My first three days at SXSW 2015

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Rainey Street, SXSW 2015 Austin

It is almost impossible to describe an event like SXSW. Everything I write will just represent a fraction of what is going on.

I arrived on Wednesday evening and thanks to the jet lag I was up early on Thursday. So, I walked around the city and got a pretty good impression.

Austin is a lovely place; you can do most things by walking around, and if you need to go a little further, there is a great public transportation system (I just tried several bus lines), Car2Go or Bcycle, where you can rent a bike at nearly every corner.

After picking up my badge, I thought there was not much going on. I got a hint via Twitter to check out the Start Up Crawl. This thing was huge! Fifteen companies took part, and you could l visit their offices and meet people there. I started at Capital One, where in their basement, 20 startups presented themselves. In their offices, there were at least another 20 startups!

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Heading to SXSW

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SXSW 2015

A little more than a month and SXSW Interactive will kick off in Austin.

I have just booked my flights and will head to Austin in a few weeks to attend as many interesting sessions as possible.

In the last couple of years, I have attended a few conferences, mainly in Germany. None has really broadened my horizon. 95% of the talks were uninspiring and simply were a repetition of common knowledge (at least for the people who spend a lot of time in the interactive world). Just a few of the presentations really gave an insight that you couldn´t have heard elsewhere or talked about their failures and how they had learnt from them.

This is exactly what I am hoping to take home from Austin: a lot of inspiring stories from people who are much better than I am in what they do. I think you can only really learn from people who know more than you.

I am still trying to get an overview of all the sessions available. There is an almost uncountable amount of sessions across the five days!

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Speed up – Moving this site from Tumblr to WordPress

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My old portfolio site was always on WordPress, but two years ago, I wanted to try out how an updated site would work on Tumblr. So I got myself a nice Tumblr theme and started to build my personal blog on Tumblr.

Two years later, I am moving everything back to WordPress. There are several great blogging systems out there, but WordPress is something I know and it had a great overhaul with version 4. I have also been writing on Medium and thought of dropping my site completely. But I still believe I need to have a “real” website.

There are a few reasons that made me feel that Tumblr is not the right platform:
Tumblr seems to be great for sharing small pieces of content: images, GIFs, quotes. But it was never intended as a real blogging platform.

Tumblr seems to be slow. I tested the speed of my site, and it was above 10 seconds. I like images in my blog posts, and Tumblr always compresses them in a way that they look pretty bad. So I uploaded the images to Flickr first and then embedded them into my site—which is one reason the site is so slow. No chance you could even get those images adaptive.

I want to write more in the future, but the editor is not fun to work with.

So I installed WordPress and got myself a nice theme from Elmastudios.

Ponsonby Elmastudio

Then came the fun part: How fast can I get this site?

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One team – one table

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Our philosophy is present in one table.

I am a strong believer that how you work affects your outcome. I also strongly believe that it is a must to work together personally. I have nothing against working from home, in a hotel lobby or anywhere else in the world. I love it – from time to time.


However, much more than that I like to work and learn from “real people.” Especially if you work on larger projects, it is a must that the core of the team works together in person.

I have seen a lot of offices and worked in quite a few over the last 20 years. Most of the time they were rather small boxes, where I sat together with 1-2 others. Or they were open space offices, with a lot of people in one room, but at separate tables.

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Don’t talk. Do.

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A few weeks ago, I was invited to talk at “This Happened” in Hamburg, where great creatives usually present their work.

I actually wondered why I was invited. I am not a creative. I have not done anything on my own. Of course, I could show one of the projects that we did at Swipe.

But I thought I should talk about something else. “This Happened” is about stuff great people did—ideas they had and worked on to make them happen.

To get to the point where you can say “This happened,” it needs action; it needs “make your idea happen.” And this is what I wanted to talk about.

I wanted to motivate people actually to start executing their ideas instead of just talking about them. Having ideas is easy, but executing an idea is much harder than just having it. You might fail, but you have to learn and move on.

