René Seifert

Entrepreneur, Global Citizen, Flat World, Internet, Web 2.0, Innovation, Start-Up

Archive for the 'Veritas' Category

Ein Gutes Neues 2012 mit Hermann Hesses “Stufen”

In meinem Thailand-Urlaub finde ich endlich wieder einmal etwas Zeit, etwas anderes als berufsbedingte Literatur in die Hand zu nehmen. Dankeschön fürs Weihnachtsgeschenk “Jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne – Lebensstufen” von einem meiner Lieblingsautoren Hermann Hesse. Die erste Strophe des Gedicht “Stufen”, inhaltsprägend für das ganze Werk, hat mich am heutigen 1. Januar 2012 besonders inspiriert:

Wie jede Blüte welkt und jede Jugend
Dem Alter weicht, blüht jede Lebensstufe,
Blüht jede Weisheit auch und jede Tugend
Zu ihrer Zeit und darf nicht ewig dauern.
Es muß das Herz bei jedem Lebensrufe
Bereit zum Abschied sein und Neubeginne,
Um sich in Tapferkeit und ohne Trauern
In andre, neue Bindungen zu geben.
Und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne,
Der uns beschützt und der uns hilft zu leben.

Das ganze Gedicht gibt es z.B. hier. Ein gutes Neues Jahr und möge jeder im neuen Anfang seinen ganz eigenen Zauber finden.

TED India: First Impressions from Mysore

It’s been some 6 hours that I arrived at Infosys’ Campus in Mysore, the venue for the TED India conference. The campus is out of this world, when going through the gate “you are leaving the Indian sector” and it appears as neat as Disney World – although the Infosysians roaming around are way smarter ;-)

Obviously, I am no conference newbie. But every event has its own culture and my experience has been to look and watch in the first place, keep a bit of a low profile to understand the dos and don’ts and then fully immersing into the action. So far my first impression has been fantastic. You just start a conversation with anybody on where they come from, what they do or what interests them. What is a good thing – and I hate anything else – that the conversations are genuinely personal and nobody tries to “sell” himself, lest any product or service.

I guess one little anecdote illustrates my point quite well: When I took the bus back from the opening party to the campus, there was a slim Indian gentleman sitting there. I asked politely if the chair was vacant, he confirmed politely and we introduced each other by name: “Rama – René”. He made an extremely humble, maybe even slightly shy impression to me, and we started to talk in a real curious two-way conversation. After 3 minutes or so it turned out that this gentleman was Vilayanur Ramachandran, one of the leading neuroscientists of the world. He told me about his studies of the human brain with his approach to learn from deviant behaviour in a systematic way about the brain function and arrive to general conclusions for the ‘normal’ case. Rama held a talk today in the pre-conference programme; and here he is in a TED-talk of 2007.

We came then to some older studies of his where he looked at the function of humour which he explained in an amazing way of cultural evolution. But then we didn’t stay too long too theoretical and started to exchange hilarious jokes. One of them which the Professor told me is the sort of jokes I usually tell and I had to promise not spread it by giving “credit” to him. Promised.

As I mentioned Twitter, Rama said that he was registered, but didn’t understand if he had to admit people who follow him, what was public and what not. This was of course my little moment of glory where I could share my experience with the microblogging service and explain all open points. So my initial take: TED is predominantly about good, mutual conversations where a pinch of humour doesn’t do any harm either.

An amazing first evening, and I am really really looking forward to tomorrow, with Day 1 of the conference program. By the way, the entire Day 1 will be broadcast live online.

Glad to be a TEDster: India Event in November

Last week got the lucky mail that I got accepted to TED, in my opinion one of the finest organizations these days to make a change for the better to our world. Under the claim “Ideas worth Sharing”, smart minds with a good heart get together to discuss concepts that are often extremely bold, yet possible to achieve only through a joint effort. Projects which are independent from governmental politics and for profit interests, from their approach moreover deeply democratic. Whoever decides to buy into an idea and support it, can do so. If many do so, chances are that that the bold objective might turn into a new reality.

