Week 160

Johannes and Igor went for a strategy weekend to Amsterdam, attended the Dread Exhibition the accommodating symposium.

Johannes and I left for Amsterdam for our strategy retreat on Friday. We used to do this more often. But being only two people makes it easier to have a common vision for what we are trying to accomplish.

We usually tend to pick places for these retreats that are significantly more remote and calmer than Amsterdam. Nature can be a gracious guide when it comes to finding a pace to do some long-term thinking. This time, we just couldn’t resist attending the Dread Exhibition Symposium (just look at this lineup) and the exhibition that sparked the need for a symposium in the first place. Juha, the curator, might be a friend, but I’m certain that anyone who will get to see the exhibition in Haarlem will be able to affirm for themselves that it’s an exceptional testament to many current conversations. If you have the chance, please consider going.

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Stimulating your brain as prep for a strategy retreat is a contrarian approach to what we have been practicing so far. Nevertheless, it helped us, although clearly in a different way. Immersing one self in the incredible work of people who are able to grasp, understand and explain the more complex structures of todays world jolts you right back on the track and into the realization of how many exciting things there are still to be done.

We decided to adjust some of the things that we have been practicing in the last year.

  1. We decided to automate the weekly reads. We are still reading a lot and we will still share those findings, but we will just let the machines do what they are good at and aggregate those things more or less automatically for us. It didn’t took us too much time to add some context for the five articles that we always have selected so far, but it was one of currently many things to be done.
  2. The input day will become the input/output day. Instead of having to separate days, in which we can lean back and read, consume information, we decided to have Friday as a non-client work related day, in which we focus on not only consuming important information, but also making something with it. We accomplished a few things in the last few month, but we want do dive deeper into things like creating an Onion Pi, migrate away from some cloud services or polish our coding skills. Those are just some examples of topics that we discuss often, but don’t get do. We hope that tinkering away together on a Friday will get us closer to learning by doing.

What we read this week (7 Dec)

The Reads this week: 100 pieces on how to use the city, why speaking about those Billion dollar evaluations can hurt a startup, insights from an Emerging Media engineer at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Economist’s Content Marketing Bid and a new series by James Bridle.

Quote of the week

Are you famous?

Yes. Not very famous. You don’t know me, I’ll get there someday.

Ellen Grossman & Jay-Z

Articles of the week

  • Speedbird: The City Is Here For You To Use: 100 easy pieces
    Adam Greenfield – a friend, the author of Everyware and the keynote speaker of our own Cognitive Cities Conference – has published somewhat of an outline of his upcoming book “The City Is Here For You To Use”. Now we can’t wait for the final product to leave the printing press (or the CMS of the kindle store).
  • A VC: Nobody Is Crying For You When You Are Worth Billions
    Fred Wilson on startup valuations, what those big numbers usually mean and how communicating those doesn’t necessarily help startups.
  • aaronland: time pixels
    Aaron Straup Cope is Senior Engineer for Digital and Emerging Media at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and an all-around smart thinker and tinkerer. In this talk, he shares some of his observations and experiments.
  • Digiday: The Economist’s Content Marketing Bid
    In this day and age, publishing houses need to reinvent themselves. Here is a documentation how The Economist, one of the most established names in the business, is attempting to do that.
  • Booktwo: Six posts about the present
    James Bridle is writing another series of blog posts to externalize and collect (not so) random thoughts and observations he had during the last months. We especially recommend his concept of Starbooks and how we impersonate the machine.

What we read this week (16 November)

This week we learned about Facebook losing prominent clients, how the future might not be as bad as most promise, how McKinsey is teaching it clients gathering intelligence from social media and Dustin Curtis’ take on why you should always pick the best possible product.

Quote of the week

When you fail, you want to preach to the world too – because you’re saving somebody that same mistake.

Tim O’Reilly

Articles of the week

  • readwrite: Mark Cuban is taking his money away from facebook
    Dallas Mavericks owner and private billionaire Mark Cuban is not amused. After voicing heavy discontent with facebook’s recent page-changes (asking money in order to reach your own fans) he now openly discussed relocating to Tumblr or the relaunching Myspace as main hub.
  • Forbes: Don’t worry about the future
    Authors Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler explain why we should not really be worried, no matter what the headlines are. They identify four main drivers that let you forget all the noise around you for one second.
  • McKinsey Quarterly: Intel inside
    McKinsey is starting to comprehend the use of social media besides sales promotion. In the current Quarterly they provide a framework of sorts for a different kind of social media utilisation: Gathering intelligence with live-testing, crowd intelligence and new influencers. (Free signup required)
  • AllThingsD: Google launches alternative reality Android game
    One of those few times you will wish you would have an Android device instead of that iPhone of yours.
  • Dustin Curtis: Rolling with the best
    “The fundamental problem is that many products are created to be sold, not used.” We agree.

