Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ontology of Dream Landscape

A couple things I have been thinking about recently, which come together in this: even dreams typically have a location, but it is a unique quality of dreams, at least the ones I have been having lately, to feature a location in isolation, that is separated from character or context; and: in matters of taxonomy, more than three levels is seldom viable in practical terms, but two is seldom sufficient.

In the work I am currently involved in developing a financial application, I see a three-level vocabulary emerging which I have witnessed in other domains, typified as category, type and subtype.

If I was attempting to describe an ontology of dreams, therefore, I imagine I would use a category of "location", a type of location name or "realm", and a subtype describing each specific "locale" within the realm. So, for instance:


What I would like to do is build an API, attached to a cloud storage, to allow people to describe their own dream landscapes in these terms. More on this as it develops. Please comment as you see fit.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Context, content and getting over ourselves...

I am a huge fan of Lucas Gonze's weblog, where he wrote something recently which strikes me as quite profound.
Keep music from the web in the web. Don't go to a music blog, download a track, and then listen in iTunes.
Instead, he advocates bookmarking and playing music in the page that contains it, once again returning to fundamental link between URI and resource, between index and content.

What, for that matter, is a Content Management System? The term is a necessary evil; it's not like it is meaningless. But when you use this term to refer to WordPress or Blogger, I get an uneasy feeling, and reading Gonze's comment really cemented for me the reason why. The text on the page in front of you? It's not content. It's context. The page may provide content, but it is itself a context for whatever content it provides.

More on this later, just passing around the lightbulb moment, as it were.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Abie and Rondo Redux

Sorry, broke the link in the last post. A better title would be "The Adventures of Abie and Rondo..." And this link should work.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Abie and Rondo

Abie and Rondo is a serialization of children's adventures I am writing for Web Serial Writing Month this year. The premise is simple: brother and sister team Abie and Rondo travel to remote locations to right the world's wrongs. Irony abounds, and good times are had. I have recently added truly awful vector art courtesy of yours truly, along with pithy captions.

More than anything else, this is an experiment to see how much I can accomplish with very little effort, using the tools at hand (Blogger) without a great deal of modification (JavaScript hijacking the page layout). When WeSeWriMo is over, I will summarize my experience in some sort of "lessons learned" post.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Because it's a while since I've 'blogged about

Here's an idea: SourceForge is connected with a great community of open source developers; Twitter is connected with a great community of individuals, some of whom are open source developers. One of the great value propositions for me for Twitter is that rather than following an open source project, I can follow the projects creators, and receive timely information about updates, patches and the like... as long as I am actually logged into a Twitter client when the update in question is pushed out. There is a lot of noise.

Yammer is great for organizational transparency, or so I've heard from people who are using it, but it's a walled garden - I wonder what would happen if a similar approach were taken with an open source repository like SourceForge? What if an open source status network like were hosted and synchronized with the group of individuals with SourceForge projects? Then you could follow this entire list or a segment of this list, and get updates in a timely fashion without the background noise, or aggregate this stream into the broader stream that you might normally follow.

Might inject a bit of life into the open source community as well.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The other side of transparency

Really quick, I just wanted to jump in and say, with regards to Facebook privacy, there is another situation that I have yet to see adequately described. The situation I am seeing described is when you publish a piece of yourself, and it goes further afield than you anticipated, ie you share photos with someone with whom you had no intention of sharing.

But consider the obverse situation, when you publish a piece of yourself to your social circle, and it is withheld for some reason from a portion of this circle because of a change in privacy setting, or confusion about the impact of the privacy settings you have selected.

In many ways, this may create more distrust in the platform, when someone in your social circle feels slighted because they did not receive the expected update. Of course, this happens with email spam filters as well as social network privacy settings. In either case, it creates an atmosphere of distrust in the platform.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Tab Sweep - 2010 05 14

Dare Obasanjo on Facebook:

Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol from a Web Developer’s Perspective

danah boyd on Facebook:

Facebook and "radical transparency" (a rant)

Not surprising that Facebook is facing criticism; I appreciate danah's demonization of transparency, and the distinction she draws between being exposed and exposing oneself. One of the things I appreciate about Twitter is that the level of exposure of any conversation I have there is dictated directly by the object graph of those involved in the conversation. If I want to curse and swear, I can engage someone in a conversation with whom this is appropriate. But there is always a risk of exposure.

Dare's point is also well taken on many levels, but particularly from my viewpoint, ontologically speaking, that Facebook is leveraging RDFa and not microformats, and that RDFa is an exponentially more robust technology specifically due to the use of namespaces. And what better way to identify arbitrary URIs as social objects than by using namespaces? In issues of transparency and privacy, it seems that disambiguation, ie clarification of social context will become increasingly important.

Reread danah's rant, especially the Zuckerburg quotes referring to the artificiality of sustaining a multiple identity. My own reaction to this is equally violent, and I call BS - all relationships in a social graph are virtualizations or supplementation of something that they are not, actual relationships. They are by definition artificial and demand disambiguation.