So far I have watched the many TED-talks (Technology, Entertainment, Design) “free to the world” mostly on the treadmill in the gym through my iPod Touch, always inspired by the rigor of reason applied to the concepts, its fabulous storytelling and admiration of the creative human mind. Hence, I feel deeply humbled and honoured to be able to participate in that crowd live. The first event I will take part in is – suprise, surprise – TED India, in fact from November 4th to 7th 2009 in Mysore, around 80 km northwest from Bangalore on the legendary Infosys campus.

TED India

What I also liked are the terms of participation which one has to opt-into and which couldn’t be any clearer:

I understand that those who attend TED do so in a spirit of curiosity, open-mindedness, respect and tolerance, thereby enabling constructive conversation and allowing TED speakers to be more open than they might otherwise be. I confirm that I will respect these values, and will abide by the conference rules. I also understand that the atmosphere at TED is appropriate for high-level relationship-building, not salesmanship. I confirm I will not use my TED attendance to aggressively pitch my company, organization, products or services to other attendees.

It reminds me a bit of our non-solicitation policy at the Entrepeneurs Organization (EO). There is nothing more damaging to building a trustful relationship that if you have to suspect that the person opposite is only talking to you with a hidden agenda for the sake of selling you his crap.

Till then, I will continue watching the talks on my iPod as well as developping a little project further which I actually picked up from TED. Happy to make an announcement soon here on my blog. Else, please let me know if you are coming to TED India as well so we can connect already ahead of the event along the lines of the conference’s motto “The Future beckons”.

The God of Chilling lives in Goa

Saturday morning in Bangalore and I am still full of best memories from last weekend in Goa, a place that constantly calls for coming back. After my friend Dirk and I with a heavy heart had decided to cancel our trip over Christmas last year due to specific terror threats, it was time to make up for it. And Goa never disappoints, Goa always delivers in its own kind.

Vagator - Italian Beach

Hence, we were a colourful gang of four MännerMItÄhre (sic!) which would translate into something like “MenOfHonour” from the three German-speaking countries. Tim and myself from Germany, Ingo from Austria and Frank from Switzerland who as the Swiss Consul to Bangalore brought diplomatic immunity into the equation. Here we were on the famous Saturday Night Market which has just re-opened after months of security-concerns. (The whole set of pictures, by the way, is here on Flickr).

Saturday Night Market in Goa

The Night Market is Goa in a nutshell, with all the different streaks that India’s smallest state has to offer. The prevailing feeling is that of an alternative lifestyle even with some old hippies from around the world who have been there for years, selling silver jewellery or baking original yummy Italian pizza. Then you have some of the package tourists who made their way from mostly Baga, quite a few Russians were around this year as well. But the best is that everybody is totally relaxed and liberal where nobody cares for impressions and expressions which are rather unusual e.g. in the corporate world (which is by no means a benchmark for happy and fulfilled living …;-):

The best, surely, in Goa are the beaches. Meandering along the coast, occasionally interrupted by huge rocks, they continue to touch passionately the Arabian Sea. Candolim is quite widespread, Baga rather densely populated, Vagator hides almost still like a little secret whereas Anjuna hails as the hotspot for the backpacker- and yoga-crowd. Everyone will find his or her little paradise here. Who is willing to go for the search, doing it on a motorbike is by far the best experience.

My Motorbike for Goa

(Note that there is no helmet. Nobody is wearing it in Goa. And it goes like this: As everybody is doing it, the outcome from the democratic decision is that in case of an accident the laws of physics have been lifted. So injuries are technically impossible …)

Most importantly in Goa, you have to let go. Let go from all measures of efficiency which usually dominate our busy lives. More often than not the service in one of the beach shackles is slow. It takes ages to place an order in spite of few guests whilst the waiters seem to have a good time standing around. And it’s exactly that dimension of time which seems to stretch to eternal relativistic proportions by melting seamlessly into a joint continuum with space. As we were joking: “In Goa no one dies from a heart attack.”

Anjuna Beach in Goa

Sitting down in one of these shackles with a cold drink in your hand for a sun-downer drink, being surrounded by lush-green palm-trees, looking out on the glittering water, having your male “MännerMitÄhre”-friends by your side, does not raise any further questions about the equilibrium of existence. A full plate of fresh seafood for 150 Rupees (~EUR 2.50) will do the rest.

