The Snowden Pitch and the NSA catalog

nsa catalogue

Last week I spoke at the re:publica in Berlin. My talk was called “Pledge, Turn, Prestige – The Snowden Pitch” and was thirty eight minutes of fiction. The basic idea of the talk is that, back in 2008 the NSA had a business problem and so they approached me and my fictitious advertising agency to sort the problem out.

As far as I know everything I’ve written into the Snowden pitch is fictional, all except for one slide, the slide you can see above. What you can see there are actual NSA product names, for actual NSA products that all have unit prices. A couple of people have asked me how or why I started writing The Snowden Pitch, well now you know. Towards the end of 2013 I spotted this article on Spiegel Online which describes the NSA Catalog. The catalog can also be found on wikipedia so, as you can see, I’ve folded the real product names into the fiction of The Snowden Pitch.

I didn’t make those crazy product names up. The NSA did.

The catalog was the starting point for the talk: for if you have a catalog, with products that have unit prices then surely you’ll have a P&L and you’ll need customers. I thought that that would be an interesting place to start exploring a new way of looking at the whole Snowden story.

Here’s the talk, if you’ve not seen it. The NSA products and catalog come in around 30:00.

Netzgemeinde, I love you but you’re bringing me down.


I love Germany. I don’t know how many times I’ve said that over the course of the last 21 years and I’m pretty sure that I’ll be saying it for many years to come because I really do love living here. I love the people. I love the cities. I love the language (sort of) and I love the food and the beer.

Liebes Netzgemeinde, I love you too but MEINE FRESSE, you’re bringing me down.

Don’t you realise what you’ve got going for you? Don’t you realise that it’s OK to try things out, get them wrong, dust yourself down and try again? Or not try again if the idea was rubbish? Don’t you realise that you have things like the re:publica are rough precious stones that you need to look after and polish and that krautreporter is a good thing? They may not be perfect but they are good things.

I’m sick to the back teeth of the moaning and the groaning that happens every time somebody in this country (or German bit of the Internet) takes a stance and actually tries to do something. I’m sick of the trolls; the mundane whining about how everybody else is doing it wrong, from people who have never tried to do something themselves.

You think re:publica is rubbish? Then do something else, make something else and do something better.

One of the key statements from this year’s re:publica was the fact that we’re locked in a room with Tyrannosaurus rex on crack (the NSA) but we don’t really notice it because we keep getting distracted by a pretty poodle doing funny tricks. There’s something else in that room, though. Something far more dangerous; it’s dark, gloomy and terrifyingly mundane. It’s the shadowy form of The Netzgemeinde Ego and it’s sucking out the very soul out of everything that it loves.

The bastard.


Update: Felix Schwenzel has a point of view. You can read it here (it’s in German). I’d just like to point out that there is a massive difference between constructive criticism and whining like spoilt children. Felix seems to think that this post is about krautreporter. It isn’t. It’s about taking two steps forward only to be dragged three steps backwards. It’s about going nowhere fast. Good morning.

Some news.

There’s an awful lot going on right now: some of which I can talk about and some I can’t. Here’s some news that I can obviously talk about:


re:publica 14 - INTO THE WILD

I’ve been up for the last couple of hours writing my re:publica thing, which is called “Pledge, Turn, Prestige – The Snowden Pitch”. The writing of which is obviously going so well that I’ve decided to write this blogpost instead. I’m very excited about this actually because I’m planning to have the Snowden Pitch as the centerpiece of a new live show. More news about that in the coming weeks. I’ll be on stage 2 at 17:30 hrs on the afternoon of the 6th of May, so do pop by if you get the chance. Don’t bother looking for a live stream of my talk, that’ll be reserved for my good friend Sascha. Silicon Allee wanted to know more about the talk and asked me some questions, the answers to which you can read here.

I can’t Deutsch.
I’ve started a new little podcast thing called “I can’t Deutsch”, which is my legitimate attempt to win a Grimme Online Prize next year. The plan was to do a podcast a day, except on the days where I couldn’t and there have been a hell of lot of days where I couldn’t do it but when I do get the chance, I thoroughly enjoy doing them.

That’s it for now. More soon.

Good morning.

I won’t be winning a Grimme Online Prize this year, which is a bit of a shame.

Yeah. I'm crying. A grown man crying. You got a problem with that?
Yeah. I’m crying. A grown man crying. You got a problem with that?

