Good conversation with Robert and Lilia (company, Lilia’s blog) today over lunch in Enschede. Explored shared challenges concerning doing business, also as a couple, seeing the household as an economically active unit, finding your way back into a field, or extending into new fields and more. It was good to catch up, and take the time to do so. Definitely need to continue that soon for several directions the conversation took us in today. Also Enschede hasn’t changed much since we left, and the problems with trains being delayed and cancelled proved part of the reason we moved still stands :).
Wilma Haan has been named the new general director of the Open State Foundation. As, the equally new, chairman of the board of the Open State Foundation, I think her joining OSF is a great new step for the organisation. Backed by strong experience in both journalism and digital, she has shown herself a great energy source that will strengthen the team. The fit with Tom, who stepped in as interim director when Arjan left last summer, and the rest of the team is also very good. Tom has done great work as interim director in the past months, and will be the new deputy director. Together they will bring the Open State Foundation further, I am convinced, and I look forward to working with them both. I hope to learn lots from them, as my role on the board is a recent one as well.
My condolences Jeremy. I know how it feels to see your feed reader come to live, it happened for me around the same time as you mention, at a different event. It brought lasting friendships like you describe your friendship with Cindy. One of those friends jokingly calls us all her ‘imaginary friends’, but there’s nothing imaginary in the life events we share, and the emotions those carry. As your evocative post about your friend Cindy shows. So, my condolences, from my RSS reader to yours.
Elmine deed onlangs iemand een Rijkswachter cadeau en voegde daar bovenstaand gedicht bij.
De Rijkswachters zijn houten robotjes gemaakt van de kisten waarin, tijdens de tien jaar durende verbouwing van het Rijksmuseum, de collectie opgeslagen was. Tijdens de verbouwing (2003-2013) was het museum gesloten. Al die tijd zat de collectie in houten kiste. Elk robotje heeft een nummer achterop, waarmee te achterhalen is welk object er in het het hout zat opgeborgen. Dit najaar vonden we een Rijkswachter (met nummer 7496) in een winkel in Leeuwarden. Die figureert nu in de video. In zijn vorig leven als kist, was er een zilveren kraantjeskan in verpakt.
Elmine maakt in de aanloop naar de Feestdagen elke dag een korte video. Over Rijkswachters, storycubes, sluwe katten, 19e eeuwse treinverliefdheid, en filosofische bespiegelingen van een mier en meer. Volg haar op Youtube voor jouw video-adventskalender.
Ik volg met interesse het blog van Elja Daae, die in 3 weken tijd een concept voor haar boek af wil schrijven. Omdat de uitgever het dan verwacht. Elke dag schrijft ze over haar voortgang en afwegingen. Inmiddels zijn we een week onderweg, met een eerste posting over het niet bestaan van Writers block, en de laatste over schrijven is schrappen in Refocus.
Mijn interesse zit hem vooral in hoe je dat nou aanpakt, tot een boek concept komen. En eigenlijk ben ik ook wel nieuwsgierig naar hoe ze dan straks van een concept naar een boek komt. Is dan niet immers alles al gezegd? Waarom meer woorden er tegenaan gooien als je de boodschap al op papier hebt? Dat is ook meteen waarom ik haar proces volg. Het verschil tussen schrijvers en lezers lijkt vooral te zijn dat iedereen stiekem wel een boek wil schrijven, maar dat schrijvers het uiteindelijk ook doen. Mij wordt ook wel regelmatig de suggestie aan de hand gedaan, “schrijf daar nou eens een boek over!“. En ik heb bij vlagen ook wel die wensgedachte. Maar doen is iets anders. Veel van de boeken die me als voorbeeld worden voorgehouden komen op me over als veel wol om de ruimte tussen de kaften te vullen. Nog maar weer vijf anecdotes en voorbeelden om het punt nogmaals te maken. Waar een handjevol blogposts, of zelfs een rijtje bullet points, waarschijnlijk ook had volstaan.
