April 18, 2014

How email saves my productivity when having no Internet connection

Many people hate email. I love it. Especially when on a plane without Wifi oder somewhere else without a reliable Internet connection. In these situations, email saves me during work hours from a total loss of productivity. Here is how:

1. I take care of all the emails in my “email todo” folder. This is non-urgent stuff that still requires action. I draft my replies and press “send”. Next time my iPad gets connected to Wifi, all mails are being delivered.

2. During travel I read a lot, mostly RSS feeds and articles that I have sent for later reading to Instapaper. But while reading offline on my tablet or smartphone, adding content from links in articles to Instapaper does not work through third-party-apps (such as my RSS reader). Email saves me: I simply send the link to the post I want to read (but cannot due to lack of Internet connection) to a specific Instapaper email address. The text will show up in Instapaper as soon as I have a connection again. Instapaper competitor Pocket offers the same feature. These apps are essentials by the way if you read a lot online content on mobile devices.

3. When reading something good, I often want to share it on Facebook or tweet it. And I do not want to have to remember hours later which articles (or thoughts) I intended to share. So I use IFTTT to post tweets or Facebook posts by email. Again, they are being published as soon as I get back online. Another option is to use the social media scheduling tool Buffer. Even this can be “fed” with tweets or Facebook posts by email.

4. I use Wunderlist as my task manager of choice. The app obviously works offline, but if I want to make sure that a task I add offline is immediately synced with the Wunderlist server, I can actually email it there.

Thanks to all this, I have stopped feeling unproductive when travelling during work hours, and it saves me from the temptation to purchase weak airplane Wifi access.

It’s remarkable how much one can do with email. And probably there is much more that I haven’t even considered. Feel free to share your ideas.


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Easter weekend reading recommendations

Some reading tips for the weekend.

» Majority of Engineers Believe They Will Become Millionaires, Study Says
Good times for engineers.

» Evernote CEO: Apps will become obsolete
This is quite an interesting take: The more we move to connected devices, the less we will be willing to deal with and spend lots of time on using apps.

» Against beautiful journalism
Increasingly online journalism is being presented in pretty gorgeous layouts. But Felix Salmon argues that sometimes less “beauty” would make more sense.

» The Truth about GoogleX: inside Google’s secret lab
This is were Google creates all those future innovations that might support its bottom line in about 10 years.

» Super-Rich Stashing $32 Trillion Offshore, Masking True Scale Of Inequality
One of the major problems of today’s global economic system.

» One Man’s Quest to Make Business Travel a Lot Less Awful
On-demand private offices that you book and pay with your smartphone on an hourly basis – I love that idea!

» How to Avoid Sleep Debt
Smart advices.

» More time is better than more money
For leisure travel, you need some money. But what you need more of is time.

» Spotify Starts Shutting Down Its Massive P2p Network
Whenever people have listened to music on Spotify, they simultaneously sent parts of songs to other users, which saved the streaming service money on the server side. But now, due to increased efficiency, Spotify plans to abandon this peer-to-peer approach.

» 10 Things Japan Gets Incredibly Right
I agree. Japan faces some huge challenges but there are a couple of things about the country and its people that are just great. Especially heated toilet seats!

» How the position you sleep in with your partner reveals the strength of the relationship
Probably not be overestimated but interesting observations.


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April 11, 2014

Weekend reading recommendations

Some reading tips for the weekend.

» Why national honour trumps rationality
Excellent analysis about why countries fight for parts of land that from a rational point do not seem worth it.

» How politics makes us stupid
This is a great take on the issue of discussions about politics and other major topics and why evidence and facts hardly matter, even if everybody believes they do.

» The Decline of the Mobile Web
This concern might one day prove realistic or not, in any case it is worth thinking about.

» Heartbleed, The First Security Bug With A Cool Logo
Even a major security bug can look cool.

» Why UPS Trucks Don’t Turn Left
Hard to believe but apparently avoiding left turns pays off for UPS.

» Driven: how Zipcar’s founders built and lost a car-sharing empire
A tale of a founding team that was not really compatible and thus failed.

» The SEO Dominance of RetailMeNot
A coupon site that many people might have stumbled upon via Google, but that is not getting too much media attention despite having achieved quite a lot.

» How some journalists are using anonymous secret-sharing apps
Whisper and Secret, two apps where users share secrets, are being used by some journalists to uncover stories. Interesting development even if I’m not fully convinced yet about the long-term potential of these apps.

» Now boarding passengers on Air Twitter
Airlines increasingly use Twitter to handle customer complaints.

» Automated ethics
Self-driving cars are coming and they bring lots of unanswered ethical questions.

