On the road: NYC, SXSW

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be on the road to meet folks and go to SXSW. March 5-10 we’ll be in NYC, from March 11-15 at Austin for SXSW. If you want to meet up, ping us!

Dopplr Travel Plan

Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be on the road to meet folks and to attend SXSW. Here’s our rough schedule to make it easier to meet up.

March 5 – 10 we’ll be NYC. Sunday we’ll be at Transportation Camp East. The rest of the week we’re going to be around to meet and talk. Brownie points for proposing a meetup in a great coffee shop.

March 11-15 we’ll be headed for Austin to attend SXSW, where Igor hosts a panel (“How does SciFi influence our future cities“) with Harvard professor Jo Guldi and Adam Greenfield of Urbanscale.

Afterwards we’ll be back in Berlin at least for a little while. If you’d like to meet up, get in touch!

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.

Our consulting work

One of the challenges we face as a young company that works on cutting edge things is how to describe what we do – simply because it doesn’t fit the well-established boxes and terminology. So we often get asked: “We want to work with you. How do you work?”

One of the challenges we face as a young company that works on cutting edge things is how to describe what we do – simply because it doesn’t fit the well-established boxes and terminology.

So we often get asked: “We want to work with you. How do you work, how can we book you?” There are the general descriptions of what we do, but by nature this kind of list tends to be a bit on the vague side.

It’s actually really simple, though, if you break it down into some of the different scenarios we tend to work in:

1) Agency Incubators

We regularly work with marketing/PR/ad agencies, mostly in the role of an incubator: We do whatever it takes to accelerate the development of inhouse skills and structures to compete in the digital sphere. This work can take many shapes, the most typical ones being workshops, ideation, feedback and moderation, or knowledge transfer.

If an agency works on a major client project, we often come in at the beginning for an initial kick-off to plan the overall strategy and roadmap as well as teams. Then, while the agency implements and executes inhouse, we’re there to give feedback, and in the end we go into a sparring with the agency to make sure that everything is going to work out.

Needless to say, we understand that agency work requires discretion. That’s why we don’t disclose our agency clients’ names if they prefer it that way.

2) Strategy & Sparring

Every organization and brand is going to be affected by the changes in digital communication. We watch these changes, both on the technological and the user behavior side, and can help to adapt. Working closely with our clients, we help align their strategy with those new, emerging demands. We help put together the best team for the job. And we’re happy to go into a sparring with our clients to make sure they are as well-prepared as possible for whatever the future might hold for them. Typical formats and outcomes are workshops, top-level strategy papers, meetings (face to face and via phone) as well as feedback loops.

3) Conference Curation & Consulting

We’re trying to be on top of all things digital. It’s our job to not just read what’s going on on the interwebs, but to know the guys behind it, and to estimate what impact things will have for our clients in the conference business. This gives us the overview and network to help them put together the best conference they can. We don’t do event management – there are many able companies out there to help with that – but chances are we have a few suggestions on how you can improve your event and who to invite.

4) Long-term partnership

The best results can be achieved when we’re working with our clients on a long-term, integrated basis. That’s why we prefer not to just jump into a project and then leave things behind, but to enter long-term partnerships. This requires trust, but it also builds the trust that is needed to have an honest conversation when needed. We’re no Yes Men – if something’s wrong, we want to give it to you straight. Long-term partnerships help both sides to build cool stuff & grow together. Also, it’s much easier for all to schedule, plan and budget, and you’ll never be without help if you need it.

We will keep refining this description (you’ll find bits and pieces of it popping up on our services page). But this may answer a few of the questions we’ve been asked. If you’re still not sure but would like to work with us, get in touch. We’re happy to bounce ideas.

iPad Magazines

Which magazine on iPad will change the advertising and publishing world? I’ve bought them all, but I still don’t believe in the concept ‘iPad magazine’. As long as publishers consider iPad magazines to be digital versions of their print magazines with some added interactive features, it won’t work out.

I recently joined the Purple List, a network of experts set up by PSFK that answers questions and gives opinion on all kind of topics. A recent question was about iPad magazines:

Which magazine on iPad will change the advertising and publishing world?

Here’s my answer: I’ve bought them all: Wired, WiredUK, Project, PopSci+, Interview, Intelligent Life and all the German attempts. The magazine folder on my iPad is the largest of all my iPad-folders. But I still don’t believe in the concept ‘iPad magazine’. Magazines obviously come from the print world. They are pure print. The whole format, the presentation of content, the curation, the writing, everything is optimized for publishing on print.

The buzz about the iPad in the publishing industry reminds me of the buzz in the marketing world about Second Life a few years back. Everybody is excited because it seems they can now go back to what they know best and make a buck in the digital realm. The marketers were excited to do outdoor campaigns again in Second Life and the publishers are excited to to print publications but on digital devices.
Problem is, it has never worked out to approach a new format/screen/media/device with an old mindset. And that’s why I think that no ‘iPad magazine’ will change the publishing and advertising industry. As long as publishers consider iPad magazines to be digital versions of their print magazines with some added interactive features, it won’t work out. The iPad (and tablet devices in general) are a new entity in our everyday (digital) life and to create successful media for it, we have to put the user’s use of devices and media throughout his day in the center and create an ecosystem of services to go with that.

What I hope for is that some publishers will take a good look at their core content and competence and pair that with their insights into the user’s behavior to create completely new formats. If I had to bet money on a publisher, it would be Bonnier. I think their News+ concept is spot on (the two intro slides say it all).

Check out the other answers

On politicians and social media

Toute L’Europe and the Goethe Institute in Paris invited me to be part of a panel about the affect of social media on politics. While the topic in itself is certainly not new, I decided to go, because it was a good opportunity to dive into the French debate.

As you would expect, the Goethe Institute is a very gracious host and the organization is just as good. Still, the setup of the panel was … shall we say, ambitious? Six people is too many for every panel and for me it was especially interesting, since I was the only one who doesn’t speak any French. But first things first, here is the list of all the panelists:

  • Estelle Grelier, EU-Delegate (Faction S & D / EP)
  • Sandrine Bélier, EU-Delegate (Faction The Greens / EP)
  • Jan Philipp Albrecht, EU-Delegate (Faction The Greens / EP)
  • Alain Girod, Professor at the University Lyon II, Director of the Instituts for Communication Lyon II (ICOM)
  • Benoît Thieulin, Co-founder of Netscouade (Internet Agency, specialized on Social Web and Community)
  • Igor Schwarzmann, Co-founder of Third Wave in Berlin

Together with the moderator, we ended up being eight people on stage, since I could only participate in the discussion with the help of a translator. A new experience for me, but it worked out just fine. At least for the important parts of the discussions. Obviously, I couldn’t catch the small nuances, which made it a bit difficult to get into a real discussion. Then again, on a panel with so many people there isn’t much room for debate anyhow.

What discourages me to accept further invitations to panels about social media and politics is the lack of progress in the discussion. France – in this particular case at least – not different from Germany. The whole premise of the discussion is based on the wrong questions. It’s definitely not about the tools, services and platforms that a politician uses and it’s not about how those politicians need to find the exactly right tone without giving up too much privacy. That’s the boring part of the discussion.

We are living in a time, where we can watch revolutions unfold on the internet while our policy makers still struggle to understand the impact of it all. And more often than not, they seem not only very reluctant to dive into the topic, but actually are part of the problem. By making decision without any appreciation what has developed without their involvement, they only increase the overall impressions that most of them aren’t prepared to govern in the 21st century.

I ended up saying something that I read a couple of years on a blog of a social media consultant (imagine that!):

If your product is shit, it will still be shit on social media.

Same goes for politics, dear politicians. It’s moot to discuss if it’s important to be clueless on Television or Twitter, in the end you are still clueless. Start listening to what is being said and stop planing your next campaign and how you might or might not use Facebook for it.

P.S.: While I’m rather harshly generalizing the discussion, there are of course exceptions with a deep understanding. One of which was on the panel: Jan Philipp Albrecht.

Third Wave in Coffee

The Third Wave of Coffee refers to a current movement to produce high-quality coffee, and consider coffee as an artisanal foodstuff, like wine, rather than a commodity, like wheat. Third Wave Coffee aspires to the highest form of culinary appreciation of coffee, so that one may appreciate subtleties of flavor, bean varietal, and growing region.

Bonanza Coffee Heroes
Bonanza Coffee Heroes, a Third Wave coffee shop

As you may know, Third Wave coffee has been a big inspiration for us:

The Third Wave of Coffee refers to a current movement to produce high-quality coffee, and consider coffee as an artisanal foodstuff, like wine, rather than a commodity, like wheat. This involves improvements at all stages of production, from improving coffee bean growing, harvesting, and processing, to stronger relationships between coffee growers and coffee traders and roasters, to higher quality and fresh roasting, at times called microroasting (by analogy with microbrew beer), to skilled brewing. Third Wave Coffee aspires to the highest form of culinary appreciation of coffee, so that one may appreciate subtleties of flavor, bean varietal, and growing region.”

[Wikipedia]

So if you swing by our office, you’ll always find a steaming hot cup of fine espresso. We keep rotating brands and flavors, so here’s a small selection of beans we like:

If you’re in the neighborhood, make sure to drop by for a cup!

Post-Digital Geopolitics

Our CoCities moderator Ben Hammersley blew our minds yesterday with his talks at the Lift 2011 conference, where he asked the question of why the old elites are freaking out about the digital world.

Our CoCities moderator Ben Hammersley blew our minds yesterday with his talks at the Lift 2011 conference, where he asked the question of why the old elites are freaking out about the digital world.

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?