..is supposedly taking place next Monday in Den Bosch. This may come as a surprise for those, like myself and BarCamp co-originators Chris and Andy, who remember visiting the second ever BarCamp globally 16 years ago, in Amsterdam on 20 and 21 October 2005. Or those who attended any of the Dutch BarCamps thereafter documented on BarCamp.org (albeit sparsely, I admit). Mediamatic kindly provided the venue in PostCS for that first Dutch BarCamp.

I heard E guffaw as she read that LinkedIn posting and after hearing why, couldn’t resist kindly pointing out their mistake and linking to the relevant BarCamp.org page for that first BarCampAmsterdam of 16 years ago.

Roland in a BarCamp Amsterdam 2005 t-shirt. Image Ton Zijlstra, license cc by nc sa

Part of the BarCamp Amsterdam schedule in 2005. Image Ton Zijlstra, license cc by nc sa

We had two beautiful sunny days in Ireland this week. One spent touring the country side and the coast with our kind hosts Gabriela and Ray, and Adrian McEwan (one of the other speakers, active in IoT and running a makerspace in Liverpool). And one spent at the event we were here for: 3D Camp.

It was the 7th edition, and it’s not a full barcamp, in the sense that the program is set beforehand, although all sessions are still volunteered by participants.

As I was speaking right after the opening key-note, I had the rest of the day to listen, learn and have conversations. Some random take-aways from the day:

A great concept where children get to play by coding up stuff is CoderDojo. A room full of kids with one or both parents working together: the CoderDojo Limerick was in session. Groups are active in over 20 countries. These types of things can be life changing. I still remember getting my hands on my first computer when I was 12, and learning to code BASIC on it. I was immediately fascinated by the technology. Still am. What if my teacher hadn’t gone through the trouble of arranging a few machines for us to experiment with? I would probably have encountered my first computer only upon entering university. A very different stage in life to have your eyes opened to a range of new possibilities.

CoderDojo Limerick at work, image by Gabriela Avram, license CC BY

Aine Behan of Cortechs shared with us some of the current things going on in measuring brainwaves and using it to control things, like games. Very interesting to hear about games that reward and give feedback on the amount of focus and calmness your brainwaves convey. It is being used to e.g. condition ADHD children towards better focus skills. Reminded me of the brain wave controlled helicopter I encountered at TEDxTallinn last year.

Makey Makey
Definitely the most funky stuff present at the event. Build upon Arduino you use Makey Makey to turn everything into a key. Like bananas to play music on. Intended for kids, but fun for anyone really.

Heaps of Rapsberry Pi goodness was the demo of the PiPhone by David Hunt. A phone built from Raspberry Pi and other components. A bit clunky, but it works. And while the question whether this is something that will take on the major mobile phone companies isn’t of much relevance, it does mean you can build your own without them, without needing an engineering degree. Another case in point of disruptive tech creating new affordances for individuals.

Oculus Rift
James Corbett, with Gabriela the organizer of 3D Camp, demoed the Oculus Rift. It’s a somewhat disorienting experience to wear it. As what your eyes perceive is different from what all other senses, including your entire body, are telling you. Although the visual quality isn’t all that good (pixelated), the sense of being in a 3d environment is complete and convincing. When I was standing on a balcony, I automatically tried to grab the railing to better look over the edge. My hands were surprised to not find anything where my eyes were telling me the railing was. Luckily there was a table edge I could grab, which then reinforced the reality of being in an experience with just one of my senses, but otherwise still in the event venue, as it was thinner than the railing. Looking down you are surprised to not see your feet (I didn’t have an avatar in the demo). Because of that disconnect between your various senses, it is a very different experience from e.g. being in a VR cave. In a cave you are more fully immersed, with both sound and sight, and you have your body with you. On the other hand, in a VR cave I never forgot that I was in a room with projections around me. With a VR headset like Oculus Rift I was more convinced to be someplace else, as my eyes were telling me only that, but you’re not completely there at the same time. Adding a ‚cochlear rift’ with surround sound will likely make the experience even stronger/stranger.

