überlin

Learn High-end Retouching with Pratik Naik at überlin!

by Zoë Noble

Pratik Naik High End Retouching Workshop

I’ve been a massive fan of Pratik Naik for years. One of the best high-end retouchers working today, he’s been instrumental in my development and an inspiration for the kind of sleek-yet-natural aesthetic I aspire to. That’s why we’re really excited to announce that Pratik will be leading a one-day retouching workshop in our überlin photo studio.

During this workshop, which will focus on high-end beauty and fashion retouching, Pratik will share his workflow, techniques and the basis for his aesthetic decisions. The event will develop across one intense day of work and will showcase Pratik’s tricks for optimising the use of Adobe Photoshop CS5 (or higher). If you can’t make it to the workshop, but you want to meet other retouchers and photographers, Pratik and I will be hosting a meetup on the following day (details TBC).

Click through for all the details about the Pratik Naik High End Retouching Workshop, hosted by überlin. As readers of ours, you get a super special deal – use the offer code uberlin2015 on checkout to get 15% off the regular ticket price.

Looking forward to meeting you, and learning some advanced retouching skills! (nerd alert)

On blogging: The great “viral content” swindle

by James Glazebrook

Günther Krabbenhöft street style original photo

You may have seen this dashing fellow on the Internet recently. You might have even seen these photos. If you did, the site you were looking at stole Zoë’s photos, published them without her consent, and used them to generate traffic and, most likely, revenue.  

It all started when So Bad So Good shared some photos to their Facebook page, of the alleged 104-year-old, posing on the platform for the U1 at Kotti. It isn’t clear where they got those images from, as they didn’t include any kind of credit. But we do know that the man pictured, Günther Krabbenhöft – represented by “agents for unique characters”, We Are Unlike You – isn’t 104. More realistic estimates put him at around 70.

Spotting an opportunity, I commented on the post with a link to our own blog post, a streetstyle shot of Günther walking through Graefekiez. Sure enough, that brought us a lot of clicks – about 40% more traffic than in the previous month – but it also brought the attention of websites that pride themselves on finding and sharing viral content. They refer to it as “sharing”, but we call it what it is: stealing.

The biggest, and probably the first, of those was Bored Panda (no, we aren’t going to link to them!). We found them via a trackback, a notification that WordPress sends us whenever someone links to one of our posts. Clicking through, we were shocked to see Zoë’s photos being used in a post that (apparently) now has over 180,000 views, 50,000 Facebook Likes, and is surrounded by ads that make money for the site’s owners. Alarmingly, there’s an “Add post” button that allows anyone to create their own article, with terms of use that place the responsibility for copyright compliance on the “author”.

The offending article on Bored Panda

Bored Panda set the tone for all the other articles we were able to find through trackbacks and Google reverse image search (which we learned about from @eljojo – thanks!) Have a look here – each of those thumbnails leads to at least one article that has used that image in those dimensions. That’s just one of our three images of Günther, and it doesn’t included photos edited beyond recognition by Google’s bots.

Most of the articles we found included the 104, many with that weird get-out that “the Internet” is getting its facts wrong, and all featured images alongside ours from sources who presumably weren’t contacted for permission either. A lot of them completely ripped off the “original” Bored Panda article. But, as it’s not their content anyway, why should they care?

When we contacted Bored Panda, we received an email from the article’s author saying that they’d decided to remove the images. The fact that they responded so quickly, to an email sent via a form that actually has a field for “removal request”, leads us to believe that they subscribe to the school of thought that one should “ask for forgiveness, not permission”.

Günther Krabbenhöft close up

Bored Panda were only closing the barn door after the horse had bolted. By the time our images were taken down from that site, they were all over the “viral” Internet. It takes just one website to turn stolen content into fair game, and other sites are happy to rip off photos, as long as they include the name of the source, and a link to it. Those second-tier sites are legion, and rarely have contact details through which to demand a removal.

A couple of bigger websites approached us for our permission (denied), and, when pushed, a national British newspaper offered an insubstantial amount of money. Given the circumstances, we were almost flattered that people had thought to ask us, but Zoë can’t pay her rent with “credits”, and we can’t build an audience on the clicks of curious people wanting to ogle an apparently ancient “hipster”. Our uptick in traffic came primarily from my comment on So Bad So Good’s Facebook post, and those people won’t be back. If we were playing the same “viral” game as these websites, those clicks would translate into money. But we aren’t – we’re focussed on creating original content.

