Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Leonardo da Vinci

Storify Founder Burt Herman about how Social Media is Disrupting News

About the term “curation”:

when I talk to journalists I always have to be like, ‘Actually, curation – it’s really what you guys have always done.’ It’s taking a lot of information, pulling out the relevant parts of it, giving context, and telling a story.

About how traditional media companies first (sometimes still) reacted to the Internet:

it was clearly disrupting newspapers who didn’t seem to know how to deal with it, or grasping onto the old world and hoping all this Internet stuff would go away.

Great guy, go read the interview!

Change is neither bad or good. It just is.

Don Draper

The normal distribution – beautiful curve and rules statistics and data

Big data, small data, personal data, data infrastructure, data here, data there: I generally hate buzz word bingo. But for a change, I actually believe in the impact of data and clearly we have more data at our disposal than ever before. Question is: how can we use it in new ways to create new businesses? We looked for some answers at The Hive chatting with T.M. Ravi.

According to Ravi all companies and all parts of a company will be transformed by the use of data. What we see today is just the first step for building data driven businesses: companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn mostly just built a powerful infrastructure to collect data in the digital space. Actually these companies have built almost addictive platforms to let us, its users, give them all the data they might dream of. The next step however is how we collect and use data from the analog world. Google is doing so with StreetView, but think about pretty much any object being connected to the Internet and collecting data or being a data object in itself. All any company then needs to master is processing data and sucking the value out that lies in it.

Wining and dining the advertisers in the old Mad Men way won’t do it: Embrace change and new technologies like real time bidding, behavioral targeting and performance marketing – we are just at the beginning of the data revolution.

In a field nearer to my home turf this is already having a huge impact: online advertising. This industry is totally driven by data today and the value lies in targeting and personalization of advertising. For example during a real time bidding process on an ad impression the machines involved can estimate how much to bid by using personal or behavioral data about the user. If you don’t use this technology, you’re being out-bid by the smarter machine – or, from the publisher’s point of view, you won’t be able to get the best price for your ad inventory, if you don’t provide data about your users.

That is a huge challenge to our traditional business of selling high-CPM brand advertising. In the words of Ravi: “brand advertising is getting squeezed by performance advertising, because performance can be measured very well.” And what do marketing executives love? A measurable ROI in terms of sales and not some fuzzy brand awareness or other rather soft measure.

What to do? Wining and dining the advertisers in the Mad Men way won’t do it: Embrace change and new technologies like real time bidding, behavioral targeting and performance marketing – we are just at the beginning of the data revolution.

— Still digesting insights from my Silicon Valley trip… This one is related to this post (in german).

On march 2nd 2013 Evernote was the victim of a security breach on their servers. For a service that holds so much private information about its users, actually also about me, this could be life-threatening incident. As such many a company would prefer to not talk about it. Especially if, as it was the case with the Evernote hack attack, no data and payment information seemed to have been accessed, changed or deleted.

Andrew Sinkov, VP of Marketing at Evernote, about the security breach:
“That sucked! What you do about it, is to be as transparent as possible as quickly as possible.”

Not so with Evernote: they had a plan in place for such an incident and the guiding principle was to keep absolute transparency about what had happened and to take any possible action in order to protect the users’ data. So they addressed all their users in an mass emailing, informed all major media outlets and implemented a system-wide password reset.

Evernote mass email informing all users about the security breach and the system-wide password reset

Evernote mass email informing all users about the security breach and the system-wide password reset

At our visit at the Evernote HQ the topic of the hacking attack was no taboo at all. Andrew Sinkov, Evernote’s VP of Marketing, was very open about it: “That sucked! What you do about it, is to be as transparent as possible as quickly as possible.” Ronda Scott, responsible for PR & communication, explained us that Evernote received a lot of positive reactions to how they handled the security breach. According to her this is how Phil Libin, Evernote’s CEO and founder, envisions the company: always be open and transparent and do the right thing.

For a service that should help its customers expand their memory by remembering everything, trust is crucial. But nothing kills trust faster than not being transparent – Evernote is on the right track here, let’s hope they keep it up and succeed in building “a 100 year company”.

