As back in the ’00s, I’m still very much with you on the KM as conversations front, Euan. Back then in a conversation with Sally Bean, while visiting another large KM event I used the metaphor of visiting an art convention and seeing nothing but paint and brushes vendors. Luckily, reading that event report I still had valuable conversations that day.

As a timely reminder of the value of conversations to learn stuff you didn’t before, I received a touching thank you note just this afternoon before seeing your posting in my feed reader.

It was from an Irish civil servant, telling me about something major he had been involved in in an African nation. He thanked me for a conversation we had in 2012 about crowdsourcing as a means for government agencies to collaboratively build public services with citizens. That started him on a path that helped his regional government entity, and resulted in the impactful work in an African nation mentioned. It’s humbling to know something like that has come about with some sort of contribution from my conversations seven years ago, and awesome and attentive he sees our conversation as part of that journey.

Pretty powerful stuff, conversations and stories.

Replied to Knowledge Management, arses and elbows. (The Obvious?)

For me the purpose of KM was to make it easier to have useful conversations with people who knew stuff that you didn’t…..

Today 17 years ago, at 14:07, I published my first blog post, and some 2000 followed since then. Previously I kept a website that archive.org traces back to early 1998, which was the second incarnation of a static website from 1997 (Demon Internet, my first ISP other than my university, entered the Dutch market in November 1996, and I became their customer at the earliest opportunity. From the start they gave their customers a fixed IP address, allowing me to run my own server, next to the virtual server space they provided with a whopping 5MB of storage 😀 .) Maintaining a web presence for over 22 years is I think the longest continuous thing I’ve done during my life.

Last year I suggested to myself on my 16th bloggiversary to use this date yearly to reflect:

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.

In the past 12 months I’ve certainly started to evangelise technology more again. ‘Again’ as I did that in the ’00s as well when I was promoting the use of social software (before it’s transformation into, todays mostly toxic, social media), for informal learning networks, knowledge management and professional development. My manifesto on Networked Agency from 2016, as presented at last year’s State of the Net, is the basis for that renewed effort. It’s not a promotion of tech for tech’s sake, as networked agency comes part and parcel with ethics by design, a perception of digital transformation as distributed digital transformation, and attention in general for how our digital tools are a reflection and extension of our human networks and human nature (when ‘smaller‘ and optionally networked for richer results).

Looking back 12 months I think I’ve succeeded in doing a few things on the level of my own behaviour, my company, my clients, and general communities and society. It’s all early beginnings, but a consistent effort of small things builds up over time steadily I suppose.

On a personal level I kept up the pace of my return to more intensive blogging two years ago, and did more to make my blog not only the nexus but also the starting point for most of my online material. (E.g. I now mostly send out Tweets and Toots from my blog directly). I also am slowly re-adopting and rebuilding my information strategies of old. More importantly I’m practicing more show and tell, of how I work with information. At the Crafting {a} Life unconference that Peter organised on Prince Edward Island in June I participated in three conversations on blogging that way. Peter’s obligation to explain is good guidance in general here.

For my company it means we’ve embarked on a path to more information security awareness, starting with information hygiene mostly. This includes avoiding silos where possible, and beginning the move to a self-hosted Slack-like environment and our own cloud. This is a reflection of my own path in this field since the spring of 2014, then inspired by Brenno de Winter and Arjen Kamphuis, whose disappearance a year ago made me more strongly realise the importance of paying lessons learned forward.

With clients I’ve put the ethics of working with data front and center, which includes earlier topics like privacy law, data sovereignty and procurement, but also builds on my company’s principle of always ensuring the involvement of all external stakeholders when it comes to figuring out the use and value of open government and open data. Some of that is awareness raising, some of that is ensuring small practical steps are taken. Our company is now building up a ‘holistic’ data governance program for clients that includes all this, not just the technical side of data governance.

On the community side several things I got myself involved in are tied to this.

As a board member of Open Nederland I help spread the word about how to allow others to make use of your work with Creative Commons licenses, such as at the recent Open Access Week organised by the Leeuwarden library. Agency and making, and especially the joy of finding (networked) agency through making, made possible by considered sharing, was also my message at the CoderDojo Conference Netherlands last weekend.

Here in the Netherlands I co-hosted two IndieWebCamps in Utrecht in April, and in Amsterdam in September (triggered by a visit to an IndieWebCamp in Germany a year ago). With my co-organiser Frank we’ve also launched a Meet-up around IndieWeb in the hope of more continuously engaging a more local group of participants.

