Enjoyment of Public Space

Jan Chipchase had asked this question recently in a post on this street scene which already had me thinking.

Enjoy Public Space

Yesterday I was present at a lecture by Dirk Overduin on some succesful interventions around the use of public space.

It’s hard to strike a balance between the use and abuse/overuse of public space. Mostly perceived ‘abuse’ of public space stems from other social problems (homelessness etc.) and regulating public space too rigidly impoverishes all of us.

Looking at the street scene from China, I’m disappointed that we do not have similar uses of public space here. To be able to play tavla on the sidewalk in the city while drinking çay…

Gecekondu on the island at ARCAM is a fun initiative and they have a full program for the next couple of days so be sure to visit them.

Social Drinking in Print

Things are a bit slow in Amsterdam, this being high summer. Having Foursquare (see previous post) and being able to drink some beers in the city now and then does make it a lot more relaxed.

Robert Gaal and I initiated the launch in Amsterdam and it looks like it is really taking off right now. Dutch daily NRC.next wrote a two page spread on the site and quoted me and some others in it. Normally I don’t bother with papers, but I went to our neighborhood store and bought a copy:

Ben in Paradiso, kom ook man

It’s a nice balanced overview piece of the service and the trends towards more ubicomp in your nightlife experience. The big question is, these guys have delivered, will anybody else match them in the foreseeable future?

Local social network Hyves is bluffing they will introduce similar functionality but it begs the question why they didn’t already? I’ve seen this concept come by in briefings more times than I care to count and nobody has been able to get the buy-in and pull off the experience.
And when was the last update of the Hyves iPhone App? Or of the Facebook App for that matter?

In other news: There was some drama recently with people from outside of Amsterdam adding venues outside of Amsterdam and getting rebuked by some people within AMS.

Foursquare’s policy is that anybody who wants to play in whatever fashion should be allowed to do so. The data generated can always be filtered better later on using better algorithms and more insight. Just think twice about friending me if you plan on checking in outside of Amsterdam.

Urban Teleportation Device

I can’t say enough how pleased I am to be riding this bike through the city.

Urban Teleportation Device

I’ve given her a name but it functions mostly as a teleport to a random location in the city where t < 15m. Already being familiar with the topography of Amsterdam is a plus and tearing through the city, riding faster than most people without any effort is fantastic.

Now comes the more difficult task of keeping this bike in this city.

Back where I began

Last Sunday we did a big haul and carried most of our stuff over to the new place in Amsterdam. Now we’re almost done with the tedious process of making sure the basics are taken care of, sorting through stuff, eliminating duplicates.

Half A Life Apart

My story in Delft had been finished for a while now. Loads of friends but also a lot of dead ends. Being in Amsterdam gives a fresh perspective and breathing space.

The only thing is, I don’t usually mind giving up comfort, but the comfiness of ten year’s worth of accrued social contacts, friends, loose acquintainces, class mates, colleagues and the likes is a real loss. I hope to be able to build something similar quickly over here (and lose that again as well).

So this is new beginnings in familiar places with lots of fun.

Four Square or can you smell the beer already?

This week returning from my new haunt in Amsterdam back to Delft, walking the streets with an appetite for beer I felt strangely disconnected.

Together with Robert we persuaded the kind people of Four Square to open up a branch in Amsterdam. Being one of the starters of the service here means I’m friends with tons of people. Knowing what is happening in the city, where the cool bars and restaurants are and immediately knowing who’s having a beer right now and where, is fantastic.

S&W say that being able to see through a city is a superpower. If so, Four Square is the superpower of being able to smell beer miles away.

Once you’re used to a service such as this and the peripheral vision it provides —and does ever so unintrusively— walking around a city which doesn’t have it feels like having blinders on.

Nationale Databank Wegverkeersgegevens

Via Gerard het nieuws over het NDW dat geopend is door Minister Eurlings. Het eerste resultaat is een warrige site: Nationaaldatawarehouse.nl.

Het lijkt me boeiend om de intensiteit van het wegverkeer in Nederland globaal te visualiseren, en het lijkt erop dat het NDW die gegevens beheert en aanbiedt. Nergens op de site is te vinden hoe je dan als potentiele afnemer aan die gegevens komt. Wellicht zijn hier marktpartijen hier —zoals wel vaker— nauw gedefinieerd als een soort ons-kent-ons clubje waar men elkaar wél weet te vinden.

