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Uspješnice, častohleplje i ostalo

(ovaj post je komentar / nastavak razgovora započetog na Viktorovom blogu na temu Zagreba kao Silicijske doline, startupa i tzv. “vanity metrics”)

Dragi Viktore,

čini se da se u nekim stvarima slažemo, a u nekima ne. I ti i ja bismo željeli da Zagreb bude bolja sredina za rast i razvoj startupa – vjerujem da to nije sporno. Radimo na tome svatko na svoj način, ti izgradnjom ShoutEma i 5Minuta, ja (zajedno sa Sašom, Mihovilom, Damirom i sve više drugih ljudi) izgradnjom ZIP-a, radom u Bicru i još ponečime. U nekim stvarima se pak ne slažemo, ili bar na to drugačije gledamo, pa bih to želio prokomentirati, između ostaloga zato što cijenim tvoje mišljenje i tvoj rad.

Kažeš da nam treba kritički glas i da je “meni sve super”. Vjeruj mi, daleko od toga da mi je sve super. Da je tako – zadovoljno bih se zavalio u fotelju promatrajući kako se oko mene sve divno i krasno odvija i bez mene i čekajući da yet another domaći startup ostvari svjetsku slavu. No… budući da mi *nije* sve super, i da o mnogim stvarima imam ne samo kritičko nego i loše mišljenje, imam potrebu stvari mijenjati. Nekontroliranu pljuvačinu po svemu što se kreće ne treba brkati s kritičkim mišljenjem, iako se to događa začuđujućem broju ljudi ovih dana, čini se…

Upozoravaš nas da ne treba brkati stvarne rezultate s onima koji pogoduju našoj taštini, i pritom navodiš GOAP i prijem kod Josipovića kao primjere. Što se GOAP tiče, pitaj Sašu i Lukrecija misle li da je to bio “yet another event”. Pitaj Vibora, Ivana i možda još pokojeg foundera koji su pitchali na stageu ili slušali iz publike je li to bio “yet another vanity metric”? Goran je izašao na stage, rekao da je godinu dana čekao taj trenutak, i eno ga sad u Valleyu u 500Startups. Gledajući njegovu energiju i entuzijazam u nastupu, nisam imao dojam da je to za njega bio “minorni event”.

Naravno da je za startupe važnije da imaju rast, traction, korisnike i prihode nego da nastupaju po natjecanjima – o tome ne moramo raspravljati. Idemo ipak napraviti distinkciju između dvije razine metrike. Jedno je metrika za startup projekte. Drugo je pak metrika za “projekt”  koji bismo radno prema tvom naslovu mogli, uza sve ograde, nazvati “Zagreb kao Silicon Valley”.

Priče o uspjehu užasno su važne za svaki ekosustav i tu si potpuno – al’ totalno! – u pravu. Nisu te priče, međutim, same po sebi dovoljne, niti se one događaju same od sebe i u vakuumu. Netko je, davnih pedesetih, sjeo za stol i osmislio preduvjete koji bi trebali biti ostvareni da se gomila voćnjaka i poljoprivrednih zemljišta južno od SF-a pretvori u tehnologijski centar svemira. To se nije dogodilo samo od sebe. Nema niti jedne države niti grada koji je tech metropola u kojemu startupi nastaju u vakuumu, bez okruženja, bez infrastrukture, bez ekosustava koji ih podržava.

Tvoj doprinos izgradnji hrvatskog ekosustava je izgradnja kompanije koja je velikim dijelom usađena u taj ekosustav. To je – naravno – super! Nas nekolicina drugih – Miho, Saša, Damir i cijeli ZIP tim – radimo direktno na izgradnji tog ekosustava. Preciznije – prepoznali smo (volimo si utvarati) kockice koje nedostaju pa ih nastojimo stvoriti.

