MICHA.ELMUELLER

 

Looking back on 2013

Last year a lot of stuff has happened for me. This will be a longer than average article, I am aware that you as a reader might lose interest while reading. However, I consider it as a braindump of stuff I don’t want to forget.

I had been living with four technology-enthusiastic hacker friends in a shared flat for 1-1.5 years. Quite sadly three of them went abroad. The Nerd-WG was an awesome time for me and I often miss the creative environment of the days back then.

In 2013 I eventually managed to finish my Bachelor of Science and start with the Master program. I totally underestimated the safe feeling of holding a finished academic degree. Whatever happens now, I will always have a science degree from a german university. This is very comforting to me.

Work
I worked in several jobs at university. Mostly taking care of practical exercises for lectures. A highlight for me was to be responsible for the entire practicals of a lecture on web technologies together with two friends: Falco and Philipp who also write on the IOException blog. I am quite satisfied with the practicals and think we did a good job on setting up the exercises. We lay a heavy focus on the introduction of up-to-date technologies (node.js amongst others). I also worked as an assistant in two research projects. One is still ongoing and the other one is finished.

Publishing
From one of the research projects I have been working at, the results have been very nice and we wrote a paper on the topic: “Broken Display = Broken Interface? The Impact of Display Damage on Smartphone Interaction.“. The paper got accepted at the CHI 2014, one of the major conferences in the human-computer-interaction field. For me this is a huge success and I learned a lot while working on the paper/project.

Another publication I was kind enough to receive was the publication of a summary of my bachelor thesis, which was published in the proceedings of the Informatiktage in Bonn (more info).

Creatively I also managed to get a short story published: “The Autograph” was published in The Sparrow Anthology Vol. 7, a poetry and prose collection from the University of Ulm. It’s a real publication, owning an ISBN and available in the german national library. To be honest, I am not that satisfied with the story, it was a very personal piece at a certain time in my life, and now that time has passed I view it differently. That’s why I won’t link it here.

Travelling
Been to a lot of cities and events. Köln, Berlin, Geneva, Mexico-City, etc.. The event I liked the most was the Humitec Barcamp in Berlin. The city I liked the most was probably Berlin. But I also loved traveling to Geneva to attend the Open Knowledge Conference. There were certain mornings, where I would get up early in the morning, go to a CafĂ©/Bakery, sit down and order a bain au chocolat and a coffee. I would then just watch the surroundings, write a bit from time time, read a bit. Watch people coming in, grabbing themselve a quick Espresso at the front counter while standing there. I love to watch a city waking up, just to sit there and feel the flow of the city.

Short movie
Two stuck with me: Momentos is an exceptional example of storytelling. Forget me not stuck because of the photographic composition and musical underlying.

This extreme POV movie of a guy climbing one of the Stalin skyscrapers left me speechless and stands out.

Articles
A friend of mine studied Computer Science in a very intense way, received his Diplom and continued to receive a Master degree. He’s for sure one of the most competent computer science people I have gotten to know. However, he decided not to pursue a university career, nor participating in the software business. In this article he gives some insights on why.

This article inspired me to question my view towards intuitive user interfaces in a major way.

Blog Post
Build your own summary tool!” is a blog post on a naive implementation of a text summary algorithm. Since I always believed automatic text summary algorithms are highly complex and need a deep understanding of linguistics, it was quite surprising to see such an easy algorithm yielding surprisingly good results.

Quotes which stuck

Pragmatiker bringen die Welt nicht voran. Sie verbessern nur die Effizienz, nicht aber die Effektivitaet. Sie optimieren auf der gleichen Stufe, steigen aber nicht hinan. Idealisten sind es, die nach der naechsten Stufe streben. Sie denken nicht ans Jetzt sondern ans Morgen. Ihr Fortschritt aendert die Groessenordnung, nicht die Kommastellen, denn sie verfolgen Visionen. Sie stellen den Status Quo in Frage statt fuer ihn zu optimieren.

Markus Schnalke, Softwarebusiness
 

Sie aber zeigen nur auf das was sie wollen, neuerdings unterstuetzt durch Gesten. Ihre Kommunikation mit dem Computer beschraenkt sich auf die Moeglichkeiten eines Zweijaehrigen, unfaehig zu artikulieren was er meint.

Markus Schnalke, Computer Literacy
 

In the end programming languages are basically user-interfaces. You will get much better results if you think of it as UI design.

Alan Kay
 

Intellectual property” implies the belief that people can own and control thoughts. Phrasing it “Immaterial rights” is less wrong.

Peter Sunde
 

Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.

Eleanor Roosevelt
 

The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.

Peggy O’Mara
 

Best purchase
I was lingering for an Ethnotek backpack for a while and in 2013 I finally got one. I am very satisfied and have taken the bag on many journeys to many different cities. It fits my needs very well.

Best music/song/album
The Gil Scott Heron album.
The Oblivion Score, by M83
The Foals have been a highlight as well.

Inspiring
I found Giorgo Morodor talking about his collaboration with Daft Punk quite inspiring:

When I came into the studio everything was ready and I had three microphones and I said “Are they afraid that one microphone would not work?”. So I asked the technician “Why are you using three microphones?”. He said “Okay, you see the one on the left is an old sound of the sixties, one of the seventies and this is today.” “Who would hear the difference?” “Nobody”. So I said “So why is Thomas doing it?”. “Oh he said, HE would hear the difference.”.

