A while ago Peter wrote about energy security and how having a less reliable grid may actually be useful to energy security.

This the difference between having tightly coupled systems and loosely coupled systems. Loosely coupled systems can show more robustness because having failing parts will not break the whole. It also allows for more resilience that way, you can locally fix things that fell apart.

It may clash however with our current expectations of having electricity 24/7. Because of that expectation we don’t spend much time about being clever in our timing and usage of energy. A long time ago I provided training to a group of some 20 Iraqi water provision managers, as part of the rebuilding efforts after the US invasion of Iraq. They had all kinds of issues obviously, and often issues arising in parallel. What I remember connected to Peter’s post is how they described Iraqi citizens had adapted to the intermittent availability of electricity and water. How they made things work, at some level, by incorporating the intermittent availability of things into their routines. When there was no electricity they used water for cooling, and vice versa for instance. A few years ago at a Border Sessions conference in The Hague, one speaker talked about resilience and intermittent energy sources too. He mentioned the example that historically Dutch millers had dispensation of visiting church on Sundays if it was windy enough to mill.

The past few days in Dutch newspapers a discussion is taking place that some local solar energy plans can’t be implemented because the grid maintainers can’t deal with the inputs. Now this isn’t necessarily true, but more the framing that comes with the current always on macro-grid. Tellingly any mention of micro grids, or local storage is absent from that framing.

In a different discussion with Peter Rukavina and with Peter Bihr, it was mentioned that resilience is, and needs to be, rising on the list of design principles. It’s also the reason why resilience is one of three elements of agency in my networked agency thinking.

Line 'Em Up
Power lines in Canada, photo Ian Muttoo, license CC BY SA

Wilma Haan has been named the new general director of the Open State Foundation. As, the equally new, chairman of the board of the Open State Foundation, I think her joining OSF is a great new step for the organisation. Backed by strong experience in both journalism and digital, she has shown herself a great energy source that will strengthen the team. The fit with Tom, who stepped in as interim director when Arjan left last summer, and the rest of the team is also very good. Tom has done great work as interim director in the past months, and will be the new deputy director. Together they will bring the Open State Foundation further, I am convinced, and I look forward to working with them both. I hope to learn lots from them, as my role on the board is a recent one as well.

Today I made my first Open Street Map edit. Open Street Map is a global map, created by its users (which includes lots of open government geographic data). My first edit was triggered by Peter Rukavina’s call to action. He wrote how he wants to add or correct Open Street Map data for a location when he mentions that location or business in his blogposts. He also calls upon others to do the same thing.

I don’t think I mention locations such as restaurants often or even at all in my blog, so it’s an easy enough promise for me to make. However, I did read and copy the steps Peter describes. First installing Alfred on my laptop. Alfred is a workflow assistant basically. I know Peter uses it a lot, and I looked at it before, and until now concluded that the Mac’s standard Spotlight interface and Hazel work well enough for me. But the use case he describes for quickly searching in a map through Alfred made sense to me: it’s a good way to make Open Street Map my default search option, and foregoing Google Maps. So I installed Alfred, and made a custom search to use Open Street Map (OSM).

The next step was seeing if there was something small I could do in OSM. Taking a look on the map around our house, I checked the description of the nearest restaurant and realised most meta-data (such as opening hours, cuisine, etc) were missing. I registered my account on OSM, and proceeded to add the info. As Peter mentions, such edits immediately get passed on to applications making use of OSM. One of those applications is a map layer showing restaurants that are currently open, and my added opening hours show up immediately:

My first edit also resulted in being contacted by a OSM community member, as they usually review the early edits any new user makes. It seems I inadvertently did something wrong regarding the address (OSM in the Netherlands makes use of the government data on addresses, BAG, and I entered an address by hand. As it came from a pick-up list I assumed it was sourced from the BAG, but apparently not). So that’s something to correct, after I find out how to do that.

