Yesterday at State of the Net I showed some of the work I did with the great Frysklab team, letting a school class find power in creating their own solutions. We had a I think very nicely working triade of talks in our session, Hossein Derakshan first, me in the middle, and followed by Dave Snowden. In his talk, Dave referenced my preceding one, saying it needed scaling for the projects I showed to alter anything. Although I know Dave Snowden didn’t mean his call for scale that way, often when I hear it, it is rooted in the demand-for-ever-more-growth type of systems we know cannot be sustained in a closed world system like earth’s. The small world syndrom, as I named it at Shift 2010, will come biting.

It so often also assumes there needs to be one person or entity doing the scaling, a scaler. Distributed networks don’t need a scaler per se.
The internet was not created that way, nor was the Web. Who scaled RSS? Some people moved it forwards more than others, for certain, but unconnected people, just people recognising a possibility to fruitfully build on others for something they felt personally needed. Dave Winer spread it with Userland, made it more useful, and added the possibility of having the payload be something else than just text, have it be podcasts. We owe him a lot for the actual existence of this basic piece of web plumbing. Matt Mullenweg of WordPress and Ben and Mena Trott of Movable Type helped it forward by adding RSS to their blogging tools, so people like me could use it ‘out of the box’. But it actually scaled because bloggers like me wanted to connect. We recognised the value of making it easy for others to follow us, and for us to follow the writings of others. So I and others created our own templates, starting from copying something someone else already made and figuring out how to use RSS. It is still how I adopt most of my tools. Every node in a network is a scaler, by doing something because it is of value to themselves in the moment, changes them, and by extension adding themselves to the growing number of nodes doing it. Some nodes may take a stronger interest in spreading something, convincing others to adopt something, but that’s about it. You might say the source of scaling is the invisible hand of networks.

That’s why I fully agree with Chris Hardie that in the open web, all the tools you create need to have the potentiality of the network effect built in. Of course, when something is too difficult for most to copy or adapt, then there won’t be this network effect. Which is why most of the services we see currently dominating online experiences, the ones that shocked Hossein upon returning from his awful forced absence, are centralised services made very easy to use. Where someone was purposefully aiming for scale, because their business depended on it once they recognised their service had the potential to scale.

Dave Winer yesterday suggested the blogosphere is likely bigger now than when it was so dominantly visible in the ‘00s, when your blogpost of today could be Google’s top hit for a specific topic, when I could be found just on my first name. But it is so much less visible than before, precisely because it is not centralised, and the extravagant centralised silos stand out so much. The blogosphere diminished itself as well however, Dave Winer responded to Hossein Derakshan’s talk yesterday.

People still blog, more people blog than before, but we no longer build the same amount of connections across blogs. Connections we were so in awe of when our writing first proved to have the power to create them. Me and many others, bloggers all, suckered ourselves into feeling blog posts needed to be more like reporting, essays, and took our conversations to the comments on Facebook. Facebook, which, as Hossein Derakshan pointed out, make such a travesty of what web links are by allowing them only as separate from the text you write on Facebook. It treats all links as references to articles, not allowing embedding them in the text, or allowing more than one link to be presented meaningfully. That further reinforced the blog-posts-as-articles notions. That further killed the link as weaving a web of distributed conversations, a potential source of meaning. Turned the web, turned your timeline, into TV, as Hossein phrased it.

Hoder on ‘book-internet’ (blogs) and ‘tv-internet’ (FB et al) Tweet by Anna Masera

I switched off my tv ages ago. And switched off my FB tv-reincarnate nine months ago. In favour of allowing myself more time to write as thinking out loud, to have conversations.

Adriana Lukas and I after the conference, as we sat there enjoying an Italian late Friday afternoon over drinks, talked about the Salons of old. How we both have created through the years settings like that, Quantified Self meetings, BlogWalks, Birthday Unconferences, and how we approached online sharing like that too. To just add some of my and your ramblings to the mix. Starting somewhere in the middle, following a few threads of thought and intuitions, adding a few links (as ambient humanity), and ending without conclusions. Open ended. Just leaving it here.

