Web Events

My First Street Art Experiment

BerlinStreetArtGraffiti and street art have been a small fascination of mine since I started touring cities in Europe. I generally prefer to seek out graffiti on the streets rather than jumping between restaurants and museums. In parallel, I began experimenting between portrait photography and painting (Gonzo Art), where I tried to combine the layering methods I use in Photoshop with the speedy and interactive way street art is created. On my last trip to Berlin I joined an Alternative Berlin Street Art Workshop to learn a bit more about creation techniques with my first stencil.

The day started with a little street tour near Alexander Platz, Ben (our excellent tour guide) walked us through a history of street art, the difference to that and graffiti, and the culture of groups like the 1up graffiti crew. Eventually we ended up on the far east side of Berlin, where one can still get affordable space in which to host a street art workshop, far away from the MUJI design store or Dunkin’ Donuts. The workshop was exactly what I needed, a basic intro to spraying and stencils, enough to make me dangerous. The process was straight-forward, much like many things are in life, once you understand the thinking behind it.


First, you need to cut out the stencil. We chose from a variety of images, from Pulp Fiction to Scarface and Woody Allen, and I settled on…a sexy nurse. The nurse was ideal, as she was near the top of the stack of possible choices and had nice basic lines, which were straight forward to cut out with the Exacto knife. If you choose an image with intricate lines (for example) you’ll spend hours trying to get the thing cut out. And as I found out, it’s much better to have larger features which using a paper stencil, because it will mask the spray paint much, much better than a stencil with very fine features.

Berlin 2014 Stencil Evolution-Paint

With my stencil cut out I moved on to the painting area. Our awesome workshop leader Ben showed us all the basics, and then we were free to experiment. We were supplied with a pre-cut canvas, about A4 in size to spray on. I like this medium a lot, similar to what I use when painting larger canvases using latex paints. I chose a bluish sort of colour pallet, and high-lighted the nurse’s cross in red. In the back of my mind there was some consistency with the geometric mask shapes I include in my Gonzo Art stuff. I documented the process in between each step, so you can see the evolution from basic canvas to finished piece. The stencil process is quite natural if you’re familiar with layers in Photoshop and basic masking techniques. If you don’t understand Photoshop, then I can recommend starting with a street art workshop to understand masking, and then the process with feel natural when you start using a Wacom tablet to mask and blend digital layers together.

My desire for the future is to use the stencil technique to transform some of my portrait photography into a type of street art print. This would entail starting with the digital image, then using Photoshop to separate different shadow, light, and colour regions, which would then be printed and cut out of a thicker plastic material for the stencil. Then I would use a large canvas, about one meter wide (or tall) and either the spray paint or the quick drying latex I like to work with to create the final art piece. This would give some rarity to the medium, something I was philosophising on with my Ignite Zurich talk, thinking how art exists in our digital internet age where everything is a copy of a copy of a copy.


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.


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.”


Web Monday Zurich 2012 #3

The following are my chaotic notes from the Web Monday Zurich 2012 #3 at the SRF, the Swiss Radio and TV company. The topic was online media, how things are converging, and what to expect for the future. The presenters were SRF, Joiz, and Paper.li. The following notes are recountings from my head, not necessarily exactly what happened or what was said, it’s a bit Gonzo, and if that disturbs you then the Back Button is at your disposal. (more…)

Web Monday Zurich 2012 #4

This Monday was Web Monday which means I had the chance to see the lounge of the Swisscom building for this 4th 2012 event of Zurich startups and ideas coming together. These are my notes from the event, taken largely in the Gonzo style and sent off to press with minimal editing. Inaccuracies, misspelled thoughts and rampant exaggerations are to be expected. Read at your own risk…

There were just two fantastic topics on hand at this fine Web Monday Zurich: the Blue Lion incubator and Online conversion / optimization for startups, our fantastic host was Swisscom, the main telecommunications company in Switzerland. (more…)

Founder Institute Switzerland – Application Deadline

I was at a bootcamp event for the Founder Institute the other week. The event was held in the Swisscom Brain Gym, a cool part of the office in Bern where they’ve created a sort of creativity friendly place with living rooms like you might find in a Swisscom customer residence. There’s also a fine collection of phones on display, including a giant brick mobile phone. I thought Google Zurich has cool offices with their sofa made of tennis balls (and it is cool), but the Brain Gym is really a step above the Google model that people always drool over. Google feels like another planet, the Brain Gym is feels like a comfortable living room, but almost from another planet. A designer tennis ball sofa is cool, know what’s cooler? A whole wall made of tennis balls.


So what is it? The Founder Institute is a startup incubator organization coming out of Silicon Valley with the purpose of spreading entrepreunerialship to people like me, young professionals who like the flexibility of starting up a company but need some direction. Essentially you develop your company from the early idea stage with FI and are mentored by fantastic start folks to help you along your way and scale your great concept.

The Offer

The institute offers mentorship from partners and helps you form your team and shows you how to execute. In return you provide a 3.5% warrant on your company that you found, and everyone from the institute (including yourself) benefits from the growth and prosperity of the other companies that are founded. In this way it’s not about competing with your classmates, it’s about everyone having a vested interested in each company succeeding. I love this concept, and it makes a bit more sense to me at the moment than just going to school for an MBA. I like to learn by doing and I have enough degrees at the moment.

So here’s the deal, the Institute needs a certain number of applications to start the thing in May. If you’re interested in joining or just interested in this being possible, then please apply. The goal is close to being met, but if it’s not done by this Sunday it won’t go forward. The best part of the application is writing about why you want to join. I ended up quoting both Malcolm X and Hunter S. Thompson in my application, and now that I think about, I’m applying because I want to impact and hack the future instead of just passing through the present. Will you join me on this journey?

