Today I bought this little wooden robot.

Leeuwarden

It’s a Rijkswachter, or State Guard. It derives its name from the source of the wood it is made from.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam was closed ten years, from 2003 to 2013, for reconstruction. In that period all objects and art that had been on display were kept safe in wooden crates. In these crates the objects were stored, but also travelled around the world for temporary displays. Studio Hamerhaai, a Dutch design duo based in Haarlem, only uses discarded materials for their work. They acquired all the wooden crates when the objects they held were returned to the exhibition rooms of the Rijksmuseum. They created robots from them in various sizes, called Rijkswachters, in reference to the Rijksmuseum and the previous role the wood they are made of had.

All robots are unique and carry a number on their back, and using that number you can find out exactly which object of the Rijksmuseum collection was stored in its wood.

Leeuwarden

My number 7496 is connected to a three legged silver tea pot with tap, from 1756 and attributed to a silver smith called Nicolaas van Diemen. (A slight disappointment of course that it didn’t house one of the old masters like Rembrandt…. 😉 ) The Rijksmuseum has been digitising most of their artefacts, made them searchable in the beautiful Rijksstudio website (where you can also remix stuff), and release them as re-usable open data. So the number directly links to a photo and description of the artefact.

Most material in Rijksstudio you can download and re-use for e.g. t-shirts, your own postcards or posters, game, video etc. This also allows you to pick any artefact or piece of art from the Rijksmuseum from their online collection and order a Rijkswachter wooden robot, where Dutch artist Annemiek van Duin used part of what you selected to decorate your unique robot, bringing this beautiful project full circle.

We spent a lovely day in sunny Breda today at the BredaPhoto Festival, titled To Infinity and Beyond. The weather was perfect and we had lunch outside even.

Some images.

BredaPhoto BredaPhoto
Walking through Breda

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Work by Kenta Cobayashi (festival page)

BredaPhoto
The artist and someone else’s work. (video interview with Jeroen Bocken, work on the wall by Maija Tammi

BredaPhoto
BredaPhoto
BredaPhoto
Three data visualisations photographed by Jos Jansen: Criminal relationship network (University of Amsterdam), Lidar images of trees (University of Amsterdam), Probability function of the Higgs Boson (NIKHEF).

BredaPhoto
Pictures of Aldermen of medium sized cities, with grey buzz cuts…Jan Dirk van der Burg serialises photos found online into weird patterns and categories.

BredaPhoto
Image deemed controversial by Iran’s ministry for culture. From the Qajar series by Shadi Ghadirian

BredaPhoto BredaPhotoAntony Cairns, IBM CTY1, city photos on IBM punch cards.

BredaPhoto
Open after 8:00, close before 17:00. Note on a door at Breda city archive.

BredaPhoto
Empty lunch cafe in Breda city center, as everyone was outside enjoying the sun.

We had a good day, but I found the photo festival lacking cohesion and a narrative, binding it all into the theme To Infinity and Beyond.

Slate saw their traffic from Facebook drop by 87% in a year after changes in how FB prioritises news and personal messages in your timeline. Talking Points Memo reflects on it and doing so formulates a few things I find of interest.

TPM writes:
Facebook is a highly unreliable company. We’ve seen this pattern repeat itself a number of times over the course of company’s history: its scale allows it to create whole industries around it depending on its latest plan or product or gambit. But again and again, with little warning it abandons and destroys those businesses.” …”Google operates very, very differently.”..”Yet TPM gets a mid-low 5-figure check from Google every month for the ads we run on TPM through their advertising services. We get nothing from Facebook.”..”Despite being one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world Facebook still has a lot of the personality of a college student run operation, with short attention spans, erratic course corrections and an almost total indifference to the externalities of its behavior.

This first point I think is very much about networks and ecosystems, do you see others as part of your ecosystem or merely as a temporary leg-up until you can ditch them or dump externalities on.

The second point TPM makes is about visitors versus ‘true audience’.
“we are also seeing a shift from a digital media age of scale to one based on audience. As with most things in life, bigger is, all things being equal, better. But the size of a publication has no necessary connection to its profitability or viability.” It’s a path to get to a monopoly that works for tech (like FB) but not for media, the author Josh Marshall says. “…the audience era is vastly better for us than the scale era”

Audience, or ‘true audience’ as TPM has it, are the people who have a long time connection to you, who return regularly to read articles. The ones you’re building a connection with, for which TPM, or any newsy site, is an important node in their network. Scaling there isn’t about the numbers, although numbers still help, but the quality of those numbers and the quality of what flows through the connections between you and readers. The invisible hand of networks more than trying to get ever more eye-balls.

