I digitalized Berlin's registration form

291 points5
27160573 hours ago

No, no, it's all wrong.

Here's how we digitize our administration in Germany the proper, Germanic way:

A fixed sum for digitization is allocated and the local government publicly advertises a project. A bureaucrat higher up the foodchain has a friend/cousin/former colleague who runs an IT service business side gig. Guess who will win the contract. The friend/cousin/former colleague starts building by outsourcing the project to some sweatshop. The project will exceed its initially planned costs and timeline by a factor of two or more. Once completed, the final product will consist of a clunky frontend allowing the user to fill a form. After the user has completed the form, it will be distributed via e-mail to the low-level clerks. They will print it out and process it by typing the very same information into another software running on their work computers. Print again. Then the user has to schedule an appointment at the local administrative office to get the form signed and stamped in person. Upon completion, the finalized form will be faxed to the next administrative authority in the chain.

The frontend runs on a Raspberry Pi located somewhere in the administrative building. That server will of course be turned off when all administrators have left the building (save energy!), meaning the frontend will only be available during weekdays from 8 am to 1 pm.

nforgerit3 hours ago

German here. I'll have to dissent on the buddy-business part. That's not how Germany works. It's the opposite, which turns out to be even worse:

As a bureaucrat that wants to solve a specific problem, you form a project and are required to make a public submission. Those submissions have to adhere to very formal predefined legal standards (in order to omit corruption) which make them incredibly time-consuming paperwork. For some projects you'll be even legally required to make a EU submission which is even worse. Some German smart-asses "solved" that by creating a skeleton agreement with a handful of BS consulting companies (McKinsey et al.) which therefore win projects in a round robin fashion whilst adhering to some random requirements, e.g. "cheapest wins".

So what we get after all is 20 years of all federal states and municipalities being bullish of their own solutions, hundreds of failed digitization attempts for minor features as well as major services, ~3.5B EUR poured into BS consulting shops and nothing that remotely works end-to-end.

jlangenauer2 hours ago

To be fair, this is how most "advanced" economies operate. It's identical in Australia (although there the consulting companies run the sweatshops directly so they can skim more cream off the top). Same in the UK.

moomin2 hours ago

Well, the UK does both. It has both incredible barriers to entry that exclude anyone other than consulting firms whose central skills is dealing with them from participation, and it also has VIP lanes for routing work to your mates.

ido1 hour ago
carlosjobim23 minutes ago

What frightens me is comparing the snail-like rate of progress in the post-modern era with the rapid progress during the 20th century, regardless of economic and governmental system. It's like the a hand brake was simply engaged. I get it that people in power want to stall things so that they can skim money for their own purposes, but doesn't anybody else get just bored by the lack of progress?

Angostura1 hour ago is largely in-house.

dauertewigkeit45 minutes ago

Both you and the GP are correct. I know of instances of both scenarios.

croes2 hours ago

Especially because the main criteria is the price.

So the cheapest wins, and most of the time the price estimation was a lie and you need lots of additional payments or you need to start all over again.

lnxg33k150 minutes ago

My buddy at Volkswagen and deutsche bank would like to have a word

Jean-Philipe2 hours ago

I actually had to work with two German government agencies, digitalizing parts of their work flow and it was surprisingly pleasant. The gov employees were super happy I saved them a lot of work and made their daily lives easier. My clients (small software shops) got to set up and maintain the server for them. There was some bureaucracy hurdles my clients had to tackle, but no show stoppers.

I think the biggest problem for government agencies is to find a nice software shop that actually cares and delivers value. They usually have no way of telling who will be good and who will rip them off. Gov agencies are so easy to get ripped off and nobody will take responsibility when things go south.

nisa2 hours ago

Very happy to hear that! Heard similiar stories but usally it's on a lower level where things can go right more often than not. The bigger the projects the bigger the problems.

nisa3 hours ago

Having worked in some projects related to German bureaucracy: It's not exactly correct from my experience but it's close - is usally works like this:

A fixed sum for digitization is allocated and the local government publicly advertises a project. Nobody knows how to write a good tender or the tender is written in such a way that only some specific companies can fullfil the request (I doubt the cousin thing is so common but I might be wrong here) but I saw how people writing the tender and the companies involved (mostly consulting companies or some small specific companies that lack quality) write that thing together.

Now the biggest problem: Often the lowest bidder has to win the tender by law - if you choose the good company often the lowest bidder takes you to court.

The lowest bidder delivers something late and broken and is allowed to get more money for fixing it - often so much money that there is an incentive to be broken by design - i.e. high maintenance costs / overly complicated architectures.

Everone is unhappy and it's of course not the failure of the broken tender or the shitty company - so there needs to be a follow up project that fixes the issues that again is won by the shitty company.

To see how expensive and crazy this gets: - a form where you could apply for 200€ for heating costs / covid assistance costs multiple million Euros - some consulatancies were involved. It couldn't handle the load but was celebrated to be next level because nothing had to be printed out.

It's not that Germany lacks talent or even companies that could deliver good quality but the process is broken.

Another problem is data protection law - this is a good thing in Germany but it's often used as an excuse in the bureaucracy and a weapon to fight progress.

For me it feels like the public administration was made to be helpless and the public money is stolen by consultancies and shitty companies.

nicbou3 hours ago

> Another problem is data protection law

I want to emphasise this for non-German readers. "Datenschutz!" has become a sort of one-word meme to explain why everything still runs on fax.

mousetree3 hours ago

My favourite, taking a photo of a nice outdoor scene with random people in the background, someone will always run up to you shouting "Datenschutz!"

OoooooooO48 minutes ago

Doesn't matter because Panoramafreiheit.

usrusr2 hours ago

Harmless, in my experience. The gloves come off when there's not a person in the picture but a car.

fbn792 hours ago

Same for Italy... just add more shit

Escapado3 hours ago

For anyone thinking this is satire: It's suprisingly close to the truth. We have Elster for electronically submitting taxes. Apparently the Elster Project started in 1996. And all it is, is a digital version of the manual tax forms. It's entirely stupid. When I file my taxes I still have to leave out 12 random pages (instead of Elster figuring out that I don't need to file them and simply not show them to me). And last time I called the tax office the woman on the phone told me she can't answer a specific question I had because she would need to get my printed out file for that from the cabinet down the hall so I will have to call again later. 27 years. This is where we're at.

mejutoco3 hours ago

I do not disagree that sometimes German bureaucracy is not the most efficient.

But. I have used Elster and, while it is true it looks old and overly complicated, it actually works great.

You get _a lot_ of very useful warnings about fields that cannot be 0 or must at least be x, based on some other distant field. You can save previous forms and start from them (for recurrent things like VAT quarterly declaration). You can save progress and log in using certificates, change to be notified electronically instead of per physical mail.