From the 30 million Indian Gods, the one responsible for chilling must be living in Goa.

Collectively collapsing all Rules at Carnival

After all my successful years of abstinence, I got drawn in this time. Into the weird proceedings of carnival in Germany. Unfortunately, my friend Arnd exploited a weakness of mine which was asking me if I wanted to join him and some friends to the unique, unparalleled und world-famous carnival in Cologne. It took me around 10 seconds to accept. And there we were for “Altweiberfastnacht“, the brave sailors after an exhausting trip on the seven seas ready to go on land (pictures here).

Leichtmatrosen Benninghoff und Seifert

The unbelievable thing is that over the last 5 days of the carnival season, the city is basically  in a state of emergency. Nobody works, don’t even try to call someone up for business and everybody in the street is in one form of disguise or the other.

Everyone in Costume for Carnival in Colgne

I don’t intend to bore the death out of you by intellectualizing the sheer fun. But I found the social dynamics of something like carnival extremely insightful. Also I realized that quite a few “cultures” (in a simplified usage of the term) have something which carries some similar properties. For instance, Oktoberfest in Munich, Holi in India or Springbreak in the U.S. Or yesterday, I went to another carnival-event, “Fasching” as it is called in Bavaria, thanks to an invitation of the “Münchner Sozietät”, slightly changed my dress and went as both Barack and Hussein ;-) – pictures here

Faschingsball "Münchner Sozietät"

What I mean that for some pre-defined period of time, the usual collective rules seem to collapse. Those underlying values of proper behaviour which we deem essential for the very functioning of our social fabric. Just gone, right through the chimney. People drink in a way where they make sure everyone realize, personal distance among strangers disappear and the approachability between genders raise exponentially.

It was interesting to watch in Cologne’s pub how apparently new acquaintances were polishing each other’s tonsils in a matter of minutes – thereby seemingly reinforcing the communal cohesion for the rest of the year ;-) Moreover during carnival, the very nature of being in a costume creates an alter ego which allows for acting in a parallel self which can’t be held accountable for these unintentional occurrences.

Ultimately, hey, when everyone is doing it, nobody can be blamed. Hence, the state of emergency becomes just a normality. Essential, however, is the common notion of this “pre-defined period of time” where everyone can go berserk before knowing exactly where the point is when it’s time for the reboot.

Leadership Forum: How NASSCOM just doesn’t get 2.0

After the gala dinner “Salaam Mumbai” on Friday night, I made my way to the airport and had a relaxed night flight with Swiss Airline to Zürich where incidentally Rattan Tata was two seats away from me. The landscape here couldn’t pose a bigger contrast to the previous three days in hot and humid Mumbai. On the snow covered slopes of St. Moritz (Switzerland) I found some time and focus to reflect on the conference.

Piz Nair (3057 m) in St. Moritz

These three days at the NASSCOM India Leadership Forum 2009 have – like my previous two attendances – been tremendously inspiring with phenomenal speakers like John Chambers (CEO of Cisco) as the starter and management guru C.K. Prahalad for the grand finale. Moreover, and that’s what I love deeply in Indian culture, if you know on Day 1 some people, on Day 3 you will know many people thanks to the cordial introductions which those some will make for you to the many. The strong impression which the evening events left on me, is the result of a long-term effort putting these choreographies for the shows with all the awards and dancers together. All fine, and I am quite sure I will attend next year again, that’s for the red cross in the calendar February 9th to 11th 2010.

Yet, and that’s where it really loses me, that in spite of the professional organization of the event, India’s IT-industry association NASSCOM simply doesn’t get it what this beast Web 2.0 or Communication 2.0 or Innovation 2.0 or however you want to name it, is about. Ironically, the two top-speakers I mentioned above where teaching and preaching how it works, what it means and how it positively impacts the outreach of an organization. Specifically, C.K. Prahalad mentioned in his talk that he sees a huge opportunity to consult companies in “social architecture”. NASSCOM should be the first customer.

