It’s the end of December. This means it is time for my annual year in review posting, the ‘Tadaa!’ list.

Ten years ago I started writing end-of-year blogposts listing the things that happened that year that gave me a feeling of accomplishment, that make me say ‘Tadaa!’, so this is the eleventh edition (See the 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010 editions). I tend to move on immediately to the next thing as soon as something is finished, and that often means I forget to celebrate or even acknowledge things during the year. Sometimes I forget things completely (a few years ago I completely forgot I organised a national level conference at the end of a project). My sense of awareness has improved in the past few years, especially since I posted week notes for the past few years. This year was different as well as the pandemic and resulting lock-downs meant a more introspective year than usual. Still it remains a good way to reflect on the past 12 months and list the things that gave me a sense of accomplishment. So, here’s this year’s Tadaa!-list, in no particular order:

  • We started the year, as per our tradition, celebrating New Year with dear friends that live in Switzerland. Of course this year we can’t travel to Switzerland, and miss seeing our friends. I’m glad we did go last year. We quarantined ourselves from before Christmas, so we can visit E’s parents around NYE. We haven’t seen them since late August.

  • Jamming into the new year 2020 in the Swiss Alps

  • Around the start of the first pandemic wave in March I spent a considerable amount of time pushing for still pending signatures on projects and for prompt payments on outstanding invoices. It meant my company entered the lockdown with some confidence. No projects were postponed by clients, no invoices went unpaid. It provided the team with reassurance. We did not need to apply for any economic support measures, leaving them for companies in more need.
  • I’ve been working remotely for 16 years, and all of us were accustomed to working in a distributed way, but we had just opened our own office last year in Utrecht. The office served as a safe working spot for one or two people living nearby really needing to get out of the house. We distributed some office chairs to the homes of our team members early on, as we didn’t want them to sit on kitchen table chairs for week, months, a year on end. In the end, due to the many video calls, we saw more of each other and more of us at the same time, not less this year.

  • In a distanced line at the bakery, when it was still novel. Showing new cycling skills to grandma on video.

  • Our team became much more of an actual team this year, caused by being more visible to each other. We built and depended much more on each other. Each of us struggled mentally at times, working from within the same four walls each day, but the support of the others was there to get through it. In March we let go of our just previously set company goals for 2020, and made team stability our major aim.
  • Acknowledging the new reality, as well as our mental response, the team’s reflex was to step on it. With great results. Simply getting on with it resulted in our best year yet, with an 18% increase in turnover compared to 2019, despite having a policy of not setting financial goals, and also letting go of the original 2020 goals we set. There’s a lesson in that. Because we did well, we could extend E’s contract with a year in June, newly hired P in September after the completion of her internship and Master thesis with us, and offered S a fixed contract in October. We brought our colleague J on board as a shareholder and fellow entrepreneur (making him the only one we fired from the company, in January)
  • Ethics,not as an abstraction, but as a practice, became a much more central element in our work concerning data, data governance, and responsible data use. I helped facilitate a great workshop with colleagues in the Amsterdam Arena early in the year, we injected ethical discussions in most of our ongoing projects, and created a data-ethics card game as a end-of-year present to clients.
  • I don’t ski, E’ does only a little, but we decided to join a group of friends for their skiing trip in the French Alps in February. Enjoying the snow, simply hanging out with friends, playing with Y building snowmen, under a sunny sky was great. It also turned out to be the only trip we made this year, so the memories of that fun week have served us well.

  • In the snow in the French Alps, in the Ajax Amsterdam Arena for data ethics

  • In May, in the midst of the first lock-down, I turned 50. E had arranged a week of spread out activities, centered around the theme ‘play’. Part of it was an evening of playing Trivial Pursuit with dear friends online, including a question card deck about my own past 50 years. Another part was a treasure hunt with another dear friend through the neighbourhood. All fun yet within social distancing and other guidelines.

  • Video conference Trivial Pursuit. We had the board, every participant their own card deck to ask questions from.

  • When the pandemic hit, the NGO I chair was in a much different place than my company: various projects got postponed indefinitely, others never materialised. On top of that the director decided to leave and take up a position long on her wishlist, and a key project manager left as well. It left us scrambling during the summer to ensure the organisation’s future, financial stability, find a new director and replace key people all at once. The NGO’s team and the board pulled it off together. Our board is normally very hands-off, but now we jumped into the day-to-day operations. I’m really glad our joint efforts had an impact. We found a new director and two new project leads within weeks, and all could start almost immediately. The renewed team then pulled hard on ensuring stability. This month we approved the 2021 budget, and the NGO is once more financially ok, the team is actually larger than 6 months ago, and we’re on the look-out for one more staff member. The economic support measures were essential to get through the first few months, but the organisation now no longer needs them.