Apply to Founder Institute Switzerland

Web Mobile Monday #2 Zurich 2012

I headed to Web Monday Zurich 2012 #2, which also happened to be Mobile Monday, it was a shared event at the HP building in Dubendorf, and the topic was Native vs. Hybrid vs. Web apps. As I’m now involved with developing Lost In Reality, a mobile storytelling app, I’m very into this topic of choosing native vs. web/hybrid, so this gathering came at the perfect time for me. The following is a recap from my iPad notes, I’m intermixing what the speakers said with what I thought in my head, so hold on as this recollection could get hairy. There were three excellent speakers:

  • Markus Leutwyler, HP: General overview on Web vs. Mobile vs. Native Apps
  • Colin Frei, Liip: A case study on web / hybrid apps
  • Vikram Kriplaney, local.ch: A case study on native apps

Markus Leutwyler from HP (@twtomcat)


Now everyone is an expert and can make a web page, mobile started two three years ago, now the app is on the rise, we go to apps, not webpages. So now where are we today? Can everyone make a web app now? The web has a low entry barrier and it’s everywhere, browsers are everywhere, and now it is also an application platform. So what are native, hybrid, and web apps?


iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, you use a variety of languages based on the app market you want to target. Why native? Go native for performance, offline mode, find ability, device integration, monitization, user experience. You can make money with app stores. But what exactly is the native advantage? For example, now with WebGL we can do 3D in HTML.

Web App/Hybrid:

Html5, JavaScript, canvas, OpenGL, web sockets, css3, phone gap, ability to code one and export to different places (like with build.phonegap.com) Code reuse, common technologies, low entry barrier, cross-platform, familiar tools and techniques. While this doesn’t work for all applications just look at the trends, JavaScript performance is improving, hardware acceleration is coming, rapid browser evolution (short release cycles for Firefox), new tools frameworks coming out all the time.

Web vs Web Apps

Basically a web app is installed and able add to home screen. Then you have ChromOS, boot2gecko, where it simulates the native experience.

Collin from Liip (@colinfrei)

Why do an app instead of a web page? To access device functionality, camera, etc. discover ability via app store, reach different audiences than via a Google search, selling your app, ability for in-app subscriptions, easy for people to tap and spend money. Barriers? NIWEA is an answer, wrap your content in an app container, hence you can use Cocoon, Phonegap, etc.

  • Phonegap: it is a container, gives access to device functionality via API using JavaScript. What are the advantages?
  • Knowledge: many web developers know JavaScript, lower barrier to entry, portability, can reuse the code for different devices.
  • Portability: Means you can view the sites on your browser, if you write the code well you can port the stuff anywhere and reuse it. All these things affect costs, so hybrid allows you to use advantages of native.

Phonegap is good with APIs that are wide ranging, and then use plugins to offer specific functionality, but it isn’t universal. In the end you still have to write some unique code for different devices and their unique app needs. Concerning app performance, native is always better by definition, and it depends on your use case, like games that are device intensive for hardware optimization, but you can try game closure and cocoon.js, it all depends on what your goal is.

TV App for Tages-Anzeiger:

The purpose of the app is that they just show you the good TV shows, based on their recommendations. You can stream output to your tv and devices, it’s free to try and then is subscription based. It’s an iPad app, but lots of it was Html5 and JavaScript. Video is done via Html5, Phonegap was used to wrap it for the app store. In-app plugin purchases was used for monitization. Did not do much with portability to other devices because everyone is using the iPad anyways. Development done in the browser and tested, then ported to iPad. In total, everything was good with using phonegap.

The Future

Hybrid is expected to be the future. Using the same code base is such an advantage in development. The hybrid aspect becomes much smaller, browsers will be able to implement device features, like camera tag in html5, that is now possible. Check mozilla API , see what sensors you will be able to access.

@kripsVikram Kriplaney local.ch mobile architect


At local.ch they look at the breakdown of numbers for devices, iOS, android, etc. Why native? Well when they started developing for mobile it was 2008, they had expertise in iPhone, they had a mobile website, it was logical to first get a launcher from the phone and then just use the mobile optimized webpage.

In the end, user experience is biggest reason to go native. The user has expectations for that device, and they should respect that experience designed for that device. Performance is a big reason as well. Trust that the device maker has done all the optimization needed to give good UX via tight integration with hardware. Integration with other apps also good – more fine grain control. Now there are more frameworks than platforms for development, some are cross platform, some more on web side.

Leaky abstractions: any nontrivial abstraction will leak, you want to forget the details, but you end up for developing for each platform anyways. So why not go fully native from the start? Naturally for this you need a team with a wide range of competence, which local.ch has. The more audience they have on any platform, the more effort they put into developing for that platform as the platform evolves, launcher the web, hybrid, native. They do do hybrid, do it when it makes sense.

End Questions/Comments

  • Is local storage a problem? In principle, offline functionality is not a problem.
  • For testing, you can do automated builds and do UI testing with test flight.
  • Backbone, spine as single page applications, for more responsive website.
  • Yes mobile is going to take over.

Arrrrrr, I Joined the Pirates

Be brave, be crazy, be a Pirate! How can a person logically say no to that? Startup Pirates is an organization coming out of Portugal, a movement to change the world. I’m easily impressionable and have been looking for a startup event to be a part of, and I met one of the organizers at Ignite Zurich. So, when they advertised the next plundering campaign in Lisbon in February, I figured I would be crazy not to apply to be a part of it. Here’s the description for the pirate website, http://www.startuppirates.org/

More than a company, a project or a non-profit, Startup Pirates is a Movement.

