CPH Week 1

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 Europark.dk 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 ;)

Hack4DK
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). ┬áSunday 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….