The Online Communication Cycle

‘Why are you writing in English’, Simone asked me. She had told me Victor had read my blogs about politics, business and IT on the internet which were sometimes in English. I told her I had two reasons for this: it gave me a broader audience and having worked for an English company where I learned to write compact English and liked doing this. ‘And why don’t you focus on one topic, you are writing about such a lot of different topics’. I answered: ‘Having studied Sociology and having worked a long time in IT I have always been interested in how the world was changed by IT, not only from a business point of view but also regarding their personal lives. And as Lecturer Information Management I also teach students about this and tell them about my personal experiences during the lessons and my view on this.’

She wanted to know more about my visit to Sedona and how I met Victor so I told her about the Resurfacing workshop and our discussion on the airport waiting for our planes because of the heavy snow delaying our flights. The reason I participated in this workshop was that I wanted to investigate if I could use this format as a lecturer. ‘I like to do things which in first instance don’t have anything to do with my work but there is always a new perspective which helps me further developing my thoughts. Just like the conversation I had with Paul last week on his startup: I was not sure yet how I could use this but I feel this could in the future. I explained her what we discussed the week before.’

Simone replied: ‘The problem with most people nowadays is that they are confused because of the fact so much is changing all the time. The media are focusing on hypes which are coming up quickly but also ending quickly and soon forgotten. And as most of these hypes have a negative background most people think were are going in the wrong direction. But if you look at it from a scientific and historical point of view we are steadily doing better al the time. The Swedish physician, academic, statistician, and public speaker Hans Gosling made a lot of statistics in which he proofed were are doing better than most people expect, he died a few days ago, a terrible loss for science.’

‘Victor’s communications paradox has to do with the fact that the way we interact and communicate with our environment is rapidly changing and that our mind is not able to cope with this, we are not in the drivers seat any more but constantly reacting to what’s happening around us. Direct one to one communication is now being replaced by new ways of communication and the big difference with the old way of communication is that in the past, when you were communicating with someone, the message was key and you were using verbal and none verbal communication to interact. Now, while the internet has become available you can easily communicate with all people allover the world using channels as Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat.

This way of communication is new for most people (Facebook exists only 13 years) and we don’t know yet what the real impact of communicating through these channels will be. This impact can be both positive, your tweet or post can go viral and become a hype, or negative in the sense that a wrong post can change the way others see you. That’s why mots people have their personal brand in mind when they communicate and respond when communication is not in line with this. That’s the reason most people don’t create content themselves anymore but are constantly responding and having an opinion on what others have to say by liking, sharing and replying, I call this spinning.’ She showed me a picture from Victor’s book how this has changed.’

‘As you can see in the picture online communication is more complex than direct communication and not everybody’s has the skills and is able to manage this process successfully. It starts with having a good picture of your identity and this can, especially when your young, become a big problem: when receiving negative feedback this can make them very unsure. Channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become very important and have big impact on the way we communicate and the way we receive information.’

I responded: ‘True, and that’s why, according to me, you cannot talk about social media anymore as most people do. Technology made communication channels available and these have completely changed the way we communicate with each other and this development has just started and already high impact. From a sociological point of view this new ‘Online Communication’ can never replace ‘Direct Communication’ but it has changed it. And it will never change back to the days before we got our own PC or Smartphone, it’s here to stay. And what we need to learn our students now is what the value of these ways of communication can be, what’s is their potential.’

‘Take for example the development of popular music since the fifties of the last century when we had only the radio and television and the LP was not there yet. Songs were about love and personal communication and the message in a song was always very clear and easy to understand. This has completely changed, it’s not about the text of the song and the music anymore but about the artist and his brand and management taking care the artist is in the news all the time. Ask someone what a song is all about and nobody knows.’

‘I have studied Sociology, what did you?’, asked Simone. ‘Me too’, I said ‘but that was more than 30 years ago before I started working in IT, I’m not familiar with the latest developments’. ‘But if I read your blogs I’m not listening to an IT guy talking but to a Sociologist who is talking about the changes in society due to the Internet, why don’t you write something from your old Sociology background, I think the publisher I work with would be very interested’. She is right, I thought, what I’m writing about is not a structural analysis but just a reflection on what I experience and read somewhere, a more structural approach using the sociological body of knowledge would make sense.

While drinking our wine we discussed what an interesting subject would be from a sociological point of view and agreed after some time it would be interesting to look how our view on the world around us has changed since the massive introduction of new ways of communication made possible by the internet. ‘Interesting subject’, I replied to her, ‘I will think about it and let you now how I would approach this but this will take time’. ‘Take your time, she smiled, ‘and in the meantime let me know once in a while how you are doing…’.

The Information Funnel

Two days later I received a phone call from Victor, he was in Amsterdam for a few days and wanted to meet me, did I have some time the next evening? He wanted to discuss something with me. I had already planned to go to Amsterdam to the University so we made an appointment at 18:00 in the American hotel, my favorite place to meet someone in Amsterdam. When I arrived, Victor was not alone, he was sitting at a table overlooking the Leidseplein and talking to a women of his age with long blond hair. When I approached, Victor introduced me to her as his Sedona friend and introduced her to me as Simone, the translator of his books into Dutch.

He was talking to her about his new book ‘The Communication Paradox’ which he already explained to me while waiting on the airport about impact of the changes in our communication infrastructure which took care we never had so many means of communication as before while at the same time direct one to one communication becomes harder for us, especially for young adults who are not able to communicate easily which causes a lot of stress and psychological problems for them. After this he looked at me and said to me: ‘and that’s why I asked you to join us, maybe you could help solving the problem.’.

I told him I was surprised and Victor smiled and continued ‘Working on my book I realised I was only describing a problem but not working on a solution and last week I remembered our recent conversation and that you told me you were lecturing Information Management to students, the same students who I describe in my book having all these problems. I want to know more about what your lecturing. What is the definition of Information Management according to you?’.

I responded: ‘Key for Information Management is that business nowadays have more and more IT available in which continuously data are stored about their customers, sales, inventory, distribution and financial situation but also data from the outside world available through external sources and the Internet. Information Management is the skill to translate all this data to useful information which makes it possible to manage your business, I call this the Information Funnel. There is so much data available that it’s not easy to do this, you not only need to understand IT but also the business of a company and understand what is going on inside and outside the company’.

‘Why do you call it a skill’, Victor asked. ‘Well’, I told him, ‘Twenty years ago Management Reporting was 90% plus financial and most of the time only available after month ends closing. If something went wrong in an organisation it ws only noticed when a customer had a complaint or your bank did not want to give you credit any more. Today changes go so fast that managers want information as soon as available and if possible direct online, stand and ad hoc. To be able to produce these dashboards and reports you need to know a lot about a company and be experienced’.

‘And what happens when companies not have a good Information Management Function?. Victor asked’. ‘Then you have a problem’, I responded, ‘It’s like a patient being sick and not having the right instruments available to investigate what’s wrong. Management Information gives you the insights on what’s going right and what’s going wrong so you can immediately take action when needed to change things for the better, if possible. In the past this was a role for the CFO but this has changed with the introduction of IT and is now more the domain of the CIO who does not only have to know about IT and needs to have broad business knowledge being able to combine both to usefull Management Information’.

