After the initial announcement fades away, most people don’t really know what it is I’m doing right now. I’m spending June and part of July writing a brief but thorough book called “Designing Conversational Interfaces”.
I strolled through the massive exhibition ‘Welt am Draht’ at Leipziger Strasse this weekend. This is a selection of video art from the massive Julia Stoschek Collection exhibited in the former Czech Cultural center.
Like everybody says the quality of video art in general is extremely inconsistent. That is true in this exhibit as well. There are a bunch of works where it is not at all obvious why somebody finished it, somebody approved it and somebody paid money for it.
The works that were most interesting in this exhibition consistently were not the video ones but those created with a game engine. That may be my own novelty bias at work, but a fully digital workflow like that allows: 1. more and faster iteration 2. fully dynamic products, the combination of which leads to totally new kinds of things that can be produced.
I forget what this was, but despite the concept being more or less ridiculous it has a compelling internal consistency.
RMB City by Cao Fei is a rich and spectacular playground of randomness.
I can’t really argue with any of Ed Atkins’s work which stands out for the pure skill of the renderings combined with spoken word that is not trite (so rare).
Ian Cheng’s Emissary Forks at Perfection is an ongoing collage of elements in a dynamic simulation that looks like an edgy version of the large scale installations Theo Watson makes.
Today I got a tour of the Käthe Kollwitz museum in Berlin. I had wanted to visit this museum for a while but this proved the concrete reason to finally go (though the café next door makes some mean pancakes if you find yourself in the area).
I was recently attended to her existence by MacGregor’s series on German history (episode). I now believe that she is one of the most important German artists of the past couple of centuries. If there are any other significant candidates, I would like to hear about them.
What makes her stand out as an artist are:
Her mastery of both drawing and sculpture.
That she depicts ‘common’ people and social themes prominently. She thought these people were beautiful in their own way and that their plight was one that merited attention. For me this is a stark contrast with how current (artistic) elites try to ignore the ‘common and stupid’ people (like Trump voters).
The loss of her son and how that permeates her later work.
Our tour guide didn’t make the connection but I find it more than fitting that on May 1st we would be looking at for instance the Weavers cycle (one of which I have pasted below).
I used to travel between the Netherlands and Germany at least once a month and pretty quickly I grew tired of forgetting things. That’s why I made a list (in bold, comments added) with the things that I should take or at least consider taking. Whenever I pack my bag, I quickly scan the list and make sure I’ve covered the bases. Maybe it’ll be helpful to you as well.
This and clothes go into a Patagonia MLC bag.
Take knife off keychain
I’ve forgotten to do this more than a couple of times. What makes it weirder still is that TXL/SXF will allow me to fly out with a Swiss army knife but most other airports will not allow me to fly back with one.
These are things that are irreplaceable and without which a trip usually cannot happen.
Obvious. Macbook Pro 13″.
Without this the laptop is pretty worthless. Replacements if you can find them in a local store are upwards of €100.
Without this traveling isn’t really possible.
Boarding cards / tickets
You could get these from the airport but I print out everything I can at home.
At some point it becomes silly to buy new sunblock at every sunny destination.
Toothbrush, paste Sometimes I don’t bother to bring any and buy them at the destination airport but it’s more reliable to pack. Often I also take the head of my electric tooth brush.
Lipbalm I put this on there after I once needed it and paid €11 for a stick at ZRH.
Assorted other toiletries
This is a pain with only a carry-on. I try to usually depend as much as possible on what is available at my destination.
These are particularly essential for the Netherlands where you need to bring a card to be able to prove your identity to the various transit systems around.
Often this means just my Dutch T-Mobile SIM. I often have SIMs for destinations outside of Europe but those are so short lived that they aren’t reusable.
Foreign money / transit cards
I have ziploc bags per country with the currency leftovers as well as any transit card (Oyster, Suica) or SIM that may still be usable.
The US and the UK account for most of my trips where these are necessary. I put these in the ziploc bags with the currency.
I used to need one of these to do the SIM swap. Now I have an Apple SIM pin in the box with all my SIM cards.
