The past and last full week in Copenhagen was a busy one, filled with appointments and presentations.

I started Tuesday, after discussing a workshop with a Dutch client for next month, with preparing a presentation for the Danish Ministry of Housing, Urban and Rural Affairs (MBBL), that I gave later that afternoon. The Danish government has announced a major open data release, with wanting to stimulate growth and innovation as a key part of the rationale behind it. Now, all the general research makes that growth highly likely, but how do you actually on an operational level make sure the right conditions are there for it to happen? And what is the role of public sector bodies on that highly operational level? This was a timely request by the MBBL for me to talk about, as it is helping me to further frame open data as a change management issue. That is exactly what is currently needed to help me set up The Green Land, my / our open data consulting start-up.

In between I finally got around to some reading, absorbing John Robb’s ‘Brave New War‘ (2008), ‘The Innovator’s DNA‘ (Christensen) and Lane Becker’s ‘Get Lucky‘ (triggered by our dinner with him earlier this month) in parallel. As usual in my mind they are all very much connected, and if you look closely at my MBBL presentation above you will see traces of it in the slides.

Early Wednesday morning I met up with Pedro Parraguez Ruiz, at the welcoming Paludan. He’s a PhD looking at open innovation networks and ecosystems, trying to see if social network analysis and other aspects can be fruitfully applied to it. Pedro described most existing open innovation set-ups as being too transactional in their focus, creating closed groups that treat the network as just another asset. Saying that ‘the long tail of university held patents’ is just wasted (as in, not exploited, but also not open to build upon), he wondered what would happen if you put open design thinking at the core of the scientific and university process. Made me think of some of the discussion triggered by Elsevier’s Michael Habib on scientific reputation building in Düsseldorf in 2009, and some of the good presentations at last week’s FabLab Toulouse conference. Later that day in Fredriksberg I had another stimulating conversation with another PhD, Thorhildur Jetzek Hansdottir. She is looking into (economic) modeling of open data impacts. Again here there was a tension between ‘classic’ structures and networked structures in creating value. It helped me formulate a bit more clearly where I think the transition from social transactions to monetized transactions takes place, and that rather than treating ‘social activity’ and ‘economic activity’ as separate domains, economic activity is a subset of social activity where monetization becomes sort-of a proxy for social distance or trust differences in a network. At the end of the day I was interviewed for the Dutch magazine Vice Versa on the potential and role of open data for international development aid, as part of their ‘Smart Aid Debate’. A very thought provoking day, all in all.

Subway construction in Frederiksberg

Dansk IT, the Danish association for IT professionals, had invited me to give a presentation on open data potential on Thursday. I spent most of the day preparing the talk, rearranging some of the arguments I used on Tuesday for the MBBL session for this private sector audience’s context. Basically the presentations for MBBL and Dansk IT are two sides of the same story, as public sector and private sector need each other to really create open data impact. Cathrine Lippert of the Digitaliseringsstyrelsen first explained the Danish open data steps, and then I tried to put that in a broader context of public sector information re-use in Europe.

Room filling up at Dansk IT and Cathrine Lippert presenting Danish OGD steps

Friday I met up with Simon of KL7 who has volunteered to organize the next Copenhagen Data Drinks on 28 November. KL7, housed in the great SOHO co-working facility, have a very interesting approach in using data to shape narratives and interaction between stakeholders, and it was an inspiring meeting with Simon and his colleague Mikkel. Good observations on how to link-up this (open) data work, with things like Sensemaking, and the bridge to social media, which inspired some new insights in how I can combine those various aspects of my work and interests. I certainly aim to continue our conversation.

Elmine and I explored the hip Jaegersborggade in Nørrebro, which is in the process of (early) gentrification: hipsters taking over the shops, rising prices for the small apartments, and people with Macs working in the corner café, but drug dealing taking place in the open and signs in the shop windows warning burglars that there is no money or computer worth stealing inside. In 2009 we bought some cool ceramics in Copenhagen, and now found the artisan who made them, Inge Vincents, in this street. So we added a few items to our collection.

