I assume that in its most basic form I could redo Dopplr of sorts by announcing travel plans in an OPML file, much like book lists or my rss subscriptions. Then it comes down to how to share such travel plans with a known and limited network only. (You don’t want to announce to just everyone when you won’t be home.)

The IndieWeb efforts concerning travel seem to focus on posting actual travel movements, like planned flights. A sort-of check-in style post. The socially shared Dopplr info was much simpler: a city and a set of dates. Because its purpose was aiding serendipitous meet-ups. Exact travel plans or exact location aren’t needed for it, just a way to flag paths more or less crossing to those involved.

Of course making such an OPML file currently is as easy as posting an empty file, as there’s no significant travel during the pandemic.

Theoretically I could use such an OPML file to announce several things:

  • The various cities I consider as home turf, as they’re within easy reach in an hour.
  • Selected cities I’m willing to travel to at short notice outside that hour travel time if there’s a good reason to.
    From where I am a visit to Antwerp, Brussels, Eindhoven would count in that category, or maybe on specific occasions Düsseldorf or Cologne.
  • Upcoming travel plans, things like ‘Copenhagen, Denmark, 4th-7th September’ (actually a 2019 example)

Such a list would allow comparison with your list to see whether any of your travel plans match with my ‘home turf’ and destinations I’m willing to consider outside of it, whether any of your travel plans match with my travel plans, or whether any of my travel plans line up with your home turf and other relatively nearby destinations you’re willing to consider. Cities and countries are part of schema.org vocabularies and as such usable in OPML as data attributes.

I think there’s a space for location based services, such as Dopplr was, that don’t depend on or use maps, but provide location contextualized information that influences my actions, choices and my relationships to my networks (a quote from a 2012 blogpost on moving beyond the map).

Or this is just me applying my current opml hammer to anything that might be a nail 😀


I couldn’t resist making this mock-up mimicking the colorful Dopplr

Could one redo any useful app, for that matter, that now fills the start-up cemetery?

I was reminded of this as Peter mentioned Dopplr, a useful and beautifully designed service in the years 2007-2010. The Dopplr service died because it was acquired by Nokia and left to rot. Its demise had nothing to do with the use value of the service, but everything with it being a VC funded start-up that exited to a big corporation in an identity crisis which proved unequipped to do something useful with it.

Some years ago I kept track of hundreds of examples of open data re-use in applications, websites and services. These included many that at some point stopped to exist. I had them categorised by the various phases of when they stalled. This because it was not just of interest which examples were brought to market, but also to keep track of the ideas that materialised in the many hackathons, yet never turned into an app or service, Things that stalled during any stage between idea and market. An idea that came up in France but found no traction, might however prove to be the right idea for someone in Lithuania a year later. An app that failed to get to market because it had a one-sided tech oriented team, might have succeeded with another team, meaning the original idea and application still had intrinsic use value.

Similarly Dopplr did not cease to exist because its intrinsic value as a service was lost, but because everything around it was hollowed out. Hollowed out on purpose, as a consequence of its funding model.

I bet many of such now-lost valuable services could lead a healthy live if not tied to the ‘exit-or-bust’ cycle. If they can be big enough in the words of Lee Lefever, if they can be a Zebra, not aiming to become a unicorn.

So, what are the actual impediments to bring a service like Dopplr back. IP? If you would try to replicate it, perhaps yes, or if you use technology that was originally created for the service you’re emulating. But not the ideas, which aren’t protected. In the case of Dopplr it seems there may have been an attempt at resurrection in 2018 (but it looked like a copy, not a redo of the underlying idea).

Of course you would have to rethink such a service-redo for a changed world, with new realities concerning platforms and commonly used hardware. But are there actual barriers preventing you to repeat something or create variations?

Or is it that we silently assume that if a single thing has failed at some point, there’s no point in trying something similar in new circumstances? Or that there can ever only be one of something?

