Een maand geleden diende ik een voorstel in voor het Nederlandse WordCamp, om over IndieWeb te spreken, vanuit mijn perspectief als blogger. In de hoop dat het leidt tot meer thema’s en code die IndieWeb mogelijkheden actief omarmen. Deze week hoorde ik dat het voorstel is geaccepteerd. Nadenken over een verhaallijn dus.

Netherlands WordCamp vindt op 15 en 16 september plaats in Arnhem. Binnenkort wordt het programma bekend gemaakt.

Bonus link: mijn eerste kennismaking met WordPress in 2006, toen Matt Mullenweg op BlogTalk Reloaded in Wenen er over kwam presenteren. Later (veel later) die avond deze foto op Matt’s blog…vlnr Thomas (organisator BlogTalk), ik, Anne, Monica, Elmine, Matt met camera, en Paolo.

Favorited Zo bouw je een open source infrastructuur voor een conferentie door Toon Toetenel (CTO PublicSpaces)

Afgelopen maand vond de Public Spaces conferentie plaats (ik was de eerste dag aanwezig). Dit jaar heeft de organisatie gezorgd dat boodschap en verpakking ook echt in overeenstemming waren. In een blogpost legt Toon Toetenel uit welke stappen ze daarvoor hebben genomen. Globaal langs de lijnen van de ladder van de Public Stack, met Jitsi, Matrix, Listmonk en ActivityPub/Mastodon. Mooie erkenning ook voor de nudge die Björn Wijers hen gaf dit nu eens goed te doen. Björn deelt die nudges vaker uit, ook bijvoorbeeld bij Open Nederland t.a.v. de videovergaderingen, en hij heeft gelijk. Tijd steken in het vroeg genoeg regelen ervan is vaak een obstakel, en goed dat Public Spaces er een voorbeeld in wil zijn. Ik ontmoette Björn ook op de conferentie overigens, de nudge betekende ook dat hij werd ingehuurd om mee te helpen.

Ja, een conferentie hosten zonder Big Tech en met open source tools is mogelijk. Het kost wel wat moeite om alles zelf op te zetten en aan elkaar te knopen maar dat is de investering meer dan waard.

Toon Toetenel van Public Spaces

Today a colleague at the Netherlands Space Office showed me a new Copernicus service, the ground motion service (EGMS). Quite an amazing data service to explore. Earlier I wrote about the European forest fire information service (EFFIS), and its use as a proxy for the fighting going on due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. EGMS is another service based on satellite remote sensing, here radar telemetry tracking the subsidence or rising of the ground. As far as I understand it can’t ‘see’ soft materials (peat land subsiding e.g.), only sees hard materials (solid ground, or buildings on softer grounds).
The images are quite amazing, and the data is provided right alongside it.

First an overview of northern Europe. Blue is rising ground, red is sinking ground. Sweden and Finland show rising ground, this is still the bounce back of the earth since the last ice age ended when the tremendous weight of glaciers was removed. At the tip of the arrow you see subsiding ground, this is the result of gas extraction in Groningen province.

Zooming in on Groningen province, here’s the data for a single house, subsiding 4 centimeters in the past 6 years. No wonder many homes are getting damaged in that area, both from subsidence as well as from the earthquakes that accompany it.

For comparison, here’s the data from the street I live on. It shows a subsidence of 6 millimeters in the past 6 years.

And here’s the same data as in the graph in the image above, but exported from the Copernicus services as an SVG, and pasted here as text.

-14-12-10-8-6-4-202468101214Displacement mm2016011120160428201608142016113020170318201707042017102020180211201805302018091520190101201904192019080520191121202003082020062420201010Measurement dateORTHO Vertical: 20dXRnBSzzDataset: Point ID: Position: Mean velocity: RMSE: ORTHO Vertical20dXRnBSzz3242050.00 N 4007550.00 E -0.60 m-1.10 mm/year0.40 mm

Bookmarked Google engineer put on leave after saying AI chatbot has become sentient (by Richard Luscombe in The Guardian)

A curious and interesting case is emerging from Google, one of its engineers claims that a chatbot AI (LaMDA) they created has become sentient. The engineer is suspended because of discussing confidential info in public. There is however an intruiging tell about their approach to ethics in how Google phrases a statement about it. “He is a software engineer, not an ethicist“. In other words, the engineer should not worry about ethics, they’ve got ethicists on the payroll for that. Worrying about ethics is not the engineer’s job. That perception means you yourself can stop thinking about ethics, it’s been allocated, and you can just take its results and run with it. The privacy officer does privacy, the QA officer does quality assurance, the CISO does information security, and the ethics officer covers everything ethical…..meaning I can carry on as usual. I read that as a giant admission as to how Google perceives ethics, and that ethics washing is their main aim. It’s definitely not welcomed to treat ethics as a practice, going by that statement. Maybe they should open a conversation with that LaMDA AI chatbot about those ethics to help determine the program’s sentience 🙂

Google said it suspended Lemoine for breaching confidentiality policies by publishing the conversations with LaMDA online, and said in a statement that he was employed as a software engineer, not an ethicist.

