Sometime last year I had a conversation with a friend who told me he was starting a new company together with his wife. I thought it was an inspiring and intriguing step, and also a logical extension of thinking of the household as an economic unit (after all, economics, after Aristotle(‘s student)’s work titled Οἰκονομικά, oikonimika, means household management).

We’re in a similar situation, both of us working as independent professionals. Regularly there are things where one of us might support the other with something, so both of us can be more effective in our work.

Today we sat down for a first scheduled and real conversation about how to augment each other’s efforts, and what steps to take. It is in part also a result of our sessions with our financial planner, which showed us the importance of more closely looking at our household as an economic unit, and less as two separate working individuals.

Some first actions have been formulated, and I hope we can keep up these conversations and sparring sessions.

Today I made my first Open Street Map edit. Open Street Map is a global map, created by its users (which includes lots of open government geographic data). My first edit was triggered by Peter Rukavina’s call to action. He wrote how he wants to add or correct Open Street Map data for a location when he mentions that location or business in his blogposts. He also calls upon others to do the same thing.

I don’t think I mention locations such as restaurants often or even at all in my blog, so it’s an easy enough promise for me to make. However, I did read and copy the steps Peter describes. First installing Alfred on my laptop. Alfred is a workflow assistant basically. I know Peter uses it a lot, and I looked at it before, and until now concluded that the Mac’s standard Spotlight interface and Hazel work well enough for me. But the use case he describes for quickly searching in a map through Alfred made sense to me: it’s a good way to make Open Street Map my default search option, and foregoing Google Maps. So I installed Alfred, and made a custom search to use Open Street Map (OSM).

The next step was seeing if there was something small I could do in OSM. Taking a look on the map around our house, I checked the description of the nearest restaurant and realised most meta-data (such as opening hours, cuisine, etc) were missing. I registered my account on OSM, and proceeded to add the info. As Peter mentions, such edits immediately get passed on to applications making use of OSM. One of those applications is a map layer showing restaurants that are currently open, and my added opening hours show up immediately:

My first edit also resulted in being contacted by a OSM community member, as they usually review the early edits any new user makes. It seems I inadvertently did something wrong regarding the address (OSM in the Netherlands makes use of the government data on addresses, BAG, and I entered an address by hand. As it came from a pick-up list I assumed it was sourced from the BAG, but apparently not). So that’s something to correct, after I find out how to do that.

[UPDATE: The fix was simple to do. The issue was that in the Netherlands the convention is to add meta data about stores to its corresponding address node (not as a separate node, unless there are more businesses at the same address). So the restaurant node I amended should not have been there. I copied all the attributes (tags) over to the address node, and then deleted the original node I edited. The information about the restaurant is now available from the address node itself. If you follow the link to the earlier node, you will now see it says that I deleted it.

I think it’s also great that within minutes of my original edit I had a message from a long time community member, Eggie. He welcomed me, pointed me to some resources on good practice and conventions, before providing some constructive criticism and nudge me in the right direction. Not by fixing what I did wrong, but by explaining why something needed improvement, and linking to where I could find out how to fix it myself, and saying if I had any questions to message him. After my correction I messaged him to check if everything was up to standard now which he acknowledged, ending with ‘happy mapping’. This is the type of welcoming and guidance that healthy communities provide. My Wikipedia experiences have been different I must say.
/UPDATE]

Liked Wat ik niet weet by Frank Meeuwsen
Ik heb soms het idee dat mij meer kennis en intelligentie wordt toegedicht dan de werkelijkheid heeft te bieden. Er zijn onderwerpen en kennisgebieden waar ik iets meer dan gemiddeld in ben geïnteresseerd maar ik kan me moeilijk een echte specialist op een gebied noemen. Het is goed om te weten dat...

Frank Meeuwsen (in Dutch) writes about “what I don’t know”. Two things stand out for me from Frank’s post:
One is how he quotes Colin Devroe who on the same topic says he calls himself a Reverse Engineer, figuring something out when the need arises. I love that ‘job title’.

Second is how Frank puts curiosity forward as the key ingredient for anything. Curiosity takes you a long way he says. And it does. Which is why I get worried when I don’t have the energy to be curious about new things. Or when I realise I’m no longer truly curious about the needs and drives of clients. It’s often a sign something needs to change, or that I might need to move on. In the past few years there was little space for curiosity, mostly because we had five major life events happen in the space of 24 months and it took a year to settle back into ‘normal’. This is why I am glad I found my blogging voice back in the past 12 months. Over the last 16 years my blog has been a good instrument to trigger, feed and explore my curiosity. Me blogging more means I’m curious to expand my horizons again. It’s also why I want to get back into the habit of reading more non-fiction, as reading the thoughts of others usually triggers thoughts and questions to explore on my end. And it addresses part of the knowledge gap. Even if it never fixes it, after all everyone has chronical impostor syndrome.