 

Best movie/series
I loved the first season of Elementary—an american adaption of the Sherlock Holmes story. However, things are different here. Sherlock is a tattooed, drug addicted, narcistic, brilliant analytic, working for the police. Dr. Watson is a women who lives with him as a “drug sitter”, in order to make sure he gets clean.

There were several movies which I really liked in 2013. Standing out most are “Rush”, “The Place beyond the Pines” and “Night Train to Lisbon”.

Website
reddit. I visit reddit a lot, not (only) for procrastinating, but rather as a news/information resource on topics which interest me. These are some subreddits which I have subscribed to: /r/Bitcoin, /r/Calligraphy, /r/dataisbeautiful, /r/minimalism, /r/openstreetmap, /r/sewing, /r/typography.

Traditions
There is a local cinema here in Ulm—the Mephisto—this year it was bought and quite sadly more commercialized. Before it was bought and renovated it was a very small, alternative cinema showing mainly art house movies. Each Monday there would be a sneak night where a lot of students would gather, pay their three euros and see some random movie, which would soon be released. I loved the non-strict atmosphere, nice people everywhere. Even the cashiers were students having a lot of fun. With a friend of mine, Mone, I went there basically each week for about 1.5 years. Met a lot of people there each time and had a very nice time. On Monday the cinema would be full with people, sometimes pillows would be brought in and people would be sitting on the stairs at the sides, because the cinema would be full of people. Even if the movie was shitty, people would have a lot of fun. The atmosphere was very comfortable and the staff would often do little quizzes before starting the movie, giving away little prizes. After the quiz they would throw sweets into the audience and show some funny or dramatic short movie before starting the actual sneak movie.

Best photo
Of a persona? This photo taken by John Mayer. Of infrastructure? This german refinery.

Best photo I shot

I think, I’ll go with this one. I can’t objectively rate the photo, it has a personal meaning to me and I am quite satisfied.

Projects I did
A lot of smaller stuff, some articles for the IOException blog, continued the interview series there. Did some talks, some lightning talks and stuff. I don’t want to list everything here, but my highlights are:

Visualizations
When do students submit their assignments?
Firstname distribution at the University of Ulm

Software
A Twitterwall, showing a stream of tweets on a topic.
An interactive map with open facilities in Ulm (using OpenStreetMap data): oeffnungszeiten.ulmapi.de.
differenziert.net: still didn’t get around to write an elaborate article on the platform, but will do so in the next weeks.

Five years ago I wrote a little website called myPresentIdea, the idea was to give people present-ideas based on a short characterization of the person they wanted to surprise. At that time I sat down and searched for presents, which in my opinion at that time would fit for a person with such a character. For most of the presents I would also display a link to an online-shop (when possible). For the presents linking to amazon I would present an affiliate link, meaning I would get a little monetary reward once somebody would buy the product via amazon. I sat the website up but never really continued working on it. Last year I checked the amazon account and realized there were about 20-25 euros in it. What a nice surprise! At one point I had even forgotten about the site.

I took this as an incentive to completely rewrite the site, it was originally created in PHP using the CakePHP framework and MySQL. The codebase was not that “sophisticated” (e.g. no human readable URIs). Of course it wasn’t sophisticated, I created that project even before studying. It took me about 5-6 hours in its entirety to rewrite the codebase in JavaScript (node.js) using the express and jade libraries.
Actually the whole process was on two train rides which I took on the same day. I went to another city in the morning (a three hour train ride away), spend some time there and took the train back in the evening. I also ditched MySQL and migrated to CouchDB. It was very nice to see how little time stuff like this takes if you are familiar with the technologies. The technology stack I have been working most with in 2013 is definitely node.js, express and CouchDB. Followed by Shell scripting.

Society
The general Open Data activities within the university group we founded here stand out. I finally managed to update the UlmAPI-website with pretty pictures of all the nice stuff we have done (like the OpenCityCamp 2013 and various hackathons which we organized).

Illustrations
I did some illustrations for posters, ads, etc.. A tee I designed for a competition earlier this year was printed as a collection. Together with some friends I drew a comic as a birthday present for another friend. One illustration which I am also very satisfied with is this poster (click to enlarge):


58 T-Shirt contest

Rough plan for 2014
As each year (2012, 2011, 2010) here comes the outlook. I want to contribute code to a bigger (>1 person) software project. I want to get a scholarship. I want to publish more of my creative writings.

On the technological side: I really have to get rid of Ubuntu, this is way too much abstraction for me. I want to have a $ top output, which I actually understand. Arch is the next step. Also finally I want to gain a much deeper understanding of “the Shell”. I consider myself quite familiar with Unix, but in comparison to Phil or Meillo I am still in kids shoes. Also I want to finally get a Unix-style mailclient (mmh) and start learning troff.

Category: Illustrations, Life itself, Photography & Film, Travelling, Unilife

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About Me

I am a 28 year old techno-creative enthusiast who lives and works in Berlin. In a previous life I studied computer science (more specifically Media Informatics) at the Ulm University in Germany.

I care about exploring ideas and developing new things. I like creating great stuff that I am passionate about.

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