  • At the Kröller-Müller museum

  • E and I have known for years we can travel very well together. Now we know we can be very well at home together too. Both of us miss not having much or any time for ourselves, especially when Y is at home during school closures, both of us miss being able to go places for inspiration. Both of us struggled at times. We’re tired and didn’t have any real off-time for 9 months. Nevertheless we managed and complemented eachother well I think. We went for walks and visited a museum or two when conditions allowed, we took care of our home and garden to help ensure our wellbeing.

  • Enjoying our downstairs terrace at the water. Many walks through our neighbourhood.

  • I finally dumped Facebook completely, including Whatsapp. I had left Facebook three years ago, and then created a new more low-profile account. During the first months of the pandemic I realised that both the rationalisation I had for still being on FB (some connections I had only there), and the increasing level of pandemic-inspired conspiracy-stories (don’t ever call them theories!) and related toxicity made my ongoing presence there unbearable. So I left. Because FB as a company isn’t doing anything meaningful to fix the mess of their own creation, I decided I don’t want anything to do with the company as a whole either. So WhatsApp got uninstalled as well. I don’t miss the never ending doomscrolling on manipulated timelines. I sought out more distributed conversations instead (see further down).

  • Desinfection is the new sexy. Socially distanced cycling traffic light waiting zone

  • Renovated my personal knowledge management (PKM) system. Making notes differently means a very different pace of learning. I wrote some 800 notions, conceptual notes representing the core of my internalised concepts of 20+ years of work. That can now serve as the base of further learning. Addtionally 100 notes geared to more fact-oriented things, which will grow from being connected to my feed reading inputs, and now that my first focus on establishing the main body of concepts is over. And several hundred immediate work related notes, helping me to get things done. Kept a day log since late April, which was helpful to see the work I did also on days the fragmentation of tasks would otherwise obscure it. All in all, my PKM didn’t change fundamentally, but I reduced the friction of sustaining it a lot. It has already paid off in various ways, and I’ll get better at wielding it in the coming months to help me create, write and work better.
  • I had two periods where I struggled this year. Towards the summer, when I was struggling in getting the narrative for a report together, and in the volume of fragmented and overly diverse material I had couldn’t find my way out. And a worse period last month, where for a few weeks I felt increasingly awful. From the relentless efforts without time off, the endless video calls, and no longer being able to easily go outside as the days got greyer and wetter. In both instances I am glad I reached out to others about it, and that act alone already improved much. For the coming months I will try and keep my calendar relatively empty.
  • I started my days at 6am in the spring, and kept it up after the summer until now. That first hour of the day, before Y wakes up, I use to read and write a bit. A small sliver of my own time.

  • A long September weekend hiking in the hills of Limburg, southern Netherlands

  • Took a very deep dive into meteorological data and earth observation / environmental data in the EU, as part of the work to write upcoming European legislation on mandatory open data releases in areas of high socio-economic value. It was a long, and at times hard, process, but I’m pleased with the results in both the thematic areas I was responsible for. If even the low end recommendations are adopted it will mean progress unheard of in about 2 decades of discussion in the meteorological field. If it moves above that low end, it will also mean a very logical but still the biggest open data step for the entire INSPIRE program.
  • Enjoyed our home a lot, appreciating it even more than before. So glad we’re in the house we’re in. Allowing us to have different in- and outside spaces to use, to avoid feeling caged in. Growing and picking berries, seeing apples grow. Having our own office space to withdraw in. Y having space to leave her toys around, without it getting in the way. Little details help too, like the smooth feeling door handles we bought when we moved in. Now that I’ve grabbed many more door handles at home this year, I’m oddly thankful for them each time.

  • A visit to the Amersfoort Kade Museum, and to the Frisian Museum in Leeuwarden

  • Still happy I treated myself to a Nova2 e-ink reader, allowing me to read more non-fiction in a way that fits my routines, and have a seamless way of processing the notes I take from that reading.
  • Enjoyed the distributed conversations and connections through my blog, now 18 yrs old. Conversations that cross over different topics, through different modes of communication, and different aspects of life. Thank you all who frequented my inboxes this year.
  • Finally, it feels good that professionally there is enough lined up already for the better part of next year. It gives quiet confidence, and creates space to deal with the logistical and mental challenges the ongoing pandemic will still pose.

Internet retail turned from a convenience to a necessity this year. For groceries, and for DIY material, games, pencils etc to entertain Y. I bought several pieces of art as Christmas gifts, and they arrived within days from across the EU. I could support independent stores I like from behind my desk.

I’ve worked 1646 hours this year according to my timekeeping spreadsheet, which was 100 less than last year. For the first time it is on average near to my nominal 4-day work week, when counted over 52 weeks. However, in reality it was significantly more, definitely. This as when you’re at home you tend to only count the hours you’re ‘really’ working. Normally if you’re at the office or with a client, you count from arrival to departure as work time. I’ve told our team they should allow for that difference by using a multiplication factor of 1,3-1,5, but I did not really take that advice myself.

