Week 288: settling in and Munich

Coffee station if anybody fancies a cup

Monday I was given a Clever coffee maker and a Hario grinder to be able to make slow coffees at the office. Thanks Kars and Lea for being so attentive. I also made a start moving my books over but more and more having a professional physical library is feeling like a huge dead weight.

I would like to have these books in digital form but I’m sure as hell not going to pay for them all again at ebook markups. No way in hell. Bittorrent seems like a better option.

We’re very proud of Beestende being a game that actually does what it promises and we submitted it to the Dutch Game Awards.

A trailer for a reality show that I participated in about a year ago was released under the title Heetsel. Doing anything for tv or tv-like media feels intensely surreal and judging from the final edit that surreality is conveyed quite well by the delivered product.

I published the video and brief write-up of my NEXT Berlin talk about love and gamification over at Hubbub.

From the 14th floor the Alps are visible

On Wednesday I did random administrative stuff and prepped my visit to Munich the next day.

Munich is relaxed

On Friday I had coffee with Chris Eidhof at the new Barn which is a stunning large venue with a roaster and a very large coffee desk. The coffee is the same quality we’re used to but it’s policies are a bit more restrictive. I won’t talk about the online tumult caused by this, but I hope they can sort it out quickly and then focus again on what they do best: brewing awesome coffee.

Nice place but it could use a touch of warmth

And finally I had a cup with Mustafa at the Five Elephant. Mustafa is an all-star programmer who has recently moved to Berlin to build a startup. Another too little publicized —soon to be— success story in the local scene.

OMG it's full of kites!

PIVOT over Berlin

I biked over tonight to see the installation PIVOT by Jacob Kirkegaard at the leap in Berlin before it finishes tomorrow.

You can read what the author wrote and see his or my pictures. It is a very nicely done curved projection from the Fernsehturm with recorded sound from the pivot mechanics of that same tower. Impressive and imposing.

PIVOT by Jacob Kirkegaard


What struck me most was that the whole thing seems to move so very slowly, deceptively so. When you allow yourself to get engrossed with one part of the video, one part of Berlin before you know it you have lost track of where you were and the entire thing has moved on. So much of Berlin to see in there.

Tomorrow it’s off to the opening of the Casey Reas show at DAM.

Week 287: kohi, praxis

Work on the Pigs continues though my part is sort of finished now. The rest of the team is very busy getting the thing into the stable.

Toddy's office

On Tuesday I dropped by Open Tech School to do a bit of Python coaching. The entire week I spent a great many hours on kohi getting both the iPhone client and the django server into usable shape. It has advanced to the point where I am using it regularly on the go and it works without too many hickups.

Having a proper wall is rather nice

I also wrote the new services overview for Monster Swell. A realign had been in order for a while now.

On Friday Dirk van Oosterbosch dropped by Praxis. A good Amsterdam friend and a notorious hardware hacker.

Also the German net community wants to do something about the Leistungsschutzrecht which is a truly ridiculous piece of legislation. My response to their petition:

So we get to pay a €1 premium to do our own pour over.

Make your own ChariTea station

Hacking Dutch Parliament

I just pulled out this stuff from my weeknote into a separate post because I think it merited it.

Hackers and makers in Dutch parliament to build Apps for Democracy

I was already in the Hague Saturday when the event that prompted my visit happened: we held Apps voor Democratie, a Hack de Overheid hackathon in the Dutch parliament building on invitation by the chairwoman Gerdi Verbeet of our parliament. For this event they also for the first time opened most parliamentary proceedings.

The hackathon also has a talk track with @sywert, @wassilahachchi, @palinuro

Gerdi Verbeet closing off the day

I cannot stress how nice it was to be welcomed into the highest institution of the Netherlands and then hear that institution say that they realize now that openness with their data is the way to go. The atmosphere of the entire day was incredibly positive and uplifting. This event has been a world premier and has set a high bar. But don’t let that stop ups from doing even better.

dConstruct on the future, progress and play

I didn’t make it out to dConstruct which I’m a bit torn about. I’ve been to the conference some three times and htis year other priorities trumped it and going to conferences in general. But the program this year was even more stellar than regular years. Seeing either Ben Hammersley, Tom Armitage or James Burke (!) present would be worth the ticket price alone without exaggerating a lot.

When the theme ‘Playing with the Future’ was announced I was already thinking that Paul Virilio should feature in it. Can somebody confirm to me whether he has been referenced at all? Too often designers put their belief wholesale into the notion of progress and a heavy-weight counterpoint to that thinking would be more or less essential.

And best of all was hearing from a distance about Tom Armitage’s presentation which seemed to be really good and focuses on the same things we do in our practice: play and making.

As fellow game makers that very notion is at the heart of many of the things we do and it is a talk I will definitely be catching on the conference recordings which are already online.

Week 286: Amsterdam visit, programming lessons and hacking parliament from within

A massively eventful week that for me took place mostly in Amsterdam where I had tons of catching up to do after a holiday absence of I believe over two months. In between moving offices and traveling, work on kohi moved on apace. We may have something usable by a slightly wider audience somewhere in the next week.

Step into my office baby!

On Tuesday I took the train to Amsterdam and landed at our Amsterdam offices to catchup with Lex Slaghuis and friends about the current state of Open State and upcoming events.

