The Stars of Mobile Convention Amsterdam

I rarely have an appreciation for the work put in by great conference organizers, mostly because I’m admittedly more focused on my own concerns and insecurities on the day.

With CM – organizer of the Mobile Convention events, although I’m only vaguely familiar with their business model of a mobile platform for SMS, push and payments, I can say that they put an enormous amount of effort into making their mobile events a success. This week’s edition in Amsterdam saw more than 800 attendees at the beautiful former stock exchange in the center of Amsterdam, the Beurs van Berlage, with 65 speakers like me plying their trade in 6 different tracks covering mobile payments, marketing, commerce and enterprise.


Speaking at MCA 2015 at Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam

The organization was superb, making an incredibly complex event look easy, and saving speakers like me a lot of unnecessary stress (Eefje and Anneloes, thank you again).

My personal highlights came from three of the other speakers:

Tim Green, Executive Editor of Hot Topics – I didn’t get the chance to hear him speak at MCA, as we shared a conflicting time slot, but we ran into each other on the train platform at Schipol, and had time to talk about the changing landscape of publishing, the opportunities and special challenges of writing for a digital audience, and even a fascinating look at optimizing headlines to achieve maximum reach in a publishing world where the connection between writers and readers is increasingly governed by algorithms.

Tim writes about mobile issues, with a special focus on mobile payments, and has some great insights about market trends and what the space actually means for the people involved beyond the enterprise / startup world.

Tim’s slides at MCA can be found here: Around the world (of mobile payments) in 30 products, and I can also recommend his write-up of another conference presenter: Fintech startup DoPay has an ingenious idea for bringing banking to the unbanked. 

Tim has a combination of humility and sharpness of insight that is quite rare, and deeply enjoyable to be around. I’ve come away from all of our conversations feeling better informed, and more curious about this innovative niche.

David Skerrett, Managing Partner of Nimbletank

While head of social and mobile at R/GA, David sheparded the Nike Fuelband through a 5 year development and roll out that was epic in scope and shared some valuable lessons about creativity, innovation, branding and value creation through platform development in the mobile age. Particularly interesting were his ideas on creating brand value through building platforms that are designed to help users rather than sell products, and his argument that getting an app or experience to launch is only the first part of the journey of constant improvement and iteration necessary for lasting impact in the ever-changing world of mobile.

David is continually brimming with fresh insights about tech trends and usage all over the world, and is clearly an inspiring, creative leader who brings a powerful combination of curiosity, empathy and market savvy to experience design.

Jeremy Abbett, Creative Evangelist for Google Germany

This is the second talk I’ve heard from Jeremy, and it was the same mix of excitement and frustration as the first time. Excitement because nearly every slide is a big idea you could dive into for an hour, and frustrating because instead you get 30 of them in an hour.

Jeremy executes his presentations with humor, humanity and insight, and I’d love to see him in a seminar setting, working with a small audience to dive deeply into a few issues. His mind seems particularly well-tuned to finding core assumptions that can be challenged with a fresh perspective, or a humanistic insight into what at first glance seems to be a technical issue – much needed in the broader debate about some of the key challenges of the digital age:

– What is the best way to promote economic opportunity in a society facing mass disruption through robotic and software automation?

– How do organizations survive the digital transformation when competing in a networked economy defined by power law distributions?

– How can we avoid losing our minds and focus from constant digital interruptions?

Everyone in the audience seems to perk up when he talks, which reminds me of the classic “When EF Hutton Talks…” ads:

An understandable response when listening to insights from a company that is building the future rather than just talking about it like the rest of us. That said, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Google is a company challenged only by itself. Where do all of those great ideas go, and how do you stay focused and driven when you have such a concentration of power, talent and resources?


Speaking at Mobile Convention Amsterdam – 4 June

For anyone in Amsterdam on June 4th, I will be speaking at Mobile Convention Amsterdam. MCA is one of the premier European events for mobile commerce, marketing and enterprise issues, and will feature speakers from Google, Twitter, IBM, Adobe, Forrester Research, and many more.

I’ll be speaking about how the competition between hierarchies and networks is reshaping the competitive environment for enterprises, and how this mobile-driven dynamic of networked communications is forcing us to rethink privacy and security. Hope to see you there!

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Value is Created When the Need for Trust is Eliminated

That was the claim I made during my presentation at a mobile event in London in March. The basic argument I brought out was that often companies think of trust in highly ego-centric terms when developing products and services, in terms of “do people trust us?” That’s absolutely an important question to ask when handling things like customer data, but also misses some of the value that is waiting to be captured when trust is taken from the user’s perspective. Where do users have existing problematic trust relationships that can be addressed through new products or services. I would argue that the success of services like Uber and AirBNB rest partly on how they simplify or bring transparency to trust relationships that users have in the real world.

You can hear more about that in the interview here:

Or in the full presentation here:

Interview from Mobile Convention Brussels

Many thanks to the great folks at Mobile Convention Brussels for a terrific event this past week. It was a welcome experience to learn about new mobile trends from experts in the field, and to see the work of very talented speakers like Christian Heilmann, who really help the audience rather than just pitching to them. Overall a welcome opportunity to learn and explore with top speakers and a motivated, engaged audience.

I spoke about the social side of privacy and security issues in the mobile world – my slides can be found here.