Hello. Good evening. I have some really rather desperate news for all seven readers of this blog. I will not be winning a Grimme Online Prize this year. Although expected, I’m utterly devastated by this oversight. I’ve been moaning about this merciless lack of Grimme interest over on Facebook and it would appear that there are actual, factual and crushingly simple reasons why I won’t be winning this prestigious award. The reasons being:

  • I don’t blog in German. It would appear that to win this German award I am required to blog in German.
  • My blog posts are too short. According to one Herrn P. Breitenbach (a former Grimme prize winner himself) my blog posts aren’t long enough for a)the German blog market and b)Herrn P. Breitenbach.
  • My blog isn’t about anything. If you pause momentarily and have a jolly long think about this blog, it really is about something. It is. You just have to look really, really hard. I’ve been told that it’s very meta and it has, from time to time, been described as something resembling a distressed LCD Soundsystem song. That sounds like a compliment but was actually meant to hurt my feeling at the time. It didn’t so I’m taking it as a compliment.

The final reason I won’t be winning a Grimme Prize this year is because nobody, not a single bloody one of you nominated this blog. Which is both sad and understandable at the same time.

I am wearing a new jumper.

I’ve decided that I am going to win a Grimme Online Prize in 2015. There’s nothing anyone can do to stop me. You would be forgiven for thinking that I’m going to align the strategy behind The Benefits of an Excellent Hangover to match this challenging mission but as there is no strategy behind this blog that’s not going to happen. Obviously.

I’m going to be the first Englishman living in Germany, blogging really short posts in the English language; posts that kind of don’t make any sense (but they do if you really, really concentrate: for fuck’s sake concentrate). I might reduce my swearing a little.

This is the mission. This will be the journey. Are you ready to come on this roller coaster ride with me?

Good evening. Etc.

There’s been a paradigm shift in coolness and the cryptographers are pissed

My blackberry glass glasses. Very modern.
My blackberry glass glasses. Very modern.

As Simon points out in his wonderful post, there has a been a fundamental shift in who is cool in business. People who worked in advertising were once magnificent and cool but now people who work in technology are cool. Bankers were never cool. Bankers are shit.

This isn’t a post about advertising, it is a post about the fact that you look like a massive anus when you put on a pair of Google-Glass(es), and I believe that this has something to do with this shift in coolness.

As Simon rightly says advertising folk should pop over to the SXSW and learn lots of new things like programming, smoking pulled pork and finding out what cosplay is and, from what I’ve seen, most of these things (except for programming) have been going on. Well done everyone. It is however, hugely amusing to watch formally (this spelling mistake was corrected by Sebastian per Snapchat. Thank you.) formerly cool people assume the posture of currently cool people and I’m rather enjoying the awkwardness of advertising folk engaging in Oscar-Selfie mode and trying to build a business model around it. Other highlights include bewildered advertising executives starring at dancing cosplay characters and 99% of the people who had their photograph taken next to grumpy cat.

Some Germans sat in a house and waffled on about something. Live. Every morning.

All this is fine. All this is good. Hell, even I’ve been messing around with technology (actually I just wrote some filth and the technologists with photshopped finger nails did all the coding) and we put the Internet up the backside of a Teddie Ruxpin. Yes, messing around is fine but there are a few cultural crimes you can commit whilst making the move from one cool to the other. The biggest crime of all is wearing Google-Glass and letting someone take a photograph of you. There is just no excuse for it. You look like a massive anus. You don’t look cool and you don’t look dangerous. Big Bang Theory shouldn’t be your benchmark. One of the most remarkable comments from that ridiculously dull Edward Snowden livestream yesterday (did you notice that, of all the live streaming technologies they could have chosen, they went with Google Hangout? Think about that.) was the statement that “the cryptographers are pissed”. That’s breaking bad for you right there.

As I mentioned yesterday over on the Facebook channel, it might be pertinent to step back and take a good, long hard look at your life if you let someone take a photograph of you wearing Google-Glass. The gentleman who was wearing the fake Google Glass at the re:publica last year really needs to get a good hard bloody purchase on his life.

This, it would appear, is a nasty little side effect of the paradigm shift in coolness: another is the fact that artists, art historians and thespians will need to start to learn how to program algorithms.

By the way the CeBIT is on.

Good morning.