ThingsCon Log: Whispers on the Internet of Things

Hello fellow IoT practitioner!


With a new year comes a new website: We've just flipped the switch on an updated This is the first step in an ongoing overhaul with a new, clean design, a cleaner navigation, a new server as well as tons of small improvements. For example, properly functioning (and much better looking) newsletter signups and much faster hosting thanks to Squarespace.

It's all still so fresh (we just switched it live last night) that the domain name servers might still be propagating for you, and the SSL certificate is still processing. If you get a security warning, rest assured it'll be sorted by tomorrow evening. In the meantime, if you see anything that looks like it's wrong, please do let us know!


Shoutout 1: Our friends over at the excellent Doteveryone have just launched a survey to explore how tech SMEs and startups build trust with customers and partners. Help our buddies out with your skills and insights? This is important work!

Shoutout 2: Dries de Roeck, IoT designer extraordinair, ThingsCon fellow and our Antwerp host, has a fun Kickstarter going for a limited edition of his Don't Complain, Suggest What's Better stickers. Needless to say, we were more than happy to back that sentiment (and can't wait for those stickers!).


Voices on the internet of things...

...or should we rather say, voice enabled IoT? Benedict Evans makes a good point about the different hypotheses that underly the various voice assistant plays (Alexa, Echo, Siri, etc.): These different companies each bet on a different hypothesis of how this space will play out, and design their products accordingly. They are competing in some ways, but not really in others—in a sense, they are playing different games and just happen to be on the same court.


No ads for Alexa! Looks like Amazon won't allow third parties to run ads on the Echo (The Information). If this holds true then it'll be a good thing: If placed ads are parts of search results, then that's highly problematic since in audio, there's no list of results: The top result is usually the only result. As for other ads, we'll see how it plays out, and if Amazon can resist the temptation of letting ads sneak in through the back door of "partner content".


The Things of the Internet. We usually talk about the internet of things. But what about the things that spill from the internet into the physical world? An Xiao Mina of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society shares her Reflections on Object Culture and Internet Culture, meme culture, and politics in this conversation transcript.

Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built: The New York Times profiles the Center for Humane Technology, a group of industry insiders (including former Facebook management and a "co-inventor of the Like button") who now, in hindsight, see the errors of their ways and promote better design practices. We applaud these types of initiatives, but sometimes it's hard not to be a little cynical when the same people who were instrumental in building platforms they now consider damaging then want to build better platforms to limit the damage of said platforms. We'll see how it plays out; certainly all help in fighting the good fight is welcome.

To CES or not to CES? Reto Wettach, co-founder of Berlin-based design studio IXDS shares his impressions and insights from this year's CES, and especially points out some shortcomings he and his team observed, like why is there no unified voice interface, and why do smart homes still not live up to our expectations?


Are you on Slack? Drop us a line with your email address and we'll be happy to see you in the ThingsCon backchannel on Slack ( And as always, for any news follow us on Twitter.

Have a fantastic week!

On behalf of the whole ThingsCon team,

Your scribe Peter

PS. Think a friend or colleague would enjoy this as a newsletter? Feel free to pass it on! 🙏

Peter Bihr