[UPDATE: The fix was simple to do. The issue was that in the Netherlands the convention is to add meta data about stores to its corresponding address node (not as a separate node, unless there are more businesses at the same address). So the restaurant node I amended should not have been there. I copied all the attributes (tags) over to the address node, and then deleted the original node I edited. The information about the restaurant is now available from the address node itself. If you follow the link to the earlier node, you will now see it says that I deleted it.

I think it’s also great that within minutes of my original edit I had a message from a long time community member, Eggie. He welcomed me, pointed me to some resources on good practice and conventions, before providing some constructive criticism and nudge me in the right direction. Not by fixing what I did wrong, but by explaining why something needed improvement, and linking to where I could find out how to fix it myself, and saying if I had any questions to message him. After my correction I messaged him to check if everything was up to standard now which he acknowledged, ending with ‘happy mapping’. This is the type of welcoming and guidance that healthy communities provide. My Wikipedia experiences have been different I must say.
/UPDATE]

Mozilla fellow, artist and distributed web promoting coder Darius Kazemi has launched the 365 RFCs project. For each day of 2019 he will post and discuss a RFC, request for comment, of the Network Working Group. Starting with the very first RFC that was published in April 1969, 50 years ago, and continuing to RFC 365 (published in July 1972).

Darius writes “In honor of [the 50th] anniversary [of RFC1], I figured I would read one RFC each day of 2019, starting with RFC 1 and ending with RFC 365. I’ll offer brief commentary on each RFC. I’m interested in computer history and how organizations communicate so I think this should prove pretty interesting even though RFCs themselves can be legendarily dry reading (the occasional engineering humor RFC notwithstanding).

I think it’s good to bring the early internet (or arpanet) history to attention. This because I think having a basic understanding of how the internet works is a civic requirement for the 21st century. So add Kazemi’s project to your RSS reader (here’s the feed), and follow 3 years of internet history in 2019. (found via Frank Meeuwsen and Jeremy Keith)

It’s the end of December, and we’re about to enjoy the company of dear friends to bring in the new year. This means it is time for my annual year in review posting, the ‘Tadaa!’ list.

Eight years ago I started writing end-of-year blogposts listing the things that happened that year that gave me a feeling of accomplishment, that make me say ‘Tadaa!’. (See the 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010 editions). I am always moving forwards to the next thing as soon as something is finished, and that often means I forget to celebrate or even acknowledge things during the year. Sometimes I forget things completely. Although I have worked on improving that sense of awareness over the past few years, it remains a good way to reflect on the past 12 months. So, here’s this year’s Tadaa!-list:

  • The Smart Stuff That Matters unconference and bbq party in honour of Elmine’s 40th birthday was an awesome event bringing together so many great people from our various contexts. Thank you to all who were there, from right next door to halfway across the globe, and so many different places in between. It is a great privilege you came together in our home.
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    So much fun having you all at STM18! Of course we had the mythical German sausages again….
    Through the Eyes of the Artist
    Peter made a sketch of our house, sitting in the garden
  • Being witness and officiating at our dear friends’ Klaas and Amarens wedding in Tuscany.


    Dinner al fresco / Thirty years of friendship (images by Elmine)
  • Presenting Networked Agency during a keynote at State of the Net in Trieste. A great opportunity to create a better narrative to explain Networked Agency, and present it to a much wider audience. Also great to see Paolo and Monica, as well as many others again.
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    Our friend Paolo opening State of the Net, enjoying the beautiful city of Trieste
  • Working in Serbia, Italy, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium.
  • Creating a measurement framework for open data impact, that allows for different levels of maturity, embraces complexity, and aims to prevent gaming of measurements.
  • Getting tremendous feedback by the funder of a client project last year, that it was the most exciting thing they funded.
  • Getting asked back by multiple clients
  • Joining the board of Open Nederland, the Dutch Creative Commons chapter as treasurer
  • Joining the board of Open State Foundation, the leading Dutch advocate for open government, as its chairman, after having been one of the initiators of the very first event in 2008, that later turned into this great organisation
  • Taking the time to just hang out with other geeks at IndieWebCamp in Nürnberg
  • I spent every Friday at home to be with our daughter. A joy to watch her develop.
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  • Giving the opening key-note at FOSS4GNL. I especially enjoyed writing the narrative for it, which ties local data governance to geopolitics and ethics.

