This is good news from Flickr. Flickr is amending their changes, to ensure that Creative Commons licensed photos will not be deleted from free accounts that are over their limit. (via Jeremy Cherfas)

Flickr recently announced they would be deleting the oldest photos of free accounts that have more photos than the new limit of 1000 images. This caused concern as some of those free accounts might be old, disused accounts, where there are images with open licenses that are being used elsewhere. Flickr allows search for images with open licenses, and makes it easy to embed those in your own online material. Removing old images might therefore break things, and there were many people calling for Flickr to try and prevent breaking things. And they are, Flickr is providing all public institutions and archives publishing photos to Flickr with a free Pro account, and will also delete no Creative Commons licensed images, if they carried that license before 1 November 2018. (This prevents you from keeping an unlimited free account by simply relicensing the photos, and uploading new photos with CC licenses only.)

My Applescript to start a new project both in my todo-app Things and my note-app Evernote throws errors for the Things part suddenly. After upgrading Things 2 weeks ago. Have the applescript hooks changed? Or the data structure of Things? Need to explore.

I use an applescript at the start of new activities. Depending on the nature of the activity (client project, project acquisition, internal, learning, personal etc), it automatically populates my folder system, my todo-app and my note taking app with the right information. Folders, standard tasks for a project, templates for documents needed, bookkeeping requirements, setting a consistent name and tag for the project across all tools etc.

Sorry to hear some sad news today. Just by coincidence, checking out an Austrian blog Heinz Wittenbrink pointed me to, I found out that Robert Basic died Friday last week of heart failure. Robert Basic is of my age, and was one of the most visible bloggers in Germany in the ’00s, writing a tech blog, basicthinking.de. I never actually met him in person, but our blog networks and therefore blog conversations strongly overlapped. One of those bloggers in the middle distance for me, I’d always encounter him in the comments of other bloggers I read, and we read each others blog, but never directly engaging much otherwise. Not someone close, nor a stranger, but a familiar face in the neighbourhood to chat with, mutually acknowledging you’re part of the fabric of that neighbourhood.

I distinctly remember two moments from Robert’s blogging. The first one was when ‘we’, as in a bunch of other bloggers in his network, found out that Robert automated the actual moment of publishing a posting. To better spread out his writing over a week, so he could write a number of things, but not post them all at the same time. The ‘smoking gun’ was some other bloggers being in a meeting with him talking, and seeing how posts would go up on his site at that moment. We discussed it as inauthentic behaviour. A true blogger would write in the moment and immediately post. Since then being able to preset the precise moment of a blogpost has become standard functionality, and I use it regularly.

The second moment was when, after six years of blogging, he no longer wanted to continue his very successful blog and started again on a new blog. He put basicthinking.de up for sale on eBay in 2009. It brought in 46.902 Euro. The site still exists, with his 12k articles still in the archive, and having changed hands again in 2015. I was shocked, I remember, by that step, and maybe even more puzzled by what the buyer thought they were buying. Wasn’t it the author that drives the traffic to the blog, taking it with him when he leaves?

Since then we mostly followed each other on Facebook, and when I deleted my old Facebook account I lost track of his writing, mostly about the automotive industry. Until today, when on a random Austrian blog I found the news of his untimely death. It’s odd. I feel like I’m currently in a resurgence of blogging, and part of that is reconnecting to the history of the web we lost. A history now long enough to lose people who are part of it.

dat wars, that’s it, was the title of the last posting on his old blog in January 2009.

dat wars.

Something that strikes me as odd in addressing fake news, is that it’s almost exclusively focused on the information production and distribution. Not on the skills and strategies of the entity taking information in. Partly this is understandable, as forcing transparency on how your information might have been influenced is helpful (especially to see if what you get presented with is something others / everyone else is presented with). But otherwise it’s as if those receiving information are treated as passive consumers, not as agents in their own right.

“Our best defense against hostile influence, whatever its vector, is to invest in critical thinking skills at all levels of the population so that outlandish claims are seen for what they truly are: emotional exploitation for political or monetary gain”, wrote Nina Jankowicz on how Finnish society instills critical thinking skills.

The question of course is whether governments truly want to inoculate society, or merely want to deflect disinformation and manipulation from specific sources. Then it’s easier to understand where the focus on technology oriented solutions, or ones that presume centralised efforts come from.

In networks smartness needs to be at the endpoints, not in the core. There’s a lack of attention for the information strategies, filtering and interpreting tactics of those receiving information. Crap detection skills need to be developed for instance, and societies have a duty to self-inoculate. I think the obligation to explain* applies here too, showing others what you do and how.