Političari su nam neizbježni sugovornici u tom nastojanju. Možemo se mi zanositi time da država “nije važna” u npr. US ili UK ali svatko sa 3.14159 zrna soli u glavi zna da to nije tako. Fred Wilson, Dave McClure i mnogi drugi US investitori itekako aktivno lobiraju u Washingtonu za iste stvari za koje mi lobiramo na Trgu Sv. Marka – promjene legislative u korist startupa. Detalji su, dakako, drugačiji. Njih muči Startup Visa da se Boštjan više ne bi morao zajebavati s vizama nego da se koncentrira na Zemantu a nas puno više muči to da bi neki budući Saša i Viktor mogli svoju firmu umjesto “Dovikivati” nazvati naprosto ShoutEm d.o.o., ali princip je isti, nema nam druge nego raditi (i) s političarima da stvari promijenimo. Ne moramo svi – naravno – ali netko mora.

Rekli smo MINPO da je ove godine Poduzetnički impuls bio q od ovce (ok, bili smo malo pristojniji). Kao rezultat tog komentara sjeli smo za zajednički stol s njima (HUP, CISEX, CRANE, HGK, ZIP) i tako je nastao set prijedloga CISEX i CRANE o tome kako bolje strukturirati Impuls za iduću godinu.

Putem neizbježno nailazimo na ekipu koja pljucka sa sigurne udaljenosti. Svaki razgovor s političarima za te mudrace je “ulizivanje i uvlačenje u guzicu”. Ic ok.

Misliš li da smo Miho, Matija, Damir, IBB, Saša i ja išli na Pantovčak da bi još više napuhali svoje ionako prenapuhane ego tripove? Maras i Bernardić na GOAP, GOAP kod Predsjednika… to nisu “vanity metrics”. Na projektu “Zagreb kao Silicon Valley” to su vrlo mjerljivi, opipljivi milestones. Mijenjati mentalitet, svijest, mindset široke publike, poslovne zajednice i na kraju političkih decision makera je – vjeruj mi – krvav i mukotrpan posao. Ne kažem to da bih si priskrbio pohvale (fakat mi ne trebaju) nego zato što je to tako. Ali to ti je kao posao smetlara – netko to mora odraditi. Jesmo li digli preveliki hype oko GOAP koji jednodnevna posjeta tih ljudi nije zaslužila? U općoj kakofoniji bizarnih vijesti, provincijskih ubojstava, višemjesečne potrage za ubojicom Meksikanke na Marjanu i ostalih pizdarija koje muče ovdašnju javnost – naravno da nismo. Bilo nam je važno da startupi konačno dođu na fucking dnevni red – i uspjeli smo.

Dakle… metrika. Da – ono što su za zasebne startup projekte *pravi* indikatori – korisnici, traction, rast, revenue, customer satisfaction, time to market, whatever … to su za izgradnju ove infrastrukture pažnja javnosti, važnost koju političari, poslovna zajednica, IT struka, mediji dodjeljuju startup ekosustavu.

Coworking spaces … U “normalnim” tech sredinama to je normalna stvar. Biraš onaj koji ti se više sviđa, onaj koji ti je bliže doma, onaj u koji zalazi komad koji ti je zapeo za oko. U Zagrebu će ZIP profunkcionirati *do kraja mjeseca* i to će biti metrika – do jučer, nula coworking prostora, od sutra – jedan.

Silicon Valley nije nastao slučajno. Neki ljudi su ciljano radili na tome da taj prostor zaživi kao high tech centar. Jedan od tih ljudi bio je Frederick Terman koji je 1951. oko Stanforda pokrenuo ono što danas nazivamo “poduzetničkom zonom”. Tisuću devetsto pedeset i fucking prve. To je bilo čak prije nego što sam se ja rodio, iako to zvuči nemoguće!

Europa je u užasnom zaostatku za US. Hrvatska je u podjednako užasnom zaostatku za Europom. No – Europa (uključujući Seedcamp! ali o tom nekom drugom prilikom) marljivo radi na smanjivanju tog zaostatka a ima nas i u Hrvatskoj koji nastojimo raditi na tome da se tih šezdeset i nešto godina zaostatka koliko toliko smanji i premosti. So let’s fucking do it :-) :-)

Cheers,

Ivo

Welcome to Twitter

A few friends have asked me about Twitter. I decided it wouldn’t hurt to post a few “beginner’s guides” links here. All you experienced Twitter people with many many followers and thousands of tweets – probably best to move on, or perhaps comment / contribute more links.