Scale thinking would make blogging like I do useless, network thinking makes it valuable, even if there are just 3 readers, myself included. It’s ‘small b’ blogging as Tom Critchlow wrote a few months ago. “Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network“. Or as I usually describe it: thinking out loud, and having distributed conversations around it. Big B blogging, Tom writes, in contrast “is written for large audiences. Too much content on the web is designed for scale” and pageviews, where individual bloggers seem to mimick mass media companies. Because that is the only example they encounter.

Peter in his blog pointed to a fascinating posting by Robin Sloan about ‘sentence gradients’. His posting describes how he created a tool that make gradients out of text, much like the color gradients we know. It uses neural networks (neuronal networks we called them when I was at university). Neural networks, in other words machine learning, are used to represent texts as numbers (color gradients can be numbers e.g., on just one dimension. If you keep adding dimensions you can represent things that branch off in multiple directions as numbers too.) Sentences are more complex to represent numerically but if you can then it is possible, just like with colors, to find sentences that are numerically between a starting sentence and an ending sentence. Robin Sloan demonstrates the code for it in his blog (go there and try it!), and it creates fascinating results.

Mostly the results are fascinating I think because our minds are hardwired to determine meaning. So when we see a list of sentences we want, we need, we very much need, to find the intended meaning that turns that list into a text.

I immediately thought of other texts that are sometimes harder to fully grasp, but where you know or assume there must be deeper meaning: poems.

So I took a random poem from one of Elmine’s books, and entered the first and last sentence into the tool to make a sentence gradient.

The result was:

I think it is a marvellous coincidence that the word Ceremony comes up.
The original poem is by Thomas Hardy, and titled ‘Without Ceremony’. (Hardy died in 1928, so the poem is in the public domain and can be shown below)

Without Ceremony

It was your way, my dear,
To vanish without a word
When callers, friends, or kin
Had left, and I hastened in
To rejoin you, as I inferred.

And when you’d a mind to career
Off anywhere – say to town –
Your were all on a sudden gone
Before I had thought thereon
Or noticed your trunks were down.

So, now that you disappear
For ever in that swift style,
Your meaning seems to me
Just as it used to be:
‘Good-bye is not worth wile’

Which energy data is available as open data in the Netherlands, asked Peter Rukavina. He wrote about postal codes on Prince Edward Island where he lives, and in the comments I mentioned that postal codes can be used to provide granular data on e.g. energy consumption, while still aggregated enough to not disclose personally identifiable data. This as I know he is interested in energy usage and production data.

He then asked:

What kind of energy consumption data do you have at a postal code level in NL? Are your energy utilities public bodies?
Our electricity provider, and our oil and propane companies are all private, and do not release consumption data; our water utility is public, but doesn’t release consumption data and is not subject (yet) to freedom of information laws.

Let’s provide some answers.

Postal codes

Dutch postal codes have the structure ‘1234 AB’, where 12 denotes a region, 1234 denotes a village or neighbourhood, and AB a street or a section of a street. This makes them very useful as geographic references in working with data. Our postal code begins with 3825, which places it in the Vathorst neighbourhood, as shown on this list. In the image below you see the postal code 3825 demarcated on Google maps.

Postal codes are both commercially available as well as open data. Commercially available is a full set. Available as open data are only those postal codes that are connected to addresses tied to physical buildings. This as the base register of all buildings and addresses are open data in the Netherlands, and that register includes postal codes. It means that e.g. postal codes tied to P.O. Boxes are not available as open data. In practice getting at postal codes as open data is still hard, as you need to extract them from the base register, and finding that base register for download is actually hard (or at least used to be, I haven’t checked back recently).