SOHO, and Inge Vincents ceramics

Also accepted invitations to speak on open data in Dublin and contribute to the Open Innovation Festival in Leeuwarden (NL) next month.

The weekend brought freezing temperatures but also clear blue skies and lots of sunshine. Saturday we visited our friends Henriëtte and Thomas and their daughter Penny in Helsingør, right on time to see Coworking boat PAN, of which we are shareholders, being lifted from the water for the winter. Hanging out together was fun and relaxing, so we headed back up there on Monday evening again for a dinner together. Sunday we walked for hours, starting in Østerbro in Faelled park, where Elmine and I extensively discussed various questions and ideas, while letting our feet take us where they happened to be heading. Over a nice lunch we wrote some of the fruits of walking and thinking down, before continuing on foot along the city lakes towards Nørreport and the city center, where we hit the Lego store for some early Sinterklaas preparations.

PAN leaves the water

The fourth week in Copenhagen ended this Monday with a day in the office at SocialSquare, where Magnus and I also took the opportunity to talk about Sensemaking, and I handed back the office keys when I left. After work, as mentioned we headed up to Helsingør again for a ‘hyggelig’ dinner with Henriëtte, Thomas and Penny.

Tomorrow is the last full day in Copenhagen after a month that zipped by at high speed, and we’ll be ‘closing down the Copenhagen operation’ as Peter would put it, which includes returning our rented bikes. But not before I meet up with the people behind the Copenhagen bicycle policies at city hall to talk about open data. On Wednesday we’ll drive back home, taking a day to unpack and rest, before I head out to Prague for new open data adventures on Friday. By the end of next week I hope to post some thoughts on how this month-long stay worked out as an experiment.

This week started off on the wrong foot, with high fever and being ill. Which was awful timing as this was also the first week I had a feeling of really being here. Fever was mostly gone by Wednesday, allowing us to take a walk in the sun in the neighbourhood, just in time for the CPH Data Drinks that evening!

The First CPH Data Drinks was an attempt by me to create an informal meet-up place and set a rhythm for open data interested people to come together. It seems to me here in Denmark, while stakeholders are mostly aware of each other they are also organized in little islands. Obviously the interesting stuff happens if those islands get connected a bit more, when people become routinely exposed to what is going on in other areas. So, I was glad that CPH Data Drinks brought together some 30 people! We had a fun evening with lots of conversations, and created a Data Wishlist of data sets participants would like to see published first. The Danish Statistics Office was high on the list. Immediately volunteers stepped forward to organize the next CPH Data Drinks on 28 November, and I will be supporting them with some hands on tips on how to keep things going.

The handwritten cards used for input to build the Data Wishlist

The next day I of course had to pay for the previous nights exertions so shortly after a bout of fever. Around mid day we left to explore the city, in particular to visit the Matisse exhibit in the Danish state museum for art, SMK. The exhibition focussed on the repetition and variation in Matisse’s work, which gave some great glimpses into his work flow and methods. Afterwards we strolled back to the city center, and found me a winter coat, just in time as the temperatures are scheduled to drop in the coming days.

Friday morning I revisited the Social Square offices for the first time in a full week. They hadn’t particularly missed me as the illness that hit me also hit everyone (except one) at the office as well. Over lunch I caught up with Richard Lalleman, discussing culture change and changing deeply entrenched work routines to be able to allow his employer to be better at operating in a networked environment. Not easy when the first response in this global business has been one of control, centralization of authority and standardization. Afterwards I met Elmine at the pleasant PH Cafeen for some tea in the sun.

