campaign Uncategorized

TED India fundraising update

As you are probably aware, I am trying to raise funds so I can go to TED India. I’ve reached 9% of the target so far, which is 6 times as much as reached in my previous campaign. The experience has already been invaluable.

First, there was the blog post. As you can see, the number of new views dropped very rapidly after a few days:

Blog post views

campaign livejournal Uncategorized

Help Sjors get to TED India

I’m going to TED India! My application has been accepted (you have to apply in order to attend) and I’ve booked my flight. Only one minor detail remains: paying for the conference ticket.

I “should” be able to “afford” this conference, since I’m a software engineer in a fairly rich country. So it’s really a cash flow issue; if I could, I would have borrowed the money from my bank and worked for the ticket later.

This is where you come in…

Your donations** will help me go to TED India. In exchange, I offer one hour of my “brain power” to anyone donating $50*. Please send me an email if you wish to use that offer.

Click here to lend your support to: Help Sjors get to TED India and make a donation at !

campaign livejournal Uncategorized

Adopt a Star

Back in February I watched Travis Metcalfe’s talk about the Pale Blue Dot project, where you can adopt a star for $10 and sponsor scientific research. And not just any star; the recently launched Kepler satellite is looking for planets around these stars. Now that’s a cheap price to pay for so much fame and glory 🙂

Of course, I wanted to adopt the brightest star available, but this was difficult using the interface available at that time. So I decided to download the list of stars and build my own Ruby on Rails application around it to make this search easier.

It’s located at and here’s a preview:

My adopted star
My adopted star

You can search for stars in order of increasing or decreasing brightness and you can choose not to list stars that are already adopted. Each of the stars can viewed in Google Sky Maps, so you can see if you like the looks. You can also search by adopter name.

I just realized that every star now has a URL. Not sure why that is significant, but it’s kind of cool.

One of the features that I’d like to build soon is the possibility of finding available stars near a particular star, so you can adopt a star close to your friends star. To make the sky even more social, I’d like to build a Facebook App around it.

Of course, I don’t have an infinite amount of time to work on this, so any help is greatly appreciated.

You can find the source code here and the issue tracker here.

Also, is there anyone with enough math and programming skills and patience to build a mobile app? Such an app would use the phone’s clock, GPS, accelometer and (optionally) compas to assist in locating the adopted star in the sky.

campaign Earth Hour

Solving Unproductivity

I will distribute free copies of Getting Things Done!

Click here to lend your support to: Getting Things Done and make a donation at !

We all want to save the world, but we are remarkably ineffective at it. We leave the car at home once a week, replace a few light bulbs and complain to our friends that the government should do something about AIDS. Perhaps we even donate a bit to charities.

The problem is that it just doesn’t add up. It feels good, but it often turns out there are far more effective things you could do. But how do you decide what the best way is to spend your precious time and money?

campaign Earth Hour livejournal

Earth Hour – On the bright side

Those following me on Twitter may have noticed that I am a little bit skeptic about Earth Hour – an initiative that asks everyone to turn off their lights for one hour to raise awareness about global warming.

It is a great thing when the whole world joins together for one hour to think about something important. I love that about Earth Hour. But why just climate change? There are so many other problems in the world.

Imagine having the worlds attention for one hour – something nobody has ever achieved – what would you say? What would you want 6.7 billion people to think about?

So here is my challenge for anyone who cares about the world, has a camera and some free time:

Send me a one hour video with your top 10 best ways to help the world!


There are just a few simple rules:

  1. A top 10 of of best ways to help the world
  2. 60 minutes
  3. Explain the problem
  4. Explain how it can be solved on a global scale
  5. Provide a simple first step for individuals to contribute or learn more
  6. No lies: be prepared for some serious fact-checking by the community
  7. No divine intervention: it’s just us this time
campaign gsoc

Google Summer of Code 2008

Every year Google pays students to do work for several open source software organizations. They call it the Summer of Code, although for people like me it will be the Winter of Code; see my previous post (English translation).

Map of my neighbourhood with some stuff that I added.I will work for OpenStreetMap which is an effort to create a detailed map of the world with no nasty copyright restrictions. Like Wikipedia, they allow everyone to contribute to this map. I for example added a few things in my neighbourhood.

Groups of volunteers all over the world are traveling around with their GPS devices to map the world and sometimes an organization like AND donates their maps.

The objective of my project is to create altitude profiles for (bike) routes. For this I will use a global elevation map created by the NASA Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM).

Since the world is pretty big I expect to learn a lot about scaling a database application. Perhaps, if time allows and if I get an invitation, I could even outsource the scaling work to the Google App Engine.

I will store the SRTM data in PostGIS (spatial database extension for PostgreSQL). That will be my first time away from MySQL.

Another new thing that I want to try is the Git version control system: you can watch Linus Torvalds talk about it:

Of course, in the end it is all about one thing: the free T-Shirt! I will write more about my project later.


campaign livejournal spoorzone website

Spoorzone Mijn (en andere Spoorzoners) nieuwste online project begint eindelijk een beetje van de grond te komen. bevat informatie over de herstructeringsplannen voor onze wijk en dan vooral over sloop, nieuwbouw en renovatie.

Het doel is om meer inzicht te krijgen in deze plannen en waar nodig (opbouwende) kritiek te leveren. Hopelijk kunnen we daar zoveel mogelijk experts bij betrekken.

We gaan een weblog bijhouden met daarin onze nieuwste bevindingen, inzichten en verwijzingen naar relevant nieuws. Tevens willen we een vast informatief deel van de site bouwen. Te denken valt dan bijvoorbeeld aan een stemwijzer die aangeeft of iemand (voor het eigen belang) voor of tegen eventuele sloop of renovatie van hun complex zou moeten stemmen.