Matt Webb has been keeping UnOffice hours for a few years, a few timeslots in his week during which anyone can come by and talk to him. Several people in my network similarly have opened parts of their weekly schedule for others to be able to plan a conversation with them. Using a tool like Calendly, it saves the back and forth of finding a time. More importantly it is a clear signal you don’t have to ask if it’s ok to have a conversation. You can just go ahead and plan it if you want to talk to them.

I like that idea. A few times in the past I’ve mailed a selection of my own contacts to ask them for a conversation, just to catch up and hear what they are doing. It always leads to some new insights or connections, and sometimes it generates a next step. It’s a serendipity aid.

As an experiment I’ve created a schedule in which anyone can book a conversation on Wednesday afternoons (Central European Time). You can find the link to my Calendly schedule in the right hand side bar.


Screenshot van 4 mei-rede in de Nieuwe Kerk, de link gaat naar YouTube (ik plaats geen YT embeds vanwege tracking).

Indrukwekkende rede van Hans Goedkoop in de Nieuwe Kerk tijdens Dodenherdenking op 4 mei 2022.

Over je eigen zicht op goed en kwaad niet verliezen, ook als dat ongemakkelijk is. Ook als je in een concentratiekamp bent opgesloten.

Als het toen kon, kan het áltijd

zegt hij over hoe Abel Herzberg en anderen het gevoel voor beschaving in stand hielden in Bergen Belsen, en vergelijkt het met welk antwoord we geven op de Russische oorlog in Ukraïne.

En hij geeft een waarschuwing, waarin hij Hannah Ahrendt, en ook de woorden van Herzberg zelf over het Eichmann proces, in slechts enkele woorden weer helder actualiseert naar vandaag. Tegen schuilen achter bestaande systematiek om te verklaren dat je weinig kunt doen.

De banaliteit van het kwaad: nazisme heb je er niet voor nodig.

I enjoyed having conversations with Doug Belshaw this morning as we walked around Amersfoort. Tonight I’m going through his presentation on Open Badges for the Dutch national libraries conference this week, which was why he was in town and which provided the opportunity to meet up.

I wonder how I could connect the convictions my company has about our work with open badges, and how such badges can play a role in promoting the skills connected to those convictions to our team and new hires, as well as our wider network. Meet-ups, unconferences, that we already organise may turn into a bit more, by acknowledging the knowledge and skills transfer taking place with a badge perhaps, by issuing them from our company. As recognition for things we deem important. I also associate it with my train of thought on framing our convictions and principles in terms of SDGs. Lots to chew on, besides badges, like co-ops, as well.

I notice a strong and persistent reluctance with Dutch civil servants to use the word citizen. Apparantly because the Dutch word ‘burger’ carries overtones of ‘kleinburgerlijk’, petty bourgeois, of bourgeoisie, and of the general disdain university students voice for ‘burgers’ (with ‘burger’ being bandied about as an insult amongst them, which gained national usage through the 1990’s Jiskefet satirical tv program). Many civil servants said to me they think the word citizen is ‘old fashioned’.

I find this not only an oddity, but also detrimental to public governance and potentially dangerous.
Not using the word citizen obscures how in the relationship to government citizens have basic human rights, specific constitutional rights, and some duties. A citizen has autonomy and a certain power vis-a-vis the government.
Not using the word citizen, easily obscures that power and those rights to civil servants.

I hear civil servants talk about

  • ‘customers’, usually in the context of providing public service
  • ‘clients’, often in the context of the social domain, reminiscent of how therapists talk
  • ‘inhabitants’, usually a hand-wavy acknowledgement that other people are involved, but in an abstracted, passive or even statistical way,
  • ‘users’, usually carried over from an IT related context
  • or worst case ‘residents’ as if you’re institutionalised.

In all these cases it creates either a distance to people or implies power assymmetries. It makes it easier to dehumanise people. The consequence is the creation of policies about people, but not with those people, because people are never perceived to be on equal footing. Policy gets done over people’s heads, done to them. Participatory processes are then easily reduced to a ritual, a checkbox to mark, something that is a pain and a drag without which your policy process would be so much more efficient. Clients, users and inhabitants are never equal to those who determine policies, whereas citizens would have to be met eye to eye. Acknowledging people as citizens would require curiosity about their needs, motives and actual experiences when developing policy.