The acquisition by Microsoft of Skype hasn’t worked out well for the product itself, judging by the level of sighs and complaints I hear whenever Skype is mentioned. So I was glad when longtime blogging connection Phil Wolff pointed me to as an alternative. He said he’d been using it for a year or so, as an alternative to Skype. seems very easy to use, and no account is needed. Simply create a sharable link, and send the link to your conversation partners yourself, and you’re all set to talk with up to 4 people. The paid version allows up to 12 people in one call. I intend to use this more from now on. is a Norwegian company started in 2013 as an intern project at Telenor, which is still a minority shareholder, according to Techcrunch’s Crunchbase.

It is still 5 months away, but if you would like to join the next edition of the Stuff That Matters Unconferences, do mark your calendar for Friday August 31st and Saturday September 1st. Tentatively themed Smart Stuff That Matters, but as usual with a twist.
The Unconference & BBQ is in honor of Elmine’s 40th birthday. Let’s throw her a party to remember!

Preliminary information can be found in the menu at the top, under STM18.

We’ve done several of these birthday unconferences in the last decade. Starting in 2008, about life-work balance (a fitting topic for a conference on your birthday), we did it again in 2010, (work on stuff that matters) and 2014 (make stuff that matters). In 2012 we did the BBQ at the End of the Universe (without an unconference). In the coming months I’ll shape the event more, and try to connect it to other initiatives in town and the region. Feel free to ping me with suggestions, or to indicate your interest in joining.

It took a while to get to another edition, longer than originally intended. Major events in our personal lives in 2015 and 2016, and moving to a different house in a different city in 2017, meant my attention was spent elsewhere. I’m looking forward to see how well an unconference can be made to work in our new home.

More info will be following soon.

After I activated my Lorawan gateway this afternoon, it is now clear it works! In my part of town a few sensors for the Measure Your City network have been installed (one in my garden but currently offline after a storm knocked it out of the tree). Those sensors are now picked up by my gateway and the Measure Your City database shows my gateway as the path along which the data was collected.

database screenshot
One of the sensors (number 105), located two streets away from our house, is now using my gateway to log its data to the central Measure your city database.

I finally wrote down the full overview of how I look at agency in our networked world, and the role of distributed technology in it, in the past weeks (part 1, part 2, part 3). It had been a long time coming. Here is a brief overview of its origins, and why it matters to me.

I previously (in the past 18-24 months) wrote down parts of it in rants I shared with others, and as a Manifesto that I wrote in January 2015 to see if I could start a hardware oriented venture with several others. I rewrote it for draft research project proposals (the image below resulted from that in June 2015) that ultimately weren’t submitted, and as a project proposal that resulted in the experiment we will start in the fall to see if we can turn it into a design method, which in itself will become an agency-inducing tool.

But the deeper origins are older, and suffused with everything I over time absorbed from my blogging network and the (un-)conference visits where those bloggers met, such as Reboot in Copenhagen. The first story I created around this was my 2008 presentation at Reboot 10, where I formulated my then thoughts on the type of attitudes, skills and tools we need in the networked age.
There I placed the new networked technology in the context of the social structures it is used in (and compared that to what came before) and what it means for people’s attitudes and skills to be able to use it in response to increased complexity. The bridge between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ technology I mention in the three blogpostings on Agency, originates there.

The second story is my closing keynote speech at the SHiFT conference in Lisbon in 2010 (where we had to stay on a week because of the Icelandic ash cloud closing down European airspace). I blogged the submitted talk proposal, and video and slides are also available. There I talked about doing things yourself as a literacy (where literacy in the Howard Rheingold sense implies not just a skill but deploying that skill in the context of a community for it to be valuable), on the back of internet as our new infrastructure (an echo of Reboot 2008). I suggested that that socially embedded DIY was not just empowering in itself, but very necessary to deal with a complex networked world. Not just to be able to create value for yourself, but to be resilient in the face of ‘small world syndrom’ (the global networks finally making visible we live on a finite world) and cascading failures that propagate at the speed of light over our networks exposing us to things we would previously be buffered from or would have time to prepare for. I proposed the term Maker Households as the unit where DIY literacy (i.e. skills plus community) and local resilience meet, to create a new abundance based on the technical tools and methods that the networked world brings us. I was much more optimistic then how those tools and methods had already lowered the barrier to entry and merely pointed to the need to better learn to apply what is already there. I called upon the audience to use their skills and tools in the context of community, with the Maker Household as its local unit of expression. From those local units, a new global economy could grow (as the root meaning of the word economy is household).