It was a year in which our lives took place in a much smaller space. Being connected, having the world at our digital disposal was good and needed. We’re healthy, doing ok, and professionally secure. That’s a lot already to be thankful about. Onwards to 2021!

Take care, stay well, reach out. Happy 2021!

It’s the end of December, and we’re about to enjoy the company of dear friends to bring in the new year, as is our usual tradition. This means it is time for my annual year in review posting, the ‘Tadaa!’ list.

Nine years ago I started writing end-of-year blogposts listing the things that happened that year that gave me a feeling of accomplishment, that make me say ‘Tadaa!’, so this is the tenth edition (See the 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010 editions). I am usually moving forwards to the next thing as soon as something is finished, and that often means I forget to celebrate or even acknowledge things during the year. Sometimes I forget things completely (a few years ago I completely forgot I organised a national level conference at the end of a project). My sense of awareness has improved in the past few years, especially since I posted week notes for the past 18 months. Still it remains a good way to reflect on the past 12 months and list the things that gave me a sense of accomplishment. So, here’s this year’s Tadaa!-list:

  • Visiting Open Knowledge Belgium to present the open data impact measurement framework I developed as part of an assignment for the UNDP in 2018. The way I accommodate in it for different levels of maturity on both the provision and demand side of open data and look at both lead and lag indicators, allows the entire framework to be a sensor: you should see the impact of actions propagate through indicators on subsequent levels. This allows you to look backwards and forwards with the framework, providing a sense of direction and speed as well as of current status. I’m currently deploying those notions with a client organisation for more balanced and ethical measurement and data collection.
  • When my project portfolio stabilised on a few bigger things, not a range of smaller things, I felt restless at first (there should be more chaos around me!), but I slowly recognised it as an opportunity to read, learn, and do more of the stuff on my endless backlog
  • Those few bigger things allow me to more deeply understand client organisations I do them in, and see more of my work and input evolve into results within an organisation. The clients involved seem to be very happy with the results so far, and I actually heard and accepted their positive feedback. Normally I’d dismiss such compliments.
  • Found a more stable footing for my company and in working/balancing with the other partners. We now are in a much better place than last year. Organisationally, as a team, and financially
    20191210_154337 20190417_153655
  • We opened up offices in Utrecht for my company, meaning we now have space available to host people and events. We used some of that new opportunity, organising a few meet-ups, an unconference and hosting the Open Nederland general assembly meeting, but it is something I’d like to do more of. Set a rhythm in making our offices a hub in our network more.

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  • Got to be there for friends, and friends got to be there for me. Thank you.
  • Visited Peter, Catherine and Oliver on PEI for the Crafting {:} a Life unconference. The importance of spending time together in unhurried conversations can’t be overestimated.

    What happened to blogging? 20190608_084935

  • Gave a keynote at Coder Dojo NL conference. It turned out to be a more human and less abstract version of my Networked Agency keynote at SOTN in 2018. Helping me to better phrase my own thoughts on how technology, agency and being human interplays.
  • Organised 2 IndieWebCamps with Frank Meeuwsen, basically bringing the IndieWeb to the Netherlands. I enjoyed working with Frank, after having been out of touch for a while. Meeting over dinner at Ewout’s early last year, blogging about independent web technology, Elmine’s birthday unconference and visiting an IndieWebCamp in Germany together all in 2018, reconnected us, leading to organising two successful events in both Utrecht and Amsterdam, putting two new cities on the IndieWeb map.