On Energy Utilities

All energy utilities used to be publicly owned, but have since been privatised. Upon privatisation all utilities were separated into energy providers and energy transporters, called network maintainers. The network maintainers are private entities, but are publicly owned. They maintain both electricity mains as well as gas mains. There are 7 such network maintainers of varying sizes in the Netherlands

(Source: Energielevernanciers.nl

The three biggest are Liander, Enexis and Stedin.
These network maintainers, although publicly owned, are not subject to Freedom of Information requests, nor subject to the law on Re-use of Government Information. Yet they do publish open data, and are open to data requests. Liander was the first one, and Enexis and Stedin both followed. The motivation for this is that they have a key role in the government goal of achieving full energy transition by 2050 (meaning no usage of gas for heating/cooking and fully CO2 neutral), and that they are key stakeholders in this area of high public interest.

Household Energy Usage Data

Open data is published by Liander, Enexis and Stedin, though not all publish the same type of data. All publish household level energy usage data aggregated to the level of 6 position postal codes (1234 AB), in addition to asset data (including sub soil cables etc) by Enexis and Stedin. The service areas of all 7 network maintainers are also open data. The network maintainers are also all open to additional data requests, e.g. for research purposes or for municipalities or housing associations looking for data to pan for energy saving projects. Liander indicated to me in a review for the European Commission (about potential changes to the EU public data re-use regulations), that they currently deny about 2/3 of data requests received, mostly because they are uncertain about which rules and contracts apply (they hold a large pool of data contributed by various stakeholders in the field, as well as all remotely read digital metering data). They are investigating how to improve on that respons rate.

Some postal code areas are small and contain only a few addresses. In such cases this may lead to personally identifiable data, which is not allowed. Liander, Stedin and I assume Enexis as well, solve this by aggregating the average energy usage of the small area with an adjacent area until the number of addresses is at least 10.

Our address falls in the service area of Stedin. The most recent data is that of January 1st 2018, containing the energy use for all of 2017. Searching for our postal code (which covers the entire street) in their most recent CSV file yields on lines 151.624 and 625:

click for full sizeclick to enlarge

The first line shows electricity usage (ELK), and says there are 33 households in the street, and the avarage yearly usage is 4599kWh. (We are below that at around 3700kWh / year, which is higher than we were used to in our previous home). The next line provides the data for gas usage (heating and cooking) “GAS”, which is 1280 m3 on average for the 33 connections. (We are slightly below that at 1200 m3).

I’ve been working in Serbia the last few days. The past weeks at home in the Netherlands, E and I noticed how the clock on the microwave in the kitchen was running behind. I’d arrive at the railway station in the morning to find that I was actually later than I thought. Had I been cycling slower than expected? But no it was the clock in the kitchen, that was off by a few minutes.

E sent me a link yesterday evening to a Dutch newspaper article that explains how this happened. [Update: Here’s the original press release by the European network of transmission system operators. The Guardian has an article in English, as does Ars Technica]
Energy producers in Serbia and Kosovo, as a result of the ongoing arguments and tension between Serbia and Kosovo, currently deliver less energy to the European grid than planned. To compensate for that and balance the European network, the overall frequency of the alternating current has been lowered a tiny bit (0,004Hz of 50Hz) across Europe since mid January. Clocks like on our microwave use the frequency of the electric power to keep time. When the frequency drops, their counting slows. The Serbia and Kosovo energy producers caused me to nearly miss my train recently!

So this week I am working in the place that makes the clocks run slow.

I appreciate the work of science fiction author Charles Stross a lot (his blog is here). At the 34th Chaos Communication Conference (which took place in December in Leipzig, Germany) he gave an interesting presentation. He isn’t much of a presenter, reading from his notes, so go read the transcript that he posted (the video is online as well). With some deserved criticism of the singularity, and corporations as 19th century slow AI, as context blind single purpose algorithms.

And on how exploring the (near) future as SF is becoming more and more difficult:

My recipe for fiction set ten years in the future used to be 90% already-here, 9% not-here-yet but predictable, and 1% who-ordered-that. But unfortunately the ratios have changed. I think we’re now down to maybe 80% already-here—climate change takes a huge toll on infrastructure—then 15% not-here-yet but predictable, and a whopping 5% of utterly unpredictable deep craziness.

Every 1st Tuesday of the new year is Disclosure Day (Openbaarheidsdag) in the Netherlands, the day when the National Archive opens up material and collections whose access restrictions have expired. It is generally a day approached with a sense of festivity by archivists (openness is their core public service and they’re also eager to show what cool stuff they have on record), and the hashtag #openbaarheidsdag shows a variety of tweets. Next to the National Archive, a range of local and regional archives participate, amongst which is the Frisian regional archive Tresoar. With both institutions I had the pleasure of working together last year (related to openness but unrelated to disclosure day). There is some momentum building to turn it into a nationally observed day by all archives, to celebrate the work and value of archives.