IMO Elster would be even better if they would _never_ change the number of the fields. If you buy a book about German taxes (I know, fun) they can say fill in field 47, and it it prob now 49 because the fields changed.

Escapado2 hours ago

Very valid points. But I would argue that guiding the user through a set of basal questions to exclude a bunch of fields and pages would do wonders for the whole thing. I get by alright but most of my friends and family find it utterly complicated and have to consult a tax advisor because they don't even know which fields are even relevant to them and the explanations in them often leave them with more questions than they had when they started.

nicbou3 hours ago

Elster is still among the best digital products Germany has to offer. Pretty much everything else is worse.

Cthulhu_3 hours ago

Except it won't be a raspberry pi, because one of the people will have convinced upper management that the load MAY be excessively high so it needs to be a mainframe grade high available cluster that will need to be requisitioned first.

kakwa_3 hours ago

Given the project will probably take 10 to 15 years to be completed, honestly, they are probably not wrong.

By the time it's ready for production, the latest Raspberry Pi will probably be about as powerful as the fancy cluster.

jskherman2 hours ago

I believe this is just reality for a lot of Governments with procurement biddings. Just replace here the IT solution with other projects like construction (very profitable or so I hear), mining, office supplies like laptops, and etc.

It's such a cliché that I'm already tired at this point. I'm completely baffled as to why people keep voting these people for over two decades and obeying the vote-buying (when they can easily just keep the money and vote for the better/lesser evil candidates).

At least in Germany, it's a lot less blatant.

jcarrano3 hours ago

The part about typing it again by hand and printing it is very real!

nisa2 hours ago

It's scary - if you apply for government student assistance you can apply online and it get's printed out - they had to employ people for printing!

brap3 hours ago

Yet for some reason Europeans feel so strongly against privitization of public services

nisa3 hours ago

Most of these shitty online services are already run by private consulting companies that burn your tax money.

senand3 hours ago

I had to laugh out loud. I want to say that's unrealistic, but alas, it unfortunately is not.

Bissness4 hours ago


Bürgerämter are most of the time a fucking joke. My registration in Berlin took months after I already moved there, the waiting times are just that long, and this seems to apply to many cities. I live in another city now, and my ID card has been expired for months now (which, legally, is a misdemeanor). There isn't a single free appointment anywhere, citywide. You can attempt to go personally there in the early morning, yet here is what I encountered: arriving half an hour early to the Bürgeramt: THIRTY people waiting there, squatting in the hallways, all the way out to the door. On another day, arriving an HOUR before it opened: 12 people already waiting. It's all a joke. And this isn't a recent phenomenon - it's mismanagement for decades, the people responsible should all be fired (but of course that isn't possible).

There should be a "Minister for Time", who has the authority to crack down on such bullshit, not only in the German state bureaucracy, but also in the medical system (good luck getting any quick care here!). Both have taken to a level that is undignified, and wastes person-years of sitting in depressing places. Waiting should be an exception, not the norm, and there need to be metrics against that which have consequences.

Vingdoloras3 hours ago

Here's what I do when I need to go to a Bürgeramt: For every type of appointment you can make, there should be an official website containing links to each Bürgeramt's calendar page. Bookmark that website, not the individual pages. Find one or a few locations you'd prefer, then open each calendar in a separate browser! Opening multiple in one browser doesn't work, as it remembers your last selection per browser session. Next, keep refreshing and checking the calendars every 30 minutes. Slots free up pretty often, but they're also full again soon after. If you're lucky, you can figure out when canceled appointments are entered into the system for your location (for mine it was 10AM every day). Around that time, there's a good chance you might even get a few slots that are only a week or two into the future. Once you figured out when slots open up, check around that time daily. Book the first slot you can get, then keep doing this for a few days and book any slot that is better than your previous one (but be nice and cancel the old slot).

It's a lot of work, and it shouldn't be necessary, but I'd never go into a Bürgeramt without an appointment and this method has worked for me every time so far.

nicbou3 hours ago

I wrote a tool for that:

It's officially sanctioned by the city, but it's capped to one request every 3 minutes to avoid replacing the official website. Every few months, I ask them for permission to add other services, and I get ghosted.

However, the tool is open source, so you can just `pip install` it and run it on any appointment type you want.

ravdeepchawla2 hours ago

Maybe this was you as well :-)

Your form helped immensely in the anmeldung process last year for me. Keep fighting the good fight sir.

nicbou2 hours ago

Yep, that's also me! Glad it helped

RileyJames1 hour ago

This, with a little more automation, is exactly how I was able to book a covid quarantine hotel to return to NZ.

It felt pretty unfair that the average user was at an impossible disadvantage because the system had no protection against automation.

It was quite obvious others were already running automation, but I only booked for myself and then turned it off.

I was impressed NZ got a highly functional system up and running extremely quickly, but it became a game of high frequency trading.

seb12043 hours ago

You make great use of modern technology and ingenuity. Congratulations, everyone should do the same. Sarcasm end. As a German living abroad I look in horror at the stories I read. Where I live changing the official registered address is a log into the gov services site, change it and two weeks late I get a letter with ned address stickers for my driver's licence. The driver licence on my phone does not need a sticker obviously.

kioleanu3 hours ago

You can automate that with a browser extension that checks the page and plays a sound when it changed

Goz3rr3 hours ago

I ran into something similar as a Dutch person trying to buy a car from Germany. The initial plan was to drive the car back from Germany, but to do this I had to get an export license plate. This can only be done in the municipality where the car was sold, and they told me I was lucky because I could get an appointment quite quick, which was a month and a half from now. I would also have to bring the car to the Straßenverkehrsamt. How I would have gotten the car there was also a mystery to me, as I did not have a license plate and to get a license plate I would have to bring the car there. If I did somehow manage to do that though, I would have to get a physical license plate made and then get temporary insurance. Not a single German insurance company said they could insure the temporary license plate, as I was not already an existing customers of theirs. I ended up just renting a car transporter and bringing it home that way.

The process of getting a license plate once home was actually a breeze. I used the website of the Dutch Vehicle Authority to make an appointment (for the following day at 2pm) and they gave me a temporary license plate. I simply had to write this on a piece of cardboard and put it where the license plate would go. Called the cheapest insurance company to get temporary insurance, which was no problem, and simply drove the car to get it inspected.

vasco2 hours ago

To be honest though as a foreigner living in The Netherlands who doesn't speak a word of Dutch past "lekker", your bureaucracy and general services are probably one of the best in the world. Even your weird medical system is amazing when you actually need help - which I did and got top tier care, extremely fast. The Netherlands should just export their whole system to all of Europe, including the way information is documented in English in every official website.

On top you got a culture of being on time, which is prevalent everywhere, and you wait for stuff very seldomly, and only for a few minutes. Waiting for anything was one of my biggest irks in my home country, the fact that I can make an appointment, be there 5mins early, and get the service, blows my mind.

nottheengineer3 hours ago

There are red license plates for this exact case. Car dealerships generally have them to allow for test drives and bureaucracy drives.

