For years I had been an active user of Delicious, the social bookmarking service. I started using it in 2004, a year after its launch, and stopped using it in 2015. By then the service had been repeatedly sold, and much of its useful social features had been deprecated. It’s one of those great services Yahoo bought and then never did anything with. As I describe in a posting on bookmarking strategies last year, Delicious was useful originally because it showed you who else had bookmarked the same thing as you, and with which tags. It allowed me to find other people with similar interests, and especially if they used very different tags than me for a page they would be outside my own communities and networks (as ‘tribes’ will gravitate to a shared idiom). I’d then start following the blogs of those other people, as a way of widening my ‘very large scale antenna array’ of feed reading. Tags were pivots for triangulation. Delicious is one of those tools that were really social software, as opposed to a social media platform with its now too common self-reinforcing toxicity.

The current owner of Delicious is Pinboard, and according to Wikipedia the Delicious site was officially made inactive last August. That became obvious visiting my Delicious profile in the past weeks (on the original de.licio.us url, not the later delicious.com), as it would regularly result in an internal server error. Today I could access my profile.

My delicious profile

I decided to download my Delicious data, 3851 bookmarks.

After several attempts resulting in internal server errors, I ended up on the export screen which has options to include both notes and tags.

Delicious export screen

The resulting download is a HTML file (delicious.html), which after opening at first glance looked disappointing as it did not show tags, nor the date of bookmarking, just the description. Loosing most context would make the list of bookmarks rather useless.

My delicious html export

However, when I took a look at the source of the HTML file, I found that thankfully tags and dates are included as data attributes of the bookmarks. The HTML is nicely marked up wit DT and DD tags too, so it will be no problem to parse this export automatically.

My delicious html export source showing data attributes

My original notion was to import all bookmarks with their tags and notes, as back dated blog entries here. But randomly clicking on a range of links tells me that many of those bookmarks no longer resolve to an active web page, or redirect to some domain squatting spam outfit. So bringing the bookmarks ‘home’ into my site isn’t useful.
As the export includes tags, I can mine the list for bits of utility though. The collection contains a wide variety of open data usage examples I collected over the years, and that is of interest as a historical library, that I could try and match against the internet archives, using the bookmarking dates. Most other stuff is no longer of interest, or was ephemeral to begin with, so I won’t bother bringing that ‘home’. I will add the delicious export to the other exports of Twitter and Facebook on my NAS drive and cloud as archive. I have now removed my profile from the Delicious website (after several attempts to overcome internal server errors, and it is now verifiably gone).

I feel we have an obligation to re-use. The best way to keep things from humanity’s pool of cultural artefacts and knowledge available is by re-using and remixing them.

Most of my work is in ensuring more material becomes available for everyone to use. Such as open government data to enable socio-economic impact, with my company, or to allow for more democratic control in my role as chairman of the Open State Foundation. Such as creative output, in the form of images, text and music, in my role as board member of Open Nederland, the member organisation of the Dutch Creative Commons Chapter.

There already is a plethora of material available under open licenses. And while my work is all about adding to that pile and encouraging others to make good use of that, I find that personally I could be more active to re-use the cornucopia of human cultural expression and knowledge that is out there. In this blog I often re-use Creative Commons licensed images from others, and started adding images to my weekly reviews with that specific intent. But I could be much more aware of the opportunities re-usable cultural artefacts allow.

Last May, Elmine’s birthday gift to me was a set of 5 A3 sized photo frames, to fill up the mostly empty white walls of my home office. For months I didn’t get to actually selecting images to put in those frames. Browsed through the 25k of images I have on Flickr myself but couldn’t choose. Then I started playing with some existing images in the public domain or released with an open license, developed some ideas, but still couldn’t choose. Elmine broke the deadlock last week when she suggested to treat them as temporary objects. It isn’t about choosing the perfect images for my walls, it’s about choosing a few good-enough ones that speak to me at this moment in time. Our A3 printer will patiently spit out new images if I so choose.

So yesterday I decided on 5 images. Today Elmine helped me prepare the images for printing, as she has all the right software tools for it, and I don’t. And now they’re on the wall, joining two images already there.

Here are the images and their background as open cultural artefacts.

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The eastern wall presents three images. The leftmost one was already there, a photo of me drinking coffee in Lucca, Tuscany in the summer of 2015. A month of healing with the two of us in a year of personal losses. Elmine took this picture and she publishes most of her pictures with a Creative Commons license that allows non-commercial re-use. In general Flickr is a resource to find great images with an open license.

In the middle is the most famous footprint not on this earth. It’s the imprint of Buzz Aldrin’s boot on the moon surface, taken during Apollo 11 in July 1969. NASA has published and is publishing a wide range of images of all their missions, all freely re-usable. This includes the set of Apollo 11 images, with this footprint. I selected this because it shows how even the most amazing human endeavour ultimately is a sequence of single steps.

