I will be working from Copenhagen the full month of October. I am open to discuss possible things to do concerning open data, complex problems and change management issues. Get in touch if you would like to meet up.

Going to Copenhagen for a month is a bit of an experiment. Elmine and I in the past few years have regularly spent a week or 10 days in various European cities, to reconnect with our network face to face. That usually is perfectly fine to start conversations, but there’s never enough time then to follow up as well. Also a week in another European city like that will quickly fill up with all kinds of meetings and conversations, usually leaving little room to breath in between. So as an experiment we are moving to Copenhagen for a longer period: a full month. So there’s room for follow-up. So that there’s room to do some actual work together.

Why Copenhagen? Because it is a city we love, and we know some great people there. It will feel at home right away, we’re sure. We’ve rented an apartment for the month, and the good people at SocialSquare have offered me office space to get started. So, October 1st, we’ll drive up to Denmark, ready to take on Copenhagen 🙂

I can offer to help you with:

  • opening up data for your local government or other government body, in a way that is valuable to the government body itself.
  • finding concrete ways to use open government data to increase participation, or impact policy areas that matter to you.
  • coming up with useful applications that use open data and citizen generated data for specific issues.
  • revolutionizing participatory processes by doing large scale listening to real stories in real time
  • setting up the circumstances to successfully grow a local open data community, or start a group of professional peers inside your own organization.

If you are interested to have a conversation on any of these points, feel free to get in touch via e-mail at ton.zijlstra@gmail.com.  Very much looking forward to meeting you!

CPH Harbour

In the harbour of Copenhagen.

Last week Peter Rukavina was a guest at our home here in Enschede. Although he was worried his old cat allergy might be rekindled by our two cats, that didn’t happen. He did catch a bug though, the making bug. As it turns out making is an infectious meme.

Now, Peter has always been a tinkerer in the years we know him. Building small clever software tools, or running your own hand operated printing press is not everyone’s daily habit. And earlier he picked up on my ‘find your guy in the blue shirt‘ suggestion for opening up government held public data with equal energy, resulting in ongoing effects. So maybe he is more receptive than others. But infect him we did.

Setting up job for Laser Cutter
Laser cutting in Enschede

Laser Cut Letters
Letter type

First we showed him our newly acquired cnc router (it was in his guest room) and laser cutter for our home min fablab. Then Elmine took him to the local FabLab, and asked him “would you like to make something“. Experimenting with making wood type for his letterpress ensued, followed by further work on a laser cutter in Sweden on the next leg of his journey. According to himself his vacation has transmogrified into a ‘makeation‘.

Laser Engraver and Jonas
Lasercutting in Sweden

Laser Cutter Fabricated Type Box
Letter type box

Making is contagious. Better get used to it. A thing to build on as well, when it comes to local resilience in a more connected and complex world.

Our friend Peter Rukavina is traveling through Europe these weeks. He stayed with Pedro and Patricia in Düsseldorf, where we picked him up and brought him to our home town Enschede. As a gift he brought us these hand printed calling cards.

A great gift. Elmine’s and Patricia’s are very stylish. Patricia’s look like a high-end fashion brand label. Pedro’s and my cards are in a type called ‘Grotesk’ Fitting? I like how the I and J are placed, accenting that they belong together. In Dutch they are one letter, abroad this is where people usually spell my name wrong: the L often ends up between them.

Calling Cards

I have continued to chronicle my path to a working mini FabLab at home over at MakerHouseHolds.net (which is a pendant to MakerHouseHolds.eu, a site to start collecting material around making in the context of globally networked, resilient local communities.)

So head on over to read how Elmine and I put together the electronics for our laser cutter in “Bringing a Laser Cutter to Life: Phase One“.

Laser Cutter Arrived
The laser cutter as it arrived in the boot of our car

Laser Cutter Electronics
The finished electronic components. Tried and tested.

Last Friday I was interviewed for a magazine about my thoughts on maps. This because I will be giving the opening key-note at the yearly conference of the GIS (geo information services) community in the Netherlands in September. The theme for the conference is ‘the power of maps’, and they interviewed me about my planned talk.

Now, I don’t know what I will be presenting in September, as I usually prepare my talks very shortly before a conference. So this interview was a good way of getting some first thoughts formulated. Here’s me thinking out loud.

Maps are fascinating

Maps are fascinating artefacts to me. Not just because of what they show to help me navigate in the now, but also, if not more, because of the patterns of past behavior they show. From a city map you can see a lot of its history. Street patterns are the fossilized emergent patterns of complex human interaction in a bygone age. Maps as (historical) data visualization not just as a navigation aid or information overview.