We want to spread an entrepreneurship culture around the world and show that it’s possible to build a company right after college or even during a college degree. For us, age, genre, location or professional status aren’t obstacles but opportunities to create companies and change the World. There are many ways to change the world and we at Startup Pirates picked entrepreneurship as the way to do it. ?Our goal is to create one-week startup schools around the world. By making the perfect match between the academic world and the entrepreneurship environment, we want to bring together the latest discoveries done in terms of business models, marketing management, Human resources management and the latest achievements in the technological field. We believe this mix is the secret sauce to make startups successful.

So, join us at Startup Pirates, give us feedback, organize your own startup school, with our help or be an attendee at one of the upcoming events. ?

Why Be a Pirate?

Over the last year I’ve been in a sort of erratic learning and thinking stage. I took a class to understand the professional art world (focused on Zurich), launched a video poetry collaboration with DJCue in Atlanta, and have been doing a lot of background reading/learning on mobile user experience, HTML5, augmented reality, 2D/3D game design, and animation, and some topics in big data. A recent mind vacation in Berlin has brought a lot of things into perspective, and I’m ready from a vision and knowledge standpoint to launch something. What is this thing?

Well, I have a number of ideas on technologies and social topics I would like to translate into a startup. I spend my lunches outlining and diagramming mobile app ideas, everything from an AR graffiti program (Defend Kreuzberg) to app/sensor combinations to aid patient recovery post surgery to helping artists understand the context of their place in the world. I firmly believe that events like Startup Pirates Lisboa are the places to get things off the ground. When I went to 1 Day of Art Copenhagen I little idea of what to expect, but put faith in the future and I ended up creating some cool paintings and realizing my artist identity. Heading to Lisbon for a week to a startup bootcamp and building something with the people I meet there is the way to do things. You go with an open mind, work your ass off, and good things will happen.

Want to be a Pirate?

Ignite Zurich – Art – Rarity and the Web

I gave talk at the 1st Ignite Zurich (Dec. 2nd at The Hub Zurich) centered on art, rarity, and what that means in the context of the internet and web technologies. A big thank you to Inês Santos Silva for organizing, the night was an awesome inspirational event. Here’s a break down of the ideas I put into my talk…

The Value of Art

What is the value of art, why is it traded for money and why is it sometime considered priceless? The value of art is a combination of traditional supply and demand, rarity, and context. you can’t assign value to art without considering the context of it’s creation. the time and place, and how it fits in with the overall context of the art scene at that particular point in time, that will never come again. Yes, it’s possible that your five year old could have painted that, but they didn’t. Art is idea execution. If you were the first person to put your shit in a can and sell it, you would eventually command a price of over 100,000 USD, but if you do it now it’s just considered a strange precousur to insanity and generally socially unacceptable.

What is Art?

Art is a combination of having the new idea and executing it. Art is not an idea, it is the creation of something significant, just as an idea is worthless in a startup company that doesn’t execute it well. Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft all executed their ideas at the right points in time, but they weren’t necessarily the first. It doesn’t matter is someone “stole” your startup idea, it matters if a company was created from that idea. That’s the execution and beauty of it. Now, at this point in time you can launch your own social network, search engine, and software company, but it won’t have the same impact, unless it brings something new and is understood to be genius in the current context of the tech scene. It doesn’t matter if you paint a new Mona Lisa, the idea is done (and overdone and redone in reproductions).

The unique thing about art is that the work gets value at any point in time so long as it fits the context of the history of an art movement, or rather is a disruption. Vincent van Gothe died barely selling a painting. If it’s not discovered and put into context it’s worthless. This is why artists get discovered later on but younger artists are promoted more than older ones when they come onto the art scene. You want the work of the young artists before they become “big” but it’s just a gamble that that will actually happen. So, logically you should create some great work and then kill yourself, because this ensures that you won’t be able to produce any more excellent art. The first person to paint grey instead of blue and red and green would be considered amazing, and all the rest that follow will just be part of the movement. Without the movement, no one cares about the first one, it has no value.

Context vs Content

How can an artist create the context for the work to have value? Or should you just create things and hope that they have some value for other people? The Doktor of Science in me says you get to the heart of the beast and just create or engineer your own context to create value. A piece of art work is a container for an idea, it’s a physical execution of an idea that can be viewed and reinterpreted as needed by society. Nobody cares what the first design of Google looked like, we just want to use it. Maybe the first sketch will sell for a million dollars one day, like the first apple computer, but only because of the context of history. This is because on the internet content is king. People was to use the technologies of the internet, not just be influenced by the ideas.

The UX Perspective

One thing I learned from hanging out with people at the Zurch UX Book club is some of the psychology behind buying things. When things are rare, inside of you is triggered that, “buy it now” mentality. When you see there’s only a few things left in stock, you’re pressured to buy it now. This probably goes back to the natural instinct to collect things and then trade them later on for things you might want from other people, the beginnings of capitalism. So I thought, how can I create a “buy it now” context for my art? In a world of immersion and augmented reality, installations will be the containers. Will we really care if things are real or not? Will it matter if it’s the real Mona Lisa or not? The experience will probably become more and more necessary to have an impact, but we’re not there just yet.

Art Death Concept

The Art Death concept is an auction platform idea I started putting together after taking a professional artist seminar at the F&F Kunst Schule with Olga Stefan. To combine the ideas of art with value related to context and the percieved value of art increasing due to psychological tendencies related to rarity, the best thing is to create an auction where the context of value is engineered into the platform, or rather, the performance.

I can accomplish this by putting up my art for auction on a combined internet and real world platform, having a reserve bid for each piece and a time constraint. If the work doesn’t sell for the reserve price, I have to destroy it personally with various dramatic methods. Like taking a rusty chainsaw or a flame thrower and purifiying the world of my mistakes that don’t sell because they have no value to society. It will take some preparation to do this thing right, and I think some fundraising via Kickstarter is in order.