HET NATIONAAL ARCHIEF OP EEN ZONNIGE DAG
Photo of the National Archive building next to The Hague Central Station, by 23Archiefdingen CC BY-SA

In general the material opened up for the general public on a Disclosure Day wasn’t fully secret, but access was restricted to e.g. researchers. Some of it, such as personal correspondence and material from private archives however hasn’t been seen by anyone for multiple decades. Various time limits apply. Government documents are transferred to the National Archive after 20 years and most of it will be publicly accessible then right away (before that transfer the relevant Ministry itself determines openness, and freedom of information regulations apply). Where things like the privacy of living persons or national security are involved access can be restricted for a maximum of 75 years. That limit is set at the start, and per the first January after that limit expires, it becomes public. So for this year, it means that 1997 (20 yrs), 1967 (50 yrs) and 1942 (75 yrs) are the years for which new material is being published (as 50 and 75 years are commonly used time limits on access, and 20 yrs the legal default).

The amount of material published each year is substantial. Just the index of material published this year by the National Archives is over 1200 pages, and only the table of contents of that index of material is already 50 pages.


Lots of manual work involved, such as this tweet by National Archive employee Maartje v.d. Kamp illustrates. She says “green dots mark restricted access, disclosure day means scraping lots of dots from archive boxes”

For this year the collection of newly accessible material contains the minutes of Cabinet meetings of the mid 1990’s (in which the Prime Minister berates his Ministers for leaking and carelessly letting opinions be publicly known), the personal notes of the researcher who on behalf of the government looked into the riots during the 1966 wedding of future Queen Beatrix, as well as personal notes from the same researcher when looking into the war history of a government minister alleged to have served in the SS. These haven’t been opened at all, since then, and the National Archive itself wondered what is in it that made the researcher claim years of secrecy for it. Also the diaries of the first woman Minister in the Netherlands and a prime minister in the late 1940’s became public.

Of special interest this year is the disclosure of the Dutch Trustfund (Nationaal Beheersinstituut) that between 1945 and 1967 managed all the Dutch funds and assets seized from German nationals after the war and from Dutch (suspected) collaborators and profiteers until after their court verdicts, as well as funds and assets of missing persons (such as jewish people deported by the nazis during the war, or in hiding and not yet returned) until their fate was known. The index of all persons for whom assets were managed, or from whom assets were seized, contains some 180.000 names, and is available online. The Dutch Trustfund archive itself hasn’t been digitised yet (as it wasn’t public yet), and stretches 2.5km of shelves.
Out of curiosity I did a quick search to look for my grandparents but none of them show up in the index. So there wasn’t some never shared family secret. 😉

Collaborating E.J. Voûte, mayor of Amsterdam during the years of occupation

E.J. Voute, collaborating mayor of Amsterdam during the nazi occupation on the photo above (source Spaarnestad archive, within the National Archive. Photo taken during his trial, 25 April 1947), and the location in the list of the Dutch Trustfund archives where he’s mentioned.

In the past months I have increasingly read books from independent authors that self-publish. It seems there is a growing supply of it, and of increasing quality.

Fellow nerd Peter Kaptein has been cutting his own path into the writing jungle, and I enjoy following his reports on his blog and on Facebook chronicling his musings, struggles and process. Likewise here at home it is exciting to see my wife finally giving in to her lifelong urge and start writing stories, after getting a huge burst of motivation from following a training on methods and tools. It is what allowed her to see writing as artisanship and thus well within her own scope.

Today I read the book Remanence from indie US writer Jennifer Foehner Wells (twitter). Remanence is the sequel to Fluency which I read sometime last year. Remanence was published yesterday, and provided me with a good, exciting and relaxing read this weekend. I was originally attracted to Fluency because it promised a linguist at the heart of a hard scifi story (who else to crack the Universe’s lingua franca?). The follow-up provided techno-collapse to pre-industrial level, ecosystems gone haywire and space faring squids finding out they weren’t as free as they thought.

fluency remanence
Fluency, and its sequel Remanence

Independent writers are learning to embrace the affordances that global connectivity provides, and directly creating their own audience, distribution channels and brands, much like indie musicians before them.