    the Dutch open source geo community, and during the keynote (images Steven Ottens)
  • Got to be there for friends, and friends got to be there for me. Thank you.
  • Sponsoring the Open Knowledge Belgium conference with my company The Green Land, and participating in the conference with our entire team, and providing two sessions.
  • Finding my voice back in blogging. I’ve written more blogposts this year than the preceding eleven combined, and as much as the first 5 years of busiest blogging combined. As a result I’ve also written much more in-depth material than any other year since I started in 2002. This has created more space for reflection and exploration, useful to shape my ideas and direction in my work. It was inspiring to renew the distributed conversations with other bloggers. As a result I am revisiting much of my writing about information strategies and the workings of human digital networks.
  • Working with a client to further detail and document both Networked Agency and the ‘impact through connection’ project we based on it.
  • Making day trips with Elmine and (not always) Y, e.g. to BredaPhoto, Eddo Hartmann and Fries Museum. Making good use of our more central location.
  • Started to make better use of the various spaces our house offers, like the garden, the attic studio, and my own room. Room for improvement in the next year though.
  • Avoiding feeling hurried, while keeping up the level of results.

All in all it was a rather unhurried year, with more time for reflection about next and future steps. I worked 1728 hours, which averages out to about 36,5 per week worked. This is not yet getting closer to the 4 day work weeks I actually have, compared to last year, but at least stable.
I’ve read 69 books, at a steady pace. All fiction, except for a handful. I’m looking to create the space to start reading more non-fiction. That likely requires a separate approach.

Elmine gave me an amazing sculpture for my birthday, called “Strange Bird Totem”. The artist Jacqueline Schäfer’s work is described as “showing a positive vibe for life in a complex modern society“. That sort of feels like a great motto for the next year. Ever onwards!

US Congress just before leaving for Christmas has voted to approve a new law, that mandates two key elements: public information is open by default and needs to be made actively available in machine readable format, as well as that policy making should be evidence based. In order for agencies to comply they will need to appoint a Chief Data Officer.

I think while of those two the first one (open data) is the more immediately visible, the second one, about evidence based policy making, is much more significant long term. Government, especially politics, often is willingly disinterested in policy impact evaluation. It’s much more status enhancing to announce new plans than admitting previous plans didn’t come to anything. Evidence based policy will help save money. Additionally government agencies will soon realise that doing evidence based policy making is made a lot easier if you already do open data well. The evidence you need is in that open data, and it being open allows all of us to go look for that evidence or its absence.

There’s one caveat to evidence based policy making: it runs the risk of killing any will to experiment. After all, by definition there’s no evidence for something new. So a way is needed in which new policies can be tried out as probes. To see if there’s emerging evidence of impact. Again, that evidence should become visible in existing open data streams. If evidence is found the experimental policy can be rolled out more widely. Evidence based policies need experiments to help create an evidence base, not just of what works but also of what doesn’t.

A great result for the USA’s open government activists. This basically codifies the initiatives of the Obama Presidency, which were the trigger for much of the global open data effort these last 10 years, into US federal law.

Some of the things I found worth reading in the past few days:

  • Although this article seems to confuse regulatory separation with technological separation, it does give a try in formulating the geopolitical aspects of internet and data: There May Soon Be Three Internets. America’s Won’t Necessarily Be the Best
  • Interesting, yet basically boils down to actively exercising your ‘free will’. It assumes a blank slate for the hacking, where I haven’t deliberately set out for information/contacts on certain topics. And then it suggests doing precisely that as remedy. The key quote for me here is “Humans are hacked through pre-existing fears, hatreds, biases and cravings. Hackers cannot create fear or hatred out of nothing. But when they discover what people already fear and hate it is easy to push the relevant emotional buttons and provoke even greater fury. If people cannot get to know themselves by their own efforts, perhaps the same technology the hackers use can be turned around and serve to protect us. Just as your computer has an antivirus program that screens for malware, maybe we need an antivirus for the brain. Your AI sidekick will learn by experience that you have a particular weakness – whether for funny cat videos or for infuriating Trump stories – and would block them on your behalf.“: Yuval Noah Harari on the myth of freedom
  • This is an important issue, always. I recognise it from my work for the World Bank and UN agencies. Is what you’re doing actually helping, or is it shoring up authorities that don’t match with your values? And are you able to recognise it and withdraw when you cross the line from the former to the latter? I’ve known entrepreneurs who kept a client blacklist of sectors, governments and companies, but often it isn’t that clear cut. I’ve avoided engagements in various countries over the years, but every client engagement can be rationalised: How McKinsey Has Helped Raise the Stature of Authoritarian Governments, and when the consequences come back to bite, Malaysia files charges against Goldman-Sachs
  • This seems like a useful list to check for next books to read. I’ve definitely enjoyed reading the work of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Nnedi Okorafor last year: My year of reading African women, by Gary Younge

Recently I have been named the new chairman of the board of the Open State Foundation. This is a new role I am tremendously looking forward to take up. The Open State Foundation is the leading Dutch NGO concerning government transparency, and over the past years they’ve both persistently and in a very principled way pursued open data and government transparency, as well as constructively worked with government bodies to help them do better. Stef van Grieken, the chairman stepping down, has led the Open State Foundation board since it came into existence. The Open State Foundation is the merger of two earlier NGO’s, The New Voting (Het Nieuwe Stemmen) foundation of which Stef was the founder, and the Hack the Government (Hack de Overheid) collective.

Hack de Overheid emerged from the very first Dutch open government barcamp James Burke, Peter Robinett and I organised in the spring of 2008. The second edition in 2009 was the first Hack de Overheid event. My first open data project that same spring was together with James Burke and Alper Çuğun, both part of Hack de Overheid then and providing the tech savvy, and me being the interlocutor with the Ministry for the Interior, to guide the process and interpret the civil servant speak to the tech guys and vice versa. At the time Elsevier (a conservative weekly) published an article naming me one of the founders of Hack de Overheid, which was true in spirit, if technically incorrect.

In the past year and a half I had more direct involvement with the Open State Foundation than in the years between. Last year I did an in-depth evaluation of the effectiveness and lasting impact of the Open State Foundation in the period 2013-2017 and facilitated a discussion about their future, at the request of their director and one of their major funders. That made me appreciate their work in much richer detail than before. My company The Green Land and Open State Foundation also encounter each other on various client projects, giving me a perspective on the quality of their work and their team.

When Stef, as he’s been working in the USA for the past years, indicated he thought it time to leave the board, it coincided with me having signalled to the Open State Foundation that, if there ever was a need, I’d be happy to volunteer for the board. That moment thus came sooner than I expected. A few weeks ago Stef and I met up to discuss it, and then the most recent board meeting made it official.

Day to day the Open State Foundation is run by a very capable team and director. The board is an all volunteer ‘hands-off’ board, that helps the Open State Foundation guard its mission and maintain its status as a recognised charity in the Netherlands. I’m happy that I can help the Open State Foundation to stay committed to their goals of increasing government transparency and as a consequence the agency of citizens. I’m grateful to Stef, and the others that in the past decade have helped Open State Foundation become what it is now, from its humble beginnings at that barcamp in the run-down pseudo-squat of the former Volkskrant offices, now the hipster Volkshotel. I’m also thankful that I now have the renewed opportunity to meaningfully contribute to something I in a tiny way helped start a decade ago.

Replied to Checking in on my social media fast by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller
Three weeks ago, I decided to go dark on social media. ... It's one of the best things I've ever done. I thought I'd check in with a quick breakdown: what worked, and what didn't. Here we go.   Wh...

