re-publica 2013, Day 3

My posts about the previous two days at re:publica 2013

My post about Day 1 of re:publica 2013 is here.

My post about Day 2 of re:publica 2013 is here.

Wednesday, the third and final day of re:publica 2013

After getting some well-deserved sleep, I returned to the Station on Wednesday morning to enjoy the final day of re:publica 2013.

I would say that, for the most part, the sessions I visited on Wednesday were on the technical side of things.

Note: Wherever possible, I have embedded videos of the talks I visited from re:publica’s official YouTube channel. All the video recordings are used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Germany (CC BY-SA 3.0 DE) license.

Data Liberation and Open Data Projects in Germany ans Europe

I began Wednesday, the final day of re:publica 2013, by visiting a presentation (in German) on open data projects featuring Sebastian Vollnhals, Jens Ohlig (Wikimedia Foundation), and Michael Kreil (

The presenters highlighted that in order to be useful, data must be machine-readable, sortable into categories, and be capable to reference other data.

Data formats must be readable, contain repetitive structures, and be well-specified and documented.

For those who would like to get deeper involved in the topic of open data, one good resource is the Open Data Handbook.


The presenters stressed that the most useful license for open data projects would be the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, which has no restrictions for the use of the data.

 Exemplary open data projects in Germany and Europe

But what is open data useful for? Where can it be put to good use?

In Germany, some efforts regarding the establishment of open data portals have already been made.

One such project by the Federal Government of Germany is, which the panelists criticized for not being open according to their definition of open data.

Another example in Germany is the portal (“ask the state”), a project for freedom of information requests in Germany according to the Informationsfreiheitsgesetz (IFG).

Other local open data projects in Germany include Berlin Open Data and Open Data Hamburg.


The presenters mentioned another project that combines leaked German military documents from the war in Afghanistan with a crowd-sourced approach to transcribing these materials into a database: the Afghanistan Papiere (“Afghanistan Papers”), which the German Ministry of Defense is attempting to remove from the Internet.

Open Data projects in the EU

On the European level, there is the European Union Open Data Project.

Technical Tips

The presenters further illustrated how data that was available in text form could be transformed into machine-readable tables using spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel, which, despite its proprietary nature, they said was very good at these things, especially for ‘quick and dirty’ conversions.

Using pivot tables and creating graphs, these graphs could then be made more visually appealing by exporting them into pdf documents and importing those into a vector graphics editor.

Other tools:

Google Fusion Tables for linking smaller databases for data journalism work.

Datawrapper for creating simple and correct diagrams with embedding codes for websites.

Web Miner for scraping data from the web (explanatory video linked on the website).

Data traces of regular Internet users with Me & My Shadow

The workshop by Anne Roth and Stephanie Hankey (no video available) presented, a website from Tactical Tech that helps users to inform themselves about the data traces they leave behind every time they use devices such as notebooks or smartphones. visualizes a person’s data shadow and shows how the amount of data about an individual can be reduced.

Another helpful tool mentioned was the website from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which helps users to check how trackable their web browser is.

The presenters also warned about a malicious tool called Faceniff, which can hijack open Facebook and other sessions running inside a web browser on unsecured connections (http instead of https).

What a day!

Apart from these two sessions, I switched between quite a few more, but did not find the time to take down meticulous notes. There was just so much going on at the same time.

The epic finale of re:publica featured a massive choir consisting of everybody in the room of stage 1, giving a rendition of Queen’s classic rock song “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I found the idea of the ‘digital bohème’ performing “Bohemian Rhapsody” quite hilarious.

After the official program was over, the following re:publica party provided the opportunity to enjoy some more music, drinks, and conversations with friends and new acquaintances.

If I can make it, I will return next year for re:publica 2014 (#rp14). In the meantime, I will watch some of the other interesting sessions that I missed on re:publica’s YouTube channel.

My post about Day 1 of re:publica 2013 is here.

My post about Day 2 of re:publica 2013 is here.

You can find me on twitter under @benmschaefer for social media stuff. My other twitter account, which is visible in the sidebar, is @AS_Grad. There I mostly link to articles about politics in the US. On this blog here, I mostly write about politics and culture in the US. You will find my personal opinions (and sometimes rants) about various issues. Currently, the format of the blog is not what I would consider an academic blog, but I do my best to provide reliable sources wherever possible.

re-publica 2013, Day 2

re-publica 2013, Day 2

Posts on the other two days of re:publica 2013

My post about Day 1 of re:publica 2013 is here.

My post about Day 3 of re:publica 2013 is here.

Not partying too hard on Monday night

Unconfirmed rumors have it that all those Internet people at re:publica like parties, too. One might be tempted to think that the ‘digital bohème’ enjoys a beer or two, or even parties all night long on Monday night and gets completely wasted. However true that may be for some people, I could not participate in much of this because of . . . reasons! In fact, I was going to be on a mission the next morning.

