Week 93

The first impressions of a somewhat late adopter of the smartphone, and thoughts on the importance of testing things for yourself.

A thought on judgment vs experience

As I’m writing this Week Note, I’m racing through the fields somewhere between Warsaw and Konin, on the train back to Berlin. I’m also typing on a phone. This is a novelty for me: I inherited Igor’s Android phone a couple weeks ago, after he finally caved and switched to the iPhone (incidentally also a hand-me-down, from Johannes). This is my first experience using a smartphone for more than a minute at a time. I felt somewhat traitorous for deserting my dumbphone, a rather ordinary clamshell Nokia from about 2007, but after a couple weeks of holding a small brain in my hands every time I feel like getting in touch with someone or taking note of something, I’m very impressed with the selection of tools available to me. I have, however, compromised and have not gotten a data plan, so my internet usage is restricted to WiFi. We’ll see how long that lasts. Even so, I feel like I’m understanding that little bit more of the culture I’m working in.

It feels like something of a turning point, getting to know the medium through which the general consensus says is The Future. I’ve been hearing and reading things about “mobile” for a few years now, and yet never really digested any of it, since it didn’t apply to me. I didn’t really want to venture into this unfamiliar mobile realm because I dreaded the added responsibility that would come with more awareness of what was happening from minute to minute among my friends, or at work, or in the news. I didn’t want to be informed of everything, nor did I want to turn into someone who checks her phone constantly. But since I hadn’t tried it, I didn’t realize that it was also uncomplicated to scale down or up my level of informedness, and that I would still be perfectly aware that not every piece of information I receive requires an immediate reaction.

The strongest impacts of an emergent technology are always unanticipated. You can’t know what people are going to do until they get their hands on it and start using it on a daily basis, using it to make a buck and u­sing it for criminal purposes and all the different things that people do.
– William Gibson1

As workers in the digital sphere, we have a responsibility to try out the technologies we talk about. No amount of research on a given technology can stack up to being a user and trying it out for yourself, experiencing its genius, its annoyances or its idiosyncracies. We should try to keep questioning our position on certain technologies, and periodically reassess our biases.

  1. Mentioned in a presentation by Sami Niemelä at the BMW Guggenheim Lab in Berlin on July 16th. 

What we read (New Years Edition)

Welcome back. We hope, you had a great time off. Here’s a collection of articles we read through the break. Let them help you fire up your brain.

Welcome back. We hope, you had a great time off. Here’s a collection of articles we read through the break. Let them help you fire up your brain.

It’s not information overload, it’s information overconsumption that’s the problem.

Clay Johnson

  • WIRED: How Smartphones Are Changing Photography: The Numbers Are In
    No day goes by where we don’t snap a few shots with our camera phones. Yet, numbers on the overall role of smart phones in the world of photography were relatively rare. This just changed. Here are some solid statistics of “regular” cameras vs camera phones.
  • Tencent vs. Sina: The Fight for China’s Social Graph
    While Europe and the US are being dominated by Facebook and Twitter, in China it’s a completely different picture. In the land behind the Great Firewall, Tencent and Sina compete for the number one spot.
  • What It Looks Like Inside Amazon.com
    Ordering things on Amazon is easy. But what happens after we click on the button then sends our order to one of Amazon’s many servers? Here is a look into the inside.
  • Interview: Gabe Newell
    “In general, we think there is a fundamental misconception about piracy. Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem.” – Gabe Newell, Co-founder & CEO of Valve Entertainment, a gaming industry giant that not only developed some of the most successful games, but also is a pioneer in inventing new distribution models.
  • The year in mobile apps: Where we’ve been, where we’re going
    A brief, but nevertheless interesting wrap up about mobile apps in 2011. Attention: US centric.
  • Rediff.com Business: India needs to rethink notion of ‘smart cities’
    India (and China for that matter) are in the unique position of having to build many cities from scratch. With an ever increasing population that demands better living conditions, those countries are poised for this large scale projects. At the same time, the approach to ‘smart cities’ needs to be redefined. Technology should help the people who will be living in those cities.
  • The Spirit of Mega
    Back in 2004, Wired Magazine send out Bruce Sterling on a tour around the world to explore true ‘mega projects’. From the Eiffel tower, CERN and Shanghai, he managed to capture not only the largest accomplishments of humanity, but also the spirit that is required to build them. A fascinating, long read.
  • VICE: The Future of Pointless Things
    Julian Bleecker runs the Near Future Laboratory and he is one of the few people out there who can say that without it sounding a bit over the top. So when he gives an interview to the good people of VICE magazine, it’s obvious for us to read it. If you are interested in a healthy discussion about culture, technology, design, design fiction and reality in general, this is highly recommended.
  • GigaOm: Why Berlin is poised to be Europe’s new tech hub
    Om Malik reports back from his visit in Berlin and shares his analysis of Berlin as a startup hub. His findings aren’t terribly surprising (Berlin has lots of potential but the startup ecosystem is just beginning to bloom), yet it’s always interesting to learn a Silicon Valley veteran’s point of view about the city. Plus, plenty of our friends are featured, including our office mates Gidsy.
  • Mashable: Louis CK Earns $1 Million in 12 Days With $5 Video
    American comedian Louis CK released a holiday special: Exclusive video material of one of his gigs for $5 – no DRM or other copy protection, no marketing. Just a very simple deal. Pay 5 bucks, get a video. In 12 days he made USD 1m, cutting out his publishers completely. Point proven.
  • The age of emotions
    Tariq Krim, CEO of Jolicloud, talks about what he perceives to be the next age on the web: “The age of emotion is the third age of the Internet and marks a certain maturity in how we as application developers should serve the user and respect its inner emotional balance.”