uberlin

Another Year in Berlin: überlin’s Highlights of 2012

by James and Zoe

Wow, what a year! It’s hard to believe we’ve been in Berlin two years – because it feels like we’ve lived here forever, yet sometimes it’s like we’ve just stepped off the plane. That’s the enduring freshness of love, I guess. Too sappy? Then maybe we’ll just skip to our highlights of 2012: our favourite moments and places, most awesome blog posts, and all the other (furry) little things that made the year our best yet.

überlin's highlights of 2012: January

The Loxx Miniature Railway version of Berlin is probably the city’s best-kept secret, or at least it was until our photos ended up on the front page of The Guardian website. Small world(!) – on our second visit to the mini-Berlin on top of Alexa mall, we ran into Dave from the blog Andberlin – who also named Loxx as one of his highlights of the year. This is the perfect place to go on a rainy winter’s day.

überlin's highlights of 2012: February

To celebrate Zoë’s birthday we went to Stockholm and Copenhagen and while we were there, visited the most beautiful and inspiring place we’ve ever been. Looking back at our post about the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, I feel like my words fail to live up to Zo’s stunning photos, and even those can’t capture the breathtaking beauty of the museum and its coastal environment. We thoroughly enjoyed our short time in Scandinavia, but the Louisiana was the hands-down highlight.

überlin's highlights of 2012: March

The first of our articles to appear on The Guardian, 5 Apps Berlin Really Needs, was a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the buzzy, bubbly startup capital of Europe. Our iProtest app concept gamified civil disobedience, while Angry Berliners turned German bureaucracy into an addictive platform game. Our Buskamatic app aside, March was a great month for music – Modeselektor released the iconic video for their “Berlin” anthem, and we discovered Big Stu’s comedy rap tributes to Hühnerhaus and Kottbusser Tor.

überlin's highlights of 2012: April

Our personal highlight of the year has to be getting our hands on this little ball of cute. In fact, Olive is probably many readers’ main reason for visiting the blog – we might be better off training her to work a camera and a laptop and leaving her to it! The unofficial überlin mascot, Big Ö is recognised way more frequently than we are, and has turned up in the unlikeliest of places – including an Instagram tutorial video and a conversation with a Bully-obsessed stranger at my cousin’s wedding (“you own Olive the dog?!!!”). Apart from welcoming our fuzzy daughter to the fold, we also ate the meal of the year (with matched cocktails!) at Rollin Restaurant.

überlin's highlights of 2012: May

If our May pick was a movie it would be the überlin prequel, Escape from Newcastle. While our home toon stands for everything we hate (or is that the other way around?), we still have a soft spot for the football-loving Stella-downing lads and lasses we grew up with – something we hope came across in our “origin story”, From Geordie Shore to Germany. Back in Berlin, visiting friends introduced us to the Ramones Museum, the only such institute devoted to the Detroit proto-punks in the whole world, the personal collection of a Berliner who must be their greatest fan.

überlin's highlights of 2012: June

It might seem obvious, but our What I Know about Germans post is like David Hasslehoff’s “Looking For Freedom”: ubiquitous, infectious, and every German loves it ;) . Credit for our “greatest hit” actually goes to writer Liv Hambrett, for her keen observations about her adopted countrymen, and illustrator Mischief Champion who’s busy bringing them to life for WIKAG – the book! Photo op of the month (year?) had to be Berlin Gay Pride 2012 – so many queers! So many colours!

überlin's highlights of 2012: July

It seems like a long time since Zoë spent a boiling Berlin Fashion Week maximising her time in the air-conditioned tent, and occasionally popping outside to photograph slebs like Fashionbloggerin Miggy. Lucky for us, she braved the heat long enough to get these impressions of Berlin Fashion Week SS13.

