My impression of #okfest14 and Berlin in 17 bullet points.

The uncut version

I know a lot of the people are writing about the content and results of the festival. Let me ignore that for just a second and go on about my impressions and opinions on my first week in Berlin.


  • #okfest14 volunteers are so self-organised. They only know half what to do, but wing in it in the most gracious way. It reminds me that whenever I’m organising an event I don’t have to chase my volunteers that much, they’ll handle it.
  • The #okfest14 volunteers did a lot of work. In Belgium a team of 50 volunteers would suffice for a festival of 500 people, here there were more than a 1000 visitors for the same amount of volunteers. Cheer guys (and girls).
  • I’ve met a lot of new people, but only a tenth of those on my to-meet-list. Two days is too short to try and meet so many interesting people.
  • Apparently it’s OK to fail in Open Knowledge efforts. I heard so many sighs about certain progress, and even more voices who are eager to keep on pushing. Like we say in Ghent: ‘Niet neute, nie pleuje’. (Don’t complain, don’t give up)
  • I want to start an OpenGlam, ScienceOpen, Flashhack, Code for Belgium, OpenDesign, OGP, OpenCoalition, I just need to find a way to clone myself. I asked the guy from FabLab Berlin about this, but he wasn’t sure if he had the right components for cloning myself.
  • In the world of Open, stickers are the way to get your message across if you want to work with printed marketing. I never seen so many stickers as I have during the festival.
  • Almost every ‘Berliner’ at #okfest is from another country. Except for Martin. Which makes it a great atmosphere to be in and a logical place to host such an event.
  • Nightclubs make a strange place for workshop rooms, seeing known speakers in the industry hosting sessions next to stripper poles is a once in a lifetime experience.
  • Cardboard boxes are a good visual aid, but terrible at blocking noise. I think they should have handed out DIY ear horn kits. Or just get smaller rooms.
CC-BY PJPauwels
  • I really loved the fair where you just walk around and ask questions directly to people of certain projects. At least then you don’t have to think about what organisation somebody is from and why those damn name cards keep flipping over so you can’t read their names. “Sorry are you from School of data?“

My impressions of Berlin itself

  • Aside from #okfest It’s the only city so far that can be dirty and charming at the same time. I’m normally not a fan, here I was. I felt anarchistic and sometimes almost post-apocalyptic but without the radiation and zombies.
CC-BY-NC-SA aNto on Flickr
  • The terrible food in Germany is a lie, at least if you’re staying in Berlin. All though I must say I didn’t went for the full German cuisine. I did Chinese, Italian, Turkish, Spanish, Japanese and Swedish if you count the Smorgasbord of the Open Education guys.
CC — BY PJPauwels
  • Bikes everywhere made me think of my hometown, only in Berlin the bike paths are bigger but everyone rides on the sidewalk anyway. That would be a nono in Belgium above 9 years old. I really wanted to rent a bike to have this ‘f*ck the police’ feeling, even though it’s apparently fine in Berlin.
  • I’ve had to keep a straight face a few times whenever somebody told me that ‘this German beer’ was the best in the world. It was ok, I would accept that it’s good beer, but best beer? Don’t think so.
  • Germans are not prepared for this heat (read: no airco in most places) and they don’t care as well (in a good way). They just open up the windows and have a coffee, it felt very Meditterean to walk around.
  • I love how Prenzlauer Berg has so many shops, restaurants and coffeeshops, but so little chains like Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger King, etc. They’re in the centre but there are so many good alternative small places around.
  • Everybody has so many tattoo’s, it’s almost sad to have none. I could figuratively see old people running towards tattoo shops because they wanted to ‘belong’.
CC-BY PJPauwels

What impression did you have of #okfest14 or its neighbourhood? Let me know a @PJPauwels.