Favorited Rocket.Chat Leverages The Matrix Protocol for Decentralized and Interoperable Communications (Rocket.chat press release 25-05-2022)

This press release by Rocket.chat is interesting to me for several reasons, despite it being written in marketing speak as press releases tend to do.

  • My company uses a self-hosted Rocket.chat instance for internal communication since 2019, for reasons of information hygiene.
  • It positions Matrix as the way of bringing federation and interoperability to Rocket.chat.
  • It leads with e-mail’s SMTP protocol as a useful example of federation.
  • It cites the interoperability requirements for chat that the EU Digital Markets Act requires as evidence that there’s a growing market need for both openness and data control in inter-company collaboration.
  • It states “Big Tech may say that this cross-communication isn’t technically feasible, but Matrix and others prove” otherwise.
  • With those statements it’s directly speaking against the gaslighting Meta did earlier about the EU Digital Markets Act

It seems to me even before its adoption the Digital Markets Act is showing signs of working as intended: breaking monopolistic behaviour by demanding a.o. interoperability.

HT Stephen Downes.

The Rocket.Chat adoption of Matrix makes it simple for organizations to easily connect with external parties, whether they’re using Rocket.Chat or any other Matrix compatible platform. This initiative is another step forward on Rocket.Chat’s journey to let every conversation flow without compromise and enable full interoperability with its ecosystem….The importance of openness and data control in inter-company collaboration is growing. The European Union’s recent Digital Markets Act to limit the market power of large online chat and messaging platforms is evidence of this need.

Rocket.chat press release

This week the draft implementation act (PDF) and annex listing the first batch of European High Value Data sets (PDF) has finally been published. In the first half of 2020 I was involved in preparatory research to advise on what data, spread across six predetermined themes, should be put on this mandatory list. It’s the first time open data policy makes the publication of certain data mandatory through an API. Until now European open data policy built upon the freedom of information measures of each EU Member State (MS), and added mandatory conditions to what MS published voluntarily, and to how to respond to public data re-use requests. This new law arranges for the pro-active publication of certain data sets.

In the 2020 research I was responsible for the sections about earth observation, environmental, and meteorological data. We submitted our final report in September 2020, and since then there had been total silence w.r.t. the progress in negotiating the list with the MS, and putting together the implementation act. I knew that at least the earth observation and environmental data would largely be included the way I suggested, when last summer I got a sneak preview of the adaptation of the INSPIRE portal where such data is made available.

The Implementation Act

In the Open Data Directive there’s a provision that the European Commission can, through a separate implementation act, set mandatory open data requirements for data belonging to themes listed in the Directive’s Annex. At launch in 2019, 6 such themes were listed: Geo-information, statistics, mobility, company information, earth observation / environment, and meteorology.
The list of themes can also be amended, through another separate implementation act, and a process to determine the second set of themes is currently underway.

The draft implementation law (PDF) states that government-held datasets mentioned in its Annex must be published through APIs, under an open license such as Creative Commons Zero, By Attribution or equivalent / less restrictive. Governments must publish the terms of use for such APIs and these terms may not be used to discourage re-use. APIs must also be fully publicly documented, and a point of contact must be provided.

MS can temporarily exempt some of the high value datasets, a decision that must be made public, but limited to two years after entry into force of this implementation act. Additional usage restrictions are allowed for personal data within the data sets concerned, but only to the extent needed to protect personal data of individuals (so not as an excuse to disallow re-use and access to the data as a whole).

MS must report on their implementation actions every two years, in which they need to list the actual data sets opened, the links to licenses, API and documentation, and exemptions still in place. The implementation is immediately binding for all MS (no need to first transpose into national law to be enforcable), will apply 20 days after publication in the EU Journal, and MS have 6 months to comply.

The Data Sets Per Theme

In this first batch of mandatory open data, 6 themes are covered (PDF). Some brief remarks on all of them.

Mobility

This is, contrary to what you’d expect, the smallest theme of the six covered. Because everything that is already covered in the Intelligent Transport (ITS) Directive is out of scope, which is most of everything concerning land based mobility. What remains for the High Value Data list is data on transport networks contained in the INSPIRE Annex I theme Transport Networks, and static and dynamic data about inland waterways, as well as the electronic navigational charts (ENC) for inland waterways. This is much in line with the 2020 study report. There was some concern with national hydrographical services about ENCs for seas being included (making it harder to force sea going vessels to use the latest version), but my reassurances that it would be unlikely held true.

Geospatial data

Geospatial data is I would say the ‘original’ high value government data, and has been for centuries. The data sets from the four INSPIRE Annex I themes Administrative Units, Geographical Names, Addresses, Buildings and Cadastral Parcels are within scope. Additionally reference parcels and agricultural parcels as described in the 1306/2013 and 1307/2013 Regulations on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are on the list.

