• Addicted to Heroes

    As a child, I always wanted to be a superhero with special powers. I dreamt of flying like Superman, climbing like Spiderman, moving objects with my mind like Magneto or having a special ring that could manifest things I thought of.

    No wonder that it tickled my curiousity when I heard of "Heroes". And after watching the first two episodes, I was hooked. The series is about people discovering that they have special powers. From episode to episode, they, and even more the audience, notice that they are somehow connected, finding parallels and connecting elements. And above watching them and their powers grow, suspense rises because evil rears its ugly head.

    The makers also show a great sense of humour by little jokes like giving the frightened swallowing of a Japanese the subtitle "GULP!" and by hints like the one depicted in the screenshot (showing the limousine of a CEO played by George "Mr. Sulu" Takei).

    That every episode ends with a cliffhanger makes Heroes highly addictive. I spent two afternoons this week with watching the first ten episodes although I had other things to do. I just couldn't stop.

    Heroes is one of the rare gems in the rubbish of television programming. That is, if we're talking about the English original. As usual, the German dub was ruined. In the original, the two Japanese characters speak their mother tongue with each other (subtitles for the audience) and broken English with other people. In the German version, they speak fluid German when talking to each other (no subtitles), and with everyone else... broken German. The mind boggles.

    Well, I'll have to finish now; my precious demands to watch the next episodes. This stuff really is addictive. You have been warned.

  • The Top 20 movie hackers

    In Top 20 Hackers in Film History, Scott Willoughby collected the "20 coolest, funniest, dare I say sexiest hackers and computer geeks" that appeared in movies.

    While I'd have picked Wyatt Donnelly, John Draper, Michael Bolton & Samir Nagheenanajar, The Puppet Master, Martin Bishop and Neo myself, I'd have put them on the top ranking places. A boy creating Kelly Le Brock with his computer, a real life hacker pioneer, two prototypes of the corporate IT guy, the worthy opponent of a gorgeous cyber police girl, a hacker become smart and good-looking, and the god of cyberspace obviously have to be on the leading ranks.

    But come on, David Lightman only on rank 4? He's clearly my number one! "War Games" is my most-watched DVD and it'll always remind me of the times when I started hacking myself. The movie also explains why I'm still amazed by speech synthesizers. (And additionally, the same actor, Matthew Broderick, also starred in my eternal #2 movie of all times, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off".)

    These are the guys that make me proud being called a geek.

  • Leading like Picard

    With his blog entry Der Führungsstil von Jean-Luc Picard ("The leadership style of Jean-Luc Picard"), Thomas Schimana gave me some food for thought. As a fan of "Star Trek -- The Next Generation" owning the complete DVD collection, this immediately peaked my interest.

    Thomas perceived the following: Most of the times when Captain Picard had to make a decision, he used to first ask his leading crew for their opinions. Everyone got their chance to suggest a course of action. Based on that, Picard reached his own decision that wasn't to be discussed any more. By all means, he was the one carrying the final responsibility. The command "make it so" was his signature finishing line under the decision process.

    I've already realized years ago that Star Trek had instilled me with a deep interest in science and computers. But reading Thomas' article, it became clear to me that I've also adopted a leadership style similar to Picard's.

    I'm deeply convinced that each of my directs is a specialist that can contribute to a solution and whose opinion has to be taken seriously. But at the end of the day, I'm the one responsible and also the one that's in the front line when the stuff hits the fan. Therefore, I claim the right to decide the course of action. Even if that course isn't backed enthusiasticly by my team, I expect them to pursue the plan as well as they can nonetheless. On the other hand, they can expect me to do everything in my might to support them in making it so.

    So far, I've had amazing success with that approach. I've got a loyal and highly motivated team that I depend upon every day. Like Picard's crew, they're different from each other, but every one has his own features, know-how and experience to contribute. The important things don't happen in my secluded ready room -- we rock when we're moving things together, each at his place of the bridge.

    And, other than Picard, I still haven't lost all of my hair over the job. :-)

  • my $child1 = fork()

    I've got as little spare time these days as I've always had over the last years. If you know me, you know that there always are many things I'm doing and thinking about.

    A few weeks ago, something new appeared that's going around in my mind and hopefully will make sure I won't run out of occupation in the years to come.

    Carolin and I are very happy that our tries finally were successful and that everything is going well. We're looking forward to a time of joy and desperation! ;-)

  • Barcamp Rhein-Neckar

    The past weeks were more about working instead of blogging, this weekend will be the opposite: I'm attending Barcamp Rhein-Neckar in Mannheim today and tomorrow. And I'll use this blog entry to report about my findings.


