Harry Keller

August 7, 2023

↬ July 2023 (and a bit of August)

Welcome back y’all,
it’s the monthly update and I’m glad you’re here, along with a bunch of other people. I don’t know how many of you actually open these emails – I have zero analytics, which is exactly how it should be. So I’m just typing this into the void and sometimes, weeks later, when I meet one of you for coffee, you’ll randomly reference something I mentioned here and then that’s a really cute moment, making it all worth it. It’s Sunday right now, late afternoon in Berlin and I’m sitting at my home office desk, headphones on, raining outside. The atmosphere is like in one of those study lo-fi beats cover images. ANYHOW, let’s go, it’s a long one!

The work update: What’s happening at Village One
  • A new person joined the team: Welcome Julia! She’s a designer and our first member without any prior work connection – she found our designer job posting a while ago, applied, now she’s part of the team! I’d say she hit the ground running and it feels like she’s been in our zoom calls and basecamp messages for way longer already (always a good sign). At the end of her third week she concluded “we’re working on interesting and important stuff”, which made my day! We’re forming such a nice team, I thoroughly enjoy working with and learning from every single one of our villagers!
  • We also recently kicked off two new projects, both with extremely cool organizations doing worthwhile things in the world. I hope we can find the time to share who they are and what they do soon. Looking at our ongoing projects gives me goosebumps, so many good causes and excellent people!
  • While we were in negotiations and budget discussions for these new projects, we kept talking about all the financial information openly in our basecamp, for everyone to see. For us that’s normal, there can hardly be  secrets in a worker-owned co-op … but I had a “wait a sec” moment at some point, appreciating that this is absolutely not the case in most studios. I find it very healthy though – gives everyone working on the projects the insights they need to structure their work. Also, everyone is eager to learn how to write invoices – cooperatives really are a hands-on crash course on business fundamentals, entrepreneurship and financial literacy for everyone involved. That was never the point, but it’s a cool side-effect!
  • I’ve been thinking about how to get the word out about what we’re doing (+ how + why) with Village One: I recently approached a conference and offered to give a talk there, but we haven’t heard back so far. If you can think of any events or publications (conferences, meetups, podcasts, magazines, …) that might find our utopian design + tech cooperative, creating ethical digital infrastructure story interesting, it would be super cool if you introduced us!
  • I’ll be more active on Mastodon with our Village One account in the coming weeks, sharing more tools, links, podcast episodes and videos we find interesting in our day-to-day work. Give us a follow! By the way, even if you don’t have a Mastodon account, you can simply subscribe in your RSS reader: https://toot.village.one/@VillageOneCoop.rss – the magic of the open web!

The life update: What else is happening
  • We’ve done two weekend trips in July: One to a little picturesque village called Monschau (in the west of Germany) and one to Bavaria, where my partner is from. Both were nice, albeit a bit short given the distance we had to travel. These were half vacation and half exploration, whether we could imagine moving to that area of the country. We’re still not smarter about where we want to live, but some things just take time to figure out.
  • Media diet: 
    • Absolutely adoring the second Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season. How it goes from laugh-out-loud comedy to dealing with war trauma to a bonkers musical episode … it’s breathtaking!
    • I’m watching Foundation’s new season and it’s as confusing and gorgeous as ever. No clue what is happening, but I’m somehow still intrigued. 
    • Hijack on Apple TV+ is sooooo tense, had me on the edge of the couch the whole time … it’s the plane hijack drama to end the whole sub genre, we’re done here.
    • Finished Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom’s main quest – what a vast and fantastic game. Not perfect, but really good, enjoyed this a lot more than its predecessor. Curious for how long I’ll be returning to Hyrule to finish side quests and when the first DLC will come out.
    • First time I’ve been to a cinema since the pandemic started, watching Oppenheimer – Nolan at the top of his narrative game, but he’s still terrible at including any strong female roles. Emily Blunt gets nothing and Florence Pugh, well, what the hell was that? Also: Strange choice to not include much about Japan, I wondered how a Japanese audience might perceive the movie – turns out it doesn’t even have a release date in Japan.
    • We’ve been rewatching the Harry Potter movies and they’ve aged so well … the music, the setting, the characters, it all brings back so many memories. JKR and her transphobic views can go to Azkaban for all I care, but these movies and stories still hold up (unlike everything that came afterwards).
  • It was Earth Overshoot Day on August 2. Sigh, so little time left, such a gargantuan challenge and responsibility. How long will we keep our heads in the sand, continuing the “go to work, consume stuff, pay rent, watch Netflix and do all the things we’re supposed to do” routines? How long until it all unravels? Frightening.
  • Tech being infuriating: The implosion of Twitter, the cage match, garbage AI flooding the web, Altman’s fucking orbs, the Reddit clusterfuck, the “back to office” powerplay, Google trying to force DRM on the web, the ongoing crypto fallout, Zoom using your calls to train generative AI, … this industry really is a dumpster fire right now (insert always has been meme).
  • I have a hard time focusing on books these days, I start many, but frequently either can’t remember what I read the next day or just forget about them altogether. Do I just need to train my reading muscle again? Do I have to make more deliberate time for reading? Is my brain/attention just too damaged by social media and the news cycle? These days I’m only reading what I have to for our book club meetings. This brings us to …

The side projects: Book club and GameBoy photos
  • As you might remember I’ve been hosting a zoom book club for many years and the next meetup is on Aug 29. We’re reading “The Sixth Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert – I’m halfway through and, uh, it’s excellent and unexpectedly captivating! Still enough time to join us, you don’t need to finish it to take part!
  • Additionally, we’re organizing an in-person book swap event: It’s happening on Aug 11 in Berlin-Kreuzberg: Bring 1-2 of your old books (good ones please), leave with 1-2 new books, meet friendly people who also like books. We’ve never done this before, so I’m nervous, but I’m sure it’ll be fun!
  • Still taking daily photos with the GameBoy Camera and gathered a few followers on Pixelfed. I sometimes wonder how this would’ve unfolded as an Instagram account: Probably have a lot more followers, but back then it was a deliberate choice to go with the fediverse instead. Success can take many forms, not just follower/like counts. For example I spend only a few minutes per day on this, without any danger of getting sucked into the algorithmic Instagram vortex, wasting time on stuff I don’t care about. I really detest what Instagram has become under Meta, so the thought of spending more time there makes me feel sick. Pixelfed is nice and calm and non-commercial and niche – take a look?

The links: a few select things that caught my attention

And finally: A peek at the camera roll

Alright, that’s it, thank you for checking in and see you around! If you want to say hello and tell me about your month: Just reply to this email!

Take care!

Harry Keller | harryfk.com
Berliner, works at Village One
Writing a newsletter, running a book club
Elsewhere: Mastodon | Pixelfed | Twitter

About Harry Keller

Heya, I’m Harry, a software developer in Berlin/Germany—he/him, *351ppm, feminist, cooperativist, dogfather. I recently co-founded the somewhat utopian design+tech cooperative Village One and also diesdas.digital before that. You can learn more about me on harryfk.com and we can connect on Mastodon, Twitter, BeReal, PixelfedInstagram. Or you can simply read my newsletter below! 💁