If you buy a car (which is currently unregistered) from a private person that doesn't have those, you just did something that the bureaucracy didn't foresee and at that point, the best course of action is to avoid as much of it as possible.

At this point I have no hope that any of this will getter unless the german state collapses completely.

thesimon55 minutes ago

Dealer plates cannot be used for export.

inductive_magic3 hours ago

I mean, from what I hear Berlin does take the cake on this one, but yes: its a country-wide phenomenon.

For what its worth, I was pleasantly surprised by the things you can do digitally in Kiel.

Schleswig-Holstein, Niedersachsen, Hamburg and Bremen have "Dataport", a publicly owned company which does a lot of the tech for public institutions in the area. While they are not operating at the efficiency of a normal company, they seem to be fairly useful. I'm not sure if something similar exists for other regions in Germany.

bakuninsbart3 hours ago

For Berlin specifically it is important to note the city-state was super broke until around 10 years ago. Many causes for this including mismanagement by the government, but the main cause is the GDR, how Berlin was divided, and how very little industry settled in or around Berlin.

Now this has changed a lot in the last decade or two, but it has been accompanied by avg. yearly net migration of 80k people which is putting a major strain on all public services.

koevet1 hour ago

That's exactly why you want to roll out a digitalisation plan and not throw billion of euros of tax payers money away

PinguTS3 hours ago

The trick is not to go to the main registration side but to the small local offices in the outer areas. Like in Nuremberg not going into the city center but to Katzwang or Großgründlach.

Sometimes you can got there without appointment and you can go in, because they have nothing to do and they are waiting happily for you and they are very friendly.

ahf8Aithaex7Nai3 hours ago

Try registering or deregistering a vehicle in a major German city. That once took me three months, because I simply couldn't get an appointment via the web interface set up especially for that purpose. Since Covid, the process is kind of broken, at least in my city.

csunbird2 hours ago

You might have chosen the worst example for your point, it is super duper easy to register a car online. I registered both of my cars online, the papers arrived in a week but I was able to drive and insure the vehicle without any interruptions. They give you a printout to carry around while the original registration papers arrive, but the police already knows whether the car is registered or not and will not bother you.

thesimon52 minutes ago

> it is super duper easy to register a car online.

If you are in possession of the title of the car, yes.

However if you lease a car, the leasing company will just post the lease to the Zulassungsstelle so that you will not be in possession of the title at any time. So it will require you to go there in person.

nicbou1 hour ago

This is a fairly recent development. The wait times for registering a vehicle were downright absurd.

By the way, the Kfz-Zulassungsstelle is allegedly one of the best-organised offices on Berlin. It's all downhill from there.

ivan_gammel4 hours ago

In Berlin you can usually book a same day appointment for some city services including registration in the morning at 8:00-8:05, when they release few more slots. Sometimes you may need to go somewhere like Alt Tegel quickly, but that worked for me several times.

abdusco3 hours ago

The trick is to look for appointments early in the morning. People who think they won't be able to make it to the appointment that day cancel theirs and there's a bunch of openings every morning.

nicbou1 hour ago
pjmlp3 hours ago

This, it requires getting up around 6 AM or so, however there are always several slots made available for the same day, think last tickets sale for a concert.

gabeidx17 minutes ago

I've used All About Berlin several times during my years in Germany, it's an invaluable resource to anyone who wants to live there.

The other day when I needed this exact form, I realized how much time it was saving me and donated some to show appreciation.

Thanks for your great work @nicbou!

nicbou5 hours ago

This is a pretty specific problem to solve, but I thought you might have a laugh at our desperately broken bureaucracy on our behalf.

I built a digital form filler for a poorly-designed that every Berliner must deal with. I explain what I did to make it clearer and easier to fill.

FirmwareBurner4 hours ago

The German authorities have no incitive to digitize and fix the broken bureaucracy because for one, in their mind there's nothing wrong with it because Germany is Europe's wealthiest country so it can never be wrong, and secondly, digitizing bureaucracy means increased efficiency which means less public servant jobs and they don't want that. What they want is more bureaucracy and more cushy public servant jobs pushing pencils on great benefits. If they wintered to fix bureaucracy they would have don it already.

In German state and traditional company culture, digitization is seen as a threat, not an asset. I remember a few years agon when my gf at the time was working at a big German industrial automation company and she was struggling a lot with some horribile ineficient work process involving copy and pasting shit to and from Excel and some VB scripts. So being still locked down to a degree and bored out of my mind, I replaced all her Excel madness with some python scripts that streamlined everything. She took that at work and proudly showed it to her boss hoping for some recognition and he said "if you wanna keep your job, don't bring stuff like this at work, we don't need it, there's nothing wrong with the way we currently do things", and then it hit me that current German software innovation culture is completely FUBAR.

snehk4 hours ago

I'm sorry, but that's just complete nonsense.

> in their mind there's nothing wrong with it because Germany is Europe's wealthiest country so it can never be wrong

There's literally not a single political party that doesn't admit that Germany is being too slow here or that doesn't admit that it's embarassing. On a national and on a local level. You can Google that if you don't believe me.

> digitizing bureaucracy means increased efficiency which means less public servant jobs and they don't want that

Also wrong. There's plenty of unfillable public servant jobs in every city. Public servant jobs are not what they were in the 70s.

> In German state and traditional company culture, digitization is seen as a threat, not an asset.

Also wrong. Germany just upgraded too early, then let everything run and stopped upgrading because the current system works. That's all there is to it. It's also the reason why Romania has faster internet than Germany, for example.

> work process involving copy and pasting shit to and from Excel and some VB scripts

You're in for a wild ride when you find out what kind of IT infrastructure the world uses.

Your whole post is anecdotal and when you try to get to your own interpretation of German culture or why problems exist, you're wrong.

Don't get me wrong: Germany's digital infrastructure _is_ horrible. Just not at all for the reasons you mentioned.

thunfisch4 hours ago

One of the biggest reasons why digitization in Germany is so slow moving is that every municipality can (and does) decide on how to digitize individually.

There is no mandate for the upper levels of government to dictate which solutions are being used on a local level. Combine that with need for tendering on every single solution and you've got a big mess of small companies underbidding bigger companies that could unify the software landscape and instead build a cheaper, small solution that has zero interoperability with the neighboring municipality.

The need for fax is not because people don't know how to use computers, but because there's thousands of applications fulfilling the same exact job, but are incapable of talking to each other. Paper is currently the only compatibility layer that works everywhere.

There are ongoing efforts to provide a common data exchange format (technical working group) as well as redesigning how the software for government is being build (tendering processes, public money - public code movement, et. al.)