Alan, Neven, Andrea and whoever else drops by – hope this is of at least some use :-)

The Ultimate Guide for Everything Twitter

The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter

A non-fanatical beginner’s guide to Twitter

A Beginner’s Guide to Twitter Basics

Introduction on Twitter.com and an intro video with a walk through key features

For Croatian users and other lovers and students of Croatian:

Kako koristiti Twitter

Što je Twitter i kako ga koristiti

 

Enjoy folks! Further contributions and comments are welcome as always :-)

 

The overlooked Sergey Brin

The management change at Google has been blogged and commented to death – so hopefully it won’t hurt if I add a few thoughts of my own.

In the celebrity-obsessed world of blogs and Web media, as usual, everyone is focusing on Schmidt and Page. Is this good for Google? Is this bad for Google? Google will now blossom, Google has just commited suicide. The CEO is the be-all and end-all of every company: it’s Jobs vs. Ballmer vs. Zuckerberg vs. Ellison vs. (now) Page. The CEO is God and everyone else is “staff”.

Larry Page certainly has a huge responsibility. That responsibility, however, has a very simple focus: the bottom line. Larry’s first and foremost priorities will be revenue, profit and stock price.

All of those are important – but they won’t secure Google’s future, only the present. And in this present, as Martin Varsavsky spelled out so well, Google – and Page – need to focus on just two things: search – which is bringing in all of the money – and Android, which isn’t making any money but has been a huge, strategic success for Google.

What’s next for Google? Surely management and the board are watching Microsoft with horror, as one initiative after another fails to register on the revenue radar and Microsoft continues to be a few-tricks pony: Office, Windows and some of the servers.

In the long term, Google cannot continue to depend on a single source of revenue, particularly one that is under attack from all sides – social advertising, spammers & SEO etc.

So – it’s vitally important for the company to secure the long term, and apparently this crucial task is now in the hands of Sergey Brin. Bloggers, pundits, analysts and everyone else would do well to pay a little more attention to what he’ll be up to. Google’s R&D has produced some popular tools – e.g. Mail and Maps – and integrated others well (Android & YouTube) or poorly (almost everything else). No need to mention the fiascos of Wave, Buzz etc. Martin is totally right: focus and discipline are sorely needed – not only in execution of what is now there but also in producing new stuff. The social space is one that Google has completely dropped the ball on.

It would be *really* interesting to see Google take some major further steps in operating system design. All of today’s OS-es are age-old and architected for a completely different era. Microsoft has their Singularity team apparently locked in a gilded cage, researching this very area to death with no plans of deployment in the real world, clearly petrified of the possibility of cannibalizing the Win cash cow.

Of course there are many, many areas which Google is doing research on and of which I have no clue or idea. In any case, Sergey Brin and his colleagues need to come up with something impressive, strategic and profitable, to make sure Google has a future other than being an advertising commodity.

Movies!

So the Zagreb Film Festival is with us again! Usually we realize what’s happening with these interesting festivals too late and somehow miss out on most of the action. Well… not this time! We were expedient enough and got to the box office on time to score tix to… count’ em… SIX movies. So I thought I’d share our picks with those of you that might be interested.

Boy

Whisky With Vodka

Me, My Gypsy Family and Woody Allen

The First Beautiful Thing

Winter’s Bone

Mammuth

So we’re looking forward to a film-filled week. Yaaay!

Zašto se znojimo?