So in my perception, NASSCOM is still stuck in the mindset: “Uuups, there is this something called Facebook, Twitter, Web 2.0 – and we have to do something with it.” The result: Applying the old mindset (which again Prof. Prahalad was pointing out as the biggest obstacle) onto these platforms and forcing the existing command & control structures of its organizations on these platforms. And it just hurts, because it just doesn’t work this way and thereby gets stuck in the old format (sorry for the blurred quality of the pic).

C.K. Prahalad: Impediments for Innovations

Examples:

  • NASSCOM is running “a blog”, hu-ha-hu a blog, how fancy does this sound with a few “bloggers” writing for it here and identifying themselves on the event with a badge “NASSCOM – I’m blogging” plus some through the audacity to have their hair grown over the tip of their ears. Nothing to object, but this has nothing at all to do with blogging. What NASSCOM in fact does, it hires a few people as editors, thereby controlling the message and pushing it “out to the world”. I wonder if the world cares when the oracle has spoken. (When I got the offer by Avinash Raghava from NASSCOM to “get an account also write for us”, I politely declined. I prefer to write what I think on my own blog.)
  • NASSCOM in on Twitter, check out what came out in the last three days of the conference under http://twitter.com/nilf2009: It’s nothing but pushing one-directionally micro-links of these same messages out. Moreover, using the account name NILF2009 carries a fundamental and obvious flaw: It terms that NASSCOM easily understands, it’s simply not “scalable” as for 2010, 2011 etc. there have to be a new accounts over and over again with losing all the old followers and starting from zero. If I was a cynic, I could argue: With the 36 follower at the time of writing no harm done. Note by the way, the absence of NASSCOM’s interest in conversing by only following back 10 people.

NILF 2009 Twitter

  • NASSCOM has set up a community “Emerge” of its own using CollectiveX to have its members and the delegates respectively interact on that platform beyond the face-to-face meetings. So far absolutely a right move. Yet, it stops exactly there as the old mindset dictates that one must own, control and monopolize the conversation. This platform is not bad at all, but it is not exactly the comfort that Facebook offers. So where is the Facebook-group of the conference where there are not just the better features for interaction, but more importantly where EVERYBODY is already around. When I asked new acquaintances on the conference after receiving their business cards if they were on Facebook, in 80 percent the answer was “yes”.
  • NASSCOM is taping all of the keynotes and most of the panels on video. Why in this world is there no channel on YouTube to put these treasures out? The same applies to the presentations where NASSCOM-president Som Mittal mentioned at the very end that most of them will be available for download. Thank you very much, had I known that before I would have not written my fingers off with taking notes. Just see this slide from John Chamber’s presentation on YouTube’s impact on his organization.

Cisco YouTube-Usage

  • NASSCOM, and that brings me to the last point, is acting in an era of connectedness entirely disconnected in all the separate, distinct and isolated silos of activity. The moderately talented moderator who regularly stumbles in just presenting what the presenter is going to present is of little help either in that context. Where are these closed feedback loops of someone qualified on stage continuously bring the pieces together?

But let’s take a step back and not get stuck in doing the same mistake of bashing single flaws here and simple formats there, but re-draw the big picture of what this all is about: It’s about providing the delegates with a profound and sustainable experience of the event in terms of learning, connecting and participating. Beyond that, the message should get out of the “echo chamber” and travel as far and as fast as possible to anybody who could be a relevant stakeholder. As part of a communication strategy, NASSCOM perfectly includes the press in the process. But here the story ends. Where NASSCOM entirely fails, is getting real word-of-mouth out by engaging into a CONVERSATION. A conversation by definition requires at least the same amount of listening as much as of talking yourself.

Attend a conference of O’Reilly like the upcoming Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco next month (I will be there, too) and you see how it can be done differently by pulling all levers and connecting them. Attendants can twitter questions upfront which the moderator will use for his interview, he will suggest tags for pics and videos which will be uploaded etc. Furthermore, the conference organizers will invite impartial bloggers equal to traditional press which will, of course, write on their own blogs. The official conference-bloggers would read them, link to them, comment, retort, put things straight or, clearly, ignore trolls who are just out there for parasitic attention.

Or, visit the DLD-Conference in Munich where I moderated two panels a fortnight ago: There is a dedicated video-channel with all the panels. Also, from the organizers’ communication team someone will constantly watch what is being twittered in order to make improvements of the event “on the fly”.