I’ve also contributed to the Copenhagen 150 this year at Techfestival, which resulted in the TechPledge. Specifically I worked to get some version of being responsible for creating ongoing public debate around any tech you create in there, to make reflection integral to tech development. I took the TechPledge, and I ask you to do the same.

Another take-away from my participation in the Copenhagen 150, is to treat my involvement in the use and development of technology more deliberately as a political act in its own right. This allows me to feel a deeper connection I think between tech as extension of human reach and global topics that require a sense of urgency of humanity.

Here’s to another year of blogging, and, more importantly, reading your blog!

During next week’s DojoCon Netherlands, the annual conference of the Dutch CoderDojo community, Felienne Hermans will be one of the keynote speakers (I’m one of others). Preparing for the conference I looked at the other speakers, and Felienne’s twitter stream ( pointed to her presentation at R Studion Conference 2019 early this year. It’s just under an hour long, but I watched it with pleasure.

The hand drawn slides are cool (can’t imagine the time that went into it, or at least the time I’d need for something like that.), and so is the story, about how to teach (children) programming.

Starting from the quote ‘Morning boys, how’s the water?‘, she says in contrast to e.g. reading, we don’t know much of anything about teaching programming. There’s no body of work (which is what she’s now building at Leiden University).

  • That the way many of us acquired our own tech skills strongly shapes the assumptions about learning to code. Many people growing up in the 70s and 80s learned to work with computers by spending endless hours behind the keyboard, without parental oversight or guidance from knowledgeable adults. I definitely fall in this category too.
  • That those experiences covertly influence the way the field thinks about teaching coding, where exploration and getting stuck and unstuck on your own is the way to go.
  • Research of children learning Scratch suggests however that there are many drop-outs that way, that the acquired skill level flattens out quickly, and that there’s no efficiency gain visible in consequent activities of the children involved.
  • Her research shows that age-old reading teaching tactics such as vocalisation and repeating out loud do work and show consistent results. And that tests work well too. Not to grade children, but to find out as a teacher where you are at.
  • Oh, and that creating applications in Excel is real programming too. Don’t say, or let people say, that some form of something isn’t real work / the real thing.

I feel vindicated by that last point (made early in the keynote) 😀 My meanest programming feat still is building the first intranet (2001/2) of my then employer by hand from scratch using the browser as a window on / to interact with Excel, the folder structure on the shared drives, and back-office systems like time writing, and having the browser grab stuff from Excel files. It was a jumble of HTML, Perl, Visual Basic, and Excel formulas, but it worked and helped cut significant time out of quality assurance processes and made things like starting a new project way easier and actually helpful for my colleagues, instead of being dreary bureaucracy for them. I’d never call myself a real programmer. But it was real programming. Even the tiniest little bits, like yesterday’s simple hack, are real.

Last week was Open Access Week, and the combined libraries of Leeuwarden (both the public ones and those of higher education) for the first time organised daily public presentations and discussion around Open Access. Thursday, I was the last person to provide a presentation in the week long program, and I was invited to talk about Creative Commons. It’s the first time I gave a talk in my role as a board member of Open Nederland, the Dutch supporting association behind the Dutch Creative Commons Chapter. It’s still a very personal take, and mostly only the Creative Commons related information is part of the Open Nederland role, the rest is my own experience and perspective from the field. Below is the transcript with the slides:

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about Creative Commons during Open Access Week. My contact details are down there, including twitter accounts, so if you have remarks or questions after we finished our conversation here today, you can use those. I’m here representing Open Nederland, which is the Dutch association of makers, and those interested in having a bigger pool of communal reusable creative output. Open Nederland powers the Dutch Chapter of the Creative Commons organisation.

First off all, I think it is fantastic that the Leeuwarder libraries are taking part in OA Week. Libraries are a fundamental building block of our socio-cultural resources, the commons of knowledge and re-usable artefacts, the creative commons. Open Access seeks to extend, or actually restore part of that commons, that over time has become less accessible, fenced off even. And Creative Commons licenses in turn are a building block of the Open Access effort.

Now a word of caution, I am not a lawyer. I am a pragmatist. So I am looking at all of the Open Access and Creative Commons licensing issues from a practical perspective, what it means in terms of the value to society, to all of us as the human collective. The expressed opinions are all mine, and the provided information is ‘as is’, and not legal advice.