I recognise what Ben Werdmüller says. About the withdrawal creating space to both read more long form, and to write more myself. Also the replacement dopamine cravings, by looking up your blog’s statistics when the Facebook likes fall away, I had. Indeed as Ben suggests, I also removed the statistics from my website (by disabling JetPack, I never used Google Analytics anyway). Different from him, I never stopped using Twitter or LinkedIn, just cut back Facebook which I felt was the real time sink (also as Twitter nor LinkedIn were on my phone to begin with, and because I use Twitter very differently from how I used Facebook.) Going completely ‘dark’ on social media is also about privilege I feel, so the crux is how conscious are we of our information strategies? How the tools we use support those information strategies or not, and most importantly in the case of social media as a time sink: in how much it’s the tools that shape our info diet, instead of the other way around.

As a long time netizen it is easy to forget that for many now online their complete experience of the internet is within the web silos. I frequent silos, but I’ve always kept a place well outside of it for over two decades. When you’ve never ‘played outside’, building your own space beyond the silos can be an eye-opener. Greg McVerry pointed to the blog of one of his students, who described the experience of stepping outside the silos (emphasis mine):

The fact that I now have a place where I can do that, where I can publish my thoughts whenever I want in a place open for people to read and to not be afraid of doing so, is liberating. I’ve always wanted a space online to call my own. I’m so tired of all the endless perfection I see on social media. My space, “Life Chapter by Chapter” is real. It’s me, personified by a website. And though this post is not digitally enhanced in any way, I love it because it’s representative of the bottom line of what I’ve learned in EDU 106. I’m my own person on this site, I’m not defined by Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. I can post what I want, when I want, how I want. It’s a beautiful thing.

That’s a beautiful thing, indeed. Maybe this is the bit that Frank Meeuwsen and I need to take as the key to the story when writing a book, as Elja challenged us today (in Dutch).


There’s a world outside the walled garden. (Photo of the walled garden at Alnwick Garden by Gail Johnson, CC-BY-NC)

(English TL;DR: January 3rd is Public Domain Day in the Netherlands.)

Op 3 januari is het Publiek Domein Dag. Dan wordt gevierd welke teksten, muziek, films, foto’s en kunst in het publiek domein komen. In de regel gebeurt dat 70 jaar na de dood van de maker. Ofwel, van auteurs, artiesten, componisten, ontwerpers, en kunstenaars die in 1948 stierven komen de werken nu in het publiek domein.

Gedurende het programma worden de werken die in het publiek domein zijn gekomen besproken, bekeken, en beluisterd. De makers van de werken staan centraal in enkele presentaties.

Publiek Domein Dag is net als Openbaarmakingsdag (waarop nieuw archiefmateriaal openbaar wordt) een feestje. Het is de kans voor makers van nu om vergeten werken weer tot leven te brengen, te re-mixen, aan te passen, en opnieuw te interpreteren.

Kom ook naar de Koninklijke Bibliotheek op 3 januari voor Publiek Domein Dag!

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Zweedse electro-staalsmelter, door Herman Heijenbrock (1871-1948), die industrie en arbeiders schilderde. CC BY-SA 3.0

(In het kader van transparantie: Publiek Domein Dag wordt mede georganiseerd door Creative Commons Nederland. Ik ben bestuurslid van de Vereniging Open Nederland, die het Nederlandse Creative Commons chapter en makers ondersteunt)

Some links I thought worth reading the past few days

This week, like last week, I spent two full days working with the Library Services Fryslan’s Frysklab team. We sat down to in full detail document our work and thinking on the ‘Impact Through Connection’ projects. At the start of 2017 we did a first pilot, of which the design was based on my networked agency framework. Since then several instances of the project have been delivered, and the team noticed a pressure to oversimplify it into something focused solely on the act of digital making. It’s a type of greedy reductionism, to have something novel fit into the existing, and judge it not by impact but by needed effort to deliver the project. This often means it needs to be reduced to a point where it no longer requires change of those doing the projects, and the cheapest form in which it is believed the same results can be claimed on paper. Even if the stated purpose of the project remains to create that change.