It’s not that regularly published SF isn’t interesting or fun. As long as I’m able to explore or be surprised by what I find in terms of perspectives etc. Such as around new year when I hugely enjoyed the two SF novels from Chinese writer Liu Cixin (his Chinese blog). His Three Body Problem, and the follow-up Dark Forest are both great reads with a first encounter in a game world, a quantum-enabled block on human science development and a solution for the Fermi paradox. Already looking forward to the third installment becoming available in English later this year.

threebodyproblem
darkforest
Three Body Problem, and its sequel Dark Forest

In the 1980’s my dad spent many days searching paper archives to reconstruct his paternal family tree. I am going through some of his archives now that we are dissolving my parents household. What was hard work then, now after digitisation, is often available online.

Regional archives have done a lot of work to digitize records of birth, marriage, and death, and make them searchable online. Through the website allefriezen.nl (all Frisians dot nl) one can search for documents by name. The picture below (archive source) is the registration of our family name on 20 February 1812. This was under Napoleonic rule when France had annexed the Netherlands (1810-1814) and family names became compulsory.

Popke Jacobs the great-grandfather of my grandfather registered our name in the “Municipality Ureterp, Canton Beetsterzwaag, Arondissement Heerenveen, Departement Vriesland” (sic). It is weird to see those French government structures in the document.

aannamezijlstra

The full text reads:

“Before us Maire (mayor) of the Municipality Ureterp, Canton Beetsterzwaag, Arondissement Heerenveen, Departement Vriesland, having appeared Popke Jacobs, living in Ureterp, has himself declared that he adopts the name of Zijlstra as family name and has the following number of sons and daughters, to know, Jakob, old 18 years, living in Grouw. Klaas old ten years, Jan old one in his second year, both living in Ureterp, Geeske old 17 years, living in Drachten, Aukjen old 15 years living on the Groote Gast and Trijntje old 13 years living in Ureterp and has signed this with us 20 February 1812.”

It is interesting to note that my ancestor signed his own name, so he was literate. Others registered in the same document signed with a shaky “X”. His occupation was listed as “worker”, meaning he was a hired hand and day laborer.

We are spending a month in Lucca, with some days before and after in Switzerland.

Fully settled in
By now we have fully settled into a daily rhythm here in Lucca. Coffee in the morning, either at Momus (most days, closer and have great pastries) or Il Bernino. I also have figured out the street pattern and confidently navigate the inner city. What first seemed a medieval maze, is now a pretty clear grid.
Mornings, except for coffee are usually given over for a stroll around town, and to do some shopping, or like I did this week, get a haircut. During the heat of the day we withdraw to the apartment, to come out again towards evening for another stroll and dinner.

The afternoons are perfect for some work and reading. I haven’t read all that much compared to other summers, but amongst the books I did read, I enjoy the new Neal Stephenson, SevenEves. I spent time on editing the Serbian open data readiness assessment report, incorporating the feedback I received from colleagues. I also worked several afternoons on the open data barometer research (ODBM) for the WWW Consortium. But with the not so great internet bandwith available, that is slow going. So I am betting on speeding up once I get back to our 1 gigabit connection back home.

Evenings were for strolls (either through the city streets, or up on the city walls), and with the Lucca Summer Festival taking place we were treated to the performances of Mark Knopfler, Robbie Williams and Lenny Kravitz as we walked around. I thought Knopfler’s rendering of Sultans of Swing had slowed down quite a lot from 35 years ago!

Lucca Lucca
Lucca streets at evening, sipping wine after a walk

Our daily rhythm now feels like something we could easily enjoy another month, or more.

Siena
This week we took a day to visit Siena, about 2 hours away from Lucca. It was nice to stroll through the historical center that is built across several hills. After lunch we wanted to withdraw from the heat and the other tourists. For that we went to the botanical garden where there was plenty shade, and the entrance fee kept everybody else out. We were the only two visitors.

The search for the new(er)
Last week I mentioned that finding the old in Lucca was easy, but finding signs of newer initiatives and activism is harder. There are a few places where a more active and younger scene seems to meet-up. One is a vegetarian place called Soup in Town, where we had lunch a few times. It is owned by the friendly and distinct character Daniele. The other is Ciclo DiVino, which is the focal point of a community of wine drinking cyclists, that hang out on the streets in front of the shop several nights per week. My open calls for local people involved in open data or making went mostly unanswered, but two people did get in touch.