German government is currently incapable of doing its job in a way that is legally required, missing deadlines and not providing citizens with the services that they are entitled to because they are unable to manage the workload due to the paperbound processes. There is zero fear of humans being replaced by machines. It's rather that more and more humans are leaving government due to burnout.

konschubert3 hours ago
kelnos3 hours ago

> One of the biggest reasons why digitization in Germany is so slow moving is that every municipality can (and does) decide on how to digitize individually.

I find myself chuckling a little at this, because this is a common excuse for things being slow moving (or just wildly inconsistent from place to place) in the US. It's somehow comforting to know that countries of all size and population that are organized like this will still have the same problems.

To be fair, though, the US and many decent-sized municipalities do actually have a pretty good digitization story. I'm actually having trouble thinking of routine government-related things that have to be done in person... or even by mail. I guess you have to send mail to apply for or renew your passport (though the State Department already has an online form that fills out a printable application for you). And you have to go in person to get a marriage license (but I think that's a feature, not a bug; and hopefully that's not a routine activity, anyway). I had to do an interview to get my Global Entry (eliminates most of the wait at immigration when re-entering the US) thing approved, but the application process was all online, and my recent renewal was completed from my couch.

Otherwise...? I've set foot in a DMV perhaps 3 times since I moved to California 19 years ago (once when I first moved, to take the written driving test; once when I lost my driver's license and had to prove who I was to get a new one; and once when I had to apply for the ridiculous new "REAL ID"). I file my income taxes online, and whatever money I'm due or owed gets electronically transferred. I pay my property taxes online. I activated the electric and gas utility service (not quite government, but adjacent) online when I last moved. Mail forwarding when your address changes is done at the Postal Service's website. I even signed all the paperwork to buy a new home online (if you have a mortgage lender, they'll want some things signed in person, but they can someone to your house for that, and at any rate the government-related paperwork is all handled by a title company for you, at least where I live). You can even pay parking ticket and driving infraction fines online, if you don't want to contest them.

The online systems to take care of this stuff do all vary in clunkiness to some degree, but some of them are quite modern-looking and have decent or even good UX. The federal government even has '' now, which they're slowly (very slowly) getting various agencies to adopt so you have a single sign-in. I don't think states and municipalities are allowed to use it, though.

kioleanu3 hours ago

Romania has better and cheaper internet because of the wild Wild West when everybody and every firm were allowed to pull cables anywhere they pleased. People would buy a 100-200mbit b2b connection for 40 euros and would split it between 15-20 people for 3-5 euro each. It was deregulated for so much time that when the regulations finally came everybody was already connected to fast and cheap internet and they were so used to it that whichever company tried to increase the price and lower the speed would see really shitty returns.

That’s why Digi exploded and Telekom (Romtelecom) needed years to take off. The Greek CEO of Romtelecom would hold meetings in 2008 with upper management where he would dictate loudly that Romanians only want stable internet with great customer care and that’s the direction he is leading the company. That proved not to actually be the case and he unceremoniously left the company afterwards.

Source: I lived all this and was close with the domain

FirmwareBurner4 hours ago

>Germany just upgraded too early, then let everything run and stopped upgrading because the current system works

Upgraded too early to what? Letters and fax machines?

klaustopher3 hours ago
shafyy4 hours ago

Completely agree with you. I think it's just a problem of incentives for the people who make this decisions and work at these positions. "Verbeamtung" (tenure) also doesn't help.

mattmanser4 hours ago

When you're a bit older and have done more consultancy, you'll realize this isn't the case.

It's just that most people are quite conservative, the middle manager your gf approached was the wrong person, the manager didn't want the headache of the discussion that happens with their superiors (who wrote it, what happens if it goes wrong, where's it sending the data, how much money does he want, etc.) and also simply don't trust some random like you.

If she'd been an external consultant talking to the upper echelons, they'd definitely want this, but not as some random python script. Probably as a nice easy to install Excel plugin.

So you were talking to the wrong person.

What she should have done is use the script to work less and get accolades for being a fast and efficient worker, and never shown it to her boss.

By the way, that's exactly what I did for a g/f myself 4 or 5 years ago, and I specifically warned her not to tell her boss about it as it'd be seen as a problem, not a boon. She loved it, turned a week's worth of work into 1/2 an hour, letting her get on with the bits of the job she actually enjoyed.

tmpX7dMeXU3 hours ago

As someone that haven’t ever been to Germany or interacted with any German government, but works with different governments a lot, it has really become apparent that Germans love telling the rest of the world how bad their bureaucracy is, then go on to describe something that sounds entirely common. It’s like New Yorkers telling you how good and unique bodegas are, and it turns out they either grew up in New York City or some one-traffic-light town and just haven’t had any worldly exposure.

Your personal anecdote as another commenter pointed out says much more about your lack of consulting and general workplace experience than it does about German bureaucracy. It all sounds very typical and again what I’d expect as someone that can count on one hand the number of people in Germany I’ve talked to professionally.

twixfel3 hours ago

No, it really is bad. I've lived in the UK and in Germany and Germany is definitely worse. I don't know why you would have such an opinion on something that you, by your own admission, know nothing about.

If anything the opposite of what you're saying is true. Everyone abroad thinks Germany is so efficient and Germany has this amazing reputation, but the reputation is a lie.

kelnos2 hours ago

Perhaps that's true of what the the GP is talking about, but if we consider the article we're discussing here, this requirement when you move to fill out a paper form when you move to a new house, and then wait possibly months for an appointment to bring that form in person to hand to a government official... dear god, that sounds Kafkaesque.

And I say this as an American who was under the impression that some significant bits of the US government bureaucracy are pretty wild. This German thing takes the cake.

Regardless, it's a little weird that you accuse GP of expressing an uninformed opinion about German bureaucracy when you admit that you only have limited secondhand experience with it yourself.

calmoo2 hours ago

It's much worse than you think here. Germany is in the stone age when it comes to digitalization. As an example, most immigrants will be waiting months to hear back from the Auslanderbehorde - and the only way to get them to reply to you within 2 weeks is to send them a fax.

southernplaces71 hour ago
fl73053 hours ago

It might be common, but the German bureaucracy is a lot worse than what Germany's reputation of structure and order would lead foreigners to believe.

And while it might be common around the world, Germany is playing in a lower league than for instance the Scandinavian countries.

In Germany, you need to make appointments and do things in person.

In Sweden, you can change vehicle ownership or register your move to a new address online in minutes.

kelnos2 hours ago

It's nice to know that here in the US we're closer to Sweden than Germany.

I think in most places the buyer of a vehicle still has to mail in a paper form (though if you buy from a car dealership, they'll take care of it), but at least in California, the seller can do their part of the transaction online (which is mainly to inform the DMV that someone else has the vehicle, so you won't be held responsible if something bad happens involving it).

And we don't have to register our moves at all; the government mostly doesn't care if we tell it where we live. Some agencies like the DMV do want to know our address so they can mail us a new driver's license or ID card when the old one expires (but these address changes and license renewals we can do online). The Postal Service will forward our mail to our new address for 3 months if we ask them to, but we don't have to if we don't care.