    IWC Utrecht group pic IndieWebCamp Amsterdam 2019

  • Kept up the blogging (for the 17th year), making my site(s) even more central to the way I process and share info by doing things like syndicating to Twitter and Mastodon from my site, and not treating Twitter as a place where I write original content.
  • Enjoying every day still how much more central in the country we now live, how so many more things are now within easy reach. Events I can visit in the evening in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam or The Hague, without the need to book a hotel, because I can be back home within an hour. How it allows us to let Y experience she’s part of a wider family, because it’s now so much easier to spend time with E’s brothers and cousins and my sisters. How comfortable our house is, and how I enjoy spending time and working in our garden.
  • Celebrated the 50th birthday of a dear friend. We all go back at least 25 years, from when we were all at university, and room mates in various constellations. M said she felt privileged to have all of us around the table that night, that all of us responded to her invitation. She’s right, and all of us realised it, it is a privilege. The combination of making the effort to hang out together, and doing that consistently over many years creates value and depth and a sense of connectedness by itself. Regardless of what happened and happens to any of us, that always stands.
  • Finally attended Techfestival, for its third edition, having had to decline the invitations to the previous two. Was there to get inspired, take the pulse of the European tech scene, and as part of the Copenhagen 150 helped created the Techpledge. Participating in that process gave me a few insights into my own role and motivations in the development and use of technology.
    20190906_150501 20190907_120354
  • Getting into an operational rhythm with the new director and me in my role as the chairman of the Open State Foundation. Working in that role opened up my mind again to notions about openness and good governance that I lost track of a bit focussing on the commercial work I do in this area with my company. It rekindles the activist side of me more again.
  • Working with my Open NL colleagues, yet another angle of open content, seen from the licensing perspective. Enjoyed giving a presentation on Creative Commons in Leeuwarden as part of the Open Access Week events organised by the local public and higher education libraries in that city.
  • Visited some conferences without having an active contribution to the program. It felt like a luxury to just dip in and out of sessions and talks on a whim.
  • Finding a bit more mental space and time to dive deeper into some topics. Such as ethics with regard to data collection and usage, information hygiene & security, AI and distributed technologies
  • Worked in Belgium, Denmark, Canada and Germany, which together amounts to the smallest amount of yearly travel I have done in this last decade. Travel is a habit Bryan said to me a few years back, and it’s true. I felt the withdrawal symptoms this year. I missed travel, I need it, and as a result especially enjoyed my trips to both Denmark and Canada. In the coming year there should be an opportunity to work in SE Asia again, and I’m on the lookout for more activities across the EU member states.
  • Presented in Germany, in German for this first time since years. Again something I’d like to do more of, although I find it difficult to create opportunities to work there. The event opened my eyes to the totally different level of digitisation in Germany. There’s a world to gain there, and there should be opportunities in contributing to that.
  • Hosted an unconference at the Saxion University of Applied Sciences in Enschede, in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the industrial design department. Its head, Karin van Beurden asked me to do this as she had experienced our birthday unconferences and thought it a great way to celebrate something in a way that is intellectually challenging and has a bite to it. This year saw a rise in unconferences I organised, facilitated or attended (7), and I find there’s an entire post-BarCamp generation completely unfamiliar with the concept. Fully intend to do more of this next year, as part of the community efforts of my company. We did one on our office roof top this year, but I really want this to become a series
  • Spent a lot of time (every Friday) with Y, and (on weekends) with the three of us. Y is at an age where her action radius is growing, and the type of activities we can undertake have more substance to them. I love how her observational skills and mind work, and the types of questions she is now asking.
    20190630_124904 20191025_121029
  • Taking opportunities to visit exhibits when they arise. Allowing myself the 60 or so minutes to explore. Like when I visited the Chihuly exhibit in Groningen when I was in the city for an appointment and happened to walk past the museum.
    20191116_113816 20190205_152946

This post is not about it, but I have tangible notions about what I want to do and focus on in the coming months, more than I had a year ago. Part of that is what I learned from the things above that gave me a sense of accomplishment. Part of that is the realisation E and I need to better stimulate and reinforce each others professional activities. That is a good thing too.

In 2019 I worked 1756 hours, which is about 36 hours per week worked. This is above my actual 4 day work week, and I still aim to reduce it further, but it’s stable compared to 2016-2018, which is a good thing. Especially considering it was well over 2400 in 2011 and higher before.

I read 48 books, less than one a week, but including a handful of non-fiction, and nicely evenly spread out over the year, not in bursts. I did not succeed in reading significantly more non-fiction, although I did buy quite a number of books. So there’s a significant stack waiting for me. Just as there is a range of fiction works still waiting for my attention. I don’t think I need to buy more books in the coming 4 months or 6 even, but I will have to learn to keep the bed side lamp on longer as I have a surprising number of paper books waiting for me after years of e-books only.

We’ll see off the year in the company of dear friends in the Swiss mountainside, and return early 2020. Onwards!

It’s the end of December, and we’re about to enjoy the company of dear friends to bring in the new year. This means it is time for my annual year in review posting, the ‘Tadaa!’ list.

Eight years ago I started writing end-of-year blogposts listing the things that happened that year that gave me a feeling of accomplishment, that make me say ‘Tadaa!’. (See the 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010 editions). I am always moving forwards to the next thing as soon as something is finished, and that often means I forget to celebrate or even acknowledge things during the year. Sometimes I forget things completely. Although I have worked on improving that sense of awareness over the past few years, it remains a good way to reflect on the past 12 months. So, here’s this year’s Tadaa!-list:

  • The Smart Stuff That Matters unconference and bbq party in honour of Elmine’s 40th birthday was an awesome event bringing together so many great people from our various contexts. Thank you to all who were there, from right next door to halfway across the globe, and so many different places in between. It is a great privilege you came together in our home.
    STM18 STM18
    STM18 STM18
    STM18 STM18
    STM18 STM18
    STM18 STM18
    So much fun having you all at STM18! Of course we had the mythical German sausages again….
    Through the Eyes of the Artist
    Peter made a sketch of our house, sitting in the garden
  • Being witness and officiating at our dear friends’ Klaas and Amarens wedding in Tuscany.

