Favorited Feeling locked in by open source by Boris Mann

I see your point, Boris. I think the phrasing in this case comes from over time having tried some of the actions you suggest, where some weren’t well received and others are well outside my capabilities. That over time builds up to a sense of powerlesness very reminiscent of your definition of lock-in. From a regular software user point of view, closed or open source isn’t much of a meaningful difference when it comes to their everyday experience with the functionality, design patterns and practicality of a tool. Of course with open source it’s a more reasonable assumption that one has a way out, and I’m not without agency here. I can in fact remove this particular dependency altogether with a certain level of effort that ís within my capabilities.

Don’t feel locked in!

Boris Mann

This week our team is staying in a vacation park in the south of the Netherlands. All have their own cabin, except me. Family logistics mean I am spending most time at home, and commute to the holiday park.

This afternoon we discussed our office. What to do with it, how to make it more useful to us.

We opened an office exactly 2 years ago, and more than half of that time we didn’t use it much because of the pandemic. We opened the office because some of us need a place away from home to work. I am used to working either at home, en route, or at a client’s, and have been doing so for 17 years. Having an office, especially a centrally located one as we have in Utrecht, within a building with other facilities available to us (meeting rooms, restaurant/catering services, event spaces, roof terrace), to me is however very useful as a meeting place, and to be able to host groups. During the pandemic some of our team used it to escape the four walls of their limited living spaces in the inner city of Utrecht or Amsterdam. I handed my office keys to a new hire early on in the pandemic.

The central question today was, moving forward, given our pandemic experiences, and the likelihood of at least some measures being in place on and off, how do we want to use our office? And given that use, how do we want it to look / feel?

We split in three groups of three. That in itself was already an important first realisation for me: we can actually split in three groups of three. And the office should work well for all 9 of us, as well as for a handful of frequent collaborators.
In our little groups we discussed our ideal office, and shaped it with the material at hand. One group got to paint the office, another group to build with Lego (serious play is the applicable term I think), and the group I was in used clay.


Patterns in the results were that, while it is still needed to have a few desks, most of them can be removed, that we want to make the office much greener with plants and more colourful in general, that shaping it as a social place is important, as well as a place where things can be created. A few immediate actions (such as removing two thirds of the desks, doing some painting, and adding plants) were decided upon for the summer. Another conclusion was that we simply cannot already know how office use post-pandemic will really be, meaning having plenty flexibility is key. Think furniture, devices, or dividers that can be very easily rearranged at will by those present. Think not investing in a ‘perfect’ design, but doing it as we go along.

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?



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


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.