BlogCamp

Stolperstein – Location Stories

StolpersteinI usually end up in Berlin about once a year, either for a conference or to enjoy the street art and let my mind unwind. Berlin is a beautiful city, mainly because of the awesome people, partially because it’s in flux, partially because the history of the city is more prominent than most cities are brave enough to display. This instils a sense of reflection where ever I walk through the city.


It’s easy to walk around a city and not know the stories on the walls and the history of the people. You walk through Kreuzberg and you might not look down at the sidewalk, but if you do you might see small brass monuments set in the stones of the street beneath your feet.

Stolperstein


These are called Stolperstein, ard are memorial markers dedicated to victims of the Holocaust Nazi oppression. Each Stolperstein has name and is a monument to the people sent off by the Nazi to camps, or sterilized, or were deported and murdered. I photograph them whenever I see them because it makes me remember. Our history is so easily forgotten. If you have kids and they have kids, then probably you will be remembered until your grandchildren die. That’s as much recognition that history usually gives a person. Things are changing in the internet age, but virtual worlds do not replace the tangibility of the world around us.


We build monuments because they last longer than paper and are placed in the open for everyone to see and visit with their thoughts. They communicate simple messages, like a name, date of birth, and if a person was murdered in Auschwitz or exiled in Shanghai. We walk by buildings where beautiful and horrible things have happened each day and usually don’t have any idea. This was one reason why I started the Lost In Reality project, so that part of the history of our world would be remembered in stories tied to places. Tweets and Facebook updates are forgotten five seconds after you read them. I wanted to enable longer conversations between people and the places they walk through. I think it’s good to have lofty goals, because when you understand the history of your environment and all the stories hidden all around you, then you understand better your context in life.


The Stolperstein are reminders to what happened in the past, and for me a warning to what happens in the present in other countries, and what could happen in the future. People like you and me pulled from our homes and sent off to be murdered. When I see them I read the names in my head and wonder what they looked like, what their voices sounded like and what it felt like when they were taken away, stripped of the freedom I take for granted walking down the same street. For me they are a reminder that life is precious, that we should enjoy the moments that we have, and we should stand up when those around us are victimized. If a place doesn’t move your emotions, what was the point of traveling there.


To learn more about Stolperstein, visit the Wiki Page.


“While the vast majority of stolpersteine commemorate Jewish victims of the Holocaust, others have been placed for Sinti and Romani people (also called gypsies), homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, black people, Christians (both Protestants and Catholics) opposed to the Nazis, members of the Communist Party and the Resistance, military deserters, and the physically and mentally disabled.


The list of places that have stolpersteine now extends to several countries and hundreds of cities and towns.”


 

UXCamp 2010 – Bad Blogger Back in Berlin

Why am I here? In the overall-until-I-die life sense it’s obvious – to fuck and reproduce. All these fools looking for a deeper meaning in life are wasting their time. You’re just here to reproduce and/or help increase the world population at a rate greater than those souls who are dying. Why complicate your head when the answer is simple, straight forward, and dialed into your DNA sex-drive/maternal/paternal instincts?



Oh, why am I in Berlin? Also an easy question to answer. I’m back in Berlin for the 2010 UXCamp Europe. It’s the premier gathering of UX/UI people in Europe, a venerable nexus of smart minded brains focused on developing user experiences in software and applications. In the past half year I’ve gotten interested in designing user interfaces and user experience strategies, partially because I want to develop Revolt from the Singles Table into an iPhone/Android app, partially cause I just find it interesting how humans interact with technology. I want to talk about the UX of books at the UXCamp. Books…you know, the things we read, with the words printed on paper that open up and can be put on shelves or burned? Books...those things that we are now reading on electronic devices like ebook readers or maybe an ipod, iphone, ipad, Android phone, or whatever. But my question is why?


What are the essential elements of the printed book user experience, which should be transfered to the ebook concept? This all started when I finished my first short story/micro novel titled Revolt from the Singles Table. I was thinking up spoken-word viral video marketing ideas for the book and then I was like, but what exactly am I selling? A printed book? An idea? I’m selling the book, which is just a container for ideas. Some books are turned into moving pictures, then the movie is the container for the idea. How does this all fit together when we design a mobile application, turn the printed book into a program which immerses the user/reader with pictures and sounds and words, which together better communicate the ideas contained within the book than a printed medium would be able to communicate.


