Talis starts Nodalities magazine devoted to the Semantic Web

April 19th, 2008

nodalities semantic web magazineTalis announced Nodalities — a magazine available in print and online devoted to the Semantic Web. They describe its mission as bridging “the divide between those building the Semantic Web and those interested in applying it to their business requirements.” The initial April 2008 Nodalities issue is available as pdf. While it can be expected to promote Talis and its activities, it should be a useful source of information and comment. You can request a free subscription to the print edition online.

SocialDevCamp East BarCamp, May 10, Baltimore

April 19th, 2008

If you are are in the greater Baltimore area and interested in social computing technology and its applications you might consider going to the SocialDevCamp East BarCamp that will be held on Saturday May 10. Akshay Java has a good blog post on it. Wikipedia defines BarCamps as

“user generated conferences — open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants — often focusing on early-stage web applications, and related open source technologies, social protocols, and open data formats.”

And, of course, this sets them apart from the elite, invitation-only Foo Camp that has been run for a number a years by Tom O’Reilly.

W3C issues report on uncertainty reasoning for the Web

April 16th, 2008

Many tasks require representing and reasoning with uncertain knowledge and data. Current Semantic Web languages are grounded firmly in classical logic and no extensions to manage uncertainty have gained popularity. In our lab, Professor Yun Peng and his students have been developing systems to integrate Bayesian reasoning with OWL and explore applications to ontology mapping.

The W3C’s Uncertainty Reasoning for the World Wide Web Incubator Group has released a report, Uncertainty Reasoning for the World Wide Web, surveying requirements for “reasoning with and representing uncertain information available through the World Wide Web and related WWW technologies”. The report

  • identifies and describes situations on the scale of the World Wide Web for which uncertainty reasoning would significantly increase the potential for extracting useful information,
  • identifies methodologies that can be applied to these situations and the fundamentals of a standardized representation that could serve as the basis for information exchange necessary for these methodologies to be effectively used,
  • includes a set of use cases illustrating conditions under which uncertainty reasoning is important,
  • provides an overview and discusses the applicability to the World Wide Web of prominent uncertainty reasoning techniques and the information that needs to be represented for effective uncertainty reasoning to be possible,
  • includes a bibliography of work relevant to the challenge of developing standardized representations for uncertainty and exploiting them in Web-based services and applications.”

Land of Lisp: follow the simple rules

April 11th, 2008

follow the simple rules Conrad Barski is working on a new text on Lisp rendeder in comic book form, Land of Lisp, which will be published this Fall by No Starch Press. He posted a teaser back on April first, Functional Programming is Beautiful. I can’t wait to see the final product.

UMBC Computer Mania Day

April 10th, 2008

UMBC Computer Mania DayThe sixth annual UMBC Computer Mania Day will be held at UMBC on Saturday, May 3, 2008. The event provides a half day of technology-related activities for up to 800 middle school girls and their parents and teachers. Girls are the focus, but boys are welcome. This program is designed to provide a broad-based introduction to the ways in which different careers make use of technology. Several sessions are planned including ones on robotics and on social computing. There is also a separate adult program designed for parents. Computer Mania Day is free, but space is limited and registration is required to hold a place. Free gift bags from Dell will be given to the first 800 students who register and attend!

Economist on the Semantic Web

April 9th, 2008

The Economist has a short article on the Semantic Web, Start making sense that is positive and upbeat.

Big and small companies are getting into the business of building an intelligent web of linked data

Some new ideas take wing spontaneously. Others struggle to be born. The “semantic web” is definitely in the latter category. But it may have found its midwife in Reuters, a business-information company.

The semantic web (or “web 3.0”, as some people are trying to re-brand it), is the name given to the idea that the pages of the world wide web ought to carry more than just the meaning they are intended to convey to the human reader. They should also, the thinking goes, be tagged and flagged in ways that machines can make semantic sense of, as people make semantic sense of language. That way, machines could make instant connections that would take serious amounts of time for people to see, or might even elude them altogether.”

