Tag Archives: Slovenia

Slovenian government is trying to censor the Internet

August 27th 2008 - Fractured

Most forms of gambling is illegal in Slovenia with a few highly regulated exceptions that are given concession from the government. Most notable are Loterija Slovenije (Slovenian Lottery) and Športna Loterija Slovenije (Slovenian Sport Lottery) in addition to real-world casinos and gambling places.

With growing popularity of online gambling these organizations as well as government are facing a problem with how to deal with insanely popular betting sites like Bwin, Expekt.com, bet-at-home.com. Government already tried to order ISP’s to block access to these webpages in 2006, but it turned out that they didn’t have legal ground for it so it failed.

That is why they decided to fix the law that would, among other things, require ISP’s to prevent access to web pages that would offer gambling related services. Failing to comply would result in fines from 7.500 EUR to 52.500 EUR and 1.500 to 10.000 for the person in charge. Parliament already approved the law on 18th of December 2008, but it got vetoed at the next stage in the process so they will have to vote on it again.

There are many troubling aspects of these recent developments:

  • From legal aspect it introduces censorship at the price of freedom of speech because part of the government decided that they need it. Who will be next to demand blocking of unwanted content?
  • From technical aspect it’s really hard if not impossible to block web pages. The only real approach would be using Deep Packet Inspection technique, that requires ISP to analyze each internet package violating privacy of the communication in the process.

It’s now up to the citizens and experts in the field to carefully analyze answers and proposed government changes to the law to make sure that it does not pass in its current form.

If you can read Slovenian, there are three excellent articles on this topic that you have to read:

Original version of this article appeared on Netokracija

Arrr, Slovenia, the land of pirates!

After a very sad performance of Slovenian quasi Pirate Party last week, where we could see that they have no idea how copyright works, we now have even more evidence that Slovenia is a land of pirates that have no respect for other people’s intellectual work.

@skatey and @Zealoth point out to a blunt copyright infringement on two very important web pages in our online space.

First is University of Ljubljana, that should act as a basic building block of our society. Evidently, they have no problems with stealing a stock-photo that costs less than a cup of coffee, that has still a watermark on it! That’s the same institution that will gladly expel a student for copying a paragraph of text without proper citation.

University of Ljubljana, copyright infrigement

Second example is a Startup competition at startup.si (they don’t deserve a link), that once again had no problem with taking stock photo with a watermark:

startup.si, copyright infrigement

These two sites, and the institutions that they represent, send a clear message to our students and entrepreneurs:

We don’t respect intellectual property and you don’t need to either. Take note of that in your future professional work and when you form your own business.

Arrrrrrr!

On BarCamps, unconferences and why we shouldn’t do BarCampLjubljana3

At #CLS09 we had a bunch of discussions and talks about unconferences and things related to them. To the ones that are new to this space – unconference is essentially a conference where the talks are given by the participants. BarCamp is a brand of general conference, mostly in geek space, that is done in unconference fashion. The history is richer than that, but you can read more about it in the wiki.

A ball brick at Citizen Journalism Unconference.

When I first started talking about BarCampLjubljana last year, it was mostly out of frustration that we don’t have barcamps. The us too wish and the general frustration with the perceived lack of geeks in the area. So began the process of education enough people about unconference style of event and finding people that helped organize the event as well as participants.  I feel that this process was valuable in so far to teach the community about these types of tools and ways of interacting.

The real problem with this approach was that we focused too much on the tools and the process and not enough on the main thing – the content and the topic itself. Just like we can talk all the time about the development tools and programming languages that we use instead of the things that we’re actually building with them.

This showed in the pitch for BarCampLjubljana 1 and 2 – “lets meet and talk about whatever. Show us your recent work and the things that matter to you”. To make the things even worse, we didn’t think too much about who we invited as we basically distributed the message across a few of our usual channels: blogs, Facebook, Twitter and limited mailing lists and forums.

Looking at it now, the result was exactly what you would expect: about 100 of our friends gathered, they talked about their current projects and obsessions and they’ve got to know each other. It was interesting to listen about new projects, but there was only that much that kept community together. Lucky for us, the friends that we invited were fellow geeks from within the industry so there was enough of common ground that they understood each other and could talk to between themselves.

Unconference

The second BarCampLjubljana presented this in clearer fashion – the talks had even less things in common, as the audience was largely the same, there was not much development in the 3 month period and the general feeling that something was missing was in the air. Everyone still had a great time, but we didn’t the fulfill the promise of BarCamps that we were supposedly bringing – pure and epic awesomeness unconferences.

So what now?

As we’ve learned how to do an unconference, I would propose that we let go of BarCamp’s all together and instead focus on topical unconferences. Instead of trying to force all topics on everybody we should start focusing on different topics and communities around them.

While Slovenia is small, different communities are still large enough that they can sustain an event or two on a yearly basis.

Instead of having BarCampLjubljana3, lets call it what we really want it to be – WebCamp. Lets not be afraid to talk hard-core tech stuff, with a bit of workflow and personal ranting about the industry mixed in. There is a whole range of topics from amateur sports to personal development that could benefit from such unconference.

While doing these events, we need to take into account a few things:

The grid at BarCamp Bangalore

Smaller can be better. Thirty engaged individuals can benefit much more from each other than 300+ crowd. There is enough space in event space for both types of events.

Lets not be afraid of small communities. While we might know everyone in our field, we often don’t take time to actually talk to each other. Lets create opportunities to do this and we might discover a few new peers in the process.

Experiment with new things. Unconference is still a very abstract idea and lets see how different groups of people shape it.