Elja komt in ieder geval tot actie, en ze laat iedereen meekijken. Frank Meeuwsen schreef ooit ook een boek, Bloghelden, over de vroege Nederlandstalige blog-wereld. Zou hij het proces van Elja herkennen? Frank en ik hadden het laatst over een boek over het IndieWeb, om het vrije en open web uit te leggen aan nieuw publiek. Materiaal genoeg op zich. Maar ook nog veel te onderzoeken. Schrijft Elja alleen uit ervaring, of doet ze ook extra onderzoek tijdens het maken van haar boek?
(Ik ontmoette Elja aan de keukentafel van Ewout, voor een goed gesprek over de toekomst van het internet. Frank was daar ook bij. Hij en ik kennen elkaar uit de Nederlandse blog-oertijd. Zowel Elja (blogpost) als Frank (blogpost) waren aanwezig op onze STM18 unconference op Elmine’s verjaardag.)
This week and next week I am working with the Library Services Fryslan team (BSF), the ones who also run Frysklab, a mobile FabLab. We’re taking about 5 full days and two evenings to dive deeply into detailing and shaping the Impact Through Connection projects BSF runs. Those are based on my networked agency framework. Now that BSF has done a number of these projects they find that they need a better way to talk about it to library decision makers, and a better way to keep the pool of facilitators much closer to the original intentions and notions, as well as find ways to better explain the projects to participants.
It’s quite a luxury to take the time with 5 others to spend a lot of time on talking through our experiences, jotting them down, and reworking them into new narratives and potential experiments. It’s also very intensive, as well as challenging to capture what we share, discuss and construct. In the end we want to be able to explain the why, what and how of networked agency to different groups much better, next to improving the way we execute the Impact Through Connection projects.
After doing a braindump on day 1, we used the second day to discuss some of what we gathered, figure out what’s missing, what needs more detail. We’ve now started to bring all that disjointed material into a wiki, so that we can move things around, and tease out the connections between different elements. This will be the basis for further reflection, planning to end up with ‘living documentation’ that allows us remix and select material for different contexts and groups.
Currently I think we are at the stage of having collected a mountain of thoughts and material, without much sight of how we will be able to process it all. But experience tells me we will get through that by just going on. It makes the luxury of having allocated the time to really do that all the more tangible.
Today I attended the public defense of the PhD thesis of Freddy Veltman-van Vugt, titled ‘Grensverleggend leren’ (roughly translates to ’moving the frontier of learning forward’). She focused on what it takes for teachers to learn and teach skills critical to our highly digitised and interconnected world in a self directed way. Her doctorate already started some 14 years ago (I think she started writing in earnest after her retirement), and I was invited because one of my all time favourite projects, the Homo Zappiens 2008 project, was one of four cases that were the subject of her empirical research. Ten years ago Freddy promised me to invite me to her public defense, and she kept word. This is the third time my work has become the object of study of a PhD thesis, and today I thought it’s a rather fun indicator of whether I’m working on something novel and worthwile. (The other two were my blogging practices and my open data work). Today when asked by one of the learned opponents at the defense, Freddy said she saw our 2008 project as one with the most compelling predictive value. During the reception afterwards she followed that up with the remark that our project from 10 years ago is still a rare and unique approach. She asked me if I had done any more projects like it, and actually there’s only the current project with the Library Service Fryslan ‘Impact through Connection’ that resembles what we tried to do then.
In the Homo Zappiens project about a dozen teachers of the Rotterdam university of applied sciences took a year to informally work together on changing their teaching towards more self-directed learning, while incorporating more of the affordances networked technology gives us. The form of the project was shaped exactly the same, self-directed, action-oriented. We held that you can’t learn to teach differently if that’s being taught the traditional way. The results clustered around authenticity, co-creation, the skills involved in creating that, knowledge transfer to colleagues not involved in the project, and formats for new or altered work forms during teaching to let form follow function. The project meant deep personal change for many of the members of our ‘gang’. Rediscovering the fun of learning, finding the guts to experiment, getting so much closer to students and colleagues. “I came to change my teaching module, I left having changed my world”. It’s a project I’m still very glad about, and I feel I was able to co-create what I think of as a Reboot—like turning point for the participants.
