Category Archives: Uncategorized

The FabLab Truck Is Coming

With 17 confirmed participants from 7 countries, we are now just under three months away from the ‘Make Stuff that Matters UnConference‘ that Elmine and I are hosting on 20/21 June.
This weekend we announced one of the key ingredients: FryskLab is coming!

bus1 klein
Image: Frysklab.nl

This 12 meter long truck, is a converted mobile library, and now houses maker machines. It is operated by the provincial library for Fryslan in the north of the Netherlands. Equipment for 3d-printing, laser cutting and milling is all on board and will be parked on our doorstep. A facilitator will be there to teach participants and neighbours to use the machines.

As the FabLab bus is taking up quite a bit of space, we do still need to talk to the neighbours about using some of the parking spaces. But as they will have the opportunity to play with the machines as well, I am sure the neighbours won’t mind much to park their car a bit further away for 2 days.

CPH Week 4

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‘, ‘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.

New Subway Construction
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 Cathrine Lippert presenting
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 Reception Thinware, Inge Vincents ceramics
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
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.

CPH Week 3

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.

P1020116
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.

Brow and nose, just 1 line

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.

Chairs Flid
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.

Apples Halloween at Tivoli
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.

Christiania Christiania

Christiania Christiania
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 MakerHouseholds.eu. 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.

CPH Week 2

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 Rejseplanen.dk 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.

Resting Buddha
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.

CPH City Hall
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.

60 Euro For 2 T-Shirts And 1 Story

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.

Malmö T-Shirt Store

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.

Coming to Copenhagen this October. Let’s work together!

I will be working from Copenhagen the full month of October. I am open to discuss possible things to do concerning open data, complex problems and change management issues. Get in touch if you would like to meet up.

Going to Copenhagen for a month is a bit of an experiment. Elmine and I in the past few years have regularly spent a week or 10 days in various European cities, to reconnect with our network face to face. That usually is perfectly fine to start conversations, but there’s never enough time then to follow up as well. Also a week in another European city like that will quickly fill up with all kinds of meetings and conversations, usually leaving little room to breath in between. So as an experiment we are moving to Copenhagen for a longer period: a full month. So there’s room for follow-up. So that there’s room to do some actual work together.

Why Copenhagen? Because it is a city we love, and we know some great people there. It will feel at home right away, we’re sure. We’ve rented an apartment for the month, and the good people at SocialSquare have offered me office space to get started. So, October 1st, we’ll drive up to Denmark, ready to take on Copenhagen :)

I can offer to help you with:

  • opening up data for your local government or other government body, in a way that is valuable to the government body itself.
  • finding concrete ways to use open government data to increase participation, or impact policy areas that matter to you.
  • coming up with useful applications that use open data and citizen generated data for specific issues.
  • revolutionizing participatory processes by doing large scale listening to real stories in real time
  • setting up the circumstances to successfully grow a local open data community, or start a group of professional peers inside your own organization.

If you are interested to have a conversation on any of these points, feel free to get in touch via e-mail at ton.zijlstra@gmail.com.  Very much looking forward to meeting you!

CPH Harbour

In the harbour of Copenhagen.

Making Is a Contagious Meme

Last week Peter Rukavina was a guest at our home here in Enschede. Although he was worried his old cat allergy might be rekindled by our two cats, that didn’t happen. He did catch a bug though, the making bug. As it turns out making is an infectious meme.

Now, Peter has always been a tinkerer in the years we know him. Building small clever software tools, or running your own hand operated printing press is not everyone’s daily habit. And earlier he picked up on my ‘find your guy in the blue shirt‘ suggestion for opening up government held public data with equal energy, resulting in ongoing effects. So maybe he is more receptive than others. But infect him we did.

Setting up job for Laser Cutter
Laser cutting in Enschede

Laser Cut Letters
Letter type

First we showed him our newly acquired cnc router (it was in his guest room) and laser cutter for our home min fablab. Then Elmine took him to the local FabLab, and asked him “would you like to make something“. Experimenting with making wood type for his letterpress ensued, followed by further work on a laser cutter in Sweden on the next leg of his journey. According to himself his vacation has transmogrified into a ‘makeation‘.

Laser Engraver and Jonas
Lasercutting in Sweden

Laser Cutter Fabricated Type Box
Letter type box

Making is contagious. Better get used to it. A thing to build on as well, when it comes to local resilience in a more connected and complex world.

Our friend Peter Rukavina is traveling through Europe these weeks. He stayed with Pedro and Patricia in Düsseldorf, where we picked him up and brought him to our home town Enschede. As a gift he brought us these hand printed calling cards.

