Google maps using the hCard microfomat

July 31st, 2007

Today on the “Official Google Maps API Blog” Google announced that they will use the hcard microformat in Google maps to markup address information.

“Today we’re happy to announce that we are adding support for the hCard microformat to Google Maps results. Why should you care about some invisible changes to our HTML? By marking up our results with the hCard microformat, your browser can easily recognize the address and contact information in the page, and help you transfer it to an addressbook or phone more easily.”

There’s a lot more that they could do along these lines if they went with RDF and/or RDFa. I wonder what the three best ideas are? Maybe we could collectively work up a good list and interest some Google researchers in using their 20% research time to play with the ideas.

Crowd sourcing scientific research

July 29th, 2007

Yesterday I heard a good story on crowd sourcing on NPR radio, Businesses Harness Power of the Crowd. It covered the basics and focused Innocentive which describes itself as “web-based community matching top scientists to relevant R&D challenges facing leading companies from around the globe.”

Innocentive’s model allows companies and individuals with research problems to pose challenges and offer financial rewards ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 for acceptable solutions. Individual scientists or research organizations can register to work on a challenge and in doing so, accept the challenge proposer’s which outlines the review period for solutions, confidentiality, and intellectual property transfer for winning solutions. It currently is centered on chemistry and the life sciences but has plans to expand to other disciplines.

Cuban: Internet is dead — it’s for old people

July 26th, 2007

Mark CubanInternet entrepreneur Mark Cuban spoke at Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing meeting in Washington DC this week and declared that “The Internet’s dead. It’s over.” He also noted that “The Internet’s for old people.”

Cuban will be 49 next Tuesday.

“His basic point: The Internet has gone stagnant. The only “new application” on the World Wide Web of recent vintage was, in his view, YouTube — which, unlike Cuban’s, ripped off the creative content of intellectual-property owners to build its video-based business.” (link)

Of course, he’s talking about the old Internet. You know, the one that’s not a truck but rather a series of tubes.

(Link, link, link. all we do is link.)

Humans win first Man-Machine Poker Championship

July 26th, 2007

This week the annual conference for the Association for the Advancement Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) hosted the First Man-Machine Poker Championship. A poker-playing computer program developed by researchers from the University of Alberta challenged two top-level poker professionals in a controlled scientific experiment with $50,000 of real money on the line. The game? Texas Hold ‘Em heads-up limit poker.

“The competition will consist of four 500-hand duplicate matches. In each duplicate match, the same series of cards will be dealt in two parallel Man versus Machine matches, with teammates playing the opposite hands in each game. At the end of the match, the total number of chips won or lost by each team is added together to determine the winning team. This format is used to reduce the element of random luck to a minimum, and get a much better indication of the differences in skill.

The human team of Phil Laak and Ali Eslami won two rounds out of three and hence the match.

Here’s the kickoff introduction by Jonathan Schaeffer from the University of Alberta and a post match interview with Phil and Ali

You can also read John Markoff’s story in the times, In Poker Match Against a Machine, Humans Are Better Bluffers. Ironically, that story appeared in the Times’ business section.

Social Network Spam

July 25th, 2007

Britney Spears’ MySpace profile (?)If you build it, they will come.

This is true also when the it is a new way for people to communicate and the they refers to spammers and advertisers.

So, is the MySpace profile to the right really the personal profile of Britney Spears or one put up by her business agents or maybe one by a random spammer?

Aaron Zinman and Judith Donath of MIT’s sociable media group have a new paper on the problem of recognizing a “friend request” on a social networking site like Facebook as coming from a false profile.

Zinman, A., Donath, J. Is Britney Spears Spam?. In Proceedings of Fourth Conference on Email and Anti-Spam, Mountain View, California, August 2-3, 2007

…We have developed a research prototype that categorizes senders into broader categories than spam/not spam using features unique to SNS. We discuss our initial experiment, and its results and implications. …

They employed a straightforward machine learning approach using features that we mostly local to a profile.

“We selected our features by thinking broadly about how people use MySpace. This includes information available on the user profile, as well as the comments written on one’s top friends’ profiles. Our choice of features reflects social trends on the site, such as the common use of easily detectable third-party content oriented towards MySpace profiles.”

It would be interesting to see how well various measures of the network structure around false and true profies serve as features. I think this is very similar to the problem of recognizing spam blogs (splogs). In our work, we’ve found that local features work well, but splogs can also be recognized by looking at the network structure as well.

(via Smart Mobs via NST).

Face of Death Book

July 25th, 2007

Respectance launched yesterday as an “an interactive community for sharing memories” which many are characterizing as social networking for the dead. Mashable focused on the business end of things

“Respectance, which is unique among social networks since it’s dedicated to remembering those who have died, has taken $1.5 million in a series A funding in a round led by Solid Ventures and Big Bang Ventures. … With the MySpace, Bebo and Facebook pages of the dead already becoming shrines of a type – with friends leaving comments for the deceased – it’s an idea that may generate interest. Certainly, a “social network for the dead” has the kind of simple premise that the mainstream media can latch onto.”

Whereas CenterNetworks saw value in the finality of the customer base.

“Assuming the Internet isn’t going away anytime in the next 60 years, this type of site could be very valuable. A young child can learn about their grandparents from family and friends across the world.”

And Shelly Powers was appalled

“This is awful. This is awful, awful, awful.”

And back on the Respectance blog, the complaint was not about dead customers but a dead server.

Knowledge representation language landscape

July 22nd, 2007

python-dlp is Chimezie Ogbuji’s open-source project to develop a “library of tools which aim to provide a coherent framework for DLP-based reasoning over RDF/N3 content”. It’s based on FuXi, a forward chaining production system for N3 Description Logic Programming.

