Week 172

Igor is kicking off the Week Note season with a deep dive into a mobile payment lab that we helped start last year.

Some time in early September, we began a conversation about establishing a Mobile Payment Lab of some sort for a client with whom we had an ongoing relationship for roundabout three years now. In fact, we collaborated on the project with our friends from Edenspiekermann, who have been working for the same client since 2009. Our roles on this project have always been complimentary and I can’t imagine a smoother collaboration process with anybody out there.

Scope of the project

The task was both clear and complex: the goal was to provide an external setup for a strategic approach to finding and prototyping ideas for future features and products. The client is a technology company with a banking license and an established contender in the payment-processing field. They have also invested heavily into the field of mobile payment and been enjoying a good run in the market building mostly white-label solutions for various corporations around the globe with a focus on Europe and Asia.

Product development so far has been approached via market demand (i.e. clients asking for specific features) and a management team that has deep understanding of the field. What had been lacking was a comprehensive roadmap for how to explore future developments without waiting to react to an immediate client request. Basically, the goal was to be able to shape the market instead of only being shaped by it.

Labs are rarely successful and can’t operate as startups

People who know me well also know that I’m not necessarily a believer in the Lab idea. Both internal as well as external Labs usually have one major setup problem and that is lacking the ability to appropriately transform their work back into the larger organization. That doesn’t mean that the work in those labs can not be interesting or innovative. They often are. Even if corporations staff labs with internal people. Given the opportunity to break certain habits and working under different (not necessary more relaxed) conditions, people tend to produce very different results and that’s great. But if those results aren’t in any way usable to their colleagues who are busy churning away at the “normal stuff” which is also known as the thing that currently pays the bills, than all of the work that is being produced in a lab is usually fairly pointless.

Another down side of labs is the fact that they are usually handled as some sort of pet project by well funded members of the management board. That is to say that they are not necessarily strategic and often fairly political. By being used politically – labs require people, people equal money, money equals power – they become even less able to transfer their work into the rest of the company, because the kind of rivalry tends to make people less open about adopting the work of “the other guy”.

At the end of the day, the goal for whatever is created inside of those labs is to become a source of revenue for the whole organization. This is crucial. Otherwise the life expectancy of the new structure is minimal.

  • Generating creative ideas and building presentable and maybe even sharable prototypes can be fun. But more often than not it results in services and products that do not resemble in any way something that can be build and maintained by the company itself. The idea and the prototype are about 10, maybe 20 precent of the work.
  • In most corporations, the approach can rarely resemble the one of startups. I know, this is largely different from the advice that most people in my field will give. The real-politics of a modern day corporation will never allow for the kind of flexibility that the VC funded startup ecosystem can provide. I consider advice that ignores that fact as harmful, because it ignores one core principle of how the funding of startups works. While there are certainly exceptional funds that have a better success rate, usually 8 out of 10 startups fail. Meaning that only 20% of extremely well funded and nurtured ideas generate enough return on invest for the investors. It also helps that VCs don’t actually use their own money for taking larger bets. The same is just not possible for a corporation that attempts to find new sources of revenue. To allow 8 out of 10 ideas to fail, they would have to allocate too many resources and thus potentially harming the overall organization. The only way for corporations to part-take in this process is by creating their own fund and hire good talent that will manage the cash allocated to that fund wisely. This is being done by most blue-chip companies, but differs significantly from the lab structure.

The most important piece of the puzzle for setting up a lab is not how many or what resources will be allocated to it, but how the work will be transferred back into the organization. We have spent a significant amount of time on deliberating how to do this right. While I’d like to share more useful advice, this is as far as non-contextual insight will get you, unfortunately. Those kind of projects seem only on paper or in TED-like talks as something that can be adoptable by reading an article or applying one rigid framework. While learning as much as you can helps, this is all about the individuals involved, with whom they talk, who they go to lunch with, who there allies are and who their opponents. It probably helps more to play chess from time to time too.