Maybe I’m not really qualified to talk about this at this premier nexus for UX/UI people of the world – but one time I tried to climb a 6000m peak in Bolivia. Hyuana Potosi is billed as one of the easiest 6000m peaks in the world. However, it was my third attempt to climb a mountain and only the second time in my life that I’d been above 4000m. At the time I was living in flat-land Michigan and had little first-hand mountaineering experience. Now I live in Switzerland split my time between climbing/ski touring/mountaineering. In Bolivia I got up to about 5000m and told the guide I was finished. So why not put myself out there again and try to do something I’m not really qualified for?


I figure that, since I’ve written a book, read ebooks on my ipod and now want to market and sell Revolt from the Singles Table in printed and electronic forms, I can at least lead a discussion on the subject.

A Bad Blogger Back from Berlin

BarCamp Berlin 3 was, as can be best described in the popular vernacular of an MTV generation, “Off the Fucking Hook.” It was a barcamp by which future barcamps will be measured, it will always exist as a whisper in the internet night, lingering in the back of blogger minds until the apocalypse. As an American living in Zurich who happens to know a few people from the city, my view is that if you’re attending a cool party around Zurich, it’s probably being hosted by someone from Berlin. Expectations were high as I landed at Tegel Flughafen, and they were fulfilled in every tech geekiness sense.


The point of a barcamp is the free exchange of ideas. These ideas are mainly directed towards the internet technology sector, but all are welcome. So what were the great ideas that I was exposed to at BarCampBerlin 3.0? Some highlights from my view include ZooTool, presented by Hartmut Wöhlbier from Mannheim, it’s an interactive tool to replace bookmarking in the internet. I’ve started using ZooTool, but find it more useful for images, as it scans a page to see what content can be saved, and so far I’ve found it less useful for saving articles or text.  Alex Kawas received the most enthusiastic applause of the weekend for his talk about optimizing your sleep to improve your productivity. I asked him why when I have a few beers, my next day is extremely productive, but he admited that he did know. I respect this type of answer, becuase it’s far more useful than when a person starts bullshitting an answer to cover the fact that they dont’ know.


Of course, as a photography-centric blogger, I was highly attuned to the imagery topics. For a while I’ve been looking for a way to produce custom messenger bags with original artwork, and by the grace of the divine spirt a German company is doing exactly that. CROW’n’CROW GmbH allows you to create and eventually market your custom bag designs on their site.  This is similar to something like CafePress, but the quality of their bags is superior to anything I’ve seen so far, and I plan on getting a few bags from them. Currently their site is in German, which is great for me but so far they’re only targeting the German and European markets, watch them for eventual expansion to the States.  I talked briefly with their reps, and Steve said large orders to the US might be possible, contact them for details. On the photography front, Ole Begemann gave a demonstration on using Strobist inspired small-flash photography techniques. Ole is one of those new-breed digital photographers, who produces fantastic imagery despite not having a degree from the Brooks Institute. His Flickr stream has inpiring images from Berlin to Bolivia, and and many areas inbetween. Ole took me on a photo-tour of Berlin before the barcamp and now I’m highly motivated to go back to Berlin to shoot at the locations we scoped out.


Bar Camp Berlin 3 was really a well-organized event.  The only problem was in the acoustics of the event.  The sessions were held in an open hall with dividers for to create small rooms, but the sound went up and reflected off the ceiling, making it hard to hear what was being presented. A minor thing. All in all Bar Camp Berlin rocked, and I couldn’t thank the organizers and sponsors enough. The event was held in the Hauptstadtrepräsentanz of the Deutsche Telekom. Every time I head to a barcamp I give a talk, and my talk at BarCamp Berlin 3.0 was on Sunday morning, centered on the use of visual imagery for blogs and the internet. This was an interesting experience, because I didn’t find anytime to sleep between Saturday night and Sunday morning. Although I was coherent, I somehow didn’t push the right button on my Zoom H4, and therefore the audio of the session was not saved for posterity.


The real fun was later on Sunday afternoon when the city began to take on an unrealistic feel, and I felt like I was walking through a Pink Floyd video. I’m sure that Alex Kawas would have recommended sleeping at some point, but I had no desire to. The true value of a BarCamp is inspiration, and I got a lot of that in Berlin. I spend four days in Berlin, the first two were spent on photography and writing, going nowhere and doing nothing. I had my Zoom H4 with me and recorded sounds of Berlin, and plan to do some visual poetry combining the visual images and Berlin sounds. Hunter S. Thompson used to say that the weird never die, but I think we just like waiting until we have a reason to. He found his time, but I’m still waiting for mine.