They also filmed a short interview after the presentation, where I had a chance to talk a bit more about privacy, security, and future trends in mobile:

Speaking at Mobile Convention Brussels – 27 Nov

I’ll be speaking during the Mobile Convention Brussels on the 27th of November about the growing importance of mobile privacy and security issues, alongside representatives from Google, Warner Bros, Uber, RTL, and many more.

The conference organizers interviewed me to promote the event, and you can find that here.

It should be a great event for anyone interested in exploring and understanding the future of the mobile landscape. I hope to see you there!

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Virtual Reality – Recommended Reading

Here’s a first stab at what I would consider good starting reading on virtual reality – both to get a sense of the topic from researchers and VR developers, as well as some defining visions of what virtual reality might become:


Neuromancer, by William Gibson (1984) – A truly visionary work of science fiction that gave us the first fully realized imagining of cyberspace, and deeply influenced a generation of science fiction writers and researchers alike. Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab says Neuromancer, “was without a doubt what inspired me to become a scholar of avatars… Large government grants have been awarded to me for building and testing Gibson’s ideas. Academic papers are improved by Gibson quotes that sum up the big ideas of the research. PhD students walk out of my office with a copy when searching for dissertation topics. Undergraduates who can’t imagine the world without the ‘cyberspace’ that Gibson predicted (or perhaps facilitated) grumble about my using it as a textbook in my lecture classes… Without Neuromancer, the world of virtual reality as a whole would look very different.”

Snow Crash, by Neil Stephenson (1992) – This was my first exposure to the cyberpunk genre, as an assigned reading in a 1995 undergraduate elective class on technology and society. Michael Abrash, formerly of Id Software and Valve fame, and now Chief Scientist at Oculus, describes the influence of Snow Crash this way, “It all started with Snow Crash. If I hadn’t read it and fallen in love with the idea of the Metaverse, if it hadn’t made me realize how close networked 3D was to being a reality, if I hadn’t thought I can do that, and more importantly I want to do that, I’d never have embarked on the path that eventually wound up at Valve.”

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (2012) – Another hugely entertaining, imaginative vision of virtual reality, and influential for the latest generation of developers. Palmer Luckey recommends this to everyone at Oculus, and Ernest Cline is similarly a fan of the Rift. As he remarked on the difficulty of timing in science fiction writing after being invited to Oculus, “You’re often wrong when you try to predict the advancements of technology and in this case, I feel like I underestimated instead of overestimated, which is really exciting.”


Interview with Jaron Lanier on Virtual Reality, Whole Earth Review (1989) – An early interview with the so-called godfather of virtual reality, Jaron Lanier. Aside from being a great window into the astonishing range of thoughts Lanier has always had about the potential of VR, here he puts forward the argument that the real potential of VR is social: “Other people are the life of the party in Virtual Reality. Other people are the unique things that will animate Virtual Reality and make it astonishingly unpredictable and amazing.”

Infinite Reality: The Hidden Blueprint of our Virtual Lives, by Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson (2011) – A fascinating tour of VR research by two top researchers in the field. This book focuses on how the human mind behaves in virtual environments, and the social and psychological issues that will become hot topics as VR becomes a mass market technology.

The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: how body maps in your brain help you do (almost) everything better, by Sandra Blakeslee and Matthew Blakeslee – recommended to me by virtual reality researcher (and new Oculus employee) Will Steptoe, this book delves into the emerging science of “body maps” – how your sense of self extends into the space around you and the objects you hold. Though not specifically focused on VR (though there is a special chapter on VR and body maps) the topic as a whole will be central to how effectively VR becomes an ’embodied’ form of both computing and cognition.

What would you add to the list? Comment below, and I’ll include any good suggestions in future iterations.

Journal article: Teaching International Relations with New Media

I’ve just published an article on teaching International Relations with new media in the German journal of IR, Zeitschrift für Internationale Beziehungen.

The full text can be found here: ZiB 1/2014 – Teaching IR with New Media

My conclusion:

Our students will likely spend their lives increasingly reliant on the Internet, mobile computing and online social networks to navigate the complexities of their world. They will be entering a networked information economy that differs significantly from the industrial information economy that preceded it, and must develop news skills to cope with rapid increases in the volume, variety and velocity of information in society. They will be required to engage with new media spaces in order to make their voices heard in these new public forums, and a premium will be placed on their ability to meaningfully discover, make critical sense of, and contribute to knowledge flows.

As the complexity and speed of global communications continues to increase, digital information literacy will become a more challenging and more important skill set to acquire. Bridging their firsthand experience with the Internet, social networks and mobile devices with rigorous analysis of the social and political impacts of those forces is an exciting opportunity in International Relations teaching. Building this into the design of our classes creates the opportunity for learning and reflection by both teachers and students on many complex, important themes of the digital age.

It is important to help break down the traditional isolation of the university classroom by connecting students more deeply to ongoing academic debates, to their classmates and teachers through collaboration, and to the wider world outside the classroom through these new public spaces. Technology can facilitate the goal of university courses to step beyond their traditional role as centers of expert knowledge transfer, into more dynamic venues for the analysis, critique and collaborative creation of knowledge by students themselves. By taking this step we are more likely to see our students think rather than just learn, and we in turn are more likely to learn from them. In an era of accelerating technological disruption in every area of public life, we all have much to learn.


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