Our role

Our role was both a strategic one – in which our knowledge of the client and the market came into play – as well as a product-oriented one. Together with the Edenspiekermann Service Design team, we found a way to work that was both feasible for us as well as the client.

We chose a short iteration cycle. We aimed for 4 weeks between new iterations and ended up on a 5 week cycle. One cycle consist of establishing the scope of inquiry aka defining the work. We should have started with a maximum of two different tasks. Instead we had four. Which was definitely a strain for the whole team, because it put us under more pressure than is good for morale and quality of the output. Mostly, it worked out fine, but we definitely are planing to change that piece of the process in the next round. That being said, pulling some longer evenings in which everyone churns away also brought the team closer together. Which is immensely valuable for Labs in general. While those are, as described, not startups, they do work similarly on an interpersonal relationship level.

While having a mainly strategic position, I oscillated between different roles heavily. At certain points, I felt a bit like a Creative Director, other times I was happy about deep dives into research, connecting the dots between previously read articles, designing print prototypes and having the excuse to buy a Little Printer in the process.

It is important to have clear roles in Labs, but it’s equally important for everybody to be part of everything. Small teams and narrowly defined exploratory missions do have the luxury of actually getting everybody’s input. That’s what they can excel at. We, thankfully, managed quite alright from the start.

At some point, I will have to share a few insights about payment and especially mobile payment. After being involved in this topic for almost three years continually, we accumulated a fair share of experience and good judgement about the industry and opportunities in the field. Both locally – Germany is always a special case for that –, but also internationally. As part of the ongoing project, I have been learning everything there is to learn about iBeacon as well as payment solutions in Africa.

Until 2014

Signing off for this year.

good hair days 2014

Thank you, everybody. We had a fantastic 2013. Now it’s time for short break, but we will be back very soon. Until then, have a great Christmas break and see you in 2014.

Oh, before we leave, we have one small request: If you have profited from our work, our writing or our talks in 2013, could you take a minute to think about who might be interested in getting to know us in 2014 and then introduce us? Thank you so much.

Week 164

Johannes reflects on his first week with a standing desk.

We don’t mind a sensible trend. After getting on the bandwagon for power naps, 20 percent “making/inspiration” time1 and always having fresh fruit around, it was time for us to stand up. We have been looking at standing desks for quite some time, research different solutions from adjustable monitor stands to fully automatic desks. The question remained if “standing” would work for us in general.

A very well researched article by The Wirecutter finally did it for us by – once again – reminding us of the Standesk 2200, a smart Ikea hack, that would allow us for very little money (14€) to first test standing while working. So we ordered the parts from Ikea and got going2.

The Ikea sets for our Standesks 2200 are here. #standingdesk #Ikeahack

The Standesk 2200 assembled #standingdesk


So far, I’ve been enjoying the experience a lot. Also, sitting down (after an hour or two standing) has never felt so good. Here are some more observations from the first couple of days with a standing desk:

  • We read somewhere that you need something to put up your foot while standing to relax your back (like at a bar). This is definitely true.
  • Because the distance between your hands and your face is really long, when working like this, you can’t easily touch your face when you read something, which is huge as I seem to be doing that all the time. The consequence is that it’s kinda hard to slump away in front of the computer. So it feels like I’m getting more done. It’s hard to say right now, because we currently have so much work that I can’t be lazy anyway.
  • The longer distance between the monitor and the keyboard also makes me trust my typing skills more while also working more with shortcuts. Looking down to find a key wastes more time and having to use the trackpad will make me lose the orientation of my hand on the keyboard.
  • Lying down for a nap feels really amazing after a morning of standing.

If you have any tips for us for standing while working, send us an email.

As I continue the experiment this week – with a short break for a talk in Hamburg – Igor is mostly traveling to give talks and join panels in Brussels and South Germany. He’ll be back next week with tales from the road.

  1. Now that Google seems to have abandoned the rule, we feel like late adopters. And we’re ok with that. Lots of good stuff can come from ideas abandoned by Google. 

  2. Well, I did. If you ordered the parts for the Standesk 2200 yourself, make sure to order enough screws. Or one might be left…sitting. 

Week 162 + 163

Igor reports back from two packed weeks, building labs, starting new projects with a focus on Brazil and buying a Little Printer.

Look, it’s a double feature again. Last week flew by without me realizing that I missed out on writing a week note.

Here we are, second half of November. Before soon, it will be Christmas and 2013 will feel like ancient history. I blame my early end-years attitude on our friends from MoreSleep / Freunde von Freunden who’s Christmas dinner we attended last Friday. It was fun. Great to see some familiar faces and a surprisingly large amount of new ones as well. Things are good.

Things are good at Third Wave as well. In fact, they are more than just good.

A project that we collaborated on with Edenspiekermann got green-lighted. We have been commissioned by a shared client to be their mobile payment laboratory. Based closely on the OODA loop, we developed a process that helps us tackle two major obstacles:

  1. Validity of the setup – Each cycle is only 4 to a maximum of 6 weeks long. After that the client gets to see our work which can formalize itself in form of a concept, a storyboard, prototypes or something entirely different. With every concluded cycle there is the option to adjust the process and change the team structure.
  2. One of my biggest issues with Labs in general, but especially ones that aren’t part of the corporate structure is that they by and large do not contribute to the company itself. That doesn’t mean that they do not create value. Often this value can not be utilized by the company who was paying the bills. To make sure that this is not the case here, we installed a solid protocol for measuring success.

As always, I regret not to be able to share more details on this project. It has been a great experience so far.

That being said, this lab reminded about work that BERG London has been doing all the way back in 2010. Which, unsurprisingly, triggered my urge to buy a Little Printer. So now we have lots of fun exploring what we can do with our new gadgets beside using it for the project itself. If you have a BERG Cloud account, have been developing things for it or just bought a Little Printer yourself, let us know.

Little Printer

That’s not the only new collaboration that we started. A new client – who, surprisingly, found us through googling – wants us to do some work on the topic of Concentrated solar power – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia in Brazil. Since both our local knowledge as well as our Portuguese are limited, we found ourselves some help and are happy about having more people at the office.

On that note, have a coffee and enjoy a great week.

P.S.: There is a new coffee service on the block. Check out Kaffee bitte!.

Week 161

A week note about having to write a week note.

Ok, can I be honest here? I have to write this week note and I don’t really have an idea what to write about. You see, I have this annoying half-assed cold that is neither here nor there but provides a constant slight headache. Usually, I develop a rough idea throughout the week or on the weekend for what a week note should be about. But today: nothing. I blame the headache.

Sometimes it’s just like that. Ideas and inspiration have run dry and you have to work your way towards new ones. So I’m sitting down at our new conference table with my iPad and my bluetooth keyboard and I’m writing out my thoughts until they make more sense.1 Most of the time, I use this strategy to empty my head when I’ve been mulling over something for to long and my thoughts have become too chaotic. Then I do these brain-dumps where I force myself to write at least 600 words as they come.2 No need for structure or anything. It’s not meant to be ever read again. It’s just so that I can “think out loud” and through this process clear my head and sort my thoughts. Whenever I do it, it works so well that I’m always wondering why I don’t do it more often.

But today, it’s different. My head is not full of thoughts, it feels, well, empty. Last week was pretty packed. We had two projects where deadlines came up a bit out of the blue, so we had to put in some extra shifts. I mostly worked on putting together and writing out an extensive trend report. No wonder, I feel a bit emptied out. This week is a typical “in between projects”-week. Seems like a good opportunity to watch all the videos from Improving Reality 2013 and read through Dan Hill’s extensive review of his first year as CEO of Fabrica, the design practice and school in Northern Italy. There are worse ways to fill a whole week.

I have to say, with this headache and my body feeling a bit under the weather in general, it’s tempting to lay out the mattress and have a nap. I mean, we got the thing to have quick power naps after lunch3. But who says you can’t have one just before lunch? Or maybe another banana from the fruit basket?4 Ok, I think I have talked about enough recent changes around the office now. I will go back to my desk now and stare at the daylight lamp until I finally have an idea for what to write about in this darn week note.

  1. I’ve been really enjoying to write in Editorial on the iPad. It’s a marvelously well thought-out editor for writers with a lot of power under the hood to build “workflows” that make creating text for the web much easier. 

  2. I’ve learned this from the great 750words project that I tried to follow for some time. 

  3. I can highly recommend this. Doing a 15 minutes nap makes a huge difference in my afternoon concentration. We bought a good mattress from Muji that is very comfortable. For the extra kick, have an espresso right before the nap to have the caffeine kick in when you get up again. 

  4. We have a subscription for a weekly delivery of fresh organic fruits via fruit@work. Not the cheapest option, but convenient, healthy and highly recommended. 

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.


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.

Week 159

Johannes took last week off and tries to make a week note out of that.

An editor asked me about my definition of work the other day. After describing why I co-founded this company and talking about how I approach my work, she assumed that work-life balance doesn’t matter to me as my work seems to be my life. I disagree. First off, there are definitely non-work parts in my life that are important to me. It’s more that I want to feel fulfilled from my work as much as from other parts of my life like friends and families, travels and reading/writing etc.

Second, it’s true that I don’t have the same urge for work-life balance as others might have as I don’t feel overwhelmed by work or exploited by my employer (that greedy bastard). But as I’ve learned in the last years, I need my work-life balance1 even more, now that I don’t mind working long and hard. Oftentimes, it gets hard to stop working, which can become a problem if your work depends on new ideas and thus a fresh mind. I understand much better now how my mind needs its time-outs to catch its breath and recalibrate. It needs downtime to work properly. It needs the freedom to daydream, to play and to enjoy stupid things. And for me that means that I need to force myself away from work and be ruthless about relaxing, which doesn’t come easy for me, especially with the endless stimulus of the web available to me everywhere.

That’s a long paragraph to say that I took last week off and spent it with my girl-friend on the coast of the Baltic Sea. Unlike last year when I was in Portugal for two weeks, I wasn’t able to fully disconnect from work this time. A few ongoing projects needed a little bit of care and then Igor decided to write an article, which got on the front-page of Hacker News and brought down our server for almost a day.

Nevertheless, it’s better to have a vacation with a little work in the morning or the evening than to take no vacation at all. We walked endlessly around the national parks and coasts of Rügen and let the sea breeze ventilate our heads. I’m always fascinated by the effect that looking out onto the sea can have on your stress level.

Alas, back to work. The project pipeline is bursting and the to-do list is endless. It’s going to be a good week. We will be in Amsterdam from Friday until Monday for our strategy retreat. See you soon.

  1. No, I won’t go into the whole discussion about how this is the wrong term etc. Let’s just assume for this article that we’re talking about the balance between working and not working, whatever that means. 

Week 158: About the Berlin Startup Scene

Instead of their pilgrimages to San Francisco, startup founders should travel to South Germany to learn from the Mittelstand how to build sustainable companies that benefit their communities as much as their founders.

I have became a technology industry skeptic.

That’s not a sentence I’m uttering lightly. After all, just a few years ago, I would have described myself as a technology determinist, a true believer in the power of technology’s ability to transform the world for the better.

Tech is the new finance industry. I’ve said so before and, unfortunately, I’ll have to stand by this statement. When Entrepreneurship centers are flourishing and universities like the MIT can’t cope with demand of new applicants, when professors teaching at those departments are announcing that young people don’t want to be investment bankers and instead are seeking their luck as tech-startup founders, I feel the urge of pointing to history and reminding us how the same happened before in finance. With its final transformation to a self-observed, self-deterministic sphere in the 80s, the finance industry became a huge magnet for young people who believed in the promise of becoming something bigger than themselves and not minding to earn more money than they could possibly need in their life-time. The demand was so huge, universities and colleges had to invent new departments just to cope with the demand of people wanting to acquire the right qualification to become an investment banker.

The same happens in the technology industry, especially in Silicon Valley. There is no doubt in my mind that it all started with good intentions, but when looking at things today, I doubt that we are on the right track.

Just take a close look at incubators in Silicon Valley. Despite talk of changing the world, they are fundamentally not significantly different from military boot camps. Despite the promise to cherish individuality and creativity, those institutions are rewarding conformity and punishing differentiation from the proposed model of the particular organization. Said models of executing upon predefined processes, usually created by rich, most likely white, males. Again, despite the talk, those processes aren’t there to help founders. Instead they are built around financial risk assessment models. Those rich, white men do want their money back. And then some. All of this is by no means an accident. It’s an elaborately designed system, which is in place to ensure and increase inequality. To put that into numbers: “between 1992 and 2007, the income of the 400 wealthiest people in the United States rose by 392 percent”.

All of this is surprisingly Ford’esque and I’m not one of the people who are saying that as a compliment.

I find this all especially appalling when I hear the talk about and by Berlin’s tech scene. In recent years, Berlin was pushed into becoming a potential place of investments. So far, with only mild success. A flourishing new industry is by itself not a bad idea for a city with above average unemployment rate. That is, when this industry has the potential to contribute something meaningful to solving the problems of the environment that it’s becoming part of.

While there are significant factors why Berlin is a great place for new things to emerge – still fairly cheap, high quality of living – it is by far not because so many potential employees for a technology startup are among Berlin’s unemployed. This is not exactly news. Most founders and CEOs are openly talking / complaining about how hard it is to hire good people, how they have to lure people to Berlin. Apparently Eastern European developers are in high demand.

Said startup hype lead to a furious emergence of new initiatives and new incubators. Seemingly any company with some change to spare and the desire to become part of the new gold rush. The saddest part here is that all those companies don’t even try to create a romantic, technology deterministic narrative like their Californian counter parts. Their language and footprint is corporate, they are here for the profits.

Which begs the question: what would be the virtue of welcoming this industry into the city with open arms? Klaus Wowereit, Berlin’s mayor in his third term, thinks that he has an answer. Recently, McKinsey published a pro-bono study for the city of Berlin. “Berlin gründet – Fünf Initiativen für die Start-up-Metropole Europas” (Berlin founding – Five initiatives for the european start-up metropole). Therein Wowereit postulates in a forword that the tech industry can have a significant contribution as a tax payer and employer. This comes from the man who sold out this cities real estate to the highest bidder without any regard for cultural and societal impact. With no significant contribution to fight unemployment, he leaves the city with a future promise for tax income. An unlikely scenario.

Unfortunately, there is no way out of this. Pressured by overwhelming attention from around the world, the city governments is cornered into shaping legislation or at least appearing authentically as if it can contribute something of significance to a development that mostly emerged because there was little to no regulation at all.

With pressure rising from investors waiting to be wooed, the government does what most governments would do and that is looking at so called best practices. Despite the fact that there is an overwhelming body of theory to the fact that is impossible to copy same models and various, failed attempts to copy Silicon Valley else where. Before anybody points toward Tel Aviv, let me say this: There is a strong correlation between a long-standing, overwhelming presence of huge facilities by US tech giants and the success of Tel Aviv’s tech scene. There is also a geo-political factor that can’t be replicated and it doesn’t hurt having a man of Yossi Vardi’s stature in your corner either.

Just last week I heard Joachim Bühler from BITKOM – an tech industry lobby group – say that he discusses many initiatives with city officials and all of them are trying to emulate Silicon Valley. One of the various observation documented by the McKinsey study states that there is lack in funding for technology companies seeking A & B investments rounds. There is plenty of seed money to go around and it hasn’t been easier to get some cash and hack away for six month, but when it comes to financing your dream to become bigger than Facebook things eventually get tough. The only reasonable hope that bureaucrats in this city can have to change something about this is fact is by luring financially strong and successful investors into the city. That, in turn, means luring in more US-based funds to the city.