Zašto se, dakle, znojimo u najvrućijim danima zagrebačkog ljeta za jedan i ovako i onako “lost cause”? Pa… jednim dijelom zbog zamijenjenih ili podmetnutih teza koje su se nakupile oko “slučaja Varšavska”:

“Izija vuk magare”

Naprotiv. Rampa će se, po svemu sudeći, izgraditi – ali sve što se iskopa uvijek se može natrag zatrpati. Investitor do dana današnjeg nije osigurao imovinsko-pravne uvjete da poveže rampu s garažom. U prijevodu, vlasnici stanova (nekih) kroz koje Tomica mora proći su neki drugi ljudi koji ne pokazuju volju dozvoliti mu prolaz. Stoga, dok s njima ne riješi tu zavrzlamu, Tomica i njegovi stanari će se po rampi moći samo sanjkati zimi i spuštati na skateboardu ljeti.

“Sve je uzalud”

Naprotiv. Izgradi li Tomica rampu i poveže ju s garažom u svom monstr-projektu, cijeli je ovaj slučaj već sada dao veliki, veliki rezultat. Pokazao je da se institucije civilnog društva, nestranački i vanstranački aktivisti mogu organizirati i da mogu mobilizirati kritičnu masu građana koji su u stanju od “20 m asfalta” učiniti nacionalnu temu, širu i dalekosežniju od tog malog komada zagrebačkog (dragocjenog!) asfalta.

“Aktivisti nisu vjerodostojni i zapravo su (nečiji) plaćenici”

Ovo je jedna od klasičnih teza koju je Tomica, svojim vrlo aktivnim PR angažmanom putem masmedija, prilično uspješno uvalio “kritičnim urbanim građanima”. Ne poznam osobno Tomislava Tomaševića, a s Teodorom Celakoskim sam razgovarao samo jednom. No – Tonija Vidana poznam dugo, dugo, još iz srednje škole i drago mi je što ga mogu nazvati svojim prijateljem. Stoga pouzdano mogu reći da Toni nije ničiji plaćenik, da iza njega ne stoje nikakvi “prikriveni moćnici” koji samo čekaju da jadnom Horvatinčiću propadne projekt kako bi se oni ukrcali sa svojim interesima. I samo to – poznanstvo s Tonijem – više mi je nego dovoljno da budem uvjeren da niti njegovi kolege nisu ni od koga izmanipulirani već da je njihovo zalaganje i nastojanje – autentično.

“Tema je prenapuhana”

Varšavska ulica “kao takva” i “po sebi” je dio dragocjene (premale) pješačke zone u najužem centru Zagreba pa je vrijedna zalaganja i bez širih implikacija. No – u ovom cijelom slučaju sve vrvi od “širih implikacija”. Kao što je to lijepo primijetio Jurica Pavičić (čiji je tekst misteriozno nestao s portala Jutarnjeg da bi – srećom – osvanuo na H-Alteru) Varšavska je jedan od stotina slučajeva uzduž i poprijeko Hrvatske u kojoj se javni interes krši da bi se nepropisno izašlo u susret privatnom. Ali… kako to suhoparno zvuči “javni i privatni interes”. Javni interes – to su parkovi u kojima smo se družili, igrali skrivača, ljubili, cugali, u kojima su se naši klinci ljuljali na ljuljačkama i učili voziti bicikl. To je ona uvala u koju smo dolazili na kupanje i ribolov, a u kojoj je već niknuo ili će sutra niknuti “all inclusive” resort gdje ćete imati pristup samo s jarkonarandžastom plastičnom narukvicom – dakako, ako platite aranžman od subote do subote. Iza tog suhoparnog “javnog interesa” skrivaju se mjesta na kojima smo odrastali, sazrijevali, zajebavali se i bili frustrirani – najljepša mjesta po tim gradovima i malim mjestima za koja nismo pristali da ih gradonačelnici ili sitni općinari prodaju Horvatinčićima ili –  u slučaju otoka Hvara – ratnim profiterima tipa Vladimir Zagorac.