Web Monday Zurich #21

It was a fine summer Zurich night, and I was heading back to the Web Monday Zurich gathering to check out what was happening at our wonderful host, Interxion. There were many events worth noting during this Monday, but the main points include Interxion, 42 Matters, Restorm, and above and beyond customer support by a Googler.


Eddy van den Broeck presented Interxtion, a data center in Glattbrugg in Zurich, and the host of this 21st Web Monday Zurich. I had a little trouble finding the Interxion building, but it’s probably a little hard to find because it’s better that way for the security of their business. Interxion is a data center. A large data center. In fact, a very large data center in the center of Europe. I never really appreciated the data center business until this presentation. Interxion sells secure reliable data space. A simple idea executed with high precision and reliability. The scope of their operation is huge, and these types of centers will be the backbone of our digital future (actually they’re already pretty integral to everything). Politicians keep harping on cyber security and the next big war, but I’m guessing that in the future if you really want to fight a war with someone you won’t care about their military bases or missile silos, you’ll just target their data centers with tunneling cluster bombs in an effort to cut the beast off at its head (this part about wars and beasts and decapitation with cluster bombs is my own fantasy – not part of the Interxion presentation).

Interxtion is located in the very near vicinity of the Zurich airport. I didn’t realize this was relevant information, but I’m sometimes slow comprehending the world around me. Why near the airport and why in Switzerland? Power, fiber optics, customers, political stability, connectivity. All things a giant information storage space needs to be successful. As we do more and more on the net we tend to forget that big data needs to be somewhere…physical. Even the cloud has be a cloud somewhere, it’s not just a fanciful collection of Smurfs shuffling your data between magic mushroom fields and your iPad or Asus Transformer – and there are many real-world factors that need to be in place. For example, Interxion uses more power than the Zurich airport and yet are CO2 neutral. The mechanical engineer in me found this absolutely fascinating. I actually chose my latest internet service provider iMountain largely because they run their operation on solar power, and I like to support Green. Interxtion offers this choice to their customers as well, allowing and promoting the use of alternative energy sources for customers, for example, wind power sources for energy consumption instead of nuclear. Why Switzerland? Best power grid in Europe, politically stable, in the center of everything – makes sense to me (I can list these same reasons for choosing to live and work in der Schwiez myself).

In closing Eddy spoke about the drive to create a Silicon Valley inspired innovation culture in the Zurich area – code named: The Zurich IT Valley. This is a theme people are often talking about, but implementation is always a question. Swiss startup folks visit places like San Francisco and them come back with tales of how awesome it is over there and how things need to change in the Zurich area. However, Silicon Valley wasn’t built by purpose (at least there was no city planning blue-print, even Apple doesn’t have a central campus yet), it was an organic evolution of the innovation society, probably dating all the way back to the atomic bomb. There are real grass-roots movements in the Zurich area like Web Monday, Mobile Monday, Web Tuesday and The Hub, where the locals meet and organically develop communities that define a healthy environment for startups and innovation culture. The Zurich IT Valley sounds like a more structured approach, let’s see what the next five years will bring.

42 Matters

The first startup presentation was by Andrea about AppAware.org – the first app offering from a new startup out of ETH Zurich called 42 Matters. The name of the company is self-explanatory if you’ve read the till the end of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and it not then it doesn’t matter. I mean, the relevance of the name, not the worth of the company. AppAware is an application which shows you what people are installing on Android devices. You can see the installation trends, see what’s hot, what’s not, and based on that info decide for yourself what apps to install on your own device. AppAware is location aware, so you can see what the people around Zurich have installed (and uninstalled). Naturally you can connect to friends to see what they’re doing and copy their behavior if you happen to be a sheep grazing in the mobile app feeding fields. You can tag apps and…do what most social network type apps are doing – and in this field, idea execution is everything. As I began to consider an ASUS Transformer I understand why this sort of app is needed. By contrast you can easily see in the Apple app store if a an app is good or not, read reviews and see if there’s compatibility issues with the latest release. I couldn’t really find the same info planning which apps to buy for an Android device, and AppAware would fill that need.

Is there a way that AppAware is making money? Not at the moment, but there are high hopes for the future, such as providing apps for money and data mining. AppAware/42 Matters is an ETH startup, it originally began as part of a PhD project, and was successful enough to found a company. Seems like a reasonable direction, but in the SWOT sense of the mobile landscape it seems like AppAware could be a stepping stone to something better for the founders – as opposed to the final killer product. The thing is, apps like AppAware have no security against competitors, and even if you’re the first to market it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. A new hot trending app can come along with the same\similar technology and suck up your users like a sponge wiping across the universe or a second straw in your milkshake. Still, part of the reason the founders put their ETH studies on hold was because their idea got so big so quickly, and that pulse could continue to grow with the explosion of mobile devices on the world. I wish them well.


I’m a Doktor of Science, but I’m also into photography, painting, and small production video creation. So Restorm.com was naturally very interesting for me to learn about. There is a very large market for licensed music and media on the internet, but a lot of it is simply shared or pirated. I know this well, and there are many times I want to use a piece of music in a video production, but as an independent hobby-director I have no way to license music legally to use in my work. I’ve resorted to creating my own music, and now I’m collaborating with a DJ from Atlanta I met on Talenthouse.com. Working with DJCue is a great solution for me, and this anecdote is actually a success story for Talenthouse, but the vast majority of folks don’t have time to forge partnerships like I’ve had the ability to do, and just want to easily license music for their projects as easily as buying the song on iTunes. Restorm is a company trying to do that (well, compared to the way it is now it would be as easy as iTunes).

