Archive: December 8th, 2006

Hauptstadt

I lived in Germany for about five or six years in the nineties. In all that time, while I was ensconsed in the beautiful Black Forest town of Freiburg, I never once made it to the capital. Now I’m finally here.

I was invited to come to Berlin to be part of the jury for the highly-prized Biene awards. This is quite an honour. In the Biene awards, the emphasis is on accessibility and the criteria are really quite strict. It’s no cliché to say that just being nominated is quite an achievement.

One of the restictions on entries for the awards is that the site is primarily in German. I suspect that it’s my familiarity with the language that secured my place on the jury. The only problem is that I haven’t spoken German for six years.

Yesterday was judgment day. The jury gathered to debate and discuss the relative merits of the sites on offer. I had absolutely no problem understanding what everyone else was saying but as soon as I opened my mouth to add my opinion, I found that words and grammar were failing me at every turn. It was quite frustrating. I know if I was here for a few more days, it would all come back to me but having to dust down the German-speaking part of my brain after an interval of half a decade felt like quite a tough task.

I learned most of my German from sitting in pubs chatting with Germans, which is why I’m still fairly crap at reading and writing in the language. I usually find that my German improves greatly after one or two beers. Strangely though, after another three or four beers, I can’t understand a word anyone is saying. Komisch, nicht wahr?

The prize-giving ceremony will take place tonight. I can’t give away any of the results yet; that’s verboten. But I’ll definitely be blogging about some of the sites as soon as the pre-ceremony gag order is removed.

Until then, I have a few hours to explore Berlin. The good people from Aktion Mensch are putting me up at the ludicrously swanky Westin Grand, once the crown jewel of East Berlin. Its central locataion means that I’m just a short stroll away from the Brandenburg gate and plenty of other must-see attractions. Flickr demands pictorial evidence of such visual delights: I must obey.

Creating Passionate Users: The Asymptotic Twitter Curve

Kathy Sierra doesn't like Twitter. Join us, Kathy... be a lover, not a hater.

Flash On The Beach: day two

The second day of Flash On The Beach was miserable… at least, the weather was miserable: the presentations were excellent.

Brendan Dawes kicked things off with a superb presentation. It was funny, passionate, down to earth and inspiring. He’s a bullshit-free zone. Once again, I was struck by how little was specific to Flash. Instead, the presentation was universal, covering design, inspiration, life, the universe and everything.

After that, I saw some of the beautiful data visualisations from Marcos Weskamp. You’ve probably seen his scrAPI-powered Newsmap app. It was fascinating stuff and despite the fact that English isn’t his mother tongue, Marcos did a good job of explaining some fairly complicated topics.

After a quick lunch at Wagamama’s, I gave my presentation. People were very kind to me and said they enjoyed it. I got a real glow of pleasure when Brendan told me how much he liked it. It’s always nice to hear that someone enjoyed a presentation, but it means so much more when the complement comes from someone I admire so much—just like when John Allsopp complemented me on my presentation at Web Directions South.

I took a break after my talk and re-entered the dome to see Hillman Curtis. Again, this was only tangentially related to Flash. He told some stories and showed some movies, all in a very relaxed way. It was a very pleasant experience to sit there and take in his work while he filled in the back story.

With that, the presentations were done and all that remained was the Flash tenth anniversary party in the Honey Club. Despite the weather (still miserable), many Flash geeks showed up and I spent the evening in conversation with people from Belgium, France and Norway.

I find it extremely cool that Brighton can attract such a far-flung crowd with an appealing, professional conference. John Davey took quite a risk with Flash On The Beach. I’m really glad it paid off.

I wish I could have been there for day three. Instead, I spent the day getting a bus to Heathrow, waiting at the airport, sitting in a plane, waiting for my luggage, getting a taxi and finally settling in to my hotel room in Berlin. The travelling was worth it: this is some hotel.