We don't know about you, quite frankly, but it seems that most of us on the team live our lives online, for the most part. I for example start my computer first thing in the morning and shut it down last thing before I go to bed, well, sometimes after I've gone to bed. I have many many accounts on Social Networks through which I follow personal and professional interests or simply stay in touch with friends. Whenever my girlfriend is not around, we Skype whenever we can.
However, I am probably not the lost in the web kind of geek you might mistake me for. I'll trade my online time for a drink with friends any given minute. I like to think of myself as a sociable guy. But there are still people who seriously voice the opinion that the (intensive) use of Social Media like Facebook or Twitter harms your social life, e.g. it kills it. We live in a cold world where everybody grows lonely, these pessimistic souls say (among them such prominent figures as Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands or Pope Benedict XVI.).
All of us here at Amazee Labs have experienced how rewarding and how much fun it can be to use digital Social Networks to organize real life events. Be it the Twittboat, where Swiss Twitterers teamed up to participate in a dragon boat race on Lake Zurich this past summer, or to simply meet up for a casual beer or dinner. Be it the Web Monday Zurich which brings together Web entrepreneurs from all over Switzerland or fun events like this rather peculiar Segway & leaf blower polo.
Just last week the second Avatar Day took place in Basel, Berne and Zurich. Talented photographers (among them our Michael) shot Twitterers from these three towns in seperate events, brought together by digital means. Connected via Twitter walls and livestreams, the participants got a Twitter avatar makeover.
And then there's the daring story of Dutchman Wijnand Boon, who took his Queen's words by heart and decided to prove her wrong. He is currently travelling through Europe (from Leiden in the Netherlands to Santiago de Compostela, Spain to Rome all the way to Jerusalem) with almost nothing but his iPhone, relying on the power of (digital) Social Networks to get him a place to sleep each night and some company. It seems to work, you can follow his story here. Read about his travels in German here.
It seems that the critics are not right, but what exactly are they then? Misinformed? Are they lacking understanding? Maybe. Maybe it would be good if we all tried to demonstrate how Social Media can be used for good and is mostly harmless. There are plenty of possibilities out there. - What is it that you are doing? Have you participated in offline events, have you helped to do good via your online Social Network of choice? Tell us about it!
(Image by Michael.)
Yesterday, the 6th World Usability Day (WUD) with many events all around the World discussing the topic "Communication" also took place in Zurich. The Swiss chapter of Usability Professional's Association (UPA) organized the event and presented a great line up with many excellent speakers, all of this hosted by IBM.
Patrick Grässle (KnowGravity) held a very down-to-earth talk about communication in a project team. He pointed out how important it is to bring people together, to understand each others language and define precise goals. It seems this should be no big deal but in the daily grind many projects fail because of insufficient communication or goals that have not been defined clearly.
Mitch Hatscher (Senior User Experience Designer at Google) came up with the slogan "User Experience Designers are the glue in the team". They should bring together the needs of project management, developers and users. It was very interesting to learn how they work in teams around the World, how they procede and do testing.
Sibylle Peuker (Senior User Experience Architect at Zeix) gave us an outlook into the near future and showed some movies about augmented reality and how this could affect us in the next few years.
Clive van Heerden (Senior Director of Design-Led Innovation, Philips Design) went much further. He does research on how life could be ten to twenty years in the future. You can check out what they do on designprobes.ning.com/.
Rinaldo Dieziger ("Overall Chief" at Supertext) showed us what is important for a good text and what it takes to successfully hard-wire the message into the brain of the user. He illustrated this with successful examples from ad campaigns.
Last but not least Sascha Weisshaupt (Head of Corporate Identity, Swisscom) explained why Swisscom had to become ONE brand (the company resulted from a merger of Fixnet, Mobile, Bluewin and others) and how they communicate in various media. His statement "Brands must learn to loose control and love change" is totally true. What i missed was any information about the direct communication between Swisscom and their clients.
Thanks to Swiss UPA for organizing and IBM for the host!I am already looking forward to the next World Usability Day in November 2011.
Yesterday was the second Tuesday in the month. Nothing special? For Techies in Zurich it is!
It was WebTuesday Time! And this time it took place at our office, since I held a presentation about PHP High Performance and High Availability.
A lot more people wanted to see the presentation than originally had signed up and so our office was very close to a buffer overflow. But the Techies in Zurich are strong guys, so we rearranged the space without any problem.
My presentation was split up in three parts. First I talked about the different stuff we did on Amazee.com to make every single page load three times faster as it was in the beginning of 2010. This contains very different technologies like PHP caching, memcache, CDN, etc.
In the second part I presented which server setup we are using for Amazee.com, to achieve a fast and available platform. With available I mean that I don't need to get up at 2 o'clock in the morning, if a single server dies.
The last part was all about our friends at Amazon. We are using their AWS service to easily scale our platform if more load is necessary for some specific timeframe.
If you are interested in the presentation, here it is!
In the end it was a really great WebTuesday, with a lot of very interesting questions and discussions. If you are interested in attending the next WebTuesday, you need to click here: http://webtuesday.ch/
Last night the good people at Memonic were so kind to host another Marketing Chuchi, the last one for this year. After some wine and cheese (quite appropriate for a Swiss event!), Keren Eldad, the still relatively new Marketing Commander of Memonic (having worked in Ads & Sales for Cosmopolitan and the LA Times before), held a crisp presentation about the differences between old school outbound Marketing and new school inbound Marketing.
Here's the gist: The goals of Marketing have remained the same, only that outbound Marketing has moved more into a Sales direction, while the new school is using digital tools, Social Media mostly. While the whats and whens of applying these tools are subject to the individual product case, it is clear that the game has changed and that new rules are in effect.