» In a Land of On-Time Arrivals, a Tour of Anything But
Good to hear that Berlin’s failed new airport which was supposed to be ready in 2011 but still has no opening date at least is becoming a tourist attraction.

» Neuroplasticity: Your Brain’s Amazing Ability to Form New Habits
A nice explanation about why we actually can change our habits – even if it is hard.

» Enough
Working hard for the first half of the year to go on vacation for the complete second half of the year? Interesting concept.

» How Techmeme Grew To Become The Must-Read News Site For Everyone In The Multi-Billion-Dollar Tech Industry
Everybody who works in Technology knows Techmeme and most people scan it regularly for news.


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April 8, 2014

Observations from Santiago de Chile

I just spent a week in Santiago de Chile. Since the country seems to be less frequented by tourists than areas on the East Coast of South America and hence more of a “secret”, I figured I might write down some of my (very limited) observations.


-> Santiago is a clean and modern city with an European flair and, fittingly, an excellent public transport system with modern busses (really, busses are everywhere) and a state-of-the-art metro system.

-> While some of the slightly run-down looking resedential buildings in the central areas don’t really reflect that yet, the status of Chile as the most developed country in Latin America can be seen and felt in many situations. Overall the middle class seems to be growing quickly and at least in central Santiago, signs of poverty were actually less visibile than in some U.S. cities.

-> Santiago is very safe. You can walk around without having to worry too much where you might end up – even at night. For me that’s an essential for a city with a high quality of life. I have not been in any other Latin American countries (yet) but I believe I have enough information to conclude that this seems to be rather untypical for other large urban areas on the continent.


- > Most Chileans do not speak English (or are too shy), so lack of Spanish is definitely limiting, but not a deal-breaker.

-> Chileans love the 80s. In stores, restaurants, malls, at the airport – everywhere you hear familiar 80s music.

-> Overall stuff and processes seem to work well in Santiago, timeliness seems to be appreciated (statement based on very limited experience though) and people seem to be quite structured and orderly, as can be witnessed in the perfect lines they form when waiting for the bus.

-> Car drivers are racing and honking quite a lot – at least one common stereotype about latin cultures that is fullfilled. But that does not prevent people to cross the street when red – in droves. I don’t remember having visited a country/city where there was such a big group pressure to NOT wait until green.

-> People dress quite well and smart, women and men alike.

-> Beer is very popular and accompanies even the most basic fast-food lunch meals.

-> I have noticed lots of couples sitting on benches or standing around and making out heavily. It’s a common sight.

-> A couple of times I bought things form street vendors but gave too much money (since I am not good with numbers in Spanish). They never kept the excessive amount (which they could have) but gave it back to me. Honesty that is very appreciated.

Overall, Santiago and Chile are definitely worth a visit, even if located a little bit “off”. If the positive development continues, Chile might become a role model for other countries in the region. Or maybe it already is.


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April 5, 2014

Weekend reading recommendations

Some reading tips for the weekend.

» Uberification of the US Service Economy
Well observed, and the trend of mobile on-demand-ordering of offline services won’t be limited to the US economy.

» Our Love Affair With the Tablet is Over
I disagree with overall negative tenor about tablets (and unlike the author I use my iPad 3 all the time), but ultimately it would be nice indeed to only have one device that serves both as a smartphone and a tablet. The question is only which size would be ideal for a phablet.

» Wearables: one-third of consumers abandoning devices
Unlike tablets I still have a hard time getting enthusiastic about wearables.

» The crushing lameness of April Fools Day on the Internet
April 1 on the Internet ist quite horrible these days.

» The Guilt of the Video-Game Millionaires
Very interesting angle; a less covered “side effect” of the current boom of money-making casual games for smartphones.

» Inside Sequoia Capital: Silicon Valley’s Innovation Factory
Good read and insights into a rather untypical but very successful venture capital company (the one that funded WhatsApp).

» Capitalism is making way for the age of free
In the digital age, lots of products and services can be offered at costs close to zero. This will change the economic system.

» In San Francisco, Rooms for $1,000/Month Are Now Scarce
For a city this does not sound healthy, at least not in the long run.

» Saudi Arabia declares all atheists as terrorists in new law
The intolerant, pressuring aspects of religion and conservative beliefs concern me.

» Swedish Pop Mafia
I was not aware of how incredibly influential and industry leading Sweden’s pop music sector actually is.

» Inside Airbnb’s Grand Hotel Plans
The founder of Airbnb has a quite ambitious vision which actually makes me believe in the company more.

» Earthquakes in Chile and L.A. Raise Fears About ‘Ring of Fire’
I’m in Santiago de Chile right now and woke up this morning because the earth was shaking a bit. Something might be going on.

