I liked Ton’s format of review for his year and had been considering writing something. Here’s a list of the course of events in a rough chronological order covering the gamut of personal, family and work life.
- In January Michel Bauwens, Chris Pinchen, Franco Iacomella, yours truly and a few others decided to set up a cooperative, to grow businesses around the fringe of the non-profit knowledge communities and commons of the P2P Foundation. Paperwork was cleared and projects did come in throughout the year. That said, we had considerable growing pains, with Michel’s insane speaking schedule(4 times a year zig-zagging from thailand across Europe to South or North America and then back again), all coop members separated by continents (South American, Asia, Europe, N.America) and noticed that face to face communication had a large impact on teams. That said, Chris and I did well with starting Chokepoint which you will see further down this list.
- In Febraury, i visited Berlin to support Juha who represented VURB at Cognitive Cities. It was also wonderful to meet friends like Alper, Kars and Alex along with seeing Ton give yet another a great talk.
- During the same month i tried out playing some Starcraft 2 as RTS games are rather wonderful. It was a weird transition from old LAN gaming into gaming where to play a game you can only do by being logged into your account for the game in question online. Obviously this is a way to secure payment, but LAN was more robust and flexible for players stopping things like games needing to be restarted if internet connections were lost or latency going through the roof. The big change was witnessing audience participation via live streaming and the casting and replays posted on YouTube channels. Check out what i mean over at Twitch.TV. In Feb i was a total noob, while in December, watching a game of Hero vs Puma has become a new staple relaxation medium, beyond picking up a book or staring at wildlife and seeing friends.
- Late February, early March a group of researchers from the P2P Foundation started a NextNet workgroup focusing initially on mesh networks, resilience and various strategies on how to not let corporate or government powers coopt the network. The ongoing Arab Spring uprising had recently taken everyone by shock in January and added an extra sense of urgency around these issues. Mubarak had turned off the Internet and Senator Liberman was contemplating a ‘kill switch’ in the US. As a response and together with a new collegue and now friend, Chris Pinchen, we conceived and launched a new effort working on human rights issues over the Internet, focusing on monitoring the entire Internet to detect abuses. The Chokepoint Project’s support and response since that time has been unprecedented, from articles in New Scientist to being shipped halfway round the world to Rio de Janeiro to show what we have been working on. The work is mainly concerns building an early warning system to detect corporate or government restrictions, attacks across the Internet for journalists, activists, researchers, governments and citizens caught in the middle of natural disasters. The other half of the project is focused on teaching digital network literacy through tangible workshops (we wrap people in string and put funny labelled clothing on them in the process as one part of a modular kit for teaching). We’re focused on kids and reaching the political classes, who managed to fail on many occasions in 2011 if you see all the ant-copyright legislation in the pipeline and SOPA. Sadly i would not surprised if SOPA passes which will be a sad day for freedom of speech.
Video of ARS Prize (in Deutch)
(Beside this slightly odd presentation where it seems Chris and I are pitched as baby Julian Assange’s, 2011 was also a record year for getting dubbed into German!)
- In March i moved house from a run down apartment in Amsterdam Oost to Westelijke Ijlanden. Having a view over the water from your balcony and living on yet another peaceful street, although this time in the city center is a luxury which will not be wasted. The rent is stupidly affordable.
- I spent considerable time earlier in the year helping Hack de Overheid, an organization we co-founded grow. Early in the year i organized a workshop for the Dutch BBC, VPRO for working on their recently aired TV series and web platform, ‘Nederland van Boven‘. We organized numerous hackathons.
- In June and August, Chris and I went on tour with Ruben and Gustaf, new team members of the Chokepoint team to Chaos Communication Camp near Berlin and to Linz for Ars Electronica as we had won the next idea category award. We met so many amazing people which took the project forward. Throughout the year we were in Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Linz, Utrecht and Rio de Janeiro.
- Quantified Self Europe took place. Having founded the Amsterdam QS group, the Europe event was a massive step up from servicing 70-90 people for 4 hours on a Monday evening to leading a 2 day event with 350 people, bringing QS-ers from the United States, the core team over and attracting lots of new faces from across Europe.
