doors have been opening, with many fascinating opportunities behind them: Some short and some long term, some solid and some cutting edge stuff. We’ll try to work out which of those opportunities to explore more in-depth, and which to give time to let simmer for the time being. These are exciting times for us. Hopefully you’ll keep accompanying us on this trip.

Friday at Six BBQ #fatsix Image: Oha. #fatsix / the waving cat / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Also, very concretely we’d like to thank all of you who showed up for our spontaneous BBQ on Friday, and Team Gidsy for co-hosting it with us. We had a blast, that’s for sure. Hope you enjoyed it, too. After a month or so of these Friday after work meetups I think it’s safe to say that we’re not the only ones who like to get out of the office and be social on Friday afternoons. Join Team Gidsy and us at any of those upcoming Fridays at six o’clock, usually at Luzia. Watch the hashtag #FatSIX for updates.

And last, but not least, Igor is in the final stages of preparation for the Cognitive Cities Salon in Amsterdam (30 June), the first of hopefully several evening events about the future of cities and technology.

Our travel schedules this week: Johannes is Johannes and Igor are in Frankfurt this week. From Friday to Sunday, all three of us will be in London for Interesting 2011 (which looks fantastic!). If you’d like to meet up, ping us!

Week 31

Seems like I broke the monday release pattern for the week note. Berlin is testing our resolve to stay focused and in the office these days. It’s warm, it’s shiny and it’s … well … Berlin. Still, we managed to accomplish quite a few things in this last week.

Seems like I broke the monday release pattern for the week note. Berlin is testing our resolve to stay focused and in the office these days. It’s warm, it’s shiny and it’s … well … Berlin. Still, we managed to accomplish quite a few things in this last week.

Johannes has been mainly supporting a local agency from Berlin with our expertise in social. There is, of course, a constant demand for this kind of knowledge. While some agencies – like BBH Labs – managed to adopt, not everybody picked up the necessary expertise to advise their clients. That’s where we come in. Coming from an agency background, we know the pain points and how agencies operate. While we do not provide the execution part, we do – like in this case – provide extensive strategic advice and conceptual work.

Peter was juggling a couple of things. One of our first clients is the Next Conference and things are getting interesting with the event happening next week where Peter will be moderating the Social Layer track. If you are in town for the conference and interested in a chat – we will be roaming the halls of the conference. Ping us!

Coincidentally we are about to finish up a project with Die Zeit. Fabian, who teamed up with us on this one and Peter will be presenting the results in Hamburg.

As for myself: I mainly concentrated on Cognitive Cities this last week. There was (and still is) some accounting work to be done. We created a little mess for ourselves with that one, but it’s a good learning process. Some mistakes will certainly not happen again. At the same time, we’re preparing the first Cognitive Cities Salon in Amsterdam, which is now officially announced. With everything that is happening around CoCities, we decided to follow our guts and just experiment with the format a bit. There is no definitive version of how those events or the main conference will look like, but we are curious to learn by just doing something.

Travel schedule: Johannes is in Stuttgart on Wednesday and Thursday. If you are around, ping him. Peter is in Hamburg on Thursday and Igor is in Berlin for the whole week.

Cognitive Cities is a wrap!

As we wind down from the Cognitive Cities weekend, we’re rubbing our tired eyes and asking each other “Did this really happen? Did it really exceed all our expectations?” The answer is – Yes, indeed, it did. Thank you.

As we wind down from the Cognitive Cities weekend, we’re rubbing our tired eyes and asking each other “Did this really happen? Did it really exceed all our expectations?” The answer is – Yes, indeed, it did. We had an absolute blast having you all as our guests. We’re super grateful for your participation, your enthusiasm and your feedback.

How we got here

When we started the Cognitive Cities blog, it was just a place of a few friends to share their findings about this emerging topic around cities and technology with each other. We are all geeks and were thrilled about the new possibilities of using our smartphones and other gadgets to interact with our urban surroundings.

The more we dived into the field, the more excited we became by the opportunities of all kinds of disciplines involved like architecture, design, mobile, city planning, politics, gardening and technology in general. Finally, being interested in everything made sense. Unfortunately, almost nobody else in Germany seemed to know about this field. So we decided that the best way for us to push it forward was to organize a conference.

Photos, videos, slides

We’re now trying to connect all the conference documentation and artifacts to make sure that the content and conversations continue and expand. While we’re compiling a comprehensive list of the coverage as well as our own videos (soon on the CoCities website and Twitter), here’s a first glimpse of what has been popping up on the interwebs.

There’s a Flickr group where you can add your photos from this weekend here:

Some of the presentations are on Slideshare already (more soon):

KS12 also did an interview with our lovely moderator Ben Hammersley:

Future Perspectives TN2020: Ben Hammersley from KS12 on Vimeo.

Connect

The conversations started at CoCities shouldn’t fade anytime soon. Make sure to connect to the other attendees. A good place to start are the Facebook event page and Lanyrd.

Thanks!

There are so many people we want to thank for making this possible, we can only highlight some of you. First of all, our speakers: thank you so, so much for agreeing to pitch in on this one. We really appreciate it. Second, a big thumbs up to all of you who attended and participated, either live at one of the conference days or by contributing online. Third, a big thank you to our sponsor smart, without whom CoCities wouldn’t have been possible and our media partners. And last but not least the whole team, all of whom put in tremendous efforts without any financial rewards – CoCities was truly a work of passion: Yourneighbours, Martin Spindler, Fabian MürmannMarkus Reuter, Axel Quack, Wiebke Herger and our lovely volunteers.

Feedback

We don’t want to miss the chance to hear from you about what worked and what we could do better next time. We’ve created a short survey with just four questions. It would be great help if you could take a couple of minutes and let us know what you think.

How does Science Fiction influence our cities?

How do you imagine the future of our cities? Flying cars like in 5th Element or maybe fully automatic car systems like in Minority Report? A lot of green spaces like on the Star Trek version of future Earth or maybe more like the dark, wet streets in Blade Runner? Currently, there is almost no topic discussed as intensely as the future of urban environments.

The headline of this blogpost is also the title of Igor’s talk at SXSW Interactive this year. But Igor isn’t just going to present by themselves – two fantastic co-panelists will be joining him: Adam Greenfield of Urbanscale fame (and one of our speakers at Cognitive Cities Conference) and Jo Guldi, a professor specializing in the history of infrastructure at U Chicago and Harvard.

So what are they going to be talking about exactly? This is the description that won the hearts & minds of the SXSW voting crowd:

How do you imagine the future of our cities? Flying cars like in 5th Element or maybe fully automatic car systems like in Minority Report? A lot of green spaces like on the Star Trek version of future Earth or maybe more like the dark, wet streets in Blade Runner? Will we live on a planet that resembles Star Wars’ Coruscant city-planet idea or will it be something stick to our mix of urban and rural environments? Is something like Cisco’s New Songdo in South Korea more fiction or reality? How would most people perceive IBM’s Smart Cities plans? Currently, there is almost no topic discussed as intensely as the future of urban environments. No wonder, since studies show the projection that by 2050 almost 75 percent of the then 9 billion people on this planet will live in megacities. We want to compare the current developments with the ones we know from fiction, because we’re highly influenced by those science fiction images that swirl in our heads.”

Urban futures haven’t just been on our minds since we decided to host Cognitive Cities Conference. In fact, over the last year or so we’ve given a number of talks and interviews about various aspects of the topic, including at re:publica, Sigint, Ignite Berlin and Convention Camp.

And that’s surely not the last we’ll be hearing and thinking about the future of cities. Now where are our jetpacks?