And that’s the most depressing part of all of this: watching the Internet cannibalise itself. As soon as one online entity had a “hit” with the Günther photos, everyone else had to have them. Major newspapers and best-selling magazines aren’t above this – everyone wants the hot new thing to post, in the hopes that their improved Google rank will inch their audience, and profits, up ever so slightly. This “viral” layer of the web relies on content creators like us to thrive, but we won’t be able to create the content it needs if we can’t make a living. It’s pretty disgusting to see this up close.

So where does that put us? We’ve been advised that we are in a position to demand our content’s removal from all these websites, and to even invoice them for the revenue they likely generated from it. But how do you contact a site that doesn’t feature so much as an email address, and what are your chances of getting a response, let alone compensation? Right now, we’re focused on INTERVIEW.de, who aren’t responsive despite me taking to Twitter and Facebook to complain (sound familiar?) We think they’re taking Andy Warhol’s art of appropriation a little too far…

Let’s be clear: we love it when you share our content. When you tweet one of our photos and @-mention us, you could bring us followers; when you link to our website, we may gain readers. Sharing the photo without a credit isn’t exactly in the spirit of Twitter, but at least you wouldn’t be making money from our creative work. To all our genuine fans, thank you for sharing!

And to all the people out there creating unique content, keep up the good work. Take solace in the fact that this is one of the few cases of plagiarism we’ve (knowingly) experienced, and it can be traced back to us “putting ourselves out there”. Let us know if you ever encounter anything like this, and we’ll be happy to share our learnings and give you some support. Together, we’ll kick some web ass!

Günther's kick-ass shoes

EDIT: INTERVIEW.de have since responded to my Facebook post and taken down the photos. However, I still take exception to them using the photos in the first place. Here’s how that conversation is developing…

Berlintercourse: The GIF Guide to Sex Party Etiquette

by Guest Blogger

My first trip to a sex club was about five years ago. I had come to spend yet another weekend visiting a dear high school friend living in Berlin and, on a whim, we decided to go to KitKat. The bouncers let us in after first telling us to remove some of our clothes, and my friend happily obliged, keeping nothing but her panties on. I took off my dress and entered the club wearing just a jacket and my underwear.

The rest of the evening is kind of a blur, but I vividly remember enjoying the fact that we were able to dance wearing close to nothing without any creeps following us around. Which brings us to the first – and maybe most important – lesson:

Sex clubs are meant to be safe spaces, so if you visit one, please make sure you help it stay that way.

Having been a guest at several sex parties now, some at pretty tame yet fun nights like GEGEN and some more adventurous ones where almost everyone ended up getting some, I have come to realise that there are a few things you should know before getting involved. To help out my fellow sexplorers, here is what I have learned so far:

1. RESPECT THE RULES

“Alles kann, nichts muss”, as the Germans say. What this means is that the fact you are attending a sex party does not necessarily mean that you’ll end up having wild group sex on the dancefloor. Only if you feel like it and only if the party allows it. While many people probably assume that sex clubs are places where everything is allowed, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

During the sex party I attended a few months back, a significant portion of the evening was dedicated to reciting the event’s rules, and it was made very clear that whoever ignored them would be shown to the door in no time. At this particular party, voyeurism was not welcome – but this isn’t always the case, so make sure you know about the event’s specifics before you misbehave. You will usually find that information on the club’s website but don’t hesitate to reach out to the organisers via email if you have any doubts.

2. SPEAK UP

If you are attending a sex event, know that there is no place for politeness. What I mean is that if a situation is bothering you, you should not say so. I have been hesitant myself, but being straightforward is a must, so if you are afraid of making your move, ask someone to do the dirty work for you.

Once in the dark rooms of Ficken 3000, I realised that someone was watching in a very creepy way that I did not feel comfortable with. I ended up asking a friend to tell him, and the lurker was gone within a couple of seconds. As with most things in life, problems are usually solved more quickly if you deal with them directly instead of allowing them to linger on.

3. BE CONSIDERATE

Every time I engaged in or witnessed threesomes or group sex, I remember being amazed at the level of consideration couples gave to each other. Much to my surprise, I found that couples that engage in this kind of activity seem to have more balanced and healthier relationships, at least from the outside. They’re the kind of people who will outright say when they are not comfortable with a situation instead of sulking or making a scene. And the other person will take the criticism just fine.