Old chairs, and one of the many examples of signage design on Istedgade

The rest of the afternoon, deciding to work half days for now, Elmine and I explored Istedgade, lined with various small fashion shops (allowing Elmine to run up some credit card transactions), ending with some lovely Thai food and coffee. The evening we spent in Tivoli, which was fully decorated for Halloween. Simply enjoying the stroll through the crowds, taking in the surroundings, and enjoying each others presence.

Tivoli Halloween style

Sunshine drew us out of the apartment the next day. Cycling along the water front we went to Christianshavn. We’ve been visiting Copenhagen for 10 years on a regular basis, but had never been to this part of town before. Taking some coffee on the go from Sweet Treat we enjoyed the sun at the edge of the canal, alongside what seemed most of the other people living there. Strolling a little while through Christiania, the old provo-initiated ‘free town’ on the old military grounds, we cycled over the old ramparts ending at a restaurant that couldn’t serve food anymore: the sunshine had apparently unexpectedly brought out much more people, so they ran out. As the ferry across the water was full, and couldn’t take us, we cycled back to the bridge to get us to the other side, and ended up for tea and snacks at the edge of Nørrebro. After a nice dinner at Bibendum (awesome chocolate truffels!) it was time to finally cycle home after a sun filled day.

Some snapshots from Christiania

A lot less sunny Sunday was spend talking and doing some conceptual work on a few open data services, as well as Which brings us to today, where I continued the conceptualizing, as well as started preparing a presentation I will be giving tomorrow.

This coming week is already our last in Copenhagen, and a busy one.

Already the second week has zipped by. Before coming to Copenhagen I had created a list of things I could work on in case of having nothing else to do. Haven’t even looked at the list yet. Still this is the point in the month where I am asking “what am I doing here?”. It seems only now I am winding down from all the stuff that needed to be done and ready to take a look at what lies ahead. With several speaking engagements coming up that is already shaping up.

Tuesday I had a conversation with Jonas Ask Homaa, head developer of the Danish leading public transport website, whom I met at #hack4dk last week. Main question was how providing open data through their API is helpful to themselves, and what current developments I saw that tie into this. Aspects we discussed, also based on the recent workshop in Helsinki I did last month with the ePSIplatform team, was the European push for intelligent transport systems using open data, being able to use the same app for public transport in different places (in stead of having to download apps for each city I visit), and how with small interventions one can stimulate the ecosystem around you, so that the type of apps may emerge that you will not do yourself as they are outside your core mission.

Dinner that day was enjoyed with lots of stimulating conversation in the good company of Olle and Luisa in Malmö, Sweden. Over loads of veggies, some great venison and ample wine, world domination was discussed, as were internet gentlemen, and the new killerapp: drones serving ‘kapsalon‘ whenever the internet gentleman finds himself getting somewhat peckish. Some shopping got done beforehand, where t-shirts turned out to be a good source of stories.

Being able to join the celebration of the big open data announcement at the Digitalstyrelsen of the Danish government as an outsider on Wednesday was an honor. It also allowed me to (re)connect to various public sector bodies here in Denmark, which resulted in a speaking engagement later this month. It was also good to reaffirm the connection that the Netherlands and Denmark have had in the past years when it comes to learning from each other about organizing and opening up core registers, as well as being able to receive and pass on praise for my colleagues Marc and Udo for their assisting role in motivating this new Danish step.

Early morning conference calls were scheduled on Thursday to further plot open data world domination. In this case I discussed with Frank how we could turn our lessons learned from a recent local government open data project into several products and services. It turned into working out an idea on how to build a new important asset for our little open data company, something I will try and work out in more detail before leaving Copenhagen. This was followed by a conference call on the draft program and speakers list for the February 2013 Conference in Poland me and the ePSIplatform team are organizing.