‘Students have the same problem as companies nowadays, how can they structure all the digital data they receive so it becomes useful information for them? Digital overload is a big problem now for students, they are not able to filter the content which comes available all the time on the internet properly which can have big influence on their future performance’, Victor concluded. ‘Within companies the CIO is responsible for managing this information funnel and for students this of course should be the teacher and as you teach Information Management you are sitting on the solution of our problem’.

Since three years I was lecturing students the basics of Information Management on a private University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam mainly from a manual yet like in the old days when only books were available. And during my lessons when all my students were busy with their smartphones and laptops multitasking between me and what was going on online. The manual I used ‘Information Management’ was clearly written by someone who had worked in IT because I recognised a lot described in my book as my own experiences in the past working for IT companies. And my students were not interested in these old stories because they were born in a world with IT all around them while I had slowly grown into this from nothing.

Victor looked at me and said: ‘ And you teachers could be the key for solving this issue, there is a task for schools and universities to prepare students for the information society certainly in a time when politicians talk about ‘alternative’ facts and everybody is creating his own Facebook environment filtering out post they don’t like’.

‘But how do you want to do this’, Simone asked. Victor relied: ‘Maybe a school is not the right solution for this, we need something to replace this which is more modern and fit for our Information Society. The reason why schools were founded in the first place was that families were not able to educate their children themselves and you need teacher to learn them how to read, write and calculate. Children were living in large families and lived in small homes so going to school made sense in these days. Since then a lot have changed, most children now have a room on their own and parents both working and the relationship between parents and children has changed a lot’.

‘My students spend on average 7 hours on school and 4 hours a day online next to the time they spend online at school,’ I responded, ‘and for them these are two differente worlds. If you want to change this you need to change the whole school system and integrate these worlds into one and make more connections with the outside world. Why only go to one school and sit in a room with the other students and always the same teacher and following an education developed for the average student? Why not making this more flexible and use all available capacity with courses for students with different backgrounds and levels?’

‘Research has shown that collaborative learning works better than learning on your own, this has to do with the way your brain works. Another interesting conclusion is that you can better stay up late to finish a deadline than start early in the  morning, the time most schools want you to be the most productive. Also most teachers start with the theoretical concepts and than apply these while it’s better to first do something and than reflect on this form a theoretical background if you want to learn.’

‘Another important issue which influences learning is the changing relationship between students and their parents. It depends of course on the educational background of their parents but a lot is nowadays discussed around the kitchen table. 25 years ago students learned stuff not understood by their parents because the study content was more theoretical. Nowadays the study content is much more up to date and so students can easier discuss the content with their parents which makes it easier for them to learn’.

‘And just like companies need to manage their Information Funnel, students have to learn also how to qualify all the information they receive through their devices whole day and integrate this with what they learn on school or universities, this are not separate worlds but complementary. They have to learn the difference between facts and fake facts, an opinion and something which is scientific proven and how you can filter information which is relevant for you. They need to not only to see their smartphone as a tool to play with when they have noting to do but also as an instrument to become a useful member of society. Most schools see these diverse as a threat while it should be an opportunity.

‘In the Netherlands the school system is not able to educate around 15.000 students because their parents cannot find a proper school for them or schools don’t want them because of a lot of reasons. Around 5.000 of them have permission to get education at home from their parents  or private teachers giving lesson at home. At the same time the number of students who need extra lessons after schooltime from specialized institutes is growing and the same is happening for private schools were parents have to pay a lot of money to give more tailored education fit for the students needs.’

‘That’s why I thing we need to rethink the fundamentals of our school system’, Victor said, ‘We should develop a flexible system for all by which during once lifetime we van learn or teach others the necessary knowledge and skills to become a citizen, employee or owner of a business using all available methods and technology. If you define a school now a student now will say it’s a combination of a building and a set of teachers capable of giving lessons in a certain domain. This should be a student with certain qualifications who has to learn some things otherwise he/she can’t survive in society and invest in other qualifications he enjoys doing and which can potential become his future business. And the tools to do this can be having a course in a class with a teacher a a level and location of choice, following a virtual course, doing a study trip or internship, earning study points with a public service, travel and write an essay on your experiences, participating in an online knowledge community, doing a skills test, talking to a study coach, visiting a museum with their parents or talking to an entrepreneur or even start up your first business’

We talked about this for some time and Victor left around ten, he had to fly back next morning very early, I stayed behind with Simone. He was very glad with our discussion and it was very useful for him.

Protect or Die

Looking back, I was busy with the wrong issues those first twenty days of 2017. I had not foreseen the impact of the big changes which were coming. As soon as Donald Trump was inaugurated he started signing executive orders which were changing the worldwide political landscape significant. A few days after he took office I got a phone call from someone I did not know and he asked me if I was available for a meeting, he wanted to discuss something with me. We planned to meet in a restaurant in a small town not far from where I live.

He was already there when I arrived and he introduced himself as Paul. I started with introducing myself and told him about the projects I was running at the moment. After this, I asked him what he wanted from me. He started explaining his background, he had been in the Dutch army for a long time in a ‘technical’ function and had done assignments in Bosnia and Afghanistan and was now working in IT as a security expert. He still had a large network of ex-soldiers around him and participated in military training sessions all over the world. They did these trainings in secret because bad publicity was not what they wanted, they just wanted to practise their skills and meet old friends.

He had read my blogs on the International Police training Lowlands Grenade  in Marnehuizen in the North of the Netherlands. I participated during this training as an actor in June 2014. I was there for 5 days and really liked it working together with delegations of national police from 42 countries which were training there and showing each other their capabilities and skills. There were police from the US, Israel, Ukraine, Spain, the UK etc..

Working together with those policemen and women was big fun and most of the time I was walking around looking at what was happening and once in a while I was asked to play a role. I remember I had to play the role of Vice President of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment  (CPT) and drove around protected by an Lithuanian SWAT-team and an Hungarian CRC-team and visited the prison and a police station (PSS) interviewing staff there. I was impressed by the professionalism of all participating but also the friendship between the participants with these different backgrounds and had a lot of fun and learned a lot about the way they work and the technology they used.

After we discussed this Paul told me about his plans. He and his friends were very worried about the developments now happening worldwide with the election of Trump, the Brexit and the conflicts in the Middel East. They were discussing the impact of this and were investigating  what their role could be in this changing political and military landscape. He referred to the first meeting between Donald Trump and Theresa May who agreed that: “The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over.”

The impact of this would be that probably the number of local conflicts would increase and he expected a lot of demand on the short run for companies who could protect civilians and objects on a commercial basis. Most European countries have not invested enough in military material and capacity the last 20 years and are now facing a world in turmoil with big problems in the Middle East and Africa and potential new conflicts at locations we are not aware of yet. They need to respond to this and build up their own capacity but this will taken some time and in the meantime they need to do something to protect their citizens. 