Here’s a list of postings about my information habits. They’re not fixed, and currently I’m in the process of describing them again, and taking a critical look at them. What are your information habits, have you ever put them into words?

*The obligation to explain is something I’ve adopted from my friend Peter Rukavina: “The benefits of a rich, open pool of knowledge are so great that those who have learned have an obligation to share what they’ve learned.

Last weekend during the Berlin IndieWeb Camp, Aaron Parecki gave a brief overview of where he/we is/are concerning the ‘social reader’. This is of interest to me because since ever I have been reading RSS, I’m doing by hand what he described doing more automatically.

These are some notes I made watching the live stream of the event.

Compared to the algorithmic timelines of FB, Twitter and Instagram, that show you what they decide to show you, the Social Reader is about taking control: follow the things you want, in the order that you want.
RSS readers were and are like that. But RSS reading never went past linear reading of all the posts from all your feeds in reverse chronological order. No playing around with how these feeds are presented to you. And no possibility to from within the reader take actions based on the things you read (sharing, posting, bookmarking, flagging, storing etc.): there are not action buttons on your feedreader, other than mark as unread or archive.

In the IndieWeb world, publishing works well Aaron said, but reading has been an issue (at least if it goes beyond reading a blog and commenting).
That’s why he built Monocle, and Aperture. Aperture takes all kinds of feeds, RSS, JSON, Twitter, and even scripts pushing material to it. These are grouped in channels. Monocle is a reader on top of that, where he presents those channels in a nice way. Then he added action buttons to it. Like reply etc. Those actions you initiate directly in the reader, and always post to your own site. The other already existing IndieWeb building blocks then send it to the original source of the item you’re responding to. See Aaron’s posting from last March with screenshots “Building an IndieWeb Reader“, to get a feeling for how it all looks in practice.

The power of this set-up is that it separates the layers, of how you collect material, how work on that material, and how you present content. It looked great when Aaron demo’d it when I met him at IWC Nürnberg two weeks earlier.

For me, part of the actions I’d like to take are definitely outside the scope of my own website, or at the very least outside the public part of my website. See what I wrote about my ideal feed reader. Part of automation of actions I’d want to point to different workflows on my own laptop for instance. To feed into desk research, material for client updates, and things like that.

I’m interested in running things like Aperture and Monocle locally, but a first step is exploring them in the way Aaron provides them to test drive. Aperture works fine. But I can’t yet get Monocle to work for me. This is I guess the same issue I ran into two weeks ago with how my site doesn’t support sending authorisation headers.

This is a start to more fully describe and explore a distributed version of digitisation, digitalisation and specifically digital transformation, and state why I think bringing distributed / networked thinking into them matters.

Digitising stuff, digitalising routines, the regular way

Over the past decades much more of the things around us became digitised, and in recent years much of the things we do, our daily routines and work processes, have become digitalised. Many of those digitalised processes are merely digitised replicas of their paper predecessors. Asking for a government permit for instance, or online banking. There’s nothing there that wasn’t there in the paper version. Sometimes even small steps in those processes still force you to use paper. At the start of this year I had to apply for a declaration that my company had never been involved in procurement fraud. All the forms I needed for it (30 pages in total!), were digitised and I filled them out online, but when it came to sending it in, I had to print the PDF resulting from those 30 pages, and send it through snail mail. I have no doubt that the receiving government office’s first step was to scan it all before processing it. Online banking similarly is just a digitised paper process. Why don’t all online bank accounts provide nifty visualisation, filtering and financial planning tools (like alerts for dates due, saving towards a goal, maintaining a buffer etc.), now that everything is digital? The reason we laugh at Little Britains ‘computer says no’ sketches, is because we recognise all too well the frustration of organisations blindly trusting their digitalised processes, and never acknowledging or addressing their crappy implementation, or the extra work and route-arounds their indifference inflicts.

Digital transformation, digital societies

Digital transformation is the accumulated societal impact of all those digital artefacts and digitalised processes, even if they’re incomplete or half-baked. Digital transformation is why I have access to all those books in the long tail that never reached the shelves of any of the book shops I visited in decades part, yet now come to my e-reader instantly, resulting in me reading more and across a wider spectrum than ever before. Digital transformation is also the impact on elections that almost individually targeted data-driven Facebook advertising caused by minutely profiling undecided voters.

Digital transformation is often referred to these days, in my work often also in the context of development and the sustainable development goals.
Yet, it often feels to me that for most intents and purposes this digital transformation is done to us, about us but not of us. It’s a bit like the smart city visions corporations like Siemens and Samsung push(ed), that were basically devoid of life and humanity. Quality of life reduced and equated to security only, in sterilised cities, ignoring that people are the key actors, as critiqued by Adam Greenfield in 2013.