In the Louisiana Museum park

Friday was a day dedicated to absorbing culture, high and low. During the day we visited the truly magnificent Louisiana Museum, as we try to do every time we visit Copenhagen. Three main exhibits, on Nordic architecture, one installation by Ed Kienholz, and a massive exhibition on self portraits by a wide range of artist made for a very intensive visit. It was a beautiful sunny autumn day, so we also very much got to enjoy the museum’s park, right on the coast. In the evening we got ourselves ‘culture kits’ to join ‘Kulturnatten‘ or culture night. One night a year many groups, organizations, institutions, musea, public bodies, stores and whatnot open up to the public. Everybody seemed to be out on the (increasingly cold) streets, enjoying themselves. We strolled into the royal city palace, through Copenhagen city hall, the Arsenal museum and National museum. We also got to see some normally closed inner courtyards of some of the oldest parts of the inner city. Part of the culture kit was not just a free public transport pass for the night, but also a free pass for all the major musea in town. We’ll be using that in the coming days for certain.

In Copenhagen City Hall

Late breakfast at home on Saturday morning spilled over into coffee at Pate Pate in the meat packing district, which turned into a very pleasant lunch at Von Fressen catching up with Jon Froda. It was very good to see Jon again and catch up. Afterwards some Saturday shopping before crashing at the apartment. Sunday started as a lazy day, but soon turned into a bedridden day for me with a 39 degrees fever, which turns out to be the case for today as well.

That rounds up the second week in Copenhagen. We met great people, saw cool things, but work-wise I am only now coming around to ‘being here’, in stead of working through a back-log of other things.

Yesterday we went to Malmö in Sweden to have dinner with Olle and Luisa, which is the stuff for other legends. We went a bit earlier to do some “Swedification” of my wardrobe.

At some point we found ourselves in a tiny store, called TShirt. The guy running the store (“although it means I don’t get to design that often any more”) told us the story behind it while we were browsing the handful of shelves.

TShirt is a store and a webstore, and has been around since 2006. Artists from around the world create designs, and those are used on the shirts. The shirts that are made are available in the store for just 1 week, and then the next batch of designs comes in. Every week a new series of designs. The cotton shirts are also fair trade.

The remarks made on the process were telling for where added value is to be found in our networked world, where existing structures fail and become a barrier, and how scaling is done network-wise.

1) Originally the shirts were printed at a large company in Turkey. “We were only a small customer for them”, and there regularly were delays. This did not work well at all with the weekly rhythm of replacing the designs. A week delay means an empty shop. So they switched to a smaller Swedish printer “where we are a much more significant customer”.

2) Artists from around the world can contribute designs to make the shirts, providing them with a stage for their work, and building a high trust network.

3) Getting the Fair Trade label took a very long time: “They are simply not set-up to handle companies like us”, as they are used to much bigger outfits that can handle and work well with the bureaucracy involved in getting the Fair Trade certification.

The two shirts I picked, are ‘Beast‘ by Marcus Pettersson (S) and ‘Streetdreams‘ by Rakesh Makwama (UK)

I left with two shirts for 500 SEK (just under 60 Euro), and a story. The shirts are great, the story to me much more significant.

A quick write-up of what went down in our first week in Copenhagen.

Arriving on Monday evening we found the apartment to be as described and quickly settled in.

Tuesday was spent mostly working from the apartment and figuring out the nearest good shops, as well as trying to clear parking issues. This newly built residential area has loads of parking lots, but all empty as you need expensive permits to use them. We parked Monday night where it wasn’t really allowed and at 9 am Tuesday morning we had a parking attendant busy writing us a ticket. Quick intervention prevented the ticket, but left us with an unparked car 🙂

Trying to arrange a parking permit for a month is impossible, as the minimum is 3 months and requires living here, a phone call to the omnipresent who have cornered the entire market for parking, revealed. Careful watching the handful of free parking spaces in the street until one became available, we parked the car in the end. Thanks to our apartment being on the ground floor with plenty windows, the watching could be done from the couch. We have every intention of not moving the car again if we can help it.