U Varšavskoj se ne lome samo pitanja prostora. Lome se i pitanja korupcije – nikada konkretizirane ali dovoljno ozbiljne da se njome bavi državno odvjetništvo. Lome se pitanja sprege naizgled “vladajućih” s naizgled “oporbom” čiji se bučni saborski ili gradskoskupštinski medijski sukobi vrlo brzo, u tihim sobama Gornjeg grada ili Trga Stjepana Radića, pretvaraju u diskretni dogovor oko “nekompliciranja” – kao što je to iskusila Tajma Rismondo koja je kao nagradu za “kompliciranje”, odnosno brigu o javnom interesu, dobila cipelu.

Dobro je to primijetio netko u ovim brojnim tekstovima – ljudi se ne mogu mobilizirati oko “velikih tema”. Nećete dobiti građane da dođu na Cvjetni ili pred Sabor i protestiraju protiv apstraktnih tema – “Dole korupcija”, “Dole loš porezni sustav”… Ljude uvijek i svugdje mobiliziraju konkretni slučajevi, najčešće naoko banalni, u kojima se reflektira i sublimira nezadovoljstvo ozbiljnim, krupnim temama. Rosa Parks nije htjela ustati sa svog sjedala u autobusu i – eto nesreće, one thing leads to another… Varšavska je naša Rosa Parks.

“Sve je legalno”

Iskreno – ne znam ni sam da li Tomica ima sve papire. On tvrdi da ima, aktivisti tvrde da nema. No – činjenica jest da slučaj istražuje DORH, pa ćemo valjda u dogledno vrijeme čuti i njihovo mišljenje. No – čak i da su svi papiri tu, sasvim je jasno da su oni pribavljeni na nepropisan način. Ključnu odluku o “javnom interesu” za projekt, na temelju kojega je odobreno povećanje gabarita itd., koju je morala donijeti Skupština, suočen s neposlušnom Skupštinom donio je umjesto nje – gradonačelnik Bandić, tada svemoćan a danas nevidljiv. No – odluka je dalje tu, ali već za koji dan se može dogoditi i neka druga odluka. Ako je, dakle, čak i sve legalno, i slijepcu je jasno da nije legitimno, i da je cijeli projekt proguran mimo interesa grada Zagreba i njegovih građana.

“Aktivisti su smotani”

Naprotiv. Pravo na grad i Zelena akcija pokazali su se u ovom slučaju kao iznimno dobro organizirani. Naravno da im se može prigovoriti tisuću stvari. Morali bi poraditi na retoričkim vještinama. Ne koriste dobro mogućnosti digitalnih medija. Itd. itd. itd. – koliko samo nesavršenosti u toj ekipi, komentiraju promatrači sa strane, mislioci, analitičari, cinici, realisti, urbani intelektualci. Sve je to možda točno ali sve je to, isto tako, sasvim sporedno u ovom slučaju. Ono što je važno, presudno važno, jest da su uspjeli kroz duge 3,5 godine biti uporni, umješni, postupno podižući razinu interesa, broj zainteresiranih i motiviranih, pretvarajući korak po korak Varšavsku od crtice u donjem lijevom stupcu do prvorazredne političke teme na naslovnicama svih “dead tree” masmedija i u udarnim terminima vijesti nacionalnih televizija – o portalima da i ne govorimo. Nema tome dugo da su Bandić i njegova ekipa olako vrijeđali Tea Celakoskog i prosvjednike kao marginalce i luzere. Danas Bandića nema nigdje, a tema Varšavske dovela je do toga da su stotine prosvjednika izviždale Milanovića, čovjeka koji se već vidi u ulozi premijera, na stepenicam njegovog vlastitog stranačkog sjedišta. Nakon prosvjeda ispred SDP-a, ambicije “Kukuriku koalicije” koja je već podijelila ministarske fotelje, i koju politički establishment vidi kao sigurnog dobitnika idućih izbora, gledaju se iz sasvim drugačije perspektive. Celakoski i Tomašević na Cvjetnom nastupaju pred kamerama u društvu austrijskih istražitelja Hypo makinacija i malverzacija, i koliko god se kopalo po Varšavskoj nema tog “analitičara” koji će im uvaliti etiketu marginalaca i luzera.