überlin's highlights of 2012: August

While Peaches was never exactly a reason for moving to Berlin, we’ve never been able to think about the city without picturing her merkin. Since we arrived, we’ve been lucky enough to see her twice: “doing herself” live on stage and orchestrating a protest/video shoot in support of Pussy Riot. We weren’t the only starstruck fans following this freak parade into Mauerpark, and it was impressive to see Ms Nisker whipping up a storm to publicise an important – and still ongoing – cause. Less colourful, but no less eye-opening, was guest blogger Russell Dornan’s look behind the closed doors of Berlin’s Natural History Museum.

überlin's highlights of 2012: September

You Know You’re a Berliner When… you pose for a photo pretending the TV Tower is your penis, which then becomes a lightning rod for critics of hipsters, expats and archisexts (I made this one up). Having regular “Berlinergasms” was just one of 11 sure-fire signs that you’ve become a Berliner, along with dancing in a U-Bahn station and witnessing at least one daily act of crazy. Zoë saw more craziness at London Fashion Week SS13 – here is just a taste.

überlin's highlights of 2012: October

October was a month of light and dark. The gloomy nights provided the perfect backdrop for the Festival of Lights and (we think) our animated GIFs were the perfect demonstration of the event’s kaleidoscopic displays. Far less joyful was Berlin Crawling: 10 Halloween Horror Films, a list of creepshows shot here in the Haupstadt, ranging from the slick (the neo-Giallo short Yellow) to the just plain sick (corpse love story Nekromantik).

überlin's highlights of 2012: November

We’re so glad Phia agreed to be the first subject in our series of Berlin portraits. We’d heard the Australian singer/songwriter/thumb-pianist at an intimate concert in a fellow musician’s house, and loved her stories and songs about her granddad, a Berliner, and what it meant to live in his hometown. We spent a beautiful, crisp day discovering her Berlin, and sharing our love for the creative, open city we now call home. Oh, and we celebrated two years of überlin/living in Berlin!

überlin's highlights of 2012: December

As we entered our third winter in Berlin, we thought we should share the survival skills we’ve picked up with expats who’ve recently arrived from warmer climes. With the help of Josh Bauman’s awesome caricatures of us (and Olive!), our more-or-less practical tips about How to Survive a Berlin Winter helped to restore calm among the panicky sun-botherers freaking out at the first sight of snow. I wonder if anyone’s quit their job or grown a beard on our advice? And giving away €250 of Berlin-themed swag was a great way to end another awesome year of überlin.

Join us in 2013 for more Berlin love and LOLs. Happy New Year!

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The Guardian interviews überlin

by James and Zoe

One of our proudest moments was when the Guardian Travel Network chose us as one of just two Berlin sites to contribute to their website. Guardian readers loved our 5 Apps Berlin Really Needs and Zo’s photos from the miniature Berlin at Loxx, which made it onto the site’s front page. We’ve answered a few of their questions as a quick introduction to überlin, and thought even regular readers might get something out of it. For a more personal look at our life in Berlin, read the illy interview “Berlin, Expat Life and Happiness”.     

Why did you start überlin?

We started überlin to record our move from London to Berlin – in fact, I wrote our first post on the flight over! But what began as an online diary about two expats’ exploration of a new city has since grown into a celebration of all that is awesome about Berlin, and a valuable resource for people who want to follow our example and move here.

überlin up in the air

Our first post: Up in the Air

What are you most proud of about überlin?

Being able to help others who want to move to, or just visit, Berlin. When we arrived here, complete strangers lent us help, support and friendship when we needed it most, and we are now in the position to do the same for others. For example, we came up with the #dailydeutsch Twitter hashtag to share one German word a day, and now it’s buzzing with contributions from people we’ve never heard of. Even our schlechtes Deutsch is improving!

Herrchen: a Daily Deutsch classic

Herrchen: a Daily Deutsch classic

What one piece of editorial / content would you point to if you were trying to sum up überlin?