I want to speak first about Open Access and scientific publishing, and what it means to me, my specific perspective on it. Then I will zoom in on the role of Creative Commons licenses, and your own role and individual responsibility in all of this. Let’s start with this, the Open Definition by Open Knowledge International.

Open means
anyone can freely access, use, modify, and share for any purpose
(subject, at most, to requirements that preserve provenance and openness).

Freely here means both gratis, and libre, free as in beer and as in freedom.

Now this includes both the words Open and Access, but Open Access is not merely a subset of the Open Definition.

Open Access in fact covers most if not all of the Open Definition. It is basically a different representation of the scientific method, where one builds on the knowledge gained by those before you.

In order to build on the work of others, you need to have acces to it, AND be able to use and modify it, and then share it to see it taken further by yet another. This is how all human knowledge has come to be.

Building knowledge increases our collective ability to act. It’s a lever to do bigger things., to jump higher. Increasing our agency. Striking power. Resilience to counteract negative things. Agility to build on opportunities. Agency, the ability to act, is the fundamental drive behind our curiosity, our science. Agency to me is the crux of it all.

To me that there is a notion of Open Access, right next to the scientific method itself of which communication and community is already part and parcel, is because we are in a transition. Where one of the elements in making science work, in increasing agency, has become problematic: scientific publishing.

From the 16th century, when e.g. Louis Elzevier published Galilei’s Discorsi in Leiden, scientific publication increased our agency by providing multiplication and distribution, and because of those two discoverability. However digitisation and internet have made those first two trivial to do. Almost everyone has that ability now, it’s no longer an agency bottle neck. It has been democratised. Discovery still remains a hard thing to do, is the one remaining potential value add, but there are others equally or better positioned to serve it.

Meanwhile the pricing model of scientific publishing has gone the other way, based on academia’s addiction to using publications as reputation indicator. To the point where large parts of the scientific world, mostly outside highly developed economies, are practically excluded. They are actively and unnecessarily disconnected. Cut off from our collective pool of knowledge. Can’t use it. Can’t contribute to it. The same is true for non-academics: my work has been the subject of at least three PhDs and all the papers resulting from them, but I have no easy way to built on those results in my own practice or work.

From solving a bottle neck for hundreds of years, one of access and availability, scientific publishing now is the bottle neck. This is why I personally think Sci-Hub is morally ok, even if it isn’t legal. Morally ok, because it is aligned and in support of the scientific method and community, seeking to circumvent an existing bottle-neck for the express purpose of democratisation.

Open Access is the less radical, gradual way of resolving that bottle neck. To strengthen free discourse about theories and findings. To regain the crucial access and ability to re-use that increases our agency. And do so for a much wider group of people. Researchers, non-academic researchers, and practitioners alike. By publishing scientific papers according to the open definition. In Europe it is becoming more and more mandatory for publicly funded research to be open access, until it becomes the new normal.

As I said earlier, what we are all after is to increase our ability to act, and having access to knowledge and being allowed to re-use it are key elements.

Openness is what allows that access and usage. And what enables agency, our ability to act.

For that it must be very clear, something is open, that you’re allowed to access, copy and re-use something, such as a scientific paper. A clear signal that individuals, researchers and academic institutions can easily give, and anyone can easily recognise. It takes a very clear license, that immediately conveys what the author allows. Otherwise you have to assume nothing is allowed.

That clear license is Creative Commons. Most if not all Open Access publications carry a Creative Commons license, or more precisely a few specific versions of a Creative Commons license.
It is an add-on to regular copyright, and also covers database rights. It’s a tool for an author or creator to manage their copyright conditions.

Let’s dive deeper into what Creative Commons is. And that dive starts with copyright.

Copyright is an automatic right that any creator gets upon creation of an artefact (not ideas, not mere data). ‘All rights reserved’ is the default. It provides a ‘temporary’ monopoly, where temporary means 70 years after you died, so not really temporary in any practical sense. If someone else wants to do something with it, it needs permission. You need to write to the author, negotiate the terms, and document the agreement. It’s a lot of work, for both author and re-user, that needs to happen for each and every use.

Creative Commons is a tool for an author or creator to give up front permission for specific conditions of re-use. No need to ask for permission, no need for negotiations, no need for contracts. From all rights reserved to some rights reserved. This allows for nuance, and to create conditions that foster knowledge sharing, stimulates creativity and equal access to all.