It’s the end of December, and we’re about to enjoy the company of dear friends to bring in the new year. This means it is time for my annual year in review posting, the ‘Tadaa!’ list.

Eight years ago I started writing end-of-year blogposts listing the things that happened that year that gave me a feeling of accomplishment, that make me say ‘Tadaa!’. (See the 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010 editions). I am always moving forwards to the next thing as soon as something is finished, and that often means I forget to celebrate or even acknowledge things during the year. Sometimes I forget things completely. Although I have worked on improving that sense of awareness over the past few years, it remains a good way to reflect on the past 12 months. So, here’s this year’s Tadaa!-list:

  • The Smart Stuff That Matters unconference and bbq party in honour of Elmine’s 40th birthday was an awesome event bringing together so many great people from our various contexts. Thank you to all who were there, from right next door to halfway across the globe, and so many different places in between. It is a great privilege you came together in our home.
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    So much fun having you all at STM18! Of course we had the mythical German sausages again….
    Through the Eyes of the Artist
    Peter made a sketch of our house, sitting in the garden
  • Being witness and officiating at our dear friends’ Klaas and Amarens wedding in Tuscany.


    Dinner al fresco / Thirty years of friendship (images by Elmine)
  • Presenting Networked Agency during a keynote at State of the Net in Trieste. A great opportunity to create a better narrative to explain Networked Agency, and present it to a much wider audience. Also great to see Paolo and Monica, as well as many others again.
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    Our friend Paolo opening State of the Net, enjoying the beautiful city of Trieste
  • Working in Serbia, Italy, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium.
  • Creating a measurement framework for open data impact, that allows for different levels of maturity, embraces complexity, and aims to prevent gaming of measurements.
  • Getting tremendous feedback by the funder of a client project last year, that it was the most exciting thing they funded.
  • Getting asked back by multiple clients
  • Joining the board of Open Nederland, the Dutch Creative Commons chapter as treasurer
  • Joining the board of Open State Foundation, the leading Dutch advocate for open government, as its chairman, after having been one of the initiators of the very first event in 2008, that later turned into this great organisation
  • Taking the time to just hang out with other geeks at IndieWebCamp in Nürnberg
  • I spent every Friday at home to be with our daughter. A joy to watch her develop.
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  • Giving the opening key-note at FOSS4GNL. I especially enjoyed writing the narrative for it, which ties local data governance to geopolitics and ethics.

    the Dutch open source geo community, and during the keynote (images Steven Ottens)
  • Got to be there for friends, and friends got to be there for me. Thank you.
  • Sponsoring the Open Knowledge Belgium conference with my company The Green Land, and participating in the conference with our entire team, and providing two sessions.
  • Finding my voice back in blogging. I’ve written more blogposts this year than the preceding eleven combined, and as much as the first 5 years of busiest blogging combined. As a result I’ve also written much more in-depth material than any other year since I started in 2002. This has created more space for reflection and exploration, useful to shape my ideas and direction in my work. It was inspiring to renew the distributed conversations with other bloggers. As a result I am revisiting much of my writing about information strategies and the workings of human digital networks.
  • Working with a client to further detail and document both Networked Agency and the ‘impact through connection’ project we based on it.
  • Making day trips with Elmine and (not always) Y, e.g. to BredaPhoto, Eddo Hartmann and Fries Museum. Making good use of our more central location.
  • Started to make better use of the various spaces our house offers, like the garden, the attic studio, and my own room. Room for improvement in the next year though.
  • Avoiding feeling hurried, while keeping up the level of results.

All in all it was a rather unhurried year, with more time for reflection about next and future steps. I worked 1728 hours, which averages out to about 36,5 per week worked. This is not yet getting closer to the 4 day work weeks I actually have, compared to last year, but at least stable.
I’ve read 69 books, at a steady pace. All fiction, except for a handful. I’m looking to create the space to start reading more non-fiction. That likely requires a separate approach.

Elmine gave me an amazing sculpture for my birthday, called “Strange Bird Totem”. The artist Jacqueline Schäfer’s work is described as “showing a positive vibe for life in a complex modern society“. That sort of feels like a great motto for the next year. Ever onwards!

Arjen Kamphuis went missing in August, and there’s still no clue as to what might have happened to him. All scenarios are open (even if those aren’t the scenarios feverish twitterati still keep dreaming up, replacing sparse facts with dopamine oozing speculation): an accident, someone did something to him, or a self chosen disappearance. His friend Ancilla van de Leest writes evocatively about what it means to his close ones to not know. The mix of hope, heart break, guilt and optimism against the odds. Because for each of the scenarios there’s a way to rationalise it as what might have happened. Yet, they all carry their own form of deep pain, and should Arjan return, by now it will not be the same Arjan that went missing. There’s a road forwards, but it’s never a road back to the spot you came from. That point in time is forever unreachable in the available evolutionary space, whatever may follow.