We’re going to have to pick two! “5 Apps Berlin Really Needs” is a sideways glance at the city’s much-hyped tech scene, with witty suggestions for apps like “Buskamatic”, accompanied by vivid, hilarious photos. And our contributor Liv Hambrett nailed the überlin tone with her epic list “What I Know About Germans“, a tongue-in-cheek celebration of the quirks and qualities of our adopted countrymen. That post really struck a note with Germans, who shared it on blogs and even the social media profiles of national newspapers.

Angry Berliners: one of Five Apps Berlin Really Needs

Angry Berliners: one of Five Apps Berlin Really Needs

What’s next for überlin?

First, we’re refreshing the design of überlin. We plan to keep the clean, minimal aesthetic that our readers love, but make it easier for them to find the content they want, whether it’s about music, fashion, food and drink or expat life. We also have loads of plans to take überlin offline, and create books, merchandise and other “experiences”, but you’re just going to have to follow us to find out more!

What's next for überlin?

What’s next for überlin? Follow us on Facebook to find out!

This interview originally appeared on Guardian Select.

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5 Apps Berlin Really Needs

by James and Zoe

Not only is Berlin the startup capital of Europe, it’s fast becoming its App-icentre. Developers and netrepreneurs are coming up with mobile solutions for problems you never knew existed, in the hopes of earning geek points and investment from Ashton Kutcher. Whether you want to explore Berlin, buy your buddy a beer or just make sure that you’re never alone again, if there isn’t already an app for that, there soon will be. überlin thought it was time to halt the march towards App-igeddon, and to come up with five apps that Berlin really needs.

Summerfy
Berlin winters getting you down? Can’t bear another miserable grey sky? We have the perfect solution with our Summerfy app! Using augmented reality our app can turn the most depressing of scenes into a beautiful summer’s day. Simply point your mobile device at whatever is bumming you out and see it transformed instantly. Berlin – and Berliners – never looked so good!

5 Apps Berlin Really Needs 1

5 Apps Berlin Really Needs 2

iProtest
Berliners’ favourite pastime just got social! Now you can earn badges, as well as bragging rights, when you attend the city’s countless demonstrations. Stick it to The Man and be crowned Green God/dess, Nuclear Reactor, Nazi Hunter or Baby Bugger-Off-er. One day you could be the proud owner of the coveted WTF?! badge, issued when everyone is rallied together to protest, but no one seems to know why.

5 Apps Berlin Really Needs

Buskamatic
This app recreates the Berlin busker experience in all its horror. Bursting with over 100 badly-sung songs, played poorly on outmoded instruments, Buskamatic will annoy your fellow commuters just like the real deal! With styles like “Atonal Accordion”, “Ballad Bollocks” and “Fuck off Folk”, you’ll blend seamlessly with your busker buddies, and wonder how you ever lived – and paid the rent – without this mobile music maker.

5 Apps Berlin Really Needs

Find-a-Pfand
The Berlin streets aren’t exactly paved with gold, but every other bin contains treasure – bottles that can be returned for a deposit, or Pfand. Find-a-Pfand hacks Google Maps to show the location of the bottle banks and trash cans that are overflowing with glass goodies, and the closest place to collect your cents. The bottle icons glow red when collection time approaches – get there fast to pick up your pay day!

5 Apps Berlin Really Needs

5 Apps Berlin Really Needs 8

Angry Berliners
Sick of dealing with German bureacracy? Why not take out your frustrations on this classic strategy game?! Fire your Angry Berliner through webs of red tape, topple over mountains of paperwork, and repeatedly bang his head against brick walls,  in order to defeat the pencil-pushing Office Pigs. With over 200 levels available in the App Store, you’ll really be getting somewhere – unlike in real life. Angry Berliner soft toys coming soon!

5 Apps Berlin Really Needs

What Berlin apps would you like to see? Drop us a comment below.

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EyeEm Street Art project

by James Glazebrook

Brooklyn-Theory4_streetart

Image courtesy of EyeEm member Brooklyn Theory

Now this is cool. Mobile photography app and community EyeEm is curating a collection of street art photos from around the world, and will project them onto the side of a building right here in Berlin. To get involved, just download the free EyeEm app, get snapping the graffiti, stickers and stencils that cover your city, and tag your photos as “streetart”. Then your images will appear within the app, on this dedicated microsite, in the slide show below… and ultimately as 30m-high projections on an exterior wall somewhere in Berlin. We hope to go down to the screening on 18th November, so watch this space!