I also picked up a useful new word today from Freddy’s PhD thesis, “agency shyness”. She talked about the critical factors involved in self directed learning, and next to engaging with real intractable problems, then also referenced the guts needed to experiment in a settled working environment. Not all teachers she came across in her cases dared to experiment, to try and do things differently. They were shy to explore new agency.
Agency shyness is very much relevant to my current work with the Library Service Fryslan on networked agency. We encounter it in the teams we work with, in contrast with my own mission behind networked agency, battling feelings of disempowerment.
It was good to see Freddy get her doctorate, and to realise our 2008 project is still standing strong, and would still be novel to most. After ten years it is still an iconic project.
Een mooi interview met Sylvana Simons in het NRC, en gisteren een goed gesprek bij DWDD. Van de haat die over haar uitgestort wordt begrijp ik niets, dat zero-sum denken dat de plek en erkenning die de één vraagt jóuw onderdrukking betekent, en je dus vanuit je hersenstam van je af bijt alsof je in gevaar verkeerd. Haar aansluiting bij DENK in 2016 vond ik ondoordacht, en haar kort daar weer op volgende afsplitsing ‘om meer verbindend te zijn’ paradoxaal. In de DWDD gisteren was die vroegere politieke naïviteit er zeker niet, en was er kracht, doordachtheid en onontkoombare argumentatie. Dat voelt soms ongemakkelijk, maar dan omdat ze gelijk heeft.
Simons beschrijft hoe ze terecht een hekel heeft aan anderen die haar vertellen hoe ze te werk moet gaan tegen racisme, welk narratief ze zou moeten hanteren. Waarmee haar eigen verhaal en positie juist weer ontkend wordt.
In het interview in het NRC viel me heel iets anders op, iets persoonlijkers, waar ze spreekt over de relatie met haar vader. “In 1996 is hij overleden. Onze relatie is nog nooit zo goed geweest. Mensen moeten hard lachen als ik dat zeg, maar ik heb sinds zijn overlijden meer compassie voor hem.” Heel herkenbaar voor me. Compassie, ja dat zeker. Maar ook macht, over mijn eigen verhaal met name: het verdwijnen van een opgelegd narratief.
Today I attended the presentation of this year’s Shaking Tree Award. This annual award started in 2016, and is named after my friend Niels who received the first award during his ‘last lecture‘. Niels died a year ago. The Ministry of Healthcare has pledged to keep going with the award, in the spirit of Niels’ efforts: shake up the system, fighting unneeded and kafkaesque bureaucracy, have hands-on experience with the system at ‘the receiving end’ so you know what you’re talking about, have a sense of humor to go with it, and be able to ‘dance with the system’.
The meeting was attended by a diverse range of people, from the healthcare domain, Niels’ family, and of course a smattering of Niels’ friends.
Before presenting this year’s nominees and the award, time was given to remembering Niels and the reason for this award. This was followed by two conversations between a previous winner and nominee and a representative of an institution they struggled with. First were Annette Stekelenburg and Ria Dijkstra, manager operations at a health care insurer. Annette has a son that needs tube feeding to survive. This situation will not change. Yet every year they need to apply for approval to continue receiving the materials needed. Annette and Ria had a frank conversation about what happened when Annette publicly announced she was fed up with this yearly bureaucracy that should be unneeded. Dijkstra explained how they thought that they had already changed the rules, making the renewal once every 5 years, but that the suppliers never knew, and that forms are being sent out in the insurers name that don’t actually exist anymore.
The second conversation was between Kathi Künnen, a previous nominee, and Betsie Gerrits, department head at UWV, the government agency in charge of employee insurance. Kathi is 29 and has incurable cancer. Because of that she has been determined to be 100% incapable of working, yet there are lots of phases where she actually does want to work. 25% of young professionals with cancer have an incurable form, and most want to remain active as long as possible. Yet the system tells them their ‘earning capacity is 0’ and with a stamp like that there’s no way to find paid activity. Here too, the conversation first of all made the two parties at the table see each other as individual human beings. And from it energy and potential solutions follow. Kathi said she needs reassurance that there can be administrative certainty (other than being tossed out as worthless), as her own life is fluid enough as it is and changing all the time.
I thought both conversations were impressive, and the type of thing we need much more of. Once you get past the frustration, anger and disbelief that often plays a role too, you can see the actual human being at the other side of the table. Dancing with the system is, in part, being able to have these conversations.
