Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I'm in Honululu for the 2007 International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces. It's been very interesting so far and I've seen some great presentations. Also, this conference sure is in a good location!

My talk tomorrow will be about the upcoming BuzzTrack, a system for topic-based email. You'll find more information on it here, and (hopefully soon) here. I'll also spend some time reviewing work on improving the email interface, which I've written about before.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Ramblings on a Plane

I’m on a half-empty Swiss flight home. We’ve just passed a town called Caribou, Maine and are now heading for the Atlantic ocean. Here are some random thoughts.

A Great, Instantenous Experience

"You can’t just put a technology out there and hope there will be a business in it. You have to put together a whole consumer offering, a great instantaneous experience. A simple service that fills an obvious need and can be offered for free," says Niklas Zennström in February’s Wired Magazine. I like this quote because the formula fits all recent web hits: Google, Skype, and YouTube provided instantaneous results, communication, and entertainment, for free.

Santa Barbara

Should I ever decide to go to grad school, I’ll apply to UCSB first. They have a beach! ETH Zurich doesn’t even have a pool. I drove down there with school buddy Moritz and couldn’t resist the urge to jump into the Pacific. Wicked cold. After some drying off, we headed to a student bar: While I have many times praised the greatness that is American girls, I have to note that the cutest girl we met on this trip was actually German.

San Francisco

I love San Francisco. The hills. The Victorian houses. The fact that there seem to be a gazillion little places where you can get great French toast on a lazy Saturday morning. People seem approachable and laid back. Unlike New Yorkers, they have big dogs, not tiny ones. My friend and former roommate Peter whom I was visiting for a day seems very happy.

Amoeba Music

Amoeba Music on Haight Street is, in my opinion, the best place worldwide to physically buy music. They have a huuuuge selection, and in line with US used-goods culture, lots of ‘pre-owned’ CDs. Plus, you can actually listen to the music before buying: A custom long abolished on the continent. By far the most interesting, though, is the mix of customers in the store.

The MIT of Europe

Last week, I chatted a bit with my favorite essayist Paul Graham about my favorite topic of startups in Europe vs. America. Apparently, a Google search for “Silicon Valley of Europe” doesn’t yield a clear winner: Many are claiming the title. But a search for "the MIT of Europe" does give a conclusion: the sister schools ETH Zurich and EPFL take the crown! Nice job.

So there’s something to go back to! I’m hoping for snow and sunshine. Distance to destination: 4615 km.