Week 219

A massively busy week this last, and going on a probably well deserved surfing trip to Bilbao next week so expect things to quiet down a bit here.

Monday was spent at the Dutch Game Garden doing maintenance on PLAY Pilots and brainstorming for a pitch.

Tuesday I spent the day coaching students of the HvA develop their concepts for the course City Discourse. In this course students think about how information technology and open data can enrich the urban experience.

Lex lays down the Apps for Amsterdam

Wednesday was the Apps for Amsterdam awards ceremony. I wrote about the proceedings leading up to that event. The event was packed with a great vibe of appreciation for developers and a celebration of open data. We should do it more often if only for that and we probably are. Bigger and better things are forthcoming.

Rather full house at the Apps for Amsterdam awards ceremony

Thursday was wholly spent making presentations for firstly a Virtueel Platform expert meeting on Cities, Games and Data and for a break-out session at the What Design Can Do conference on data driven design. Both presentations were well received and with some added polish they may see wider dissemination.

Cooped up to talk about Gamed, Cities and Data

Presenting in the Schouwburg

Finally Friday was closed having drinks over at our friends from Bits of Freedom celebrating their new office space.

Update: A great write-up of the City_Play_Data expert meeting was posted at The Mobile City.

Week 218

Things are speeding up and these are taking too much time so I won’t know if I can keep it up. Still I think there is a lot of value in creating an archive of our work. And I think these have netted the most consistently positive response compared to other blogposts here.

This is the one not of this week, but of the one before (starting May 16th with me being sick for a day). A lot of stuff happened but most if it wasn’t directly work pertaining or publicly relatable.

ARCAM debate about huge amount of derelicts in the Netherlands

Alice Taylor’s lecture at the HKU faculty in Hilversum was inspiring stuff. I don’t think many students get it, but as an entrepreneur in the same area her work resonates profoundly and she looks poised to pull it off.

Friday we had a launch meeting for Statlas at the Fluxility offices. Statlas should be in public beta by June 6th.

Coffee Magic

I witnessed a discussion yesterday that stated that for creative industries to catch root in a certain area there is the need for trendy coffee shops. While that is a necessary condition indeed, it is not sufficient. The coffee produced in said shops also needs to be of excellent quality or at least miles better than whatever most stores in the Netherlands are pouring. The lovely folks over at BERG also have a post about it.

In Utrecht studio proceedings are supported by the Village which may quite well pour the best coffee in the Netherlands. This is how they do it:

Fitbit lost and findings

I lost my Fitbit today. This was bound to happen and I’m surprised I managed to hold on to it as long as I did. So one minute I was getting off the tram and the next I didn’t have it anymore.


Some findings:

The fitbit as a hardware device is very well designed. It works, it’s polite and you don’t have to do anything really. It’s quite easy to get into a habit with it. The website has some glitches and takes a whiles to fully propagate updates here and there, but I have the feeling that’s improving. Everybody I show one wants to get one.

On a negative bent: the entire premise of the devise is offensively US-centric. Everybody here in the Netherlands is somewhat peeved that it does not ‘do’ biking. This is of course understandable when a device has the cultural assumption in it that you take your car to a mall, you plod through said mall and then get back into your car. For genuine global appeal these devices need to be more adaptable still.

Finally: my fitbit was already showing some tears in the plastic and it’s far too easy to lose. I’m too wrapped up in my day to day activities to ‘take care’ of yet another device. It’s all I can do to keep my iPhone in one piece as it is. Also it being so easy to lose or break, needing to get another one at $99 is too convenient a profit strategy. I think I’ll pass.

Week 217

Lots of writing last week. We submitted the maguro project as a practice report to the DiGRA conference. Also wrote a bit of damage control on the Apps for Amsterdam contest regarding the implications of a certain submission: “Dude! Where’s my car?” Decisions made border on the ludicrous and it falls upon us as Hack de Overheid to choose the side of sanity. Finally I punched out some meta-writing about the conundrums of writing (or trying to write) for larger audiences: “Why write about games?”

Real estate wise it looks like our space in the Volkskrantgebouw may double and we will be able to expand our own activities and invite in friends. That will be awesome and add greatly to the dynamic of the studio. Stay tuned!

Tuesday saw the long expected completion of the Dufarge web store, a favor to our kind friends —nay! design superheroes— over at Buro Pony. Quite pleased that we managed to pull that one off in the in between hours.

L'Equipe Esthetique

Wednesday we had a Foursquare meetup here in Amsterdam with Naveen of Foursquare fame and a bunch of local enthousiasts. Lots of ideas still to do cool stuff with Foursquare but not much time.

Roof terrace interview

Thursday we gave an interview about the upcoming Statlas launch due soon to be online over at our friends of the Stimuleringsfonds. After that it was an open night at many venues for Creative Amsterdam and I went on a tour d’Amsterdam with Edial and we hit: Grrr, Foam and steim among other venues.

Freak Bionic Hand

Also some robots, just for good measure:
The Metal Horde

Robot to monitor building collapse due to NZ subway

Why write about games?

Some of my own misgivings about whether to write about games and related phenomena or not are reflected in the critique of game criticism at Lost Garden.