I talked about a few of the things I did. About having ideas, getting it wrong, failing, learning from it, and moving forward… My talk was video-taped, and if you are interested, you can watch it here (sadly, only in German).


Talking in Front of People

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When I was in school, I hated to stand in front of my class to “present” something. I always tried to avoid speaking in front of anyone, and most of the time, I succeeded.

On my first job in an agency, I hated to talk on the phone while someone was in the room. Back then, I had no computer on my desk and the Internet had just been invented, so I had to use the phone, as I could not even write a fax without a computer.

I shared my office with two nice account directors, but I only called someone when they left the room or they were on the phone themselves, so it was loud enough in the room that they could not hear what I was saying.

This Happened Hamburg 2014

Fast forward 20 years: now I love talking in front of people. How did that happen?

As you grow older, you gain more self-confidence. I think self-confidence is the key to standing in front of an audience and talking about something.

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It´s the content, Stupid.

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But how do you get it on your website and into your apps at the same time?

We are building apps since the iPad was introduced. The only things certain ever since: we have to change the ways we build and think about apps.

When we started building the first apps, we tried the Adobe DPS and Woodwing. Both promised (and DPS still does today) to get content on tablets without a major effort.

For us, that way never worked. We tried it because it sounded so good. But we were unhappy with the results.

So, we decided to build our first apps for BMW as native iPad apps.

The world was easy back then. 1024 x 768 pixels on a fixed screen. No one knew anything about retina displays, smaller tablets, or bigger phones. All this was beyond imagination.


The usual way we built apps was to do designs in Photoshop.

Then we exported all the layers, handed it over to the developers, and they put it all back together so it became “interactive”. We added videos, 360s, sound, etc. to use what the iPad was able to do.


But what we basically did was to pull a lot of .jpgs and .pngs together. It was not possible to have text shown in a way that the print designer was happy with. Therefore, the text was also exported as images.

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How to get your app into the top 100

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Swipe Vital App

How to get your app into the Top 100 This is the question almost every app developer asks himself.

Every day, hundreds of new apps are released, and there are a million apps in the app store already. So how do you get your app recognized, that it makes it into the top 100?

Once you are in the top 100, chances are much higher that it stays there for a longer period. People look to the top apps. If others have downloaded it, chances are high that it is a good app. Others are more likely to give it a try as well.

If you make it into the overall top 100, chances are pretty high you are close to the top 10 of a specific category. Which also helps, as people like browsing the top 10 of specific categories when they look for new apps.

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Visiting London

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I remember my first visit to London pretty well. It was 1996, and I was on my way back from my first trip to NY. I had a few hours time as I booked the cheapest possible flight, which had a few hours stop over time in London. I took the subway and sat on a deck chair in front of Buckingham Palace and enjoyed the sun. I was so tired I couldn´t do much more than that.

VisitingLondon15 VisitingLondon5

A few years later I had the chance to get to know the city much better. In my time at Dickies, I have been often in London. London is the hub for streetwear in Europe, so it’s a place where we met with a lot of interesting people.

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iBeacons Experiments

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iBeacons Experiment from Swipe on Vimeo.

We have ordered a few beacons from different suppliers and played around with them.

This is a very simple use case, but I got a lot of questions on how the beacons work and what can be done with them. The beacons just send; these ones are rather “dumb.”

We are playing around with smarter ones that can be connected to a server, as well. But more on this at a later stage. With this experiment, we just want to show that each beacon can initiate an event within the app.

We told the app to switch images, but only in a very small range close to the beacon. The only reason for that is that we wanted to be able to film it without running through the whole office.

Of course the range can be anything between a few centimeters up to 20-30 meters, and of course there can be multiple “events” depending on how far away you are from a beacon. This can be adjusted as you like.

I hope this gives you a better understanding on beacons and how to use them. More to come …