Nemojte me krivo shvatiti – nije mi ni na kraj pameti glorificirati ovu ekipu – i sam bih im mogao nanizati gomilu prigovora, kritika i sugestija za poboljšanje. Ali u praksi, na zagrebačkom snijegu (u veljači) i usijanom srpanjskom asfaltu pokazali su, sa čitavom svojom ekipom, da svima nama, običnim smrtnicima, građanima i biračima, sudbina gusaka u magli i ovaca za klanje nije bogomdana. Da li ćemo šutke trpiti sva sranja koja nam se događaju ili ćemo – konačno – reći “Jebem ti mater, dosta više!” sad ovisi samo o nama.

Velebit

To most international travelers, Croatia is best known for its beautiful coastline on the Adriatic, with gems such as Dubrovnik, Korčula, Hvar, Rab and many others. There are many other areas of this small but wonderful country to explore, however, and one that I find fascinating is the Velebit mountain range.

Velebit stretches 145 km in length, from the Vratnik pass above Senj to the Zrmanja river, along and above the Adriatic coast. That is one of its primary attractions – a rugged mountain directly above the sparkling sea, featuring spectacular views of the sea and the Adriatic islands but also a climate that can be dramatically varied in a very small space – hiking on a chilly, cloudy day might easily end with a glass of wine and fish on a grill in a charming seaside village.

I don’t hike as much as I’d like to but when I do I really enjoy it. It took quite a bit of coordination, thanks largely to the horribly unstable May weather in Croatia, but Tihomir (our guide and leader), Tomislav, Ante and I packed our things into my car on Friday (May 28th) afternoon, after work, and took off for Karlobag on the coast, directly under the Velebit range. Interestingly enough, hotels nearer our planned trail in Gospić and Baške Oštarije were – fully booked. Go figure – apparently not all tourists are obsessed with the “sun and sea” formula. Mountain tourism FTW!

View from Hotel "Zagreb" in Karlobag

Later that night - moonlight on the Adriatic at Karlobag

The next morning turned out to be sunnier than we expected – a good sign although you never know what you can expect in the mountains above. Packing up our stuff, we headed for our starting point – Stupačinovo near the small village of Baške Oštarije. Baške Oštarije, at an altitude of 900+ m above sea level, are at the mountain pass in Velebit leading from the town of Gospić to the Adriatic coast. Anyway – in Stupačinovo we left the car behind and headed for the trail, backpacks full of sandwiches and bottled water. Ante had checked a day or two before – the only mountain cabin (“planinarski dom”) on our trail was undergoing routine cleanup and we couldn’t count on any food or drinks there – we had to take everything we needed with us. Amazingly enough, none of us remembered to bring along the traditional flask of brandy to warm us up on our way, so we were completely alcohol-free. Please don’t tell anyone about this embarassment…

So here we were at the start of the trail

From left: Tomo, Ante & Tihomir - still fresh!

Tihomir was our guide. Like the rest of the team, he had never been to this part of the mountain, but he had done his homework – and thoroughly. From web sites, blogs, forums and books he had laid out our hiking tour, and he was (of course) equipped with a precise hikers map to guide us through the wilderness. To our left was the road by which we would (hopefully!) be coming back at the end of the day, and our first steps were along a nice, civilized path

Hopefully - we'd be returning this way..

Well… this nice, civilized path didn’t last very long. “We need to go up this way” Tihomir said after a few minutes. “Here?!” we asked. “Of course – what did you expect?”

Away from the nice road and into the hills in search of Kiza

So off we went, away from the beaten track and up into the mountain, on our way to our first main destination – the Velebit summit of Kiza.

As we went up into the Velebit range, the situation started looking less and less like “Adriatic holiday” and more and more like Tolkiens “Misty Mountains”.

Velebit - Land of the Misty Mountains

Tomo and Tihomir decided a look into the deep vally below would be good for contemplating our next moves…

Tihomir and Tomo contempating our next moves on the way to Kiza

A few minutes later, we were close to Kiza when what we had feared most started happening: rain. It turned out the forecast was right, however – it fell only lightly and only for 10-15 minutes. Only Ante went to the extreme measure of pulling out his umbrella, the rest of us made do with light jackets and caps.