Earth Observation and Environment

This was a theme I was responsible for in the 2020 study. It is an extremely broad category, covering a very wide spectrum of types of data. It was basically impossible to choose something from this list, not in the least because re-use value usually comes from combinations of data, not from any single source used. Therefore my proposed solution was to not choose, and advise to treat it as a coherent whole needed in addressing the EU goals concerning environment/nature, climate adaptation, and pollution. The High Value Data list adopts this approach and puts 19 INSPIRE themes within scope. These are:

  • Annex I: Hydrography, and Protected Sites
  • Annex II in full: Elevation, Geology, Land Cover, and Ortho-imagery
  • Annex III: Area management, Bio-geographical regions, Energy resources, Environmental monitoring facilities, Habitats and biotopes, Land use, Mineral resources, Natural risk zones, Oceanographic geographical features, Production and industrial facilities, Sea regions, Soil, and Species distribution

Additionally all environmental information as covered by the 2003/4/EC Directive on public access to such information is added to the list, and all data originating in the context of a wide range of EU Regulations and Directives on air, climate, emissions, nature preservation and biodiversity, noise, waste and water. I miss soil in this environmental list, but perhaps the Annex III INSPIRE theme is seen as sufficiently covering it. I still need to follow up on the precise formulations w.r.t. data in 31 additionally referenced regulations and directives.

What to me is a surprising phrasing is that earth observation is defined here including satellite based data. Not surprising in terms of earth observation itself, but because satellite data was specifically excluded from the scope of our 2020 study. First because the EU level satellite data is already open. Second because this list deals with data from MS, and not many MS have their own satellite data. When they do it is usually the result of public private collaborative investment, and such private investment may dry up if there are no longer temporary exclusive access arrangements possible, which would have resulted in considerable political objections. Perhaps adding space based data collection is currently being well enough watered down by defining the INSPIRE themes as its scope, while at the same time future proofing the definition for when satellite data does become part of INSPIRE themes.

Together these first three, mobility, geospatial, and EO/environment, place a full 24 out of 34 INSPIRE themes on the list for mandatory open data. This basically amounts to adding an open data requirement to INSPIRE. It places MS’ INSPIRE compliance very much in the focus of attention, which now often is limited, and further positions INSPIRE as a key building block in the coming Green Deal dataspace. It will be of high interest to see what the coming new version of the INSPIRE directive, currently under review, makes of all that.

Statistics

This topic is more widely covered in the High Value Data list, than it was in the 2020 study, both in the types of statistics included, and in the demands made of those types of statistics. Still there are lots of statistics that MS hold, that aren’t included here (while some MS do publish most of their statistics already btw): the selection is based on European reporting obligations that follow from a list of various European laws.
Topics for which statistics must be published as open data in a specified way:

  • Industrial production
  • Industrial producer price index, by activity
  • Volume of sales by activity
  • EU international trade in goods
  • Tourism flows in Europe
  • Harmonised consumer prices indices
  • National accounts: GDP, key indicators on corporations and households
  • Government expenditure and revenue, government gross debt
  • Population, fertility, mortality
  • Current healthcare expenditure
  • Poverty
  • Inequality
  • Employment, unemployment, potential labour force

Data for these reporting obligations should be available from the moment the law creating them has been in force. That means for instance that healthcare expenditure should be available from at least 2008, whereas employment statistics must be available from at least 2019, because of the different years in which these laws were enacted.

Company information

Company information from the start has been the most controversial theme of the six covered by this implementation act. I assume this theme has also been the prime political reason for the long delay in the proposal being published. In my perception because this is the only data set that actually might end up challenging the status quo in society (as it involves ownership and power structures, and touches tax evasion). In the 2020 study four aspects were considered, the basic company information, company documents and accounts, ownership information, and insolvency status. Two ended up in the draft law: basic company information and company documents. Opening ownership information, not even the ultimate beneficial ownership (UBO) information, from the start drew vehement objections (including from the Dutch government). Many stakeholders (including the NGO I chair) are disappointed with the current outcome. (Here’s an old blogpost where I explain UBO, and here’s SF writer Brin on what transparent UBO might mean to our societies.) The data that will become open data still may be 2 years in the future: the Open Data Directive allows a 2 year exemption, and this is the data where that exemption will be used I think.
That said, mandatory open company data and documents, even with the delay through exemptions, is already a step forward that puts an end to literally decades of court cases, obstruction, and lobbying for more openness. The very first PSI Directive in 2003 was already an expression of a broad demand for this data, now 20 years on it finally becomes mandatory across the EU. Some people I know have been after this for their entire professional careers and already retired. It’s easy to loose sight of that win when we only focus on not having (ultimate) ownership data included.

Meteorological data

This is the other theme I was responsible for in the 2020 study. Like with company information this is an area where the discussion about making it available for re-use is decades old and precedes digitisation becoming ubiquitous. When I started my open data work in 2008, most of the existing documentation and argumentation for the value of and need for open data concerned meteorological data. A range of EU countries already have this as open data, others not at all. While progress has been made in the past decades, the High Value Data list provides a blanket obligation for all EU MS, a result that would otherwise still be a very long time away if entirely voluntary for the MS involved.
Data included here includes all weather observation data, validated observations / climate data, radar data (useful for things like cloud heights, precipitation and wind), and numerical weather prediction data (these are the outputs of the combined models used for predictions).

The implementation act is up for public feedback until 21 June, but likely will retain its current form. I think it’s a pretty good result, and I am happy that I have been able to contribute to it.