Human digital networks: distributed digital transformation

The Internet is a marvellous thing. At least it is when we use it actively, to assist us in our routines and in our efforts to change, learn and reach out. As social animals, our human interaction has always been networked where we fluently switch between contexts, degrees of trust and disclosure, and routing around undesired connections. In that sense human interaction and the internet’s original design principle closely match up, they’re both distributed. In contrast most digitalisation and digital transformation happens from the perspective of organisations and silos. Centralised things, where some decide for the many.

To escape that ‘done to us, about us, not of us’, I think we need to approach digitisation, digitalisation and digital transformation from a distributed perspective, matching up our own inherently networked humanity with our newly (since 30 yrs) networked global digital infrastructure. We need to think in terms of distributed digital transformation. Distributed digital transformation (making our own digital societal impact), building on distributed digitisation (making our things digital), and on distributed digitalisation (making our routines digital).

Signs of distributed digitisation and digitalisation

Distributed digitisation can already be seen in things like the quantified self movement, where individuals create data around themselves to use for themselves. Or in the sensors I have in the garden. Those garden measurements are part of something you can call distributed digitalisation, where a network of similar sensors create a map of our city that informs climate adaptation efforts by local government. My evolving information strategies, with a few automated parts, and the interplay of different protocols and self-proposed standards that make up the Indieweb also are examples of distributed digitalisation. My Networked Agency framework, where small groups of relationships fix something of value with low threshold digital technology, and network/digital based methods and processes, is distributed digitisation and distributed digitalisation combined into a design aid for group action.

Distributed digital transformation needs a macroscope for the new civil society

Distributed digital transformation, distributed societal impact seems a bit more elusive though.
Civil society is increasingly distributed too, that to me is clear. New coops, p2p groups, networks of individual actors emerge all over the world. However they are largely invisible to for instance the classic interaction between government and the incumbent civil society, and usually cut-off from the scaffolding and support structures that ‘classic’ activities can build on to get started. Because they’re not organised ‘the right way’, not clearly representative of a larger whole. Bootstrapping is their only path. As a result these initiatives are only perceived as single elements, and the scale they actually (can) achieve as a network remains invisible. Often even in the eyes of those single elements themselves.

Our societies, including the nodes that make up the network of this new type of civil society, lack the perception to recognise the ‘invisible hand of networks’. A few years ago already I discussed with a few people, directors of entities in that new civil society fabric, how it is that we can’t seem to make our newly arranged collective voices heard, our collective efforts and results seen, and our collective power of agency recognised and sought out for collaboration? We’re too used, it seems, to aggregating all those things, collapsing them into a single voice of a mouthpiece that has the weight of numbers behind it, in order to be heard. We need to learn to see the cumulative impact of a multitude of efforts, while simultaneously keeping all those efforts visible on their own. There exist so many initiatives I think that are great examples of how distributed digitalisation leads to transformation, but they are largely invisible outside their own context, and also not widely networked and connected enough to reach their own full potential. They are valuable on their own, but would be even more valuable to themselves and others when federated, but the federation part is mostly missing.
We need to find a better way to see the big picture, while also seeing all pixels it consists of. A macroscope, a distributed digital transformation macroscope.

A week that felt less productive than hoped, also because of picking up a bug or something the little one brought home from daycare.

  • Caught up on the current open data collaboration between the city of Leeuwarden, the province and the regional archive, and discussed some possible next steps.
  • Discussed detailing the Networked Agency and Impact through Connection process / method in more detail with the Library Service Fryslan
  • Wrote a project proposal
  • Did a second iteration on a report for a province
  • Wrote out my notes about a talk on open data and government procurement
  • Finished 3rd quarter book keeping and did VAT tax returns for my and Elmine’s companies
  • Toyed with the idea of writing 1, actually 2 books
  • Discussed marketing/self presentation online with Elmine, as well as adding machine readable microformats to to the u-design wordpress theme
  • In the spirit of NaNoWriMo, will aim to write 1000 words every weekday in November, and did so this week at least.

Today at 14:07, sixteen years ago I published my first blogpost. The first few months I posted on Blogger, but after 6 months, deciding having a blog was no longer just an experiment, I moved to my own domain and where it has since resided. First it was hosted at a server I ran from my home, later I moved to a hosting package for more reliability.

