Tom Critchlow last week wrote about a decentralised format for shareable bookshelves he came up with. I like the concept, it’s like the FOAF of old but for books, BOAF maybe? Like he mentions in the updates, while providing JSON is probably more fitting technology for the now, there is a world of RSS and OPML out there that might mean a more ready made environment. After all RSS can have very different payloads, as podcasting shows.

I’ve been writing here every now and then since a year or so about (not all of) the books I read. Like Tom says, there’s no getting around the dominance of Goodread and its owner Amazon, other than doing something yourself. I started writing here about my reading, not for the first time in the past two decades, precisely because I don’t want to add my effort to Goodreads. Although I do post affiliate links to Amazon here, as there is not reliable other way to link to books so that it makes sense for most readers. No way to dynamically link a book to your ‘local’ bookstore. Maybe I should just stop doing that, linking to Amazon. People can search a book in their own preferred way easily enough.

This looks like a very useful work, by over 65 authors and a team of editors including Mor Rubinstein and Tim Davis: The State of Open Data

A little over a decade has passed since open data became a real topic globally and in the EU. I had my first discussions about open data in the spring of 2008, and started my first open data project, for the Dutch Ministry for the Interior, in January 2009. The State of Open Data looks at what has been achieved around the world over that decade since, but also looks forward:

How will open data initiatives respond to new concerns about privacy, inclusion, and artificial intelligence? And what can we learn from the last decade in order to deliver impact where it is most needed? The State of Open Data brings together over 65 authors from around the world to address these questions and to take stock of the real progress made to date across sectors and around the world, uncovering the issues that will shape the future of open data in the years to come.

Over 18 months the authors and editors worked to pull all this material together. That is quite an impressive effort. I look forward to working my way through the various parts in the coming time. Next to the online version African Minds has made a hard copy version available, as well as a free downloadable PDF. That PDF comes in at 594 pages, so don’t expect to take it all in in one sitting.

Bryan Alexander has been holding online book club readings for both fiction and non-fiction books. The next edition will be reading Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. I recently bought a copy, and I will read along with the rest of the group in the coming few weeks. (I’m also thinking about a recently read book list here on this site. I track my reading anyway, and might as well share some of that here.)

One way I can estimate how stressed I am is looking at how much I read, and how I read it. Stress means much less to no reading overall, with sudden bursts of reading several books back-to-back as escapism. So I keep track of how much fiction I read throughout the year. The first half year looks good and stable when judged by my reading. I’ve read 32 books in the first 26 weeks, an average of 1.25 per week. My aim is to at least average one per week, but sometimes a bigger book slows me down, or an easier read speeds things up. Reading more I see as better, but only if it’s at a steady pace. Bursts are a sign of something being off, or of summer holiday, when I usually voraciously read books.

The pace of reading was stable at 1 per week until late May (21 books in 20 weeks), and a bit higher at almost 2 per week with 11 books in the final 6 weeks of this first half of 2018. This I don’t regard as ‘bursty’ reading just more books in the same steady pace, as it included several shorter reads.

The best reads this half year I think were, these Science Fiction books:

Walkaway, by Cory Doctorow (which felt like a literary version of what I call Networked Agency)
Long Way to a Small and Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers
Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky

And these general fiction books:

Less, by Andrew Sean Greer, this year’s Pulitzer price for fiction winner.
The Scent of Rain in the Balkans, by Gordana Kuic, sketching 20th century Yugoslavian history through the eyes of one family
Perfume River, by Robert Olen Butler, of trauma and faulty communications through the generations
Ellbogen, by Fatma Aydemir, the raw story of a Turkish-German girl between Berlin and Istanbul.
After Dark, by Haruki Murakami, who takes you on a surreal night trip through Tokyo.

In a case of synchronicity I’ve read Cory Doctorow’s novel Walkaway when I was ill recently, just as Bryan Alexander scheduled it for his near future science fiction reading group. I loved reading the book, and in contrast to some other works of Doctorow the storyline kept working for me until the end.

Bryan amazingly has managed to get Doctorow to participate in a webcast as part of the Future Trends in learning series Bryan hosts. The session is planned for May 16th, and I marked my calendar for it.

In the comments Vanessa Vaile shares two worthwile links. One is an interesting recording from May last year at the New York public library in which Doctorow and Edward Snowden discuss some of the elements and underlying topics and dynamics of the Walkaway novel.

The other is a review in TOR.com, that resonates a lot with me. The reviewer writes how, in contrast with lots of other science fiction that takes one large idea or large change and extrapolates on that, Doctorow takes a number of smaller ideas and smaller changes, and then works out how those might interplay and weave new complexities, where the impact on “manufacturing, politics, the economy, wealth disparity, diversity, privilege, partying, music, sex, beer, drugs, information security, tech bubbles, law, and law enforcement” is all presented in one go.

It seems futuristic, until you realize that all of these things exist today.
….. most of it could start right now, if it’s the world we choose to create.

By not having any one idea jump too far from reality, Walkaway demonstrates how close we are, right now, to enormous promise and imminent peril.

That is precisely the effect reading Walkaway had on me, leading me to think how I could contribute to bringing some of the described effects about. And how some of those things I was/am already trying to create as part of my own work flow and information processes.