Capoeira Development

A weekend with friends for me only reaches conclusion after the pictures have been edited and placed online. The process takes some time but also allows/forces me to relive it. This time the process has been further prolonged because I have to wait until somewhere next week to pick up my developed film.

Last weekend in Wapse with friends was quite awesome, here are some stills:
Flying bird

Pasture Batido

Look up

Heated Argument

Daily life in София

It’s nice to have friends who are pushing their bounds photographically to try and improve their skill and to see them improve leaps and bounds as a result of that.

One such friend is Mony and during his yearly holiday to Bulgaria he has produced a very nice set of street photography out of Sofia:

Picture by Mony Nedkov from the set Sofia.

For me it’s of particular interest to see pictures of a city neighboring my love Istanbul. I have just this one picture I would call a good street photography shot. The effort it takes to get even halfway decent shots is staggering.

On a different photograpic note, I’ve brought away the 120 film I shot this weekend for development. I hope the repairs on my Yashica worked out and the pictures are in focus. Shooting manual metered medium format film is a very different experience and pace than I’m used to from my 350D and something I could very well get used to. The digital set is still being edited and should go (partly) up tonight.

Coworker.nl — Map of coworking spots in the Netherlands

Some ideas start out small and then grow larger than you thought imaginable. Coworker.nl is one such idea. This is a write up about how it came to be and how you can build your own.

As a wandering free agent, you end up in strange places and if you’re stuck somewhere, it could be useful to get some work done in the neighborhood. I was not the only person with this problem and I couldn’t find a good WiFi map either, so I thought we could start something up.

A conversation about coworking on Jaiku quickly turned into the idea to gather those locations onto a Google Map and see if we could make that work. So talking back and forth a bit, I made a custom Google Map and invited people to add their offices with drop-in coworking spaces on it. This took off a bit and we had a functioning coworking map of cool companies and startups in the Netherlands willing to host a nomadic worker. Robert had the domain coworker.nl lying around and he pasted the code for the map on that domain and Coworker.nl was born.

After some time, other people also started to add coffee shops with WiFi with a coffee cup icon and a public utility was born.

Coworker.nl - Coworking spots in The Netherlands

Attention

A lot of people have seen the map by now (22’000 and counting) and I have never launched a project as small as this which got so much attention in so little time. Robert and myself didn’t have any problems getting this featured in various publications and even in a national newspaper. This says something about the immediate appeal of a simple geo-visual application and about the climate in which we launched this.

coworking.pdf (1 page)

Independent web workers are seen as the vanguard of the hot Dutch new economy. Small shops, people setting up office in lunchrooms and coffee shops are seen as a ‘new’ trend. These workers also are in need of more flexible office space solutions (of which there are precious few in the Netherlands). Our map provides a handy visualization of this trend, it exactly fits a niche and appeals to people.

Values and Misconceptions

What differentiates this map from most other WiFi maps and other custom maps and geoapplications is its incredibly narrow focus based on a shared set of goals and values. The initial participants in the map all know on a near instinctive level what is meant by coworking. They understand the problem of needing a place to work and are willing to share their offices.

A lot of outsiders who find the map do not really get it and just a link to the Coworking wiki is not nearly enough to explain the shared values and history this map is built upon. Some people think we are an exchange for short-term office space, others want to sell their office space on a per day basis to make an extra buck. All interesting tangential applications of this map, and it’s nice that people are running with it, but we should stay true to the original goal.

The Tools

We should be really thankful of Google for providing these powerful and easy to use tools like Google Maps which we can use to hack something together in literally no time at all. We could have built our own database and map editor etc. but that would have taken some days if not weeks and would have greatly reduced the appeal of a small project such as this.

The fact that we could paste some minimal code to Jaiku and invite people to edit the map made all te difference. One additional step which would help in the management would be to add some kind of versioning or backup facility so if somebody accidentily deletes the entire map, I could easily restore it to a previous version.

The Data

The data is available as a KML file to anybody who wants it (feel free to take it, distributed backup is the best kind) and I think we’re willing to publish it under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license but I would appreciate it if you let us know if you’re going to build something.

Build your own local

Because this is so simple to setup local versions have already been made (Coworking São Paulo by Michel Zappa) by others but the vision is to eventually cover the entire world both with maps and locations one country at a time, so to get this started here’s a small recipe how to set this up:

  1. Create a custom Google Map
  2. Call out to your local scene on Twitter, Jaiku and whatnot to ask if they’re interested and if they have spaces they know.
  3. Invite these people to edit your Google Map, be sure to allow them to invite others as well to help your map grow virally.
  4. Get a (short and memorable) domain and paste the embed iframe code of the Google Map onto the domain for better visibility. You can also copy our CSS and JavaScript for extra ease.
  5. Let it grow. You don’t have to go about it too agressively, in our case we built it to scratch our own itch. Any value others derive from it is a plus.

Once enough countries have their own map, we may be able to combine them all into one massive global coworking map, for those people hopping countries.