On the right is a remix of two images. The first image shows our city’s water-gate, Koppelpoort (1425) around 1640. The image is an illustration made by A. Rademaker for a book dated 1727-1733. The Amsterdam Rijksmuseum is putting tremendous effort in digitising all the artefacts in their collection at high resolution and making those images available for free re-use. They also organise design competitions to stimulate people to come up with novel forms of re-use of the art works in their collection. As an overlay I added the iconic primary colored planes of a Mondriaan painting. Piet Mondriaan was born in our city, where his childhood home is now a museum of his work. As Mondriaan died in 1944, his work entered the public domain in 2015 and is freely re-usable. The image thus combines the medieval and modern history of Amersfoort.

Those primary colors are continued in the images on the southern wall of my office, the one my desk is facing.

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On the left is an adapted page of Lego’s US patent. Patents are public documents (you get commercial protection for your invention in exchange for publishing how it works and thus adding to the world’s pool of knowledge). Patent offices publish patents and Google makes them searchable. So you can search for your favourite invention, whether it’s a Lego brick, a moonlander, a pepper grinder or Apple’s original iPod interface, and take a page from the patent to hang on your wall. Elmine added primary colors to the bricks in the patent illustration on my request.

In the middle is the photo I took last week visiting the Groninger Museum, with both E and Y in front of a giant head in primary colors, in the Alessandro Mendini exhibit. The image is available under a Creative Commons license (for non-commercial and equally shared re-use).

The rightmost photo was already there, a beautiful gift from Cees Elzenga, a photographer and photo journalist, who was our neighbour in Enschede. It is a photo in the rain, at night, near Brandenburger Tor in Berlin, and it strongly evokes the gloom I encountered visiting the still divided city in the second half of the ’80s. This is the one image on the wall that is not openly licensed.

One image is still missing, as I loaned one of the photo frames Elmine gave me to Y temporarily, until her own pin-board arrives in a few days. She uses it for two photos her grandmother sent her, after visiting the Unseen photo exhibit in Amsterdam with her. When it returns I will use the final frame for another NASA image, that of an ‘earth rise’ on the moon, similar to what I use as a background image on my Mastodon (and Twitter) profile page.

As my friend Peter says, we have an obligation to explain. So others may follow in our footsteps of tinkering and creating.

I feel we also have an obligation to re-use. The best way to keep things from humanity’s pool of cultural artefacts and knowledge available is by re-using and remixing them. What gets used keeps meaning and value, will not be forgotten. My office walls now make a tiny contribution to that.

My old registrar for this blog’s domain zylstra.org, originally DynDNS in 2002 then Dyn.com owned by Oracle as of 2016, is shut down per May 2020, and my account has now been handed off to Name.com. I migrated to Name.com as of today without hassle or interruption. With Dyn I could not renew my .org domain until within 2 months of its expiration, which would have been next May. With the migration to Name.com I now had the opportunity to renew the registration for multiple years. This is of interest as the entire .org registry has been sold to an equity investor. Which means it is very likely the price of a .org domain registration will be jacked up, to satisfy the equity fund’s by definition hunger for ROI.

I extended my .org registration for 9 years, so I’m good until May 2029 at the old price point.

Based on my conversation with Boris Mann about Fission, and visiting a Decentralised Web Meetup in Amsterdam because his Fission co-founder Brooklyn Zelenka, I started exploring the technology they work with and are building. First step was getting access to and understanding the ideas behind IPFS.

What makes IPFS interesting

The IPFS about file (if you click that link, you’re visiting a file on IPFS from your browser) says a variety of things, but a few elements are key imo.

First, it is a peer to peer system, much like we’ve seen many before. When you download a file to your system it will come in bits and pieces from multiple other computers, somewhere in the network, who have that file available. Whatever is the easiest way to get that file to you, is the way followed.

Second there is a key difference in how file addresses work in IPFS, compared to the web or on your local drive. We are used to files having names, and addresses being a representation of the location of that file. The URL for this blog points to a specific server, where in a specific folder, a specific filename resides. That file returns the content. Similarly the address for a file on my drive is based on the folder structure and the name of the file. IPFS addresses files based on their content, and does so with a hash (a cryptographic representation of the content of a file).
Naming things based on a hash of its contents means that if the content of a file changes, the name will change too. For every file the content will match what it says on the tin, and versioning is built in.

Combine that with a peer to peer system, and you have a way of addressing things globally without being tied to location. You also have a way to ensure that whatever you find in a given file is exactly what was originally in the file. https://mydomain.com/catpicture.html may have had a cat picture at the start that later got replaced by malware, but you wouldn’t know. With earlier p2p systems to exchange files like Napster of Bittorrent you always had to be careful about what it was you actually downloaded. Because the content might be very different from what the name suggested. With IPFS those issues are done away with.

Currently (location based) addressing on the web is centralised (through domain registration and DNS), and decoupling addresses from locations like IPFS does allows decentralisation. This decentralisation is important to me, as it helps build agency and make that agency resilient, as decentralisation is much closer to local first principles.

Getting IPFS set-up on my laptop

Boris was helpful in pointing the way for me how to set-up IPFS (and Fission). There is a IPFS desk top client, which makes it very easy to do. I installed that and then you have a basic browser that shows you which of your own files you are sharing, and which ones you are re-sharing. It also when you are looking at a file shows where it comes from.

I uploaded a PDF as a hello world message. In the screenshot above the Qm…… series of characters you see underneath the local file name helloworld.pdf is the hash that is used to identify the file across the IPFS network. If you ‘pin’ a file (or folder), you prevent it from being deleted from your cache, and it stays available to the wider network with that Qm…. string as address. Which also means a drawback of hashed-content addressing is non-human readable addresses, but they’re usually intended for machines anyway (and otherwise, there’s a use case for QR codes here maybe)

With IPFS set-up, I started playing with Fission. Fission builds on IPFS, to allow you to deploy apps or websites directly from your laptop. (“build and go live while on a plane without wifi”). It’s meant as tooling for developers, in other words not me, but I was curious to better understand what it does. More in a next post.

Cornucopia
Abundance isn’t shipping containers full of stuff. (image by me, CC BY NC SA)

Last month I was at the Scifi Economics Lab, and Cory Doctorow
was one of the speakers. There was much to unpack in his talk, and he has a style of delivery that makes you want to quote a lot of things. I won’t give in to that urge, but will highlight one expression.

At some point he talked about abundance. It’s a term I’ve struggled with over the years because it’s so easy to interpret as having mountains of stuff, as per the image above. Or have everything free. A Dutch expression or rather admonition “we don’t live in the land where chickens fly into your mouth already fried” is probably an image our Calvinist culture associates with abundance: no work, but all the fruits of it. I have a sense of the meaning of abundance other than that, but never felt I had the right words to express that other perspective on abundance.

Doctorow’s metaphor for abundance was useful for me. He described back packers always having to carry a roll of toilet paper with them and that if not used it would desintegrate in your backpak, and therefore regularly needs replacement. Backpackers spent resources on replacing their toilet paper and spent mental energy on keeping an eye on still having it with them. A constant worry, and an inefficient use of resources (as you don’t use much of the toilet paper for its intended purpose, due to degradation).
Abundance then is being certain there is toilet paper when and where you need it. This is a qualitative metaphor that adds location, timing and actual need as dimensions of relevance. Abundance here is also more efficient, reduces worry, and is always there when needed. But it’s not limitless, free, or available anywhere for anything at any whim. It’s about qualitative abundance not quantitative abundance (‘heaps of free stuff’).

Hotel Room Toilet Paper Roll FoldMetaphorical Practical abundance, image by Tony Webster, license CC BY

This makes a vast number of things abundant in the society I live in, because it is there when I need it, without worry. Water, food, energy, clothing, transport, and everything else including toilet paper. (I once had a Central-Asian colleague who told me she thought, having visited, the Netherlands was totally boring because of that predictable abundance: no need to improvise anytime/anywhere.) Especially in the context of the six ways to die, abundance is an important notion, also because that abundance is often acquired by increasing the complexity of our systems. That complexity can break down.

Time, location and the context of an existing need are qualitative dimensions interesting to consider as design factors. What do you do when one or more of them are not to be counted on? Or can be counted upon, but at specific intervals? This is dealing with and designing for intermittence, as building block of both resilience and agency. That’s for another time.

Through a posting of Roel I came across Rick Klau again, someone who like me was blogging about knowledge management in the early ’00s. These days his writing is on Medium it seems.

Browsing through his latest posts, I came across this one about homebrew contact management.

Contact management is one area where until now I mostly stayed away from automating anything.
First and foremost because of the by definition poor initial data quality that you use to set it up (I still have 11 yr old contact info on my phone because it is hard to delete, and then gets put back due to some odd feedback loop in syncing).
Second, because of the risk of instrumentalising the relationships to others, instead of interacting for its own sake.
Third, because most systems I encountered depend on letting all your mail etc flow through it, which is a type of centralisation / single point of failure I want to avoid.

There’s much in Rick’s post to like (even though I doubt I’d want to shell out $1k/yr to do the same), and there are things in there I definitely think useful. He’s right when he says that being able to have a better overview of your network in terms of gender, location, diversity, background etc. is valuable. Not just in terms of contacts, but in terms of information filtering when you follow your contacts in several platforms etc.

Bookmarked to come up with an experiment. Timely also because I just decided to create a simple tool for my company as well, to start mapping stakeholders we encounter. In Copenhagen last September I noticed someone using a 4 question page on her phone to quickly capture she met me, the context and my organisation. When I asked she said it was to have an overview of the types of organisations and roles of people she encountered in her work, building a map as it were of the ecosystem. Definitely something I see the use of.

HandShakeHandshakes and conversations is what I’m interested in, not marketing instruments. Image Handshake by Elisha Project, license CC BY SA