- Lots of client work throughout the year included doing strategy, UX and IA work for campaigns and many mobile and tablet apps for Ice Mobile, INDG, VGZ, Strawberry Frog. This was spread out throughout the year. The most fun of these projects was being able to do some service design for a early-stage sleep monitoring product that uses radar to track movement and breathing.
- In October, i started playing squash.
- Dominique and I visited my mother and step-father in Arizona, where it was warm in direct sunlight over Christmas. They live in North Phoenix. Apart from the harsh jet-lag, we ate too much great food, shared stories and were happy to be able to be together as this happens only once every 1-2 years given the distances. Also was able to spend some hours exploring Skyrim which is probably the most beautiful RPG i’ve ever had the chance to play. At the same time team members of the Chokepoint Project were presenting and meeting people at 28C3 ‘Behind Enemy Lines’ in Berlin.
For those of you that don’t know about the Chokepoint Project, go visit the site.
I’ve been challenging myself to do something beyond helping curate speakers and organizing Quantified Self Amsterdam together with Maarten and Joost, which results in a new talk each time. Presented were the results and ruminations on and off topic around memory, more specifically, from 2 months of field research, spending every Tuesday evening with my mate Bas. This led to the insight in applying a software development methodology, version control systems, to the Self.
Programmers are raised these days on geek tools like Github to make sure they can work together without destroying each others work for each new software release cycle. After a release or new version occurs, new functionalities and code ideas recommence. This is done via a system of ‘branches’ connected to a main ‘trunk’ of code. Each new version selectively incorporates code ‘commits’ from these branches back into the trunk which are then released in a new code version. My point was in wandering what we get if we exchange code for our most personal memories and software versioning switched for rites-of- passage, key events, turning points in how we decide who we are. Each age transposes its current orientating metaphors on the sedimentation of human knowledge. What will ‘the network’ and ‘computation’ do to our sense of Self and how we look at our history? What impact will it have on our identity formation process?
Here’s a recent talk i gave at Quantified Self Amsterdam #1.
Quantifying relationships can sound creepy, although in this case it was not. My girlfriend and i started a weekly ritual while waiting for dim sum. As a couple in a LAT relationship, the weekly review seemed somehow an organic way to keep up with each other next to phone calls or the occasional meetup. At some point later, we started a new behavior, adding an event or situation on a piece of paper and then each of us awarding or subtracting points. We were still relatively early in getting to know each other, perhaps at a place near stage two of Sara Shultz’s model that inks out the various phases couples generally encounter and transition through in relationships. The quantification aspect was really enabling each us to share our individual perceptions in the vessel of our weekly review. This led to both of us acknowledging and then modifying (in some cases) our behavior. We continued this practice for a transitory 3 months.
Here are the slides.
I’m now thinking more about the models of relationships which necessitates digging into the research rather than a 5 minute google search, to uncover academic insights on human personal relationship formation. At the same time, i’m keeping a healthy sense of disbelief and analyzing my own thoughts and feelings to discern whether other filters or metaphors would shed new light on how we look at our personal relationships? Having given this talk, I’ve caught myself and dominique, adding and subtracting points from each other yet again. What is the medium to longer term impact of this practice on our time together? Is there a healthy future for analytics and incentive structures of the digital kind when applied to personal relationships? Will the adverse affects, on average, outweigh the benefits?
I have been thinking about the self-tracking space for quite some years so it was a pleasant surprise when Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf started their eponymous Quantified Self site and meetups. This site, lifesized.net, used to contain the by-line,”Measuring hearts and minds”. It therefore seemed a natural fit to want to connect with QS global and host an event here in Amsterdam, which thanks to reaching out to Joshua Kauffman and Alexandra Carmichael is now confirmed for September 20th. It’s a collaboration between myself, Maarten den Braber and Joost Plattel.
This first in a series of NL based “show & tell” meetups is for people interested in self-tracking, personal informatics.
Quantified Self is a collaboration of users and tool makers who share an interest in self knowledge through self-tracking.
