Week 323

This week started with Pentecost. Trying to get stuff done in Germany during the bank holiday flurry that is May is always a challenge. I spent more time working on Cuppings. In all likelihood this app will never make any serious money, but there are other advantages to building apps which may become apparent in the future.

This week I gave an interview to Süddeutsche Zeitung about our project Politwoops which turned out pretty well:

Politwoops in SZ

Just before German class I was interviewed in German about altogether different matters:

KANT is slowly shaping up:

KANT in action

I received this device to be able to live digitally in the outdoors:

A cloudy start for my Wakawaka Power

And end of that week I spent some time writing and especially my piece on data was picked up nicely and got a record amount of views:

And the next day Peter and Michelle got married which was a tremendous amount of fun:


Week 322

So it turns out I’ve fallen immensely behind with the weeknotes over here, but we did start writing them at the new office now, which should make up for something. Those live at http://kantberlin.tumblr.com/ currently.

What happened that week was a bunch of work and getting a desk from IKEA to work on at the new place:
Upgraded to a small-ish roller desk

The Möbeltaxi driver took us on an interesting shortcut through the old service tunnels of Tempelhof —I am amazed that Moves tracked it as well as it did— which might be fun to do some urban exploring in at some point:
Secret route through the service tunnels of the old airport. Useful when there is traffic which is more or less always.

Back then we were still drinking some horrible leftover coffee brewed in a two step process:
The morning press and filter

And I had a talk for at Bits of Freedom that I sketched out on our brilliant new whiteboard:
I gave the new whiteboard a proper exercising for an upcoming talk

I promised the people future shock and I think I delivered that to some extent.

Week 318

Unbelievable how many weeks behind I am on these. That’s not wholly intended, but the last couple of weeks have been a bit busier than usual. This was the week of April 15th which I spent mostly in Amsterdam.

I spent a full day with the team on Tuesday working on KAIGARA:
Today's office

I drank very awesome coffee that Angelo had brought back from his road trip along the west coast of the USA:
Angelo got that fresh package from the states

We celebrated shipping some projects that night with Kars and Simon and the next day I was back at Hubbub for another day of work. That night it was off to the Open State offices in Amsterdam for a bit of envisioning with our new managing director. A very solid and constructive session, well catered by our in-house team of Bite Me:
Nicely catered strategy session

My work setup at the brilliant Koko:
Today's office

The Thursday I spent working at the Open Coop and preparing my Python programming course I gave on the now defunct Gidsy.

Friday I took the train back to Berlin and it was confirmed to me again that train companies are stupid. If I take a different train to Berlin I need to pay the difference in distance even if I start and end in the same place:
Had to buy an extra ticket because train people are crazy.

And Saturday I also managed squeeze out a long overdue Recess!.

So lots of stuff and more to follow.

Week 315

We’re in the middle of a big project, so pretty much everything is that right now. In between some small things happen, but we’re rather busy shipping right now.

I did post the answer to the most frequently asked question I get, which is how you actually pronounce my name:

And in between stuff I dropped in on this book presentation at c-base, which was pretty weird:
Hacker artist book presentation with buzzword bingo: ‘business, art, disruption, entrepreneurs, networkers’

And I had a strange encounter with Berlin police who it seems cannot look around them.

Furthermore I did some account maintenance for Open State, getting things in order for our new CEO who arrives next week.

Weeks 313-4

Two week notes in one because last week seems to have been too busy to write any.

Rushing through the snow towards Amsterdam

Week 313 was spent in the Netherlands with a somewhat hectic visit. I spent a lot of time at the Hubbub studio and at the Open Coop.

Today's office

And of course the inevitable five (!) visits to the Village who were serving only Coffee Collective coffees when I was there:

Four Coffee Collective filters, too much choice to go around. Nothing in Berlin can touch this.

Today's office

And that Friday was Free Bassel Day in remembrance of our friend who is still imprisoned in a Syrian prison:
#freebassel ing my friend's workplaces

And then it was an ICE back to Berlin already:
Got the sweet upgrade because NS messed up the direct connection

I did manage to get some good writing in those two weeks. First one piece about why levying a tax on data is not a bad idea at all: Taxing data is not crazy. And the week after that about Jaron Lanier who is a crazy person with some interesting ideas: Who owns the future?

TORREON should be about finished by now. And last Friday we also forcibly launched the German incarnation of Politwoops now with an accompanying Twitter account because the SPD chancellor candidate posted something he shouldn’t have.

Also I’m doing another bout of programming education for non-programmers in Amsterdam next week with a course and a meetup. More on that in a bit.

And I finished my Recess! post.

