The sharing economy: Taking a ride

A few weeks ago I was visiting Washington on business (attending our EclipseCon North America)  when I took my first ride with the Uber service. Actually – when my colleague used the Uber up to get us the driving service of a young Colombian kid that picked us up close to the White House and drove us for 12 miles to our dinner place.

We were a little surprised when the driver advised us that we have to pick up another guest, drive her home and continue our trip from there. Explanation was simply that Uber had just started that service. During the ride, we started chatting a little with the driver. He’d bought the car and was full-time driving for Uber. And he said that he has to drive a lot, because he needs to pay off the car and make some money. We didn’t get into details, and I didn’t ask questions about insurance and so on. What struck me though was his driving style. It was clear that he didn’t know where he was going, and he was closely following the little iPhone navigation app from Uber. He appeared to be quite distracted by it and didn’t pay the attention to traffic that I would have hoped for.  Anyway, we made it to our destination.

Thinking about it later, a lot of questions remained. First of all, I was wondering about the driver’s qualification. He clearly had no local knowledge, and he clearly wasn’t an experienced driver. At least not to the extend that I’m used to from a German taxi driver. His car was new, but my colleague told me that’s not always the case. How can Uber control the status of the cars? And really – I had expected a person that does some driving on the side. But clearly the guy was more or less full-time.

So I started investigating a little, which led me to some interesting sources and insights into the sharing economies. More in the next post.


A Day in Bob’s Life

Have you ever read the book The 4-hour week by Timothy Ferriss? I read it a couple of years ago, and it made me think very hard about the way I do my job. Is there anything that I should not do? Are there tasks that I could outsource? I ended up asking my employee to hire an assistent for me, which he did. It has helped me to do my job better and in less time.

With friends, I have often discusses if there’s more that could be outsourced, even if I had to pay for the service myself. While we liked the idea in principle, none of us , at least to my knowledge, has followed up on that idea.

Now today I read this blog (for the German readers: You can find an article in Zeit Online as well). A guy named Bob really took the 4-Hour-Week lessons to the extreme and outsourced his entire activities as a developer to an Chinese company. And not only this: It looks like he took on a couple of other jobs in addition!

So while he was still spending the day in the office, surfing and watching cat videos, somebody in China was developing away for a small percentage of Bob’s salary. The Chinese logged in to the company VPN and delivered code that led to Bob being elected as the best developer of the company for years!

Hell, I have to read the book again and rethink this approach! And I have to investigate outsourcing to India in more detail!

One problem might be that I really don’t like cat videos 🙂


So tonight I was heading to northern France, to present at the Java User Group in Lille. My idea was to fly into Bruessels and take a car from there to meet the folks around 18:00 at the meeting location of the Ch’ti Jug to talk about Eclipse and such.

Now it turns out that this was a really bad idea. The plane I took from Berlin to Bruessels: Well it started late. The excuse the pilot made was that his cabin people had miscounted the number of people on the plane. So they unloaded some luggage, then they found out that the people were actually on the plane, then they re-loaded the luggage.

Execution cost some time, so we started about 45 minutes after the planned departure time. Oh wee, I thought, good that I had planned for some extra time.

Turns out that the traffic jams around Brussels were not in my calculation. They ate up all the buffer that I had planned. But there was a chance! My little TomTom navigation app on the iPhone was telling me that I will be only 3 minutes late. Little did it know!

Just 20 kilometers before Lille my For rental car gave up. No comment, it said.

So what’s left: I can only apologize to folks in Lille. If they still want me, I’ll be back!

FRA Airport

So here I am, ready to board my flight to Washington for EclipseCon 2012. Will be interesting: A new venue, new city (never stayed in the area before). I have a free day tomorrow, so I should check Anne Jacko’s About Washington page tonight. My current favorite is the Smithsonian, but I’m not sure yet. There’s a whole bunch of other stuff that looks interesting. I’m just not sure what security will look like after the events in Toulouse earlier this week.

One of my favorite talks will be the Ford/BugLabs keynote. While the example in the the press release sounds rather uninteresting, I believe that the experiment can produce a whole bunch of cool gadgets for the car. One issue will be how much they open up the car’s infrastructure to be tinkered with: This is where the interesting information is! A cricket radio doesn’t really get my interest so much – why wouldn’t I use the normal radio?

As with every Eclipse conference I don’t expect that I will attend a lot of sessions. But for sure I’ll try to attend as many sessions as possible around the safety critical tooling topic. And I hope to also catch up on what is happening in CDT – as much as I can actually understand it.

Other than that, many chats, many people, many beers.

CeBIT and Me

We have a love hate relationship. Or, I should actually say, I have a love / hate relationship with CeBIT, I don’t think that CeBIT cares.

Standing at that booth for a whole five days is exhausting, frustrating, stimulating, all of it together or one after the other.

First time I’ve been here was in the 80th of the last century. At that time I was only invited to set-up, and others were doing the booth duty. My feelings were hurt, and I wanted to be one of the guys that are allowed to talk to the participants. But no. I had to go home on opening day.

Then I got to work for IBM, and I actually *had* to go. I started to experience the exhaustive side, the adrenaline side and the experience of hanging out for too long in the evening in Greek restaurants around Hannover in the evenings (really, there’s hardly anything else you can do there – do you remember, Mike?).

Now, working for the Eclipse Foundation, we actually have a little pavillon together with our members. In the very busy hall 2, just in the center of the Open Source pavillon, you could find us. When the show started, I was thinking that this should be my last CeBIT. But know, even with all my muscles on fire and back, legs and feet hurting, I’m hoping that we’ll be back in 2013. Weird, eh?