UMBC ebiquity
2009 March

Archive for March, 2009

Lisa Meeden on Creating Curious Robots, Noon 3/10

March 10th, 2009, by Tim Finin, posted in GENERAL

Lisa Meeden from Swarthmore College is speaking today at Noon in 325ITE on Creating Curious Robots. We’ll stream the talk at

Abstract: Applying machine learning to a robotics problem typically requires substantial human oversight to design the learning system, tune the parameters, define the task, determine the input and output representations, and create the training data set. In contrast, biological organisms are able to learn autonomously from unlabeled data in an open-ended fashion. Developmental robotics is an emerging field that strives to build better robots by applying insights from biological developmental processes. In this talk I will review several recent approaches from developmental robotics that use prediction to generate teaching signals. This results in a task-independent kind of learning in which the robot focuses on novel stimuli.

UMBC CS/IS alumnus named West Virginia University president

March 7th, 2009, by Tim Finin, posted in UMBC

Congratulations to three time UMBC alumnus Jim Clements who was named as the 23rd president of West Virginia University yesterday. Jim received three degrees from UMBC: a BS in Computer Science (1985) and both an MS and PhD in Information Systems (1993). He joined the Towson University Computer and Information Science Department 1989 and later served as its chair. He has served as Towson’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs since 2002.

Elevator pitch, meet twitter pitch

March 6th, 2009, by Tim Finin, posted in Social media, Twitter, Web

Conventional wisdom is that you need a good elevator pitch if you have an idea to sell. An elevator pitch, of course, is a high-level description of your concept that is short enough to be delivered during an elevator ride — e.g., in a minute or less. This works out to about 150 to 300 words, depending on how fast you talk

I was amused to see a new PHP web framework, Twitto, advertise itself as “A web framework in a tweet” because the header code you need to add is “packed in less than 140 characters, it fits in a tweet.

Now Twitto is not actually pushing its concept in a tweet — they use nearly 1500 characters on their splash page, for heavens sake. But I like the idea of boiling down a pitch to fit in a tweet and think it has a future.

You can’t do a tweet pitch for every idea. Some are inherently too complicated. But if you can, maybe you should, at least as an exercise. The idea of a tweet concept may the new media version of the high concept notion that was popular in Hollywood back in the 1990s.

Note: Twitto apparently has some security issues, since someone added a prominent red box on the bottom of their page with the warning “TWITTO IS NOT SECURE, DON’T USE IT FOR YOUR NEXT WEBSITE.”

xkcd on the correlation between correlation and causation

March 6th, 2009, by Tim Finin, posted in Humor

The common observation that correlation does not imply causation is a cold and cruel idea that knows no mercy.

Network adaptations in a declarative framework

March 3rd, 2009, by Tim Finin, posted in GENERAL

In this week’s ebiquity meeting (10:00am 4 March in ITE 325) Palanivel Kodeswaran will talk about his dissertation “Implementing application and network adaptations in a declarative framework”. Here’s the abstract for his talk.

Managing today’s complex networks while still ensuring that certain high level goals are met is proving to be a complicated process. There is a growing need to separate the high level goals/policies from the low level mechanisms that implement the various services. In this talk, I will present our ongoing work in developing a declarative framework for enforcing high level policies in networks. One of the key goals of our framework is to enable applications to expose their semantics, thereby allowing the underlying network to exploit the semantics and provide better-than-best-effort service where possible. We will then see how our framework can be used in adaptive applications where both the application and the network can adapt simultaneously in response to changing network conditions.

The presentation will be streamed live via

CUNY J-school experiments with hyperlocal news

March 1st, 2009, by Tim Finin, posted in Blogging, Social media

Traditional newspapers are in a crisis. Last week the 150 year old Rocky Mountain News published its last issue and the Philadelphia Inquirer filed for bankruptcy. Experts have been saying for some time that the newspapers need to focus on one aspect that can not be commoditized — local news. It’s also clear that news content delivered via ink on dead trees is not a working model for the future.

Jeff Jarvis, director of CUNY’s interactive journalism program, describes one new experiment that sounds very promising in a post titled The Times & CUNY (and others) go hyperlocal.

The New York Times is about to announce that it is starting a hyperlocal product called The Local working with our students at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism. PaidContent has the story early. So I’ll tell you about the school’s and my involvement and plans.

At CUNY, we were working on a hyperlocal plan of our own, aimed at taking one New York neighborhood and turning it into the ultimate hyperlocal community as a showcase to both demonstrate how a community could be empowered to report on itself and to create a laboratory where our students could learn to interact with the public in new and collaborative ways. The problem with teaching interactive journalism, which is what we call my department, is that students don’t have a public with whom to interact.

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