» Vladimir Putin: The Rebuilding of ‘Soviet’ Russia
Let’s hope he won’t have the chance to finish this plan (if that’s what he is aiming for)

» The Surprisingly Large Cost of Telling Small Lies
I’m a fan of the idea of trying to speak the truth as often as possible. This piece explains the costs involved in choosing the often seemingly easy path of small lies.


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March 29, 2014

Weekend reading recommendations

Some reading tips for the weekend.

» Internet Tolls And The Case For Strong Net Neutrality
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings gives a very good explanation about why net neutrality is important.

» Everyone Is Getting Turkey’s Twitter Block Wrong
This piece offers a good understanding about why the Turkish government blocks social media services despite it being aware that leaked information can’t be removed from the Internet.

» More News Is Being Written By Robots Than You Think
In my eyes it is a good thing that computers take over the creation of generic news articles so writers can focus on more complex content.

» How an Under-Appreciated iOS 7 Feature Will Change the World
Smartphones get the capability of creating ad-hoc networks consisting of many devices, even if there is no active Internet connection.

» Twitter gives up on encrypting direct messages, at least for now
Despite the NSA spying on the big social networks, those companies do not see end-to-end encryption for private user messages as a priority.

» Worse
Sad but true: The big Internet companies have become pretty good at making their products worse while trying to become one-stop-shops for everything.

» Are Malls Over?
Often, a headline ending with a question mark can be answered with a clear “no”. But in this case I believe the answer is yes, at least in the Western world.

» My Experience using a Bitcoin ATM
That does not sound like fun. Bitcoin is still very far away from reaching mainstream.

» New study shows we work harder when we are happy
Of course many employers do know that already. Many others still seem to ignore it though.

» Brazilian Billionaire Creates Plan to Beat Death
Reading stuff like this inspires me (less the part about beating death but more about staying in shape even when ageing)

» World’s Most Scenic Train Rides
I hardly ever take the train, but I want to. These train rides sound fantastic.

» The country where being overweight is illegal
In Japan, if you do not stay below a government-mandated waistline, you might face penalties.

» Malaysians jailed for hitting kids in Sweden
In Sweden, it is not ok if parents hit their kids as a punishment for refusing to do their prayers. Good!


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March 14, 2014

Weekend reading recommendations

Some reading tips for the weekend.

» The newest in city mobility: a bus that goes where you want it to
Bus service, optimized for the mobile age. Awesome. If this can be done economically sustainable, this is the future of public transport.

» Evicted in San Francisco
The huge number of people being forced out of their homes is quite a challenge for social piece in San Francisco.

» Free Money for Everyone
This is not yet another article promoting a basic income to reduce inequality, but a description of how governments could get the economy back on its feet by distributing free money to all citizens.

» Men and women do not have different brains, claims neuroscientist
A lot of gender stereotypes are based on the assumption that men and women have different brains and thus different strengths and weaknesses. But this scientist says that its the gender-specific conditioning that actually shapes the brain and creates the differences.

» Bill Gates: People Don’t Realize How Many Jobs Will Soon Be Replaced By Software Bots
The fact that basically all politicians still exclusively talk about old-fashioned job creation proves in my eyes that Gates is right.

» Why flying ‘Internet drones’ over Africa is a dumb, libertarian fantasy
Pretty good point, I believe.

» The Flight of the Birdman: Flappy Bird Creator Dong Nguyen Speaks Out 
This guy gets a lot of respect from me, for creating such a massive game hit and also for deciding to pull it from the app stores due to personal concerns.

» Drones will cause an upheaval of society like we haven’t seen in 700 years
A quite sinister picture that is painted here about how things change when drones will end the 700-year long era of guns.

» So there is a Cruise Ship where Residents Permanently Live as it Travels the World – Messy Nessy Chic
Sounds like a lot of fun and a great environment to foster creativity. Only Internet coverage might be an issue.

» Best Travel Apps of 2014
Great list for frequent travellers.

» How to Survive 200 Hours of Mileage Running
This guy voluntary went through hell to gain airline status. But his tips for survival are helpful even for less insane travellers.


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I have lost all respect for TechCrunch (or: Secret – how to push a startup the Silicon Valley way)

Am I the only one who is pretty disgusted by how TechCrunch pushes Secret, a social app startup that nobody outside of the Bay Area’s tech circles really cares about, that only is available in the US/Canada and only on the iPhone?

I did a quick check and found 16 posts and 2 videos published since February that involve Secret in one or another way (see list below). The older, bigger competitor Whisper has only been covered a mere 2 times during the same period, here and here. And that despite a major funding round.

Apparently TechCrunch seems to be quite eager to make Secret become a success. And because former TechCrunch lead writer MG Siegler is now partner at Google Ventures, one of Secret’s investors, one must assume that there is quite some exchange of favours going on. There might be other interrelations between the site and Secret/its investors that are not as obvious. Or everything is just a big coincidence. But then the editorial choices are terribly poor.