Obviously the government can and will eventually find out where you live if they need and want to, but there's generally no registration requirement.

nicbou2 hours ago

> The German authorities have no incitive to digitize and fix the broken bureaucracy because for one, in their mind there's nothing wrong with it because Germany is Europe's wealthiest country so it can never be wrong

This is not true. The head of the Berlin Ausländerbehörde is well aware of the issue and frequently says that we need to digitalize in front of the cameras.

According to contacts on the inside, they are operating at full capacity with a personel shortage and have zero slack to stop and fix things.

They have every incentive to fix things, not just out of sheer embarrassment, but because more and more people are suing the state for failure to act (Untätigkeit). I wanted to make this lawsuit process as seamless as possible, but it would not help anyone.

fh9734 hours ago

German administration is already understaffed, and this will get much worse due to increasing retirement and additional complex regulations and laws.

They only chance is simplifying processes and make them more efficient (which includes "digitization"). But apart from staff, this needs strong leadership and expertise, and is made complex by the federal structure.

VanTodi4 hours ago

to be fair, it's way easier now to do your taxes (as a private person). We can do it completely online with no paperwork involved and its actually quite alright. so some innovation is happening, even in the public sector.

what happens in the company is another thing. it really depends on the people working there.

ulfw4 hours ago

None of that is true.

They'd love to "digitise" but their problem is that there is ZERO Software culture in Germany. Likely they'd have some shitty accounting or consulting firm with their 24 yr old associate who can do some Java code something for 10 Billion EUR. It'll take 10 years and obviously won't scale or work properly.

That's why it still hasn't happened. There is no one who can write a requirements doc with much useful content in it besides "make it digital" either.

When they wanted a mobile app to warn of Covid risks nearby they found no one who could write mobile apps besides SAP (not a mobile nor end-user company) and Deutsche Telekom (a Telco, used to be state-owned back in the day). That'll tell you how this will go.

thaumasiotes4 hours ago

> secondly, digitizing bureaucracy means increased efficiency which means less public servant jobs and they don't want that

Increased efficiency doesn't have to mean fewer bureaucrats. It can (and usually does) mean that the same number of bureaucrats achieve all-new levels of intrusiveness.

nicbou2 hours ago

I'm reading Stasiland right now (strong recommendation), and I shudder to think of what the Stasi could do with today's means.

However, in this case, it would mean that machines handle CRUD while humans can tackle the edge cases. Bureaucrat time should not be wasted on typing a printed form back into a computer.

notpushkin4 hours ago

> It can (and usually does) mean that the same number of bureaucrats achieve all-new levels of intrusiveness.

Well, this turned dark pretty fast huh.

thaumasiotes1 hour ago

Well, it could also mean that the same number of bureaucrats take longer lunches.

FirmwareBurner4 hours ago

The German state is already incredibly efficient at coming after you with threatening letters for not submitting the right tax paperwork in time on the 50 Euros earned form your online side-hussle. If only the same efficiency would get ported to everything else that benefits the tax-payer.

nicbou2 hours ago

They're so efficient that sometimes they'll come at you even when you did nothing wrong. My tax advisor had his accounts frozen and sued them for damages. The same happened to me because of a clerical error on their end. They freeze your account and it's up to you to figure out why.

raverbashing4 hours ago

The problem is that the "political will" to change (especially in things like this which is municipal) is mostly due to older people who haven't filled an Anmeldung in 30yrs at least and who probably still pay 500EUR for a 3 bed apartment and thinking it's expensive

Angostura56 minutes ago

Just a quick thank you. I don't live in Germany, so it doesn't affect me. But I'l sure you will make a lot of people's days just a little less miserable - so thank you from then. Nice write-up, too.

lasagna_coder4 hours ago

This is highly useful. You could take the idea, generalize it to be reusable for any German form, and make a plan to develop such a thing as open source with funding from: as their applications close end of the month.

klaustopher4 hours ago

The worst thing is that this differs by state. In Hessen the communal IT provider (ekom21) offers the service to fill out the entire form online in a UI that resembles yours, but then you still have to go to the "Meldeamt" to sign it (although you do that digitally on a tablet there) because currently the "schriftform" (means: manually signed) is required. It might be changed in the future to be "textform" (means: must be written down) and then it can happen completely digitally.

Unfortunately, from the bigger cities I checked (Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Kassel, Gießen, Marburg, Wiesbaden), none of them used that service, only some smaller districts like Bad Vilbel[1] or Limburg[2] offer the service.

[1]: [2]: "Voranmeldung eines Zuzugs"

nicbou2 hours ago

In France, they have the postman come to your house and verify your identity. It's such a brillian way to verify things without wasting anyone's time.

Bayart4 hours ago

I've been planning to move to Berlin and your site [1] is a life-saver.


Bissness4 hours ago

Best of luck finding an apartment

Bayart3 hours ago

Yeah, I know all about that. I've just seen my ex girlfriend go through the process of finding something nice that isn't excessively overpriced, which was exceedingly grueling, even more so considering that she makes 2.5x what I do. In the end the only decent opportunity was taking an appartement in her current building, skipping the entire selection phase as they already know her (which she knows is unfair).

I've already accepted I'll have to overpay short-term rentals for months and bot the shit of out Immoscout to have a chance.

toddmorey1 hour ago

This is great! Impressed by your work to make arriving in Berlin easier, especially for foreigners.

FearNotDaniel4 hours ago

> German apartments don’t have apartment numbers. If your name is not on your mailbox, postal workers can’t deliver your mail.

This can also cause delivery failures the other way around - a friend in Germany once sent me a package but didn't bother writing the apartment number on it because she assumed the postman would use my name to find the right box. Instead it got sent right back to Germany. (Austrian bureaucracy is just as unforgiving as German, they just have different rules to follow...)

flurdy3 hours ago

My sister sent a parcel this week with presents for my daughter's birthday (Happy birthday Ruby!), from Norway to the UK. She filled in all the spoiler customs parts but must have gotten stressed and completely forgot to write our street name and house number. Just my name, post code and country.

3 days later our postie knocked on our door and asked if this parcel was for us!

We don't live in a big city but still it is a town of 20,000 so not that rural where everyone knows you, so I was impressed that they cared enough to try to figure out the address. Granted the post code narrows the search down.

I am certain had it been shipped the other way the post office in Norway would have rejected it immediately for not being 100% by-the-book.

prennert3 hours ago

As long as the postcode is complete, there are only few full addresses that the postie needs to check against. If you got a letter the same day to your full address and your name is unique, then it would be fairly quick to find you.

BTW in Scotland at least, during the Christmas period, it is customary to leave a Christmas card for the postie outside with a small bank note in it. An easy way to say thank you for their efforts and to ensure that the postie will remember your name even better next time ;)

throwaway_no3 hours ago

> I am certain had it been shipped the other way the post office in Norway would have rejected it immediately for not being 100% by-the-book.