Paul was busy with investigating if starting up a company for this in the Netherlands was possible and for this he needed some “citizens” next to the military from his network who could help with the administrative but also the ‘selling” of this company external. In the US and UK have already a lot of private military contractors (like Blackwater) working closely together with their government but there are none in the rest of Europe. This has to do with the fact that there is no political foundation for such an initiative but, according to Paul, this could change on the short run when conflicts escalate and protection is needed. He asked me if I was interested in helping setting this up with his team, he needed someone who did not talk in military terms and was able to talk to politicians and explain why this company was useful and not a threat for the official military institutions. The primary objective of this company would be to protect people and objects and do this in a professional way with high moral and ethical standards.

I was very surprised by this question, why had he contacted me? How did he now about my background? Was he maybe part of an Intelligence Service testing me?  I told him I would think about what he said and give him my feedback later. Under normal circumstances I would have never had done this but the things happening at that moment made me change my mind because of course we need to protect ourselves from the bad guys.

The Communication Paradox

Victor’s communication paradox was about the problem that, while IT has developed more and more channels of communication for us (WhatsApp, Facebook etc.), growing up has become more and more difficult four young people nowadays and that they experience a lot of stress and problems while developing themselves. Victor called this the Information Paradox which he further explained to me.

The last decade we have created a new world next to the real ‘Physical world’ and ‘Fantasy World’ which can be called the ‘Online’ world and which is always available when you have access to a device with Internet connection. And, when going ‘Online’, you can influence your ‘User Experience’ and create your own environment and manage your content. You can, for example, only invite the friends you like on your Facebook or WhatsApp account or filter the information you like on your screen creating your own virtual world. This world also enables you to watch movies, play games and listen to music on your own and forget the world around you, it’s your unique and individual experience.

The current generation of students are the first-generation students who have grown up with constant access to the Internet. It’s not possible to explaining IT to them without considering their ‘Online’ perspective. And the funny thing is that most teachers have grown up without ICT and learned to use it at a later age. Our students don’t know how the none-connected world looked like 25 years ago before Internet was invented so you could better explain them how communication was done those days than explain how it works now.

You can compare being online with freedom: it doesn’t mean anything to those who have it but once taken away you know what it is! Of course, the new generation has experienced what it is to have no Internet connectivity. For most students this is a threat and creates stress, not an opportunity to relax. The way we communicate has changed, for example: when you take the train everybody is staring at their smartphone, in schools students check their smartphones between lessons instead of talking to each other and at home WhatsApp has replaced picking up the phone.

To investigate how young people use social media Victor asked a group of students two questions: 1) how many posts did you create yourself last week and 2) how many times did you respond to post posted by someone else. Regarding the first question most of them posted rarely something new: on average, only once a week a new post. But replying and sharing is done multiple times per day. Summarizing his findings: young people don’t create content themselves but are busy responding and having an opinion on what others publish online building their online identity.

Direct one to one communication is replaced by this new way of communication and the big difference with the old way is that in the past, when you were talking directly with someone, only the people around you were involved. Nowadays potentially the whole world can read your post which can go viral and become a hype before you know it. So doing something wrong online can have more impact now.

Our whole communication has changed significant and this makes especially young people, who are by nature very unsure, vulnerable for stress and psychological problems. And because your ‘Online World’, which you created yourself, is always available: you can escape from the ‘Real World’ to this ‘Online World’ . And the old ‘Fantasy World’ has become less important and is now underdeveloped at the expense of developing your own creativity. Direct communication is becoming difficult and even has become art like Marina Abramović performance in the MoMA in New York where she is only watching visitors in their eyes: direct none verbal communication reduced to object of art.

The only way to solve this is was developing training courses for young people in old fashioned communication skills and that’s why he was in Sedona to investigate if this course we did could be used. He concluded this was not the case, the format was to old fashioned and would not appeal young people. We did not have much more time to discuss this but we agreed we would in a few weeks and further discuss this, London after all was not so far from Amsterdam.

During my flight back home I had time to think back on what happened since New Years Eve, now two week ago. Next week I had to start working again, boring…

The IBM AS400

Flying back from Sedona I was thinking back on New Year’s Eve and my days in Sedona. During the course, I became friends with one of the other participants, Victor, a writer from the UK, and we spend time together on the airport there were delays because of the heavy snow which was fallen which caused the planes bringing us back home were rescheduled. Victor started writing when he was 12 years and published his first book at age 21: “The story Of Tess”. Only 36 he had already published 5 books, which were well received, and wrote a daily column in an English newspaper writing about social and political issues. He was flying back to Amsterdam where he had a large meeting planned with his readers in Hotel Americain and he was constantly in WhatsApp’ing his publisher hoping he would be back in time.

Reflecting on my own journey so far I was jealous on what he had accomplished. Before I started working in IT I had tried out al kind of jobs because I did not know what I wanted to become and, that is still my problem now. When I finally started working in IT at 30 this was just an easy way of earning money which I needed because my wife was pregnant and it was nice having earning money in an easy way and driving a company car: around 1980 it was very easy to get a job in IT without having the proper qualifications.

I remember being trained in Belgium as a software programmer where I was looking at a screen whole day with code and was certified after three weeks because at the end of the day I was still looking at the screen when everybody was gone. This was what the software company I was doing the training expected from me: give the impression of working and making long days so these could be billed to the customer, customers did not have any knowledge of IT in these day and you could sell them everything,

After some time, I became friends with one of the partners who always was the last to leave the building and appreciated a good glass of wine. The one thing I remembered from him is that he advised me to always wear a suit and tie and polish my shoes when wanting to make a career in IT. When I finished the course, he took care I was assigned as a software programmer to an IBM reseller who developed software for the AS400 computer designed to support medium sized companies. One day, still staring at the screen and not being productive at all, the manager of the company came to me and asked who of the programmers knew something about finance. Because nobody gave a response and I had learned you did not have to know anything at all in IT I said I was interested: after all I had done accounting on High school and had trained students in accounting during my studies. So after working as a software coder for three weeks I became instructor and in three months project manager, in no time I got a bigger car and a laptop.

On my first assignment with a customer I drove to the south to a laboratory which had just bought an AS400 and where IBM had done the implementation of the computer and the cables, and the screens. I walked in with three software tapes under my arms, introduced myself and was guided to the computer, uploaded the tape, looked at the screen and typed in INSTALL FIS and the computer started doing all kind of things. Time for me to start drinking coffee with the Finance Manager who was just appointed as IT responsible and also knew nothing about IT.

I asked him if he had any requirements about the new financial package and he did not have a clue: as long as the package worked as he was used to it was OK for him! When I asked him for documentation he told me they did not have this so I asked him to put this on paper and send this to me and made a new appointment with him in a week: too early for him and we agreed he would do this in two weeks. My first lesson: always take care next action is with someone else! After 6 hours, the software was installed and the start screen came up: time to leave and my boss could bill 8 hours to the customer: my first invoice for only drinking coffee and let others do the work!

Of course, he did not send me the requested description so I went there again, asked him for a list of account numbers, showed him how to enter them in the system, asked him to add them all before next week, had lunch and went back home after half a day. I had a list of 24 steps to be done before the system was ready to be used and it took almost 4 months before we finished them all and my boss was very happy for all the hours spend and invoices send. When I did not know something, I phoned a colleague and when this took also some time to investigate his or her hours were billed also.