Ante & blue umbrella

A few more steps and there we were – Kiza. The peak itself is solid rock and fairly slippery after the brief rain. Tihomir was up first, and Tomo and I followed after some deliberation, not being very eager to go “slip sliding away”. Still, we couldn’t resist and clambered up the few remaining meters. At the top we found a lone fellow admiring the view. Turned out he was – Swiss! “Too much snow for climbing back home.” he said. Well all you hikers and mountain climbers – if Swiss people are coming to Velebit for hiking that should be the best invitation for the rest of you!

Kiza - the rocky top

On our way down from Kiza, we got to the pass of Alaginac and from there it was all the way down into the forest valley of Crni Dabar. “Dabar” usually means “beaver” in Croatian, but Tihomir explained to us that in the local dialect Dabar actually means something like “forest”. Down, down into the valley we went, with some wonderful views of Velebit green in the late spring.

Velebit forest - green green green

The path through Crni Dabar forest was clearly not a well-trodden one. At some points we had to push our way through the dense bushes, but on we went. This is to me one of the things I like best about hiking in Velebit – in just one day you can experience many different surroundings and situations – from the rocky, barren tops, to lush fields where shepherds still take their sheep out to pasture, to bushes and forests like the one we were going through right now. In some ways this is a reflection of Croatia itself – a small country with many, many different things to see and experience. No just mountains and islands, mind you, but also delicious meals and great wine as well!

But it’s time we returned to our travels. After some time in the valley, our path started going uphill again. Along the way Tomo started getting really hungry and wanted to eat a mushroom right off a tree bark but we implored him to change his mind and focus on the sandwiches in his backpack instead:

Tomo - in desperation - attacks the wild mushroom!

From Crni Dabar it was all the way uphill to Ravni Dabar. There is a mountain home there (actually I don’t know the exact English expression for “planinarski dom” since I’ve never hiked in the States!). These houses, common throughout the Croatian hills and mountains, offer varying degrees of comfort and hospitality. This one, “PD Ravni Dabar”, can sleep up to 50 people in ascetic hiking surroundings and usually offers food and drinks. Ante – our man in charge of accomodation logistics – had checked on this a few days before and found out that volunteers would be cleaning and tidying up the place that day, so we couldn’t count on anything except a bench to sit on. It had been 5 hours by now since our start from Stupačinovo and we were quite exhausted. Those benches wouldn’t have been more welcome even if they were leather sofas!

Oh blessed "Ravni Dabar" mountain home!

Well you can imagine our delight when the volunteers cleaning up the place were able to offer us a few beers! “Velebitsko” beer is quite highly regarded amongst Croatian beer lovers and not easily found in bars. Well – this was probably the most appropriate place in the world to enjoy it.

Beer! Beer! Beer! (all gone tho!)

From Ravni Dabar it was up, up, up again. Pretty soon our hospitable cabin was just a red speck in the valley below. We were headed for the final stretch, and for this we would be walking down the final part of Premuzic trail. The Premuzic trail is a remarkable feat of mountain construction and engineering, laid out and initiated by Ante Premuzic in the 30’s, and built by local stone craftsmen in a sort of New Deal public works project. For anyone interested in hiking through Velebit, making at least part of the 57-kilometer trail is a must. The guys and I had been on the northern part of the trail on an earlier trip with a larger group of friends and colleagues. We would now cover a small final portion, and completing it remains a project we are all very much looking forward to. For some glimpses of the trail and views from that earlier trip, look no further:

The Premuzic trail in northern Velebit, 2007.

Northern Velebit & Adriatic sea, as seen from the spectacular Premuzic trail, 2007.