The award was presented by the previous winner, Tim Kroesbergen, and the secretary general of the Ministry Erik Gerritsen was host to the event, with Maarten den Braber as MC. The jury, consisting of Sanne (Niels’ wife) and the previous two winners, Annette Stekelenburg and Tim Kroesbergen, made their choice known from amongst the three nominees: Eva Westerhoff, Elianne Speksnijder and Geert-Jan den Hengst. All three nominees were presented by a video, as well as a conversation about their experiences.
Eva Westerhoff is a disability rights advocate & accessibility consultant who happens to be deaf. Next to her job at a bank, she does lots of volunteer work on diversity, inclusion & accessibility in information, communication & tech. She’s been knocking on doors in the Healthcare Ministry for over 20 years. Today she said that because of the political cycle, it seems you need to do everything again every four years or so, to keep awareness high enough.
Elianne Speksnijder is a professional fashion model, photographer and story teller. Lyme disease and epilepsy caused her to land in a wheelchair when she was 15. As she said today, an age which brings enough difficulties as it is. It took her a decade to accept that her wheels were a permanent part of her life. She’s 28 now, a woman with ambitions ‘on wheels’. When she was a teenager she sorely missed a role model (or rolling model, as the Dutch word ‘rolmodel’ can mean both). Now she is setting out to be that role model herself. She hopes for much more inclusivity in media, and challenges companies about it.
Geert-Jan den Hengst, is a 48 year old father of two adult children. He has MS and has been living the last decade or so in an environment that provides 24/7 care. His laptop is his core conduit to the rest of the world. Writing is a need for him. He blogs on his own blog, and writes for the local football team’s website, various media in his hometown and more. At the heart of his writing are everyday observations. He says he is “not a political animal, so I need to stay close to my everyday life in what I do”. Often those observations are examples of how life can be made impractical for someone in his position. He mentioned an early example that got him started: for the local football stadium all types of tickets could be bought online, except for …. tickets for wheel chair access. People with wheel chairs needed to come buy the tickets in person. The group least likely to be able to do that easily.
From all three nominees, I think the main takeaway is taking the time to share and listen to the actual stories of people. Especially when things get complicated or complex. Not news, there’s a reason I’ve been active in participatory narrative inquiry and sense making for a long time, but it bears repeating. Stories are our main way of ‘measurement’ in complex situations, to catch what’s going on for real, to spot the actual (not just the intended) consequences of our actions, structures and regulations, to see the edge cases, and to find the knobs to turn towards getting better results (and know what better actually is).
Jury chairman Tim Kroesbergen after reading the jury motivations for all three nominees, announced Eva Westerhoff as the new Shaking Tree Award winner.
Inside the Ministry a poem by Merel Morre is painted on the wall, that she wrote in honor of Niels ‘Shakingtree’.
A rough translation reads (anything unpoetic is all my doing)
shake goals awake
jump past rules
dance joints wider
dream chances free
out of bounds
as it grows
where it lighter
but never stops
In the ministy’s central hall all the pillars show a face of someone with the words “I care”. That and the poem are promising signs of commitment to the actual stories of people. The Ministry still has 24 statuettes in stock for the Shaking Tree Award, so there’s a likelihood they will keep the annual award up as well. But as this year’s winner Eva Westhoff warned, every 4 years the politics changes, so it’s better to make sure.
Aaron Swartz would have turned 32 November 8th. He died five years and 10 months ago, and since then, like this weekend, the annual Aaron Swartz weekend takes place with all kinds of hackathons and events in his memory. At the time of his suicide Swartz was being prosecuted for downloading material in bulk from JSTOR, a scientific papers archive (even though he had legitimate access to it).
In 2014 the Smart New World exhibition took place in Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, which Elmine and I visited. Part of it was the installation “18.591 Articles Sold By JSTOR for $19 = $353.229” with those 18.591 articles printed out, showing what precisely is behind the paywall, and what Swartz was downloading. Articles, like those shown, from the 19th century, since long in the public domain, sold for $19 each. After Swartz’ death JSTOR started making a small percentage of their public domain content freely accessible, limited to a handful papers per month.
