I and my team at The Green Land are looking for a self-hosted version of event organisation tools like MeetUp.com or Eventbrite. Both for small scale events as part of projects, such as meet-ups of citizen scientists, as well as for ourselves, such as small gatherings we organise around AI ethics with our professional peer network.

We don’t want to use Meetup.com or things like Eventbrite because we don’t want personal data to be handed over to US based entities, nor require the participants to do so just because they want to attend a local event. We also notice a strong hesitancy amongst participants of events when it is needed to create yet another account on yet another service just to let us know they will be joining us for something.

Nevertheless we do want an easy way to announce events, track registrations, and have a place to share material before, during and afterwards. And I know that events are hard in terms of discovery, because although there are a plethora of events, for most participants as well as event organisers they’re incidents (years ago I came across a blogpost describing this Events Paradox well.). Additionally, for us as professionals it is usually more logical to host our own events than find one that fits our needs.
So we need a way to announce events where we can assure participants there’s no need to hand over personal information, and where material can be shared.

There seem to be two FOSS offerings in this space. Mobilizon by Framasoft and Gettogether. In the past weeks my colleague S and I tried to test Mobilizon.

Mobilizon is ActivityPub based, and there’s a Yunohost version which I installed on our VPS early last month. Mobilizon promises several strong points:

  • Fully self-hosted, and able to federate with other instances. There aren’t many visible instances out there, but one NGO we frequently encounter in our network does run its own instance.
  • you can maintain different profiles in your account, so that for different parts of your life you can subscribe to events, without e.g. your historical re-enactment events showing up amongst your professional events in a public profile.
  • People can register for an event without needing an account or profile (using e-mail confirmation)

Working with Mobilizon turned out less than ideal at a very basic level. Accounts couldn’t log in after creation. As an administrator I could not force password resets for users (that couldn’t log in anymore). Not being able to do user admin (other than suspending accounts) seems to be a deliberate design choice.
I still had access through my Yunohost admin account, but after an update yesterday of the Mobilizon app that stopped working too. So now both instance admins were locked out. Existing documentation wasn’t much help in understanding what exactly is going on.

I also came across an announcement dat Framasoft intends to shift development resources away from Mobilizon by the end of the year, and thusfar there’s little momentum in the developer community to pick up where they intend to leave off.

For now I have uninstalled Mobilizon. I will reach out to the mentioned NGO to hear how their experiences are. And will look at the other tool, although no Yunohost version of it exists.

I’m open te hear about other alternatives that might be good to try.

Nancy writes about the importance of endings, a rich source for reflection and of insights. And suggests it as something we should be more literate in, more deliberate in as a practice.

Yes, endings, acknowledging them, shaping them, is important.
When the BlogWalk series already had practically ended, with the last session being 18 months or so in the past, it was only when I posted about formally ending it, that it was truly done. It allowed those who participated to share stories about what it had meant to them, to say thanks, and it was a release for the organisers as well.

In our short e-book about unconferencing your birthday party (in itself a gift we sent to the participants of the most recent event it described, a year afterwards) we made a point to write about a proper ending. We had been at many events where the end was just when people left, but also at those where the end was a celebration of what we did together. We wrote "So often we were at a conference where the organizers didn’t know how to create a proper end to it. Either they’re too shy to take credit for what they’ve pulled off or they assume that most people left already and the end of the program is the last speaker to be on stage. Closure is important. It doesn’t have to be long, it doesn’t have to be a closing keynote, but it should serve as a focal point for everyone to end the day and give them an opportunity to thank you and each other as a group, not just as individuals. We gathered everyone after the last session and made some closing remarks, the most important of which was ‘thank you!’. […] Obviously this was the time to open up a few bottles as well."

In an Open Space style setting as a moderator I find releasing the space at the end for me usually involves strong emotions, coming down to earth from creating and surfing the group’s collective energy and shared attention, from weaving the tapestry of the experience together. When E and I helped P create such a space in 2019 I wrote afterwards "When Peter thanked Elmine and they embraced, that was the moment I felt myself release the space I had opened up on Day 1 when I helped the group" settle into the event and "set the schedule. Where the soap bubble we blew collapsed again, no longer able to hold the surface tension. I felt a wave of emotions wash through me, which I recognise from our own events as well. The realisation of the beauty of the collective experience you created, the connections made, the vulnerability allowed, the fun had, the playfulness. We wound down from that rush chatting over drinks in the moon lit back yard."

Endings such as those Nancy describes and the examples I mention, need their own space. It’s not a side effect of stopping doing something, but an act in itself that deserves consideration. As Nancy suggests, a practice.

In reply to Cater Vegan By Default by Tantek Çelik

I fully agree with Tantek here. (ht Jack Jamieson) Doing vegetarian or vegan by default at events is meaningful as well as easy to do. No non-vegetarian minds it, especially not with non-veg side dishes. For organisers it takes away the friction of having to keep track of various diet options.