Map of the original grants of village lots from the Dutch West India Company to the inhabitants of New Amsterdam
Map of the original grants of village lots from the Dutch West India Company to the inhabitants of New Amsterdam

Geo data is a key ingredient in open data

In most open data applications some sort of geo component is being used. It is one of the key ways other types of data are contextualized for a user of an application. To present information relative to me and my current or future position, to be able to compare my own actions to those of others around me, etc. This however does not need to have a map as my primary interface. In fact I’d rather have an interface that helps me solve my problems or helps me decide. And I certainly don’t want to see clumsy maps, like those you have on hotel booking sites, where the map is mostly just an illustration. Why can’t I e.g. use the map there as input method? Draw a rectangle on a map and show me the hotels in it that fit my other search criteria (availability, style and comfort, free wifi, price, in that order)? Or why not show me all the hotels within x minutes on foot or by public transport from a specific spot (like a conference venue), in a similar way as what Mapnificent is doing.

Knowledge nomads have loosened themselves from the map

In my professional network there are many that don’t have strong geo located roots anymore. In the 20th century it made sense to ask ‘where are you from’ but no longer. The question now gets a slightly uncomfortable stare and increasingly vague answers like ‘I currently work from Berlin’ or ‘I’ve just spent a few months in Barcelona’. These knowledge nomads are like flocks of birds, ever on the move, never really in a place in the traditional sense of ‘being from there’. Connections are to social networks, projects, interests, that of course will have locations attached to them always. But location is a temporary choice at most, and a side-effect of other choices most of the time. And air travel makes moving around like taking the underground: you go from one place to another without much noticing the in-between, or having the sensation of movement.

In that context maps and things like nation states become much less relevant. It is the hyper-local that becomes more relevant as a result, but a hyper-local bubble around my current position. An old Medieval notion of being in a digitalized world. Where are my contacts in town at the moment? Where are interesting places to eat, drink and have fun? Where is a coffee bar within 500 meters of my current position that my network thinks provides good coffee? What is currently happening at the spot I will be arriving at in 30 minutes? What is happening where that will impact, or needs to, my current actions and choices (traffic jams, road blocks, events, freak weather, etc.)? This is why I used Plazes, and use Foursquare, Google Latitude and Dopplr. See some earlier thoughts on this hyper local bubble and the ‘real time web’.

Locals and Tourists #13 (GTWA #5): Berlin
Berlin on Flickr: Blue pictures are by locals. Red pictures are by tourists

The map no longer a ‘thing’ in itself?

So as knowledge nomads ‘do more nomading’ maps get less relevant as a product or service in itself, but location contextualized information that influences my actions, choices and my relationships to my networks is getting more and more important. Does it mean maps and geo in general will go ‘under the hood’ of the applications and tools I will be using? Where geo is an ingredient for context, and a way of bridging and combining very different data sets, but mostly unseen at the surface?

I think there might be a lot of new added value in the map, if we let go of the map. The map is never the landscape. In order to be valuable the map needs to become a part of the landscape at least however: the mobile landscape that is my life.

May and June are conference season, so I’ve spend most of these two months traveling around Europe. On 26 June I was in Linz, Austria to deliver the opening key-note at the Austrian national open government data conference.

As I had presented on last year’s edition of the conference as well, I looked back at what was accomplished in the last year, and what we are looking at for the near future. Judging by the data released, the number of competitions and data portals launched, and the ambitious plans for the EU Open Data Strategy by the EC, a lot has been achieved.

But one has to wonder if that is really true.

Because most output of competitions is not sustainable. Most really interesting data (such as key registers) is not available. Most data portals have only small amounts of data on offer. And changing the law (for the EU strategy) takes years. On top of that most of us don’t really know what to do with the data, we lack the skills.

So there is much room for improvement, and we need to keep building momentum. This can be done by convincing government bodies that publishing data is of use to themselves as a policy instrument. And by augmenting government data with private sector data that comes from areas like banks, utilities, (health) insurers, and food. As well as by adding our self-generated data.

We need the data to solve the complex problems our societies are facing. No way around it.

Slides below:

After 10 years of using Movable Type as my blogging engine, it suddenly died on me this week. So with the help of Elmine, I’ve changed over to WordPress for my blogging. Something that was already on my mind for some time. The MT back-end dying on me, right when I had something to blog, was the trigger.

My blog’s address has NOT changed: http://zylstra.org/blog

My RSS feed address HAS CHANGED: http://zylstra.org/blog/?feed=rss2

So please change your subscriptions to my RSS to keep on reading!

(oh, and there is a great invitation waiting for you on the new blog, so head on over!)