Philippe (from Restorm) wants to make it easy to allow direct licensing agreements between musicians and producers needing music for films and other projects. This is huge for people like me, who have been wondering since the beginning of time (ok, maybe 3 years at least) why we can’t do this already. From the presentation, it seems like Restorm is taking the right angle on the licensing issue. The photography stock market has basically been destroyed by microstock companies such as ShutterStock, who built unsustainable business models ideal for designers needing cheap images but pretty poor for photographers (think ShutterStock) looking to profit from their imagery. Companies like Photoshelter and Alamy provide credible licensing options for photographers, but I think that Restorm can do something really significant in the area of creative works licensing if they’re successful starting with licensing music. I’m looking forward to their full launch.

The After Party

After the presentations the best part of any given Web Monday begins, the time of drinks by the BBQ and networking with all manner of interesting people. I was mingling and hanging out with folks like Mike Byte to catch up on his latest projects and by the end of the night witnessed a customer feedback session that forever proves in my mind that Google is not evil, and is composed of caring people focused on providing an enjoyable experience for their customers.

It went down like this, I was talking in a circle of friendly conversation with some folks (including a Googler), admiring business cards (I had forgotten mine) and making smart remarks about this and that newest thing. I vaguely recall something about tactile surfaces perhaps, or a smart phone display built wth thin-film piezo technology, which will power the devices by user gestures. Then a tall man in a light colored suit, and pressed shirt walked up to us. He seemed out of place at a Web Monday, where even the folks from IBM don’t come in suits. He was a well-dressed man with well-groomed hair and a suit and a tie in a sea of web hipsters with tactile business cards, Freitag bags, disheveled hair cuts, and relaxed-fit jeans (I was sporting a fine pair of white leather Adidas by the way).

One of our circle of conversation was a Googler, wearing his fine Google t-shirt. The well-dressed man didn’t seem to be very happy, and we soon found out it had to do with Google. The conversation started off innocently, our Googler was showing off his phone sporting Android, and we were engaged in dialogue about how some people put a piece of paper over the camera port on their iMac because they’re a little freaked out at the new technology (as did I at first). The iPhone location tracking scandal was in the news at that time, and then our well-dressed friend began making remarks about Google being evil and how he deleted his account. We asked about his line of work and turns out he was a risk manager. So he was keenly clued in to all manner of freaky things that could go wrong in life, backed up by mathematical models, and I think he was a little paranoid – Paranoid that Google was evil and hell bent on taking over all our lives, but then the real reason for his quiet rage came out.

You see, he had set up a Google AdWords account, and he was pissed off that AdWords wasn’t showing up on his chosen search terms, even when his colleagues tried to search from different browsers. He seemed like a meticulous person, and as it turns out, had double checked and tried everything. The main page of his company was on the front page of Google (thanks to organic search optimization), but apparently for AdWords the search terms didn’t hit. There’s no customer service line for AdWords, and he was uber frustrated at the whole experience. Our Googler friend began a solution-oriented approach, bringing up different things that could be wrong, desperately trying to help our well-dressed friend with now fiery eyes, slightly reminiscent of lava about to explode from a deep crack in the surface of the Earth. This went on for maybe 10 minutes…did you try..ah…YES I TRIED THAT..what about..YES I DID THAT AS WELL.

It’s hard to describe the crescendo of rage that was now emanated from the eyes of our well-dressed friend, and for a second I thought we were heading to an apex in energy and he was going to rip off his blazer and punch our Googler in the face because of his poor AdWords user-experience. I’ve been studying user experience this past year, and also have shared this personal rage at wanting to throw a computer out the window, but when you have a representative of the company at the root of your rage directly in front of you, well, the bull’s eye is obvious for your rage canon. This is the point in a confrontation when you either fight back or accommodate to and empathize with the feelings of the aggressor and diffuse the bomb as it were. Our brave Googler handled the situation as any upstanding professional should. He pulled out his Google business card and offered to personally help in the matter.

This defused the situation because some one was listening – and listening is at the heart of user experience satisfaction. It’s the difference between OSX and Windows Vista. It’s the center that this social media tech world revolves around. A real person was offering to help and get to the root of the issue and was sincere in showing that he cares. In an instant the fiery eyes cooled and the rage diffused into the cool Zurich night sky. Our well-dressed friend remarked to me (now with a slight smile on his face), that if Google didn’t change its ways that everyone would simply leave and go to some other search giant. I remarked, that unlike the US economy, Google is too big to fail. He laughed now with genuine joy and agreed with me – a huge smile upon his face, and faded into the fine Zurich night like the Cheshire Cat blending into the background of Wonderland.

Swiss Startup Camp 2011 Basel – Recollections

The train ride from Basel to Zurich on a Friday night is wonderful place to be. Half the people are calm family types, smiling and say they love each other as they sit down, and the other half are pre-drinking Feldschlossen or some cheap wine, getting ready to live it up at the Zurich clubs all night or a party in Sissach. I’m calm and alone on my computer, recounting an amazing day at the 2011 Swiss Startup Camp in Basel. The day was a blast, a warm, invigorating tech-blast of knowledge and inspiration. It was a high-speed infusion of energy and inspiration, and I hope the momentum will take me places I never imagined.

This is a summary of my experiences at the third Swiss Startup camp in Basel, one of the premier gatherings of folks in the Swiss startup scene. You enter not really knowing what to expect, and after picking up your t-shirt and grabbing a coffee we started to discuss who wants to talk about what (the usual barcamp procedure). There are many things which can happen at such an event, but for sure you’ll walk away from the day with a head full of ideas and inspiration to boot. For the past half year I’ve been focused on painting, photography and learning to make movies, and to a certain extent dropped out of the startup events around Zurich. However, I’m ready to get back into it and see what happens. I’ve also been in a sort of tech-soul searching mode for the past half year, and have now focused my energies in three convergent directions: mobile technology, UX/UI, and ebook design. I found my way into sessions about Lean Startup, Scrum, and the Quantified Self.