The Düsseldorf exhibit was impressive, as it showed the volumes of material, but the triviality of most material too. It’s a long tail of documents with extremely low demand, being treated equally as recent papers in high demand.
Scientific journal publishers are increasingly a burden on the scientific world, rent-seeking gatekeepers. Their original value added role, that of multiplication and distribution to increase access, has been completely eroded, if not actually fully reversed.
Sorry to hear some sad news today. Just by coincidence, checking out an Austrian blog Heinz Wittenbrink pointed me to, I found out that Robert Basic died Friday last week of heart failure. Robert Basic is of my age, and was one of the most visible bloggers in Germany in the ’00s, writing a tech blog, basicthinking.de. I never actually met him in person, but our blog networks and therefore blog conversations strongly overlapped. One of those bloggers in the middle distance for me, I’d always encounter him in the comments of other bloggers I read, and we read each others blog, but never directly engaging much otherwise. Not someone close, nor a stranger, but a familiar face in the neighbourhood to chat with, mutually acknowledging you’re part of the fabric of that neighbourhood.
I distinctly remember two moments from Robert’s blogging. The first one was when ‘we’, as in a bunch of other bloggers in his network, found out that Robert automated the actual moment of publishing a posting. To better spread out his writing over a week, so he could write a number of things, but not post them all at the same time. The ‘smoking gun’ was some other bloggers being in a meeting with him talking, and seeing how posts would go up on his site at that moment. We discussed it as inauthentic behaviour. A true blogger would write in the moment and immediately post. Since then being able to preset the precise moment of a blogpost has become standard functionality, and I use it regularly.
The second moment was when, after six years of blogging, he no longer wanted to continue his very successful blog and started again on a new blog. He put basicthinking.de up for sale on eBay in 2009. It brought in 46.902 Euro. The site still exists, with his 12k articles still in the archive, and having changed hands again in 2015. I was shocked, I remember, by that step, and maybe even more puzzled by what the buyer thought they were buying. Wasn’t it the author that drives the traffic to the blog, taking it with him when he leaves?
Since then we mostly followed each other on Facebook, and when I deleted my old Facebook account I lost track of his writing, mostly about the automotive industry. Until today, when on a random Austrian blog I found the news of his untimely death. It’s odd. I feel like I’m currently in a resurgence of blogging, and part of that is reconnecting to the history of the web we lost. A history now long enough to lose people who are part of it.
dat wars, that’s it, was the title of the last posting on his old blog in January 2009.
Today at 14:07, sixteen years ago I published my first blogpost. The first few months I posted on Blogger, but after 6 months, deciding having a blog was no longer just an experiment, I moved to my own domain and where it has since resided. First it was hosted at a server I ran from my home, later I moved to a hosting package for more reliability.
Interestingly in that first blogpost only the links to personal domains still work, all the others have since become obsolete. Radio Userland no longer exists, nor does the Knowledge Board platform that I mention and even refer to as a place to find out more about me. In my first blogpost I also link to an image that was hosted on my server at home, using the subdomain name my internet provider gave me back then. That provider was sold in 2006 and that subdomain name no longer exists either. Blogger itself does still exist and even keeps my old Blogger.com blog alive. But Google has of course shown frequently they can and do kill services at short notice, or suspend your account.
The only original link in that first posting that still works is the one to David Gurteen’s blog hosted on his own domain gurteen.com, and his blogpost actually preserves some of the things I wrote at the now gone Knowledge Board. Although the original link to Lilia’s blogpost on Radio Userland no longer works, I could repair the link because she moved to her own domain in the same week I launched my blog. The link to Seb’s Radio Userland site has been preserved in archive.org. Which goes to say: if you care about your own data, your own writing, your own journal of thoughts, you need to be able to control the way your creative output can be accessed online. Otherwise it’s just a bit of content that serves as platform fodder.
So in a sense my very first blogpost in hindsight is a ringing endorsement for the IndieWeb principle of staying in control of your stuff. That goes further than having your own domain, but it’s a key building block.
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.