    Dinner al fresco / Thirty years of friendship (images by Elmine)
  • Presenting Networked Agency during a keynote at State of the Net in Trieste. A great opportunity to create a better narrative to explain Networked Agency, and present it to a much wider audience. Also great to see Paolo and Monica, as well as many others again.
    sotn2018 Sotn 18
    Our friend Paolo opening State of the Net, enjoying the beautiful city of Trieste
  • Working in Serbia, Italy, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium.
  • Creating a measurement framework for open data impact, that allows for different levels of maturity, embraces complexity, and aims to prevent gaming of measurements.
  • Getting tremendous feedback by the funder of a client project last year, that it was the most exciting thing they funded.
  • Getting asked back by multiple clients
  • Joining the board of Open Nederland, the Dutch Creative Commons chapter as treasurer
  • Joining the board of Open State Foundation, the leading Dutch advocate for open government, as its chairman, after having been one of the initiators of the very first event in 2008, that later turned into this great organisation
  • Taking the time to just hang out with other geeks at IndieWebCamp in Nürnberg
  • I spent every Friday at home to be with our daughter. A joy to watch her develop.
  • Giving the opening key-note at FOSS4GNL. I especially enjoyed writing the narrative for it, which ties local data governance to geopolitics and ethics.

    the Dutch open source geo community, and during the keynote (images Steven Ottens)
  • Got to be there for friends, and friends got to be there for me. Thank you.
  • Sponsoring the Open Knowledge Belgium conference with my company The Green Land, and participating in the conference with our entire team, and providing two sessions.
  • Finding my voice back in blogging. I’ve written more blogposts this year than the preceding eleven combined, and as much as the first 5 years of busiest blogging combined. As a result I’ve also written much more in-depth material than any other year since I started in 2002. This has created more space for reflection and exploration, useful to shape my ideas and direction in my work. It was inspiring to renew the distributed conversations with other bloggers. As a result I am revisiting much of my writing about information strategies and the workings of human digital networks.
  • Working with a client to further detail and document both Networked Agency and the ‘impact through connection’ project we based on it.
  • Making day trips with Elmine and (not always) Y, e.g. to BredaPhoto, Eddo Hartmann and Fries Museum. Making good use of our more central location.
  • Started to make better use of the various spaces our house offers, like the garden, the attic studio, and my own room. Room for improvement in the next year though.
  • Avoiding feeling hurried, while keeping up the level of results.

All in all it was a rather unhurried year, with more time for reflection about next and future steps. I worked 1728 hours, which averages out to about 36,5 per week worked. This is not yet getting closer to the 4 day work weeks I actually have, compared to last year, but at least stable.
I’ve read 69 books, at a steady pace. All fiction, except for a handful. I’m looking to create the space to start reading more non-fiction. That likely requires a separate approach.

Elmine gave me an amazing sculpture for my birthday, called “Strange Bird Totem”. The artist Jacqueline Schäfer’s work is described as “showing a positive vibe for life in a complex modern society“. That sort of feels like a great motto for the next year. Ever onwards!

Seven years ago I started writing end-of-year blogposts listing the things that happened that year that gave me a feeling of accomplishment. Borrowing from Ernst, from whom I copied this habit in 2010, I call them the annual Tadaa!-list (see the 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010 editions). I am always looking forward to doing the next thing, and that often means I forget to celebrate or even acknowledge things during a year. Sometimes I forget things completely (I once forgot I organized a national conference, because I left for an extended period of travel the next day). Although I have worked on improving that sense of awareness this year, it is still a good way to reflect on the past 12 months. So, a bit shorter and more personal than earlier years, and in no particular order, here’s this year’s Tadaa!-list:

  • Ten years ago, just before Christmas, I handed in my resignation and started my own business. It feels both longer and shorter. I’ve never looked back, it is the air that I breathe. I’m looking back on a decade of freedom. Even if always being the one committed to make things succeed and ends meet, especially when you hire people, is a relentless responsibility. There have been one or two short-lived rough patches (like when in 2010 three big contracts fell through at the same time). It brought the freedom to follow interests and emerging topics, to work with whom I choose, to travel extensively (with Elmine) and work anywhere, to continuously make up my own job. It, at least as importantly, brought the freedom to follow emotional needs, to stay at home for four months when our daughter was born, to spend time with my parents in the last weeks of their lives. Thank you to all who shared part of that journey with me this last decade. Looking forward to the next ones!
    Defining moment
    Me sending in my resignation, December 2007
  • Early this year I designed and helped (with the Frisian library and Frysklab team) run an experimental collaborative ‘design and make’ process with a primary school class, based on my Agency model. It was a great experience, and the children involved got inspired and changed by the experience. (By coincidence I met one of the children and his parents on a campground in Austria during the summer, he was still very much inspired by it)
    Group pic at the end of the ‘Impact through connection: at school’ project
  • I continued my coaching sessions that I started last year. The coaching brought focus and awareness by providing a sense of calm, made me kinder to myself, and improved my effectiveness.
  • We moved house in April from Enschede on the German border, to Amersfoort in the middle of the country, reducing a lot of trips with 80 minutes one way. Extra time I can spend at home with the family, and the reduced commutes also make it possible to stay in closer touch with family, friends, peers, clients and go to events. I really enjoy our new spacious home, although leaving a city I’ve lived in for almost 30 years means a lot of routines need to be re-established. Exploring our new surroundings, by going out for lunch for instance, is now a standard part of our week. The move was the timely culmination of a goal set in 2013 to be ready to move by the end of 2016.
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    Farewell party for our Enschede friends and neighbours.

