Joost Plattel

Data-strategist, Founder & Speaker.

On solving annoying things

The dutch government and other (bigger) organisations seem to have a habit to annoy people. One of the reasons they do so is security by obscurity. It has it’s flaw as shown in this blogpost by @levelsio.

He wrote a little script that fetches and forwards all the email, which everyone can do after loggin in with DigiD. As shown, this takes a lot of steps. Automating it can be done with less then 50 lines of code. Following his blogpost I also decided to open-source my script, which has the same functionality. I’ve uploaded the code on Github: https://github.com/jplattel/berichtenbox-forwarder. You still need a little knowledge of python to install it, but it’s one step closer to an easy life.
mijnoverheid.nl
I do think it's troublesome that software is developed without any thoughts of the end-user. It seems that this trap is especially more common in bigger IT projects. The functionality of not forwarding important messages ruins the user-experience and thus the entire usage. This matters truly if you want the entire country to use it.

Any way, I wrote the script just to solve these little annoyances that companies throw at you, other things I automated are non-forwarding email inboxes, filling out forms and scripting (mail) replies. It all runs on my own computer or servers, which make the attack surface smaller but more specific. I haven’t decided yet if this truly means more security, but so far I think it does.

Author's profile picture Joost Plattel

Sous-vide food with a rice cooker

This has been on my tinker-list for around 4 years, and I've finally got around doing it. I made a little temperature controlled relay to my rice-cooker which enables me to use it as a sous-vide apparatus. That's wonderful, because it's now easier to prepare meat, and most importantly, eat 67 °C eggs. So how did I do it? I bought a really cheap PID from DealExtreme, and with some help of Martin Deen I had everything set up.

But that's where things got wrong 4 years ago... The PID didn't seem to function properly, I couldn't find a way to calibrate it and I was missing tools and manuals to create a good enclosure for the PID. So I left the project catching dust in a drawer..

Fast-forward to one week ago.. I had 1 day reserved for tinkering (ship it!) and it should be done. I fetched the PID from the drawer and got to work.. Here's a little timelapse: (in better quality than Facebook)

During lunch hour, it seem to work and I rushed to the local supermarket for eggs... Look what I had for lunch:
Sous-vide eggs
And next day I threw in a large piece of meat:
Sous-vide meat, 73 degrees for 11 hours.
That meat turned out even better! Now with everything working properly I could focus on creating a nice enclosure for the device. I wanted to have something sturdy and I had some small changes for the electrical circuit. I wanted to keep on using the rice cooker for normal usage as well, so I made plan to make a device with 1 socket in and 1 socket out. This way, both could be a stand-alone device and usable for other things too! So with a bit of woodworking and electrical wire, I made an enclosure:
IMG_4352
Now I only need to close it with a bottom plate and add Sugru feet to it. Then it's done! Let's see what other interesting recipes are available for this thing!

Author's profile picture Joost Plattel

Data and reflections about 2015

Another year passed an I'm due to update my projects page and create another one for next year! To close past year and explore the next I've used YearCompass for my reflections. It took me over 3 afternoons to completely fill it out, but it's an enjoyable ride! It's great looking backwards into your calendar and see all that you have achieved.

I've also concatenated all my 8:36pm photos into a video like I do every year. Sadly during some time this year, my phone broke down more often and I've left it on the table too much to my liking... Next year will be better, I promise! Here's the video:

Also, I've been running the Moment app for a year. Using the same analysis in a previous post, I can now say having a new phone increased my usage in the past three months. I'm spending 76 minutes on average per day behind my phone... And that's a bit too much in my opinion. I'm aiming to decrease it in the next year! Here are the distributions per month and weekday:

phone-graphs

I've also been tracking the things I've done with iDonethis and have collected a year full of data, more on that soon! It's a collected archive of both personal and work related things... I like the way of simply logging data via email. But lately I've been slacking and not answering that many, batching them all at once for a week (and I'm not sure that's the right thing..). I like how their email is stocked up with reflections though, seeing what I've done a year ago.

Author's profile picture Joost Plattel

A lecture in Ghent

A few weeks ago I gave a lecture in Ghent, a beautiful city and so I decided to spend the weekend at an AirBnB host to enjoy the city! Here's a picture I took:
IMG_6578.jpg
I've uploaded all the slides from the lecture on Slideshare for you to enjoy.

It was my longest lecture and I've learned some useful things while doing so. I find that having a storyline with little pieces is harder to keep up over longer times, so next time I will try to venture more in depth of some of my personal tracking experiments, for example my phone usage.

Author's profile picture Joost Plattel

Quantified Phone Usage with iPython

Technology is making it easier to collect data, for example phone usage. From the 1st of January I tracked how much I've used my phone by installing an app called Moment. It runs in the background and silently tracks how much you use your phone. As said, the first step towards behaviour-change is providing insight in current behaviour.

Lately I've been exploring iPython for data-analysis and sharing snippets of data. I've started a Github repository that contains some notebooks I'm working on. And I've embedded the one below where I analyse my phone usage:

I'd like iPython notebooks for their portability and it makes it easy to document code along with mark-down. It's somewhere in between a 'gist' and a full github repository. I've created a special post-template within Wordpress that should make it easy to share more notebooks, so you should be expecting more to pop up when I tend to share code!

Regarding changing behaviour, I think creating this analysis made me aware that I spend over 1 hour everyday behind my phone, that's a lot. Including quantifying sleep and computer time, I do think it's possible to create quite a good framework of my days. Such a framework can be the first steps towards a method for personal behaviour change...

Author's profile picture Joost Plattel