Weeknotes 177

This week started pretty extreme with 12+ hour days on Monday and Tuesday culminating in the launch of PLAY Pilots.

Home • PLAY Pilots

Wednesday was occupied with fallout, rest and coming to terms with Stumptown Amsterdam’s closing. I drank quite some coffee there and talked lots of work. Also Martijn dropped by the office to solder something:

Thursday started the quest to find a good identity for Monster Swell. Also started the foray into the Dutch subsidy jungle.

Friday, updated the portfolio’s a bit and went to the (OMG WTF) MoMo AMS BBQ.

Saturday my Epson V500 scanner arrived which I’ll be using mostly for capturing project documentation better and scanning 120 film. On to an even more dematerialized life.


Sunday was occupied with a lot of reading in Designing for the Digital Age preparing for the UX Book Club we are hosting on Tuesday. Also more scanning (and throwing out paper) and writing the first issue of my Dutch design and technology column “Design Directie” (due out here tomorrow morning).

Weeknotes 176

This week was completely spent with work each day on project Ebi, better known as PLAY Pilots. The site is due to launch this week (it in fact launched yesterday night).

Two other noteworthy events transpired:

I got a new avatar picture taken by Daphne Horn. My current avatar picture was long overdue for a refresh and Daphne’s offer to get my picture taken by a professional photographer proved to be both very fun and resulted in a very nice photo. The picture is now live on my account. A preview was on Daphne’s tumblr.

Sunday marked the end of the Dutch mission in Afghanistan, so I used some downtime on Saturday to finish project puebla which is a small map with the origins of our 24 fallen (write-up).

The launch of PLAY Pilots is going to be interesting, and there’s a bunch of other stuff coming up: nezahualcoyotl, guadalajara and some other proposals are progressing nicely.

Uruzgan in the Netherlands

Today marks the end of the Dutch presence in Afghanistan and here’s a small data oriented tribute to those that have fallen in service. Inspired by the Home and Away visualization by Stamen, I decided to see if something similar for our Task Force Uruzgan would provide any insight.

There are massive differences fortunately between the American and the Dutch situation in count and dispersion of casualties. We have 24 fallen during the four years the mission was there and I think all of them are in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province. I say ‘think’ because our department of defense is much more conservative in releasing exact data.

I was still curious if there was a pattern to the origins of the soldiers that have fallen in Afghanistan on a democratic mandate on behalf of us all, so I googled their names and tried as best I could to deduce their home towns. The result is the following list and map:
Uruzgan in Nederland

The only trend that is noticeable is that these soldiers are overwhelmingly not from the Randstad area. The other takeaway is doing the research for the map which was a pretty intense experience. Reading the stories behind what has happened and people’s reactions. So if anything, I think any representation that breaks up the total count of 24 into separate individuals is a good thing and I hope you take this map as that.

Check in / Check Out – Design Principles for Camera Surveillance

Here the first of my English translations of the design principles outlined in the Dutch book by Rathenau about the digitalization of society and its implications.

The book is quite good and I think these design principles deserve a wider audience. I’ll get to noting down the ones from chapter 0001 in a bit, now just the ones from the (second) chapter 0010 which was unfortunately of somewhat meager interest.

Camera surveillance can serve as an example for other applications in the public space. There is a legal framework in which camera surveillance is allowed, which functions properly and can serve as an example for other technologies. In the ’90s camera surveillance was a means that was subject to public and political debate. Based on these discussions, legislation has been instituted that limits citizens’ privacy violations. You can’t put cameras on the street without adhering to certain rules. There are also clear rules what can be done with captured data from which we can distill the following design principles.

  • Privacy in public is a problem case in and of itself.
    You are visible for everybody and you cannot invoke the right of protection of the personal living sphere when you’re out and about. In the public domain the collective interests of safety and order trump the individual right of privacy.
  • Who does not commit any offenses should stay anonymous.
    Even though it is possible to watch everybody using camera surveillance, it is not necessary to identify everybody. Only if it is necessary for police work should an image be linked to a person.
  • Watch the watchers.
    As information becomes more and more centralized, it gives more oversight and power to those that watch over those being watched. According to the rules of the panopticon, this increase needs to be combined with a corresponding increase of control over the center. Camera surveillance also has synoptic elements. Technology needs to be used by citizens who want to check on government as much as by the government to check on its citizens.

This is a quick and rough translation but it should serve most applications.

The legislation that works properly that is referred to above is the one that’s in place in the Netherlands. In how far that is the case can be subject to debate, but most people in the Netherlands do not object to camera surveillance, so there is democratic support for camera surveillance.

Weeknotes 175

A quick one.