Last week the 2nd annual Techfestival took place in Copenhagen. As part of this there was a 48 hour think tank of 150 people (the ‘Copenhagen 150‘), looking to build the Copenhagen Catalogue, as a follow-up of last year’s Copenhagen Letter of which I am a signee. Thomas, initiator of the Techfestival had invited me to join the CPH150 but I had to decline the invitation, because of previous commitments I could not reschedule. I’d have loved to contribute however, as the event’s and even more the think tank’s concerns are right at the heart of my own. My concept of networked agency and the way I think about how we should shape technology to empower people in different ways runs in parallel to how Thomas described the purpose of the CPH150 48 hour think tank at its start last week.
For me the unit of agency is the individual and a group of meaningful relationships in a specific context, a networked agency. The power to act towards meaningful results and change lies in that group, not in the individual. The technology and methods that such a group deploys need to be chosen deliberately. And those tools need to be fully within scope of the group itself. To control, alter, extend, tinker, maintain, share etc. Such tools therefore need very low adoption thresholds. Tools also need to be useful on their own, but great when federated with other instances of those tools. So that knowledge and information, learning and experimentation can flow freely, yet still can take place locally in the (temporary) absence of such wider (global) connections. Our current internet silos such as Facebook and Twitter clearly do not match this description. But most other technologies aren’t shaped along those lines either.
As Heinz remarked earlier musing about our unconference, effective practices cannot be separated from the relationships in which you live. I added that the tools (both technology and methods) likewise cannot be meaningfully separated from the practices. Just like in the relationships you cannot fully separate between the hyperlocal, the local, regional and global, due to the many interdependencies and complexity involved: what you do has wider impact, what others do and global issues express themselves in your local context too.
So the CPH150 think tank effort to create a list of principles that takes a human and her relationships as the starting point to think about how to design tools, how to create structures, institutions, networks fits right with that.
Our friend Lee Bryant has a good description of how he perceived the CPH150 think tank, and what he shared there. Read the whole thing.
Meanwhile the results are up: 150 principles called the Copenhagen Catalogue, beautifully presented. You can become signatory to those principles you deem most valuable to stick to.
Elmine says this about the difficulty to describe her feelings about having almost 70 guests, friends, family, clients, peers, neighbours, spend two days in our home. Where the youngest was 8 weeks, the oldest 80 years. Where the shortest trip made was from right next door, and the furthest from Canada and Indonesia, and the rest from somewhere in between:
I try to find words to describe what happened the past few days, but everything I write down feels incomplete and abstract. How do you put into words how much it means to you that friends travel across the world to attend your birthday party? That you can celebrate a new year in life with friends you haven’t been able to meet for four years (or longer)? Who’s lives have changed so drastically in those years, including my own, but still pick up where you left the conversation all those years before? How can I describe how much it means to me to be able to connect all those people Ton and I collected in our lives, bring them together in the same space and for all of them to hit it off? That they all openly exchanged life stories, inspired each other, geeked out together, built robots together?
It was an experience beyond words. It was, yet again, an epic birthday party.
It also extends to the interaction we had with those who could not attend, because the invitation and response also trigger conversations about how other people are doing and what is going on in their lives.
I completely share Elmine’s sense of awe.
Some people have blogged about their experiences at our birthday unconference “Smart Stuff That Matters” and bbq in honour of Elmine’s birthday.
Peter wrote about the session his son organised, and about (re)connecting to the other participants in a way that describes the richness of the interaction well: “All the friends I’ve not yet met“, in reference to a sentence uttered at the event.
Iskander mentions how he adapted a workshop he regularly organises to facilitate a group to make a robot with the help of the mobile FabLab, Frysklab parked in the courtyard.
Heinz wrote a great essay describing and reflecting on the event. There’s a lot to unpack in his posting, which he also ties to the history and character of my connection with Heinz.
Elmine, the host and birthday girl herself, is still reeling from all the interaction, and in awe of all the efforts people made to attend. A feeling I completely share.
I wrote a few things myself as well. Do you have any diodes? about the day, and some notes on the process in Anecdote circles lite. And the video of the closing ceremony, made by Jeroen de Boer, of course! All my postings concerning the event are tagged STM18
When more postings appear online I will add them here.