At last year’s Techfestival (an event for thousands in Copenhagen) I was pleasantly surprised to see all catering was vegetarian by default, and the speakers dinner I attended was mostly vegan. It is important to also note that that speakers dinner was the most memorable meal I had last year, for its creative play with tastes, colors and textures.

For IndieWebCamp Amsterdam, based on the ‘vegetarian by default’ suggestion given to IndieWeb organisers, I arranged it that way too. Pre-event dinner and the first lunch were vegetarian, and the second lunch had plenty vegetarian options on the menu as well as non-vegetarian.
For our birthday unconferences from the start we catered vegetarian at the same level as non-vegetarian (our bbqs definitely aren’t vegetarian as such). It reduces overhead and planning while at the same time increasing the variety and sense of plenty of what’s on the table. It’s easy to have plenty of vegan salads, vegetable dishes and soups, with non-vegetarian food served alongside.

Defaults matter, and changing them works (changes behavior). Instead of making “vegan” or “vegetarian” a special meal option, flip it around, and cater vegan by default…

Tantek Çelik

Last Saturday, December 4th, the international Open Data Day took place in conjunction with Random Hacks of Kindness. In 73 cities around the globe groups of people came together to work on open data. In the Netherlands activities took place in Amsterdam and my home town Enschede.

Open Data Enschede

How it came about
In the last days of October David Eaves (open data advocate from Vancouver) first gave voice to the idea of doing local open data events around the world on a single day. Others quickly picked this up. Mid November the Open Government Data Camp in London, hosted by the Open Knowledge Foundation, brought together people from 30 countries, and that was a good opportunity to increase momentum for the international open data hackathon, as we all got to meet face to face. A little over two weeks ago a few civil servants from Enschede, a student and me met up to discuss if we could take part. We had originally met during the Open Innovation Festival in Enschede in June this year, and were looking for a way to take the next step for open data in our city. Previously we boldly had announced a local open data event, but then over the summer organizing it stalled. We agreed that this international open data day might be the trigger we needed to actually do it. Over lunch we settled on a location: the one we were having lunch at, a meeting lounge in the city center with wifi. That afternoon we also brought a website, Open Data Enschede, online announcing our plans. Two of the civil servants involved, Patrick Reijnders and Peter Breukers started asking their colleagues inside city hall for data sets that could be released.

Visualization of cities tweeting about #odhd

Open Data Day
A few days before the event we knew that the work of Patrick and Peter paid off, and that we would have about 25 data sets to work with. The data covered amongst others neighborhood statistics, street names, house numbers, but also the sewage system, geographic height lines, and the location of bus stops and bus routes. We didn’t know how many people would be coming though. As it turned out we had 9 people there for the entire day, entrepreneurs, students, civil servants and an IT-savvy member of the city council, all with coding skills. We were joined for part of the day by about another 10 people. Some of them civil servants involved with information management and geo-information in the city, others from the ITC (international cartography university), as well as the head of the statistics department from the neighboring city Hengelo. This meant lively conversations throughout the day, along with real work being done with the data.
We ended the day with video sessions with the Open Data Day groups in Helsinki (video) and Vienna, talking about the outcomes.

The video session seen from both ends, in Helsinki on the left (photo Irmeli Aro), in Enschede on the right (photo Patrick Reijnders)

For Enschede the Open Data Day was a great success for two main reasons. First of all it meant that a first wave of data sets now has become available. Second, and more important, we have brought together almost 20 people interested in open data, who weren’t aware of each other before (see photos). This is a significant step in creating more momentum in Enschede. A next, more informal, meeting will take place in January 2011 to explore what ideas exist for open data in Enschede, and how to make them reality. The Dutch Data Drinks that Alper started to bring together open data enthusiasts in the Netherlands will get a local chapter, Enschede Data Drinks.
But, of course, like in other participating cities, we also built a few things on Saturday, both currently not more than alpha / demo material though. One is a map of all building permits in the city, with the possibility of accessing the underlying drawings of the building plans, which reuses the building permits data as it is available on the Enschede municipal website. This was build by Robin Janse and Maarten Brouwers, of the Bean Machine.
The other demo maps out companies that went bankrupt for any given post code in the Netherlands, by getting the data from the API of openkvk.nl which in turn re-uses the Dutch trade register. This demo was build by Roy van der Veen.

Photo by Patrick Reijnders, Open Data Hackers at Work

I certainly came away from the day with a lot of energy, and am optimistic about moving open data forward in our city. To help stimulate that I offered the city 11 days of my time in 2011, to work with them on open data and figuring out ways how open data can be of benefit to local government as well. In exchange I don’t want money, but the release of data sets to the public. Let’s see if the city takes me up on my offer!