Every civil servant I’ve worked with cares about good governance and public service, and individually they wouldn’t treat people as passive objects on which their policies operate, but collectively in their work context they do abstract people out of the equation. And their own choice of words contributes to that, makes it more likely to happen, I think.

In conversations with our public sector clients I always talk about citizens with emphasis. I often also introduce myself as citizen (not as consultant e.g.).

In our projects we always emphasize the need for civil servants to go outside, to check their data and documents against the reality outside, and as often as possible create conversations with real people, with citizens.

With the drive towards ‘data driven’ work, this is ever more essential. Data must be presumed to always describe only a sliver of reality, and to always do so badly on top of that. There is always a check against reality necessary when you want to start relying on data in policy decisions. Visit the places and the people represented in the data, do you recognise them? Do you have a sufficiently nuanced, detailed and rich view on an issue before making a decision? Do people’s stories validate the data, is their meaning incorporated?
Acknowledging people as citizens is also essential to being able to see and use government data publication as a policy instrument, meant to provide agency to people in the context of societal issues and as equal partners in addressing these issues.

Hight time for the public sector to use the word citizen routinely and meaningfully again.

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.

Lukas Rosenstock posted a write-up of a group discussing their personal CRM routines he organised. A little over a year ago I was impressed with how Rick Klau (an old blogging connection) described his ‘homebrew CRM‘.

Lukas mentioned there were three groups in his conversation, one using specialised tools, one group using no digital tools, and one group using more general tools (“like Roam, Notion or Airtable“). I’m definitely one of the latter.

After reading Rick’s posting a year ago I parked it for a while, but when I adopted Obsidian for note taking, after a while I also started using it for some light weight CRM notes. Unlike Rick I haven’t added any process or automation, but I did start creating CRM notes so that something like it might become possible over time.

What I started with is making notes about people I encounter.

LinkedIn has one glaring hole in its functionality and that is allowing me to add something about the context of when I met someone. After using LinkedIn for 16 years I now sometimes come across a LinkedIn contact and then don’t remember how or why we connected. LinkedIn by now does show when you connected, allowing me to browse through someone’s CV to see what that person did when we connected and try to remember the context of that connection. Xing, mostly used in German speaking countries, had this from the start including a field for a few notes on when / how you met someone. That has proved valuable. [UPDATE In the comments Aad points out such a feature has been present at some point. Online search suggests it was introduced in 2013/4 with LinkedIn Contacts, and became a premium-only feature from 2017. By 2013 I had some 2k contacts, 10 years worth of interaction, where such contextual info was missing, and I use the free version, so the general point stands, even if factually not correct since 2013]

Back when I used a wiki on my laptop for notes, I also kept CRM style notes in it, especially 2004-2008. The useful bit was that I could link to a person’s page in the various notes I made about meetings, events etc. That ‘backlinking’ overview in itself was a great way of adding contextual info.

With Obsidian and the use of simple text files in markdown I have that back, and actually in a better way than in that wiki of old. Because those text files can be approached by a wide variety of software tools, not just Obsidian.
I’m not attempting to be complete in these CRM notes, I grow them the same way as I grow the other type of notes: when I encounter someone new I make note of it. Especially when I don’t know someone yet, or don’t have a strong connection to someone I make those notes. Not so much of people that I’m already connected to like colleagues. I’ve started a few new projects in the past few months, which is always a moment when you encounter a lot of new people in a new context. So those I’ve made notes for, as it helps understand a new client organisation, relevant stakeholders and context. For now backlinking in meeting and project notes is the way for adding a record of interaction.

Maybe in a year or so I can start doing more pro-active things with those notes, like Rick has built into his routines. Another element to me is potentially leaving LinkedIn behind at some point in the future, or at least be somewhat prepared when LinkedIn goes away, as all these platforms do.

Do you have some personal CRM-type routines or automation?

Handshakes and conversations is what I’m interested in, not marketing instruments. Image Handshake by Elisha Project, license CC BY SA