What I learned is that, while you should obviously focus on enjoying yourself, you should always keep an eye on other people’s wellbeing. This is especially true if you decide to engage in sexual endeavours with your significant other: the experience will only be truly rewarding for you both if you make sure you are not being selfish or making your partner uncomfortable.

4. DRESS APPROPRIATELY

On a more shallow note, don’t forget that there is nothing worse than attending an event and feeling like your outfit isn’t quite right. In fact, dressing up is a great part of the fun.

Find out whether there is a dress code beforehand, don’t keep all of your clothes on if nobody else is doing so, and don’t stare at people whose sartorial choices are more daring than yours.

When in doubt, remember that this is Berlin and wear black. My go-to outfit is a black bra and black thong, but you could just wear nothing and make Germany proud.

5. DON’T JUDGE

Brace yourself for the fact that you will probably witness a few situations you never expected to. I have seen things that would normally qualify as crazy, such as grown men wearing diapers or a girl holding a knife ridiculously close to a guy’s penis and occasionally poking it.

I did a double take because I was curious, but in the end remembered that everyone has their own dark side and that other people’s should be, at most, considered with a shrug. Try to remember that sex has a lot to do with people allowing themselves to be vulnerable and allowing others into their personal space.

6. BE BOLD

Embrace the fact that this is your chance to try out new things. Most people who attend sex parties on the reg are ready to be your guide if you need them to.

Asking for advice will never be frowned upon and, just as with any regular party, people are usually open to taking new playmates under their wing. If you’re feeling unsure, just look at the way others are behaving and adjust – be emotionally intelligent and empathetic and people will welcome you with open arms.

Don’t believe me? The day after the sex party I went to, I was invited to have dinner with some of the organisers, before heading to a BDSM play party in the evening. That was the night I tried suspension bondage for the very first time, and it was quite the experience. I was incredibly glad to have more seasoned BDSMers around, as they took care of me and shared their precious advice along the way.

7. DON’T GET TOO WASTED

While it’s totally fine to be buzzed at “entry level” parties where most sexual acts happen in dark rooms or other dedicated areas, you don’t want to make a fool of yourself while other people are trying to get busy.

I did get pretty, ahem, tipsy during the first sex party I attended, and even though I mostly just ended up dancing and chatting everyone up, I regretted being that person when I woke up the next day. Oh well, it wasn’t my idea to bring all that vodka!

8. USE CONDOMS

Bring condoms with you (even if you are a girl), but also know that you will always be able to get some for free at the bar – this also applies to Berghain, by the way.

While it can be cute to wake up with a few misplaced love bites the next day because they make for good stories, you don’t want to spend it running from the pharmacy to the STD clinic. Also, nothing says “I don’t respect you” like not caring about this kind of thing. Try to remember what queen Aretha was demanding back in the sixties.

In short, have fun, be open-minded, pay attention to what is happening around you, and you will have a blast! I will soon dedicate another column to my favourite sex parties to help you choose the one on which to try out all these tips – watch this space :)

Can’t wait to read more? Follow Berlin Disaster on Twitter for regular updates.

GIFs sourced by @p_a_p_i_

Berlin Moments: August 11th – August 22nd

by Zoë Noble

Berlin Moments is a weekly collection of our favourite photos from our favourite city! Unless otherwise stated, all photos are by Zoë Noble. To be featured, just tag your photos with #uberlinmoments on Twitter and Instagram, and we’ll include our favourites in our weekly roundup.

Kreuzberg sunset canal berlin street photography

Berlin Moment Liepnitzsee Lake

oberbaumbrucke bridge cycling

Berlin Moment Botanical Garden

Submitted by @gloriaciceri

Berlin Moment Sleeping Man in front of Grafitti wall

Berlin Moment Berlin Summer Rain

Olive looking out at Liepnitzsee

Berlin Moment Görlitzer Park Refugees Sunset

Doggystyle: Rocco and Timo

by Zoë Noble

 

Doggystyle Portrait Streetstyle in Berlin

“This is Timo. He’s a Brussels Griffon.

I’ve never had a pet before who I could take almost everywhere – it’s great! The best part of having a dog is probably the cuddles, and the worst part is definitely the poops.

Timo is generally quite happy, despite having an exaggerated underbite that makes him look grumpy. And he loves big dogs… it’s really cute when he stands up on his hind legs and rests his front paws on their face.”