We should build support framework for unconference style events, while still keeping it open and vague enough that the community has to make their own flavor.

Conclusion

So what’s left for BarCamp then? I see three possible ways that it can take shape:

  • As a meta unconference of hard-core unconference visitors. Just so that we don’t have ‘unconference about unconference’.
  • An unconference of thinkers and doers from different fields that want to see alternative view from different fields. We would probably still need a theme.
  • It will go away. Topical unconferences will provide enough information exchange.

As always, open discussion on this topic is encouraged so let me know how you feel about these ideas, either in comments or in one of the gazillion other places (blogs, twitter, etc.)

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Mini Seedcamp Ljubljana

Entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs! That’s what we keep hearing from many different directions as the best approach to fight the recission, by creating new and innovative products. We at Zemanta know that it’s a long a tricky road and that every bit of advice and mentorship helps.

Image representing Seedcamp as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

Being fortunate enough to be part of the first Seedcamp two years ago, we’re happy to give back to our local community by helping organize mini Seedcamp Ljubljana. It’s a shorter event in mid-May that is intended to provide 20 teams with mentorship, advice and opportunity to pitch to investors and get feedback. Getting this experience can be also extra empowering for the fall Seedcamp in London.

You can apply to Mini Seedcamp Ljubljana until 27th of April. You don’t have to be from Slovenia to apply as it’s an international event.

At this point I can already hint at OpenCoffe Club one day before the actual Seedcamp Ljubljana (13th May) and another BarCamp Ljubljana on Friday, 15th. But more details about this in a separate blog post.

So what are you waiting for? Apply now!.

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How hard it is to run a hardware startup?

Luka Birsa is founder of Visionect d.o.o, Slovenian hardware startup that’s working with e-paper and e-ink technologies and here are my notes from his talk with title – How hard it is to run a hardware startup? at Kiberpipa’s Open Lectures.

Who or what is Visionect

hardware startup
Image by rok xxx via Flickr
  • Three founder, with 5 employees
  • Members of TP-LJ and LUI
  • Founded 18 months ago
  • They’re working in hardware and software business

So what’s a product

  • Wireless screen display + application eMenu

Technology

  • eInk – e-paper
  • low power wireless technology (2.4Ghz proprietary)
  • touch screen (projected capacitive)
  • low power software concepts (thin client)

Very robust devices with long autonomy.

Why hardware startup?

hwSU
Image by rok xxx via Flickr
  • Hardware is cool because you can show it to your mother
  • You can add LED’s to it and things blink then
  • Hardware is cool because you actually take it into your hands

Beginnings

  • Luka + Matej – consulting to hotels with IT decisions
  • Rok has an idea – lets make electronic price tags for stores (ESL)
  • Sounds like a good idea and they try to do it!

1st romantic point of view – doing hardware is simple

  1. You Google it, draw the integrate curcuit
  2. You write a software
  3. You buy components, you start producing
  4. You can do this really fast

FAIL:

2008SEP102037
Image by bootload via Flickr

1. There’s too much choice on the market. Too much choice and data sheets are terrible. You can easily get samples but are useless.

Drawing circuit for yourself is not drawn it for CE certification.

2. You need additional software to do this as well as prototype boards or prototypes of your own product.

3. It’s not worth buying under 1000 pieces and delivery times are around 12-13 weeks. All the distributors are not the sames.

Quality certification ISO 9001 and similar does not equal product quality.

4. The profits are low because of bad partners and problems. It takes about 3 times as long as projected! And you still don’t have certification.

2nd romantic point of view – Slovenia does not equal world

  1. Lets do ESL
  2. E Leclerc doesn’t have them, others do
  3. It seems like a viable niche
  4. Lets make cool technology and sell it – projected price was 30 eur for 1000 pieces using Zigbee and bistable displays
  5. The world is ours

FAIL:

hardwareSU
Image by rok xxx via Flickr

1. Slovenia != Europe != World

2. ESL is already a big market with establish market players

3. Actual production cost > 30E.

4. The actual cost is 7 euros per piece

3rd romantic point of view – all that you need is a good business idea/plan

1. Good idea with a good team

2. Good business plan

3. 2 months of looking for seed money + 2 months to do things = money

FAIL:

Gameboy Micro Babe
Image by TrojanDan via Flickr

1. Good idea doesn’t mean Hi-Tech; Hi-Tech + Slovenia = Problems (FAIL)

2. Good business plan – easier said than done:

Software startup – Hardware startup

Expenses: Less    More

Time to market: Less    More

Dependency on others: Less    More

3. Crash course of investors:

  • The never say no
  • When they say maybe, it means “no”
  • One months is three months

Is there anything positive about it?

Sicura di se
Image by Teone! via Flickr
  • There’s already a slew of software startups, so it’s hard to make your investors enthusiastic about your startup. Hardware is as such a plus :)
  • Nobody does hardware anymore. Easier to bootstrap and more in sourcing offers. New partners, new experiences = better chances for future offer.
  • It takes long to invest = good thing in HW startup. More time you have, easier to bootstrap, better business plan etc.
  • Long time to enter the market means the same for your competition. Little playes will have hard time cloning your products and big ones are slow to change.

Tips for hardware startups

  • When planning, have lots of buffer space
  • Talk to other people. You can’t find everything on Internet.
  • If you can use off shelf solutions – use it! Never make things yourself! You can’t imagine how hard it is to actually make your own hardware.

Where’s Visionect at the end of this path today?

  1. Connected with one of the biggest OEM producers in the world
  2. Lots of experience with producing hardware
  3. Working prototype of eMenu and BPS system.
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