Our 8 person team writing sprint in progress (photo Bertus Douwes)

As I said last week it is a luxury to sit down with dedicated people and document all we know and experienced around these projects, so we can build new narratives to help others embrace its core tenets and not oversimplify.
Even though working with Mediawiki is a pain, we’ve put together a strong amount of material. In the coming weeks we will be slowly detailing and shaping that to turn it into useful material for different stakeholders for these projects (our team, our pool of facilitators, library staff, directors, school leaders, teachers, children, their parents and the people in their neighbourhood). Early next year we’ll get together again to reflect with a wider group of stakeholders on whether we need more or different things to add.


Discussing some of our material before getting back to writing. (photo Jeroen de Boer)

It was good to in a sprint like this create a living document we can now take forward at a more calm pace.

Our team every time is in awe of the energy the projects create. During the pilot project we were regularly cheered and applauded when arriving for a session with the class of 10 year olds. In the video below from the end of a project in the past days, our facilitators were sung to each in turn by the participating children.

Next week it is 50 years ago that Doug Engelbart (1925-2013) and his team demonstrated all that has come to define interactive computing. Five decades on we still don’t have turned everything in that live demo into routine daily things. From the mouse, video conferencing, word processing, outlining, drag and drop, digital mind mapping, to real time collaborative editing from multiple locations. In 1968 it is all already there. In 2018 we are still catching up with several aspects of that live demonstrated vision though. Doug Engelbart and team ushered in the interactive computing era to “augment human intellect”, and on the 50th anniversary of The Demo a symposium will ask the question what augmenting the human intellect can look like in the 21st century.


A screenshot of Doug Engelbart during the 1968 demo

The 1968 demo was later named ‘the Mother of all Demos‘. I first saw it in its entirety at the 2005 Reboot conference in Copenhagen. Doug Engelbart had a video conversation with us after the demo. To me it was a great example, not merely of prototyping new tech, but most of all of proposing a coherent and expansive vision of how different technological components and human networked interaction and routines can together be used to create new agency and new possibilities. To ‘augment human intellect’ indeed. That to me is the crux, to look at the entire constellation of humans, our connections, routines, methods and processes, our technological tools and achieving our desired impact. Likely others easily think I’m a techno-optimist, but I don’t think I am. I am generally an optimist yes, but to me what is key is our humanity, and to create tools and methods that enhance and support it. Tech as tools, in context, not tech as a solution, on its own. It’s what my networked agency framework is about, and what I try to express in its manifesto.

Paul Duplantis has blogged about where the planned symposium, and more importantly us in general, may take the internet and the web as our tools.

Doug Engelbart on video from Calif.
Doug Engelbart on screen in 2005, during a video chat after watching the 1968 Demo at Reboot 7

This week and next week I am working with the Library Services Fryslan team (BSF), the ones who also run Frysklab, a mobile FabLab. We’re taking about 5 full days and two evenings to dive deeply into detailing and shaping the Impact Through Connection projects BSF runs. Those are based on my networked agency framework. Now that BSF has done a number of these projects they find that they need a better way to talk about it to library decision makers, and a better way to keep the pool of facilitators much closer to the original intentions and notions, as well as find ways to better explain the projects to participants.

It’s quite a luxury to take the time with 5 others to spend a lot of time on talking through our experiences, jotting them down, and reworking them into new narratives and potential experiments. It’s also very intensive, as well as challenging to capture what we share, discuss and construct. In the end we want to be able to explain the why, what and how of networked agency to different groups much better, next to improving the way we execute the Impact Through Connection projects.

After doing a braindump on day 1, we used the second day to discuss some of what we gathered, figure out what’s missing, what needs more detail. We’ve now started to bring all that disjointed material into a wiki, so that we can move things around, and tease out the connections between different elements. This will be the basis for further reflection, planning to end up with ‘living documentation’ that allows us remix and select material for different contexts and groups.

Currently I think we are at the stage of having collected a mountain of thoughts and material, without much sight of how we will be able to process it all. But experience tells me we will get through that by just going on. It makes the luxury of having allocated the time to really do that all the more tangible.