The postal office in Norway tries hard to deliver to the correct destination. I've heard of similar stories where they only had a name and a city to go on, and it was delivered at the correct location. During Christmas, they even have a team of dedicated "detectives" who tries their hardest to figure out who the packages should be sent to.

flurdy2 hours ago

Maybe, but Norway do make it harder for themselves by having just a 4 number postcode that could include many thousands of addresses. A UK postcode is often down to just one street or similar size.

Once, someone I knew in Norway (ok, my sister again...) somehow managed to combine her old and new address when ordering something online. And that parcel back and forth between 2 cities for a long time... :)

ahoka3 hours ago

I have a theory that if a postman wants to deliver something, then it will be delivered. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

croisillon3 hours ago

Even within Austria there are differences: i used to live in Innsbruck with an address written 4-51 (meaning street number 4, door 51) and then moved to Vienna, street number 2, door number 14. But in Vienna 2-14 means the big building with street numbers 2 through 14. My building was not big, you could physically see it is street number 2. Well, i never got that letter.

TRiG_Ireland4 hours ago

Whereas the Irish post office (An Post) seem to pride themselves on solving puzzles to deliver to ambiguous addresses.

jpsouth3 hours ago

Same for England from what I gather, probably not on the same scale as Ireland though.

I wonder if some of the countries referenced in the thread have different laws regarding opening post - in England it’s illegal to open post that isn’t addressed to you, so if the postie did make a mistake it’s not the end of the world as the receiver would just pop it back in the letter box (in an ideal world)

Tenoke4 hours ago

> German apartments don’t have apartment numbers

They do (at least sometimes?). They are just not listed anywhere and barely used. I have my number in my contract, and e.g. Vatenfall have it to connect the meter number to the flat number.

xioxox2 hours ago

They don't always. For my flat in a small block, it's "Erdgeschoss rechts" or EGR, in the contract or for the electricity.

henvic4 hours ago

This reminds me that recently I, here in the Netherlands, had to send a letter and made the mistake of writing it in the wrong format (to/from), but still the address in where it should be 'from' was really small, and 'to' was really big. To make things clear, I decided to just prefix "To: " and "From: " thinking it would be enough.

Surely enough, 2 days later I received the mail back at my mailbox. Wasted 2 euros ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I just needed a single stamp, but they stamped on both so I couldn't even try to reuse it. And I also posted on the mailbox for "other zip code" rather than "close by zip codes".

I don't know if OCR or a person messed up. Well, definitely a person (me)...

spiderfarmer4 hours ago

Adding small texts about the importance of the input you provide is missing in so many forms. OP handled it perfect here.

fl73053 hours ago

"The Bürgeramt also wants to know that you live on the second floor on the right."

Meanwhile in Sweden, the government instituted a nationwide "Dwelling Units Register", where each apartment etc is uniquely numbered.

There is a precise way to number apartments based on the floor number, order of front doors on each floor etc.

Do you live on a steep hill, and have to go down two floors to reach your apartment which has windows facing out the other side of the building? No problem, the numbering system handles that.

kharak2 hours ago

I've never known these kinds of systems exist. Love it. Like a common interface or index. Something like this should be implemented everywhere.

iknownothow4 hours ago

I hope this starts a trend of digitizing many aspects of the German bureaucracy, official or otherwise.

I've sitting on my hands for the last three months to fill out some paperwork. Additionally, I have to apply for this specific appointment via email a few months in advance and it takes weeks for them to reply and if there's any back and forth, that's a few more weeks.

I love Germany, love the bureaucracy too, I just hate the lack of digitization.

brnt2 hours ago

The budget for the digitization ministry was just slashed down to 1%, so I wouldn't get my hopes up.

It would make sense for EU member states to collaborate more closely on the systems, since they all need to solve the same problems why not share? The Netherlands does a pretty good job at digitisation (it has gone the other way: it's hard to get someone in meat space to look at you issue if the system didn't provision for your situation). Why reinvent the wheel?

nicbou18 minutes ago

That's right. They slashed the budget from 300 million to 3 million.

olabyne4 hours ago

In France we have a fair amount of bureaucracy too. But a least the government is trying to digitalize a bit now. Taxes are quite easy, healthcare is ok, some documents like car registration too. But we have a long way to go for all the local weird processes (from Region, Departementn and cities)

corbezzoli4 hours ago

Nit: I’d probably avoid saying “you’re done” when nothing was done, the user still needs to deliver it themselves. Saying “done” makes it look like it took care of it all, to a distracted person.

I’d say the opposite: “Warning, you’re not done!”

based-nerd28 minutes ago

LOL. Big Government in action is exhilarating to watch.

I wonder what would be more difficult, getting your owners to adopt your digitization or to abolish the requirement altogether.

Its probably racist anyway.

jcarrano2 hours ago

While I laud your effort, having had to do such a chore myself[1] you are missing the point of bureaucracy. The whole point is to make work for bureaucrats, and the easier and more pointless it is, the better. There are also other issues remaining, like the fact that you need to involve your landlord[2].

Do you think anyone at the Bürgeramt has any reason to change their easy "just type stuff and press buttons" job to anything resembling real work? Bureaucrats wield political power, at the very least because they vote like anyone else, but they also have more direct influence than average people. Politicians have no incentive to go against them and, as long as they promise that everything will remain the same, they will have the support of the paper-stamper class. The bureaucrats form a distinct social class with their own interests.

If there was any will to solve the problem, it would have been done already, even without technology. Most people think that taxes are levied to pay for services, but it is actually the other way around, bureaucracy is there to justify the taxes.

[1] I had to go to Lichtemberg because it is was the only office with an appointment in a reasonable time frame.

[2] There are people selling registrations now.

nicbou2 hours ago

This is not true. Civil servants hate drudgery as much as anyone else, and there plenty of work to go around. The chief complaint of Ausländerbehörde employees is that the work keeps piling up.

You must involve your landlord because you need some proof that you live where you are registering.

Sometimes the simplest explanation is the most likely: that the system is a disorganised mess, and that those most affected by it (including bureaucrats) are incapable of fixing it.

Yes, there are also people selling immigration office appointments. If there is desperation, there is a business.

dctoedt1 hour ago

For some U.S. tales, e.g., the challenges of digitizing California's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) sign-up process, see the excellent Recoding America by Jennifer Pahlka, former deputy CTO of the United States and now the founder of the non-profit organization Code For America. [0]

(Memorable passage: A civil servant described a complex government policy as having been "vomited" onto an impenetrable sign-up form — for my contract-drafting course, I stole that as the label "barf clause" to describe long, wall-of-words provisions such as the 357-word "Fragment 1" in an example I had students rewrite in class last week. [1])



sublimefire2 hours ago

I used to work in a small company that digitized paper/pdf forms. We used json schema forms in React which allowed us to recreate complicated schemas along with the conditionals to show/hide sections and do complicated calculations. The forms would be rendered on the fly based on the underlying schema.