Bad Bloggers go to Berlin

Good bloggers go to San Fransico, Bad bloggers go to BarCamp Berlin 3.  At least, I’m hoping that’s what will be written on the BarCamp Berlin 3 T-shirts.  BarCamp Berlin 3.0 is setting up to be the coolest blogging event of 2008, and probably one the best held so far in the history of the BarCamp.  Paris has flair, Zurich beauty, and Detroit has true grit.  But Berlin is one of those unique cities with an excellent mix of history, tech, art, design, and badassness.  In Berlin the people are hip, beer is plentiful, and the clubs get hotter as the night turns into morning.  It’s also easily one of my favorite places for photography in the world.  Berlin is a city in flux, it has a flow, and between new buildings filled with new ideas the old walls give the determined poet inspiration.  I could easily spend a month there, but this is the wrong attitude.  If you spend a month anywhere you run the risk of getting comfortable.  Better to enter and leave the environment as harshly as possible, keep the mind alert and the senses hightened, otherwise you’ll miss what you came for.  It’s all the more interesting when you have to push youself for a few days with little rest.


First, the main deal: there are something like 650 participants from Germany and around the world attending BarCamp Berlin 3 (Oct. 18th and 19th), and it kicks off a Web 2.0 week in Germany.  Two big parties are happening on Friday and Saturday night, with the camp festivities starting Saturday and ending on Sunday. Sponsored by a number of tech companies, including Oracle and Nokia…I’m incredibly geeked about attending.  Of course, to get in, you have to be on the list.


Getting on the list wasn’t easy, the day registration opened I followed the link in my email only to get denied on the spot, because it seems like the available spots were filled up in a near simutaneous flurry of internet mouse clicks.  Fortunately for me, the cool folks at BarCamp Belin had reserved space specifically for international guests.  Since I come from the US and live in Zurich, I seemd to qualify.  This naturally brings up what I would do at BarCamp.  The concept, as with every barcamp is no spectators, you give a talk, volunteer or blog about the blogcamp.  I’m always in the presentor category.  Not because I know what I’m talking about, but some days you like to hear yourself speak, and preparing a talk means you have to have a grasp of the content.  This isn’t like attending a scientific conference where only two people out of twenty will be able to understand the words flowing out of your mouth.  At a BarCamp you want to communicate ideas for the pure sake of spreading knowledge and inspiring people.  My last apperance was at BlogCampSwitzerland3.0, where I rambled on about integrating Flickr and blog content.  As a speaker, I always come out of the process with a deeper understanding of the material and of myself.  Additionally, speaking reaffirms how much I don’t know about the world.  I like to think I offer a unique perspecitve, trained as a research engineer I blog about cameras, photoshop, creativity, phtography and produce imagery for Flickr.  My main interests for BarCamp Berlin are delving into the production process of visual imageray for blogs, and distributing that content in diffenet ways on the web.  My video production skills are improving, and I’ll post my talk in two or three videos after the show.


Now the only question is what to pack?  I’ll take three cameras to Berlin, burn through as much Velvia film as possible in 35mm and 645 formats and try to capture the feeling of the adventure.  Street sounds and poetry will be handled with my Zoom H4 digital audio recorder.  My short list of cameras includes the Ricoh GRD, Contax G1, and Fuji GA645 (wi) cameras.  The Contax G1 might not make sense to some people – who still shoots 35mm in a digital world?  Well, here’s a better question, how can one spend time photographing in place like Berlin and not do it with Carl Zeiss lenses?

BarCamp Berlin 3

BlogCampSwitzerland 3.0 Flickr-Blog Integration


I had the excellent opportunity to join in the third BarCamp in Zurich. BlogCamp Switzerland 3.0 was held on August 29th, 2008 at the Technopark in Zurich. ?This was my second attendance at BlogCamp Switzerland, I did a talk at the first one on March 24th, 2007 where I gave a talk called ?Photography and Writing for Blogs.


BlogCamp Switzerland 3.0 included a cool mix of people and ideas.  I listened to Cédric Hüsler (http://keepthebyte.ch/blog.html) talk about the impact of polling feed networks and how much traffic is wasted on checking if blogs have been updated.  In the afternoon I went to hear Patrick Liechti from Sun Microsystems talk about organizing a Startup BarCamp type conference to educate people on how to form and succeed with new startups.  This underscores the advantage of attending a BarCamp, lots of new ideas and exposure to new areas.  I’m looking forward to attending BarCamp Berlin 3, which will be the third for that awesome city.