Lean Startup Factory

The Lean Startup Factory session by Remy and Reto had the biggest impact on me. Lean startup is trending on the Swiss Startup Scene, a take on the Lean Startup Factory from the US. The point is that there’s lots of business ideas every day, week, month, etc. What do we do with them, nothing goddammit, and that needs to change. Forget about sweating the domain name, half desiging a logo, and then failing to execute the idea. What good are good ideas if they never get off the ground? Execution is far more important than inspiration. So fuck the NDAs and business plans, we need to execute, get to the core of beast and start the rock n’ rolla. Well, that was what was going through my head when I listened to Remy (SuperText) and Reto (Doodle) talk about the idea of organizing a Lean Startup Factory weekend in the Zurich area this summer. The main (Fight Club free interpretation) is to dedicate one weekend to breath life in one of your ideas – Build the next twitter in 2 days.

No SWOT, no business research, just team building. 30 people get together on a Friday night, build the teams, and find the core of the idea. Get to the core and execute the idea. No secrets, each team owns the project. No NDAs. Each team owns what they have (because ideas are worthless without execution). The point came up, what about the Swiss startup weekend that already took place. Well, word is that pre-planning and NDAs killed it, because you start to fight between one another instead of creating. Someone said on the street that this will be corrected for this year, but I’m totally inspired by Remy and Reto. Now, who is it for? The startup factory is not limited to developers, but also open to people keen on visual design, interaction design, usability, copywriting, etc. It’s about the whole picture, not just the code. This is the stuff I dream for. During the (t)here Magazine 1 Day of Art in Copenhagen I was exposed to the same method. You go to an inspiring location, dream up ideas on a Friday night, and then create hardcore all of Saturday and show the result. During 1 Day of Art I created paintings I wouldn’t have done in Zurich, and it was all due to the unique energy and inspiration created around the event.

For me, lean factory feels exactly like 1 Day of Art. When I went to 1 Day of Art Copenhagen, it was all hardcore expression and creation. The fine folks from (t)here Magazine put the day together, and I was able to attend thanks to exposure on Talenthouse. However, at the end of the day it was the excellent creative energy and environment of the weekend, cutting out all distractions and just painting with determination in the bathroom of Hotel Fox. It was environment and execution of the idea, trust the process and ride the creative wave and you won’t have to worry about the weekend being a failure – success is the only mother fucking option. The word Factory conjures up the work of Andy Warhol and music from Manchester. You just need to trust in the method and the people. Get people together who want to create, put them in a room with the tools they need, and good things will happen, failure isn’t an option because it’s not part of the equation. The factory plan is like this, everyone meets on Friday, present and talk over ideas, then form some teams and spend the weekend creating, coding, designing, and see what happens. If you’re into this head over to the group, Lean Startup Factory on Amazee.

Lukas Fischer – Lean Startup

I like Lean, and I love reading about management strategies in IT and dreaming of applying them to engineering projects, so after the factory talk I headed over the listen to Lukas Fischer give a rundown on Lean Startup. Lukas heads up netnode.ch, guzuu.com, and spent some time chilling in San Francisco last summer learning and meeting with folks and he wanted to share his thoughts and experiences with Lean. The lean startup trend seems to be trending hard on the Swiss startup landscape, and the room wall filled to capacity to hear what the buzz is about. Lukas started by stated some facts, 70% of startups fail, 10% make money. Why? Because startups often don’t make stuff customers actually want (logical, no?). Lean isn’t a management magic bullet, it’s just a set of best practices to help startups succeed. The concept was set down by @ericries, and @sgblank, considered the fathers of lean startup. First, let’s start at the start. What is a startup? It’s a human institution to deliver a product or service under extreme uncertainty. It could also be an organization used to search for a scalable business model. Lean helps to do that. Here’s my summary of his talk (a bit with my interpretation filled in), but you can also get the slides directly (below here).

So, what is best way to see if there are customers for your idea? Well, you can go through these steps to topics with CUSTOMER DEVELOPMENT:

  • Customer discovery – test hypothesis
  • Customer validation – charge money
  • Customer creation – start sales
  • Scale company – scale it

This sounds all well and good, but what does Lean mean? With Agile development, the point is to do customer development really fast. Speed is key, so use an iteration process (as opposed to Waterfall) when developing your product.

Ideas – Build code – Measure data – Learn – Repeat

Now, the Waterfall model is ok if you already know the solution. However, it is not good for startups because you don’t know the customers, and therefore you are also ignorant of the final solution. So it makes sense to use an interaction process as shown above. So how do you get Lean?

  1. Forget Waterfall
  2. Build up Agile
  3. Build team – focus only on problem team and solution team
  • To reduce the clutter, focus on the Problem and the Solution. The problem team focuses on customers and finding the perfect solution. The solution team builds it as fast as possible
  • Minimum viable product (MVP). When you start with an idea, you need a product which solves a real client problem, but just solves one pain.
  • Eliminate features. Throw out features and resolve a problem for a customer, if it doesn’t solve a problem, remove it from your code.
  • Early evangelists. Feedback of early adopters and people who love your vision is very important, they will tell you early on what features are missing
  • Continuous integration. Iterate, iterate, iterate, deploy your application as fast as possible, measure if the new version is better than old one.
  • Product market fit. A company has “product market fit” when it has found a product that customers really want.
  • Measuring product market fit. Would you be sad if the product no longer exists, if less than 25% are very disappointed, then your product just sucks.
  • Charge. People pay if they can solve a real problem, charge from day 1, it finds out quickly if people are willing to pay for a product or not.

All in all Lukas gave an excellent talk on Lean. For more information you can check out the 5-step startup metric model by @davemclure, and there are internet sites like startuplessonslearned.com. So, my take away messages included, iterate, fix problems, make an error only once, ask why if it happens 5 times, and use lean to stop creating products people don’t want.