Overall, if NASSCOM is serious about its efforts to move up the value chain towards products, it would require some colourful “Gondalization”, named after my friend Vishal Gondal from Indiagames, who won this year’s NASSCOM India Innovation Award for evangelizing his service in a novel way. Vishal was not the only one to wear an orange T-shirt in the dark ocean of seriousness. What is more, he has fully understood how Communication 2.0 works, he is a real blogger who has a tremendous network to leverage upon. This includes that NASSCOM would have to deal with posts like his Why Wipro, Infosys and TCS are “The Axis of Evil” for Indian start-up space which has garnered 120 comments. One of the major properties of Communication 2.0 is the ability to let go and have the network do the work from amplifying to correcting the message.

CIMG4308

It’s not about if Vishal in right in all he writes, or if I went too far with criticism in this post. That would be missing the point which John Chambers got so right as the bracket for this keynote: “If you agree in all I say, I have failed.” But listening to it from a position of equals is the starting point for a true conversation.

Why the “3 P” should read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”

Malcolm Gladwell: OutliersThe simple recommendation would be: Everybody should read the book. But in terms of the topics Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” touches upon, I’d like to break it down into interest-groups (in order to avoid the over-used prefix “target”). First of all, the book is outstanding which I as a faithful reader of Gladwell didn’t expect it to be. I felt that the book is under-communicating its value with the title “The Story of Success” and over-relying on the fame of its best-selling author.

Yes, the headline throughout the book is that successful people are not just the result of their individual hard work and sheer determination, but equally a product of the social environment they grow up in. As I would not have disputed this, I didn’t expect the book to deliver a lot of novelty. I was wrong. So whom would this book concern most?

I found that it’s the “3 P”: Parents, Pilots and Politically IN-correct.

Parents

Most of us are obsessed with the importance of the intelligence quotient (IQ). I guess I was too when I applied 10 years back to join Mensa, that club of the 2% most intelligent people in the world, with an IQ of 130 and above – and missed out on 4 points. Gladwell makes a convincing case that for being very successful in life up to even earning a nobel prize, one just has to be “intelligent enough”, say with an IQ of 110 or 115. All the rest is something which will range in the dimensions of “emotional intelligence”, “practical intelligence” or “street smartness”. And here the social environment in which a child gets nurtured kicks in.

Parents and their way how to bring up their children will make an awful lot of difference. Scientists studied different social environments over time where there would exist an equal distribution of IQ among the children. Yet, among upper and middle class families, the model of “concerted cultivation” as opposed to “accomplishment of natural growth” in lower class families will put their children on distinct trajectory for the future. The former will grow up with a sense of “entitlement” versus the latter with “an emerging sense of distance, distrust and constraint”. This in turn, will in most cases determine if the grown-up will be able to get the rubber of her potentially superior IQ on the social ground or not.

Pilots

Professional pilots are for sure trained in this within “Crew Resource Management”, but for most private “hobby” pilots like me, Gladwell’s explanations were simply breathtaking. Examining at the miserable record of Korean Air’s fatal crashes in the 1990s, examinations of the voice recorders from the black box concluded that the nature of communication in the cockpit had played a crucial role. Korea being a particularly hierarchical society, possess in its language seven nuances to express basically the same factual idea – depending on the social relationship between “transmitter” and “receiver”. This had led in the communication between the captain and the first officer to something called “mitigated language”. Example: You will hardly tell your boss “I need this presentation by Monday”, you might rather apply “If you don’t mind taking the effort over the weekend to send me this thing over” or so …

Polite, well rehearsed in the social context, but in a cockpit potentially deadly. Imagine in a blind approach for landing through clouds where the first officer is convinced that the plane is heading against solid mountain rock. All that comes out is uttering something like “I am not sure if we have established our gliding path with necessary precision”. Bonk. This chapter is particularly illustrating as it quotes such low-impact statements before, err, heavy impact. The solution for Korean Air was to admit to the cultural reasons for the problem, bring in a foreign trainer and change the language among the crew compulsory into English. Changing the framework of the conversation proved to mitigate that bug of “mitigated language”.