The main customers were from the local government who wanted to digitize and increase the efficiency of dealing with some forms. I mean we are talking about forms that are 5-50 pages long with just a few people who know how everything is supposed to work. In some cases a processing of a form would be extremely expensive. The product saved a lot of public money.

But it is extremely hard to sell to such orgs, requires tight collaboration to understand all of the edge cases. Not only that but it is necessary to interact with gov before they even start a procurement process, not just because you want to increase the chances of winning but because they just do not know what is possible to begin with and how to ask for it. Also, there is some competition to outbid the others which sounds like a good thing but it also reduces the chances that a solution will be transformative as it is quite hard to spell it out what you want so that it is of good quality.

The next time you complain about poor digital services remember that it is hard to compete in that field and the cheapest almost always wins. This does not mean the best though. Also, I encourage you to try and bid on some local projects to improve our shitty old systems.

schacon3 hours ago

We did this as well several years ago, even with an iOS app, a guide to the process and a German cheat sheet:

Every new Berliner feels this pain, but the worse part is getting an appointment. Not just for your Anmeldung, but for anything you need to do here.

nicbou2 hours ago

Yes! I used to link to it. I'm also a big fan of Chatterbug.

For the appointment, there's this:

emj4 hours ago

Static PDF or text is a good protection against Murphys law! Having done forms like this I have learned that the hard way. If you want to save state on the server like you mention e.g. QR code, you need to save the form as a PDF or a readable text file and not only as data that is rendered by some frontend framework.

This means you can have multiple people digitally sign or even fill it out, then they can sign the text representation which is easier than a digitally signed PDF or json. You need this because when you update the backend and frontend between logins and there is always somekind of mismatch that will happen. This is especially hard when you have non linear form entries or optional parts like the C/O part in this form, there is always something that slips through the crack in regression testing.

Last time it happend to us someone had upgraded the front end calendar month chooser. It was well tested, but that ment another optional date picker was updated and testing did not happen there. Then organizational and technical Murphys law struck meaning complete data loss for people affected by that.

nicbou2 hours ago

> you need to save the form as a PDF or a readable text file


In this case, the data will live for a few weeks at most. The goal would be a QR code that contains the data as a hash:[form data]. This is to avoid storing or seeing any user data.

I was also considering a P2P solution with WebRTC. This would let you transmit your form without the server seeing the data. You'd just need to both visit a URL at the same time.

The idea is that I can't store private information, and the Bürgeramt can't install any new software.

ogou4 hours ago

This is cool. The real trick is getting a Bürgeramt appointment to submit this form. The official portal for that is a punishing exercise in bad UX. Basically, there are very few appointments available, so you have to keep refreshing the calendar page and hope that one of the dates is linked. It took me 2 weeks of opening that page multiple times a day and refreshing over and over. It gets hammered by bots as well and if you don't click the link fast enough it will disappear. There are multiple bots available on Github and I think there is also a Chrome extension now. But, they all do the same thing (refresh the page) and will get your IP banned if you run them without long timers. I tried all of it and the only thing that worked was having a Favorite in mobile Safari that I opened whenever I had idle time. I finally got one in a coffee shop and nearly knocked the table over because I was so happy.

nicbou2 hours ago
kwanbix1 hour ago

As a foreigner who moved to Berlin 6 years ago, congratulations.

This is brilliantly done.

It is so crazy that the biggest economy in Europe is so non-digitalized.

raister4 hours ago

Now they'll think: "it's time to change the form"...

VSerge4 hours ago

yup, I can imagine some adversarial changes being made to the effect that the document generated by this online form can be refused by the administration in question.

OR if there are people interested in efficiency in this administration, despite what the current state of things would suggest, they could embrace this development, buy the rights to this and implement it on their website for everyone to enjoy. One can dream.

nicbou4 hours ago

Such people exist. I have a few acquaintances in city government. They're interested in helping, although some are either busy, tangled in red tape, or unimaginative. They are definitely not hostile through.

konschubert3 hours ago

It shows the absolute inaptitude of our Government if for all the hundreds of millions that they spend on the "digital transformation of the Government" every year, they cannot hire one guy who does exactly what Nicolas did here.

lasagna_coder3 hours ago

to be fair, many countries' governments have this same issue, and even when they do something the UX feels like something from 2002. The thing is, its complex, often the job pays way below market rate and government jobs often have rigid salary tiers, hiring might not be done like a normal tech co. as you might also have specific public servants to do it, and then you have culture, which might rule out certain people or cultivate attitudes towards work. Beyond that, in developed democracies like Germany, what gets funded long enough to be pushed to production can depend on election cycles and public opinion. Additionally, the big 4 have a big presence in developed countries and they often get these 100 million <currency> contracts to do stuff like that and... enough said.

nicbou1 hour ago

This is a major problem. It's hard to attract talent when you have low incomes and an inflexible work culture. The incentives just aren't there.

Let's say Berlin wanted to hire me tomorrow to do the same exact work for them. That would mean return to office, fixed schedule, a return to rigid corporate culture, and a significant drop in income.

A friend of mine works in government IT, and the stories are both hilarious and sad. Some people in the Greens are afraid of Wi-Fi waves...

konschubert3 hours ago

yes, this isn't against Germany specifically.

wheybags4 hours ago

> Or why not skip paper entirely?

If we're talking about actual reform, the obvious suggestion is to skip the entire notion of registration, no?

reacharavindh3 hours ago

Yes, as a non-European expat moving to Denmark in 2017, my experience was eye-opening.

I needed one physical visit to the International affairs section of the citizens service(Borger service), where they took my biometrics, and issued me a CPR number(a national Id equivalent I that of social security number in the US, or Aadhaar ID in India), and another set of codes called Nem-Id which serves as a second factor authentication for all things online. That’s it.

I could go online, login with my CPR number, and use the Nem-ID as the second factor auth, and register my address, bank account, immigration details, driving license etc.

Need a bank account? Open one by using the CPR number and second factor auth using Nem-ID.

Same goes for phone connection, internet at home, whatever else.

Need holidays? Paid for by the government, and I login using my CPR number ti check my state of holidays. Independent of my employer.

Childcare benefit? Apply using the CPR number online.

Need to find a daycare(Vuggestue) for your kid? No need, login with the kid’s cpr number and apply, and you get assigned to one of the neighborhood ones.

I move to a different address within Denmark? Change the address in that borgerservice portal, and that’s it. Even my internet provider sends a bill to the new address automatically.

End of the year, I get a tax report from SKAT(tax authorities) because they already know all my details as they are linked with my CPR number. All I need to do is report any corrections. If not my tax reporting is done by default.