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Social Media Week Berlin Highlights

by James Glazebrook

We may have been in Milan for much of Social Media Week, but I still made it down to a couple of thought-provoking sessions before we left. As with Hello Etsy the weekend before, the best thing about SMW was the chance to put faces to the URLs of our online buddies, including Travels of Adam, Nicole is the New Black, Yvonne from Just Travelous and Katja glamcanyon. When I wasn’t talking crap over a Club Mate, here’s what I learned:

Gamification is set to be The Next Big Thing

The keynote speech from Gabe Zichermann of gamification.co focused on the “process of using game concepts and mechanics to engage users”, particularly location-based gaming concepts. As a foursquare refugee, it was refreshing to hear an expert describe pure location-based gaming as “a total shitshell”. Also, as a social media consultant with automotive clients, it was interesting to hear about the games built into the dashboards of hybrid and battery electric cars like the Nissan Leaf, that give feedback to the driver about the vehicle’s performance.

Unfortunately, the below video is missing the fascinating round table discussion that took place immediately after, with Berlin-based social games developer wooga and the inspiring Willempje Vrins from figure running, the crazy Dutch folks who started drawing pictures on maps using existing running applications, then ended up building their own app. As with everything that co-opts a (historically) niche subculture and turns it to commercial gain, gamification has been criticised by videogames experts. Personally I disagree with Ian Bogost’s core argument that gamification is “marketing bullshit” because it is “used to conceal, to impress or to coerce”, as that is what marketing is supposed to do. That’s like 1976 punks bemoaning the fact that hair product commercials feature kids with fauxhawks. Accept it, move on.

Aaaanyway, watch Gabe’s speech for yourself and see what you think:

Keynote on Gamification – Gabe Zichermann – Social Media Week Berlin – Sept. 19, 2011 from SMWBerlin on Vimeo.

Everyone wants to be a Community Manager

It was fascinating to hear from the community management experts at Nokia Germany and Soundcloud, among others. Their discussion reinforced some basic principles (number of fans is less useful than activity and engagement) and revealed philosophical differences between those companies for whom their community is central to their mission and those that either treat social as a marketing channel and/or outsource it.

It was also interesting to hear about the number of people who want to get into community management (especially here in Berlin), to have some common illusions dispelled (no, it’s not just getting paid to tweet) and to learn about some unusual – but in retrospect, obvious – approaches to securing these jobs, like: join a community, and build your profile within it.

Job Title: Community Manager – Social Media Week Berlin 2011 (EN) from SMWBerlin on Vimeo.

Trendsmap is cool

This tool, that CNN uses to source stories, plots real-time Twitter trends on a map, according to the location from which they were posted. Check out what our fellow Berliners are talking about.
Trendsmap Berlin
iReport is also cool

iReport is CNN’s own tool, which bridges the gap between the immediacy of social media reports, and the accuracy of mainstream news media. Essentially, anyone can submit a story which will appear on the iReport website, and then CNN will do their journalistic thing and follow them up, mark legit stories as vetted, and use them in their online and broadcast news reports. You can see reports from Social Media Week here.

Facebook isn’t as useful for brands as they have been led to believe

I was gutted to miss a talk from Market Sentinel, a UK company that I work with. However, this blog post breaks down the results of a summer’s worth of research: Facebook ads don’t work for brands; Facebook fan pages don’t work for brands; Facebook apps should work for brands, but often don’t. Illuminating reading.

Social is great, but real life is better

Berlin is full of inspiring people doing amazing things in social, but we never get to see them! We have plans for a meetup of our own, but in the meantime the 4-Hour-Workweek Berlin group will act as our real-world support system. See you down there!

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