Hier toch maar mijn vraag:


Ik begreep dat het NDW onlangs geopend is. Ik zou graag toegang willen tot de actuele gegevens over het verkeer op de Nederlandse weg. Ik kan op uw site een verzameling vragen en antwoorden vinden: http://www.nationaaldatawarehouse.nl/index.cfm?page=FAQ
maar nergens staat uitgelegd wat ik moet doen om een afnemer te worden.

Via deze e-mail dus mijn vraag hoe ik afnemer kan worden van gegevens uit het NDW, welke gegevens ik dan kan verkrijgen en onder welke voorwaarden en in welke formaten.

Bij voorbaat dank voor uw antwoord,

Ik hou mijn adem niet in, maar we kunnen zien.

The City Is Here For You To Get Fined By

For any international readers, as the Dutch are probably already very much aware of our totalitarian parking policies.

The headline for the piece accompanying this video reads: “Odds of getting fined doubled” in Dutch.

The video is in Dutch but you should still be able to make out a very interesting and frankly somewhat scary urban systems play.

There is a Google Streetview like car which drives through Amsterdam. It has 3 cameras on either side to be able to scan the three predominant parking patterns (queue, fish and orthogonal). The cameras OCR the license plates of all parked cars and check them with a database.

Another necessary ingredient is a new class of parking ticket machines where you need to punch in your license plate before you get your ticket. The machines are pretty poorly designed, causing a lot of user frustration but they are an essential part of the system. These ticket machines are connected and they push your license plate and the time you have bought to a central server.

So if the scanning car finds a license plate which a ticket machine has not designated as having bought a ticket, a third party is dispatched on scooter to check if there is in fact no valid parking ticket lying under the windshield. If there isn’t, he writes a fine.


The system dramatically increases the odds of you getting fined compared to the previous system where parking inspectors would walk the street samplewise. This approaches a total and real time assessment and billing of urban space.

The fact that the scanner does not need to get out of the car is interesting from a division of labor point of view. The person actually fining the car gets an SMS and then does a tactical strike with the urban rapid entry vehicle of choice. This minimizes the contact surface with the parking inspectors reducing both potential aggression and being able to see parking inspectors coming (and making a mad dash to the ticket machine).

When Google’s car scans the street all kind of privacy concerns are paraded even though the end result benefits and harms the entire public equally. Nobody even realizes yet what the consequences of this approach will be until we get to feel and see it more directly. It is difficult to ‘feel’ a higher accuracy of parking inspection except that people who normally would hardly ever get a fine, will get them now.

I’m also interested in people’s reaction to changing a leaky implementation of a system of regulations with its faults and errors but a human scale to a totalitarian implementation such as this one which covers enough as to be nearly foolproof. Protest? Quiet resignation? We will see.

And for all you militant free parking advocates out there, put this on your reading list: The High Cost of Free Parking

Kyteman and his Hip Hop Orchestar

For my international audience; if you’ve been living in the Netherlands you could not have missed this.

Yesterday night we saw a live gig here in Delft by Kyteman (myspace) and his hip-hop orchestra and we stood agape with wonder. This guy is a recent musical sensation in the Netherlands and if you can catch a show by him run to it!

Kyteman is a hip-hop artist/conductor with a trumpet who leads a 21 piece orchestar with a full brass section, a string section and a host of M.C.s. A definite mashup formation with hip-hop, funky and blues sounds. I write orchestar because it is reminiscent even of more balkan influences like Bregović and Beirut. The sound they produce is rich and dynamic and the performances spectacular in their grandeur.

The music is awesome, but the live gig is where it’s at. 3voor12 made a composition of audience recordings at Pinkpop to give you an idea of the explosion.

Art in the public space

I started the week out nicely with a lunch lecture from Kie Ellens about art in the public space. It took me some time to properly code it, but it is online finally (and mostly in English):

The architectural student association Stylos is celebrating a lustrum this week, so there were lunch lectures every day, but unfortunately I could only attend the one.