I remember one customer very well who lived in my home town and, after we did the implementation, told me he and his partner both had a budget for external lunches but that he, as financial manager, did not have enough contacts to spend this. Because he also wanted to be out of the office weekly he asked me to lunch with him Fridays at his expense. For more then a year I went to the restaurant on my bike at 12:00, had lunch untill 15:00 and went home afterwards sending him an invoice for the whole day, an relaxed ending the week for me…

My boss was very happy with  this arrangement and toke care the manager got a laptop, the first one in his company. I give him some private lessons how to work with it at our office because he did not want his employees to say he did not know how to work with a laptop.  One day he called me and told he erased his computer by typing in DEL a:*.* an asked me to come to the office after working time to restore the software. If you know a little bit how IT worked when companies were first confronted with IT you could have a lot of fun and you did not need to know too much to become an expert and successful IT professional. Three years ago, after having worked for almost 30 years in IT, I stopped: time for a new challenge although I was still teaching Information Management to students who liked my stories on IT a lot.

While discussing this with Victor he said this description of the starting days of IT looked like the current impact of social media on society. While the first IT revolution was changing the way we work social media are changing the way we communicate, not only in the public but also in the private environment: while I was having lunch 30 years ago with my customers now the new generation is communicating through WhatApp and Facebook with it’s customers all over the world and which they maybe even had never seen. Social media have big impact and has changed the way we communicate significant, he wrote a lot about this issue in his columns. The reason he participated in the ‘Resurfing” course was he wanted to know learn more about this methodology because he was writing an essay on the modern communication paradox.

Resurfacing

The week after I flew to Sedona US for a two-day self-development course after being invited by an old colleague. I had some time free on the days of the course, had been in Sedona before and knew it was one of the best places to be in the US. The course was about “Resurfacing”, a technique which aimed to explore your conscience and in the end be the master of your own free will, just what I needed now to define my own Moon project!

When I presented myself at the registration desk in Sedona the lady behind the desk told me I did not pay the whole amount for the course: it was 12.000$ instead of the 1.200$ which I already paid. I was furious because I knew for certain in the invitation I received from my old colleague it stated 1.200$ for the two days and I would not have participated for this amount! I asked the lady to talk to the manager in charge of the workshop and after a few minutes a short bold guy came to me and gave me a cup of coffee and listed to what I had to say without giving me an answer on my questions. He kept smiling and told me he would talk to the legal department and could give me feedback afterwards on what he could do for me.

In the meantime, the workshop started and I had to decide what to do: stay and participate or leave. I decided to stay and participate, after all I was interested in the topic and had traveled a long distance from home. At the beginning of the workshop I met the other participants and I was assigned to a group of twelve people of which 6 were mentors and 6 participants, to my surprise my mentor was the old colleague who invited me for the course, I did not know he was invited also! 4 of the 6 ‘normal’ participants also complained on the price but we did not have much time to discuss because the workshop started and I decided to make my mind free of external stuff so I could concentrate on the course.

The next two days they kept us busy with all kind of exercises, some one to one with the mentors and some with the group. We started the course with identifying our earliest memories and life changing experiences and reflecting on what what we thought were our key drivers and ambitions, a mix of techniques I already experienced before and new ones. The mentors were all experienced master and guided us through the course with a personal approach and were alle ‘Believers” in the methodology developed by the inventor Robin Tree, a former teacher. The key objective of Robin was that by exploring the world of your mind, starting with introspection on your own experiences and connecting them to your beliefs, you will be able to get insight in your identity and will de enable you to set direction to your own life and be in control of your future.

That evening we had some time for ourselves as participants of the course while the mentors were sitting together somewhere else. During the day some of the participants had left the course and, because we were busy all day, we did not know why. In the restaurant I spoke to some other participants and they were all first time attanders and were very positive about the course although some complained on the quality of the mentors who guided them, for some this was the first time, luckily my mentor was very experienced. Only one complained about the money and thought it was a mistake because she knew others who had done the course before and had not complained about it.

Next morning we started with an evaluation of first day and this was for me the opportunity to ask the mentors when we would get feedback on the costs of the course, they were very surprised and did not know there was a problem. My mentor asked me to look at this “problem” from another perspective and ask myself the question “what is this course worth for you?”. If the course would cost nothing would it have the same value for you as if it was very expensive? If the course  would change your life in the sense that you would stop working at your current very well paid job and start a new adventure without a potential high income but more in line with your ambitions would it still be an interesting investment for you? And, if you look back, do the moments in your past life you made choices which changed your life structural had anything to do with money?

At the end of the day I concluded that is was good having done this course and not let me be influenced by the money problem. When checking out I met the short bold guy who I spoke to at the beginning of the course and he introduced himself as Robin Tree, owner and developer of the “Resurfacing” methodology. He told me he would not insist on paying the 12k $ but that I was free of course to pay more if the course was more worth than I thought before participating: on avarage participants of his course valued it ten times higher after then before. It was also a good methodology to ‘shake out” the participants early during the course who were to much focussed on the money and were not able to open their mind. I agreed, without this issue i would have been more relaxed and less focussed, pressure sometimes helps when you want change..

Waking Up

Woke up this morning with a terrible headache not knowing where I was and how late. I did not recognize the room and also noticed I did not sleep alone: it could not have been that bad yesterday… While slowly recovering I remembered I had stayed New Year’s Eve with friends in the Northern part of the Netherlands where it’s always cold and windy, the houses suffer from the increasing number of earthquakes and the people were still eating potatoes every day.

I spend the evening before talking and drinking about our lives, politics and achievements (as far as we had them) and ended the evening drinking champagne and toasting on what 2017 could bring us. We, all around sixty years old, came together every year on New Year’s Eve to talk with each other and I realized waking up that our view on the world had never been as negative as this time and our ambitions had also never been so low.

Although everybody was talking about disruption nowadays society was making things not easier for us and telling us all the time what to do and what not to do: almost all things we liked to do were under discussion: drinking alcohol, celebrate “Sinterklaas” (a Dutch children’s festivity), Christmas and making a firework at midnight on New Year’s Eve. While we were young in the sixties we were fighting for our liberty and wanted more freedom and now we were defending old values, funny how things can change…

While shaving I suddenly realized myself we did not talk about our goals or objectives like we did when we were young. What happened to us we were now so negative and low on our ambitions? When I was 14 years old in 1969 my father woke me up at night to watch the first men walking on the: a life changing experience for me! At that moment, I thought it would be possible to walk on the moon also. Over the years I understood this was not a realistic ambition. But why not define a new ambition I thought while shaving?

Walking downstairs for breakfast I decided that I would start finding a new ambition for 2017 and would call this “The Moon Project”. Downstairs I found all sitting around the kitchen table having breakfast and started asking questions but did not get answers back I did not expect. Driving back home that afternoon I decided I needed to broaden my scope and first further investigate the first moon landing, what made this so successful and why can’t we do this again  easily? Having done something should make it easy to repeat 48 years later seen the current status of technology.