Doggystyle Portrait in Berlin of Dog Timo

Doggystyle Portrait in Berlin Timo in Rocco's arms

On Expat Entitlement

by James Glazebrook

smug face garage door

This was going to be a post about how shitty customer service is in Germany. We’ve all heard about, or experienced, things like: surly bar service, valuable deliveries that dropped off the grid without a trace, unanswered emails, ignored tweets, blah blah blah…

…it all started, as it so often does, with an undelivered package. The bourgeois tosspots that we are, we subscribe to a certain service that delivers recipes and their ingredients to your door – at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. This time, they promised to deliver during certain hours, and didn’t. When I emailed their support team, I was told that the delivery had been confirmed for a different time slot, and I should have been waiting for it. I asked them to check the confirmation message I’d originally forwarded them for proof to the contrary, and the email chain went dead.

I gave them a few days before following up via email. Where was my response? Where was my refund? And the answer to the other question I’d asked? Hearing nothing back, I took to Twitter. After a few unanswered tweets, I started to @-mention their UK and US teams (a move I learned from the indomitable @Fauxlie_). Sure enough, the Brits intervened, suggesting I call the German team. In no mood to ease the situation, I sent a shitty tweet asking why I shouldn’t expect to have my problem resolved via the email support channel they do in fact offer. (I’ve since apologised for that – they were just trying to help.)

And then, after a long, frustrated rant to Zoë, it occurred to me: all of my interactions with this company had been in English. Sure, I apologised at first for my crappy German (auf Deutsch) before asking that we switch to my native language. But I might have been even more annoyed if the response had come back in German. And, despite my natural aversion to actually speaking to people, the real thing stopping me picking up the phone was the knowledge that we’d quickly reach the limits of my second language, and I’d have to suck it up and ask, “können wir Englisch sprechen?

This is bonkers. If I was in England, and didn’t speak any English, there would be a 0.001% chance that someone would be willing or able to speak to me in my native language. Yet here, in the German capital, I get by perfectly well with not-that-great German skills. I’ve rented an apartment, registered as a resident, got a dog, started a blog and a business, paid my taxes, and yes, even had my groceries delivered – all by subjecting people to my crappy German, persuading or paying people to speak echtes Deutsch on my behalf, or just expecting everything to be done in English.

This shit doesn’t fly in other places, or in other languages. I work for a company whose customer happiness (oh yes) rating always tops 90%, and we support millions of people all over the world almost entirely in English. I should remember that for a German speaker to be writing or speaking in English, even with the help of Google Translate, they’re going the extra mile. I’m not meeting them halfway, not remotely. If my email or tweet is dropped, it’s probably not because the person the other end is terrible at their job, but because my query is automatically the trickiest one in their queue.  

But I don’t remember that. We don’t remember that. As visitors to this country, no matter how permanent – hell, as owners of businesses here – we get used to a certain amount of English fluency from everyone we interact with. A couple of years ago we published a guest post that I don’t fully agree with, in response to an Exberliner attack on Melbourne Canteen for having (at the time) menus in English only. While the original article was gratingly holier-than-thou, I find it hard to stand behind our writer’s argument that English is more useful to Germans than German is to English speakers. Presumably, that’s the same stance of another business outed recently as having no Deutsch menus, despite proclaiming themselves to be “100% Neukölln”. It seems that expats’ aversion to German is becoming institutionalised.

Yes, as Berlin becomes more and more international, with new arrivals sharing English more than any other language, it’s possible to envision a day when our common tongue is the city’s second semi-official language, as Spanish is in California. But for now, we’re in Germany and we should (try to) speak German. Anyone who is willing to switch to English with you should be treated like the angel they are – after all, they are part of the reason why your dumb ass is able to remain here.

Remember when you moved here, and you were amazed by how perfect everyone’s English is, and how readily they resort to using it? Hold onto that feeling, cherish it. And repeat after me: when someone is using their second language in a country where you should be speaking their mother tongue, they’re incapable of bad customer service. Just by communicating with you on your terms, they’ve already gone the extra mile.

Doggystyle: Paco and Damen

by James Glazebrook

Doggystyle American Staffordshire Terrier Portrait in Berlin, Germany on August 07, 2015. Photo: Zoë Noble

“Damen is an Amstaff (American Staffordshire Terrier) and he’s five years old.

It’s too hot for him in summer, but he’s still happy. He loves to swim.”

Doggystyle American Staffordshire Terrier Portrait in Berlin, Germany on August 07, 2015. Photo: Zoë Noble