Politically IN-correct

Admittedly, that’s my favourite. I always have had my strong reservations about the Thought-Talibans coming in disguise of the semi-divine cause of “political correctness”. The result of their persistent efforts has unfortunately been the suffocation of looking at things as they really are in exchange for pressing everything in an all-equalizing box. Thereby denying important cause-and-effect statements, overlaying problems with a cloth of silence (which would erupt later even worse), nailing every critic with the moral hammer for being a discriminating pig and, worst, prohibiting to work towards an effective solution.

It takes courage to speak out a number of truths where Gladwell doesn’t shy away from: First the one mentioned above with different results of education-styles based on social environments. Second, his analysis why children from Japan and China square so much better in maths than those from the West: Their ancestors always have had a much tougher attitude towards hard work, as cultivating a rice pad requires on average three times the effort of a wheat field. This trait of high working ethics, passed on from generation to generation, has proved instrumental when cracking a hard nut of a maths-problem.

In that context, my own conclusion one of Germany’s biggest post-war failures: The integration of Turks into society,  where many of them are living in a parallel universe which had occasionally mounted to anti-social excesses of violence like in Berlin’s Rüthli School. Conversely and most interestingly, issues with Asian immigrants are almost unheard of. Could it be that an attitude of hard work comes with a better aptitude for integration than a “culture of honour”? – by the way another fascinating topic in the book. In Outliers, it’s about the chapter “Harlan, Kentucky” with the subtitle “Die like a man, like your brother did” and set in 19th century, well, Kentucky. Phenomenal read which awakes a lot of contemporary insight.

Last but not least, the final chapter of the book “A Jamaican Story” where the author himself embarkes on a fascinating journey to his cultural self. Being half a half-English, half-Jamaican Canadian he looks into the story of his maternal line from the carribbean Island. What turns out is a candid and powerful description on racism. Merely on the sideline starting with what the “politically correct”-deformed mind would allow for as racism between the colonial masters and their imported African slaves. More importantly, moving on to describe ho the coloured people who emerged as offspring from those didn’t miss an opportunity to discriminate against each other based based on slightest nuances of their skin-pigmentation. This chapter is so darn convincing in resisting the broadly applied victimization of particular ethnic groups and in forcing everyone into much needed introspection.

I hold high hopes in people like the new US-president Barack Obama and Malcolm Gladwell whose intellect is undisputed, their record on integrity untarnished and both their racial and cultural background diverse. Especially the latter makes them immune against attacks from either side of the radical political spectrum: on the one the blunt racist bastards and on the other the more subtle PC-cruisaders. Obama and Gladwell are allowed to explain things as they really are, whilst standing above it all. That could finally provide progress in eradicating the social cancer of, in the broadest sense, separation, discrimination and racism.

Outliers is an important book on that mission. Although it calls itself “A Story of Success” on the cover, I found it equally illustrating on many instances as “a story of failure”. But coming from an honest account, drawing the right conslusions it can do a lot in overcoming failure and move towards success.

How to deal with Radicalism: Case Study

Sorry, to my English readers, this in German, yet it's a Facebook-conversation which I've had with an imbecile whom I met some 2 years back in Bangalore, a German trainee. And from all what I recall from a few rather unspectacular encounters a notorious underachiever. The nicest thing I can do in that context is to keep his name to myself. 

He is back in India, briefly to Bangalore, then on to Kerala before apparently flying out of Bangalore back to Europe again. He asked me if we could meet up. I agreed for January 6th and briefly told him about our changed plans to Dubai instead of Goa. I also sent him the link to my latest blog post. And this was his response to me (as mentioned, German language):

Dass die Lokalregierung in Goa das ganze übertrieben hat um die ungeliebten Outdoorparties zu verbieten ist klar, oder? Ich hoff mal, dass die Juden jetzt nicht nach Kerala strömen – darf man als Deutscher ja nicht sagen, aber viele von denen haben nach 3 Jahren Militär und lebenslangem auf die Araber runterschauen leider ein starkes Problem damit, sich angemessen zu benehmen. Ich erinner mich noch dran als ob es gestern gewesen wäre, wie der Barbier auf den Andamanen gesagt hat, dass er es gut findet, dass ich Deutscher bin und kein Israeli – und ich leg meine Hand dafur ins Feuer, dass der keinen Plan hat was das Wort Antisemitismus überhaupt bedeutet.