Since then these notions have been on my mind daily but usually absorbed into every day work. I registered the domain name with the intention of writing up my SHiFT talk into an e-book, but never sat down to do it and let everyday life get in its way. Over time I became ever more convinced of the importance of these notions, as incumbent institutions started to crumble more and general discontent kept rising. At the same time I more strongly realized that the needed technology was failing to create more agency beyond a circle of power-users, and where broad adoption was taking place it was because key affordances were being dropped in favor of ease of use and ease of business models. Especially when I in 2014 started to explore how to make myself less dependent on tools that were providing convenience, but at the cost of exposing myself to single points of failure in what should be networked and distributed, and realized how much work it is to make the tools work for you (like maintaining your own server, or leaving Gmail). That triggered the ranting I mentioned, solidifying my conviction that Maker Households should be about packaging technology in ways that make it easy for people to increase their agency, without compromising their resilience.

Personal importance: Agency as unifier
Why this long overview? Because it seems it led me to finally finding ways to express what unifies my work of the past almost 20 years. As a kid I felt everything was connected, although everyone seemed to want put everything into discreet boxes. Internet and digitization made the connectedness all true, and I’ve been fascinated with the potential and consequences of that ever since I first went online in 1989, over 25 years ago. That unifier has however been elusive to me, even as all my work has always been about making it possible for others to better understand their situation and by using technology more purposefully act together with their peers based on their own perceptions of needs and wants. That was what drove me towards the change management side of introducing technology in groups and organizations, what drives my interest in dealing with complexity, informal learning networks, and the empowering aspects of various internet- and digitisation driven technologies such as social media, digital maker machines, and open data. That unifier has been elusive to my clients and peers often as well. I regularly have people call me saying something like “I don’t understand what it is you do, but whenever I search for things I think might help, your name comes up, so I thought I’d better call you.” Increasing agency as a unifier, from which different areas of expressing that flow, may put that confusion to rest.

Agency, as unifier, also makes the ‘menu’ below the way for me to explore additional fields and activities.

Agency by Ton Zylstra

As every year it is time to post the list of things that gave me a feeling of accomplishment, that made me go ‘tadaa!’. I am always very much forward focussed, which leads me to easily overlook the things I did, or how those things form a bigger whole. As a reminder I post this yearly list, triggered by my friend Ernst in 2010 (read the 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 editions)

To be clear, 2015 was not a good year. We lost our first pregnancy and both my parents died. That is a lot to cope with, and it was what took most energy and attention. Nevertheless, plenty other things happened as well. These were the things (mostly professionally oriented) that stood out positively for me this year, in no particular order:

  • I spent time with both my parents, taking care of them and being with them in their final days, and with my sisters hopefully did right by them both.
  • Elmine and I spent a great month together in Lucca after a spring that started out hopeful and then saw those hopes dashed. It is wondrous how just being together heals us both, always. (week 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  • Lucca Firenze
    In Lucca and Firenze

  • Took time for events and projects, just because it was something I wanted to do for myself out of curiosity. Gave myself the luxury of just attending some events, without speaking or actively contributing there. (Went to BorderSessions, OKNRW, ThingsCon and joined the Things Network)
  • Worked with great people in Serbia in June and December on bringing open data forward.
  • Joined the Big Data Advisory Panel of the government of Malaysia, which likely will turn into renewed visits in 2016.
  • Treated Elmine to a fun weekend together in Rotterdam to celebrate her birthday, and gave her a painting as present.
  • Gradisca Düsseldorf
    Hanging out with friends in Gradisca (I) and Düsseldorf (D)

  • Had friends be there for me (thank you!), got to be there for friends
  • Returned twice to Kyrgyzstan to follow-up and present my work of last year, including visiting the beautiful lake Issyk-Kul beneath the towering mountains for a hackathon.
  • Issyk-Kul Driving from Issyk-Kul to Bishkek