What we read this week (2 November)

This week, we explored the edge of reality, learned more about productivity, open source’s contribution to the European economy, been delighted by the ingenuity of kids in Ethiopia and understood Google a little bit better.

Quote of the week

The real future—or what may one day be a common element of some real future—slips past us, mistaken for the present, or for the past

William Gibson

Articles of the week

  • Warren Ellis: The Edge of Reality
    One of those rare occasions when we recommend a video instead of a text to read. But this keynote by Warren Ellis – who also was a keynote speaker at our CoCities conference – speaks about atemporality, our inability to see the present (let’s not even start about the future). It’s 14 minutes of your life you will certainly not regret spending on YouTube.
  • Louisa Heinrich: The myth of productivity
    Our friend Louisa looks at whether checking social websites at work could really have a negative impact on overall productivity, what hangups we have about mixing these two worlds, and to what extent our hangups are justified.
  • Joinup: Contribution of open source to Europe’s economy
    Next time you are asking yourself whether or not open source is good for business, here is a statistic for you: Open Source’s contribution to Europe’s economy? 450 billion per year.
  • Ethiopian Kids Hack Their OLPC Tablets in 5 Months, With No Help
    What happens, if you give kids who never saw a computer a box full of computers? They hack it. Interesting implication for the discussion whether or not it’s important that our technology remains hackable.
  • Google Now: behind the predictive future of search
    What seemed for a long while like a not existing strategy, emerges now, combined and realigned as a progressive and visionary approach to search.

Week 66

In this week note, it is all about vision, insights into how we create our weekly reads and our new product: premium newsletter.

Staying on vision

Back in March 2010, when Peter, Johannes and I decided to start Third Wave, we sketched out a vision for the company. Visions for non-product companies can be somewhat fluid, intangible. For us, it was important to capture how we approach our work, what we want to accomplish and how we want to evolve the company. Like everybody else, we drew a lot of inspiration from our peers and from companies or projects that excel at what they do. Companies like BERG or Near Future Laboratory were on this list. Not because we see ourselves in the same field of operation necessarily, but because their work is also strongly based on pattern recognition. And if that is what you do, there is really no field that doesn’t intersect with your work.

While not everything turned out as we had anticipated, we recently talked about how happy we are about the fact that after more than a year, the vision we wrote down and the way we live every working day is still the same. We sometimes take a different approach than we had planned and we will keep iterating, but it is still about the ‘How do we get there’ instead of ‘Where do we want to go?’

Experimenting with formats

One part of the ‘How’ was and is for us to extend our services beyond the classic consulting work. In 2011 we focused strongly on events. But even back during the planning phase in 2010, we always wanted to go into publishing more. Sharing is not only good for karma, it is also one of the most effective ways to create conversations around what you do and get people interested in your work.

Now, publishing for a company of three people is very hard and it tooks us a while to get to a lean process that works for us. Our weekly reading list is basically a sneak peak into what we want to do. Both for you and for ourselves. Let me get a bit into details.

Even in a small company as ours, it is somewhat tricky to establish a process of sharing and collecting interesting articles without just dumping being into an archive never to be read again. We experimented with different tools and methods, but we knew it would only really work if they integrated well into our workflows.

After a while, we noticed that the common denominator in this specific case was the bookmarking service Pinboard. We defined a tag that we assign to all articles that are noteworthy and potential candidates for our weekly reading list. On Friday, we curate them and publish them on our blog. Clean and simple for us to read the interesting stuff that the others have read and a way to create content based on our own workflows and habits.

The feedback so far has been overly positive and we enjoy the fact that we apparently struck a nerve here. Starting this week, we will only publish the 5 most interesting articles. While having a broad overview can be useful, we believe that focusing on the most important articles can be beneficial for you, our readers. Let us know what you think.

Products

The weekly reading list in itself is a good accomplishment, but we wanted to make more out of it. Right from the start, we thought about creating a premium newsletter.

You might ask now: Newsletter? Really? Yes, really. Contrary to some, we believe that the death of the email is highly exaggerated. It is not so much the number of emails that you receive that is the problem, but how you interact with them.

In some context, getting specific content into your inbox is the most convenient way to follow up on interesting content. Especially in a corporate context. Not that many people use RSS feeds or have even access to a feed reader, nor do they necessarily need to. Still, there is a growing demand of leading employees to be informed on new developments and we want to tackle providing a solution.

So far, we have one client that hired us to create such a newsletter. The fact that we already generate a very extensive and comprehensive archive of relevant reading material is invaluable in this context. It allows us to draw quickly from what we already know, put it into the specific, relevant context for the client and create an income stream with as little overhead as possible.

If you are interested in learning more, consider dropping us a line.