There are three most likely outcomes for startups these days. Die unsuccessfully, get acquired by an US based technology company, or IPO. Most tech startups end up in the first category. This is by design and has been a long standing practice in the technology sector. Only the most successful of all companies end up in the last category and there is no reason to believe that the Berlin tech scene will produce a likely contender for a big tech IPO. That leaves the second category, acquisition by an US company. It’s that category that will ensure that neither qualified people, nor tax income will be left in the city as soon as something of significance will emerge here. This will not stop Berlin’s government walking down this path, because of the lack of courage to come up with a unique, feasible and realistic approach for a city in need and because those US investors will make everybody work according to those risk assessment processes that they teach in their incubators.

This is a dangerous path and one that is not only being applied in Berlin. All over a financially unstable Europe with high youth unemployment numbers, technology and startup culture is en vogue in city, state and federal governments. The same mistake of attempting to copy our spying American friends is happening everywhere.

We stand at the crossroads. We have a generation of founders that are unwilling and unmotivated to pursue anything else than world fame and the attempt to become the next Mark Zuckerberg. Those desires are fueled by investors who don’t care about fame, but about the returns on investment that is associated with finding the company that can become the next Facebook. And as addition to the team of people who will not help us get out of the financial crisis, we are seeing politicians completely incapable of coping with a rapidly changing world that are eager to build up those “ecosystems” that seem promising enough to help them campaign in the next election.

The technology utopia transformed itself from a hippy’esque LSD dream where technology will solve all of humanities problem to a well oiled machine in which the brightest people in the world are busy building new features that will make advertisers spend more money on the information that those apps gather about us and in which only a small fraction of the extremely hard working people can say for themselves that they are in fact Mark Zuckerberg.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I am a staunch opponent of anything tech, on the contrary. It is now that we have to debate how we want to see the technology industry evolve beyond its Californian Ideology model. I am all in favor of Berlin becoming the new startup capital. The question is: what kind of startups do we want? What kind of people do we want to start them? This is far more about goals and demeanor than about market opportunity and finance. We in Europe have the privilege to learn from companies that are building products and solving problems for generations now. Germany’s Mittelstand is still the backbone of its economy. European founders should stop traveling to San Francisco and instead focus on their national and European markets, the problems that those markets experience and how they can be part of the solutions to issues like massive youth unemployment. But foremost, they should concentrate on building a company that can stand on its own feet, that is not setup to race from one venture round to the other with the sole goal to exit as quickly as possible and be part of a machinery that never seems to be interested in being sustainable in itself.

Let me finish with a question: what do you think who employs more people? A company like Facebook with a world-renown brand that is worth about $100 Billion on the stock market or a hundred companies that most people have never heard of which are each worth a billion dollars each?

Week 157

Third Wave turned 3 last Friday.

Last Friday, our company turned 3. This usually means that a long reflections post would follow now. But as we had some new projects green-lighted last week that are starting right away, I’ll keep this one short. I promise you more after we had our strategy retreat at the end of the month.

Nevertheless, we joked around that now would probably be a good time to launch a new slogan for us: “It’s complicated.” We’re only half kidding. It’s actually pretty spot-on for what we do at Third Wave and it’s also our most common first sentence after someone has asked us a question. And as much as that relationship status on Facebook becomes more common with more complex relations being more broadly accepted, we see it as a positive thing, too. We loathe a simplified, shallow world. We see complexity as opportunity. And although that world-view definitely doesn’t make our lives easier, it keeps them interesting and challenging. After three years, that’s still our main motivation: to explore and find new opportunities and to help others embrace these opportunities.