My ticket for re:publica 2013
My ticket for re:publica 2013

I had registered as a volunteer to get my ticket and I had a late shift as stage assistant before me. So I knew that this would be quite a long day. Therefore, the party on Monday was rather brief for me.

Note: Wherever possible, I have embedded videos of the talks I visited from re:publica’s official YouTube channel. All the video recordings are used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Germany (CC BY-SA 3.0 DE).

A different kind of social media at the re:publica 2013: cardboard boxes with messages such as this: "Hinweis: Diese Farbe ist wunderschön." "Stimme ich zu!" ("Notice: This color is beautiful." "I agree!")
A different kind of social media at the re:publica 2013: cardboard boxes with messages such as this: “Hinweis: Diese Farbe ist wunderschön.” “Stimme ich zu!” (“Notice: This color is beautiful.” “I agree!”)

Radio Universal with Tim Pritlove

After getting myself some coffee, I began Tuesday, the second day at re:publica 2013, with a visit to the world of podcasting.

Tim Pritlove, a very popular Berlin-based German podcaster and re:publica veteran, gave a talk in which he envisioned the future of podcasting as a sort of “universal radio.”

Tim talked about how podcasts are “incubators for formats” and how they form their own ecosystems. He introduced the audience to a number of technical solutions for the podcasting world, such as, podlove, podlove publisher, bitlove, auphonic, and

The universal radio of the future uses audio files as a carrier and integrates additional metadata in order to enhance networked discussions.

Entrepreneurial Science Journalism

One of the panels in the science track was about entrepreneurial science journalism and featured Dino Trescher (, Ulrike Langer (, Stephan Ruß-Mohl (European Journalism Observatory) and Sebastian Turner. Unfortunately, I could not find a video recording of this event yet.)

The basic consensus was that, for users/readers, the current times are golden times regarding the availability of journalistic articles covering science. On the other hand, for specialized publishers, there is rather a shift from ‘platinum times’ to ‘golden times.’

As Ulrike Lange, one of the panelists, said, science journalists can attain increased visibility on the Internet through shared content and therefore may be able to attract more jobs.


The next talk I visited was about science communication and social media featuring Prof. Dr. Anders Levermann (Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung, blogging climate scientist), Lars Fischer (blogger and award winner of Wissenschaftsjournalist 2012 (Science Journalist 2012), Solveig Wehking (Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Forschungsplanung (research coordinator)), and Ruth Schöllhammer (social media consultant).

The panelists noted that there is a need for professional scientists and their institutions to communicate with and involve broader publics because science is under increasing pressure to legitimize itself and its funding.

One of the most interesting takeaways for me from this panel was that professional scientists can actually be inspired to new research ideas by bloggers who are themselves scientific laypersons.

Net Neutrality

The talk on net neutrality featuring Ben Scott (Save the internet,, Senior Adviser to the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation in Washington DC, Visiting Fellow at the Stiftung Neue Verantwortung in Berlin), Markus Beckedahl (, and Hannah Seiffert (Attorney at Law, based in Berlin, Head of Political Affairs at eco – Association of the German Internet Industry) dealt with the current threats to the Internet as a public good.

In Germany, the largest Internet service provider Telekom recently announced that it would end so-called flatrate payment models wherein users paid a fixed monthly fee for unlimited Internet traffic.

Ben Scott argued that the Internet is a public good and that this is visible in its original end to end design, meaning that in principle, any user of the World Wide Web can see any website.

Six Degrees Of Wikipedia

I finished Day 2 by watching a game show hosted by Sebastian Vollnhals and Julian Finn   featuring Six Degrees of Wikipedia, a game in which two contestants get a randomly-generated pair of entries on Wikipedia and have to maneuver from one to the other only by clicking on linked words inside the respective article. A very creative use of Wikipedia, and a really fun game.

Six Degrees Of Wikipedia, a game in which two contestants have to maneuver from one randomly-chosen entry another only by clicking on linked words inside the article.

After the gaming session was over, I fulfilled my final duties as a helping hand by assisting with the cleaning up of the stage.

Too much to see on Day 2

Needless to say, there were many more great talks that I briefly walked into, and even more that I would have loved to see, but could not make it. It was simply impossible, given that re:publica simultaneously had events running on seven (!) stages and four more workshop areas. Damn you, re:publica, for providing such an overabundance of conference goodness! 🙂

My post about Day 1 of re:publica 2013 is here.

My post about Day 3 of re:publica 2013 is here.

re-publica 2013, Day 1

re:publica 2013, Day 1

My post about Day 2 of re:publica 2013 is here.

My post about Day 3 of re:publica 2013 is here.


Internet sign at the re:publica 2013
Internet sign at the re:publica 2013

When I arrived at the Station Berlin by bike on Monday, May 6, 2013, there were already hundreds of people buzzing all over the place. I saw quadrocopters (yes, drones!) flying overhead, and met up with a few friends. After getting my name tag and wrist band at  the ‘helping hand’ desk, I headed for the catering stand to grab a coffee. Then, just like hundreds of people around me, swarmed to Stage 1 for the opening event.

