DLD matters. Pass it on.

Imagine shaking hands with the author of one of your favourite books. Or chatting withone of the brightest scientists of our day (who may gain a Nobel prize, like his fatheralready did). Listening to some of the sharpest minds in the Internet industry, or creators of the most-shared websites. All while surrounded by the Who is who of German publishing. 


That’s what I’ve been doing during the last roughly 24 hours, at the tenthDigital-Life-Design conference in Munich. As a consequence, I’m suffering from Reizüberflutung. Most technical or philosophical concepts sound smarter in German, and so does the word forsensory overflow. Said suffering is actually quite a pleasant experience, and reflecting upon the impressions in a blog entry is soothing. Any of the news, announcements and trends, I could have read up about on the web. Theoretically. But I haven’t, through fallacies of the human mind that DLD presenters are great at explaining, in a combination of scientific brilliance and talent of explaining stuff for educated laypeople. I managed to convince DLD to invite me, and my employer to finance the not entirely cheap entry ticket. My mandate was twofold: to find out the commercial implications of industry trends for SkySQL, and to learn and document how we at SkySQL can improve our collaboration and cooperation practices. As for industry trends, in a way, they are not surprising. Same-same. Moore’s law continues to work for a while. New web apps emerge. Big Data remains huge despite what Snowden has tought us about the NSA. At the same time, I can’t help but observe that I haven’t heard the word “database” mentioned once. Wikipedia, Tumblr, Youtube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, all the usual suspects I got thoroughly familiar with during many years of MySQL Conferences are either constantly mentioned, or themselves presenting their Next Big Thing. That they’re on the cloud is somehow self-evident. Perhaps the audience is the reason for not mentioning any database vendors: we’re talking media people, venture capitalists, scientists, artists and CEOs, in numbers by far surpassing the IT guys. As for methods of collaboration, my primary impression may sound counter-intuitive: Quantity counts. Specifically, quantity of digested information. Twitter re-surprised me as being a great way of sparkling interaction, as I got my 1000th @kajarno Twitter follower during #dld14. I think we at SkySQL Ab will need to mimick the Twitter flow for our internal communication, creating a stream of information which balances freshness with relevance. And which takes brevity as a prerequisite. Currently in my work environment, the information flow violates the requirements either on brevity (way too long emails or reports), relevance (the key thoughts are drowned in bla-bla), quantity (the key thoughts aren’t being shared at all), or freshness (relevant, well-phrased thoughts are presented briefly, but have brewed for half a year). Let me conclude by some commentary on what I experienced:

  • Jimmy Wales (of Wikipedia fame) announced his participation in The People’s[Mobile Network] Provider, where he aims to collect one billion dollars for worthy causes, through donating 10 % of the revenues to a worthy cause chosen by the subscriber. These 10 % are enabled by eliminating the marketing budget, substituting it with viral word-of-mouth (something Jimmy might know something about).
  • Eli Pariser explained Upworthy. Eli wrote The Internet Bubble, where he explains how the web (Google, Facebook) exposes us mostly to information we are likely to agree with, thereby sacrificing the existence of objective or relevant truth. Although I’ve read my fair share of Upworthy stories, what I didn’t know is that Upworthy is Eli’s remedy to the Internet Bubble. The payment model for providing you and me with objective or relevant truth currently seems limited to Melissa and Bill Gates’s foundation, but still, he’s onto something. And he inspired me to write better headers.
  • Antony Gooch of OECD is also onto something: GDP is a bad measurement of human progress. Case in point: Jimmy Wales’s Wikipedia has GDP shrinking (less sales of paper encyclopedias). The answer: BLI, Better Life Index. Not too touchy-feely, but a systematic approach to measuring not-just-economic welfare of man. If I were to ever work in the public sector, what he’s doing would be very close to nirvana.
  • Nassim Nicholas Taleb has the reputation of an entertaining intellectual primadonna. I’ve certainly been intellectually entertained by Fooled By Randomness and The Black Swan, and his presentation on fragility was one of many DLD highlights.
  • Peter Vesterbacka, my fellow countryman of Angry Birds fame, got the lion’s share of the spontaneous ovations during the first day. This was mostly due to his no-nonsense, also-we-in-Europe-can-do-it attitude. He breathes this stance in all his actions, such as when tagging his thanks note to my Twitter kudos to him with #agoodstart. Humble, ambitious or both?
  • Esther Dyson moderated some sessions and asked pertinent questions during others. My favourite was her interview of Ijad Madisch, the creator ofResearchGate – a new site that disrupts scientific lethargy by serendipitously connecting scientists with each other, also and particularly in the traditionally neglected 90% of the studies that didn’t positively prove their assumption.
  • Albert Wenger (of Union Square Ventures) managed to say something I perceived as new and insightful in his “A World in Transition”, which I would have originally thought to consist of usual Venture Capitalist blabla (most VCs, like most politicians, IT guys and just about anybody else, by default deliver platitudes).
  • Nick D’Aloisio, having sold his company to Yahoo! for an eight-figure amount despite being younger than my 18 year old daughter, provided good insights about getting the feeling of having consumed relevant news in finite time, twice a day. His app seems to alleviate some of Eli’s Internet Bubble consequences.
  • Jochen Wegner of Zeit Online moderated Eli and others, and showed exactly the wit I expect from someone at my favourite German quality newspaper. His spontaneity and modesty was epic, such as in taking an audience question from “a person in the publishing industry, frequently seen at DLD”, which was DLD creator Hubert Burda himself.
  • Hubert Burda, besides his insights on online publishing, became my new role model in unabashedly mixing languages while providing schlagfertige answers to tricky questions by fellow publisher Jakob Augstein. Let that suffice. Like Mr Burda, I’ll conclude: Ich habe zu viel gesagt.
  • ShaoLan Hsueh taught us Chinese in 10 minutes. As someone who has attempted to speak 8 minutes of Chinese to a Chinese audience, I will try out herChineasy approach.
  • Jeff Jarvis (“What would Google do?”) provided one of the many entertaining one-liners, when explaining why the German politician disease of plagiated doctoral theses won’t spread to the US: No politician in the US has a PhD.
  • Frank Rieger (Chaos Computer Club, caring for civic rights in IT since before theElectronic Frontier Foundation) was interviewed by Jeff and provided a great example of the diversity of guests that DLD has invited. And, let me say, one whose goals I can agree much more with than representatives of what I consider to be the other end of the spectrum – a person working for Coca-Cola.
  • Finally, Steffi Czerny is the overall moderator and DLD initiator, a networker par excellence who got the distinguished and diverse set of presenters together, gleefully interacting with each other even if their goals aren’t perfectly aligned. She combines down-to-earth white-and-blue Bavarian savoir-vivre with a becoming dash of American isn’t-this-great briskness.

Next time, I’d like to interact with the presenters. And I’ve realised this is solely up to me. Sure, nobody prevented me or any other participant from discussing with the presenters, who for the most part are approachable people who aren’t shy of interacting with their readers and followers. But of course, talking to friends and known entities constitutes less of a Reizüberflutung for anybody. So I’d better make myself known beforehand the next time, and Twitter offers a great opportunity for this. I’m looking forward to the next time! Oh, and by the way: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelhois now on my reading list.