We spend our company birthday last Friday at epubli’s Rewrite The Web conference. In almost every conversation, one could feel the uncertainness of the parts of the publishing industry that were present. People are desperate for working solutions to the industries’ challenges. But one possible key to the future of publishing might not be in a certain business model but in the right attitude. The people who presented success story all seemed to have on thing in common: an excitement about the opportunities they see emerging in publishing right now. We most certainly share that excitement, and not only about the state of publishing.

If your work still excites you after three years, you’re probably at the right place.

Week 156

Igor reflects on a weekend spent at retune conference.

Over the weekend, Johannes and I attended the retune 13 conference.

It’s always a nice change of pace to both attend an intellectually stimulating event and sleep in your own bed. Even in Berlin one doesn’t get to do that very often.

To my dismay, I’ve only learned of retune shortly after the second iteration of the conference happened last year. Dismay, because there are currently very few conferences that are of any significant interest to me and it turned out that retune is one of those.

Addressing questions at the core of technology, culture and art, retune primarily managed to jolt my brain, stimulate it by confronting me with people of amazing intellect and abilities as well as to give me a coherent framework to address the issues at hand.

On Friday, when the first speaker asked the crowd who was an technologist, who was an artist and who was a designer, I couldn’t raise my hand at any of those questions. With Third Wave, we fit into none of those drawers and I feel very comfortable with accepting that. Our strength is derived from our ability not to be any one of those disciplines, but knowing and understanding them and their implications onto everything that is happening.

That being said, there is a reason why we tend to quote James Bridle so often. His argument, well known to regular readers of this blog, is that we lack a language for a networked, complex world. As for so many, this is also of big frustration to us. Both individually, but especially as a company. Why do people need us? And how is us being interested in the themes discussed at conferences like retune or resonate relevant to what we do for our clients?

There is only a fleeting understanding of what it means to live in a networked world. We all embraced the Californian Ideology without knowing that we did. We are facing the necessity of reverse engineering the consequences of this world that we all helped to create.

One of the outcomes should be a massive, almost unquestioned embrace of the fact that the world is in fact complex. When Germany overwhelmingly elected Angela Merkel to lead the country into the future, what Germany actually voted for is the preservation of a status quo. Not that it is not understandable why people would want that, it’s just not possible anymore. Most people struggle immensely with that despite the fact that they can feel it in the air, in the fabric of things that none of the things can really be as they were anymore. If anything, one should admire Angela Merkel for getting so many people to trust her to preserve them from the complexity of the world. Unfortunately, and this is a spoiler, she won’t be able to.

With that, I want to point you to the things that some of the speakers have been speaking / showing at retune. Enjoy.

Julian Oliver

Web: http://julianoliver.com/output/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/julian0liver

Known for:
Newstweek: http://julianoliver.com/output/newstweek
The Transparency Grenade: http://julianoliver.com/output/transparency-grenade
No Network: http://julianoliver.com/output/no-network

Critical engineering: http://www.criticalengineering.org/

The Critical Engineer considers Engineering to be the most transformative language of our time, shaping the way we move, communicate and think. It is the work of the Critical Engineer to study and exploit this language, exposing its influence.

James Auger

Web: http://www.auger-loizeau.com/

Known for:
Carnivorous Domestic Entertainment Robots: http://www.auger-loizeau.com/index.php?id=13
Afterlife: http://www.auger-loizeau.com/index.php?id=9
Sublime Gadgets: http://www.auger-loizeau.com/index.php?id=24

Jeremy Bailey

Web: http://jeremybailey.net/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/jeremybailey

Known for:
His works on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/jeremybailey06
VideoPaint 1.0: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oQ821cQjyc

Scott deLahunta

Web: http://motionbank.org/

Known for:
A Choreography of perception, of attention and relation in time and space: http://scores.motionbank.org/dh/#set/sets

Olof Mathé

Web: http://olofmathe.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/olofster

Known for:
Art Hack Day: http://arthackday.net/
Related: http://vimeo.com/45841989

As far as I know, all the talks have been recorded. I will make sure to give a shout out as soon as they are available on the retune conference website.