PLAY Pilots (née project ebi) is revving up for its public launch follow @playpilots for news about that. Lots of work going into that, lots more to do still.

Noteworthy other stuff:

The first pilot game is going to be awesome and the second one probably is too. Read more about those on the blog.

I met with René Wansdronck an architect about geographical plotting of objects.

Also project nezahualcoyotl got its go ahead. Something to do with a hardware manufacturer and the quantified self, should be great. Going to take place in the course of August.

Weeknotes 174

Project Ebi is taking most of my capacity and brain these days, so everything else is necessarily pushed to the back burner a bit.

In other news…

I started drafting an open letter in Dutch regarding the information platform for transit data for the Netherlands which will be created in the near future. We (Open Data Nederland) want this platform to be open and inclusive to enable the greatest potential for innovation.

Talked about an interesting quantified self dataviz project (codename: nezahualcoyotl) with a well-known hardware maker. More dataviz is forthcoming:
puebla got its public deadline (which is quite shortly) but could use some visual design attention
guadelajara got its datasets after some gentle nudging of authorities, expect some first draft renders for that soon

I also did a bunch of beta testing of Peerz. A Dutch startup I did the initial IA/IxD for. You can try it out yourself and could even win an iPad for your efforts.

Weeknotes 173

Some notes, this time not ordered by day, but by theme.

A bunch of conceptual and game design progress for Ebi. We created a concept which is fun, viral and not impossible to implement given the time we have. Also big thanks for the baristas at Brandmeester’s for keeping the creativity fueled.


Coffee at Stumptown with @mosselman and @remcojanssen. Signup at the mental stimulation Google Wave (still a free spot left for this week!).

I attended all three days of the Mediamatic Mapping Festival. There was a lot of familiar stuff there but still saw some interesting things (see Monster Swell’s tweets) and talked to some cool people (among who catalogtree). The amount of interactive data visualizations was somewhat disappointing. It is about time we transformed data and insight into read/write media.


Malkit Shoshan

Some writing:

Some updates on Haïtinu.nl a site I have been working on.

Distilling meter, rhyme and verse from your database

I don’t know how I missed this job in my post this year on “New disciplines for a real-time data world” but this week the position for a Data Griot and Community Activator popped up at Last.fm and was brought to my attention by Chris Heathcote’s post who did some griotting into Grindr (an interesting app worth a post on its own).

The posited Data Griot is a great position that combines institutional knowledge and knowledge of data with public understanding. There is so much work to be done in this field to increase public awareness of the importance of and practices around data that it’s quite staggering. Nice on Last.fm too to have coined such an apt phrase for it.

So the Griot has both a deep knowledge of history and trends as well as a finger on the pulse of current events and combines both to create acute relevance. She is ad res and can combine resources both within and outside of the organization with social/technical/design skills of her own to massive effect.

Sounds like a very nice job. An important role already in journalistic and political organizations if they manage to see the need. In corporations any aspiring griot will have a hard time the further their work is diluted by PR/Legal/Accounting/Marketing and other departments. But most likely they won’t hire one anyway. Those companies that have a solid (mutual) relation with the public and a track record of rapid innovation (like most web2.0 sites) will be in a better position to act than others (not to say that other companies can’t benefit, but they’ll have a lot of institutional learning and organizational change to do at the same time).

The Griot goes beyond the already known data scientist position which seems to be less of a conversational and more of an academic/metrics one and actually is a really tall order to fill. More organizations are looking for griots but because it is at the same time both broad and specialized that will be pretty hard.

In the Netherlands there are already so few people active in the data field that it’s even more difficult. I would be a good fit for the role, though I’m not looking for a permanent position —organizational embedding (i.e. not consulting) is I think an important requirement for somebody doing this. I know nrc.next has some people dedicated among which Thalia Verkade. I don’t know about the other papers.

But maybe there are more that I am missing. Is your organization looking for data griots? Are you one yourself? I’d like to hear more.

Update: My friends at QD are doing some very cool things with internet tracking and have an open position for a function that borders on this: A Statistical Market Researcher.

Coffee as catching up

I was already in the habit of starting my mornings drinking the best coffee in Amsterdam at Stumptown and would regularly chat with the mayor. After planning some morning meetings there, getting an early start, drinking great coffee and having a good conversation with people you’d normally not talk to, proved to be a good idea.

So I opened a collaborative document with my free spots to see if people would be interested in meeting. Early, just for coffee and just for an hour. This is going quite nicely so far, and I’m going to see if I can fill it up for the entire duration of Stumptown’s run here in Amsterdam.

I’ve still got a free spot for next week and will post my schedule for the week after shortly. Signup at the Wave: