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On a recent sunday afternoon, under very un-Dutch weather conditions (tropical), my wife and I celebrated our 12.5 years of marriage. In this day and age, this is not the standard, so we thought it would be a great reason for a party. Now, parties like this are a great opportunity to reconnect with people you don’t get to see that often, but of course time flies by and at the end of the evening there are still so many people you did not get to really talk to.

The most important gatekeepers

Years ago this was the fundamental promise of social media: to stay up to date on what’s happening with people you don’t talk to day by day. But today, the experience is very different. What happened? For one, as a ‘content producer’, a sharer of news, you have some influence on who you target with your message (i.e. the former Google+ Circles, or the Facebook Post Visibility), but in most cases the process of setting this preference is cumbersome at best. Second, it’s become all about image. Post the positive, use the pretty filter, and create high expectations and FOMO with your audience. Third, commerce happened. Both companies and people trying to profile themselves started increasing their connections to create more visibility for themselves. And ofcourse, the social media companies themselves had to start making money at some point. The online ad-market happened. Many more social media companies emerged, each with their own specific niche. And so our experience changed from a cosy chatbox with people we know to a firehose of content that is impossible to keep track of.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of social media, and as an entrepreneur myself I can relate to companies wanting to make a buck. But I fear we have gone in the wrong direction. A winner take all mentality has overridden the common sense to think about the desirability on the long run.

And so the big tech companies have gotten too much power and they will not hesitate to use it. This is not the web how the inventors had ment it. We went from blogs with pingbacks to centralized discussions on Facebook or Twitter. Today, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google are the most important gatekeepers to our life online. The result is that we are nudged or persuaded if not coerced to interacting with companies or people that we did not set out to in the first place. Which is great if you’re in the dating market, swipe to your hearts desire. But our personal time is the one thing that is truly scarce, the one thing that can never be replaced.

It is no longer just about connecting people, but about influencing our minds

What’s worse, in addition to ‘stealing’ our time, these technologies can steal so much more. Because if my Youtube suggestions are becoming more radical with every click (Dutch), it is no longer just about connecting people, but about influencing our minds, hindering our ability to stay open to other opinions. We need to keep pushing our own critical thinking and look for the other side of the debate. Because on Youtube you’ll find lots of video’s promoting flat earth theory, and very few debunking them. Each step takes the users deeper in to their own bubble, nudging or even radicalising their thoughts and ideas.

Simply not using all of these platforms is not a solution right now. We are more than ever hyperconnected in this online society, and closing the floodgates is not easy. Some people simply have no other way of communicating with each other, and companies do still have to find a way to their customers. I too like to spend (some of) my time on Youtube, Netflix, Twitter etc. They can be powerfull tools. But powerfull tools might just need safety-goggles.

So where to go from here? I believe there is a moral obligation for us as entrepreneurs, technologists, designers, to create technology that enhances our humanity, rather than strip from it, and to help us save time, instead of consuming as much of it as possible. How do we do that? First of all, consumers need to know the problem so they can opt-out of the bubble. Second, we need good alternatives. We need platforms that can work together, rather than compete. We need better data ownership models. Who controls the data you generate, and what can they do with it? The talks about decentralisation have gone on for quite some time, but we still need good solutions for onboarding non-technical people, because today’s user has grown accustomed to great user experiences.

For a better tomorrow we need to solve these things.

Even though I studied computer science back in the day, I grew a business in the telecom sector. Funny thing is, the way our products are now evolving we’re looking much more like a platform/software as a service business really, but I do try to take the good aspects of telecom along for the ride. Things like standardisation to enable cross-network communication for instance.

Looking to the big tech companies for a solution is not going to cut it when we want to adress these problems. Taking matters in to your own hands and selecting a European provider of even actually self-hosting some elements will certainly help. Initiatives like Solid need more work but offer promising concepts. And deep-diving in to your online identity (or is it identities?) is certainly the next level.

I for one, plan to spend more time on things like decentralisation, interconnecting platforms, and managing user identities in a highly heterogenous environment.

What will you do? I’d love to hear from you.

English articles

‘Roaming charges are still a rip off’

‘Roaming charges are still a rip off’ – A link found via our eurocommissioner Neelie Kroes. Interesting, do tell.