Leider hab ich nach einem Mal (vor 3 Jahren) Sylvester in Goa kein Bock mehr auf die fetten Engländer, vollen Russen, neureichen Inder und Kaschmiris auf Dummenfang, sonst würd ich ja hingehen und als Kamerad Seifert in Dein vorbezahltes 5* Hotel einchecken :-)

I couldn't feel more appaled. And that's from someone like me who is the anthithesis of polical correctness and loves all sorts of jokes on minorities. Yet, it's all a question of the context and moreover, what true colours are shining through in the message. So, in my interpretation, the true colours of that text reflect those of shit – as does its author.

So my response to him came out pretty brief (again German).

Deine Haltung widert mich zutiefst an. Hiermit entziehe ich Dir die Plattform für Deinen geistigen Dreck und löse nach Absenden meiner knappen Antwort unseren Kontakt bei Facebook. Das vorgesehene Treffen am 6. Januar hat sich freilich damit erledigt. Nimm zur Kenntnis, dass meine Entscheidung unumkehrbar und nicht verhandelbar ist. Beste Grüße, René.

From my experience when some position is completely off-limits, when there is no scope for a meaningful discussion, no interest in the truth – like it tends to be with radicalism of any sorts – the only way is to withdraw the platform of conversation from such people, isolate them and push them where they belong: to the edge.

After sending my response off, I deleted the contact with him both on Facebook and on XING. 

Call to Prayer from the Mosque in my Neighbourhood

In the beginning when I moved to Bangalore, the morning chanting at 5 am from the muezzin used to wake me up, before I turned over and continued to sleep. After a few weeks, I did not notice his singing and more, and if, then I could distinguish that the mosque on Richmond Road in my neighbourhood (picture below) had two different muezzins in charge. Each of them had his own style, and naturally, their voices were different.

Mosque on Richmond Road

Today, for some reason, I was awake at 5 am and heard the muezzin chanting, and a minute later the bells of catholic St. Patrick's Church started to ring in parallel. And this in a country of, not to forget, an 80-percent Hindu-majority. That indeed one of the miracles of India, where secularism is embroidered in the constitution not for the sake of absence of religions, but as the very foundation for the diversity of them. Given the 1bn population, this arrangement has worked with few exceptions amazingly well. 

Although in share a clear minority, India is in absolute terms of 150 mn after Indonesia home to the most number of Muslims worldwide. Shashi Tharoor, author of "The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cellphone" rightly points out that this tolerant and secular outlet of India has been a guarantee that Muslims in India feel intrinsically Indian as opposed to having a possibly natural affinity to Pakistan which was formed as an Islamic Republic after the Partition in 1947. 

After listening to the muezzins of my neighbourhood for more than four years, if not in the early morning then at the other four occasions a day, I always have considered their call for prayer bearing something solemn. Also, I wondered what they were actually chanting. The beauty of the internet of 2008 is that the knowledge which was always there, is all of a sudden equally distributed. So I found this enlightening piece on YouTube which comes apparently from a mosque in Bosnia and carries "subtitles". "My" muezzin in Bangalore just chanted for the evening prayer, I listened, compared, and for the first time after four years, I felt to comprehend. 

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

8W8: Taking Globalization and the Internet to the next Level

8W8 Global Space TribesYesterday evening in Munich I listened to a speech from the CEO of Boston Consulting Group Hans-Peter Bürkner about "globalization", an issue that has my natural affinity. Yet, the speech as such I found rather "moderately novel" as its main lines of thought were put forward by Thomas Friedman already 3 years ago in “The World is Flat”. Especially, Mr. Bürkner's part about the role of governments was more of wishful thinking than a reality-based account on the true interests of such a body which is depending on a free electorate.