    Building activity in our new home, and hanging out on the waterside terrace below the garden
  • Opened up our new home to friends and family. This bodes well for a new ‘Stuff that Matters’ unconference in 2018.
    Ready for garden party
    Ready for the first party in our new home, a garden party for Yfke’s 1st birthday
  • Evaluated the relevance, effectiveness and impact of an NGO over the past 5-6 years. In the process I’ve used several complexity management and narrative inquiry methods with good results, and involving the NGO’s staff in a meaningful way. They not only changed focus as a result but also want to continue to use the evaluation and reflection methods for themselves. Doing the evaluation was useful for my own reflection as well, in terms of the strategic issues emerging for my own company.
  • I spent every Friday at home to be with our daughter. A joy to watch her develop.
  • Got to be there for friends, and friends got to be there for me. Thank you.
  • Helped create and launch a unique collaborative open data portal, the Frisian regional data platform. Initiated by the Province of Fryslan and the city of Leeuwarden who share the initial costs, the Province ensures its existence, and local governments can participate through a subscription. From the start the regional historic center and archive Tresoar participates on this basis. The unique aspect is that the Province ensures a base line service provision, so that the many small local governments can easily participate, who otherwise would see the need for data publishing infrastructure as too big a hurdle to start publishing open data. At the same time, data from any participant makes the data of the others more useful as it becomes easier to correlate or cover a wider area. This increases the likelihood of people using the data.
    Fries Open Data Platform /
    Launching the Frisian data platform during the Connect.FRL conference
  • Presented the results of the national open data readiness assessment to the Malaysian government (in May) and helped launch the Malaysian open data user group (bringing together government entities, citizens, civil society, business and academia. In November). Now discussing an 18 month collaboration to help move the Malaysian open data efforts forward.
    18622422_10154638415937957_2512170809972614048_n Malaysia Open Data User Group
    Supporting Malaysian open data efforts
  • For the first time discussed a licensing deal, opening up the perspective of passive income.
  • Spent a day in London in April and September meeting with old friends. In remembrance of Tim who suddenly passed away early in the year, and as a consequence of our grief in recognition of how valuable it is to just spend time together sharing experiences and stories from our lives and our companies, discussing plans, doubts, and having a laugh with peers. Looking forward to a repeat in 2018. Thank you Patrick, Tony, Johnnie, Matt. Thank you Tim.
    Hanging out
  • Started taking steps to reduce my Facebook usage in favor of blogging more (resulting in 28 posts the last 3 months, versus 8 the preceding 9).

I’ve worked 1727 hours this year (in 46 weeks, 2 weeks of illness, 4 of vacationing, averaging about 38hrs/wk), which is more or less the same as last year. It is a significant reduction from the over 2400 hours a few years ago, but still about 200 hours above target, given I’ve spend a day per week at home with our daughter. The average should get closer to 32 hours per week in the next year. Being better equipped to choose, focus and say no, will help reach that goal.
Over the year I succeeded in keeping a good pace of reading fiction, 55 books in total. This is a good sign, as usually if I feel stressed I drop (and severely miss) my reading. I tried to find new (to me at least) authors to read. The books by Nnedi Okorafor, Chimamanda Adichie, Linda Nagata (the Nanotech Succession) and Tricia Sullivan I especially enjoyed, while the Bobiverse books, with AI Von Neumann probes going off script, were a lot of fun with its wide variety of storylines and angles to explore.

As per usual we will spend the last days of the year with dear friends, this time not in Switzerland as we often do, but in our new home in Amersfoort.
For 2018 a few exciting plans are already lined up, partly on new topics, in new countries and with some new clients and partners. Onwards!