As of the first of August I have started in the role of news editor for the European platform on the re-use of public service information (PSI). The epsiplatform.eu is a one stop shop for what is going on around open government data and re-use, from perspectives of technology, law, organization, culture change etc.
Given my earlier activities on Open Data the EPSI platform team approached me in Madrid if I would like to join their efforts.
Proof of Concept
Now starting as a news editor means I need to be able to track what is happening in the open data and PSI re-use field. So I have started to build extensive lists of possible sources, as well as lists of people on twitter, and track them through RSS. This is a slow process, and feels like conquering new terrain. Especially because I want to dig a little deeper than the usual: several countries are quite active when it comes to open data

Reboot 11 Book
Last years Reboot11 conference was a great event. To me it had lots of the atmosphere and vibes that made Reboot 7 in 2005 a landmark event for me. That first Reboot conference for me came on the heels of two BlogTalk conferences in Vienna in 2003 and 2004. At Reboot I found myself in a crowd that embraced so much more and shifted the discussion of tools and their impact to technology and society as a whole. It meant I could even better connect it to things that were important to me then and now: how do people learn, how do they interact, how can we augment that, how do we use this to tackle real issues of real people. (See some of my postings from the conference in 2005)
Reboot11 had much of the same vibe for me. It was a call to Action, and it adressed the feeling I had from the year before that much of the social media discussion was coming to a stand still. Social media wasn’t at the cutting edge anymore, as mainstream adoption had begun in earnest (even if it is hard, and sometimes happens in perverted ways). It seemed we were trying to look more Avant Garde than actually being at the forefront. We were still in the same spot but our niche was no longer at the edge.
Reboot11 helped (me at least) to refocus. By bringing it down to ‘action’, by speaking of actual interventions, and by no longer ignoring the goings on in the wider world (like the credit crunch, dwindling resources, and climate change)
“Are we working on things that matter?” has become an urgent question for me since then.
During the conference a team of people worked hard to collect and rework everything that was going on. The plan was to create a book about the conference. A tangible document in these digital times.
The book is now available at the Reboot site. And what a great artefact is has become. It’s exciting, lovingly designed, has great content, eye for details and is well thought through. Leafing through it was like opening a box and being met with a gush of air that brought the smells, sounds and inspiration of the actual event.
A big thanks to the people that made this book a reality:
Priya Mani, Sten Jauer, Metsu Jørgense, Karen Mardahl, Line Henriksen, Louise Yung Nielsen, Lori Webb , Martynas Jusevicius, Malene Kure, Jens Nielsen, Thomas Kofod, Sidsel Marie Winther, Niklas Stephenson,
Guy Dickinson, and Thomas Madsen-Mygdal.
Reboot 11 Book
Reboot11 Sponsors

Last Saturday Karsten Joost and Axel Grischow organized the first meet-up in Germany of people interested in FabLab. There was room for 40 people in the venue, and that number quickly filled up. In fact there was a waiting list for people who would have liked to attend as well. People came from different cities, apart von Bremen, there were people from Berlin, Hamburg, Aachen, Nürnberg and Düsseldorf, as well as from other places.
P1120762 P1120801
Creating the programme on the spot
Karsten and Axel had invited several of us from the Netherlands. Peter Troxler (to talk about business development), Bart Kempinga (FabLab Groningen, and how to get from idea to product), Petra Koonstra (creating a venue for the creative industry at Het Paleis in Groningen) and me (Dutch FabLabs as a network, and community building)
In true barcamp style the program of sessions was decided collectively at the start of the day. It was a good an varied programme. Talking both about organizational aspects of starting a FabLab as well hands-on topics, as well as a demo-space where different equipment was available to give a try.
I thoroughly enjoyed the day as well as the cool people. I hope that this may be the start of the emergence of a range of FabLabs in Germany.
My slides on the network effect of FabLabs and community building (partly in German, but mostly in English) can be seen below, as well as the pictures I took.

In the coming 2 days I will be at the Next ’09 conference in Hamburg, Germany. I have been invited as a guest blogger to this conference. Nicole Simon, always looking for opportunities to open up the German web-crowd to a more international perspective took the initiative to work with the conference organizers in making sure a number of international bloggers will attend and share their experiences and opinions during the event on-line.
The theme this year is the Sharing Economy, which is timely I think.
Apart from blogging here I will of course be posting pictures, and use my public Twitter account for event related messages.
Next Logo
I am looking forward to a number of inspiring sessions.

