TW Reads: November 2014

Five of our favorite articles from this month featuring Qinn Norton and Dan Hill.

What is required is not less technology, but more compassion.

Laurie Penny

  • Clockwork City, Responsive City, Predictive City and Adjacent Incumbents
    Dan Hill about the impact of predictive analytics on cities is not only a good critic of some “smart cities thinking.” It also features a convenient list of links to all the problem with Uber (minus the one from this week).
  • Against Productivity
    Quinn Norton might just be our favorite writer of this year. But even by her standard, this an exceptional piece that beautifully questions our common thinking. This one will stick for quite some time.
  • The Dads of Tech
    Astra Taylor and Joanne McNeil are challenging our assumptions about the gendered history of tech. Also, strong criticism of the tech pundit caste.
  • Make technological utopia easier with this one weird trick
    Paul Graham Raven picks up Kevin Kelly’s “desirable-future haikus“ thing and shows how we can have motivating and positively challenging utopias by leaving one all too common specifier out of the equation.
  • Sharing you can Believe in
    Cameron Tonkinwise can look back on more than a decade of researching what is known today as the “sharing economy” (never without the quotes). So he shows us what a complex and serious criticism of this current hype can look like.

The Future of News Publishing – A Report

We’re releasing a deck from 2013 about the news publishing industry to the public.

In spring 2013, we conducted a workshop for a large newspaper. They needed an outside perspective on the state of publishing, social media, digital etc. So we used that opportunity to put all our favorite cases and insights from the media industry into this one deck. It has been fascinating to observe how publishers all over the world have started to implement a lot of the ideas, we’ve mentioned here.

More than one year later, we’re still coming back to this presentation constantly. It has also served as the basis for the start of our podcast (in German). The deck is nowhere near a complete snapshot of the industry, but it covers the most important points for us at that time. This is why we have decided to release it to the public.

Work Note: 4 years in

Reflecting on four years of Third Wave.

Third Wave by Kai Müller Third Wave by Kai Müller

Last Saturday, Igor and I went for a drink in a bar in Prenzlauer Berg to celebrate the 4th anniversary of our company. The last time we’ve been there was more then three years ago when Third Wave was much younger and rather inexperienced. It was good to reflect on what had happened in the meantime.

To be honest, I’ve been feeling rather lucky in the last months to still be doing this. We saw quite a few people that we admire and who are much smarter than us having to close their businesses. People like the brilliant minds at Berg in London, who have influenced us tremendously (take some time to look at all their projects). Once again, it made us more aware of how fast it can all go away and that we should not take it for granted that we still have the opportunity to build a business around our ideas.

And ideas, we have more then ever. But unlike before, we’re making them all part of a bigger plan. It’s something that we’ve avoided for the last years to stay flexible and see where all of this would take us. But now, with the experience of four years and inumerous projects, a more focussed vision emerges for us. It’s about time that this strategy consultancy gets a strategy…

So Third Wave is changing. New initiatives like the podcast are the forerunners of the direction we’re heading. We’re not going to announce more right now, because we’ve also learnt in the last four years that it’s better to show what you’ve done than to talk about something you’re planning.

But it all feels good right now. Just the two of us is still the best choice for us how to run this company. We enjoy our office and our lovely office mates. We are doing some of our best work these days with clients that we have a great relationship with. As of this year, we also somehow got a lot more clients in Berlin1, which makes for less traveling. There are even rumors of an office dog.

So here’s to the next four years of Third Wave. Thank you all for coming along.


  1. Igor did the math recently. 

Work Note: Standing Desk Update

The Ikea Bekant desk frame is our new standing desk solution.

standing desks

Back in April, we took down our Ikea hacked standing desks until we would find an adjustable solution. As of last week, we’re standing again. Martin made us aware of the Ikea Bekant frame that comes without a table top and costs 430,- Euros. The assemble – that includes attaching the frame to our old table tops – takes about 30 to 40 minutes and you should definitely use the included net to keep the electronics in place.

Assembling the standing desks

After working with this desk for about a week now, I couldn’t be happier about our solution. Being able to quickly adjust the desk to sitting or standing makes all the difference for the right posture throughout my work day.