Facebook HQ - Bike repair shop in the biggest kindergarden in the world

Facebook HQ – Bike repair shop in the biggest kindergarden in the world

In my recent visit to the Silicon Valley we visited some of the best known internet brands. Before heading over to the West Coast, I was obviously excited about visiting the Twitters and Facebooks of this world. In hindsight those were not the most insightful visits: Youtube was a software engineering ghost town with everybody silently hacking on, Facebook resembled an oversized kindergarden with 24/7 services and supervision and Twitter shared little news beyond what one can learn when reading up on them.

Talking to founders and understanding their way of thinking and vision is the only way to observe what happens at the cutting edge of innovation

Contrast this with one of the highlights: visiting Burt Herman and his team have realized the disruption social media brings to journalism. They went out and built a tool that leverages social media as an additional source. Additionally they want the journalists to do what they’ve always done and what seems more and more important: curating. How should mere mortals stay on top of the news and non-news that we are exposed to? How should we be able to prioritize what is happening in all the channels available today? Storify has a bold vision: change how stories are being told.

Talking with Burt Herman – one of the co-founders of storify – you could feel the many hours he and his team have been thinking about every feature of the tool and how to make it as simple as possible to use. You could feel how well they understand the disruption social media is to today’s journalism and you could feel the passion they have for journalism and new ways of story-telling.


Burt Herman, co-founder of

Not surprisingly the backend software engineer happy with solving really hard coding problems in the core of Facebook’s code or the marketer trying to bring the magic of Twitter to ever more countries around the world have less to tell. Talking to founders and understanding their way of thinking and vision is the only way to observe what happens at the cutting edge of innovation.

Dienstag, 19. März – Teil 2

Der zweite Tag der HWZ Silicon Valley Study Tour – es bleibt spannend!

Storified by gottino· Tue, Mar 19 2013 23:18:07

Nach dem Besuch bei der Stanford School of Engineering ging’s weiter zu einem weiteren Inkubator: The Hive. Dieser “Geburtsort” oder “Geburtshelfer” für Startups hat einen ganz bestimmten Fokus: Daten. Die Überzeugung von T. M. Ravi (Gründer) ist, dass alle Industrien von der Macht der Daten verändert werden. Dabei bilden aus Sicht von Ravi die digitalen Datenquellen, die von Unternehmen wie Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon usw. angezapft werden nur die erste Welle einer viel tiefer greifenden Veränderung. Die nächste Welle wird von analogen Daten und dem Internet der Dinge geprägt werden.
Digital Data is just the beginning – next step is analog datagottino
Daten können dabei auf verschiedene Arten Mehrwert generieren. Als Beispiel nannte Ravi, dass Daten aus den sozialen Netzwerken einer Person einen massiven Mehrwert darstellen, wenn sie in einem Real Time Bidding Prozess dazu benutzt werden, für einen User passende Werbung zu platzieren. Oder indem die Daten benutzt werden, für einen Nutzer personalisierte Inhalte auszusteuern. 
Ravi meinte dazu, dass Online Advertising heute total von Daten gelenkt wird und dass die Premium Platzierungen für Branding, die immernoch zu einem fixen TKP verkauft werden, immer stärker unter Druck geraten und von datengetriebenen Produkten verdrängt werden.
VLab commercial drones event with THE Chris Anderson #vlabdronesgottino
Als nächstes ging es zurück an die Stanford University – diesmal an deren Business School. Das Forum für Unternehmer VLAB lud zu einem Event zum Thema “Kommerzielle Anwendungen von Drohnen” ein. Diese aus dem militärischen Anwendungsbereich bekannten unbemannten Flugkörper – bisher vor allem im Einsatz, um im Krieg auf Knopfdruck zu töten… – sollen ein riesiges kommerzielles Potenzial haben. Diese Meinung vertraten die Panel-Mitredner unter der Führung von niemand geringerem als Chris Anderson, dem langjährigen Chefredaktor des Wired Magazine und Autor der Bestseller “The Longtail“, “Free” und “Makers“. 
"The phone in your pocket can fly a 747" Chris Anderson #vlabdrones #hwzsv
Die durchwegs positive Einschätzung von Drohnen durch die Panelists war einerseits natürlich vom allgemeinen Technologie-Glauben im Silicon Valley geprägt. Andererseits muss man auch erkennen, dass viele der Technologien, die wir heute im Alltag nutzen, sich auf militärische Entwicklungen zurückführen lassen: das Internet, GPS und eigentlich ja sogar der Computer an sich.
"We have consistently demilitarized technology: Internet, GPS, etc. " Chris Anderson #vlabdrones #hwzsvgottino
Final word by our panel: "Drones have the capacity to make airspace safer" #VLABdronesVLAB

So I arrived to San Francisco on Sunday after a seemingly never ending flight. After the welcome dinner we now get into the real deal. Here you find the schedule for the week.