    The Barcamp is opened by Habu (who is a professor at Mannheim University) who greets the Barcamp visitors, explains a few organizational facts and leads over to the session planning. A local bakery provided pretzels, but there's no coffee...

    Session Planning

    After the first round of session offers, the schedule for saturday is almost full, but sunday still has quite a few open slots.

    Session: OpenSocial

    OpenSocial is a social software component system provided by Google and used by many social platforms, e.g. Ning. It provides an API that enables users to integrate gadgets from one participating platform on another.

    The user's accounts on the different platforms get associated by providing the concerned login information, there's no single sign-on mechanism.

    Gadgets get included into a web page via HTML IFrames, triggered by either Javascript or a REST mechanism.

    Lunch break

    The Barcamp organisators had closed an unusual deal: Without even asking what a Barcamp is, the local McDonald's branch agreed to sponsor the saturday lunch with a 9-piece Chicken McNuggets, fries and beverage per person. Unfortunately, this was the first time since my breakfast back home that I got something to drink. I wonder how the fact that a Barcamp audience and especially the speakers need liquids could get ignored!

    Session: Enterprise 2.0

    The introduction of social software in a company usually has to have management backing.

    RSS helps building information flows that are independent of departments and hierarchies.

    Enterprise 2.0 has technical and cultural aspects. The discussion over this last topic takes the rest of the session time.

    Session: Education 2.0

    The session is meant to be more of a round table for an exchange of opinions. It starts with a short introduction of the audience members. A repeating topic is that the transfer of knowledge, especially in schools and universities, is in many cases very ineffective.

    The social media scene offers many tools that enable people to learn whereever, whenever and however they want: blogs, podcasts, vidcasts etc.

    Learning is not exempt from the monetarization issue: how can advertising work in that area? One idea: let the learners decide how much they are willing to pay or, alternatively, willing to accept advertisements. For example, the price of downloading a podcast on a certain topic could be lowered if a listener consents to a number of interstitials.


    I arrived a bit late because the train I had planned to take actually doesn't go on sundays. Fortunately, Oliver Gassner had moved the second part of his GTD talk to a later time, so I didn't miss it.

    There are much less visitors today than yesterday and many slots on the talk schedule are empty, too. On a positive note, there's now a table with plastic bottles with water and juice. Still no coffee, though.

    Session: GTD in web projects

    Problems setting up the laptop and Powerpoint for using the projector cost the presenter about 15 minutes. Those things should be prepared before the talk.

    The talk finally starts with a slide show of random light bulb pictures to which the speaker connects web project phases. When the presentation changes to slides about the conceptual phases of a web project (wireframe, marketing concept, business plan etc.), I realize that this talk is as much about Getting Things Done as the WWF is about sports. For the rest of the time, I concentrate on getting blog posts done.

    Lunch break

    To achieve a balanced nutrition after yesterday's visit at McDonald's, we decided to eat at Burger King today. :-)

    Session: GTD, part 2

    Oliver continued his introduction into the Getting Things Done concept he started yesterday. He explained it well and added helpful real-life examples.

    Session: Mac essentials

    Wasn't able to liveblog this session, was busy presenting it. :-)

    Session: Featuritis/Geekeritis

    Robert Basic talked about the question how many functions a web site or web application should offer to the user. The talk reminded me of Getting Real, the great book the guys from 37signals.com wrote about concentrating on a web application's core functionality.

    Final thoughts

    From an organizational point of view, BlogCamp Switzerland was far better than Barcamp Rhein-Neckar, especially because of its tight adherence to the schedule, and fair supply of food and drinks. On the other hand, only about half of the people that registered for Mannheim actually showed up, which could have resulted in a lot of leftovers. That lack of reliability is sad and irritating -- not only for the organizers.

    There were a lot of talks whose topics weren't interesting to me. After all, I am not about to launch a social networking platform for homing pigeon owners that want to visualize flight patterns on a Google Map, offering geo-encoded and DRM-free audio of the animals. ;-)

    But visiting Barcamp Rhein-Neckar was great for talking to people in real life who I've mostly met online before. Therefore, I'd like to greet Oliver Gassner, Silke Berz, Andreas Dittes, Matthias Pfefferle, Artis Cordobo, Marco Ripanti and Armin Karge -- thank you for interesting and entertaining conversations!

    And finally a big thank you to everyone involved in organizing the Barcamp, to all sponsors and everyone who offered a presentation or talk.