Week 311

Last week we were on something of a tear continuously shipping things (it beats continuous integration). As Kars mentioned in the Hubbub weeknotes I was featured in the rather shiny TNW magazine about the subject of gamification. Much to my surprise this issue was filled with blabbering by Gabe Zichermann. It’s not only that we take issue with the way he approaches games, it looks like everything about the man is shameful. You can read unparalleled levels of douchebaggery over at Kevin Slavin and to my dismay even GigaOM is complicit.

To my shame it took me until Friday night to write my second installment of Recess!

I also got in touch with the government of Tempelhof-Schöneberg to procure all building permits for the area which had some disappointing results. More on that later.

Week 310

The week was off to a smashing smart with the irregular Iron Blogger Berlin drinks. For some people it is an expensive drinking club, for me with my iron blogging resolve it is more an expensed drinking club.

Bath tub

Berlin weather has been crazy last week. Also again we did tons of stuff for Hubbub, see it over there on Week 183.

Over at Open State we are still recruiting a managing director to take over operations and lead us up onto the next level of open government and civic innovation. If you are reading this and you are inclined towards getting things done and civic responsibility, do get in touch with us:

Facing this crazy blizzard for the past couple of days.

I was preparing to write a book about the way we’ve come to work for a while now, but as most books go this was not really happening. So I decided to convert it to a format that is easier to get started on and write it as a series of blog posts right here.

However wonderful your life has been, those with more money will take it away from you.

At the end of the week we threw together an impromptu Friday’s at Seven here in the neighborhood to end the week and tap into the scenius that is coalescing. We’ll definitely do that again and try out various other event formats to see which is the most fun in the long run.

Skeuomorph electric lamp (real wax)

And Saturday I finally finished Infinite Jest after having received the hardcopy version of it over four years ago. I was quite happy with that if only because I now have time again to read other things (just started the Quantum Thief).

Watersnake, a simple voting app

My small project during Swhack was to create a django version of a delegated voting system partially inspired by Liquid Feedback and the manyfold problems that system has. In particular that it is written on such an esoteric stack that it is near impossible to get running without root on a Linux machine and let’s not even discuss the maintenance. What is even worse is that it makes it nearly impossible for outsiders to join the project and contribute to it significantly.

In this interview about Liquid Democracy you can read quite clearly how the technical mandate drives the direction of the project. Something that may not be very desirable if you think of it as a democracy-centric issue and not a technology-centric one.

So to see how hard it would be to write something similar in vanilla django. It’s easy to hate on django but you can find tons of people who can work on this in just about every major city, the framework and the documentation are mature and many parts of the framework can be called excellent.

I thought putting something together that at its core implements a delegated voting engine should be doable in an afternoon and it was. What took the most time was playing around with the settings of the testrunner which I hadn’t really used before. So the watersnake app in this project does majority voting on single proposals with support for delegation.  To see it work you have to run the tests, but building this out into a full fledged (web) app that can be deployed to heroku with a single command is technically trivial (and also time consuming).

This wasn’t a stretch to implement right now because I’m also doing some other projects which border on collaborative writing/decision making/filtering. As always, technology is neither the problem or the solution, but certain technical systems grant different socio-technical affordances than others. I will probably not work on this unless there is a clear demand, but I thought it would be useful to debunk the idea that building such a system needs to be difficult or complex.

Week 307

Last Monday Uber had drinks here in Berlin and took a complimentary Uber there to chat with their Berlin team. The experience was extremely comfortable but given big city traffic it wasn’t very fast. In cities where the cab market is unreliable and corrupt I can definitely imagine the appeal of Uber. People working on transit apps should take note, this is the way it should work.

Wednesday we got a new person to join us over here at Praxis: the elusive iksi who seems to be rather more connected to my Dutch friends than I had foreseen.

Street life resumes now that one's ass doesn't freeze off anymore.

The rest of the week Kars Alfrink was here in Berlin for copresent sprints on all the running projects and you’ll read more about all that stuff in last week’s Hubbub weeknotes.

I did bang out a Re:publica submission, kick started a hackathon (there’s a separate post on that) and started a neighborhood initiative.


Swhack Berlin

So this Saturday Jan Lehnardt and I are having a small hackathon here in Berlin in remembrance of Aaron Swartz and to in one small way continue doing the work that needs to be done on the internet, in government and especially where those two meet.

We have done a lot of what we used to call ‘civic hacking’ in the past, a phrase that has been used so often by now that I’m slightly sickened when using it. But there is still a lot to be done and both resistance against the movement and co-optation are growing. In Germany, where I live now, things are still in a pre-dormant state. The internet is in a rather sorry state here and people are good at complaining but less so at changing things.

Saturday’s hackathon is meant to focus efforts and do random stuff. The stuff you normally never get around to doing because of the day-to-day business. I have some rather unorthodox ideas to change things but I could use some help. So join us!