Now we need to find a better solution for all those cables hanging from our desks…

TW Podcast 2: Buzzfeed

[Post in German] Wir erklären wie Buzzfeed Native Advertising verwendet und was die Plattform so besonders macht.

Nachdem wir uns in Ausgabe 1 des TW Podcasts mit Native Advertising beschäftigt haben, schauen wir uns nun die Diskussion um dieses und ähnliche Werbeformate in der Medienbranche an. Dabei schauen wir uns insbesondere Buzzfeed an und erklären, wie Native Advertising dort funktioniert und was die Plattform so besonders macht.

Der Third Wave Podcast ist inzwischen auch als Feed sowie in iTunes und angeschlossenen Podcastverzeichnissen verfügbar.

TW Commentary: Why Apple Pay makes Mobile Commerce incredibly easy

Apple Pay will be as transformative for payment as Google Maps was for location services. Now anyone with an app can sell things.

What Google did is provide easy access to the best location and map data in a simple, easily integratable way. Without Google Maps, we wouldn’t have companies like Foursquare, Yelp, etc. They all would have needed to build their own mapping infrastructure or rely on a more expensive / less accurate one. With Google they just used the best possible solution, for free. It suited both sides. Google got a lot of data out of this symbiosis and achieved what it always wants: more data. And app developers didn’t have to worry about location data and just build the best possible services around it.

Apple just did the same for payment. By integrating a payment services on the OS level, they basically are taking care of the whole, extremely complex process that is required to authenticate payments. Now any developer out there can just use the Apple Pay API to integrate payment into their own application.

This can have tremendous consequences. One of which should be a very scary proposition for Amazon. The lesson here can be derived from another Ecommerce company: Alibaba. What Alibaba did is offer a way for millions of manufacturers to sell to anyone in China and then the whole world. They offered those manufacturers a way to present themselves and they took care of the infrastructure. Additionally, they managed the trust issue, by keeping the money until the customers received their satisfactory product from the manufacturer / merchant.

Simply put, they created a market where there was none before. There’s huge potential for the same thing happening with the introduction of Apple Pay. Imagine the proposition of building an application as an author of books and just selling your own content, without anyone in between, directly to your clients. Authors with a large enough audience could use this to establish a new source of revenue. Building those kind of applications isn’t expensive anymore. Most of the technology is already made and available as open-source. The hardest part is not reaching the audience, it’s managing the payment process. With Apple Pay this is not an issue anymore.

TW Reads: Wearables

A collection of articles by Ben Hammersley, Ben Evans and others about the bigger ideas around wearable devices.

Whatever kind of device Apple will or will not introduce at their keynote today, we always like to take the opportunity to look beyond the immediate products and specs and think about the longer term implications. Here are some of the smartest reflections on wearables and this emerging category of devices that we have read this year so far.

The Third Wave of Computing

The point isn’t the gadget: it’s the combination of the intimacy of a device that is always with us and that only we use, with the power of cloud-based processing and storage

At the beginning of the year, Ben Hammersley provided a good overview of the current state of wearables including positive and negative future scenarios, Apple rumors, a categorization into introspective (like step counting) and extrospective (like small cameras) and other hints at the discussions around wearables.

Link: Wearables: the third wave of computing

Meet the Godfather of Wearables

It all started with beavers.

Before looking at the future of wearables, it’s always good to learn about their past. 30 years ago, Alex Pentland combined computer- and social sciences to use computers to observe human behaviors. In 1986, he inaugurated the Wearable Computing Project at MIT. It was the “first place dedicated exclusively to the creation of wearables.”

Link: Meet the godfather of wearables | The Verge

How to make Wearables stick

While the functionality of devices may drive initial sales, to create long-term value they have to be used long-term and drive healthy behavior change in users.

We’ve been arguing for a long time that the biggest challenge for companies in the quantified self category is long-term engagement of their customers with their devices. Michael A.M. Davies explains how habit formation, social motivation, and goal reinforcement are key for behavior change and thus continuous motivation. If companies don’t get this right, (introspective) wearables will be mostly know as the electronic waste we all have laying around.

Link: How to make wearables stick: Use them to change human behavior | VentureBeat | Gadgets | by Michael A. M. Davies, Endeavour Partners

Cards, Code and Wearables

The company most likely to kill native apps is Apple.