Lucca Lucca
Finding serendipity and hipsters in Lucca

One was Andrea, who lives further south, and whom we met in Pisa on Tuesday early evening. We met in a beer shop / bar, run by a former colleague of Andrea, where a growing range of artisanal Italian beers can be tasted and bought. Andrea has been involved in open geo data and mapping for a long time, and currently is part of a project mapping the ‘loss of the night‘ due to light pollution. He grew up and lived in Milano for a long time, and a few years ago returned to the house and land of his grand parents in rural southern Tuscany. There he is trying to find new ways of making the country side more resilient, finding multiple revenue streams, and break the cycle of debt and investment that tourism has brought while making assets less productive (is it useful to take on debt to build a swimming pool to better attract tourists to your farm yard for 10 weeks per year?). Some other guests in the Birreria told us little bit more about how Lucca is different from the surrounding cities like Pisa. It has alwasy been more affluent, and in the last century much less communist that its surroundings. Which may explain why in Pisa spray painted slogans and protest are much easier to spot than in Lucca.

Lucca Lucca
cycling community sipping wine, bicycle

Sunday evening I met up with Davide, a self employed open source software builder, who has recently embarked on a new venture. His focus is on building an architecture that allows everyone to much better describe knowledge and metadata for data objects, and do this in a less centralized way than e.g. semantic web frameworks seem to assume. We walked, starting at Ciclo Divino, for an hour and a half, through the streets of Lucca while chatting about open data, and the adoption of new tools and other topics that came to mind.

WTF is wrong with my leg?
On Thursday I suddenly noticed what seemed like a pretty nasty rash on my left leg. At first I thought it might be eczema caused by heat. But it hurt more over time and it grew worse as well, with lots of blisters. So the last part of the week I wasn’t very mobile, and kept my rest.

Vincero! Vincero!

Puccini, Torre del Lago

For one thing I did get up though, and that was for us to visit the open air theater at Torre del Lago, for the opening night in this year’s Puccini Festival of Turandot, the last opera by Puccini. It was a beautiful summer evening, and we both enjoyed Turandot a lot. The production started of great, and even though we thought the middle part lacked creativity in its production which the final part could not really make up for, the overall experience was very good. Tenor Rudy Park, in the role of Calaf, we thought, carried most of the show with his quality. His rendering of Nessun Dorma during this premiere got a huge applause interrupting the performance. So much so, that he sang it a second time in its entirety to pick up the show again.

Puccini, Torre del Lago

We are now entering our final week already here in Lucca!

Sometimes it is ok if your government wants to store your fingerprints. Like, when they use them as artwork on city hall.

Last weekend Elmine and I strolled an afternoon through Deventer an old Hanseatic city in the eastern part of the Netherlands. We came across a shop window where a group of people were busy making clay moulds, which had us intrigued.

Deventer Raamwerk

The clay moulds, it turned out, were made from finger prints, to be cast in metal and then used on the facade of the new city hall as window covers/decorations. A project by local artist Loes ten Anscher.

Deventer Raamwerk Deventer Raamwerk

The finger prints are from citizens in Deventer themselves. One in every forty-three, from the city and surrounding villages, from every age, has been asked to provide a finger or toe print, to be cast in metal. The 2.300 prints are cast in metal and used on the newly built city hall. Every metal cast has a number, and the person providing the finger print gets a pendant with that number. They will know where their finger print is on the building, but noone else.

I really love this project, making citizens part of the building where those that provide public service work, and involving them up to the level where they have their fingerprints all over local government. One example where I think government storing my finger prints is actually not so bad!

The past and last full week in Copenhagen was a busy one, filled with appointments and presentations.

I started Tuesday, after discussing a workshop with a Dutch client for next month, with preparing a presentation for the Danish Ministry of Housing, Urban and Rural Affairs (MBBL), that I gave later that afternoon. The Danish government has announced a major open data release, with wanting to stimulate growth and innovation as a key part of the rationale behind it. Now, all the general research makes that growth highly likely, but how do you actually on an operational level make sure the right conditions are there for it to happen? And what is the role of public sector bodies on that highly operational level? This was a timely request by the MBBL for me to talk about, as it is helping me to further frame open data as a change management issue. That is exactly what is currently needed to help me set up The Green Land, my / our open data consulting start-up.