Keys to my parents place in the Netherlands or any other home/office at the destination.
The MLC isn’t very practical to haul around town. I have a tiny Bach day pack that is super basic but fits everything you could need during a day.
I usually don’t bother taking this because of weight and bulk, but it is useful for longer trips.
Trips usually involve some kind of public speaking and as a speaker you should be self-sufficient. Don’t leave this at the venue where you’re speaking.
I need to carry some quality pens with me. I usually have a four color box of Staedtler fineliners and a couple of Japanese gel pens.
Always useful but don’t bring too many because paper is heavy.
Trips are usually for business and people appreciate a nicely designed business card.
Headphones with microphone
The standard Apple ones will do for most calls.
Noise cancelling headphones
You need headphones with some noise cancelling effect for during flights. I used to travel with my Sony MDR-7506. They are bulky but if you fly an easyJet to Berlin with those on your head, everybody thinks you’re a DJ. Now I prefer to take my Sennheiser CX-300 II in-ears.
Bring if the destination is hot.
Running shoes, pants
Nice to be able to do some sports while traveling.
Always bring these.
I always take my Moscot Lemtosh with me.
Whether to bring my decade old pair of Meindls is heavily dependent on the type of trip and the environment.
If there are climbing halls nearby, I’ll take these instead of/in addition to running shoes.
Kevin posted yesterday that he had an extra ticket for Max Richter’s Sleep at Kraftwerk Berlin yesterday. Without a moment’s hesitation I packed my sleeping bag and cycled there with him.
Kraftwerk Mitte is a disused power plant in the middle (Mitte) of the city that is now a club venue and host to a variety of events. The most striking features of it are large open spaces and lots of exposed concrete everywhere.
Max Richter I didn’t know before but I quickly confirmed that I would agree with his music. It had been one of my desires to attend a classical music concert while lying down being able to doze in and out of sleep as your mind and body dictate. Classical concerts tend to be long and uncomfortable affairs.
I hadn’t imagined I would get the chance to do this during an 8 hour overnight concert.
The music is very smooth to listen to and it is a kind of music that Richter is known for (read this interview). I’m listening to From Sleep now as I write this. I listened to the first couple of hours and then fell into a fitful sleep until I woke up again at 07:30 to catch the end.
Sleeping on stretcher beds at a power station 15 minutes cycling away from home with a couple of hundred other people was a strange experience. It was for one one of the lowest key camping trips I have ever undertaken. Though I’m used to the occasional communal sleeping arrangement, those are totally different situations. Berlin’s club spaces facilitate experiences in between the intimate and transgressive but even then this is an odd one out.
I probably also wasn’t the only person in the room who considered it wry that we would pay €48 to sleep in circumstances similar to thousands of others in Germany right now.
I’m still not sure what to make of the event but it is a memorable experience that will stay with me for a while like a dream but more powerful.
I’m still waiting for the pictures of Friday to air on the IxDA Flickr and for the video of my talk to be posted, but here are some notes I found around the web about my talk (for my personal notebook).
Alper Çuğun (@alper), who used to co-run a gaming company called Hubbub, talked about conversational interfaces. I’ve been really interested in these lately so I found it very helpful. He showed an example of a conversational UI that they developed and gave a rundown of do’s and dont’s when designing for them. One interesting insight was that they found that kids will read a lot of text if they get it in SMS-sized chunks. He smartly called conversational UIs the “UI for AI” and cautioned that they are not perfect for every use case. —Aaron Ganci
Another fantastic talk was from Alper Çuğun. He gave an overview of conversational user interfaces. It was based on his own experience making mobile games that use conversations and messaging as the main mechanic. He also shared an analysis of the tools out there to make conversational UIs and a prediction of where the scene is heading.
In particular, I was struck by how conversations, like the messaging apps we’re all familiar with on our phones, can lower the barrier to people using technology. It now feels very natural to text back and forth with friends. When machines can text with us, that might give us a sense of accessibility and agency in our interaction with them. — Michelle Thorne