FabLab Cloughjordan
Anthony Kelly of the Cloughjordan sustainable village project talked about the FabLab called WeCreate they have started there. He talked a little bit about how to make it financially feasible to operate a lab. The FabLab is part of the village co-working space and business center, which makes a lot of sense. Adrian McEwan of the Liverpool Maker Space told me they’re doing the same thing. The co-working space is a main source of income, and at the same time it is a good pool of people from which new makers emerge. A stand alone makerspace will more easily end up with a fixed group of users, where the point of course is to expose more people to the possibilities of digital making. WeCreate has an interesting event lined up for September, OpenEverything (no link yet)

I had pleasant conversations throughout the day, on open data, internet of things, fablabs,
talking to the Coder Dojo dads, etc. Elmine rounded off the day with sharing the ‘How to Unconference Your Birthday’ story, and the upcoming ‘Make Stuff that Matters‘ event (Facebook group). She called upon all to actively spread making literacy, and that an event like ours may help. At least two people seemed to have caught the bug.

Thanks to Gabriela for inviting us over, and to her and Ray for being such great hosts to us. We’ve seen quite a lot in just two days in Limerick!

Context based services make our mobile phones the place where lots of exciting things are happening, with location awareness and augmented reality. I find my work routines are shifting because of it, and that is something I want to talk about in the presentations I give on working in a networked world. And for that I need screenshots. I’ve been using screenshots of how I use my tools to interact, work and learn for years and I need to be able to make screenshots of my phone as well.

Not the way I would like to make screenshots

The problem is there doesn’t seem to be a good screenshot app for my phone, the G1 Android or Google Phone.
There are currently two ways to make a screenshot on my G1.
The first is making use of the developer kit and using the debugging monitor. To do this my phone needs to be connected to my laptop via USB. That works if you just want a screenshot from some app, but not if I want to capture an interesting bit of interaction as and when it happens, or something that can’t be done on my desk. Like these screenshots from Wikitude AR, which have been taken by Maarten carrying his laptop around to make them.
The second way to make screenshots is using the application Screenshot available in the Android Market. It works in every situation though only with a sort of self-timer instead of a push button function, but more importantly the phone needs to be ‘rooted‘ for the app to work. This means changing the firmware on the phone to an earlier version, exploiting a little hole in that earlier version to gain root access, and then installing a hacked/modified version of the most current firmware. Sounds very laborious, not quite risk free, and like too much of a hassle. It’s not something I am willing to try with a ‘mission critical’ piece of hardware such as my phone.
Which bring me back to the title of this posting: Can You Build Me a G1 Screenshot App?
One that doesn’t require me to exploit loopholes in older firmware, or attaching my phone to my laptop all the time?
Is there an Android DevCamp coming up you intend to visit, where building a screenshot app could be a good project to work on? Can you give me an estimate how much time building this app would cost, and if there is a financial incentive that would make you spend that time?
I have a creeping suspicion there may be a technological reason why a decent screenshot app is still not available, but in that case I am very curious to hear what that reason is.

Last weekend saw a BarCamp in Amsterdam around government and the impact of web2.0. GovCamp NL was inspired by the GovCamp in London last year. Thanks to James Burke and Peter Robinett about 25 people, with about a third government workers, found themselves in the former offices of de Volkskrant.

Chris and Peter working the paper wiki

I arrived a bit late, so I had to miss out on the first session where Arjen Kamphuis talked about his past work to get government committed to open standards, open source, and open data. Shame I missed that, but good to see him again. Sessions I did attend talked about current or past projects on how to use the internet as a new/additional public sphere (like denhaag.org), how to increase participation (like with buurtlink.nl, or having a more direct say in how your taxes are spend), and how to use internet as additional channel for public hearings on policies.