Wearables mostly can’t exist on their own. They need to be tethered to a device, usually a smartphone to connect to the internet. Ben Evans looks at Android Wear and the rumors around Apple’s Healthbook to think about how apps and streams and screens will work together in the near future.

Link: Cards, code and wearables — Benedict Evans

Sensors and Sensitivity

Putting sensors elsewhere, into objects we come into contact with at certain times or in certain situations, contextualizes them — allowing use-cases to be more targeted and, as a result, more purposeful — and potentially more powerful.

With the hype around wearables, we tend to forget that we can put sensors into other objects around us. Natasha Lomas makes the case for these kinds of anti-wearables and gives some examples. Like a car seat that tracks our pulse and stress levels. Using sensors in this way makes for much more focused use-cases that serve specific purposes, instead of just tracking some flippant lifestyle metrics. Maybe we should think more about the objects we can put sensors in instead of all the sensors we can put on.

Link: Sensors And Sensitivity | TechCrunch

TW Reads: Mobile Payments

An excerpt from our reading list on the mobile payment industry.

As we’ve mentioned before, we’ve been involved in the mobile payment industry for quite a while. Since we’re keeping track of the most interesting things happening in the industry, we thought there is no reason why we shouldn’t be sharing some of the most interesting reads or announcements in this field with our readers.

Mobile Payment Today – Mobile wallets: will value actually drive adoption?

Despite the collective efforts of some of the largest companies in the world promoting their supposedly superior products, just 16% of mobile device owners have used their phone to make an in-store payment. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

In light of possible announcement by Apple next Tuesday, it’s prudent to analyze why the collective effort of so many companies across continents and nations left so much to be desired when it comes to building a significant mobile payment solution. In an unusual turn of events, Mobile Payment Today – being so often just a press release portal for a similarly named industry – provides exactly that: a poignant analysis.

Link: Mobile Payments Today

Re/Code – Here’s How Amazon Might Take Over Brick-and-Mortar Retail

Broadly, they said the world’s largest online retailer aims to make it easy for a wider array of brick-and-mortar shops to sell on Amazon while giving Amazon shoppers another way to receive orders on the same day they are purchased.

Nothing has stirred up the mobile payment industry quite as much in the recent weeks as Amazon’s announcement to dive deeper into payments. Not only did they release a device and service that is a direct competitor to Square, Paypal and many others, they’re also attempting to do what they always do: compete through a better price. The device is cheaper, the rates are lower. Especially the last part will make it hard for store owners to resist the Amazon offer.

But there seems to be more than that. Jason Del Rey over at Re/Code has been a keen observer of everything Amazon. It almost feels as if he is for Amazon what Kara Swisher for to Yahoo. Always watching, always acquiring a new source. His analysis concludes that not only is Amazon going after Paypal’s business, it is actually all a ploy to get many of those brick & mortar shops onto their platform, enable them to participate in the glorious experience of ecommerce and enhance Amazon’s ability to make same-day deliveries of every-day products. This, obviously, seems somewhat far-fetched and yet not at all unlikely considering the Bezosnian appetite.

Link: Re/Code

Eater – OpenTable testing mobile payments

Restaurant reservations website OpenTable has officially launched a new payment feature on its mobile app that works at over 45 restaurants in New York City.

While OpenTable isn’t a huge operation in Germany, some restaurants still use it. It feels more like a gimmick here. Mostly because the way restaurants operate here and in the US is so different.

In the US on the other hand, OpenTable is a huge thing and they charge a lot, too. It became so bad that many restaurant owners are comparing it to the Mafia and having to pay protection money to the mafia. Effectively, if you’re not on the platform, people are significantly less likely to visit the restaurant. On the other hand, if you’re using OpenTable, they are suffocating you with the cost of using the service.

In this light, you might not hear that many restaurant owners rejoicing after the announcement that OpenTable is experimenting with payment solutions. Especially if you consider that while there are many, many other services in this field, not many are as likely to succeed in it as OpenTable. If they do, restaurant owners will only have to transfer a bigger cut to the service.

Link: Eater

TW Podcast 1: Native Advertising

[Post in German] Das Werbeformat Native Advertising ist das Thema unserer ersten Podcast-Ausgabe. Was ist Native Advertising? Was sind die typischen Beispiele? Was sind Vor- und Nachteile?