As Ancilla writes, for every scenario there are clues that potentially match. One scenario is self disappearance, and she points to what the combination of an active brain, stress, and a bit of isolation can do. It’s one part of why I find her posting so evocative. I know what it’s like to have your brain on fire, and how the notion emerges to just lose oneself, walking off into the mountains on my own. At times people have known how I was, but precisely at such potential inflection points they didn’t. I would never have allowed them to know.

I know Arjen since over a decade. His work on open government, open source and then increasingly privacy and cyber security, regularly overlaps in terms of events, network connections and content with some of the work I do. So we bump into each other. On a long late train ride to Enschede with us the only two passengers in the entire compartment, a good time ago, we discussed the state of the world and our work for governments. I told him I am an optimist. Arjen said I had to be, as I am a father. He’s right. Fatherhood is a reason I’m optimistic. An older reason however is that it’s a survival tactic from decades ago, back when it was tempting to disappear. It’s not a choice really. I have to.

That’s the second reason Ancilla’s words resonate with me, likely also because she recently became a parent too. Where she writes that whatever your perception of the state of the world, commit to keeping the ones you hold dear close, to ensure you know how they feel and vice versa. It’s a path out of the struggle with conflicting emotions she describes. Out of the struggle, by embracing the conflict. It’s not a choice really, I think. She has to.

We all have to.
Making sense, even built out of ratio, is deeply emotional.

Recently I have been named the new chairman of the board of the Open State Foundation. This is a new role I am tremendously looking forward to take up. The Open State Foundation is the leading Dutch NGO concerning government transparency, and over the past years they’ve both persistently and in a very principled way pursued open data and government transparency, as well as constructively worked with government bodies to help them do better. Stef van Grieken, the chairman stepping down, has led the Open State Foundation board since it came into existence. The Open State Foundation is the merger of two earlier NGO’s, The New Voting (Het Nieuwe Stemmen) foundation of which Stef was the founder, and the Hack the Government (Hack de Overheid) collective.

Hack de Overheid emerged from the very first Dutch open government barcamp James Burke, Peter Robinett and I organised in the spring of 2008. The second edition in 2009 was the first Hack de Overheid event. My first open data project that same spring was together with James Burke and Alper Çuğun, both part of Hack de Overheid then and providing the tech savvy, and me being the interlocutor with the Ministry for the Interior, to guide the process and interpret the civil servant speak to the tech guys and vice versa. At the time Elsevier (a conservative weekly) published an article naming me one of the founders of Hack de Overheid, which was true in spirit, if technically incorrect.

In the past year and a half I had more direct involvement with the Open State Foundation than in the years between. Last year I did an in-depth evaluation of the effectiveness and lasting impact of the Open State Foundation in the period 2013-2017 and facilitated a discussion about their future, at the request of their director and one of their major funders. That made me appreciate their work in much richer detail than before. My company The Green Land and Open State Foundation also encounter each other on various client projects, giving me a perspective on the quality of their work and their team.

When Stef, as he’s been working in the USA for the past years, indicated he thought it time to leave the board, it coincided with me having signalled to the Open State Foundation that, if there ever was a need, I’d be happy to volunteer for the board. That moment thus came sooner than I expected. A few weeks ago Stef and I met up to discuss it, and then the most recent board meeting made it official.

Day to day the Open State Foundation is run by a very capable team and director. The board is an all volunteer ‘hands-off’ board, that helps the Open State Foundation guard its mission and maintain its status as a recognised charity in the Netherlands. I’m happy that I can help the Open State Foundation to stay committed to their goals of increasing government transparency and as a consequence the agency of citizens. I’m grateful to Stef, and the others that in the past decade have helped Open State Foundation become what it is now, from its humble beginnings at that barcamp in the run-down pseudo-squat of the former Volkskrant offices, now the hipster Volkshotel. I’m also thankful that I now have the renewed opportunity to meaningfully contribute to something I in a tiny way helped start a decade ago.

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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.

Frank writes about how the Netherlands became the first connection outside the USA on the open net by the NSF (as opposed to the military initiated ARPANET academic institutions used then), thirty years ago yesterday on November 17th 1988. Two years previously .nl had been created as the first ever country top level domain. This was the result of the work and specifically the excellent personal connections to their US counterparts of people at the Amsterdam CWI, the center for mathematics. Because of those personal connections the Netherlands was connected very early on to the open internet and still is a major hub. Through that first connection Europe got connected as well, as the CWI was part of the European network of academic institutions EUnet. A large chunk of the European internet traffic still runs through the Netherlands as a consequence.