Tangents

There is some stuff which this map is not really about but wich bears talking about anyway:

The fact that the map also houses coffee shops with WiFi and a place to sit may not really be about coworking, but these are spots where you can get some work done and they show that there was no high quality WiFi wap for webworkersin the Netherlands. I expect this is the same in other countries.

Working area

There are quite some commercial spots available with meeting rooms and desks which you can lease by the day or some other period. These are not exactly in the coworking spirit, but they do serve a need, so for now we have allowed these to be on the map as well.

As I already wrote there’s a shortage of office space which you can lease flexibly. The map could be used to show policy makers and realtors in which regions of the Netherlands there’s demand for flexible office solutions and in the future we may add a vetted exchange to the map to help freelancers and small companies such as ourselves to get suitable office space.

Most of the people on the map are either free agents, people working in small companies, startups or a combination of these. So that way the map also serves as a list of interesting companies and people in the Netherlands who are active in the web scene and who have an open attitude. I think that is also a valuable thing to have for a nascent scene such as ours.

Night Store

My friendly neighborhood night store will gladly give me a plastic bag for every item of shopping I buy from them. This is pretty thoughtful and at the same time also pretty short-sighted.
Now there seem to be some places in the world that have banned plastic bags though I’m not sure which ones. It is a pretty contentious issue. It seems to be difficult or something but it’s not exactly clear why that is. We’re one of the technically most advanced societies in the world and we can’t live without plastic bags?

I wasn’t very hungry so instead of my regular döner I got some green pistachio baklava. This stuff is so ridiculously delicious it explodes into pure sugar and pistachio in your mouth and it fills you up pretty fast. I don’t get why you would buy mass-produced candy from the supermarket. If you want to get fat, why not get fat eating good stuff?

Now if  only I could find a place around here that sells künefe, things would get really crazy.


Picture by elifayse

Evaluate

I’ve been blogging in English for a while now and while the stats show a steady amount of readers, I haven’t really had any comments on anything really.

What do you think about the switch to English? Writing English regularly at least has made me acutely aware of how much I still have to learn about the language and how much I need to develop a feel for it.

World Press

A while back we went to the World Press Photo 2008 exhibition in Utrecht with some capoeiras and looked at the pictures many of us had already seen after the first announcement.

World Press Photo

I had prepared a bit for the day by listening to the photographers’ commentaries on their pictures. As is the case with many artists, the artist should not try to explain his art but in some cases the commentary really adds a lot to the picture.

I would recommend Platon about his portrait of Poetin, John Moore about the Bhutto assassination and Brent Stirton about the preservation of gorillas.

A World That Donates As One

Barack’s visit to Europe again makes clear how important it is to people over here who exactly is the POTUS. A lot of people in Europe are interested and invested in American politics and for good reason if you see the effect the American’s actions can have on the rest of the world.

Polls show that Europeans overwhelmingly support Barack Obama and would like to see him in office as opposed to McCain. This makes it extra annoying that our power to influence the process is severely limited. American elections are in a large part dominated by money and the raising of it. Unfortunately non-Americans are excluded from making donations. Something about foreigners not being allowed to elect the American President.

This is of course stupid. The people electing the president are still the Americans. Seeing as campaign financing has been regarded as a form of free speech, don’t people from outside the USA have the right to speak their minds on this matter? I’m sure that if Trichet would look under the sofa in his office, he could find a spare €50’000’000 —per the wishes of the European electorate— to give Obama’s campaign that extra push.

Wireless typing

A lot of raves for the new line of Apple Keyboards also from me. Cris has been so kind to import one for me from London.

This keyboard has improved my workplace conditions massively. It’s a pleasure to sit down at my desk and start typing on it. I’m currently pairing it with my old Logitech MX500 mouse but that is bound to go wireless as well. I may be tempted to haul the whole installation on the road but I don’t want to end up looking like this.

Package

Now I just need to find something to prop up my Macbook much much higher. I’m currently putting it on a pile of UX books, which could be a sign I need to increase my reading speed.

About the sizing issue. The Bluetooth keyboard’s size is perfect. The layout is nearly identical to my Macbook keyboard’s layout, which means I have no switching costs going back and forth. A numerical keypad I would hardly use anyway, and the six buttons above the arrows are easily replaced with the Mac key chords.

Socio-locational disconnection

I’ve been tremendously enjoying the stuff Jan Chipchase writes on his blog both current and digging deep into his archives. A dream job if ever there was one.

His current piece is especially pertinent as the iPhone 3G release with builtin GPS and accompanied unlimited data plans will herald the location based revolution. Many of my friends say that they do not want to broadcast where they are and know where their friends are most of the time. That they would rather get together using premediated consensual communication.

I think in user research you have to adopt the same maxim that everybody lies maybe unknowingly or unwillingly. It remains to be seen how many people will not succumb to the temptation of total information. Broadcasting your location, but even more attractive knowing where your loved ones are at any given moment. The same initial reaction to mobile telephony didn’t prevent everybody I know from getting a mobile phone.

What this will do to the mystery of travel and unknown locations is a whole different question asked by Babak. I think unequality in economic, communications and political circumstances will always keep parts of the world shrouded in mystery.