This time I put together a talk centered on using Flickr as a way to integrate photography into a blogging workflow.  This sounds a bit technical and boring, but I tried to get all blogging philosophical and hit on the idea that photos can be used to instantly communicate feelings in invoke emotional responses in ways which aren’t possible by blogging just using text.


The fusion of text blogs with Flickr postings means you can market your blog content to a large number of people who are interested in visual stimulation.  If your images communicate an essential message, they can be used as ways to bring traffic to your site.  Furthermore, using the community aspects of Flickr enables very good interaction with blog readers.  David Hobby knows this, the author of Strobist has skillfully used Flickr to build a reader base that wouldn’t have been possible if he had only blogged using his Blogger account.  And after learning some things from David, I used Flickr to market my blog posts about photographer Joey Lawrence and his Photoshop DVD Tutorial with the Strobist Flickr group discussion board.  I also hit on how Flickr is currently one of the best solutions to the problem of finding photos on an internet when search engines are still all text based.


Anyways, since I’m exploring the transition from text blogging to integrated photo blogging I thought I’d add some video and audio to the mix.  This first one sort of sucks, but I’m looking to improve.  Below I’ve embedded a version of my talk entitled:


Marketing Blog Content with Flickr


Timing and Community


BlogCamp Switzerland 2007

On Saturday, March 24th, I affirmed by place in the "Global Blogsphere" by giving a presentation at BarCamp Zurich.  Essentially it was a gathering place for bloggers, and the coolest concept for a conference I’ve ever experienced and would love to explore this format for Smart Materials and other research endeavors.  I won’t try to relate all the topics covered, as there were real journalist type bloggers who have done a much better job than I would.

The concept is simple, meet people with similar interests (200 participants) and learn about what other people are doing.  No paper to write, no registration deadlines for presentations, you sign up on the internet, you go there in the morning, pick your time-slot, you network, do your talk, network – awesome conference experience.

I don’t actually remember how I found out about it, but when I found the BarCamp webpage and checked out the agenda, I signed up to give a talk on Photography and Writing for Blogs.  I also won’t try to communicate all of what went on at BlogCamp Switzerland 2007, because bloggers with better talents for reporting facts like PeetTheEngineer and Markus Tressl have already done so.

Why did I give a talk at BlogCamp Switzerland 2007?  Because I normally give talks on Active Fiber Composites with graphs and microscopy images and focus on the finer points of delamination in Smart Materials or crack propagation due to stress concentrations at the interface between Interdigitated Electrode fingers and PZT fibers.  Not that this is bad, but it seemed like a nice change of pace to talk about off-camera flash techniques and creating a "Mental Anchor" when creating blog content.




My presentation centered on the idea of creating a Visual Anchor when creating blog content, in particular with writing and photography.  Part of this included off-camera flash techniques, and how the advent of cheap radio triggers and flashes makes it easier than ever to create good photos and communicate ideas.  In in the process I promoted www.strobist.com, as the best source on the web for learning how to use your flash.





The writing section focused on using descriptive language to communicate a visual image for the reader in addition to transferring information.  Naturally I used examples from the blog.

You could write:

"The Laughing Lemon cooking school is located in Zurich."

Or:

"It sounds like the coolest cocktail you’ve ever heard of, but the Laughing Lemon is actually a cooking school in Zurich."

They both communicate information, but the second passage gives a visual anchor (an image in your mind) – and it sounds cooler.  I got into workflow a bit and the use of writing programs like Ulysses to organize yourself and write more effectively.






I closed by saying things like,

"Focus on developing good content to make the web a better place."

and,

"Delete the embarrassing photos your girlfriend takes of you."





The discussion brought up some cool points, one (from Stefan Bucher I believe) being the idea that German bloggers tend to comment on and discuss events in their blogs, while American bloggers generally maintain a larger focus towards creating content.  Essentially it’s the difference between writing a blog about your life versus writing about and creating a dialogue about world events on your blog.

I’m hoping the folks who were at my presentation took away some warm feelings and fun ideas.  From reading the bloggers who covered the event, it seems like the talk went better than the technical ones I give.  It’s also possible that some thought I was some crack-pot American fool with a pointless blog who spends too much money on cameras – but I’m ok with that, life gets boring if you don’t take risks.

Plus, and this is another reason why I did it, I get to add the following to the Presentation section of my CV:

Light painting and Scribbles – BarCamp Switzerland March 24, 2007, Zurich, Switzerland,  International conference on blogging.