I have done some effort to try to raise discourse about games in such publications as Bashers, nrc.next and VN with mixed results and many frustrations.

I have a (multi-media focused) computer science degree, I develop games at Hubbub, I have played games on and off for the past 20 years, I am a self-taught designer practicing interaction design and product management and I dabble in media philosophy/theory. In short I think I may be somewhat qualified to write about the subject.

This is also what Dan says:

We need writers who are more deeply educated in the art, craft and science of games.

I also think I have something to say about the relationship between reality and games, how games should draw more from reality (not the other way around), about the potential of games to become a more potent expressive medium than anything we have ever seen before and about society’s role to welcome and channel this development correctly.

Quoting Dan again:

Goal: Advance the art and science of games. Simply looking at what exists is not enough. Instead, we leverage what exists in order to to ask what is next and create the conceptual language and tools that get us there.


My biggest dilemma in pursuing writing is that my time is limited and I may want to spend most of that time making games not writing about them. There is a large class of people (writers, journalists, academics) whose work actually is just writing but most of them have no experience with the craft which Dan identifies as a weakness. Whether it is because that lack of experience or because of the lowest common denominator approach dominant in Dutch publishing, most writing on games in the Netherlands makes me cringe.

My second dilemma is that any writing for a major periodical needs to dumb the content down to a level that it kills the possibility for any meaningful discourse. Some publications welcome pieces full of expletives to appeal to a younger audience, others reduce any thought to a sound byte to cater to the shortest of attention spans.

Another dilemma is that writing properly such that I myself would like to read it and doing the necessary contextual research for a piece takes an inordinate amount of time. Time (days upon days really) I could spend developing a game that has more substance, relevance and value than a piece of writing that will be in the litter the next day.

And finally there is the dilemma what kind of medium has the largest impact, whether to write in Dutch or English, to aim for print or online or forego writing for other ways of making a point such as debates and presentations.

Way forward

I talked about this with friends in media and publishing on and off to see whether writing has benefits that make it worth the effort. Everybody agrees that writing in and of itself is definitely not worth it, but reaching a wider audience can have benefits that make it worthwhile.

I am going to keep at it because that is the responsibility of an engaged developer: making sure that any work you produce falls upon fertile soil and that your future work is appreciated not only on its merits but also on its and your contributions to the wider discourse.

Now remains the task of seeing what it is I should write about first and where it will have the largest punch. Your suggestions welcome.

Publics and Digitals

Adam Greenfield’s keynote at Cognitive Cities prompted several thoughts about the nature of public space.

1. There is no public space online. There are expectations of public space by people using online services, but each service is very strictly controlled either by a company with a bottom line or by a (semi-)government agency that is difficult to make accountable.

2. Online is permeating the offline world. The built environment is getting digital. Our behaviours are increasingly controlled by systems and structures built out of information and code.

3. Through that mechanism the values that are inherent in online services (such as corporate control, chokeable infrastructures) impose themselves upon the offline world and upon the public space that we were accustomed to.

4. Public space came about through public discourse around behaviour, expectations, rights and justice in our environments and was codified in social practice and law. A similar codification is taking place in the digital realm, but now in code which is often arbitrarily drafted and rigidly applied.

5. Discourse on this subject is ill-informed and superficial both in policy makers, the public and in whatever remains of the fourth estate. Discussions are easily hijacked to ends that serve particular interests but not any overall good.

So how do we fix this trend? How do we inform people at scale? Your ideas welcome.

Week 216

Sarpa di Poli

Last week got off to a good start with victory dinner by team maguro. Good times were had. Plans for world domination were forged.

Wrote up the project we did for the Amsterdam UIT Bureau: Foursquare map display for Amsterdam nightlife. We are very happy to have been able to do this project and we look forward to its debut in the ticket shop.

I also published the slides for my talk at /dev/haag: Slides for ‘Fixing reality with data visualization’

And the week was closed off with @ouroffice drinks on the roof terrace. Odds are good that we may be expanding our floor surface within the building, parts of which are already spoken for, but others still open. If you have an idea or would like to join us, do get in touch.

Roughing it on the roof

That Friday however did not conclude the week. Saturday we had a workshop as internet experts with VOLUME architecture magazine (co-organized by our friends from VURB). They are planning to do an issue on ‘Internet of Things’ though the internet’s ramifications for architecture go much much further than that most practical layer.

Week 215

Is it Wednesday already? We’re a bit in a production down cycle, but you wouldn’t notice for the lack of administrativa that needs dealing with.

Skylines huddle

Blogged about project potosi: Interactive Infographic for de Groene Amsterdammer also blogged about hermosillo: Mapping voter sentiment in the Netherlands

We did a bunch of writing among which some proposals for academic conferences where we are going to drop some knowledge & praxis.

Culiacan and Statlas are moving forward at a steady pace.


A large part of last week was spent preparing the presentation for /dev/haag ambitiously titled “Fixing Reality with Data Visualization”. The slides of which are forthcoming in long form.

@bedatadriven presenting on MapReduce at /dev/Haag

This week we will be at Mediamatic’s Data Visualization Barcampt, probably presenting some new work and also at a workshop hosted by VURB and VOLUME with architects and programmers. If you see us at either, do say hi!