A great gift. Elmine’s and Patricia’s are very stylish. Patricia’s look like a high-end fashion brand label. Pedro’s and my cards are in a type called ‘Grotesk’ Fitting? I like how the I and J are placed, accenting that they belong together. In Dutch they are one letter, abroad this is where people usually spell my name wrong: the L often ends up between them.

Calling Cards

Meanwhile over at MakerHouseHolds.net….

I have continued to chronicle my path to a working mini FabLab at home over at MakerHouseHolds.net (which is a pendant to MakerHouseHolds.eu, a site to start collecting material around making in the context of globally networked, resilient local communities.)

So head on over to read how Elmine and I put together the electronics for our laser cutter in “Bringing a Laser Cutter to Life: Phase One“.

Laser Cutter Arrived
The laser cutter as it arrived in the boot of our car

Laser Cutter Electronics
The finished electronic components. Tried and tested.

The Power of Maps / Beyond the Map

Last Friday I was interviewed for a magazine about my thoughts on maps. This because I will be giving the opening key-note at the yearly conference of the GIS (geo information services) community in the Netherlands in September. The theme for the conference is ‘the power of maps’, and they interviewed me about my planned talk.

Now, I don’t know what I will be presenting in September, as I usually prepare my talks very shortly before a conference. So this interview was a good way of getting some first thoughts formulated. Here’s me thinking out loud.

Maps are fascinating

Maps are fascinating artefacts to me. Not just because of what they show to help me navigate in the now, but also, if not more, because of the patterns of past behavior they show. From a city map you can see a lot of its history. Street patterns are the fossilized emergent patterns of complex human interaction in a bygone age. Maps as (historical) data visualization not just as a navigation aid or information overview.

Map of the original grants of village lots from the Dutch West India Company to the inhabitants of New Amsterdam
Map of the original grants of village lots from the Dutch West India Company to the inhabitants of New Amsterdam

Geo data is a key ingredient in open data

In most open data applications some sort of geo component is being used. It is one of the key ways other types of data are contextualized for a user of an application. To present information relative to me and my current or future position, to be able to compare my own actions to those of others around me, etc. This however does not need to have a map as my primary interface. In fact I’d rather have an interface that helps me solve my problems or helps me decide. And I certainly don’t want to see clumsy maps, like those you have on hotel booking sites, where the map is mostly just an illustration. Why can’t I e.g. use the map there as input method? Draw a rectangle on a map and show me the hotels in it that fit my other search criteria (availability, style and comfort, free wifi, price, in that order)? Or why not show me all the hotels within x minutes on foot or by public transport from a specific spot (like a conference venue), in a similar way as what Mapnificent is doing.

Knowledge nomads have loosened themselves from the map

In my professional network there are many that don’t have strong geo located roots anymore. In the 20th century it made sense to ask ‘where are you from’ but no longer. The question now gets a slightly uncomfortable stare and increasingly vague answers like ‘I currently work from Berlin’ or ‘I’ve just spent a few months in Barcelona’. These knowledge nomads are like flocks of birds, ever on the move, never really in a place in the traditional sense of ‘being from there’. Connections are to social networks, projects, interests, that of course will have locations attached to them always. But location is a temporary choice at most, and a side-effect of other choices most of the time. And air travel makes moving around like taking the underground: you go from one place to another without much noticing the in-between, or having the sensation of movement.

In that context maps and things like nation states become much less relevant. It is the hyper-local that becomes more relevant as a result, but a hyper-local bubble around my current position. An old Medieval notion of being in a digitalized world. Where are my contacts in town at the moment? Where are interesting places to eat, drink and have fun? Where is a coffee bar within 500 meters of my current position that my network thinks provides good coffee? What is currently happening at the spot I will be arriving at in 30 minutes? What is happening where that will impact, or needs to, my current actions and choices (traffic jams, road blocks, events, freak weather, etc.)? This is why I used Plazes, and use Foursquare, Google Latitude and Dopplr. See some earlier thoughts on this hyper local bubble and the ‘real time web’.

Locals and Tourists #13 (GTWA #5): Berlin
Berlin on Flickr: Blue pictures are by locals. Red pictures are by tourists

The map no longer a ‘thing’ in itself?

So as knowledge nomads ‘do more nomading’ maps get less relevant as a product or service in itself, but location contextualized information that influences my actions, choices and my relationships to my networks is getting more and more important. Does it mean maps and geo in general will go ‘under the hood’ of the applications and tools I will be using? Where geo is an ingredient for context, and a way of bridging and combining very different data sets, but mostly unseen at the surface?

I think there might be a lot of new added value in the map, if we let go of the map. The map is never the landscape. In order to be valuable the map needs to become a part of the landscape at least however: the mobile landscape that is my life.