Germany Is a Nation of Grumblers

Germany Is a Nation of Grumblers says SAP Co-Founder Hasso Plattner.

Maybe they wouldn’t be if SAP’s software wasn’t so awful.

There’s a weird contradiction going on in this interview, because Plattner clearly doesn’t think a lot of the German HQ of his own company and much of what he has to say makes sense, but doesn’t seem to be part of SAP’s culture at all:

When Steve Jobs had already geared everything to large flat monitors, here at SAP they still had instructions to develop everything for a 1,024 by 768-pixel screen size. At the time, you couldn’t even buy such monitors any more in Palo Alto.

People would often rather put together a 50-page PowerPoint presentation than simply say: We want this and this! Three sentences is usually all it takes. The Germans need to learn that you sometimes have to play around with ideas.

Bah humbug!


There was an interesting report on 3Sat here in Germany the other day about street lighting. Many cities save on energy costs by cutting the amount of time street lighting is on for, but that also means some streets are dark. Rather than lighting streets that nobody is using or having dark streets when people need light, a company (with a terrible web site) called Dial4Light have a system by which you can dial a number for the street and it turns the lights on for about 10-15 minutes. It works much like the lights in a stairwell of a building. Apart from the cost of the call, the service is free most of the time, but you can have a chargeable account if you want to switch on things like sports facility lighting, etc.

I thought was an interesting piece service design, at least with regards the technology. There web site could do with a bit of design work on it as one of the key touchpoints to make it appealing. A few other things spring to mind too, such as it be less useful if you have to go to a web site to sign up. You would really want to be able to turn on the lights there and then in a dark street, not have to go home, sign up and then use it. One of the reasons is that you’re likely to know your way around and/or feel less scared by a familiar street. You also have to dial in via voice rather than be able to send an SMS, which would seem the obvious way of doing it (although perhaps that stops people flooding the system).

You can watch the report here.


Spotted this ad on my supermarket trolley at the weekend. In my English head I immediately read the ü without the umlaut. I don’t think ‘Künz’ is destined to be an international brand name.

Smart German Supermarket


The BBC has a video report about a German supermarket Future Store from German supermarket chain, Real.

Rather than use RFID tags to do the scanning of all the stuff in your shopping trolley (that’s ‘cart’ to you folks over the Atlantic), they’ve gone for a mobile phone solution. Basically you take photos of all the bar codes and their phone software generates one master bar code that you scan back in (very meta-media that) at the end in order to pay.

They do use RFID tags for their ‘smart freezers’, which know what meat has been taken out and sold. But the best feature, which requires very little in the way of tech, is the self-service wine-tasting. That’s a really smart idea.

My supermarket here in Germany doesn’t take credit cards, only EC Cards and Germany is a very paper and cash oriented culture I’ve found. I wonder how this will pan out… Personally I’ve really been enjoying the whole Richard Scarry small town experience with a baker and a butcher, etc., all of whom know me.

(Via Core77).

iSmoke – How wrong? Very.


I walked past this ‘iSmoke’ ad for Lucky Strike cigarettes the other day. How wrong? Let me count the ways…

  • It’s lazy creative. This is a one-minute lame idea that borrows everything from someone else’s campaign, badly.

  • The type is wrong. Apple use Myriad for the iPod campaigns (and most other marketing) now. It’s also badly set.

  • iSmoke – what kind of message is that? I think it’s a response to the partial smoking ban here in Germany. The right to kill yourself and others around you is highly regarded by many.

  • The equation of the Lucky Strike packet to the iPod? That’s part of the one-minute lame idea. Bored creative sitting in the pub with iPod and cigarette packet on the table sees easy idea.

  • The deliberate youth targeting.

  • The possible attempt to obfuscate the health warning.

Any more that I have overlooked?

Not that I really want to see more cigarette advertising, but I haven’t seen anything that’s remotely clever for about 20 years. It’s as if the ad industry has just given up on it being a lost cause.

[tags]germany, ipod, ismoke, lucky strike[/tags]

Starting as Gastprofessor at the Bauhaus

Bauhaus Library

I’m off to Weimar tomorrow to start a six-month stint as Guest Professor “Gestaltung medialer Umgebungen” at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar in the Faculty of Media.

It feels quite odd (and rather flattering) to be following in the footsteps of luminaries such as Josef Albers, László Moholy-Nagy, Walter Gropius, Vassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee (to name but a few), though things have changed quite a bit since then. There are still plenty of the original buildings though (including original murals and relief sculptures on the wall).

Bernd Hopfengärtner's Hello World project

Photo stolen from Hello World.

My predecessor, Ursula Damm set a project which resulted Bernd Hopfengärtner’s excellent Hello World! work – a Semacode measuring 160 x 160 meters was mown into a wheat field near the town of Ilmenau. I’m planning some playful interactive works (I hope!).

So, if any of my exchange students from Weimar or other folks that read this blog are there, get in touch. I’d love to meet up and see the sights.

Online Educa Berlin 2006 workshop

Online Educa Berlin 2006

My colleagues and I from The Omnium Project will be conducting a workshop at the Online Educa 2006 Conference in Berlin on the 29th November and it will be introduced by the renowned E-learning specialist, Professor Gilly Salmon. We would love to see you there and make contact.

Our workshop is called Small World – Global Classrooms: Exploring the Potential and Advantages of Fully Online Global Learning Communities and essentially details the projects and research that we have been involved in over the last seven years or so as well as looking into the future. It’s divided into four parts:

Part One: Research:
Enabling Collaborative and Creative Education Through Fully Online Global Learning Communities

Part Two: Teaching and Learning: Preparing and Teaching in a Fully Online and Communal Context

Part Three: Postgraduate Supervision: Hosting Local and Global Online Communities to Enhance the Postgraduate Experience

Part Four: Life-Long Learning: Education Meets Professional Practice via Fully Online Global Communities

Part Four is the section that I am presenting at examines at the rapidly changing nature of professional (and pro-am) life, the rise of social networks and online communities, etc. and how these affect education enormously.

For example, what are the educational expectations of a 18 year-old who has instant messaging friends all over the world, has their own MySpace page and blog and for whom Google and Wikipedia are the first authorities on anything in the world? The Academe has long tried to educate students about the values of refereed publications and reputable sources, but perhaps it is academia that is out of date. What is more influential in reality – an obscure journal with a expert readership in the hundreds, or Google with a user-base of millions?