The next morning I did a quick scan on the Internet on what was the most crusial succes factor for the Apollo project and was triggered by the role of Margaret Hamilton, the MIT lead software engineer who was responsible for the writing the software code. Without this code it would not have been possible to land safely on the moon. At the end of 2016 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama for her work, not only for the Apollo Project but also because she invented the concept of software engineering.

Just three minutes before the Apollo Moon lander landed on the Moon several computer alarms were triggered. The Moon lander computer was overloaded with interrupts caused by an incorrectly power supply to the lander’s rendezvous radar. Hamilton’s software indicated “executive overflows”, meaning the computer could not complete all of its tasks in the available time and had to postpone some of them. The software allowed the computer to cope with this problem by prioritising the tasks to be completed and doing only the most important ones. . Hamilton’s priority alarm warned the astronauts there was an emergency and executed the crucial tasks without blocking the system. Always wandered why it took so long before they came out of the Apollo: the board computer still had to execute the taks not yet done…

Maybe that’s our problem, I thought, we are doing to much and can’t really prioritise, that’s why we have such a poor outcome as society. What the Apollo case learned me is that it’s not enough to have an ambition and clear goal which is easily to communicate but you need also to have the right people with the right mindset and skills to execute the tasks. If one of the two is missing you will not realise your objectives.

Helga Ruebsamen

Ik woonde vroeger in Den Haag in het Statenkwartier op de Johan van Oldenbarneveltlaan en achter in de tuin van onze buren stond een tuinhuisje waarin destijds Helga Ruebsamen woonde en waar zich ‘s nachts de meest vreemde taferelen afspeelden. Vanuit mijn jongenskamer openbaarde zich voor mij een interessante wereld van kunstenaars, dronkaards en topless zonnende dames en regelmatig ging het daar achter in die tuin luidruchtig aan toe. Het kwam af en toe voor dat er in het pad achter ons huis ‘s morgens iemand zijn roes lag uit te slapen en daar moest ik me dan met mijn fiets langs laveren: het kunstenaarsmilieu trok me toen al aan…

helga-ruebsamen-2

Helga moet toen rond 1970 achter in de dertig geweest zijn en de buurt had het niet zo op haar. Het huisje wat ze bewoonde was eigenlijk een tuinhuisje en niet geschikt voor bewoning. Het lag niet aan de straat en je moest weten hoe je er via een ingang aan de Frankenslag achter de tuinen langs kon komen. Toch wisten velen die weg te vinden want ze had veel bezoek. Ik weet dat een aantal buren haar daar weg wilde hebben waaronder een arts en een hoge pief die bij Justitie werkte. Ik vond dat leven in de brouwerij in deze stijve buurt juist wel leuk!

helga-ruebsamen

Ik had een van haar boeken op mijn leeslijst voor het eindexamen gezet en ik weet nog goed dat mijn docent Nederlands speciaal voor mij dit boek  moest lezen omdat hij haar werk niet kende – ze had toen al vier boeken geschreven. Hij vond het maar niks:  “slecht geschreven, ronduit waardeloos” zei hij nadat ik uitgelegd wat ik er van haar werk vond. Ik had tevens Leonard Cohen op mijn leeslijst gezet en daar was hij wel enthousiast over. Gelukkig kwam er later meer waardering voor haar werk zoals blijkt uit het interview met Adriaan van Dis, een bijzondere Haagse vrouw die veel meegemaakt heeft en alles uit het leven gehaald heeft!

Wim Brands

De afgelopen maanden volgde ik een schrijverstraining bij de schrijversvakschool in Amsterdam gegeven door Wim Brands. Wim gaf ons wekelijks een schrijfopdracht mee naar huis en liet ons tijdens de les onze schrijfsels voorlezen waarna hij ons uitnodigde op elkaars werk te reageren. Pas daarna gaf hij ons op zijn kenmerkende, geïnteresseerde manier feedback. Af en toe stopte hij onverwacht en gaf een nieuwe opdracht die we dan ter plekke moesten uitwerken.

Wim Brands

Wim nam ons serieus en had geen voorkeuren: alle tien deelnemers kregen dezelfde  aandacht waardoor iedereen zich in de groep veilig voelde en kon uiten. De laatste les viel het me op dat hij er met zijn hoofd niet bij was en veel met zijn smartphone bezig was. Aan het eind van de les stond hij op met een ‘Het gaat de goed kant op!’ en weg was hij, het zou de laatste keer zijn. We kregen te horen dat hij ziek was en zijn lessen werden door een andere schrijver overgenomen.

Wat ik met name van Wim geleerd heb is dat schrijven begint met goed en aandachtig lezen wat je op papier hebt gezet: wat staat daar eigenlijk en is dat niet alleen voor jezelf maar ook voor anderen begrijpelijk? In een van de lessen had Wim vier boeken bij zich waaruit hij ons de eerste alinea liet lezen met de vraag: kloppen de zinnen die hier staan? En steeds vonden we wel wat… Wim was vooral een meester in het lezen!

Een van de opdrachten die we kregen was een verhaal te schrijven op basis van de beginregel van een gedicht van Louise Glück, ik begreep dat hij daar erg van onder de indruk was:

Trillium – Louise Glück
March 23, 2009

When I woke up I was in a forest. The dark
seemed natural, the sky through the pine trees
thick with many lights.

I knew nothing; I could do nothing but see.
And as I watched, all the lights of heaven
faded to make a single thing, a fire
burning through the cool firs.
Then it wasn’t possible any longer
to stare at heaven and not be destroyed.

Are there souls that need
death’s presence, as I require protection?
I think if I speak long enough
I will answer that question, I will see
whatever they see, a ladder
reaching through the firs, whatever
calls them to exchange their lives—

Think what I understand already.
I woke up ignorant in a forest;
only a moment ago, I didn’t know my voice
if one were given to me
would be so full of grief, my sentences
like cries strung together.
I didn’t even know I felt grief
until that word came, until I felt
rain streaming from me

Erik Menkveld maakte hiervan de volgende vertaling gepubliceerd in Raster 107, 2004:

                                                                  ‘

Bored couples

Bored couples

“En, hoe was je vakantie?’, vroeg de blonde vrouw aan de gezette vrouw met de zwarte krullen die iets verderop in de trein tegenover haar zat. “Verschrikkelijk!”, antwoorde ze “Johan had weer allerlei dingen gepland en uitrusten stond niet op zijn programma op Kreta”. “Gelukkig was het daar niet zo heet maar het was doodvermoeiend steeds achter hem aan te sjokken van het ene mooie dorpje naar het andere pittoreske plaatsje, museum of strand, continu waren we op pad.”

“De grootste ramp was een wandeling die hij wilde maken naar het strand van “hoogstens een uurtje”, volgens hem goed aangegeven en met mooie vergezichten, “dat moet jij dus makkelijk aan kunnen”, had hij daarbij gezegd. Ik mijn sportschoenen aan en wij samen op pad. Het begon mooi maar al snel werd het landschap saai en liepen we tussen de nieuwbouwprojecten en over pas aangelegde paden die soms plots ophielden. Hij wilde per se doorlopen want volgens zijn route- en stappenteller “liepen we in de goede richting en moest ik even geduld hebben, we zouden zo op het mooie pad naar zee komen” “.