“Whatever you do when downloading data – surfing the web, sending a Tweet, posting a photo – don’t hook up your iPhone to your Ipad. The data that you download is exactly the same but if you use your devices in this way, your charges will be €5 per megabyte. Thats right, despite an advertised – and mandated – price of 20 cents, a loophole in the legislation allows companies to charge 25 times the supposed maximum. At least, that’s what Vodafone charged this foolish customer on a recent trip to Europe.”

Wow! That’s kinda special. Seems like the EU guideline is being used (i.e. article 15 sub 4) where an exemption is given for so called machine to machine (M2M) applications. It makes sense to exclude M2M from some of these rules, because eventually there is no consumer at the devices buttons. Confusion arises when different governments use different viewpoints for similar cases.

Recently there was a related item in the news: ACM (Dutch regulator) ruled that because of scarceness in the mobile numbering range, SIM-cards for mobile internet only (i.e. tablets, dongles) will need to move to the dedicated M2M numbering-range. But does that make them M2M really? Ofcourse not. Whichever way you look at it, behind the screen of the laptop or tablet is a consumer that is just as easily shocked with high roaming costs. This is most definitely not the ‘spirit’ of the rules. It’s a shame the telecom-sector won’t use fuzzy rules to make a proper example and show that not every telco is a crook, but instead just seizes the opportunity to squeeze the customer for another penny. Maintaining the status-quo, is that really the best we can do?

SpeakUp has always stood for making costs clear and fair toward our users. That means that loopholes, if we finid them, are not to be (ab)used. This is exactly why we created our Roam Like Home offering, so our users really do know what is coming, and they won’t have to feel reluctant to just use mobile internet if (when)  the camping WiFi in France is just being annoyingly slow.

– Thijs Boin & Florian Overkamp


English articles

This article was translated (liberally) from Dutch and was originally written for and published on ISP Today, the dutch ISP sector e-mag. Reposted with permission 😉

Between december 20th and januari 10th ISP Today talks to Dutch internet-buffs and reviews the ending year. Today Florian Overkamp (SpeakUp) shares his re- and preview with the sector. Most important from his viewpoint: adoption of cloud-services (in the Dutch market – red.).

Internet of Things

“It has been a gradual development, but to me 2013 is the turning point in the adoption of cloud-services,” Overkamp  says “The dangers that users see in the cloud are finally adressed in a rational manner, rather than using them as an excuse to not use them at all. In our own field we see that with cloud-telecommunication-solutions more fixed-mobile solutions are offered, increasing the acceptance by users. Phones and tablets are getting smarter and are, more often than not, an integral part of our work and life, bringing the Internet-of-Things closer.”

Sector more aware

“Although the Netherlands has a strong position in availability of broadband internet, we are just tinkering with applications that use that. Truly innovative serviceproviders are just now rising to the occasion. I am glad to see that the sector is much more aware of customers risks and the measures that can be implemented to address redunancy, security, privacy etc.”

Building combinations

Overkamp thinks the next stage will be about integration issues. “How do I make all these cloud-applications cooperate with each other?,” is the question to expect. “The best cloud-apps are very much focussed on a specific functionality. This makes them very intuitive, but it also means there is not a single cloud-app to cover the customer’s IT need entirely. As a result, building combinations between apps is very important. As a side-effect it also helps mitigate some of the risks of the cloud, because the impact of one cloud-app being unavailable can be limited. In my line of work we also see the importance of having the apps on multiple screens – we want to choose which device (mobile, tablet, laptop, smart-TV) we want to use to do our work. Cloud-apps user interfaces need to address this.”

Integrating cloud-apps

His new-year thought for 2014: “It will be interesting to see what users will be doing this next year. Will they, after Bring Your Own Device (BYOD),  also be doing Bring Your Own Cloud-app (BYOC) and will, as Gartner states, every employee become their own IT-department? If that happens, initiatives such as CloudHub to hook up API’s between very diverse cloud-applications will prove of immense importance. Something to ponder over during the festive days. With a glass of bubbly, if possible.”