Upon our first FourSquare login Lane Becker pinged me that he happened to be in Copenhagen as well, and so we ended up having dinner together on Tuesday, in the good company of Natasha Friis-Saxberg and half a dozen or so other local start-up entrepreneurs. A good start to our CPH mini-sabatical. Lane turns out to have caught our ‘Birthday Unconference‘ bug (being stuck under the ash cloud in Lisbon at Shift two years ago played some role in that) and is dreaming of inviting everyone to a remote Texan town for his next birthday. It’s still a full year out, which leaves ample time to rationalize undertaking a 24 hour voyage to a town we would otherwise never have heard of. Serves us right for inviting everyone we know to our own remote town, others have never heard of, every two years or so.

The parking woes of Tuesday seamlessly led to Wednesday: arranging bicycles. Going native on rented bikes (Are you sure you’re ok on bicycles? Oh you’re Dutch, never mind), was followed by arranging a local data SIM for our iPads, ensuring on the go connectivity without doing away with being reachable on our usual phone numbers. Oister sells data sims with 10GB for a week at 99 DKR (about 15 Euro), which you can then top-up on-line per day / week / month.

Thursday I paid a first visit to the good people at Social Square, where Magnus promptly handed me the keys to the place. A much appreciated gesture. Having a co-working space for the coming weeks is extremely welcome, and allows me to attempt to make a distinction between working and being at the apartment. Needless to say the attempt is not entirely successful yet. Making some noise on-line about my presence in Copenhagen, led me to finding out that Friday and Saturday were the dates for #Hack4DK, a hack camp on using cultural heritage data. The grapevine (i.e. contacts in two Danish ministries) also informed me a big data release was going to be announced next Monday.

The National Museum is where I found myself the next morning in an auditorium with 50 or so Danish hackers and cultural heritage people. It’s where I learned (from a Swedish presenter) that it is easier to tame a wild salmon than breath life into a dead herring, which apparently applies to opening government data too. I take him on his word, and will not bother to try and compare the two methods. I did eat salmon as well as herring though this week, and can say it is just as easy and enjoyable to eat either 😉

I took the opportunity to quickly present to the Danish hacking crowd that I was in town and that I’d like them to become more visible in Europe, on the ePSIplatform and to their own government bodies. Bang on the doors and demand data, in short. Especially because it is Danish civil servants who are asking them to do so, as it helps them to build the case internally. After a lunch with the #Hack4DK organizing team at the Royal Library and briefly watching the kick-off of the actual hacking there, I went on to Accenture to discuss open data in the energy sector, smart grids and buildings, and such. Upon returning home I announced the first ever Copenhagen Data Drinks, to get the open data community together informally. I promised to buy the first round, which may well be, given the prices of alcohol in Scandinavia, the most expensive gesture I ever made. Should you be in CPH on 17 October do join for the Data Drinks!

The weekend was spent on finishing writing a report for a Dutch local government client on the research I and my colleagues at our new company The Green Land (more on that later) did to help this city to ‘do open data well’ (more on that later as well).  Sunday ended with good food and extended conversation with Thomas Madsen-Mygdal. It is always good to be able to catch up like that. Especially when there’s no need to hurry, as we’ll be in town for a while.

I finally deemed the client report ready to send off to the client this Monday. Much later than originally intended, but once I missed my own deadline travel and a bunch of speaking engagements got in the way. The off the record announcement that reached me last week, was announced today for all to see. Denmark is opening up all of its core data registries for the public, free of charge. This is a major step, and the Danish government, and all the people involved deserve a loud round of applause for it. My The Green Land colleague Marc has had some influence on the process doing various bits of research for the Danish government and inviting them over for a field trip to the Netherlands earlier this year, which I also took part in. Nice to see the ripples of the stones we throw in the open data pond help turn things into actual movement. Later this week I’ve been invited to celebrate the achievement with the people involved, which should be fun.

The first week went by extremely fast. If I had a hat, I would have needed to have held onto it. And not just because of the ever windy character of this coastal region. Now headlong dashing into the second week….