Matisse

Repetitions and Variations, a beautiful Matisse exhibit we saw in 2012 in the Danish national art gallery in Copenhagen. Image by Ton Zijlstra, license CC BY-NC-SA

12 Stages, 1 Painting
12 stages, 1 painting. I’m thinking the reverse, 1 sketch, 12 paintings. Image by Ton Zijlstra, license CC BY-NC-SA

Normandy Cliff w Fish, Times 3
Normandy Cliff with fish, times 3. Matisse ‘Repetitions and Variations’ exhibit. Image by Ton Zijlstra, license CC BY-NC-SA

photo by me, London 2012, license CC BY SA

Today I deleted the Green Elephant. Ever since I removed Gmail and other Google services back in 2016, Evernote was next in line, but harder to get rid off.

Last year July when I started using Obsidian, I almost immediately realised and quickly experienced how it opened up space for me to finally ditch Evernote. I used Evernote last in August 2020. This February I exported all my Evernotes and started bringing them into my growing collection of mark down text files, with Obsidian as a viewer.

Today I deleted my Evernote account. It felt slightly odd. Even if I hadn’t touched Evernote in over 8 months, even if I had exported everything and double checked that it worked, there still was some lingering sense of dread of the finality of punching the delete button. But after 11 years of Evernote, the Green Elephant is no longer in my room, and another single point of failure and the final silo that part of my workflow depended upon is now gone.

It’s odd to see how conspiracy fantasies, suspect sources, disinformation and deliberate emotionally provocative or even antagonistic wording are on the rise on my LinkedIn timeline.

I first encountered a QAnon account in a comments section last August, but that person was still many steps away in my network. Now I see things popping up from direct connections and their connections. I had assumed that LinkedIn being tied to your professional reputation would go a long way to prevent such things, but apparently not any longer. In some instances, it’s almost as if people don’t realise they’re doing it, a boiling-a-frog effect of sorts.

One person being called out for some under-informed reactionary content by pointing out that their employer has the capabilities and resources to prove them wrong even responded “leave my employer out of it”. That’s not really possible though, as your employer is in your by-line and accompanies your avatar with every post and comment you make. Seven months after first encountering something like that on my LinkedIn timeline it is now a daily part of my timeline, and all coming from my Dutch network and their connections.

LinkedIn is starting to feel as icky as Facebook did three years ago. Makes me wonder how long LinkedIn will remain a viable tool. I don’t think I will be spending much or any attention on my timeline moving forward, until the moment LinkedIn is as much a failed social platform as others and it’s time to let go of it completely. That doesn’t mean disengaging with the people in my network obviously, but it is not at all my responsibility to help LinkedIn reach a certain level of quality of discourse by trying to counteract the muck. I was an early user of LinkedIn (nr. 8730, look at the source of your profile page and search it for ‘member:’ to find your number) in the spring of 2003, I know there’s already a trickle of people leaving the platform, and I wonder when (not if) I’ll fully join them.

Talking with E tonight about how many people we know are involved in organising their own events, we made a quick list. That list now contains 38 people, most of which we’ve known for a long time. That’s a group big enough to do a unconference / barcamp style event about event organising in itself!

The experiences of those people run from small workshops to global conferences. Myself, I’ve been active across that full spectrum as well. From BlogWalks and IndieWebCamps with two dozen people, our birthday unconferences (40 people in our home, 100 at the subsequent bbq), to national conferences, side-events at European and global conferences, European conferences in different countries with 300-400 people, to an edition of the global FabLab conference. The interesting bit is that for myself and almost all of the people on the list we just made, organising events wasn’t/isn’t our main activity. Often those events basically are a side activity, an emergent property of other work.

Ross Mayfield in a blog conversation in 2005 said “it’s cheaper to host your own event than attend one”. Not always cheaper I know, but it’s definitely more logical a lot of times. It’s a logic E and I, and those many people we listed just now have followed for about two decades now. Where can you and us take that the coming years?

Peter in his bookmarks points to a description of Bookfeed.io by Swiss blogger Lukas Mathis. Bookfeed.io lets you make a list of authors you are interested in, and then provides you with a RSS feed that will alert you to new books published by those authors. It uses the Google Books API. It’s a clever small personal tool that Lukas Mathis built. I like it. I’ve added a handful of authors from the top of my head, and subscribed to the resulting RSS feed. I also added a monthly reminder to my task list to add or remove authors from the list.