The article touches on RDF and OWL and a number of companies building on the technology, including Reuters Calais, Twine and Qitera. The last one was new to me.

Prediction markets go for Obama

April 8th, 2008

prediction market for obamaThe prediction markets are bullish on Obama to win the Democratic nomination as their US presidential candidate. On Intrade, Obama is currently at at 86 compared to Clinton’s 12. Al Gore is the only other candidate in the running. The situation is similar over at the Iowa Electronic Markets.

Environmental detection/protection.

April 7th, 2008

EPA is on a web 2.0 kick. They sponsored a 2-day monster mashup exercise last Fall, the Puget Sound Information Challenge, and are making plans for further efforts. EPA’s CIO Molly O’neill talks a little about it here.

They’ve also been tracking and flirting with the semantic web, and are wondering how much effort to expend on a more full-on semantic engagement. I presented our semantic eco-blogging work at EPA headquarters in February, and was surprised at the turnout and enthusiasm. In response to a screen shot of a Fieldmarking post describing beach closings, a person from the Water Office related that he learned of the closing of his favorite Lake Erie swim-spot from a blog post. This made an impression on him, since, by rights, the closing should have been reported at the county level, up to the state level, and, ultimately, to his office in DC. It struck him that EPA should be systematically tapping the blogosphere for citizen sentiment and concern.

If they to do this, they will, implicitly, be saying to the citizenry “If you can’t be bothered to fill out the right form in the right office, at least blog about it, and maybe the machinery of the blogosphere will direct your thoughts our way.” I kind of like that. (This particular example – finding information on beach closings in a given area – can probably be done fairly efficiently with Yahoo pipes).

EPA will be hosting this week’s meeting of the multilateral ecoinformatics cooperation, and there will be participation from a wide swathe of EPA – I’m curious to learn of their plans.

College Board eliminates AP computer science AB test

April 4th, 2008

See update below.

The College Board has decided to eliminate their Advanced Placement test in computer science. It’s well known that the number of university students choosing computer science as a major has been declined significantly in the past six years. Many organizations, including the the Computing Research Association, have developed strategies to address this by enlarging the pipeline. A part of this is working to increase interest in the field in high schools and middle school. Eliminating the computer science AP test will discourage high schools from offering computer science courses and their students from taking them. Here’s a story from the Washington Post.

AP Language, Computer Courses Cut

The College Board told U.S. teachers in an e-mail yesterday that four underenrolled Advanced Placement courses will be eliminated after the 2008-09 academic year in the first significant retrenchment of the college preparatory program in its 53-year history.

The courses being cut — Italian, Latin literature, French literature and computer science AB — are among the least popular in the AP portfolio. … The eliminated classes are “all less commonly taught disciplines in high schools,” said Trevor Packer, vice president of the College Board for AP. “And they’re under fire sometimes,” he said, in school systems more focused on core subjects.

Trustees of the New York-based College Board decided to eliminate the courses March 27 at a meeting in Reston, Packer said. The decision was communicated at 5 p.m. yesterday via e-mail to 2,519 teachers of the affected subjects and to AP program coordinators.

Given a general agreement that information technology continues to be extremely important for our nation’s future and also a good career choice, I think this is a short-sighted decision.

update: Ok. It’s not as bad as it sounds. A post this afternoon on the ACM blog, AP Computer Science is NOT Going Away clarifies things.

“Today’s Washington Post has an article stating that the College Board, (the body that administers Advanced Placement courses) is doing away with several AP courses – including one computer science course. Reading the article, you’d likely reach the conclusion, as attested by e-mails I’ve seen this morning, that all AP computer science courses are being eliminated. This is not the case. There are two AP computer science courses – AP Computer Science A, and AP Computer Science AB. The college board is eliminating the less popular AB course, not the A course. … “