Another year is coming to a close, so keeping up with my tradition of the last few years (since 2010, see last year’s edition) I am writing down the things in the past 12 months that gave me a sense of accomplishment or joy. It is often easy to focus on things not achieved, or left unfinished, as those are the things demanding attention. Often I find that in my daily routines I focus on what’s next, and I tend to forget a lot of what I actually did do. Obviously any year also has its hard moments, disappointments and failures. So to remind myself that this year was a full year where things happened that I loved doing or enjoyed (sticking to mostly business related, some personal), here’s the ‘Tadaa!-list’ of 2014

  • With Marc, Paul and Frank, I formally incorporated The Green Land and had our first (temporary) employee
  • Got to work with the supreme audit authority on the Dutch first national ‘Trend report Open Data’, and now working on the next edition
  • Did an open data workshop with the Dutch and British supreme audit authorities with an audience of all European audit authorities, as well as a study day with the Belgian and Dutch audit authorities. Impressed with their dedication and professional attitude. (It does of course help clarity, if your mission statement is in the constitution)
  • Worked for the Flemish Chancellary on open data scenario’s for their consolidated database of laws and regulations
  • Explored internet security and privacy in more detail, geeking out on running my own cloud in a Swiss datacenter
  • Spent a week and a half in Berlin with Elmine exploring and learning, visiting conferences like Things Con and Re:Publica, while also spending time just hanging out with fun people locally

    Out of comfortzone behind a sewing machine
  • Got to (finally!) visit Gabriela and Ray in Limerick where Elmine and I both presented at 3D Camp at the University of Limerick
    @ the beach
    With Gabriela, Ray and Elmine on an Irish beach
  • Presenting with Ernst and Elmine at Sia’s retirement farewell party, and feeling the lasting impact, emotion, and energy of our work together in Rotterdam 2007-2009, reconnecting to several team members. It is a rare treat to get to see the ripples of a (personal) change process years on like that. I was honored by your invitation, Sia.
    Cocreated Sia’s Lifehack Calendar with party participants
  • Stepped out of a large tendering process that could have provided for 3 years because it felt all wrong, realizing I can’t stomach the opportunists who aren’t really interested in delivering value, just feeding at the trough
  • Quit working on a company I was helping establish, even though it has loads of potential (realistically more than my other activities even), because I needed to free up thinking time and shed energy sinks
  • Worked in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Kazachstan, and Kyrgyzstan, enjoying the differences in stories, experiences, perspectives and outlooks that it provides
    In Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
    Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, against mountains
  • Spent a thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing summer week in a gem of an apartment in Copenhagen with Elmine, just enjoying each other, the sun and the city
  • Organized the Make Stuff That Matters Unconference & BBQ, at our home, bringing friends, clients, peers, family, and strangers together for two exciting days of inspiration, with the outstanding help of the Frysklab team and their mobile FabLab
  • Got to be there with and for friends in good and bad times, which is the definition of being alive and human
  • Taking more time with Elmine to explore exhibits, festivals, such as Gogbot, Dutch Design Week, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 3D Print Canal House, Reina Sofia Museum, Smart New World in Düsseldorf, Ai WeiWei in Berlin etc.
    Ai Wei Wei
    Worked on seeing, noticing more
  • Better balanced long term goals and dreams with actions across quarters of the year, yielding improved results.
  • Worked for the World Bank as a senior consultant / external expert on open data readiness
    At GEGF2014 in Astan
    Presenting in Kazachstan at Global e-Gov Forum
  • Got to celebrate the 3 year existence of the local Enschede FabLab which I helped start, still going strong and having yielded a wide variety of amazing projects
  • Knowing we’ve touched people, and made it possible for others to inspire people, with MSTM, based on the beautiful feedback we got, and seeing the ripples propagate in Denmark, Netherlands and Canada
  • Ending the year with a final dinner at a great Swiss restaurant that is closing, in the excellent company of dear friends

My absolute highlight in 2014 was our third birthday unconference in June, Making Stuff That Matters. Not only because of the energy and joy we got from getting to host such an amazing bunch of people at our home, but also because of the things Elmine and I did in the run up to prepare (in Berlin and Limerick e.g.), the help we got doing that (thanks @trox!), the connections we’ve seen grow from it amongst those we invited, and how it is still creating impact months later where participants have taken their own additional steps around making. It was wonderful to create the place and circumstances in which that could happen. We can’t thank all who attended enough for the gift of their participation.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Last year following my client-turned-friend Ernst Phaff’s lead, I posted a list of things that in 2010 gave me a sense of accomplishment, the Tadaa!-list. As I wrote then “As a ‘knowledge worker’ the boundaries of work have become all but invisible, and over the course of a year I work on so many different things that it is easy to forget I what I actually did. The “TaDaa!”-list is a way of resurfacing the things that happened [..]” and listing for myself what was accomplished, what I enjoyed doing.

Doing this, going through my calendar looking at what happened in the past year, already last year struck me as very useful: you simply forget so much along the way, as you respond to new things, and get inundated with new stuff. In 2011 I worked 2372 hours, way too much to my liking, a number that guarantees I loose track of the details of the things I did, obscuring the accomplishments behind a list of still-to-do’s and things to improve.

