The acquisition by Microsoft of Skype hasn’t worked out well for the product itself, judging by the level of sighs and complaints I hear whenever Skype is mentioned. So I was glad when longtime blogging connection Phil Wolff pointed me to Appear.in as an alternative. He said he’d been using it for a year or so, as an alternative to Skype.

Appear.in seems very easy to use, and no account is needed. Simply create a sharable link, and send the link to your conversation partners yourself, and you’re all set to talk with up to 4 people. The paid version allows up to 12 people in one call. I intend to use this more from now on.

Appear.in is a Norwegian company started in 2013 as an intern project at Telenor, which is still a minority shareholder, according to Techcrunch’s Crunchbase.

People often ask me how I stay informed, and always seem to know even about smaller initiatives around the topics I work on. Part of that is what I call ‘Radar’. With Radar I automatically collect all the Twitter messages that mention keywords I am interested in, and detect the web addresses they mention. Those web addresses are evaluated on their type (is it a blog, a video, a general site, a presentation, a photo?) and counted as to how often they are mentioned.

runningtotalsradar

Running totals for Radar: found 350k people, mentioning over 1 million URLs

Radar then presents me with overviews of all URLs mentioned on Twitter in the past day, or week, on the key words I follow. This way I find not just the ‘big’ websites, but also the smaller events, initiatives and discussions, that are mentioned by smaller communities. Next to URLs Radar also tracks who is mentioning certain topics, which basically gives me a list of suggestions of who to maybe follow on Twitter, or who’s profile I may want to look at to see if they also blog about the topics I am interested in.

urlmentionsopendata

Most mentioned URLs in 4566 tweets on Open Data in past 24 hours

peoplementioningfablab

The 47 people tweeting about FabLabs today, new people highlighted

What comes out of my Radar then may get added to my feedreader, or to my bookmark collection, or to my notes collection in Evernote. Radar is the serendipity antenna that scoops up a wide variety of things. To me, whatever is being mentioned on Twitter is like the froth on the waves: it is not all that meaningful by itself, but shows me where there is movement and energy of interaction. That points me to the places and people that make up the wave below the froth. Which is where the significant info is.

Radar at first was a bunch of php scripts I wrote myself that ran on my laptop and which I started manually in sequence. My coding skills aren’t all that great though, so ultimately I asked Flemming Funch to clean things up for me. That meant he coded the scripts from scratch, with only my original outline of what I wanted remaining. Now it runs permanently on my VPS with a basic web front-end for me to explore the output (see screenshots).

Last week I gave a presentation at the second international conference on digital citizenship CICD in Donostia/San Sebastian, Spain. During two days topics like on-line political communication, e-government, grassroots activism, open government, open government data, transparency and participation were discussed. I was asked to give a presentation from a slightly different perspective: to speak about attitudes, skills and tools in the networked age.
Basically this presentation was an extension and a more detailed version of a much more general presentation I gave at Reboot 10 in 2008 (reboot page, video), where I talked about the societal effects of internet and mobile communications as infrastructures.
This time around I started where my 2008 talk ended, and put it squarely in the context of the citizen-government relationship. Digital disruption is hitting our government structures, much like it has hit publishing and the music industry. How do we transition to a new way of doing things, fitting with the influences and metaphors that new infrastructures give us, and how do we make the transition without going to too long periods of chaos, where we already demolished and lost trust in the old, but haven’t figured out how to do or scale up the new yet?
As internet takes the network metaphor as core-feature, and as individuals (not locations) are the nodes in that network, and therefore the new unit of organization, I explored the attitudes we need to deal with this changing more complex society, and also talked about the skills that help us express those attitudes in our actions, and the tools with which we apply those skills. Because attitudes, skills and tools at hand are defining aspects of what humans can do, and humans are our unit of organization. I will be making a blogpost with a more complete outline of the talk, but for now have a look at the embedded slides. The slides contain the transcript of my text, so you can get the full version of what I talked about in Spain, not just the pictures.