Tuesday was also my sixth twitterversary:

Wednesday I had planned to give a programming lesson. I dropped by at Johan Schaap‘s offices to prepare some stuff and also managed to finally make it to the Stadsbranderij Noord (in our office building) where Kees Kraakman has been brewing the finest coffees of Amsterdam for the past couple of months.

Finally made it to Kees's epic coffee

I pulled something together based on my presentation at the last Hack de Overheid and the tutoring I’ve been doing in Berlin at Open Tech School. The event I made on Gidsy for that sold out pretty quickly and Peer Reach (thanks Zlatan!) offered to let me use their offices, so that came together rather rapidly. On a side note: big data and semantics related startups seem to be statistically overrepresented in Amsterdam right now.

Today's (fourth) office

The evening itself went by in a flurry of code and learning. I decided to use Javascript because that runs in everybody’s browsers and there is a readily available graphical environment to work with: Processing.js. There were quite some snags, but everybody managed to work through the exercises and claimed to have learned a lot.

I really enjoyed giving the class and I mostly wanted to know how much interest there would be for something like that in Amsterdam. Seeing as it sold out rather quickly and that everybody I mention this to says that they too would like to participate, it seems that interest is about as high as in other European countries, but that nobody is doing something yet. I’m strongly considering pursuing this further and create something more sustainable. If that is something you would be interested in, get in touch with me.

‘Black as Death’ the way coffee should be drunk

Thursday was spent in Utrecht where the awesome people of the Village smothered me with great coffee and merchandise. Always a pleasure to hang out in their store and see their enterprise maturing. Kars and I spent the day discussing strategies past and future for Hubbub and we managed to get the entire team together to celebrate the delivery of Beestenbende with a glass of champagne.

That same night I had the pleasure to catchup with most of the rest of Amsterdam’s hackers at the Hackers and Founders meetup.

On Friday I caught up with my agent Tessa Sterkenburg of the Next Speaker about digital things and where the current attention of the market is focused. It seems that our thinking is —as always— a bit ahead of the curve which may make it somewhat difficult to market, but we would not want to be anywhere else.

I quickly visited the Humans next door who are working on their own very nice health tracking app. Then it was another visit to the Open Coop, a visit to my accountant, some work at my old office and then off to the Hague to celebrate the graduation of up and coming GIS engineer Simeon Nedkov.

Then on Saturday we were in the Hague to do a hackathon in Dutch parliament. More on that in a separate post. And Sunday it was back in the train to Berlin.

Week 285: dots connected, games demoed, book proposals written, programming taught, apps prototyped

I’ll include here Hubbub’s two reasons for celebration which were also reasons for me to celebrate and I’ll add a third in a bit. These really are the weeks when a lot of stuff is happening, being built and delivered. Not that much time for idle talk and reflection, though that too will return.

I also booked my ticket to Australia for the end of October. I’m flying in on Melbourne via Beijing and flying out of Sydney some three weeks later. I always thought I had to see the economic miracle of China for myself, so I’ll be stopping over there for a couple of days before going on serious surfing/hiking/diving in Oz.

Bike parking norms

I also launched an activity on Gidsy to teach programming to absolute beginners which —I am glad to say— has been fully booked by now. Strangely enough this is a topic that is massively underrepresented in the Netherlands while in other countries there are groups popping up left and right. I hope to play some part in spreading knowledge of programming, but I cannot do this by myself and it should spread out to be a wider movement.

Thursday afternoon I spent two and a half hours outputting two and a half thousand words for the book I’m planning to write on the future of client based creative work. I believe this is a topic that does not get enough attention or love from the people who are active in this conversation. There are still a lot of people who have not made the transition from client work into product work and that kind of work will probably always exist. I think it is time to redeem working for clients and show a way to do it that maintains both dignity and fun.

That same night I went to the iOS meetup in Berlin and presented a sneak peek of Beestenbende to my colleagues iOS programmers. I was glad to see that our app was well received by those present.

And Friday finally we had a full on integration of the Pig Chase game running remotely from the Berlin studio to Utrecht. That was a pretty difficult nut to crack and very nice to finally have working. You don’t see a lot of games doing stuff with real-time video and remote real-time action because it’s pretty damn difficult. Fortunately that is our recipe for broad succes: pick difficult problems and solve them properly.

Moving a dot remotely, real-time video, real-time controls

Then I dropped by at my friends over at HIIG where they were taping yet another radio show about the internet:
Tame and lame discussion about the internet as the Germans are wont to do

And finally I rode with the Berlin Critical Mass on Friday night. Quite the experience and I’ll be looking to repeat that soon again.
Seeing this again but now with a hundred Critical Mass cyclists

I spent most of Saturday afternoon tutoring Python as part of the Open Tech School workshop to get people into programming. That was very fun and utterly draining.

Teaching python to the multitudes

Then after spending the day teaching people to program with a dangerously low blood sugar level I moved over most of my stuff from Adalbertstraße to Oranienstraße proper. Notifications of address changes and invitations for office warming drinks are forthcoming.

Then for the rest of the weekend I did a lot of nothing during the day and lots of programming during the night which resulted in the first private release of kohi. Get in touch with me if you want to be a part of the initial group of users and I’ll include you as soon as we have something more substantial to share.