Anyway, in case someone is interested on more vision and foresight in terms of "what's next" on the global scene, being addressed from an entirely different angle in the shape of a novel, I happily recommend 8W8. The author is Ralf Hirt whom I met in January after moderating the India-panel at the DLD-conference in Munich. It's instrumental to understand the background of Ralf to become clear on both his motivation and insight: He has held leadership positions in the internet industry for a decade and has lived all over the world, in his home town Stuttgart, Hong Kong, Sydney, London and currently New York. In crossing these two lines of experience extrapolating their status-quo plus visioning with lots of foresight, he conceived his first book 8W8. It is worthwhile mentioning that the book is indeed fiction, yet the concept of a "new world modelling engine" are not so far away that this book would fall into the category of "science fiction".

Well, what is it about? The storyline deals with 15 high calibre people from of the "Golden Sky", a community committed with the aspiration to change the world for the sake of good. These 15 people come from a whole array of diverse backgrounds, like Oskar Feller, an editor for a leading internet magazine, Maria who is a doctor developing high-scale programmes to fight HIV/AIDS, Priyanka from India who is an IT-crack working for a global media company or Emanuel, a philosopher and Taoist who has been named for the Nobel Prize. All the characters of the story are here on the 8W8-blog. This group of people is hosted by Winston Chee, a billionaire internet-entrepreneur from China in his island on Hawaii EA-RA.

In this serene and secluded environment, the 15 brains spend a whole week picking each other brains and inspiring each other to solve one crucial problem: How to make the interrelations of economies and people visible in a sort of virtual map-overlay on top of the existing geography. What they come up with is the new world modelling engine "8W8" which can be pictured as a virtual helicopter the "pilot" would use to fly over the terrain of the earth to make these invisible connections visible. Delving even deeper into the concept it transcends into a new form of radical constructivism as the vision the pilot would receive on his dashboard would be a crossover between absolute measurable truths and his set of values/selective perception. What the pilot would get to see is both on “earth level” and on “sky level” the “volumes” of a whole set of parameters. The former range from hard factors like population, GNP, metrics on infrastructure, public institutions to innovation, the latter comprise for example metrics for democracy, human rights, quality of living, level of terrorism and such.

Yet, what is more that beyond statistics on GNP or PPP which are available as top-level data today, 8W8 equally entails a bottom-up approach from the level of the “element” (individual) which will aggregate in “streams” into “Global Space Tribes” according to its interest, e.g. “MBA Jazz Wireless Tribe (MBAJWT)”, “Catholic Fast Food Blue Collar Single Mother of Four (CFFBCSMF)” or the “Taoist Tribe (TT)”. These become even more interesting if one looks at actual vertically positioned Web 2.0 platforms which either try to bring a community of like-minded people together like “Dogster” or provide a tool to define and organize a target group of any shape like Ning. Yet, both of these platforms have in common that they require someone to become a “member” by “registration” and do all these various steps actively online. In that context I do believe that there will be not in too far future a kind of “ambient computing” where the unconscious behaviour patterns will be able to bring people in a meaningful way together. Hence, aggregating this sort of behaviour and making it somehow visible is not that far away from 8W8’s concept of the “Global Space Tribe”.

One thing I had hoped throughout the whole story to occur, is a bit more of conflict, friction, sex: As Oskar and Theresa, a computer scientist, seem to come along very well, I waited for that forbidden kiss, the clandestine quickie to happen under the waterfall of perfectly pristine EA-RA. Not for the sake of sensation, but to portray people regardless of their brains and social status when they become most human: emotional to the extent of irrational. The figures appear prim and proper, and at best tease each other lightly in order to surely succumb to perfect harmony. Irrespective of that, what I liked from a storytelling point of view is the ability to portray a broad set of global citizens who find a common denominator to discuss a topic, be focussed in defining a goal, accepting each other’s variety of viewpoints, being non-judgemental and fully embark on the beneficial concept of diversity.

Altogether, I liked the book a lot as it is coherently able to explain the road ahead in globalization by the force of the internet and the road ahead of the internet by the force of globalization. What gave me food for thought via the concepts of “Global Space Tribes” was the decreasing influence of governments, because free people in a free world are able to cross-pollinate their ideas and aspirations regardless of the strangulating rigidity of what we call a country today.  For someone like me who happily articulates his despise of today’s governments, the vision of 8W8 is one which deserves active pursuit.

Who is interested in buying the book, Amazon has it, either in print or for the Kindle.  

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