“The premise is that Description Logic Programming (DLP) is the most robust Knowledge Representation abstract syntax for an axiomatic semantic web. It is the basis for the Rule Interchange Format (RIF) and Semantic Web Rule Language (SWRL). Notation 3 (N3) is currently the most popular semantic rule language, and FuXi has demonstrated the ability and value in mapping N3 syntax to a RETE-UL network, for forward-chaining evaluation.”

The project web sites features a compact diagram, Geneology of FOL and LP that shows the relatiopnship between many of the different representation languages and their dialects. While not exactly a genealogy, which suggests who-begat-whom, it’s worth studying and understanding.

Checkers is a solved game: it’s a draw

July 19th, 2007


tour de force, n. A feat requiring great virtuosity or strength, often deliberately undertaken for its difficulty.

An article in Science by Jonathan Schaeffer and colleagues at the University of Alberta claims to have proven that checkers is a solved game — perfect play by both players will result in a draw. This is an amazing result!

“The game of checkers has roughly 500 billion billion possible positions (5 x 1020). The task of solving the game, determining the final result in a game with no mistakes made by either player, is daunting. Since 1989, almost continuously, dozens of computers have been working on solving checkers, applying state-of-the-art artificial intelligence techniques to the proving process. This paper announces that checkers is now solved: perfect play by both sides leads to a draw. This is the most challenging popular game to be solved to date, roughly one million times more complex than Connect Four. Artificial intelligence technology has been used to generate strong heuristic-based game-playing programs, such as DEEP BLUE for chess. Solving a game takes this to the next level, by replacing the heuristics with perfection.”

Access to the article requires a subscription, but you can access some online material for free. Better yet, you can see a video and 95 minute podcast of Schaeffer describing the Chinook program how they proved that checkers is a draw game. Amazingly, Shaeffer says that his programs that have been exploring the checkers game tree have been running, off and on, for eighteen years! Also, check out the article Computer Checkers Program Is Invincible in today’s New York Times.

Can you play a perfect game? To find out, you can try the Chinook program on-line.

Security and games: exploiting online games

July 18th, 2007

Exploiting Online GamesMassively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) like World of Warcraft and Second Life are large, complex, dynamic distributed software systems with hundreds of thousands of users scattered around the world. A new book, Exploiting Online Games explores a range of security issues associated with these games, including topics like the following.

  • Why online games are a harbinger of software security issues to come
  • How millions of gamers have created billion-dollar virtual economies
  • How game companies invade personal privacy
  • Why some gamers cheat
  • Techniques for breaking online game security
  • How to build a bot to play a game for you
  • Methods for total conversion and advanced mods

Tim Wilson of Dark Reading motivated it this way in his post about the book

“You’re playing an online game in which players are warriors who can only walk, jump, or run. Suddenly, another player appears out of nowhere, draws his sword, and hacks you to bits. Game over. But were you really beaten by a superior player? Or did a hacker or cheater simply rig the game?”

This book illustrates a theme that underlies the UMBC CS game track. Studying computer games is a good way to learn the basic principles of computer science and studying computer science is a good way to prepare yourself for a career in the interactive entertainment industry.

Healthcare informatics and the semantic web

July 17th, 2007

Government Health IT has a short article on the role of Semantic Web technologies in healthcare information systems with the tagline “Forget wikis and blogs — are you ready for the Semantic Web?“. Nearly everyone agrees that healthcare is a very promising application area for information systems grounded in semantic representations. Some of the earliest applications of controlled vocabularies and semantic network based representations were for medical informatics systems. But healthcare informatics is also a huge business with a history going back to the 1950s and lots of legacy systems. It’s not an easy application area to casually take up.

The article, Health care eyes Web 3.0, mostly touches on the promise and gives some examples of how the Semantic Web can help, with lots of quotes from researchers and vendors. It’s a bit vague about what the technology is — whether it’s RDF and OWL or simple keyword tagging. Here’s one quote that caught my eye:

“Moving to the Semantic Web will not be trouble-free, but it shouldn’t be too
painful. Organizations still using older technology such as MUMPS should consider upgrading soon. And organizations will need to upgrade computers and network infrastructures to handle the computational demands of larger datasets. But for the most part, the transition won’t affect organizations too much, said Bob Shimp, vice president of Oracle’s Global Technology Business Unit.”

Note — your mileage may vary.

Guardian on splogs

July 16th, 2007

This week the Guardian ran an article on splogs, Why Google is the service of choice for sploggers. The answer is simple — of the two popular free blog hosting services, Google’s Blogger allows Google ads by does not. Hosting ads is not the only reason to set up a splog, but as long as you have one, why not load it up with ads? (spotted on Photo Matt)

Peter Norvig on Google and AI

July 16th, 2007

Technology Review has a short interview with Google’s Peter Norvig, entitled The Future of Search in which they ask him about Google’s use of AI techniques.

TR: Your expertise is in artificial intelligence. Isn’t Google, at its core, an artificial-intelligence company using machine-learning algorithms to search the Web, recognize speech, and match advertising with keywords?

PN: I think a lot of AI is trying to do a better job on a task for which there’s no definite answer. What are the best results for a given search query? There is no absolutely correct answer, it’s subjective, and that’s the question that Google’s answering. So I think it’s fair to say that this is an AI problem. But the way we address that problem is with lots of different approaches. There’s an AI algorithm involved, there’s software engineering, hardware, and networking to make it fast and efficient. I wouldn’t want to say that AI is everything, but it’s a big part of it.

You can also listen to the interview as an m3 recording.