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 as an alternative. He said he’d been using it for a year or so, as an alternative to Skype. 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. 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.


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.


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


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.

There has been quite a bit of response on my posting where I thought out loud about a search tool to help me find on-line traces of people I met face to face, so that I can follow up.

A large part of the comments seem to implicitly assume the creation of an on-line service where you type in the name of the person you are searching for, and that then comes up with the results from different sources.

Lilia Efimova voices her worry that it should not be too easy to combine all the traces of somebody on-line. There might be a very good reason after all to keep traces seperated. In Lilia’s case that would be the division between private and business life. Not that she thinks it should not be possible to combine those traces, but because it should take some effort to do so. I agree with that. That effort is the investment you make into forming a relationship, and when a relationship grows and deepens it becomes easier to track and interpret traces, as you start seeing what is there between the lines.

Therefore what I envision is not something like the where the one being sought maintains a list of all public traces, nor is it any other one-stop-shop like tool.
I simply need a tool to help me search. I get tired of having to go through many different search screens for each tool and platform in which I want to find if someone has a profile there, filling in the same information each time.

I do not mind that it takes time to get to know somebody, I do not mind that traces might be deliberately hard to connect and that I need to invest in a relationship to see the whole picture. I do mind that the time I spend filling in search forms might be time spent on building those relationships.

So it is precisely as Barbara Kieslinger says in the comments, I still want to be the one searching and deciding myself.
I want a search aid that is completely dumb, unlike the, and does not remember or register anything, nor shares or republishes search results. But a search tool I control that I can give what I already know and then looks where I point it to look. It’s just plain old search really, that can dig as deep as the current level of trust between me and the person the search revolves around allows.

As I do after each conference I am currently busy finding people on-line and adding them to my ‘social filter’ after BlogTalk Reloaded. Basically that means finding their on-line presences and adding them to my feedreader, and connecting to them in different environments such as Plazes, Skype, Flickr, OpenBC/Xing, LinkedIn, 43People etc. Weaving them into my social web so to speak.

Weaving a social web. Image by Pandiyan V, license CC BY NC

I don’t mind to spend the time to think of who I actually want to stay connected to. That after all is part of digesting the event I have visited and part of weaving new relationships. This can be time-consuming but that is not to be helped (except take better notes during an event). For instance today I have spent some time to find out who Marc Barrot is. He seemed familiar from a previous BlogTalk, seamed to know Paolo pretty well, and we had fun conversations. I have looked at his nametag a number of times, resolved to remember his name, but back home I drew a blank. Googling around a bit for him in combination with what I did know about him soon revealed his name.

What I do mind is how much time it actually takes to preserve a bit of context around having met somebody, by trying to find out if somebody is part of an environment where that context can be preserved. When I first started doing that it was fun as sort of a detective story, but nowadays I find it simply is too time consuming, and it really sounds like something a tool can do for me just as well.

Hence my question. Would there be a way to create a search agent that takes the name of a person you’ve met? Ideally you would provide such a search agent with your own account data of all the environments you are part of that you want to have searched. And then it comes back with a number of likely search results that might contain any or all of the following for instance:

Possible blogs of that person
Possible Flickr Feed, or 23 feed
Possible Skypename
Possible IM names
Profile in
Profile in
Profile at
Possible Plazes account
Possible account

So that I could have a look if it indeed is the person I am looking for, and then connect or subscribe. Connecting and subscribing would be manual again. Only I can send out personal messages, only I decide what to add to the feedreader.
Any suggestions, or a sudden inspiration to start coding?
Or any stories on how you do this yourself?

In my earlier posting on information strategy I discussed how I look at the way I filter information. This posting I will talk about the tools I use to filter incoming information, select, process and share it.
Let’s have a look at the basic picture I drew last time.

Filtering information

Of course this picture doesn’t show only the filtering. The arrows for Actions and Sharing imply that some processing and output is taking place as well.

In terms of functionality it looks more like this:

On the left hand side you see the different input channels. I read and select from that for both processing and filing. The output of the processing results in taking actions (decisions, taking stuff into client projects etc.), or in sharing through the different channels mentioned.
Let’s have a look at the tools I use.

For blogs I use the RSS reader Lektora
E-mail I read with Thunderbird and Gmail (private), and Outlook Exchange (business)
Podcasts come to me through iPodder and I listen to them with my iRiver H10 MP3 player.
Bookmarks I collect from and Furl, through my RSS reader Lektora
Photo media come from Flickr, through RSS again.
I also routinely take photo’s of workshop sheets and sticky notes, which I load into my personal wiki (on which more later)
Conversations take place via Skype and GoogleTalk, and through IM in Trillian (I use IRC, Yahoo, Icq, MSN, AIM through Trillian). The reason I use all of these applications together is to increase reach. I also use a webcam for some of these applications.
Other conversations take place face to face, or via regular (cell) phone. Of all these conversations I take notes, either in my personal wiki, or pen and paper, to be transferred to the wiki later.

What I select from all my reading, listening and talking (which as I said in my previous post I do based on pattern detection, and current relevant questions I have) gets processed, for which I use three tools I am extremely fond of:
Wikka Wiki, which runs locally on my laptop on a local webserver. The wiki is the one place I use for working out ideas, filing, keeping notes, and the like.
For writing blogpostings and other items to be published on-line I use Qumana (the original full version, not the current Qumana Light Edition which is very good in it’s own right, but lacks the library and work pad function I need badly for my writing in progress. I am not an ‘in the moment’ blogger). Qumana has a very easy drop pad to select morsels of information, and allows me to post to any or all of the 8+ blogs I write in.
For searching outside Wikka I use the Copernic desktop search tool (which indexes the archived RSS as well).
Next to these three great tools I use Picasa and Irfanview for managing photo’s.

For sharing I use Movable Type and WordPress (both on my own server, as well as elsewhere), sometimes Blogger, for blog posting. Different Wikka Wiki installations, Media Wiki, and proprietary platforms for different CoPs. for sharing bookmarks, and Flickr for uploading photo’s. E-mail of course (same as inputs)
Work related things end up, apart from company blog and company account, in a Sharepoint Portal which forms the back-office of our company.
All this next to conversations (again through the same tools as the inputs), presentations (PowerPoint) and documents (Office, OpenOffice)
Now we have seen my view on information filtering, and the tools I use, I will spend one or more coming postings on my daily routine.
In the mean time I am curious to hear more about your way of working. Differences with what I’ve described thusfar, similarities etc: I’d like to hear more about it.
To me understanding how we are reshaping our information strategies from what they were before blogging/social software/web2.0 is key in explaining others what they might do about what is perceived as information overload.