Interestingly in that first blogpost only the links to personal domains still work, all the others have since become obsolete. Radio Userland no longer exists, nor does the Knowledge Board platform that I mention and even refer to as a place to find out more about me. In my first blogpost I also link to an image that was hosted on my server at home, using the subdomain name my internet provider gave me back then. That provider was sold in 2006 and that subdomain name no longer exists either. Blogger itself does still exist and even keeps my old Blogger.com blog alive. But Google has of course shown frequently they can and do kill services at short notice, or suspend your account.

The only original link in that first posting that still works is the one to David Gurteen’s blog hosted on his own domain gurteen.com, and his blogpost actually preserves some of the things I wrote at the now gone Knowledge Board. Although the original link to Lilia’s blogpost on Radio Userland no longer works, I could repair the link because she moved to her own domain in the same week I launched my blog. The link to Seb’s Radio Userland site has been preserved in archive.org. Which goes to say: if you care about your own data, your own writing, your own journal of thoughts, you need to be able to control the way your creative output can be accessed online. Otherwise it’s just a bit of content that serves as platform fodder.

So in a sense my very first blogpost in hindsight is a ringing endorsement for the IndieWeb principle of staying in control of your stuff. That goes further than having your own domain, but it’s a key building block.

Last year the anniversary of this blog coincided with leaving Facebook and returning to writing in this space more. That certainly worked out. Maybe I should use this date to yearly reflect on how my online behaviours do or don’t aid my networked agency.

Does the New York Times see the irony? This article talks about how US Congress should look much less at the privacy terms of big tech, and more at the actual business practices.

Yet it calls upon me to disable my ad blocker. The ad blocker that blocks 28 ads in a single article, all served by a Google advertisement tracker. One which one of my browsers flags as working the same way as cross site scripting attacks work.

If as you say adverts are at the core of your business model, making journalism possible, why do you outsource it?
I’m ok with advertising New York Times, but not with adtech. There’s a marked difference between the two. It’s adtech, not advertising, that does the things you write about, like “how companies can use our data to invisibly shunt us in directions” that don’t benefit us. And adtech is the reason that, as you the say, the “problem is unfettered data exploitation and its potential deleterious consequences.” I’m ok with a newspaper running their own ads. I’m not ok with the New York Times behaving like a Trojan horse, pretending to be a newspaper but actually being a vehicle for, your own words, the “surveillance economy”.

Until then my ad blocker stays.


My browser blocking 28 ads (see the address bar) on a single article, all from 1 Google ad tracker.

As a first step to better understand the different layers of adding microformats to my site (what is currently done by the theme, what by plugins etc.), I decided to start with: what is supposed to go where?

I made a post-it map on my wall to create an overview for myself. The map corresponds to the front page of my blog.

Green is content, pink is h- elements, blue u- elements, and yellow p- elements, with the little square ones covering dt- and rel’s. All this is based on the information provided on the http://microformats.org/wiki/Main_Page, and not on what my site actually does. So next step is a comparison of what I expect to be there from this map, to what is actually there. This map is also a useful step to see how to add microformats to the u-design theme for myself.

Mapping microformats on my site

Earlier this week I discussed microformats with Elmine. Microformats make your website machine readable, allowing other computers and applications to e.g. find out where my contact information is, and the metadata from my postings.

It was a discussion that branched off a conversation on online representation and marketing. I currently use the Sempress theme on this blog as it does microformats pretty well as far as I can tell, but it doesn’t look all that nice. Previously I had used the microformats plugin in a regular theme, but that didn’t work really well (the plugin is not at fault, it’s a best effort)

Ideally I’d like to add microformats to other sites I use, not just this blog. That means I’d like to add it to a generic theme like U-design. As I think it would be less effort to add microformats to U-design, than make Sempress look better and more generic for my sites. Elmine approached the creators of U-design, but microformats are not on their list of priorities. They do already support schema.org out of the box.

The steps I think I need to make:

  • Map-out visually where I want to use which microformats where and how. [UPDATE: done]
  • Then take a much closer look at the code of the existing Microformats plugin as well as the functions.php file of the Sempress theme
  • to see how the first hooks into existing themes, and how the second shapes the microformats to be added to the html of the page.
  • Determine if one or the other is usable with U-design as is, or alternatively which parts to re-use / adapt

This weekend the IndieWeb Camp Berlin is taking place. I attended the Nuremberg edition two weeks ago. Remotely following the livestream for a bit this morning, while I work on a few website related things in the spirit of IndieWeb.

Putting the livestream up on the wall, to easier follow what is demo’d on screen, and keeping my standing desk screen(s) focused on the work in front of me.

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