When my kid was born in Denmark, the nurse came with a bag with a stork doll, and an envelope with….. CPR number :-)

It was a pleasure how things were digitized in Denmark.

Mashimo1 hour ago

As a German living in Denmark I often wonder why we Germans don't do it a bit like the danes .. it's just a hop over the border and ask them ;_;

Also if you change to a different bank or want a different "main" bank account both your monthly payments and wages get applied to your new bank account without you having to inform anyone.

emj3 hours ago

It sounds really nice when you say it like this, I've always felt bad about all the hoops you have to go through as a foreigner in the Nordics. I wish I had time to rate countries on different bureaucracy flows like the ones you list; child care, immigrant, bank account, id theft, police report, filing and paying taxes as a employee, handling sales tax. You get so blind to these small inefficiencies.

fabian2k2 hours ago

Registration is very useful, e.g. it means that you can easily vote in all elections without any additional steps. You automatically get a notification in your mail and don't have to do anything else to vote.

matttproud4 hours ago

Bureaucracy in Germany felt to be equal in magnitude to what I was used to from the United States (which is to say: bad), but the character of the bureaucracy's toil in Germany felt incredibly archaic.

I hate to give the author of this tool any despair: if you think managing your Wohnsitzanmeldung is hard, wait until you decide to move away from Germany (to another country) and attempt to sever/cancel your contracts. The cancellation process is nightmare mode.

kelnos2 hours ago

I'm surprised to hear that. As far as I know, the US doesn't have anything quite as ridiculous as this particular thing, at least not for something routine as moving to a new house.

The last time I had to visit a government office for something routine... well, I actually don't recall when that last was. Most things are done online, with only a small a few requiring me to mail something out as well.

I guess this is also location dependent; a small US town probably has less digitization than a large US city.

nicbou2 hours ago

Don't forget to ask for a pension payments refund!

durnygbur3 hours ago


lzzzam2 hours ago

Lovely project! Same annoying form in Austria as well. Thanks for it! Does the tool also suggest how to properly fill the form when you have your main residency in another country?

The first year I moved to Austria I still had my main residency in Italy, and filling the paper unproperly could have impacted my taxation. Please have a look at DTA if you don´t know what I mean.

melx4 hours ago

Kudos on the nice UX for dropdown with countries. I wish more websites do it. Usually, it's "United States" at the very top, and 194 other countries in a loooooong list.

TheHappyOddish3 hours ago

Even better are the ones where you pick your country and the 'state' dropdown is still US states and 'Other', and you're prompted for a 'zip code'. What does American mail have to do with a zip anyway?

kelnos2 hours ago

Not sure if your question is flippant/rhetorical, but in case you're genuinely curious: ZIP stands for Zone Improvement Plan, the initiative that set up the "postal codes" that we call ZIP codes.

I don't quite recall, but I think ZIP may actually be a backronym; in US English, "zip" is a word that also means "to move quickly", and they wanted to evoke a feeling that postal mail gets delivered faster when you include the ZIP code, which makes sorting mail more efficient.

nicbou4 hours ago

I use navigator.languages to guess the user's possible countries. It's not perfect, but the cost of guessing wrong is low. I've used the same technique to show currency conversion tooltips in the content.

gumballindie4 hours ago

Oddly enough it doesn't list countries where most people are likely to come from right at the top. That makes it ill designed still.

martin_a4 hours ago

I think this has been taken care of:

> I use navigator.languages to get a list of supported languages. For example, en-CA, fr-CA, de-DE. This gives me a list of countries the user might have lived in. I suggest those countries at the top of the country list.

layer84 hours ago

Not for people like me who always set their browser language to en-us (or just “en”) because they mostly peruse the internet in English.

nicbou2 hours ago

Then you'll have to press one or two extra keys on your keyboard.

melx4 hours ago

The OP wrote this is based on "navigator.languages" feature in the visitor's browser. So if your preferred language is set to e.g. French, then you shall see France at the top of dropdown.

hk__24 hours ago

> So if your preferred language is set to e.g. French, then you shall see France at the top of dropdown.

If it’s French from France, yes. This is the second part of the language code: fr_FR is French from France, fr_BE from Belgium, fr_BF from Burkina Faso and so on.

melx3 hours ago
lucb1e4 hours ago

That's... exactly what this is as well? Are you getting a different UI that I'm not?

mkreis4 hours ago

If you have different browser language settings, then yes, you are getting a different UI.

melx4 hours ago

I'm from UK, and I got "United Kingdom, United States, Germany" as three first countries.

raybb3 hours ago

Reminds me of last year when I made a small site to help find appointments slots for the municipality in Brussels.

Website was taking so much effort to see the appointments and people said throughout they day they randomly opened so many of my classmates were checking all the time. So I made this to see appointments on one page instead of clicking many boxes.

nicbou2 hours ago

I did that too:

It took me a few months to get it sanctioned by Berlin's IT department, and I could not replicate that success with other services. However it's a start.

graup4 hours ago

This is cool! Note that this problem is fairly specific to Berlin (and probably some other places in Germany). I just moved to Heidelberg, and this city offers registration appointments both via video chat as well as in-person, with slots available next day.

abujazar56 minutes ago

This is good design. I love when developers are primarily designers.

kebsup3 hours ago

In Munich, the legal requirement is to register within two weeks, but the waiting time to schedule an appointment is more than two weeks. Luckily, no-one cares. Some of my Erasmus classmates did not register at all.

lasagna_coder3 hours ago

I think this is uniform across Germany, and I think the legal requirement might be either be registered or have an appointment to be registered, similar to other legally required appointments, which (from my understanding) causes issues regarding endless-reschedule loopholes.

Tenoke4 hours ago

In 2020 I did my Anmeldung by just sending them an email and not going in-person. Too bad they didn't keep the Covid workaround even after setting it up.

pratio3 hours ago

Amazing! I've always admired your work, allaboutberlin is a fantastic resource.

cinntaile4 hours ago

Nice job. I will upvote anything that reduces the unnecessary bureaucratic load on citizens.

0xCaponte3 hours ago

Nicolas, you are the hero we didn't know we needed.

0xCaponte3 hours ago

Nicolas, you are the hero we didn't now we needed.

purpleidea4 hours ago

Are you related to Luc Boulianne from Montreal? (Worked at McGill.)

nicbou34 minutes ago

Nope. I'm from a different region, although I lived in Montreal too.

Caoste3 hours ago

Love this! Someone should start building a hub for such tools that help you deal with our german bureaucracy.

Caoste3 hours ago

This is great! We should have a hub of such tools that help you deal with our german bureaucracy!

burren3 hours ago

What libraries did you use in Vue for the UI components? Interface is so clean.

nicbou35 minutes ago

It's all made from scratch.

tanbog54 hours ago

Lol. My berlin friends will live this.

durnygbur3 hours ago