In between I finally got around to some reading, absorbing John Robb’s ‘Brave New War‘, ‘The Innovator’s DNA‘ (Christensen) and Lane Becker’s ‘Get Lucky‘ (triggered by our dinner with him earlier this month) in parallel. As usual in my mind they are all very much connected, and if you look closely at my MBBL presentation above you will see traces of it in the slides.

Early Wednesday morning I met up with Pedro Parraguez Ruiz, at the welcoming Paludan. He’s a PhD looking at open innovation networks and ecosystems, trying to see if social network analysis and other aspects can be fruitfully applied to it. Pedro described most existing open innovation set-ups as being too transactional in their focus, creating closed groups that treat the network as just another asset. Saying that ‘the long tail of university held patents’ is just wasted (as in, not exploited, but also not open to build upon), he wondered what would happen if you put open design thinking at the core of the scientific and university process. Made me think of some of the discussion triggered by Elsevier’s Michael Habib on scientific reputation building in Düsseldorf in 2009, and some of the good presentations at last week’s FabLab Toulouse conference. Later that day in Fredriksberg I had another stimulating conversation with another PhD, Thorhildur Jetzek Hansdottir. She is looking into (economic) modeling of open data impacts. Again here there was a tension between ‘classic’ structures and networked structures in creating value. It helped me formulate a bit more clearly where I think the transition from social transactions to monetized transactions takes place, and that rather than treating ‘social activity’ and ‘economic activity’ as separate domains, economic activity is a subset of social activity where monetization becomes sort-of a proxy for social distance or trust differences in a network. At the end of the day I was interviewed for the Dutch magazine Vice Versa on the potential and role of open data for international development aid, as part of their ‘Smart Aid Debate’. A very thought provoking day, all in all.

New Subway Construction
Subway construction in Frederiksberg

Dansk IT, the Danish association for IT professionals, had invited me to give a presentation on open data potential on Thursday. I spent most of the day preparing the talk, rearranging some of the arguments I used on Tuesday for the MBBL session for this private sector audience’s context. Basically the presentations for MBBL and Dansk IT are two sides of the same story, as public sector and private sector need each other to really create open data impact. Cathrine Lippert of the Digitaliseringsstyrelsen first explained the Danish open data steps, and then I tried to put that in a broader context of public sector information re-use in Europe.

Room filling up Cathrine Lippert presenting
Room filling up at Dansk IT and Cathrine Lippert presenting Danish OGD steps

Friday I met up with Simon of KL7 who has volunteered to organize the next Copenhagen Data Drinks on 28 November. KL7, housed in the great SOHO co-working facility, have a very interesting approach in using data to shape narratives and interaction between stakeholders, and it was an inspiring meeting with Simon and his colleague Mikkel. Good observations on how to link-up this (open) data work, with things like Sensemaking, and the bridge to social media, which inspired some new insights in how I can combine those various aspects of my work and interests. I certainly aim to continue our conversation.

Elmine and I explored the hip Jaegersborggade in Nørrebro, which is in the process of (early) gentrification: hipsters taking over the shops, rising prices for the small apartments, and people with Macs working in the corner café, but drug dealing taking place in the open and signs in the shop windows warning burglars that there is no money or computer worth stealing inside. In 2009 we bought some cool ceramics in Copenhagen, and now found the artisan who made them, Inge Vincents, in this street. So we added a few items to our collection.

SOHO Reception Thinware, Inge Vincents ceramics
SOHO, and Inge Vincents ceramics

Also accepted invitations to speak on open data in Dublin and contribute to the Open Innovation Festival in Leeuwarden (NL) next month.

The weekend brought freezing temperatures but also clear blue skies and lots of sunshine. Saturday we visited our friends Henriëtte and Thomas and their daughter Penny in Helsingør, right on time to see Coworking boat PAN, of which we are shareholders, being lifted from the water for the winter. Hanging out together was fun and relaxing, so we headed back up there on Monday evening again for a dinner together. Sunday we walked for hours, starting in Østerbro in Faelled park, where Elmine and I extensively discussed various questions and ideas, while letting our feet take us where they happened to be heading. Over a nice lunch we wrote some of the fruits of walking and thinking down, before continuing on foot along the city lakes towards Nørreport and the city center, where we hit the Lego store for some early Sinterklaas preparations.

