I am an AI practitioner. I lead the data science chapter at Randstad Groep Nederland, the global leader in the HR services industry. I want my AI work to be meaningful: at Randstad we have a strong focus on fairness and bias in our matching algorithms, and prior to my role at randstad I worked on news recommendation and operationalized editorial values in our algorithms.

I do plenty of extra-curricular activities: I am a board member at Stichting SETUP, a Utrecht-based medialab who strive to create an enriched, critical stance towards emerging technologies. I am part of the AI committee of DDMA, whose purpose is to promote the use of responsible AI for marketing and customer interaction. I co-organize the RecSysNL Meetup, I’ve joined the organizing committee of the ACM RecSys 2021 conference as local outreach chair, and I am a co-organizer of the RecSys in HR Workshop series.

Prior to my role at Randstad Groep Nederland I worked as lead data scientist at the FD Mediagroep, where I led a team of five data scientists in building a custom learning to rank-powered recommender system for Het Financieele Dagblad (the Dutch equivalent of the Financial Times), and the award-winning SMART Radio for BNR.

I acquired my PhD in Information Retrieval from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) in 2017, where I worked under supervision of prof. dr. Maarten de Rijke at the Information and Language Processing Systems Group (ILPS). I researched semantic search and computational methods for automated understanding of large-scale textual digital traces. I defended my thesis “Entities of Interest β€” Discovery in Digital Traces” in June 2017. In 2015 I did an internship at Microsoft Research in Redmond, under supervision of Paul Bennett, Ryen White, and Eric Horvitz. I worked on analyzing Microsoft’s Cortana user-interaction logs, which resulted in a best paper at UMAP 2016 and a patent. In 2014 I visited prof dr. Doug Oard‘s E-Discovery Lab at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Algorithms aren’t evil

In my opinion the voice of computer scientists is missing in the highly polarized (public) debate around AI, which is largely dominated by non-technical people. For that reason, I think we wrongly fear filter bubbles, think personalized advertising will usher in the the end of democracy, believe tracking cookies are our worst enemies, and feel that companies should not be allowed to collect any of our data at all. I try to bring another perspective, and in that context I try to speak and write to get my point across to a broader audience. I have written and spoken in mainstream media for the general publicβ€”which I try to continue to do. Some things I am particularly proud of:

  1. An article on why it’s a good thing algorithms aren’t neutral, written with Maarten de Rijke, published in NRC Handelsblad and nrc.next.
  2. An appearance on TV in “Denktank,” a program for youngsters, where I nuance the worries around algorithms and algorithmic personalization.
  3. A layman’s talk on how and where algorithms affect us in daily life for a debate night themed “The power of algorithms” at De Balie in Amsterdam.
  4. A keynote at the VOGIN-IP Lezing titled “The filter bubble doesn’t exist,” where I explain algorithmic personalization and summarize a few academic works that suggest the filter bubble is not an algorithmic problem.
  5. Consulting lawyer Inez Weski in making sense of the digital forensics process that played a role in a large-scale lawsuit involving the acquisition of a huge database of encrypted communication data (Ennetcom).

Media Background

I have a background in Humanities, and obtained my Media and Culture (media studies) Bachelor of Arts at the University of Amsterdam in 2008. After a brief period of work and travel, in 2009 I started my MSc Media Technology at the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Sciences, at Leiden Universiteit. In 2012, I graduated with a project involving semantic annotation and network visualization.

I used to work in the media. I’ve worked for Dutch broadcasting company NTR (formerly Teleac, former-formerly Teleac/NOT) for several years as an editor for radio and online science programs. Here I gained experience in a wide array of editorial tasks such as writing (news) items, preparing interviews, but also with several aspects of audiovisual media production, like (video) editing, animating, and studio recording of a daily science news program.

Science communication

During my PhD I leveraged this experience by writing short articles about our group’s publications for the general public, with the communications department of the University of Amsterdam. I co-authored and published several articles, some of which gained (inter)national coverage on tech sites, newspapers and magazines. See for example:

  1. New method supplements Wikipedia with Twitter topics (also appeared on Tweakers.net, DeMorgen.be, Emerce, z24.nl)
  2. Improved predictions of queries by search engines
  3. New method helps Google Translate translate better (also appeared in NewScientist)

What else?

I further possess basic skills in graphic- and web-design, having built several websites for several people, creating thesis covers for friends, and logos for projects. I like hacking away at my car. I like photography, which you can witness on Instagram (@instagraus). I also like yoga and running. And like the rest of the world I like to travel, read books, watch films, play videogames, and listen to music.