The principles behind CC licenses are that it’s 1 to everyone. Unlike a copyright agreement, you can’t revoke it for existing users. It’s based on 4 building blocks.

The 4 building blocks are: Attribution, Share Alike, Non-Commercial, No Derivative Works.
Creative Commons licenses allow you to create nuance with these four building blocks.

With those blocks you can create 7 different licenses, based on which and how many building blocks you use. Some are more open, some are less open.

Open Access is only those three green ones, because only they align with the open definition of free acces, use, modification, sharing, with at most mentioning the source, or sharing openly again.

These CC licenses can be applied to anything you create, where you have copyright, or where you have database rights. By doing so, especially with an open license, you are enriching our common cultural pool of artefacts and knowledge. The core principle is if you allow others to build on it, you create agency for others. There’s an enormous amount of artefacts out there already, the CC website claims over 1.6 billion.

Some of those 1.6 billion and more works with a CC license, are by me. My weblog has had a Creative Commons license for 17 years. Attribution, Share Alike. It’s an open license, because I want my blog to create conversations about my professional interests by thinking out loud. That needs openness.

I also share my photos on Flickr with a CC license, attribution, share alike and non-commercial. This is not an open license, as I think it is only fair if someone makes money with my photos, I get some share of it. Non-commercial newspapers however have used my images, as have NGOs and e.g. schools.

I don’t want to show all 1.6 billion examples but just a few to give you a sense of the diverse angles.
Dutch government publishes all their open data with creative commons licenses. This is not strictly needed from a copyright view, as Dutch government only needs to give permission if they claim copyright on their artefact, otherwise you can assume you can use it. However, they do want to give a very clear signal, to those who don’t know of the specific quirks of Dutch copyright law, such as people outside the Netherlands.

This site, for instance has freely re-usable music.
And if you search for CC license photos you can use sites like Flickr which I just mentioned, where there are 4500 open licensed photos of Leeuwarden. Some of which are from the Leeuwarden city archive.

This type of sharing allows for collective action, not just individual agency. I have a sensor kit in my garden. It shares data online, many other people and their sensors do too. And together we build knowledge about how my city deals with heat and micro climates. This citizen science project collaborates with government and academic institutions, and leads to publications. Because all parts in the chain use open licenses, that works smoothly.

I’d like to put it to you that CC is useful for everything you make and create, scientific or not, to allow yourself and others more agency.

Raise your hand if,
You have ever written a scientific paper,
Have ever designed something,
Made something (like a 3d print, or a laser cut object),
Made a song,
Wrote song lyrics,
Made a recording of yourself making music or singing,
Made a video,
Made a photo,
Wrote a poem, a thesis, a novel, a story,
Ever made a drawing, came up with a joke, a magic act,
Wrote a blogpost, a Tweet?

You all are makers. You all are copyright holders, whether you realised it or actively used that right or not. And if you ever share(d) anything of what you make, you could add to the common pool of our cultural heritage, our creative commons, by using a CC license. Let’s not wait until we all have been dead for 70 years and copyright expires, because that means for something you create today it will take another 100 to 150 years for it to become generally available.
Use open resources, and share back to our creative commons from your own creative output. So you allow others to do more too.

As a student, a teacher, a researcher, a maker, a citizen, be the change you want to see when it comes to Open Access.
Use and apply open licenses.
Copyright gives you a monopoly, and CC allows you to easily put that monopoly to communal use.

CC licenses are not what makes our creative commons, our collective space for culture and progress. People, you and me, make that commons. But using a Creative Commons license, is a clear signal you want to be part of that, part of “team human”.

And if you want to help spread that mission, you’re very welcome to join the Open Nederland association, that powers the Dutch Creative Commons chapter. We’re open. And it’s free.

Thank you for your time and attention.

I use the WP Plugin Post Kinds here, which lets me blog things like Replies, Likes, etc. This plugin has a setting that determines the order in which my own remarks with a Reply or Like and the thing I am replying to or liking are shown.

The default order is [the thing I respond to] [my response], but here in this blog I have changed that, because I like to have my own response first. This ensures for instance that my own words, and not someone else’s get posted to Twitter if I share my post directly to Twitter.