I went to university in the summer of 1988 and had the opportunity to early on enjoy the fruits of the CWI’s work. From the start I became active in the student association Scintilla at my electronic engineering department at University of Twente. Electronic engineering students had an advantage when it came to access to electronics and personal computers and as a consequence we had very early connectivity. As first year student I was chairman of one of Scintilla’s many committees and in that role I voted in late ’88 / early ’89 to spend 2500 guilders (a huge sum in my mind then) for cables and plugs and 3 ethernet cards for the PC’s we had in use. I remember how on the 10th floor of the department building other members were very carefully connecting the PC’s to each other. It was the first LAN on campus not run by the University itself nor connected to the mainframe computing center. Soon after, that LAN was connected to the internet.

In my mind I’ve been online regularly since late 1989, through Scintilla’s network connections. I remember there was an argument with the faculty because we had started using a subdomain directly of the university, not as a subdomain of the faculty’s own subdomain. We couldn’t, because they hadn’t even activated their subdomain yet. So we waited for them to get moving, under threat of losing funding if we didn’t comply. Most certainly I’ve been online on a daily basis since the moment I joined the Scintilla board in 1990 which by then had moved to the basement of the electronics department building. We at first shared one e-mail address, before running our own mail server. I used telnet a lot, and spent an entire summer, it must have been the summer of ’91 when I was a board member, chatting to two other students who had a summer job as sysadmin at the computer center of a Texas university. The prime perk of that job was they could sit in air conditioning all summer, and play around with the internet connection. Usenet of course. Later Gopher menus, then 25 years ago the web browser came along (which I first didn’t understand as a major change, after all I already had all the connectivity I wanted).

So of those 30 years of open internet in the Netherlands, I’ve been online daily 28 years for certain, and probably a year longer with every-now-and-then connectivity. First from the basement at university, then phoning into the university from home, then (from late ’96) having a fixed IP address through a private ISP (which meant I could run my own server, which was reachable when I phoned into the ISP), until the luxury we have now of a fiber optic cable into our house, delivering a 500Mbit/s two-way connection (we had a 1Gb connection before the move last year, so we actually took a step ‘backwards’).

Having had daily internet access for 28 years, basically all of my adult life, has shaped both my professional and personal life tremendously. Professionally, as none of my past jobs nor my current work would have been possible without internet. None of my work in the past decades would have even existed without internet. My very first paid job was setting up international data transmissions between an electronics provider, their factories, as well as the retail chains that sold their stuff. Personally it has been similar. Most of my every day exchanges are with people from all over the world, and the inspiring mix of people I may call friends and that for instance come to our birthday unconferences I first met online. Nancy White‘s husband and neighbours call them/us her ‘imaginary friends’. Many of our friends are from that ‘imaginary’ source, and over the years we met at conferences, visited each others houses, and keep in regular touch. It never ceases to amaze.

To me the internet was always a network first, and technology second. The key affordance of the internet to me is not exchanging data or connecting computer systems, but connecting people. That the internet in its design principles is a distributed network, and rather closely resembles how human networks are shaped, is something we haven’t leveraged to its full potential yet by far. Centralised services, like the current web silos, don’t embrace that fundamental aspect of internet other than at the hardware level, so I tend to see them as growths more than actualisation of the internets’s foremost affordance. We’ve yet to really embrace what human digital networks may achieve.

Because of that perspective, seeing the digital network as a human network, I am mightily pleased that the reason I have been able to be digitally connected online for almost 30 years, is first and foremost because of a human connection. The connection between Piet Beertema at CWI in Amsterdam to Rick Adams at NSF in the USA, which resulted in the Netherlands coming online right when I started university. That human connection, between two people I’ve never met nor interacted with, essentially shaped the space in which my life is taking its course, which is a rather amazing thought.

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.

Shakingtree Award

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.

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The Shaking Tree Award statuette (photo by Henk-Jan Winkeldermaat, CC by-nc-sa)

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)

outside

shake goals awake
jump past rules
dance joints wider
dream chances free

out of bounds
outside limitation
it grows
as it grows

tree high
dream high
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.

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The faces in the Ministry with the text ‘I care’

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.

dat wars.

Justin Jackson is a fucking Webmaster. I’ve been using Movable Type and WordPress for 16 years, but I always write everything in text adding most HTML to a posting by hand. I created an entire intranet for a research company in a text editor. I hosted my own website for the better part of a decade from a machine under my desk at home before I started late 2002. On that site I had the mail address webmaster@zylstra.demon.nl on every page, so yeah, I most def recognise the sentiment.