  • Worked in Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Finland, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia and Serbia this year, allowing me to experience a wide variety of people and perspectives to inspire and inform my work.
  • Found much better words to express what unifies my work and activities. Agency of individuals in the contexts of their communities is the summary. Hopefully much more on that in 2016.
  • Started self-reflection through collecting my own daily stories for pattern detection, dubbed self-pni.
  • Started working with Andre Golliez on shaping a national data infrastructure in Switzerland, moving from presenting at the Swiss national open data conference to funded research now.
  • Finished a great year-long and unique open data project with 10 local governments with a high-energy event together with my colleague Frank. It may be used as a template in the near future for other local governments in Europe.
  • Designed and implemented a new training program with my colleague Frank called ‘the data trip’ that lets civil servants use open data in their everyday work. (description in Dutch). Hopefully something we can repeat next year in other places.
  • PNH eind event maart 2014 PNH eind event maart 2014
    Frank and I doing our open data ‘dance’ (at the March ‘PNH Slimmer’ final event)

    PNH eind event maart 2014 Utrecht Data Trip oktober 2014
    Working with civil servants in North-Holland (in a year long program) and in Utrecht (for the Data Trip)

  • Hired a financial life planner to bring financial planning into the everyday toolbox for us, and align it with my other strategic choices and tools.
  • Read and summarized some 40 reports on the economic potential of open data to translate them to the Flemish and Belgian context. Boosting my own understanding of this space as well as providing the client with input for rigorous discussion and decision making.
  • Knowing there is enough to do lined up for 2016 already.

In 2015 I spent 88 days outside the country in 10 countries, though luckily just over half of that was together with Elmine. It is also less travel than previous years, or at least travel that was more efficiently planned. I worked 1941 hours, which is around 49 weeks full time equivalent. Given the month away in the summer, and the number of weeks I did not work after the summer due to family circumstances, it still means I have not succeeded in bringing my work load down to more healthy levels. This is the main challenge for 2016, and I’m looking to address it by hiring others more often so I get to focus on the tasks that suit me best.

I’m glad this year is over, although I don’t attach much symbolical value to arbitrary boundaries and counting systems like calendar years. In the coming days around New Year we’ll be spending time with dear friends in Switzerland. I’m looking forward to the next year. It is already shaping up to be a much more constructive year both personally and professionally. Here we go!

Celebrating the new year from a Swiss lake shore

With 17 confirmed participants from 7 countries, we are now just under three months away from the ‘Make Stuff that Matters UnConference‘ that Elmine and I are hosting on 20/21 June.
This weekend we announced one of the key ingredients: FryskLab is coming!

bus1 klein

This 12 meter long truck, is a converted mobile library, and now houses maker machines. It is operated by the provincial library for Fryslan in the north of the Netherlands. Equipment for 3d-printing, laser cutting and milling is all on board and will be parked on our doorstep. A facilitator will be there to teach participants and neighbours to use the machines.

As the FabLab bus is taking up quite a bit of space, we do still need to talk to the neighbours about using some of the parking spaces. But as they will have the opportunity to play with the machines as well, I am sure the neighbours won’t mind much to park their car a bit further away for 2 days.

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

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

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

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

New Subway Construction
Subway construction in Frederiksberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PAN leaves the water
PAN leaves the water

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

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

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

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

The handwritten cards used for input to build the Data Wishlist

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

Brow and nose, just 1 line

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

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

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

Apples Halloween at Tivoli
Tivoli Halloween style

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

Christiania Christiania

Christiania Christiania
Some snapshots from Christiania

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

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

Already the second week has zipped by. Before coming to Copenhagen I had created a list of things I could work on in case of having nothing else to do. Haven’t even looked at the list yet. Still this is the point in the month where I am asking “what am I doing here?”. It seems only now I am winding down from all the stuff that needed to be done and ready to take a look at what lies ahead. With several speaking engagements coming up that is already shaping up.

Tuesday I had a conversation with Jonas Ask Homaa, head developer of the Danish leading public transport website, whom I met at #hack4dk last week. Main question was how providing open data through their API is helpful to themselves, and what current developments I saw that tie into this. Aspects we discussed, also based on the recent workshop in Helsinki I did last month with the ePSIplatform team, was the European push for intelligent transport systems using open data, being able to use the same app for public transport in different places (in stead of having to download apps for each city I visit), and how with small interventions one can stimulate the ecosystem around you, so that the type of apps may emerge that you will not do yourself as they are outside your core mission.

Dinner that day was enjoyed with lots of stimulating conversation in the good company of Olle and Luisa in Malmö, Sweden. Over loads of veggies, some great venison and ample wine, world domination was discussed, as were internet gentlemen, and the new killerapp: drones serving ‘kapsalon‘ whenever the internet gentleman finds himself getting somewhat peckish. Some shopping got done beforehand, where t-shirts turned out to be a good source of stories.