TW Podcast 1: Native Advertising

Ausgabe 0: Wir starten einen Podcast

Wir haben die erste Ausgabe unseres Podcasts für den 1. September versprochen und hier ist sie. Vorab in der Ausgabe 0 erklärt Igor noch mal kurz, warum wir diesen Podcast begonnen haben und weshalb wir ihn auf Deutsch machen.

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Unsere Idee für den Third Wave Podcast

Die inhaltliche Idee, mit der wir diesen Podcast beginnen, ist sich bestimmte Themen aus der aktuellen Konversation um Technologie, Digitalisierung, Kommunikation und Gesellschaft raus zu picken und sie grundlegender vorzustellen. Der Podcast ist weniger als Beitrag zur Diskussion gedacht und mehr als Unterstützung für Menschen, die verstehen wollen, worum die Diskussion geht und was für Konsequenzen die Themen für ihre Arbeit haben.

Ausgabe 1: Native Advertising

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Als erstes Thema haben wir uns Native Advertising ausgesucht. Dieses digitale Werbeformat sorgt nicht nur bei Google und Facebook für steigende Gewinnen, sondern sieht sich auch einer zunehmenden Kritik ausgesetzt. Manch einer wird den Begriff vielleicht sogar zum ersten mal durch den Beitrag von John Oliver wahrgenommen haben.

Wir schauen uns an, was Native Advertising eigentlich genau ist, was die typischen Beispiele sind und worin die Vorteile für Anbieter und Werbetreibende liegen. Dazu kommen unsere eigenen Erfahrungen auf Facebook. All das kompakt in 20 Minuten.

Feedback willkommen

Feedback zum Podcast ist uns willkommen. Typischerweise braucht ein neuer Podcast ein paar Episoden, bis man das richtige Format, die passende Technik und vieles mehr verfeinert hat. Deswegen sind gerade zu Beginn Rückmeldungen und Verbesserungstipps hilfreich.

Wir wollen ein paar Episoden abwarten, bevor wir den Podcast auf iTunes und den anderen Podcastplattformen veröffentlichen. Wer bis dahin keine Episode verpassen will kann sich unseren Newsletter abonnieren. Einen RSS-Feed reichen wir nach, sobald uns SoundCloud für das Podcast-Programm frei geschaltet hat.

Vielen Dank an Jan und Marcel für die Unterstützung.

Work Note: We’re starting a podcast

On September 1, 2014 we will launch our new podcast (in German).

microphone

Podcasts are back

We’ve been fascinated by the rise and fall and now rise again of podcasting. I remember my first experiments with the format almost ten years ago. And now with the smartphones allowing a much easier consumption of podcasts, it seems like it’s taking off again.

I think it’s a good sign that ideas, which can’t build enough moment right away when they emerge, are still able to have a second coming once the context from a technological and a behavioral point of view is right. It means we’re not discarding everything straightaway that fails on the first try. There’s still room to let ideas ripen.

So, podcasts. I’ve been involved with two podcasts throughout the last 12 to 18 months. I Grow Digital is a podcast about the Quantified Self, wearables and connected topics like transhumanism that I’ve been doing with Christian Grasse and Florian Schumacher. I also am a regular guest on Marcel Weiss’ neunetzcast where we talk about Facebook buying things and similar topics. Both podcasts are in German.

And so will be the podcast that Igor and I are starting. We’ve been enjoying the format ourselves for some time now and want to use it to talk to an audience that might get turned off by all our English writing.

The Third Wave Podcast is coming soon

The development of the concept will be an on-going process but we want to make sure to not add YetAnotherPodcastWithTwoDudesTalkingTechNews(TM) to the field. The idea we’re starting with is to pick a broader topic behind recent news and look at it from all sides. Less discussion, more explanation. The rest will be based on the feedback we’ll get.

The main reason for this blog post is to set ourselves a public deadline. So here we go: on September 1, 2014 we will release the first episode.
As always, we do this as an experiment to find out if the format works for us and if we can actually produce some content with value for an audience. So far, we got all the hardware we need (thanks to Jan for lending us his usb-microphone). I need to figure out some details around hosting and publishing. But that should be doable until next Monday. Until then…