Monday, March 18th 2013
First Day of the Silicon Valley Study Tour already full with highlights:

Tuesday, March 19th 2013
On the second day we’re heading further south for the first time: Palo Alto including a walking tour at Stanford University is on the plan

Wednesday, March 20th 2013

Thursday, March 21th 2013

Friday, March 22th 2013


Software is the new hardware: companies we would have never thought they’d be into software are releasing smartphone and tablet apps or even APIs so that developers can program against their platform:

  • It looks like Nike is not releasing one piece of kit that is not in some way connected and full of software and web services. And obviously they have an API
  • Philips releases smart light bulbs with an API so developers can program the next great disco light turning your house into an app
  • In Switzerland the national railways recently released sbb.connect – a local services and game app similar to Foursquare for public transports
  • Print publishers are releasing mobile app after tablet app and struggle to figure out what the world will look like in the post-newspaper era

So everyone and their dog is doing software, web services and mobile apps. What follows? Some of these apps are crap. Especially mobile and tablet apps from media companies are often buggy, slow, either totally under- or insanely over-featured and too complicated for the average user. The complexity-part is worsened by the fact that every app seems to have a different paradigm of navigating with swipes up, down, left, right and with buttons that bring you somewhere or nowhere.

How comes than that these products often are mediocre? One or all of the following reasons may apply – and probably many more:

  • The app in question is created by an external agency on a fixed budget – sweating the details of a great user experience can often not be achieved in such a setup
  • The product manager in charge is not technical enough or doesn’t have the user experience chops to deliver a great product
  • The software engineers are not top notch. Ask yourself the following question: if you’re an engineer, what company would you join: Google, Facebook or any other cool kid on the startup block or a media company where technology is an afterthought?

So if in your business technology is still an afterthought, you need to change that or you will fall behind. You’ll probably need to build internal know how – either in technology or perhaps more importantly in how to manage tech. Your main challenge will probably be to attract top talent – they’ll have better places to go to.

Mobile phones in an Orange shop

copyright Bloomberg

Everybody knows these mobile phone shops: rows and rows of shiny new gadgets attached to some security device that beeps horribly, if you pull a bit to harshly on the string attached to the phone you want to try out. How on earth have these shops and their terrible user experience changed so little? Some observations about what is wrong with the customer experience. Some time ago I was waiting for my turn at our local Orange shop. As anybody reading this piece probably knows, I’ll most likely be one of the very last people to switch away from my beloved iPhone. But hey, I had a couple of minutes and there was a row of smartphones from all the companies and mobile phone platforms known to man in front of me, why not give them a spin? Does Windows Phone really look and feel that cool? How is it that Samsung seems to produce some worthy competition to the iPhone? Questions that needed to be answered some day!

Have tech retailers really learnt nothing in the twelve years since the first Apple Store?

But, alas, it was not this day or any other day in a regular mobile phone shop for that matter. Why? These things, though very nice feeling phones, were totally useless for checking out some of the most common features:

  • No SIM-Card in the demo-phones
  • No connection to the internet
  • No preconfigured email-address or email inbox
  • No preloaded photos to experience the photo gallery app
  • No interesting apps or games preloaded on the device to explore

How the hell am I supposed to find out if this phone is any good? How shall I experience it’s web browser, email app and great screen if there is no connection to the web, no configured email account and no gorgeous pictures in the photo gallery app? Have tech retailers really learned nothing in the twelve years since the first Apple Store? The only thing that is better than it used to be: you usually won’t find any of those ugly fake phones with a sticker as their screen any more – they’ve learned that. A next post will be about why this might be the case. But until then let’s look at somebody who seems to have nailed it.