Being able to join the celebration of the big open data announcement at the Digitalstyrelsen of the Danish government as an outsider on Wednesday was an honor. It also allowed me to (re)connect to various public sector bodies here in Denmark, which resulted in a speaking engagement later this month. It was also good to reaffirm the connection that the Netherlands and Denmark have had in the past years when it comes to learning from each other about organizing and opening up core registers, as well as being able to receive and pass on praise for my colleagues Marc and Udo for their assisting role in motivating this new Danish step.

Early morning conference calls were scheduled on Thursday to further plot open data world domination. In this case I discussed with Frank how we could turn our lessons learned from a recent local government open data project into several products and services. It turned into working out an idea on how to build a new important asset for our little open data company, something I will try and work out in more detail before leaving Copenhagen. This was followed by a conference call on the draft program and speakers list for the February 2013 Conference in Poland me and the ePSIplatform team are organizing.

Resting Buddha
In the Louisiana Museum park

Friday was a day dedicated to absorbing culture, high and low. During the day we visited the truly magnificent Louisiana Museum, as we try to do every time we visit Copenhagen. Three main exhibits, on Nordic architecture, one installation by Ed Kienholz, and a massive exhibition on self portraits by a wide range of artist made for a very intensive visit. It was a beautiful sunny autumn day, so we also very much got to enjoy the museum’s park, right on the coast. In the evening we got ourselves ‘culture kits’ to join ‘Kulturnatten‘ or culture night. One night a year many groups, organizations, institutions, musea, public bodies, stores and whatnot open up to the public. Everybody seemed to be out on the (increasingly cold) streets, enjoying themselves. We strolled into the royal city palace, through Copenhagen city hall, the Arsenal museum and National museum. We also got to see some normally closed inner courtyards of some of the oldest parts of the inner city. Part of the culture kit was not just a free public transport pass for the night, but also a free pass for all the major musea in town. We’ll be using that in the coming days for certain.

CPH City Hall
In Copenhagen City Hall

Late breakfast at home on Saturday morning spilled over into coffee at Pate Pate in the meat packing district, which turned into a very pleasant lunch at Von Fressen catching up with Jon Froda. It was very good to see Jon again and catch up. Afterwards some Saturday shopping before crashing at the apartment. Sunday started as a lazy day, but soon turned into a bedridden day for me with a 39 degrees fever, which turns out to be the case for today as well.

That rounds up the second week in Copenhagen. We met great people, saw cool things, but work-wise I am only now coming around to ‘being here’, in stead of working through a back-log of other things.

Yesterday we went to Malmö in Sweden to have dinner with Olle and Luisa, which is the stuff for other legends. We went a bit earlier to do some “Swedification” of my wardrobe.

At some point we found ourselves in a tiny store, called TShirt. The guy running the store (“although it means I don’t get to design that often any more”) told us the story behind it while we were browsing the handful of shelves.

Malmö T-Shirt Store

TShirt is a store and a webstore, and has been around since 2006. Artists from around the world create designs, and those are used on the shirts. The shirts that are made are available in the store for just 1 week, and then the next batch of designs comes in. Every week a new series of designs. The cotton shirts are also fair trade.

The remarks made on the process were telling for where added value is to be found in our networked world, where existing structures fail and become a barrier, and how scaling is done network-wise.

1) Originally the shirts were printed at a large company in Turkey. “We were only a small customer for them”, and there regularly were delays. This did not work well at all with the weekly rhythm of replacing the designs. A week delay means an empty shop. So they switched to a smaller Swedish printer “where we are a much more significant customer”.

2) Artists from around the world can contribute designs to make the shirts, providing them with a stage for their work, and building a high trust network.

3) Getting the Fair Trade label took a very long time: “They are simply not set-up to handle companies like us”, as they are used to much bigger outfits that can handle and work well with the bureaucracy involved in getting the Fair Trade certification.

The two shirts I picked, are ‘Beast‘ by Marcus Pettersson (S) and ‘Streetdreams‘ by Rakesh Makwama (UK)

I left with two shirts for 500 SEK (just under 60 Euro), and a story. The shirts are great, the story to me much more significant.

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  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