Scrum – What is it?

After two sessions of Lean I was looking for something else along those lines, so I headed over to Scrum with Steve Holyer (@zurcherart). Steve is a web worker and a certified scrum master, so he’s a reliable person to talk with on the Scrum subject. What is Scrum? The term originates from Rugby, where a scrum is used to restart the game when the ball has gone out of play. It can also be, an iterative, incremental methodology for project management, often seen in agile software development. What can we use to describe it? Visibility,empowerment, commitments, agility, efficient, hard, easy, fun, self-managing, cool, it works, best practices, hyper-productive. I’m totally new to Scrum but, from Steve I got the basics. There are some main team roles: Product owner, Team, Scrum master.

Product owner: Knows the customer, decides where the team should go, but not how they get there or how fast, owns the product backlog, prioritizes the product backlog (but does not estimate the stories in the backlog). Usually not the line manager.

Team: 5-9 people, doing the work to complete the project or sprint, self organizing, the team want to get it done and it’s up to the team to get it done, cross-functional, attend the daily scrum, not limited to coders and developers but also analysts, testers, etc. Can also include scrum master.

Scrum master: Coaches everyone in the process and scrum practices, removes impediments, holds the daily scrum, usually not part of the team, usually not the line manager, usually not the tech guru, protects the team. Leads most of the meetings.

Then we move into activities, what is the scrum, how does everything work? We start out with activities. Activities are basically just meetings, but very well defined meetings, which follow the same format in a limited time and are well structured. These include sprint planning, daily scrum, and review. The first two are the less-obvious for me. Sprint Planning: Product owner presents the backlog, the team is there to question the product owner, re-estimate, re-prioritize, estimate velocity, select stories for the sprint. Part two starts after lunch. Break down tasks, at the end the team commits to delivering so and so stories at the end of the sprint. Daily Scrum: This is the sprint commitment, the team has committed to deliver this to you, if you add new tasks in the middle of the sprint, you’re asking them to do something that breaks their commitment. Do you really want to do that? If yes then stop the sprint and replan.

As a mechanical engineer who is always working in Waterfall, it was very interesting to hear Steve talk about Scrum. Some of these techniques are being brought over into the mechanical world, where it has been called Concurrent Engineering. However, I would rather go to the source, and I like the terms Agile and Scrum a lot more. I’ll see how I can integrate the Lean and Scrum management and development ideas into my future projects. There are many parallels in the mechanical engineering world, especially now as more and more projects rely on simulations and virtual prototyping in the development process, but change doesn’t always come easily. Still, I’m optimistic for the future.

The Quantified Self

My last session of the camp was about a website called Quantter (Quan#er) and the Quantified self by Denis Harscoat (@harscoat). Do you know what that means? I had no clue, but it’s the future, and this is how it has begun. The quantified human was the most experimental session I attended. I say experimental mainly because the movement is still so new that even a wikipedia entry didn’t come up when I googled for it before the talk. Quantified Self refers to humans who have quantified themselves, it means people who gather, digest, and interpret data about themselves. Their heart rate throughout the day, their brain waves and sleep patterns, how much they walk each day, what they eat, all these things can be easily measured and recorded now using basic sensors or an iPhone app. This will be big for various reasons. On one hand, we all know that people love to collect and analyze data, and if they can do it about themselves and then share it, it opens up a big market for people to compare their data with that of other people. It’s also an avenue for medical research, and helping people gauge their own healing process and for doctors to monitor patient stats in realtime. The idea is really very powerful. It is the idea of knowing yourself in numbers. It means development of tools for quantifying parts of your life, and using technology to understand how to live in a better way. Once you have and can see the data, the next question is how to interpret it, and then to take action on what you’ve found out about yourself. The website Quantter (Quan#er) is a platform for people to share tweets and things about the stuff they’ve quantified. I can see this as being a big, actually potentially huge growth area in the future if it takes off. For it to take off there needs to be mobile applications to easily record relevant information that can be quantified, and I think that’s where the money will be made. For more info on the quantified self, check out Quantifiedself.com to get info on what people are doing with it and meetups. There’s also a video of Denis of a meetup in Amsterdam on vimeo.

The End: Moment of Zen

Thank you to all the organizers and sponsors, this third Swiss startup camp was fantastically awesome. The startup camp is a wonderful platform for startup folks around Switzerland to meet and develop new opportunities and ideas. It’s consistently the best barcamp I attend every year (yes, it beats out Berlin) and I left Basel with some serious motivations and ideas. Now it’s time to go to work. But first, your Moment of Zen, here’s my favorite random quote from the day (picked up at the after-party):

9 women working one month can’t create a baby.

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.

Web Monday Zurich #14

One of the coolest things about the Web Monday Zurich meetings are the cool locations. Every Monday it takes place in a different place, and after a while you get the feeling of exploring the unique office spaces of the Zurich tech scene. One month you’re sitting in the cozy office space of Amazee, the next you’re chilling on the comfortable couch of Wuala, I took a ride down the rabbit hole slide at Google and on May 3rd, 2010, I got to check out Big Blue, the IBM European headquarters in Bahnhof Altstetten in Zurich. IBM is famous for being (historically) the Evil juggernaut of Silicon Valley (my feeling via Steve Jobs), the beast which Apple and Microsoft rallied against in the early days of the personal computer wars. But now that Apple is the old skool corporate entity – well…IBM sort of feels like the nimble innovation-minded corporation reborn from the ashes of the Silicon computer wars. The people there seem energetic and free-minded – like tech-prophets marching into the future with their heads high and without the corporate giant stigma you see when watching the Pirates of Silicon Valley.

