sfugbln logoLast week I had the pleasure to talk about my experiences in web scraping at the revived Symfony User Group #sfugbln here in Berlin. Christopher and Denis are doing a great job. To me it seems that something awesome is in the making here.

Delivering that talk was a ton of fun! – Especially since it occurred to me that most visitors were playing more than one role here: developers looking for inspiration to enhance their scraping skills and developers fighting a ton of very clever bots on a daily basis! ?

As Andrey Astakhov (@aast_t) puts it:

Here are the slides of my talk

Lately I’ve been doing quite a few things in the context of Tag Managers, Analytics and Recommendations for publishing sites as well as for eCommerce vendors.

Looking at services like Parse.ly or econda ARP it feels as if this industry is moving quite fast at the moment and there are more then enough fascinating (and creepy) new approaches on the table which allow to tailor everybody’s web experience on an individual level.

No wonder that it was a huge pleasure for me to have a chat with the guys of Technology Transformation Network about this exciting topic.

“To Each Their Own Internet – Personalising Everybody’s User Experience Individually”

Pebble apps are always written in plain C. That is what I always thought and why I never really looked into building them myself.

But sometimes things turn out to be much simpler, then I expected it. To be honest, in tech this does not happen very often, which is why I got pretty excited when I found out how trivial it actually is to build a custom dictation app for my watch.

All you have to do is to create a UI.Window object and bind the Voice.dictate functionality to the show event of the window.

The Pebble takes care of everything else (like recording the voice, transforming it to text and even asking the user if it result is correct).

After everything is done a callback is executed. Here I created an Ajax request towards an API that simply echoes what I send to it.

So here you go, a Pebble dictation app in just 33 lines of JavaScript:

By the way, I used the CloudPebble IDE to “build” this app and if you think about building something for the Pebble yourself, I’d highly recommend this. It’s a really well done browser app that not only offers a preview of the app, but also allows you to deploy it directly from the cloud on to my watch (which, of course, is awesome and creepy at the same time).

First thing I built with my new super powers was a Completely Useless Chat System (that’s why the initial screen in the video says CUCS), but I already found a much more useful project, which will not be any harder to implement: task tracking!

For me as a Freelancer it’s quite painful to track what I’ve done for my clients (and some of the bigger ones require me to do so). So instead of managing Excel sheets, telling my watch what I’m doing and letting it store into a Google Spreadsheet sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

Apart from that, I’d be very interested to find out, if any of the other two people in the world, who develop for the Pebble platform are into this as well. Maybe together we can come up with some more (and less useless) ideas?

If I had to pick a theme, I would say 2015 was all about time and passion.

It started with an end and ended with a new beginning and although everything new is always exciting and scary at the same time, 2015 definitely was a good year.

I quit a good job with a great team because I felt that it constantly drove me away from things that to me are fundamentally important. Interestingly enough it turned out that the next step I took wasn’t taking me into the right direction as well. So at the end of the year it was time for a more courageous step (and we will see where it leads me).

In 2015 I started teaching at the Beuth University and loved it as much as I thought I would. It’s the enthusiasm of the students that feels incredibly rewarding and I learned that to me social interaction in the context of technology is what I’m really interested in.

Found a new passion: sailing...

I learned how to sail and together with a close friend I even managed to protect this time consuming project against my everyday life. I never would have thought that sailing is such a meditative experience but the moment you set sail (and turn off the rest of the world) is truly one of the best things I’ve encountered in a long time.

I realized that life is too short for dealing with all the arrogance and sarcasm that seems to be so common in the tech industry. Nowadays I’m absolutely willing to accept, that you’re the smartest person in the room, if you spare me to show off your rhetorical brilliance in a 140 character tweet. If it’s true that rudeness spreads like a behavioral virus targeting positive human interaction, then we all should stop telling people they are doing it wrong and focus on helping each other how to become awesome. – And I’m willing to do the first step here.

I read a surprising number of books. Some classics like the original version of Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger or Dante’s Inferno and some inspiring new ones like Notes to a Software Team Leader by @RoyOsherove (which I wish I would have read two years earlier), The Hard Thing About Hard Things and the fantastic Chroniques de Jérusalem by Guy Delisle.

I learned new things about Docker and Ansible, JavaScript and ReactJS, Phonegap and Cordova, A/B Testing and current web analytics and I’ve been at the PHPUnconf again and once more loved its non-glossy atmosphere. Together with BedCon it’s still my favorite tech event.

And I managed to finally start a new music related project, which is a reliable sign that I must be doing fine at the moment. @jenzzen and I got into exploring how far we can come with just an iPad, a Korg Volca Bass and some lowfi peripherals. After discovering the incredibly amazing Elasticdrums app and finding out that multiple USB-Connections are not a problem either, it currently looks as if sky was the limit.

All this feels like it recharged my creative batteries. I’m ready for 2016. Whatever it may have in store for me. Maybe I’m writing a PhD thesis (besides working on all those weird project ideas I have in mind)?

But I would definitely like to become better in catching up with friends and writing on a regular basis and I’m curious to see how this last sentence will sound in a year’s time…

Ok, definitely more Bill Withers than Ice Cube but Saturday left me with the feeling that a summer day cannot get much better!

Preparing my course at the Beuth University

Working on one of my projects,

Sailing on the Wannsee

sailing on Wannsee

cooking on a Saturday evening

and cooking, of course!


Next term I’m going to host my first regular course at the Beuth University here in Berlin and I’m really looking forward to it! It’s an in introduction to software technologies for freshmen who are studying Digital Business Administration.

At first I wasn’t completely sure if this would be the right thing for me, but I found the preparation to be a lot of fun.

The real challenge here is not so much the complexity of the topics but the didactic reduction. Not only are the things I can expect them to know rather limited, we also have a huge number of topics to discuss and very, very little time to do this.

So over next few weeks I’m going to document some of my experiences and learnings here. One thing I already found out is that there are a lot of lecturers out there who know how to hack and automate the boring stuff away. That’s great to see and definitely worth a post, so I will share my own setup (which is still kinda boring, compared to what I found).



It's a magical world, Hobbes, ol' buddy... Let's go exploring!

This is what little Calvin’s tells his friend Hobbes (and us) in the famous last strip of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes.

In my world this strip can often be found attached to a mail written by someone who informs colleagues about a new professional challenge she has accepted (I might have even done this myself once).

But ever since I’ve read Nevin Martell’s awesome Looking for Calvin and Hobbes it feels to me as if maybe Watterson didn’t mean to put the focus so much on the leaving – but on the exploration.

If that is the case, then this quote is indeed the perfect fit for a blog that is intended to document some of my explorations and to explore ways that allow me to translate into the present time what I’ve done with my previous blog several years ago.