I decided then to do this again for 2011 and put it on my ‘yearly review’ task list. So, in no particular order, and sticking to professional things mostly……. Here’s my Tadaa!-list for 2011.

  • The Dutch national government data portalI wrote the plans for in 2010 got formally launched in September 2011, after being in beta since January 2011.
  • I helped write an Open Data Motionfor my home town, and saw it adopted by the City Council nearly unanimously.
  • I helped bring a FabLab to my home town, and had the honour to speak on behalf of the Dutch FabLab Foundation at its official opening. (I must admit to not having used their facilities yet to make something myself, but Elmine sure has)
  • Spent a week working from and sightseeing in Berlin with Elmine, where I also gave a well received talk at the Cognitive Cities Conference, on Spicing Up Your City With Open Government.. It was an inspiring event bringing many new sparks.

    Ton Zijlstra at Cognitive Cities Conference from Cognitive Cities on Vimeo.


  • Edited and published the second edition of the FabYearBook.
  • Made a living for the fourth year being self-employed, while working in what is basically a new market (open data consultancy). Studiously ignored the sensationalist headlines of impending global economic doom, spending energy instead on helping build the structures, scaffolding and systems creating new and alternative ways forward. Sphere of influence and all that Jazz….


  • Started working as Community Steward of the ePSIplatform, creating awareness for open government data around Europe
  • Gave presentations in Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland, Finland, and of course in the Netherlands, on open data mostly
  • Worked a week out of Helsingør and Copenhagen with Elmine, visiting our rockstar-consultant friend Henriette and Thomas, having meetings with various organisations and inspiring people on open data, social media, complexity management, and FabLab
  • Presented at a great Spanish conference on digital citizenship in beautiful Donostia (San Sebastian), where I further explored a train of thought I started at Reboot in 2008 on attitudes and skills in dealing with digital disruption, this time in order for our public institutions to survive, as survive they must albeit changed.
  • Created the OurServices website, showcasing examples of collaborative e-government services, from around Europe
  • Visited our friends Paolo (who turned 40) and Monica in Italy with Elmine, this time without just using their office to write a project proposal like the time before, but simply enjoying hanging out with great people and enjoying the countryside
  • Gave input to a Dutch guide on how to ‘do’ open government data for local governments
  • Did a project together with Elmine for the European Commission, running a video competition for the Digital Agenda Assembly.
  • Enjoyed working for a client in my home town, in the midst of all the travel around Europe. A rare but pleasant treat to be able to cycle to a workshop session, and not taking a plane or train.
  • Did most of the work in putting together the new ePSIplatform portal
  • Took the time to attend Brigitte’s opening of her new osteopathy practice in Switzerland
  • Got to be there for friends in times of need. Thankful they let me be there for them.
  • Sat on the jury of the, that saw 430 entries.
  • Mused about speeding up my actions, extending my range, while taking it very slow for three weeks in the French Alps.
  • Enjoyed the heck out of the e-reader Elmine gave me for my birthday. I lost the life long habit of avid reading for a while in 2010, this got me back into it. Thanks dear.
  • Started to work with Paul, Marc, Frank as a network to land Open Data projects together, and immediately saw it result in collaborating on project proposals
  • Spoke at the EU Ministerial Conference on e-Government in Poznan Poland, on ‘making open data work‘ for government itself.
  • Started working in earnest with Harold, Niels, Erwin, Tony and others, on projects around making sense of complexity.
  • Brought together a dozen Dutch city governments to exchange their experiences on opening up government data, and experimenting together in bringing it forward.
  • Did three sessions at the Open Government Data Camp in Warsaw, one on how open data is an opportunity for local government to reinvent itself, save money and crack complex issues.
  • Got to work with long-time fellow Reboot-friend and co-shareholder of the Coworking Boat PAN, Peter Rukavina on a project for a client. It’s great to work with people like that.
  • I lost 15kg, bringing me back to a weight I haven’t had in 20 years
  • Elmine and I published an e-book “How to Unconference Your Birthday” and sent out special cards to all that attended my Birthday Unconference the year before. We asked the cool people at BuroPony in Rotterdam to do the design. Find the download link in the book’s Facebook page.

    Creating the book and having it in our hands, giving it to all the awesome people who were there in 2010, was so much fun and rewarding. An Epic Sh*t Multiplier, as we called it on my birthday then, and in the book now.

That’s the list. I got to work on cool projects, travelled to new places before returning home, and above all got to work with the people I want to work with. More importantly, 2011 was a year that reinforced the notion that it’s your relationships that count, and that the journey is its own goal. Whether it’s grieving together, celebrating together, or even both at the same time, those are the moments I find intense beauty in being with friends. Onwards!