“Dat zeggen ze altijd”, zie de blonde vrouw, ‘Ik trap daar niet meer in, laat hem altijd alleen lopen dan kan ik plat bij het zwembad”. “Ik moet altijd mee van Johan”, zei haar vriendin en als ik zoiets voorstel of iets anders wil zijn er zoveel redenen waarom dit niet kan, dat heb ik opgegeven”. “Het zit schijnbaar in de familie”, zie de blonde vrouw, blijkbaar waren het schoonzussen.

“Het werd steeds erger, warmer en het pad slechter en toen ik op een gegeven moment voorstelde een taxi te nemen werd hij boos en liep koppig door; ik er maar weer achteraan sjokken dus… Zijn conditie is een stuk beter dan de mijne en mijn voeten deden erg zeer”. “Sportschoenen zijn ook niet optimaal om lange stukken mee te lopen op slecht terrein”, vulde de schoonzus aan. “Uiteindelijk, na ruim vijf uur lopen, hebben we toch een taxi teruggenomen en moesten we de lokale chauffeur een fortuin betalen voor de rit, dat was natuurlijk mijn schuld “want we waren er bijna” natuurlijk!”, en een diepe zucht volgde.

“Terug in het appartement met uitzicht op de bouwwerkzaamheden en constant lawaai van machines ben ik op bed gaan liggen en er die dag niet meer uitgekomen, zo moe was ik. Johan heb ik die dag niet meer gezien tot hij ’s avonds laat het bed in schoof, ik deed net of ik sliep.” “De volgende dag hebben we het nergens meer over gehad en begonnen we aan ons volgende uitstapje, gelukkig had hij een huurauto geregeld”.

“Blij dat we weer thuis zijn”, zei de vrouw met het zwarte haar, “Hij is gelukkig weer aan het werk en dan is het best met hem uit te houden. Vakanties, van mij hadden die niet uitgevonden hoeven worden!”. “Wacht maar tot hij pensioen gaat”, zei de blonde vrouw, “Je moet er toch eens over na gaan denken hoe je dat met hem gaat aanpakken, anders heb je geen leven”. “Ik denk dat ik maar een hond neem”, zei de ander, “Kan hij die gaan uitlaten en is hij even weg. Ik probeer hem al te interesseren voor vissen net als jouw man, is hij af en toe wat langer weg…”.

Laatste opdracht Schrijversvakschool maart 2016 van Maaike Bergstra die het vorige week van Wim Brands overnam omdat hij plots ziek was geworden: “Maak een verhaal op basis van bovenstaande foto van Martin Parr uit de serie “Bored couples”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nadat ik bovenstaand verhaal op mijn blog heb gepost over een foto uit de serie ‘Bored couples” van Martin Parr lees ik een half uur later een recensie in NRC over een boek van Tim Parks “Thomas and Mary” die een andere beklemmende foto uit de serie van Martin Parr als illustratie gebruikt, bestaat toeval eigenlijk wel of zit hier een onzichtbare hand achter?

Wolf

Wolf kwam binnen en keek om zich heen, niemand keek naar hem of zijn werk. Aarzelend liep hij naar een van de pratende groepjes. Een grote rood aangelopen man, keurig in het pak, was bezig anekdotes te vertellen over ene Jaap, een zeer succesvol kunstenaar die blijkbaar niet aanwezig was. Hij deed net of hij geïnteresseerd stond te luisteren. Lastig, gezelschappen, dacht hij. Het liefst zat hij thuis maar hij had er niet onderuit gekund hiernaartoe te gaan. Hij had genoeg aan zichzelf en in gezelschap van anderen voelde hij zich eenzamer dan alleen.

De vernisageHoewel hij een half uur na aanvang was gearriveerd was Carla, die dit georganiseerd had, nog niet binnen. Een knappe jonge dame kwam langs met een schaal kunstig versierde hapjes. Terwijl hij er een pakte richtte de anekdote vertellende man zich tot hem en vroeg: “En wie bent U? Ik heb U hier nog niet eerder gezien.”. Nu was het zijn beurt rood aan te lopen, praten ging hem sowieso slecht af en met een volle mond des te slechter.

Na een paar happen lucht te hebben genomen wist hij te zeggen: “Mijn naam is Wolf, en wie bent U?”. Een tegenvraag stellen werkte het beste in zo’n situatie. De man stak zijn hand uit en zei: “Van der Wall, kunsthandelaar”. Het werd even stil tot de man weer van wal stak, deze keer over Ai Weiwei die zich had laten fotograferen in de houding van het verdronken Syrische kind op het strand van Lesbos. “Schande, met zijn verhuizing naar Europa heeft Ai zijn obsessie met de Chinese machthebbers achter zich gelaten en richt zijn pijlen nu op ons”, zei van der Wall “het is hier lang niet zo slecht als in China”.

Ai Weiwei BeachVanuit zijn ooghoeken zag Wolf Carla binnenkomen, automatisch keerden vele blikken zich naar haar en stralend en groetend liep ze haar rondje, hem had ze nog niet gezien. Vrouwen als Carla die nog de goede leeftijd hadden straalden continu een soort genieten van het leven uit waar hij niet zo goed tegen kon, hij wist dat dat vanzelf over zou gaan.

“De boodschap en zijn brenger worden bij Ai Weiwei zo langzamerhand belangrijker dan zijn werk”, zei Wolf “en de kwaliteit van zijn foto’s is abominabel. Kunst zou voor zichzelf moeten spreken zonder dat de persoon van de kunstenaar een rol speelt”. Ondanks verschillende argumenten waren Wolf en van der Wall het eigenlijk wel met elkaar eens.

Carla had eindelijk ontdekt waar hij stond en liep enthousiast op hem af “Hoi Wolf, mooi dat je gekomen bent, we gaan zo beginnen!” zei ze. Verbaasd keek iedereen naar Wolf. “Heb je jezelf niet voorgesteld Wolf? Dit is de kunstenaar die al dit mooie werk hier heeft gemaakt!”.  Het werd plots stil in het gezelschap en van de Wall keek Wolf verbaasd aan en daarna naar de schilderijen aan de muur; hij had nog geen tijd gehad ze te bekijken.

Negatief

Onderweg naar het café besloot ik de kortste weg te nemen langs de molen. Ik moest me haasten want ik was te laat vertrokken. Plots, in een flits, zag ik haar lopen. Onze blikken werden meteen gevangen, er was geen ontkomen meer aan. Ik liep naar haar toe, gaf haar een kus, en probeerde krampachtig te lachen. “Dat is lang geleden Marion”, zei ik, “dat we elkaar nu juist op deze plek moeten tegenkomen”. Vlak bij deze plek woont haar moeder. “Ik loop hier elke dag” zei ze “dus zo toevallig is dat niet”. Er zat een sarcastische toon in haar stem, hetzelfde toontje dat mij destijds zo was gaan tegenstaan. “Hans, we moeten praten” zei ze terwijl ze mij strak aankeek, “heb je nu even tijd?”.