After the presentation the attendees engaged in a lively discussion, ranging from the question whether to use Google AdWords or Facebook Ads to the conclusion that gaming may just be the new Social Media.
Thanks to Memonic for hosting and to Keren for presenting! Toni of Memonic has uploaded a couple of pictures to his flickr account (we are nothing withouth Michael!)
We've got the next Marketing Chuchi lined up for January with another interesting presenter from the Swiss scene, we just need to fix the exact date and will then let you know! If you are interested, don't hesitate to join the Marketing Chuchi group on Amazee.
Here's a little bit of French Swiss television news which features the swissnex conference Dania and Gregory attended yesterday (Greg already wrote about an interesting acquaintance earlier today). Dania was interviewed by the news team and the whole Gerhardt family can be seen in the first part of the report.
Yesterday Amazee Labs had the pleasure to be invited to present at the SwissnexDay 2010 in the Rolex Learning Centre, Lausanne.
The event was focused on the internationalization of Swiss higher education institutions and the role of swissnex network. It featured participants as prominent as our Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter.
Let me tell you about the most impressive acquaintance I made; the personified counterpart to our high speed, low-depth pancake generation:
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Urs Hochstrasser (the guy on the left), born 1926, retired professor for mathematics and physics at ETHZ and Uni Bern. He worked on projects and devices as broad as "Flutterspeed calculations on the P-16 jetfighter"...
..."calculations for nuclear reactors in the US" and, of most interest for our dear geek readers: the Z4 computer, the first programmable calculator in Switzerland - yes, this cupboard is probably the grand-grand-grandfather of the computer you're just reading this blog post on:
But that’s just the warm up; Urs Hochstrasser got a call to work for the Swiss confederation. In 1958 he became the first scientific counselor at the Swiss embassy in Washington D.C., then in 1961 he took up responsibility as delegate of the federal council for atomic energy. In this function he built the administrative apparatus for the use of nuclear energy and organized the federal support for the efforts of the Swiss industry to develop their proper nuclear technology (no, not nuclear weapons, Mr. Hug). Three federal councillors he served during that time: Spühler, Gnägi and Bonvin (Spühler being Hochstrasser's favorite).
Then came his next challenge as head of the 1969 newly created office of education and science in the federal department of the interior (the precursor of the state secretariat of education and research). Here he worked with the federal councillors Egli, Hürlimann, Tschudi and Cotti. Some of his main responsibilities: Administer the support for the cantonal universities, take care of the Swiss part of scientific international cooperation and implemention of the federal policy of research.
Next to Urs Hochstrasser's rich book of life I felt like a tweet.
Zurich is getting another boost on its way to becoming the preferred habitat for the European Web industry: Our city council has declared "eZurich" to be the focal point of the upcoming legislative period. A great move we think; and what a better start than kicking the whole thing off today with an eparticipative contest where all citizens are invited to contribute their ideas. Below some pictures from the opening event, just down the stairs at Technopark - lots of ties, few sneakers, no open WLAN but a promising opening speech that wasn't much longer than a tweet. Definitely a fine breeding ground for some digital ideas to sprout! Contribute your ideas over here.
And another premiere is over. As we regularly do, we went up to Gstaad in the Bernese Oberland once again in order to work on the future of our business. Only this time was the first time we did it under the Amazee Labs banner. So, naturally, two out of three days we talked agency biz, with the last one set aside for the Amazee platform.
Of course we can't say too much, other than this kind of regular getaway is still highly recommended from all of the team. Being out of the office and working focused on the present and future setup of our day-to-day work helps to regain a bird's-eye view and make more intelligent choices.
We have been brainstorming a lot, sorted out the bad ideas and are pretty confident that we are well-prepared for 2011, both as a Web Agency and a platform provider.
Below are a couple of pictures, some work, some play. Find all of them at flickr.
Politnetz was just in time with their latest release when the UX flock gathered half an hour later to scrutinize their latest user interface. Tough like always it was! The bottom line after two hours of niggling and naggling: Politnetz provides an enviably simple and good user experience; now get the ruble rolling to sustain a great Swiss Web project!
Today is all CEO day for me. The networking event for Tech entrepreneurs is organized by Switzerland's Technology Promotion Agency CTI and was kicked off by Chairman Christian Wenger. Christian warmed us up stressing the importance of an exit orientation. What makes you important for a potential buyer? What are the needs of a buyer? What's your market value? Counterintuitive for an entrepreneur who has just started his own business you might think. He has a point: Better exit (if you can) before you go out of air. However, not my philosophy: Rather replace exit with cashflow and you'll do fine.
Jean-Pierre Vuilleumier did a great job energizing us participants and off we went!
The first workshop I attended was Vendbridge's session on sales: Understand your client and start with a STRONG VALUE PROPOSITION i.e. is the perceived added value that a company/solution proposes (promises and delivers!) to customers summarized in a simple statement. For Amazee Labs this would be: "Community solutions that empower communication with stakeholders." Too abstract? Have a better value proposition for us? Let me know with a comment! The rest of the workshop goes like this: Once you got your value proposition right go tour client, create an exciting storyline, solve his pain and become rich :) Here are the slides
The second workshop was on Incentive Plans, presented by PWC: After a deep dive into phantom shares, the tricky details of share and option valuation, taxation and other mean subjects we learned what possible building blocks of a total compensation are: 1) Long term incentivation (LTI; e.g. shares, stock options), Bonus, Base Salary, Pensions and Social Security and last but not least Fringe Benefits (car, housing, cool team, allowances etc.). Below a view on the classic development phases of a compensation model. Here are the slides.
That's it for the moment. Off to some networking before Amazee Labs will dive into the afternoon's program with the venture leader ceremony and 1to1 meetings.