So it was – hello Mr Premuzic! Ante couldn’t suppress his excitement that the main architect of this wonderful achievement was his namesake… Once onto the trail, we had a light walk back into Stupačinovo. There, from the valley, we could see Kiza wrapped in clouds… Many hours earlier we had been up on that peak and who knows – we might come back again one day. Our trusty Volvo was waiting just where we had left it – the whole trip might have made a nice backdrop for one of those Volvo commercials, although this particular vehicle gets a lot more kilometers in Zagreb than in the wilderness.

Back in Zagreb, we were tired as hell for the next few days. Nine hours on the trail all in all, with one hour of rest in Ravni Dabar. This had been the longest hike any of us had undertaken but it was well worth it. Velebit is truly magical. The weather hadn’t been beautiful sunshine but we weren’t complaining at all – we had had very little rain and the day had seen a comfortable combination of clouds and sunshine, actually very pleasant for our hiking expedition.

Worn and tired but happy – we had made it. The trip had been a success and a joy, and we had found and climbed Kiza – much to Tihomir’s satisfaction but making the whole team very happy as well. By the way, as a fitting tribute to my longest hike yet – this is by far the longest blog post I’ve written so far!

No doubt in my mind – we’ll be going back to Velebit again. The sooner the better!

For a few more pics from the hike, stroll on over to the picture gallery.

Eastern Europe – land of digital freedom?

I’ve been following the developments around copyright with more and more interest and concern.

Clearly, on a global scale we are in an era of dramatic change in this area. As is usually the case, the established “powers” – record labels, film studios, publishing companies etc. – don’t have a clue about what to do next and are therefore desperately seeking to maintain some kind of status quo. As this becomes more and more unsustainable, they are searching for ever more radical measures. Kids are being arrested in American cinemas for having a birthday party at the theatre and inadvertently filming a few scenes of the on-screen movie while actually taking videos of their friends having fun. Single moms are being slapped with unimaginable fees for downloading a few pop tunes. The old world (as in “pre-Internet”) entertainment and content corporations are out for blood and any victim, no matter how small or poor, has been declared fair game. In fact, the poorer the better – let them be an example to others!

To me, the most worrying aspect of this strategy to date has been the development of so-called “Three Strikes Laws”. One after the other, the “pillars of modern democracy” – France, the US, Canada, UK and others – are introducing laws that enable citizens to be effectively banned from Internet access for life. Even worse – the regulations enable such drastic measures on mere accusations. If a music label or industry association, for example, simply *accuses* you of copying copyrighted material three times, your ISP must disconnect you, you are placed on a black list, and *no other* ISP may grant you Internet access. As a digital citizen – you are dead.

Now, the Baltic sea neighbors Finland and Estonia have declared Internet access to be a legal right. So I’ve been wondering… What are the chances of Southeast European countries, for once, not being late to the show but actually leading the race? What do I mean by that? First of all, Croatia and its neighbours would be wise to take advantage of the situation. While the UK, for example, is being mired down with a disastrous “Digital Economy Act”, perhaps our country and maybe even our neighbors could go the other way.

Could this be a “region of digital freedom”? One country – or several – that would declare digital civic rights to be truly fundamental, and implement this strategy on not only a legal but a constitutional level. Commit firmly to the principle that access to the digital space is just as critical as the freedom of any other form of communication – freedom of speech, press or artistic expression.

I don’t think this option is purely altruistic, a kind of “wishful world”. On the contrary – countries which embrace the new digital society with a proper understanding and a forward-looking attitude will be the economic winners of tomorrow. Just like medieval towns growing around rivers and sea ports, and succeeding depending on their treatment of shipbuilders, traders and guilds, cities and countries in the digital society will prosper or decline depending on their digital strategies. With many major Western countries enacting backward-looking legislation, primarily under lobbyist pressure from the dying media, information and entertainment conglomerates, a window of opportunity is opening up for second or third-tier economies to step in and say “OK – you guys clearly don’t get this digital thing – we’ll be more than happy to take over.”

This is just a blog post, of course. Still, I can’t help but wonder – is there an intriguing opportunity for Croatia and its neighbors to seize the day?

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