Sinds we uit elkaar waren gegaan hadden we elkaar niet meer gesproken en er waren inderdaad nog een paar zaken die ik graag geregeld wilde hebben. Toen ik destijds gehaast onze etage had verlaten had ik zonder erbij na te denken mijn fotonegatieven achterlaten uit het pre digitale tijdperk. Omdat Ik geen zin had in een nieuwe escalatie was ik daar niet op terug gekomen. Daar heb ik later veel spijt van gekregen want diverse opdrachtgevers hadden om nieuwe afdrukken gebeld die ik niet kon leveren, dat had mij geld en klanten gekost. Wie weet was dit het moment om een poging te wagen ze terug te krijgen.

“OK, goed plan, moet ik wel mijn afspraak cancelen, weet jij iets in de buurt?” vroeg ik. “Ik woon hier vlakbij, niet ver lopen, was net op weg naar huis” reageerde ze snel. De reden dat we uit elkaar waren gegaan was dat Marion zwanger was geraakt en ik geweigerd had mijn verantwoordelijkheid te nemen. Ik voelde er niet veel voor zo jong al vader te zijn en tevens had ik mijn twijfels bij Marion. Zij had al besloten het kind te houden toen ze het aan mij vertelde en daar was ik behoorlijk kwaad om geworden.

Ik kon niet meer terug besefte ik, ik had voor ik het wist ingestemd. Tegelijkertijd was ik verbaasd dat ze mij bij haar thuis had uitgenodigd en dat ik dus waarschijnlijk ons kind zou zien. Het kind moest nu ongeveer vijf jaar oud zijn. Sinds ik weer alleen woonde had ik vaak aan het kind gedacht en geprobeerd achter Marion’s adres te komen maar dat was niet gelukt. Er moesten genoeg mensen in mijn vriendenkring zijn die nog contact met haar hadden maar niemand wilde mij iets vertellen, ze was altijd al goed geweest in het manipuleren van anderen. Als ik er naar vroeg was het antwoord altijd hetzelfde: Marion wilde geen contact. Wat was er veranderd dat ze dat nu wel wilde?

Terwijl we de trap naar de bovenwoning opliepen hoorde ik boven praten. Een kinderstem maakte lawaai en een mannenstem deed vergeefs pogingen het kind tot de orde te roepen. Voordat ik het wist stond ik midden in de huiskamer: klein, rommelig en vol speelgoed. De TV stond aan en een voor mij onbekende man zat op de bank naar CNN te kijken terwijl het kind aan het spelen was. “Hoe heet je?” vroeg ik aan het kind. “Sem” zei hij terwijl hij vragend naar zijn moeder keek. “Mag ik je even voorstellen” zei Marion, “dit is Martin”. Natuurlijk, dacht ik, Marion is er de vrouw niet naar alleen door het leven te gaan. Dit soort vrouwen wil kost wat kost een man en zorgt er wel voor een man aan zich te binden voordat de ouderdom toeslaat, arme Martin.

Dit is dus mijn zoon, dacht ik terwijl ik naar het mormel keek die het inmiddels op een nog harder krijsen had gezet. Marion keek me aan en zei: “Sem is een beetje moe, hij heeft een lange dag in de crèche achter de rug, we hebben allebei een drukke baan en Martin heeft Sem net opgehaald. Hoe is het met je? Zullen we even in de keuken gaan zitten? Praat wat makkelijker”. Kind en man wisten blijkbaar niet wie ik ben, schijnbaar nam Marion wel vaker vreemde mannen mee naar huis. Terwijl we aan de keukentafel gingen zitten gingen er allerlei vragen door me heen: waarom doet ze dit, wat verwacht ze van me, hoe breng ik de negatieven ter sprake? Als ik het slim aanpakte kreeg ik ze misschien wel terug!

“Ben je nog steeds bezig met fotografie” vroeg Marion. ‘Ja”, zei ik, “de zaken lopen goed”. “En jij, werk je nog steeds in de marketing?”. “Nee, na een reorganisatie ben ik eruit gegooid en ik werk nu als ZZP’er. Wel lastig aan klussen te komen dus ik pak alles aan”. “Hoe hebben jullie het met Sem geregeld?” vroeg ik. “Hoe heb ik dat geregeld”, zei ze bits, “Dat gaat je niks aan”. “Sorry” zei ik, “ik wil me er niet mee bemoeien”. Vreemd hoe je zo snel al weer in het oude patroon valt ook al heb je elkaar jaren niet gezien. “Hoe gaat het met Sem”, probeerde ik om mijn menselijke kant te laten zien. Wantrouwend keek ze me aan “Sem is het beste wat ons ooit overkomen is…”. En ik het slechtste, dacht ik er meteen achteraan maar ik hield me in.

“Waarom heb je me hier bij je thuis uitgenodigd?”, vroeg ik haar. Ze stond op, schonk twee mokken koffie voor ons in, ging weer zitten en zei toen: “Ik denk dat er nog een paar dingen zijn die we nog moeten regelen…” en ze liet een stilte vallen terwijl zij me aan bleef kijken. Dat wil ik ook dacht ik, maar waarschijnlijk andere dan jij. “Waar heb je het dan over” zei ik, het was waarschijnlijk beter er eerst achter te komen wat ze wilde voordat ik over mijn negatieven begon. ‘Ik heb nog wat spullen van je die je waarschijnlijk graag terug wil hebben” zei ze. Dat had ik niet verwacht, ik dacht dat ze het over Sem ging hebben. Ik voelde me ineens een stuk beter. “Klopt”, zei ik, “Die zou ik graag terug willen!”.

“Je kunt ze terugkrijgen, maar onder een voorwaarde. Ik wil dat je nooit meer contact met me opneemt of met onze gezamenlijke kennissen over me roddelt”. “Wat bedoel je?” vroeg ik verbaast. “Je loopt iedereen stoer te zeggen dat je een kind van me hebt en dat is niet het geval”. “Maar Sem dan..”, stamelde ik. “Die is niet van mij maar van Martin, ik heb geen kind van je”. “Maar..” stamelde ik. Ik kreeg de kans niet nog wat te zeggen. Snel liep ze de kamer uit en kwam na een paar minuten met twee dozen terug. “Hier zij ze”, “dit is het en veel plezier ermee”. Ik stond op en liep verward met de dozen naar beneden. Onderaan de trap keek ik er snel in: er zat alleen oude troep van me in en niet de gewenste negatieven. “Maar waar zijn dan mijn negatieven?” riep ik naar boven. Marion stond nog boven aan de trap en keek met afschuw op me neer “Die heb ik weg gedaan, sufferd, wie werkt er nu nog met negatieven…”. Dat rotwijf.

My Story

Eerste verhaal geschreven voor de Schrijversvakschool schrijverstraining januari – maart 2016.

 

Schrijver i.o.

Sinds deze week ben ik schrijver i.o. bij de schrijversvakschool aan de Herengracht in Amsterdam. Afgelopen maandag had ik de eerste sessie onder de bezielende leiding van Wim Brands samen met negen interessante medecursisten. Direct door hem aan het werk gezet en inmiddels bezig met het schrijven van een eerste verhaal op basis van een opdracht. Leuk om te doen maar wel even wennen. Het verhaal heet ‘Negatief’, als het wat wordt zal ik het zeker op deze site zetten.