This setting does not change the way the same blogpost gets added to the RSS feed. This means that my regular readers do not get the content of a posting as I intend it, which is in the same order as a website visitor.
In addition it causes anything that consumes my feed, such as my Micro.blog account to show the post I am responding to first (someone else’s words) and not my remarks. Below in three images is how that looks in practice:

The old version: the order is as I want it on the site.

The old version: the order is reversed for the same item in my feed

Micro.blog posts from my feed, and therefore shows not my words first but the words I’m reacting to, which makes them appear as if they are my words

I figured out where in the plugin files (in class-kind-view.php) the feed gets created and how it is different from how the posting is created for the site. Then I added the conditional code from the latter to the former. This works on my site, as shown by the following three images:

Testing the new code: on my site the item is in the right order

In the RSS feed, the content of the item is now in the right order too

And the right order now shows up in Micro.blog, showing my own words first

Then I tried to let the creator of the WP Plugin know I made this change, through a Pull Request on GitHub. I’v never done this before. It’s basically a message ‘I changed this file here’ which the original creator can then adopt in the original code. Making that message meant engaging with concepts such as forks, branches, commits and then the Pull Request. I think I pulled if off, but I will only know when David Shanske, who makes Post Kinds indeed incorporates it in the plugin.

Hoping I’ve submitted my first ever PR the right way

Last week danah boyd was presented with an EFF award. She gave a great acceptance speech titled Facing the Great Reckoning Head-On, that contains a plethora of quotes to highlight. Exploring how to make sense of the entire context and dynamics, in which the MIT Media Lab scandal of funding from a badly tainted source could take place (which I previously mentioned here, here and here.) So it’s best to just go read the entire thing.

In stark contrast, Lawrence Lessig’s ‘exploration’ makes no sense to me, and comes across as tone deaf, spending hundreds of words putting forward a straw man that if you accept tainted funding it always should be anonymous, while saying he personally wouldn’t accept such funding. That might well be, but has no real bearing on the case. Instead of putting forward how hard it is to raise funding, he could just as well have argued that higher education should be publicly funded, and funded well to avoid situations like at MIT Media Lab. A model that works well around the globe. Lessig wrote a book against corruption, meaning the funding focus of US politics, but doesn’t here call out the private funding of higher education on the same terms, even though the negative consequences are the same.

On the other hand boyd’s speech addresses the multiple layers involved. One’s own role in a specific system, and in a specific institute, how privilege plays out. How the deeply personal, the emotional and the structures and systems we create relate to and mutually impact each other. Acknowledging and sketching out the complexity, and then to seek where meaningful boundaries are is much maturer way to take this on than Lessig’s highlighting a single dimension of a situation which seems minimally pertinent to it, and worse because of its ‘flatness’ is easily perceived to be actively denying the emotional strata involved and in dire need of recognition.

As said go read the entire speech, but I’ll pick out a few quotes nevertheless. They are pertinent to topics I blog about here, such as the recently launched TechPledge, the role of community, the keys to agency, and resonates with my entire take on technology.

The story of how I got to be standing here is rife with pain and I need to expose part of my story in order to make visible why we need to have a Great Reckoning in the tech industry. This award may be about me, but it’s also not. It should be about all of the women and other minorities who have been excluded from tech by people who thought they were helping.

I am here today in-no-small-part because I benefited from the generosity of men who tolerated and, in effect, enabled unethical, immoral, and criminal men. And because of that privilege, I managed to keep moving forward even as the collateral damage of patriarchy stifled the voices of so many others around me.

What’s happening at the Media Lab right now is emblematic of a broader set of issues plaguing the tech industry and society more generally. Tech prides itself in being better than other sectors. But often it’s not.

If change is going to happen, values and ethics need to have a seat in the boardroom. Corporate governance goes beyond protecting the interests of capitalism. Change also means that the ideas and concerns of all people need to be a part of the design phase and the auditing of systems, even if this slows down the process.

…whether we like it or not, the tech industry is now in the business of global governance.

“Move fast and break things” is an abomination if your goal is to create a healthy society…In a healthy society, we strategically design to increase social cohesion because binaries are machine logic not human logic.

…accountability without transformation is simply spectacle.

The goal shouldn’t be to avoid being evil; it should be to actively do good. But it’s not enough to say that we’re going to do good; we need to collectively define — and hold each other to — shared values and standards.

Human progress needs the the tech sector to be actively reflective, and to continuously scrutinise its ethics, the values and morals actually expressed in behaviour.