In the past I often have defended TechCrunch when the common “I do not read TC anymore since…”-meme came up. But I am sad to see how a major tech blog that is being read and still kinda trusted by journalists and tech bloggers all around the world to learn about the latest trends from the Bay Area has become such a conflicted PR machine. It is quite repelling.

» Anonymity’s Moment: Secret Is Like Facebook For What You’re Really Thinking (February 3)

» That Secret App Is Becoming Silicon Valley’s New Blind Item (February 6)

» Secret Hits A Hot App Milestone With Discovery Of First Security Issue (February 7)

» Secret hacked (February 7)

» A Deeper Sort Of Social (February 8)

» My Secret Life (February 9)

» Secret To Launch A Bug Bounty Program As Soon As Today (February 12)

» Secret Launches Bug Bounty Program For Hackers Who Find Vulnerabilities In Its App (February 13)

» A Modest Proposal (February 14)

» Secret Adds Subscribe/Unsubscribe Options, Post Flagging, Unlinking And More (February 21)

» Fred Wilson, Niklas Zennstrom, And Secret Co-Founders David Byttow And Chrys Bader-Wechseler To Speak At Disrupt NY (February 26)

» Tell All App Secret Adds Social Sharing And Nearby Gossip (March 7)

» SXSW Just Got Real Interesting As Secret Creates Realtime SXSW Web Feed (March 8)

» Secrets, Lies And Startup Leaks: Mitigating Tech Company Paranoia In An Age Of Constant Crisis (March 8)

» Shh. Secret Raises $10M At A $50M Valuation (March 9)

» Secret’s Co-Founder on Bullying, Expansion, and Valuation (March 9)

» How Secret May Uncover A New Secret To Mobile Growth (March 9)

» The SXSW Effect, Visualized (March 13)

Update: One day later and the number of posts has risen to 19!

» Foundation: Secret’s David Byttow Talks Privacy, Security, and Company Origins (March 14)

» Secret Now Warning Users Not To “Defame” Others (March 14)

» Anonymous Social App Secret Confirms $8.6 Million In New Funding (March 14)


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March 12, 2014

Our reactions to technology

That so nails it:

“I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt, via


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March 9, 2014

Weekend reading recommendations

Some reading tips for the weekend.

» The Face Behind Bitcoin
» Man Said to Create Bitcoin Denies It
The mystery goes on: Newsweek believes it has found the creator of Bitcoin. But the 64-year old man says he has and had nothing to do with Bitcoin.

» How To Read Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible
I do not see the point of speed-reading a novel, but if the main purpose of a text is information-gathering, this might be a neat solution.

» A technologist’s take on Ukraine, Venezuela, and the Arab Spring
Worth a thought: America does not spread its ideas with military power any more, but organically through social media.

» I lost my dad to Fox News: How a generation was captured by thrashing hysteria
How Fox News turns mainly older generations of Americans into hardcore conservatives.

» Why Russia No Longer Fears the West
Pretty good piece that helps to understand the Crimea conflict and Russia’s actions.

» Tesla eyes Europe with major Supercharger network expansion
The iconic US electric car manufacturer Tesla might change the European car industry very soon.

»  Mandela was right: the Foreign Language Effect
Highly fascinating observation. Based on that idea, Europeans should negotiate about Crimea with Putin in Russian language.

» Heart of Blandness: A Walking Tour of Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley might create the future, but let’s hope that it does not represent the future of urban environment. Because it’s totally boring.

» Why This Plane Seat Is the Most Profitable
The economics of the new “Premium Economy” seats that many planes feature nowadays seem to make airlines happy.

» How Airline Ticket Prices Fell 50% in 30 Years (and Why Nobody Noticed)
The headline says it all.

» World’s most expensive city revealed
Every time I see a ranking like this, I wonder why it does not fit to my personal experience at all.

» One more time
One of the main reasons why we like music: Because of repetitions. Interesting reflections.

» 47 Things Only Introverts Understand
I can relate to about 60 percent of those points.

» The Science of Failure: Why Highly Successful People Crave Mistakes
About most humans’ deep difficulty to admit and accept mistakes and failure.

» Berlin’s Best Burger: Voting #2
Good that I’ll stay in Berlin for some weeks in May. Just looking at the photos makes me hungry.

» My Month Without a Smartphone
It’s like with any habbit that you break: The first days are hard, then you get used to it.

» Startups in Europe: The civilization disadvantage
Good point: Europe fails in creating major successful Internet start-ups compared to the U.S. because states are solving many of the issues that have to be taken care of by businesses on the other side of the Atlantic.


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