The IBM building has a fantastic atrium, where you can mingle and enjoy an apero before heading into the auditorium. There’s a giant sort of aquarium with blue lights and a couple of huge serves on display, it’s an interesting place to have a beer, and IBM beer surpasses the offerings at Google. I enjoyed a weissbeer while getting my head slightly twisted for my presentation on Web Portraits Zurich and mingled with folks. But before I got up on stage and tried to make a fool of myself, we were treated to talks and thoughts from IBM, Dein Deal, and Kooaba.


Siddhartha Arora (from IBM) was our host for evening, and presented the IBM Global Entrepreneur Program. Basically, IBM is interested in working with startup teams to build a smarter planet. This is an awesome higher purpose to hear from giant company like IBM. So what do startups need when starting out? They need to be low cost, they need mentoring and networking, and then they need marketing and sales. And if you’re accepted into the program, IBM offers it’s project support, people, and marketing strength. Teams would have access to IBM servers and technology support to allow the growth of new ideas and startups. What’s in it for Big Blue? The intellectual property stays with the startup, but I think there’s the belief that helping technology grow is a good thing. If you have a sweet idea that works well on a small startup scale, at some point you’ll need to scale toward the sky, and you need IBM for that. So, basically IBM is enabling new ideas for a smarter planet by supporting startups, and hopes to benefit from the eventual resources required for cool startup ideas to turn into killer companies. I think that this approach is what big companies like Big Blue should be doing to foster and encourage the spread and evolution of ideas, and the higher purpose here, “To build a smarter planet” sounds authentic and is highly inspirational. If you’re interested, you can apply for the program at www.ibm.com/isv/startup.

Dein Deal

There are a number of cool social marketing ways to form new selling opportunities, and Dein Deal is basically taking the idea of grouponworkes.com and putting it in practice in Switzerland. The concept is as old as supply and demand, if you pool the buying power of people, you can reduce the price of a product. Dein Deal focuses on providing deals on “experiences” in Switzerland. What’s an experience? Going out to dinner, a massage, wellness, whatever can be offered. It’s good for deal providers because they get a lot of people using their services, and encourages people to come back after trying it out. It’s good for Dein Deal, because the concept has already been proven successful in a ton of other countries. It’s a copycat concept, but who cares? If something works in one place (like America or Germany) why not see if will downscale to a small country like Switzerland?


I’ll be honest, I love the idea of Kooaba, because as a photographer and visual imagery junky, it’s the technology I was always excited about. And since I live in a cave, I also didn’t know the technology already existed and felt like an idiot in a crowd of brainiacs. What does Kooaba do? Image recognition. That’s it. That’s what I love to learn about. The Kooaba technology recognizes objects in images. If you can identify these elements and then link it to something (like Amazon) you have a very powerful tool for image searching and monitization of online imagery. Why is this important? Because you can’t search for images on the internet. You can only search for tags and text associated to imagery, but you can’t draw a house and find images of houses on Google (not that I know of at least). The idea is that you have an iPhone, Android, smart phone, take a picture of something, and then you get buying info on that object (online stores, Amazon, etc.). Google has a similar application called Google Goggles, which is now the main competitor of Kooaba. The old competitor used to be a startup called Snaptell, who was bought by Goolge (see how the circle of life works).

Kooaba isn’t able to recognize everything though. If you have a picture of a cat, it won’t know what to do with it. Basically the technology works by querying a database, recognizing an object in the image, and then sending the user to buying services. They also have some applications like Paperboy, which is used to take a picture of a magazine article, and then you get connected to the electronic version online on your smart phone. They also have Shooting Star, a photo management app with flickr integration, and using the image recognition technology your image is instantly tagged based on recognized objects. Very cool I think. At the moment it looks good for tagging according to landmarks and scenery, which is great for travel photography. However, this is really just a very small part of what image recognition has the potential to do for retail business and advertising.

Why is imagery recognition so important? Because we love celebrities because of who they are in our minds and love to buy the shit they pose with in magazines. So companies pay advertising agencies to develop ad campaigns with famous faces to sell stuff like Nespresso and clothes. But with image recognition all you would need to do is have a picture on an Android/iPad/iPhone/internet tablet, and in an online magazine and click on an object that Lady Gaga is wearing in some random article about music and then using location based information technology your device could be connected with the closest store offering ghastly latex shoes or you instantly get One-Click link to an Amazon store. Of course, this sucks for the advertising photography industry because it means that any image can be used as an ad, not just those that have been licensed to ad agencies. Imagine my Urban Ninja photos on Flickr being used to sell Katana Samurai swords in Austin, Texas when some kid is looking for cool martial arts photos on his lunch break at school? My images would have aided in selling a product, but I get no split from the sale. But that’s the future, and it’s already here.

Web Portraits Zurich

The last presentation of the night was me and I went low-tech as I presented the Web Portraits Zurich project that I started on Amazee. I went over the concept, explaining why I started taking photos, and how I got bored with self-portraits and started taking to women on the internet to setup model shoots, and then came to the web portrait project idea. I stared the portrait project because I’m continually inspired by the thoughts and visual style of the people I meet in the startup scene. Then it was the most natural thing in the world to start a portrait project, the higher purpose being, “to create cool imagery of people in the startup scene around Zurich and Switzerland.”

I presented images from Mathias Möller and Lukas Fischer, and then talked a bit about the brain storming process and online tools we’ve been using to develop portrait ideas like Google Wave and Cacoo. The next portrait will be with Dania and Gregory from Amazee, and if all goes well a giant Tech-Flesh jungle portrait of the Amazee team will find it’s way onto the net.

Zurich is an exciting place to be if you’re into the startup scene. For more info on what’s happening check out the Web Monday Zurich group on Amazee.com or UX Chuchi or Marketing Chuchi, or just walk the tech streets and explore the possibilities.