Schrijversvakschool Amsterdam

De reden waarom ik hiermee aan de slag ga is dat ik het gevoel heb een beetje stil te staan als blogger, de blogs rollen nog wel uit mijn vingers maar het aantal bezoekers van mijn site is al maanden stabiel op zo’n 100 per dag. Heb het gevoel dat er meer in zit vandaar deze stap.

Inmiddels als schrijver, ondanks het feit dat ik niets gepubliceerd heb, toch al wat succes geboekt. Het begon meteen al vlak na de cursus onderweg in de trein terug naar Amersfoort die vol zat met bezopen bezoekers van de Horecava, het grootste jaarlijkse evenement voor de horecasector. Ik had een rustig stukje opgezocht en begon enthousiast op mijn computer mijn eerste verhaal te typen zonder nog op mijn omgeving te letten.

De volgende morgen ontving ik een uitnodiging van een dame op Facebook om vriend te worden en een beleidende mail van haar via Messenger. Ze vertelde dat ze naast me in de trein had gezeten, het niet kon laten mee te lezen, en zo had gezien dat ik, net als zij, op de Schrijversvakschool zit. Ze was ook onderweg naar huis en durfde me niet rechtstreeks aan te spreken omdat ze niet wist of ik student of docent ben. Binnenkort maar eens een kopje koffie met haar gaan drinken…

Wifi Cafe 2

De smaak te pakken besloot ik dezelfde dag met mijn Macbook in een echt Amsterdams café tussen de ZZP’ers en creatieve geesten te gaan zitten die allemaal druk op hun Macbooks aan het mailen, schrijven en netwerken waren en dat allemaal waarschijnlijk ook nog kunnen factureren. Het was erg gezellig en ik had het gevoel dat ik er nu echt bij te horen! De nodige kopjes koffie gedronken en ondertussen flink opgeschoten met mijn verhaal. Toen ik opstond en het het café verliet klonk een gezellig ‘Dag Meneer”, waardoor ik me helaas weer erg oud voelde, maar toch…

En als laatste wapenfeit schiet het aantal bezoekers van mijn site door een onverklaarbare reden ineens omhoog! Gisteren 293 en vandaag om 16:00 al 571 en dat terwijl ik mijn vorige blog een week geleden geschreven heb…(naschrift: het werden er uiteindelijk 883 die dag).

Het bevalt me wel mijn nieuwe status, ik hou jullie op de hoogte van mijn vorderingen!

 

De Krant is een Stagiair geworden en Meneer is tegenwoordig ‘Online’.

Afgelopen weekend belde mijn krantenbezorger aan met de mededeling dat hij vanaf maandag de Volkskrant niet meer zou bezorgen maar dat de bezorger van de Telegraaf dit voortaan zou gaan doen. Na jaren trouwe dienst moest hij tot zijn spijt zijn wijk afstaan aan de Telegraaf bezorger omdat alle dagbladen nu voortaan via ‘De Persgroep Distributie’ aan huis worden bezorgd. Na jaren trouwe dienst zat het er nu voor hem op. We zijn altijd zeer tevreden geweest over deze bezorger en daarom gaven we hem met oudjaar altijd een flinke fooi, een goede bezorger is immers goud waard! Nu maar afwachten hoe het met de nieuwe bezorger gaat en of hij al die verschillende kranten wel uit elkaar kan houden…

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Hierboven de looplijst van de wijk waar ik woon die ik laatst toevallig bij mijn krant aantrof. Interessante kost voor een Socioloog zoals ik: in mijn straat is het vooral Volkskrant maar in de straten achter ons heerst het AD terwijl de Telegraaf redelijk ondervertegenwoordigd is in onze wijk. Helemaal chique is het hebben van twee kranten en ook dat komt redelijk vaak voor, meestal een combinatie van een landelijke en een lokale krant. Verder vallen de vele lege plekken op de lijst op: er zijn schijnbaar steeds meer mensen die het zonder krant kunnen stellen.

Er is nogal wat veranderd in het krantenlandschap de afgelopen jaren. Terwijl ik dit schrijf zit ik in de trein en zie ik eigenlijk alleen maar Smartphones om me heen en een enkele Metro, een dagblad zie je tegenwoordig maar zelden. Ook merk ik dat ik zelf de krant steeds slechter lees, in ieder geval niet meer zo intensief als een aantal jaren geleden. Belangrijkste reden hiervoor is dat het nieuws tegenwoordig via vele kanalen tot je komt en als je echt iets wilt weten je via het internet allerlei aanvullende informatie snel gevonden hebt.

Alle kranten hebben last van de concurrentie van het Internet en dat is te merken aan de dalende oplages en de kostenbesparende maatregelen zoals bijv. het samenvoegen van de distributie. Maar ook in de content. Hele stukken krant kan ik overslaan omdat het om oud nieuws gaat wat al dertig keer gehypet is op de sociale media of uitgebreid besproken in talkshows en als ik het echt interessant vind heb ik meestal via Twitter of Google al veel achtergrond informatie gevonden – of er zelf al een blog over geschreven…

Navraag onder mijn leerlingen of ze de krant nog wel eens lezen levert hetzelfde beeld op, sporadisch wordt er onder de jeugd een krant gelezen maar iets snel opzoeken kunnen ze heel goed. Als ik tijdens de les begin over een onderwerp uit de actualiteit of verwijs naar het Journaal of Nieuwsuur dan kijken ze me meewarig aan: nieuws op TV is voor de meeste een zapmoment en het eigenlijke nieuws speelt zich af op de sociale media die sterk worden gedomineerd door de zgn. bekende Nederlanders (BN’ers) of, nog mooier, internationale ‘celebraties’, als die zich ergens druk over gaan maken dan is het plots nieuws!

Marc Chavannes

Interessant was gisteren dan ook het interview in de Volkskrant met Marc Chavannes, oud journalist van het NRC, die recent een overstap heeft gemaakt naar het online platform ‘De Correspondent’. De Correspondent is een van de weinige betaalde online journalistieke websites in Nederland en nog aardig succesvol ook. De Correspondent werkt niet met vaste medewerkers maar met correspondenten die per stuk betaald worden en Marc is aangetrokken om als ervaren journalist het geweten van deze website te zijn en jongere collega’s te coachen.

Goede zaak, zouden andere kranten ook moeten doen, oudere ervaren journalisten inzetten om jongere collega’s te begeleiden. Als de Volkskrant zo’n mechanisme had gehad voor zijn stagiaires zou het plagiaat probleem met de stagiair dat vorige week naar buiten kwam wellicht niet gebeurd zijn. In het Interview verteld Marc Chavannes hoe leuk het was bij de krant te werken toen er nog sprake was van groei en hoe dat veranderd is nu de oplages continu dalen. Vanuit kostenoverwegingen moet meer door minder mensen gedaan worden en dan is het een logische stap te bezuinigen op kwaliteit en goedkope stagiaires in te gaan zetten. Bij de Correspondent heerst nog een creatieve sfeer waar hij zich thuis voelt en hij het weer naar zijn zin heeft, geef hem is ongelijk!