This is a regular show and tell for people taking advantage of various kinds of personal tracking – geotracking, life-logging, DNA sequencing, etc. – to gain more knowledge about themselves. Come share what you are doing, and learn from others. Topics include, but are not limited to:
Chemical Body Load Counts, Personal Genome Sequencing, Lifelogging, Self Experimentation, Risks/Legal Rights/Duties, Behavior monitoring, Location tracking, Non-invasive Probes, Digitizing Body Info, Sharing Health Records, Psychological Self-Assesments, Medical Self-Diagnostics.
We are actively looking for people who:
- are building or have built hardware or software
- have a story to tell of their own self-tracking
For the last 8 months i have been working with Ben Cerveny and Juha van ‘t Zelfde together under the name: VURB. Our mission is to explore and research cities, and more specifically, urban computation and related systems. If you can’t quite stomach this wordy description then perhaps i could rephrase it as ‘it’s about how cities are are becoming more like networked computers and the Internet’. Follow us, whether it’s via Twitter or come to our monthly face to face gathering called Visibile Cities, which takes place in Amsterdam.
Urbanode just got funded by Digital Pioniers. Urbanode is research into responsive environments or interactive spaces. It’s a natural progression from the Roomware Project, which initially explored how we could make spaces more interactive and connect peoples online lives with their offline presence. That was 4 years ago. Urbanode is instantly familiar in approaching space by making it accessible via control points and a reusable open source framework (this time with a dedicated mobile component).
You can read more about the project on the VURB site. We’re currently in a research phase which involves mapping out systems, assessing technologies, doing a survey on the lay of the land. It’s also great to hear that Meeus and Bob, who are in charge of lighting for events at Club Trouw, are very much up for it!
It gives me great pleasure to finally complete a design project i’ve been tinkering with for months, the “how to open government data(and how not to)” poster. It forms the last part of Ton Zijlstra and my research project on open government data for for the Ministry of Interior Affairs (Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties). Special thanks go to BUROPONY for the design of the poster and to Ot van Daalen from Bits of Freedom for filtering legal and judicial elements and the general flow.
The poster was intended to provide a lightweight and easy to understand visual explanation of the issues around open government data for civil servants. I set one design parameter, “let’s make it printable on most office printers”. At the same time, we wanted to release it for reuse hence the Creative Commons license. So if you are a civil servant reading this, print it out and put it up in a public place. Hopefully it will encourage a discussion which can reduce fear around the subject and help with a data census and important data sets getting published correctly.
I recently founded VURB together with Ben Cerveny and Juha ‘t Zelfde to further explore the past, present and future of cities and the people that live there. This talk was meant to briefly cover urban computing and then focus on the rise of informal network cultures especially barcamps, freelancers and geeks.
Above is the slideshow to a talk given at ECOMM and draws from my work on government data policy and service (re)design, peer based practises and research into connected environments. It was good to meet with the people that came up to me in the break and the brunt of questions concerned privacy issues and how people will experience these new phenomena. So, definately food for thought for joining the Mobile City crew at their ‘Sentient City’ workshop.
A more in-depth version of this post will appear on the p2p foundation blog.
I recently met Anu Määttä, a developer from Finland, who was able to connect me with Smári McCarthy(Iceland) and Petri Kola(Finland) who were able to report of projects, companies and intiatives from Iceland and Finland working with government data.
Finnish Data Catalog (their data.gov)
“Finnish public institutions are unprepared for making real APIs for their data. The data catalog is at the moment more about piloting open data related administrative proceduress and juridical questions Software projects which need budgetting will be needed for really opening up data. Unfortunatelly the data catalog will not be updated anymore before the competition deadline. But we are very happy that we have been able to create ownership for open data among highest Finnish administration! We will continue lobbying for open data after the summer hollidays. Lobbying and the competition is a multi-year commitment for us.”
Mindtrek competition (apps for democracy)
“The “Apps for Democracy Finland” is your chance to wow the world with your ideas; your chance to build better systems on top of public data; your chance to demonstrate the value and the power of public data when it is let free; your chance to take public information and display it in exciting new ways; and your chance to walk away with a range of prizes.”
Skuggaþing (Shadow Parliament)
“is a collaborative law editing system with built in direct and proxied voting. One instance of the software currently resides at
Skuggaþing where it is copying data in real time from the Icelandic parliament and presenting it in a much improved way (despite the fact that we still haven’t done graphic design!)”