PAN leaves the water
PAN leaves the water

The fourth week in Copenhagen ended this Monday with a day in the office at SocialSquare, where Magnus and I also took the opportunity to talk about Sensemaking, and I handed back the office keys when I left. After work, as mentioned we headed up to Helsingør again for a ‘hyggelig’ dinner with Henriëtte, Thomas and Penny.

Tomorrow is the last full day in Copenhagen after a month that zipped by at high speed, and we’ll be ‘closing down the Copenhagen operation’ as Peter would put it, which includes returning our rented bikes. But not before I meet up with the people behind the Copenhagen bicycle policies at city hall to talk about open data. On Wednesday we’ll drive back home, taking a day to unpack and rest, before I head out to Prague for new open data adventures on Friday. By the end of next week I hope to post some thoughts on how this month-long stay worked out as an experiment.

This week started off on the wrong foot, with high fever and being ill. Which was awful timing as this was also the first week I had a feeling of really being here. Fever was mostly gone by Wednesday, allowing us to take a walk in the sun in the neighbourhood, just in time for the CPH Data Drinks that evening!

The First CPH Data Drinks was an attempt by me to create an informal meet-up place and set a rhythm for open data interested people to come together. It seems to me here in Denmark, while stakeholders are mostly aware of each other they are also organized in little islands. Obviously the interesting stuff happens if those islands get connected a bit more, when people become routinely exposed to what is going on in other areas. So, I was glad that CPH Data Drinks brought together some 30 people! We had a fun evening with lots of conversations, and created a Data Wishlist of data sets participants would like to see published first. The Danish Statistics Office was high on the list. Immediately volunteers stepped forward to organize the next CPH Data Drinks on 28 November, and I will be supporting them with some hands on tips on how to keep things going.

P1020116
The handwritten cards used for input to build the Data Wishlist

The next day I of course had to pay for the previous nights exertions so shortly after a bout of fever. Around mid day we left to explore the city, in particular to visit the Matisse exhibit in the Danish state museum for art, SMK. The exhibition focussed on the repetition and variation in Matisse’s work, which gave some great glimpses into his work flow and methods. Afterwards we strolled back to the city center, and found me a winter coat, just in time as the temperatures are scheduled to drop in the coming days.

Brow and nose, just 1 line

Friday morning I revisited the Social Square offices for the first time in a full week. They hadn’t particularly missed me as the illness that hit me also hit everyone (except one) at the office as well. Over lunch I caught up with Richard Lalleman, discussing culture change and changing deeply entrenched work routines to be able to allow his employer to be better at operating in a networked environment. Not easy when the first response in this global business has been one of control, centralization of authority and standardization. Afterwards I met Elmine at the pleasant PH Cafeen for some tea in the sun.

Chairs Flid
Old chairs, and one of the many examples of signage design on Istedgade

The rest of the afternoon, deciding to work half days for now, Elmine and I explored Istedgade, lined with various small fashion shops (allowing Elmine to run up some credit card transactions), ending with some lovely Thai food and coffee. The evening we spent in Tivoli, which was fully decorated for Halloween. Simply enjoying the stroll through the crowds, taking in the surroundings, and enjoying each others presence.

Apples Halloween at Tivoli
Tivoli Halloween style

Sunshine drew us out of the apartment the next day. Cycling along the water front we went to Christianshavn. We’ve been visiting Copenhagen for 10 years on a regular basis, but had never been to this part of town before. Taking some coffee on the go from Sweet Treat we enjoyed the sun at the edge of the canal, alongside what seemed most of the other people living there. Strolling a little while through Christiania, the old provo-initiated ‘free town’ on the old military grounds, we cycled over the old ramparts ending at a restaurant that couldn’t serve food anymore: the sunshine had apparently unexpectedly brought out much more people, so they ran out. As the ferry across the water was full, and couldn’t take us, we cycled back to the bridge to get us to the other side, and ended up for tea and snacks at the edge of Nørrebro. After a nice dinner at Bibendum (awesome chocolate truffels!) it was time to finally cycle home after a sun filled day.

Christiania Christiania

Christiania Christiania
Some snapshots from Christiania

A lot less sunny Sunday was spend talking and doing some conceptual work on a few open data services, as well as MakerHouseholds.eu. Which brings us to today, where I continued the conceptualizing, as well as started preparing a presentation I will be giving tomorrow.

This coming week is already our last in Copenhagen, and a busy one.