The opening event featured some impressive stage design with light projections on cubes and earth-shattering bass-heavy electronic music.

Note: Wherever possible, I have embedded videos of the talks I visited from re:publica’s official YouTube channel. All the video recordings are used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Germany (CC BY-SA 3.0 DE).

Political campaigning with Betsy Hoover, Obama for America 2012

As an Americanist, I had no trouble deciding where to head next. I considered the talk by Betsy Hoover, who was the online campaign coordinator for ‘Obama for America 2012,’ a must-see. Hoover talked about the importance of linking online and offline activities for a successful political campaign. I wonder how much the experience from the American elections can be applied to the German context. One thing is for certain: German political parties right now are closely examining the past American presidential elections for clues on how to be successful themselves.

Offline Crowdsourcing

Next, I attended a workshop by Stefan Domke and David Ohrnhoff on offline crowdsourcing. Their project digit aims at making available German analog private archives including amateur films, photographs and post cards on an online platform while involving seniors who are not, if at all, computer- and online-savvy.

Here is how it works: individuals get technical assistance with the digitizing process, in return the materials get published on the online platform. In addition, participants receive a USB memory stick with the digitized materials so that they can share them with friends and family in this manner as well.

One of their problems was that it was difficult to get seniors to enter metadata describing the digitized materials into entry masks. Some ideas to solve this problem included finding partners who volunteer for the data entry and crowdsourcing the collection of metadata by posting, for example, an image on Facebook and have the community type in what they know about it.

YouTube Stars

One talk discussed (in German) the emergence of prominent (German) YouTube stars who have, in a relatively brief time, developed huge online followings with self-made videos on diverse topics such as computer games or in the case of one participant, her daily life as a young mother. The popular YouTubers on the panel agreed that it was very important to engage their audience in a dialogue to build a community around their video channels.

Social Media Mistakes By Nonprofits

In Jona Hölderle’s workshop (in German), various typical mistakes by nonprofits using social media channels for their work were presented and discussed.

Here is a post (in German) by Marie-Christine Schindler on the workshop that also includes the slides and a really cool sketchnote).

According to Jona, the most frequent mistakes made by nonprofit organizations who use social media platforms to spread their cause include the following:

  1. Thinking that social media is just Facebook.
  2. Thinking in content, but not in communities. His example was, a very popular commercial online forum for car enthusiasts in Germany.
  3. Taking ourselves too seriously (!).
  4. Expecting new target audiences all the time. In his view, smaller social media profiles tend to attract friends rather than new audiences.
  5. Being crazy for apps that we want to put on people’s smartphones and tablets. The effort to get people to install an app is often disproportionate.
  6. We do not blog or we do not blog enough. In his opinion, blogging on one’s own platform is better. We should aim for real interaction. And we should not forget to link from our blog to our other social media profiles.
  7. We assume too much prior knowledge on the part of our fans/followers. This results in confusing posts that cannot be understood without having read the x previous posts. Therefore, especially on Facebook and Twitter, it is a good idea to repeat certain posts after a certain time, for instance two weeks.
  8. We do not interact enough (!).
  9. We are losing sight of our goals.
  10. Nonprofits do not invest.

I think those are some great tips.

Muslim Bloggers in Germany

Stine Eckert’s talk (in German) discussed the role of Muslim bloggers in Germany and highlighted how their writing establishes a counter-discourse against one-sided portrayals in the German mainstream media. In her interviews with a variety of bloggers, she discovered a whole range of opinions, lifestyles, and realities. Most importantly, Muslim bloggers did not want to be reduced to their religious and/or cultural identity, but be noticed as individuals with various interests and characteristics.

With rage and pathos for a free and secure Internet

Finally, Sascha Lobo, perhaps Germany’s most prominent blogger, recognizable for his red mohawk hairstyle, urged the Internet crowd (in German) to reclaim social media with rage and pathos. And he revealed a technical tool to help with this endeavor:, an extension for the popular blogging software WordPress, which automatically makes backup copies of all content posted on social networking sites, just in case one of the popular social networking sites shuts down or decides to censor or delete content.

What a day! There is more to come.

My post about Day 2 of re:publica 2013 is here.

My post about Day 3 of re:publica 2013 is here.

I will very likely continue to update this post with a few more links.

re-publica 2013, Day 1

Back From re-publica 2013 In Berlin, Germany

I am back from re-publica 2013 in Berlin, Germany

From May 6 to May 8, 2013, I attended re:publica 2013, the biggest Internet conference in Germany. It took place at the Station, a former trainyard in Berlin—quite an impressive location, I have to say.

It was my first time at re:publica and I volunteered as a stage assistant for one shift to earn my ticket for the whole duration of the event.

I am still sorting all my materials and ideas, but I am planning on writing a few more blog posts on my impressions in the coming days. Stay tuned!