In the past days I’ve been playing with an alpha application for my Nokia N95 phone that really impresses me.
It’s called Qik and it live streams video from your phone to the web. After you’re done streaming, it keeps the video stored. You can leave your videos up on Qik, and also have them automatically put into your Seesmic account, and share a link to the footage in Twitter, via the options part of your profile.
Qik screenshot of profile page
My Qik profile page
Registering: your phone put in the centre
Registering for Qik was easy: leave your phone number on the site. I soon got an SMS inviting me to download and install Qik on my phone. Downloading didn’t start however. Some real time e-mail exchanges with the dev support people (Qik is California based) helped sort that out, by them adapting the download procedure right there and then. Once downloaded installing was easy, and ended with asking me to create a short video there and then. After making the video I received another SMS with the login info to the site.
I thought that was clever, as it makes sure only people who have installed the application as well as used it at least once, in the end have an active account. Certainly in an alpha testing phase that makes sense.
First user experiences
Streaming video works ok, primarily if you use a wifi connection on your phone. GPRS won’t cut it in terms of bandwith, but faster internet connections on your phone do work. Although it delays the streaming a lot at this point. (Taking several minutes to stream a 50 second item). Streaming via wifi is indeed live streaming (with only seconds delay) and works the best by far.
Videos can be embedded of course (as a channel too), linked to directly and also downloaded:

Like I said, the videos get piped into Seesmic as well, if you wish
Qik streaming video into Seesmic
Other products in the same field
Qik of course is not the only one looking into live streaming video from your phone. There are more.
For instance there is Livecastr (described here on TechCrunch) which is Amsterdam based (and hence generated my interest). Their site however feels all wrong to me (no community, no interaction, just promotion, it looks fake), and the number of questions I needed to answer to register for a beta were a fatal put-off. Especially unanswerable (in some meaningful way at least) questions like “Which community site are you member?” (even ignoring the english) and “How do you plan to use LiveCastr” (emphasis mine) which to me shows a complete lack of understanding in how people acquire and explore the use of a new tool they never saw before. Especially if asked before even seeing anything of the tool. Ask me after having tested something for a while, not at a point where it only serves as a barrier to entry.
And there is Sweden based Bambuser.com, which looks a whole lot better on their site than LiveCastr. Haven’t got an invitation to test yet, though. Looking forward to have a closer look at them soon.

An interesting and creative group of people is coming together today in Amsterdam at Mediamatic.
The event Federating Social Networks is described on Upcoming as:
In all the buzz around social network portability, this one-day workshop will explore how social network services and Content Management Services can work together in a so-called federation. With a few presentation setting the stage in the morning, the rest of the day we will discuss the different protocols, formats and agreements needed to make such a federation possible.
Topics touched upon include:
* Aggregration of people, their profile information and works on other services.
* Migration and consolidation of people and their works.
* The ability to form relationships between people and works across services.
* Timely and efficient notification of changes.
* Distributed search.

I can’t attend, as we will be in Emden (Germany) today. But in a conversation with James Burke this week I talked about the kind of things I would like to be part of this portability concept.
What interests me most about portability is not the ability to take ‘my network’ out of one platform and migrate to another platform. I would expect easy im- and export, as well as a format for storage in between (when I don’t directly migrate to another platform) to be par for the course. Even if that is a big challenge by itself.
What interests me the most however is what I can do in between platforms. I want to own my data, something I have been talking about before. I would like to propose a type of portability that its reasoning from me being the starting point. A client that puts me in the driving seat of all events in all my current hangouts (the platforms), makes me the owner of the dataset. I own my landscape and must be able to decide how the different translations to maps can be manipulated.
Then I can push different representations of my social network into the platforms I deem fit. I decide on the maps that I give to the platforms in short.
This also introduces interesting possible functionality like:
1) I see you have tried to friend me on Facebook
2) Where I think LinkedIn would be a better hangout for us
3) I then enter into a negotiation with you in which hangout and context we want to connect.
4) In the end we decide to connect on Plaxo Pulse instead.
5) We both now publish that connection on the map we both push out to Plaxo Pulse.
I realise that this calls for a very high granularity of trust/access for different people in different contexts in different platforms, on different moments. A big challenge, but who says I can’t dream.
I would like portability to mean practical and functional acknowledgement that me and my buddies are the landscape, and that the platforms we use are mere maps.
(Live coverage on the Jaiku channel #fsn)

Via Collin Brooke, I came across this new way of looking at computer design, that will certainly get a place on my wannahave list as it gets to market.
The 5-pen computer by NEC:
P-ism computer

One pen with the CPU, one with projecting a virtual keyboard, one projecting the output, one with a camera, and one for communications. This with a base containing a battery charger and a mass storage device. Prototype will be around 30k$, or 24kE. Cool!
Realisation on the CPU pen and the Base is open at the moment, but the display, communication, keyboard and camera pen are either near completion, or almost near completion. As to the keyboard, projecting a virtual keyboard is already available on the market. The remaining two pens don’t sound as the most difficult, so I think this will see the light of day relatively soon.
I am curious when we will hear more about this, and be able to get rid of the white humming towers under the desk.