The crew behind skuggathing are doing some nifty work in providing videos of parliamentary debates online with a host of social tools (ratings and commenting) to let citizens see what’s going on at any time.
- “DataMarket is a for-profit company organized around the visualization of data in general, working very specifically on government datasets when available in an effort to increase government transparency.”
- Framtíðarsýn Þjóðar” evaluates group value satements using psychological approaches and statistical analysis.”
- Hugmyndaráðuneytið“, or The Ministry of Ideas, is a collective of people working towards redefining Iceland, which organizes mass efforts, brainstorm meetings and other events which influence open governance.”
Smari McCarthy is working on opening governmental data up in Iceland and direct democracy software projects
Petri Kola is a researcher at the University of Art and Design Helsinki and is working on / coordinating Mindtrek Apps for Democracy Finland Competition in Helsinki.
We’re looking for other European gov data projects
Do you know of any other similar projects where you live?
Ourdata.eu is a collaborative site for everyone initiated by Ton Zijlstra and yours truly whose aim is to collect and share interesting projects working with government data from across Europe. Sign up and report what you spotted or send us a link. (while functional, we know the graphic design needs a triple bypass. Fix coming soon. Also we’ll pump out a tutorial on how to use the platform as it’s not immediately clear. Signup>> CreateCountry >> givetagofcountryname >> createblogpost for examples >> tag these with for instance mashup,countryname,etc >> publish)
photo by Ton Zijlstra
I had the good fortune to be one of the organisers at a recent govcamp held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Continuing from where we left off last year and adding some inspiration from across the pond, we managed to host a two-tracked event.
Track 1: A Geek coding track which concentrated on creating a few sketches in code that produced improvements to public services or political transparency including a competition.
Track 2: A Barcamp on government for those who could not code. People followed their feet to whichever discussion they wished to participate in.
At the end of the day, 6 prototypes were presented of which three were awarded prizes. (You will be notified as they become usable. It’s hard to perfect a web service in 4 hours. I’ll tweet something as they get more functional. @hackdeoverheid ). Two government ministries also chimed in to offer an amazing double bonanza of money available to entries of prototypes with prize money of 25,000 Euro per ministry on offer to clever developers coming up with new ideas. You can still submit ideas here.
Gold: Afvalhuis Vuilkalender, a refuse collection service. Type in your postcode and find out when all different types of rubbish will be picked up in your neighborhood. It also syncs with i-Cal or gCal. A simple idea, which by one vote, sealed this software sketch as the top dog! Well done Menno van der Sman(@mennos) and Patrick.
Silver: OpenKvK by Steven de Koning (Renato Valdez – graphic design)which was able to scrape company information from the Kamer van Koophandel (a sort of Company House for the Netherlands) and republish it with a search input field. Usually the KVK charges you some euro cents per search query enabling spamming or direct mailing. OpenKVK allows you to do this now for free (keep reading, as I’m not saying that i support spam). The Kamer van Koophandel registers new businesses and allows for inquiries about them in the Netherlands, while offering an outreach service to support entrepreneurs. The problem they have is their business model. They are hired by the government, but are not the government. Companies in the Netherlands pay a flat fee to become a registered company, BUT they need to repay this amount every year with the only benefit being that they receive a newsletter (often unwanted) and keep their name listed on a database for another year (which obviously would not cost the amount each entity is charged just to be present on a server for a year). OpenKVK frees the company information and lets people search through listed companies. Someone suggested that the complete list of dutch companies and organizations should be submitted to a no-spam listing service so we all were saved from unwanted spam. My own personal plea is for someone to please make it so! (at this moment i can’t think of many positive uses of spam, although someone probably knows one).
Bronze: Android kenteken app. created by Ronald van der Lingen that lets you enter a car license plate number and pulls information on the car registered with that license plate back.
Honorable mentions go to:
- Polirazzi by Breyten
A customized search on politicians tracking what has been said about them across the web
- Trackchanges by Paul Vereiken
A tool for journalists to see recent changes to government documents which they can easily subscribe to
- iPhone radar by Martijn Pannevis
An iPhone app tracking weather, pollen count, air pollution and any other publically available info feeds that might affect traveling around NL.
photo by – Anne Helmond