English articles


it’s been a short while since I did work on my Yourls Abusedesk, but since I had some people asking questions and Ozh had just released Yourls 1.5.1, I figured it was as good a time as any to do some housecleaning. So here is the short update:

  1. Verified to work with Yourls 1.5.1
  2. Verified to work with PHPGSB 0.2.4
  3. Yourls Abusedesk is now managed in Github
  4. Version control is now in Git, rather than Subversion

Also, the documentation has been updated to reflect a recent issue I encountered where the Yourls database user did not have a CREATE TABLE grant on the Yourls database. The next release will include some errorchecking for that.

For online discussion, please do check out the new Redmine. This also (hopefully) provides a better place to post suggestions, questions, etc.

English articles

New York Times reports about a new EU plan to place a worldwide cap on data roaming charges for EU citizens. Wether or not this is a good idea remains to be seen… There are still a number of countries that carry quite high roaming charges, which would cause the cap to activate pretty quickly. Not a good customer experience.

I doubt that the EU guidelines would cause non-EU operators to lower their wholesale data rates at all, so the result could be that only the ‘real’ operators (MNO’s, i.e. in the Netherlands KPN, T-Mobile, Vodafone) would be able to force enough buying power to enforce lower wholesale rates or to subsidise the charges toward the customer.

If that becomes reality, would it serve the customer? Would it offer market options and transparency? I don’t think so. In this scenario, smaller providers (i.e. MVNO’s) who are tied tightly to their MNO may not be able to compete in the market. Winners of the game would be the MNO’s with deeper pockets. The market of roaming solutions toward MVNO’s may grow, but most likely this will still only cover base costs of mobile challengers.

What will happen remains to be seen. For now I’m sceptic about this idea, but we will certainly keep a close eye.

English articles

[EDIT: This is already an older version. For the latest updates, please keep an eye on the yourls-abusedesk tag on this blog or the Yourls-Abusedesk project.]

And we’re back. Based on some new suggestions from people I’ve released a new version of the Abusedesk.

Changes are:

  • Use long php tags
  • Implement forwarding to APWG instead of using our own error messages when links were used for Phishing


I also took some time to upgrade my Yourls codebase to ensure the plugin still works with that too 🙂

For those who like to live on the edge, I’ve added public read access to my subversion repo for the plugin. Use at your own risk, obviously!

svn co http://pkg.tty.nu/svn/yourls-abusedesk



English articles

[EDIT: This is already an older version. For the latest updates, please keep an eye on the yourls-abusedesk tag on this blog or the Yourls-Abusedesk project.]

So the Abusedesk tool is definitely alive.

This update is only expanding on documentation as suggested by readers. No new functionality at this time. Thanks for the input all. Keep suggesting or adding stuff 🙂

Get it here:


English articles

[EDIT: This is already an older version. For the latest updates, please keep an eye on the yourls-abusedesk tag on this blog or the Yourls-Abusedesk project.]

So, over the last few months I’ve had a few responses on my post of august last year with helpfull (and sometimes not so helpfull) comments on what can be improved on Yourls Abusedesk. So here is a new release.

Changes are:

  • Better loading configuration order (prevent errors/warnings from PHP)
  • Sanity check to see if config.php was created (and showing an error instead of a blank page)
  • Documentation updated to show how to test Google Safe Browsing from the webserver command line

I hope this helps a few people along. I’m open for suggestions and improvements as my spare time allows it. As usual with Open Source: You have the code, so feel free to tinker around and let me know what you find.


English articles

[EDIT: This is already an older version. For the latest updates, please keep an eye on the yourls-abusedesk tag on this blog or the Yourls-Abusedesk project.]

So, it’s weekend and Liz is out with the girls, so I finally got around to finishing my Abusedesk tool for Yourls.

Abusedesk for Yourls is a plugin module written and tested with Yourls SVN rev. 503
but is probably functional with any release of 1.4 or higher.

Abusedesk is designed to allow YOURLS-administrators to prevent or restrict abuse by
link-posters. It does this by the following methods:

1) Implement a blacklist and a report-page. If any visitor states a short URL is abusive,
the system will automatically mark the URL as ‘bad’ and report future visitors of this.

2) Implement a banlist and allow the administrator to prevent certain IP-addresses to
post, or prevent certain (partial) URL’s to be shortened.

3) If Google Safe Browsing is activated, prevent visitors from running into (known)
phishing or malware sites

Download yourls-abusedesk-svn7