James kicking of discussion with his ‘hacked’ tax forms

GovCamp vs PolitCamp
In comparison PolitCamp in Graz the week before was more about building awareness, amongst politicians and by extension government, that something had changed at all. GovCamp Amsterdam was more about doing tangible projects. Differences in penetration of ADSL between the highly urbanized Netherlands and relatively sparsely populated Austria probably help to explain this. A common thing however was the seemingly widespread notion that ‘those politicians’ and ‘the government’ were somehow doing it all ‘wrong’ and are ‘not getting it’, without acknowledging the fact that ‘the government’ does not exist, and all those structures are filled with people who are trying to make sense of the world just as much as I am and you are. First, if you know better, you are also the one to teach better. Second, no system or structure will make itself irrelevant over night. We will have to be there to help make the transition. Either by building alternate structures, or by helping the existing ones change. I think I’m doing the former in my personal life, and the latter with my clients. An activist stance is needed here more than a lamenting/knowing-it-better pose. That is why I was pleased to see politicians in Graz making an effort to attend, and was as pleased to see civil servants in Amsterdam actively experimenting and exploring how to change their work, while keeping focussed on the goals of their work.

Lunch conversations on the roofterrace

The Format
For a lot of participants the BarCamp format was new. It was generally received as creative and informal, but also with some apprehension as to the lack of ‘steering’. If however at a BarCamp you think the discussion is not addressing the real issues, start your own discussion and session right then and there, instead of asking for more steering. The fact that this BarCamp took place, that it brought web-developers and civil servants together the way it did, is already proof that it is not the lack of steering that makes things impossible. No steering was involved after all to bring the event about. It is important to remember the basic ‘rules’ of open space engagement here: whoever is there are the right people, whatever is addressed is the right topic, it starts and ends when it does, and if you feel you can’t contribute to or learn from a conversation you’re in, start or join a different conversation immediately.
I think James and Peter made sure a pleasant event took place. The catering was fine, thanks to the funding by XS4All, and the sunny roof terrace was a pleasant element in the mix. The wifi was dependable too. So thanks!

Open Data Revisited
Opening up government data was a topic at GovCamp as it was in Graz last week. It came up in some of the sessions, it was a talking point during lunch. My major take-away for GovCamp therefore was that a small group found itself around the task of making inventory of what datasets are actually held within Dutch government agencies. With that inventory list in hand a concerted effort can be made to open them up one by one with technologies like RDF, SPRQL and OWL. I think this is an important thing to do, and am curious how it will develop and what I can contribute.

Tag your stuff!

Last week at the PolitCamp Graz I had the pleasure to meet Keith Andrews, who’s a professor there, and attend his session on how to unlock and use general data that has been gathered and paid for with tax payers money. Our public data.
Hans Rosling has some pretty compelling examples of what you can do IF (and it really is a big if) you can get access to the data that is all there (and it really is all there), and if you succeed in presenting it in a way that is more enticing than tables with numbers.

Social software thrives on heaps of data and information, and here’s this mountain of data that hardly anybody has access too. This is the public parallel of what I see in corporations as well when it concerns business intelligence (BI). With huge amounts of money systems are put in place that collect insane amounts of data, and then only a handful of specialists create half a dozen management reports from that, leaving most of the data untouched. I remember an information manager who was surprised at the clever questions professionals in his corporation were able to ask the dataset, when he gave them access to it, which his own BI-people or higher management would never think of to ask. Having access to the data we collectively have made possible to gather therefore to me is not just a question of pursuing the ideal of ‘openness’ and transparancy in general, but a way to create so much more opportunties for people to act upon, based on the additional information available.

Making that access possible brings the need for a better presentation layer. Visualization aspects, and constructing queries etc. But it starts with convincing those who now manage the public databases to open up their data in RDF format so it can be used for web based mash-ups. This means a shift in attitude for these institutes/people, as usually their respons now to requests for data is one of suspicion: “What will you be using it for?”. Examples of this were abundant in the discussion at the PolitCamp session. I think this is one more type of gatekeeper we can do without.
In this light I am also looking forward to Reboot, where a session on Free Public Data is proposed.