There’s a long time since I wrote on the blog, but I was so busy with many changes occurring in my daily life that time and energy seemed less. But I will try to recover in the next days with information about the trips I have done in the last couple of weeks. For now I will tell you about the great experience I had in Berlin being part of the Hackatrain event.

I have to admit that I thought that this event will be 100% on the technical side and the first days I analyzed it from this perspective, but things changed as I’ve started to take down my horse glasses. Hackatrain is an event organized in the Netherlands having as main objective a hackathon on the train and participating in Tech Open Air Berlin. The kick off was in Amsterdam Central Station at 7:00 am and at 09:00 we have boarded into the international train to Berlin. We had as main topic the customer journey of the international traveler and we were 18 teams working on different ideas. If you are interested more about the entire idea behind the hackatrain you can check the original website here.

NS USB stick

During the trip it was a little bit uncomfortable to work, the train was overcrowded and a lot of noise while traveling, everyone talking with the teams, trying to find the best idea. So we have used the time for brainstorming and we even had a few interviews among the travelers in order to gather feedback on our idea. After we all agreed on what we should work on, we have made small design activities and gathered word clouds in order to present it easier. Finally we have reached Berlin, had time to drop the luggage at the hotel and met in a co-working area created in a old industrial factory. It is quite common in the ex-communist countries to reuse the abandoned factories and to transform them in different “hipster” places (the same it is happening in Bucharest).

Interview on the train ๐Ÿ™‚

The first day of the hackathon ended at 24:00 and the next day we have returned at 9:00 to continue our work. Myself and my team created a website, was fun to do it taking into account that all of us have different background and none related with the online world. In the end it wasn’t a traditional hackathon: most of the participates weren’t with IT background so there were many ideas not totally implemented, more faked with some front-end apps. But I guess it was organized more for the ideas, than for some python code. The day ended with announcing the winning team, celebration festivities and lots of beer.

The next 3 days were, for me, a mix of solitary walking around Berlin (I will write a few posts about it), of crazy ideas at TOA and dancing at night. TOA (Tech Open Air) was hold in another industrial area in the East of Berlin, right on the river Spree, having a lot of “wild” green and arranged in such a way that anyone had a place to stay and contemplate on the multiple information discovered in one day.

Even if the name is Tech Open Air and you would expect to be a technical conference type, the festival is gathering people from all different kinds of domains, music, science, IT, art. There was a main building with all sorts of start-ups presenting their products, easy to try for anyone and to decide if you want to invest or not.

Crowded “investor” area ๐Ÿ™‚

My schedule was simple: to attend as many talks about Artificial Intelligence are there as I’ve started some courses in the area. I have to admit that after 5 talks or so I’ve started to hear the same thing, how AI will change our world and different ideas on what you can do with AI so it became a little bit boring. But the greatest talk was from IBM explaining how they’ve created the first movie trailer with Watson. So guys if you think that AI will affect only easy to automate jobs you can be wrong. It is clear that with automation and machine/deep learning the jobs with a lot of manual routine will be changed first due to the easy way of automation, but it seems AI can affect more than customer service. If you would like to see how IBM created the first movie trailer using AI you can also watch this YouTube video:

Another good speech was of Hector Ouilhet, head of design at Google Search. He explaining in a simple and catchy way how technical evolution happened and how world can be changed in such a way that we will not need to tell everything to the machine (phone, printer, computer) in order to do something and that the machine at one point will be able to apply the intuition we, humans, are able to apply in different situations.

After roaming around different talks (most of them short of 10-15 minutes), relaxed in the music studio where I have experienced for the first time 3D sound (which is amazing!), discussed with different people from different start-ups, I have decided to try some talks on mindfulness. I am mostly pragmatic and 90% of my brain is rational (1+1=2 all the time!), but I need to admit that the workshops I have joined were good, interesting and made me realize how easy you can rest in your own mind. I did some simple exercises and now I am able to disconnect for a while without issues, which is bringing a lot of inner peace. As a next step I will try to read more about it and apply it in my daily life, as the people giving the training had a special aura around them. Oh and another good one about creativity – 10 ways to be more creative, which was another one I have recorded for the future.

There were many activities you could attend to and I have found interesting how 2 guys were creating vinyls using a hairdryer and a laptop. Was quite fun to see it and to listen afterwards the melody I’ve chosen.

I would also like to present you a Romanian start-up I have discovered at TOA: – check it here. The idea is that you can easily organize parties and everyone attending can influence the music. Was quite cool to try and enjoy some beers on the river side, listening to music I like.

So here I am, at the end of the post about TOA and Hackatrain, I really enjoyed the days in Berlin, even during rain and the entire trip ended with a music fest, where you weren’t allowed to take pictures or to record, again hold in a industrial area. It was quite good, especially after midnight the music was amazing and it gave me energy for the train trip back to Amsterdam.