Big re:publica ’12 write-up

Because everybody needs yet another blog post about the re:publica this year, here we go. Warning: I have spent the time since the conference ended in a digital wasteland of crappy hotel wi-fi and severely speed-limited 3G, so I have yet to read someone else’s blog post about the re:publica ’12. And I probably won’t until I have finished this article.

Day 1: Wednesday, May 2nd

Having a last name that starts with an “S” finally paid off: the ticket counters were as usual separated by last names and the queue in which “S” was in was curiously short. Well, good for the other Dominik and me, bad for the other guys who had to wait a bit longer. In all fairness: even the long queue moved along pretty fast. No reason to complain here.

Creative Internet Business: Made in Germany?

This sounded extremely promising, but we left the room pretty fast: a lot of self-congratulatory non-content managed to scare us and quite a few others away. (“We met at the TechCrunch 50 in San Francisco.” “As he said before, we met at the TechCrunch event in San Francisco!”)

Basically Teymur said it all in his tweet:

It’s pretty bad when the politician is the most likable panelist.

Key learning: It’s important to be important.

Getting Broke, Broken, and Forked for the Planet

Things got a lot better when Britta Riley took the main stage to talk about the Windowfarms project. The idea of a small garden in your kitchen is pretty appealing and the talk was given pretty smooth and professional without being bland or boring.

Key learning: I need some shrubbery in my kitchen. Preferably without having to build one of these things by myself.

The beauty of interaction

My hopes were big for this one: who doesn’t like beauty and interaction is the big design thing lately.1 And in most ways I was not disappointed: the content of the talk – how interaction design can be useful in therapy and how students create new innovative and interactive ways of displaying history. And the speaker, Patrizia Marti is probably the person to ask when talking about projects like this – but then it showed that she came from a pretty academic angle. While short videos demonstrated the work, the slides were a huge block of bullet point texts and the whole talk felt more like a lecture at a university.2

Key learning: Position-aware floating tiles that can change their color are pretty awesome.

Silicon Savanna – How Technology in Africa is changing the Globe

Mark Kaigwa‘s talk about the state of information technology in Africa was extremely likable and informative.3

Key learning: Text messaging is still big, even in the age of smart phones. And: there are more activated and active SIM cards in Kenya than people.

Make Love Not Porn

Cindy Gallop, who seemed to be pretty proud to be the only person so far to have held a TED talk that does not appear on the ted.com website, talked about her Make Love Not Porn project and her mission to teach younger people that proper real sex is not like in porn movies. It was pretty clear she’s doing a lot of speaking professionally – no value judgement here, though.

Key learning: Former basketball professionals have friends who can’t not see women as objects and proper real driving is nothing like in “The Fast and the Furious.”

Hackerbrause: Schlaflos durchs Weltall

The team behind the hackerbrause weblog and the O’Reilly book with the same name 4 gave a short overview of the magic journey of the mate drink(s) and fed people cake. I liked the folks, I liked the cake and I was highly amused.

Key learning: “World (USA)”

Überraschungsvortrag

Also known as: The Sascha Lobo Show. A state of the internet as of 2012. And somewhere under the layers of entertainment and ironic detachment was a heartfelt appeal to the audience to keep/start fighting for a free and open internet.

Key learning: The man can fill a big room easily.

Day 2: Thursday, May 3rd

There was a talk called Die Wiederentdeckung der Langsamkeit, which sounded like it was purpose-made for me, but we decided to rediscover our own personal slowness by going for a proper breakfast.

New directions in visual storytelling

Sounds pretty interesting, right? The Executive Director of Global Voices and the former Executive Editor of Magnum in Motion talking about visual storytelling, what could probably go wrong?
Basically everything. A forced back-and-forth of platitudes gave a short overview about what visual storytelling is and then it evolved pretty fast into a sales show for the software of one of the guys.

Key learning: None. Completely none. Content-free.

Was hab’ ich?

This talk was a welcome contrast to the one before – while this was also a “CEO is talking about his project” talk, it worked a lot better. Ansgar Jonietz introduced washabich.de – a webpage where people can send their medical reports and get a translation into normal person lingo back.
Useful and great idea, likable guy, so all’s well.

Key learning: A website can be pretty use- and successful, even if it looks like it has been designed 10 years ago.

Wie überlebt mein Unternehmen die Disruption unseres Geschäftsmodells?

Marcel Weiss and Leander Wattig ran with “Disruption 102″ and wanted to turn it into an discussion. I don’t know if they managed to do that because we decided coffee and cake would be a better way to spend the time.

Key learning: If you’re a big company you’re basically screwed and the accent of Marcel Weiss is stronger in his podcast than on stage.

Trollen oder getrollt werden – das ist hier die Frage! / Female Trolling – Ja oder Nein?

I have nothing to say about this “talk.” I pretty much couldn’t take it after the first few minutes and left. And I was very much not the only one, either.

Key learning: Stay away from women called “Julia.”

Day 3: Friday, May 4th

Blogvermarktung

Way early in the morning was a panel about blog monetization. It was pretty interesting to watch even though there weren’t really any new insights.

Key learning: It’s enough to be Austrian to get applause and it’s possible to make money from blogs – just not necessarily from blogging.

Mächtiger als Merkel: Wie Brettspielentwickler Gesetze machen (würden)

It was obvious that Marcel-André Casasola Merkle wanted to make his talk about how game designers would create laws lightweight and funny and maybe he even managed to do that. I can’t tell because it was pretty clear early on that his humor and mine aren’t that compatible so I left early.

Key learning: Uhm.

soylent green, äh, the internet is people!

Felix Schwenzel‘s talk about virtuality and the thin (or completely non-existent) walls between our social life on- and offline was pretty much the highlight for me at this conference. Dry humor and actual substance make for a good combination.

Key learning: People still save documents by clicking an icon.

How Gamification changes the world

Gamification 101.

I have no clue why this talk was in English, though. 5

Key learning: none.

Conclusion

One question is still not answered, the one I probably get from most people who did not go to the re:publica ’12:

What did you think about the event?

I really liked it this year. The first day was near conference-perfection and there were enough highlights on the other two days to make the whole event pretty likable. While the Social Media Douchbaggery was pretty high in conversations that I overheard while walking, standing or sitting around, I am quite grateful that I successfully avoided having to be part of such a conversation myself.
So, yay that.


  1. Probably has been for a few years now and is already on it’s way out, but I’m slow. 
  2. I am sure this is pretty much the way to present academic results in a proper setting, but I don’t think most of the people at the re:publica are particularly academic and might need some enticement and a more pop-science-y approach to the topic. 
  3. Putting the pretty ridiculous fact that a couple of pretty cool projects can’t really represent a continent of way more than a billion people. 
  4. It’s on my Amazon wishlist, by the way. Hint, hint. 
  5. I know. Hypocrite. Why does this blog need to be in English? 

Because everybody needs yet another blog post about the re:publica this year, here we go. Warning: I have spent the time since the conference ended in a digital wasteland of crappy hotel wi-fi and severely speed-limited 3G, so I have yet to read someone else’s blog post about the re:publica ’12. And I probably won’t […]