Talking with E tonight about how many people we know are involved in organising their own events, we made a quick list. That list now contains 38 people, most of which we’ve known for a long time. That’s a group big enough to do a unconference / barcamp style event about event organising in itself!

The experiences of those people run from small workshops to global conferences. Myself, I’ve been active across that full spectrum as well. From BlogWalks and IndieWebCamps with two dozen people, our birthday unconferences (40 people in our home, 100 at the subsequent bbq), to national conferences, side-events at European and global conferences, European conferences in different countries with 300-400 people, to an edition of the global FabLab conference. The interesting bit is that for myself and almost all of the people on the list we just made, organising events wasn’t/isn’t our main activity. Often those events basically are a side activity, an emergent property of other work.

Ross Mayfield in a blog conversation in 2005 said “it’s cheaper to host your own event than attend one”. Not always cheaper I know, but it’s definitely more logical a lot of times. It’s a logic E and I, and those many people we listed just now have followed for about two decades now. Where can you and us take that the coming years?

Back in 2012 E and I gave about half of our many books away as part of a BBQ party. We kept what we hadn’t read yet but still found interesting, as well as reference books and books we had read and felt attached to. In the decade since I’ve bought a lot of new books, based on interests, recommendations, or because they were mentioned in books I did read, and of course based on arbitrary reasons like the title and design jumped out at me while browsing a bookstore. Even though E and I don’t regularly descend anymore on a bookstore like a swarm of locusts on a field, something we did frequently in the past, over the years the collection of unread books I have has grown significantly. Those stacks of unread books carry a certain weight on my mind, a nagging backlog of books to read. I stopped buying for a long while because I ‘should’ read the others first.

Taleb in his book The Black Swan comes up with the concept of the Anti-Library. I don’t remember that specifically from reading The Black Swan, but I came across it again in this posting at Ness Labs. I do remember reading Taleb’s anecdote about Umberto Eco’s enormous book collection though, which concludes with the concept of the Anti-Library.

An Anti-Library is your personal curated collection of books, papers etc. that you haven’t read. Taleb posits that what you haven’t read, but did have reason to collect and adopt into your library constitutes a research tool. Because it has more potential value (in terms of new insights etc) than what you’re already familiar with and have read.

This puts the focus on how I can actively use the stacks of unread books around the house and on my devices, while at the same time letting go of the feeling of guilt attached to it (“I really should read that book I bought soon….”). This switches the perspective from ‘I bought this book to read immediately’ to ‘I bought this book so it’s there when I might need it’. From ‘backlog’ to ‘shelves of opportunity’.

Thinking in terms of an anti-library also allows paying attention to how you deliberately enlarge the collection of unreads, which is a curation task. The unread books aren’t random choices, they are a selected set of personal resources concerning themes you find interesting or that make you curious.

I de facto already have an anti-library, as the result of procuring books faster than reading them. To make it fully visible as such to myself and use it as a research tool, I probably just need to add a few tweaks. Such as:

  • Maintaining an index of unread books. I created a collection ‘Anti-library’ in Zotero, which also contains other collections with the references to things I did read. Zotero works well with both books and (academic) papers. I already had in my notes a list called ‘my reading list’ which is an overview of books I think would be useful to read at this moment in time, which I moved to Zotero. And I could make an additional round through my e-ink devices, and our home to add to the list of unreads.
  • When adding a new unread book, jotting down why I thought to add it. This is helpful context in evaluating it later. I do the same for bookmarks I store for later reading/turning into notes, where I write down why I thought it relevant and to which other things I think it might be connected.
  • Keep doing what I already do, which is checking out recommendations from peers, and what other books the ones I enjoy currently reading are referencing
  • I now post here about books I read sometimes, maybe I should do the same for books I acquired but didn’t yet read, and share the reason I think it might be an interesting book. Have an anti-library stream
  • When exploring a new question, consider which unread books may contain relevant insights (next to exploring what my notes already contain on the question at hand)

Book Case
The other side of a book case, image by Ton Zijlstra, license CC BY NC SA

I installed delta.chat on my phone, to play with, nudged by Frank’s posting. It’s a E2E encrypted chat application with a twist: it uses e-mail as infrastructure. You set it up like an e-mail client, giving it access to one of your e-mail accounts. It will then use your e-mail account to send PGP encrypted messages.

So it’s actually a tool that brings you encrypted mail without the usual hassle of PGP set-up. Because it uses mail, you can find your messages in your regular mail archive (but encrypted), and you can contact anyone from the app if you have an e-mail address. The first message you send will be unencrypted (because you nor the app knows if the receiver has delta.chat installed), afterwards it will be encrypted as the app will have exchanged public encryption keys. Using e-mail means it’s robust, it doesn’t suffer from ‘there’s noone on here’ and there’s no silo lock-in. It also doesn’t need your phone number. It does ask for access to your contacts, which I denied as it is not at all a given that people will run delta.chat with the e-mail addresses they normally use.

I’ve tied it to my gmail address for now (ton dot zijlstra at gmail, ping me on delta.chat if you use it), because I wanted to have an easy interface to check what is going on in my inbox, and I have gmail on my phone anyway (even if I don’t use it for anything). I may switch over to a dedicated e-mail address later.

Some screenshots to illustrate:

Screenshot_20210218-090559_Delta Chat
How my initial exchange with Frank looked in Delta.chat


How my message to Frank looked in my mail. As it’s the first message it was unencrypted.


How I received Frank’s reply, which has an encrypted attachment.


The encrypted attachment when opened in a text editor shows it’s PGP.

I haven’t explored whether I can export my keys from Delta.chat. If you can’t, without Delta.chat I have no way of opening them. It’s a local tool only, so I suspect I might be able to get access to the keys outside of the app.

Peter in his bookmarks points to a description of Bookfeed.io by Swiss blogger Lukas Mathis. Bookfeed.io lets you make a list of authors you are interested in, and then provides you with a RSS feed that will alert you to new books published by those authors. It uses the Google Books API. It’s a clever small personal tool that Lukas Mathis built. I like it. I’ve added a handful of authors from the top of my head, and subscribed to the resulting RSS feed. I also added a monthly reminder to my task list to add or remove authors from the list.

De Open State Foundation en SETUP lanceren de SOS Tech Awards gericht op transparantie en verantwoordelijkheid in de digitale samenleving.

De Glass & Black Box Awards gaan over openheid en transparantie. De Dode & Levende Mussen Award gaan over verantwoordelijkheid nemen na technologische missers, en de mate waarin bedrijven en overheden niet alleen excuus aanbieden maar ook echt hun handelen aanpassen. De genomineerden worden in de komende weken bekend gemaakt. De SOS Tech Awards worden op dinsdag 23 maart 2021 uitgereikt via een livestream vanuit de centrale Bibliotheek Utrecht.

(In het kader van transparantie: ik ben bestuurslid bij de Open State Foundation)