My travels in Flex-land keep coming back to the importance of namespaces outside the strict context of XML. Their time is coming; more widespread use of RDFa and the need for disambiguated rather than radical transparency are definitely indicative of this.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Seminal Granularity: I <3 the </>

It's no secret, I love me some XML, whether as an exchange format like XBRL, a messaging standard like HL7 or NIEM, or a document framework like DITA or DocBook. I am not sure what appeals to me so much about data-enrichment using tags, but it has something to do with reducing entropy by adding structure and meaning. In addition, I would rather model something using the sort of extension and restriction available in NIEM than the classical inheritance strategies presented by OOP. I have heard from several sources recently that the seachange from an object-oriented to declarative paradigm is underway, and I am pleased.

But more than this, I just love the angle brackets in a way I could never feel about dot-notation, and I am not alone in this.

I am attempting to develop a notion I am calling "Seminal Granularity." This notion appeals to my background in structuralist literary theory - "seminal" and "granular" are both agricultural references, both seeds, but whereas "seminal" has patriarchal overtones, granular is more mercurial. Between the two axes there lies a tension, bringing to mind a transclusive dilemma.

Simply stated, the transclusive dilemma is this: when faced with modifying an object, do you create a reference to the object for modification, a seminal approach which binds the new object to the original; or do you create a clone of the object, a granular approach which results in modification to the new object becoming estranged from the original, releasing the object through mimesis.

A viral licensed open-source project, for instance, is by design both seminal and granular. The project itself exists as a single seed, and it allows granular modification with the caveat that modifications are returned to the original seed.

Edit: there is also an odd kind of tie in with this short story, The Ice Box.

The transclusive dilemma is a real phenomenon; you cannot do both. Seminal granularity should be about finding ways to negotiate this problem. A wave can't be a particle either, right?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Talking Points: Collaboration and Documentation

A few years ago I wrote about a project I developed for my then employers, which I open sourced under the name CaseBook. The intent was to single-source end-user documentation which could be be transformed into internal and client acceptance test scripts. As I developed it, the project involved XML, Schematron, XSL and XQuery, hosted in an eXist database and accessed using webDAV.

At the time, I had barely heard of DITA, the Darwin Information Typing Architecture, but the approach I took shared some ideas with what I later came to learn about DITA, using concept maps, separation of topics into tasks and steps and so forth. In the mean time, DITA has gained a lot of traction, and my SourceForge page has been hit maybe 500 times.

I have been giving a lot of thought lately to collaborative writing. As Anne Gentle has pointed out on her JustWriteClick 'blog, DITA shines in environments which have a strong collaborative or Agile approach, since both of these emphasize timely repurposing and multipurposing. One of the problems I was addressing with CaseBook was collaboration between development, documentation and testing resources. Now, in part, this was because I was working in a small team, and had responsibilities in each of these areas.

I still think there is a lot of value in facilitating collaboration between these groups, and were I to develop this project today, I would start with the DITA Open Toolkit from day one.

In addition, for the last four months, I've been working with Flex, mxml and ActionScript. One thing that intrigues me about mxml is that it is XML. For instance, what if you could generate end user, acceptance or client walkthrough documentation automatically from the mxml source? Transforming mxml to DITA seems like a useful technique.

Any thoughts?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Working with Flex

For the past few months (since the start of the year), I have been working with Adobe Flex, in conjunction with a Java back-end leveraging Hibernate and Spring. The application under development is basically a public sector financial package, which does not specifically require RIA features, although UX has been established as a critical success factor.

I am following a fairly straightforward path to Flex, I suppose - early work with Action Script and other Adobe technologies lead me to Ajax, and then to Prototype and JQuery, after which I spent several years mired in JSP; and now I am back working with Action Script. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

I will write more about my experience in future articles, but specifically I want to raise a couple points of interest here: as a team, we have settled on Cairngorm as an MVC framework. If anyone has any thoughts on Cairngorm and the alternatives, or thoughts about using Flex as a rapid development tool for public sector work. Also, it seems like Flex could easily become a de facto standard for certain kinds of non-RIA development because of the easy Eclipse integration, and I would love to discuss others' experience.

Please drop by and leave a comment - I have been invaded by anonymous posters!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Tab Sweep: 2010-02-03

Note: apologies to anyone actually reading this - I intend to collect and comment on things I come across during the week, then push the post out via Twitter on Friday. As this is a cumulative process, if the content seems light there will probably be more later. The alternative is to keep the post in draft for a while, but this seems lame.

From IBM's Smarter Planet: Education

School districts operate on tight budgets in good times, but when Pike County found their IT budgets sliced by 80%, they knew it called for drastic measures—or true blue-sky thinking.
A rural Kentucky district of 10,000 students, Pike County administrators had struggled with providing IT resources for its students, teachers and staff. Desktop computers were still running Windows 98 with failing CD and hard drives; and access to the district's portal, which houses the applications and information the students and teachers needed,was inconsistent.
Working with IBM Global Technology Services and Desktone software, the district developed a virtual desktop infrastructure delivered as a cloud service. Students now boot the existing hardware with a special CD that bypasses the operating system and connects them instead to a high-performing virtual desktop environment. This in turn links to the district's portal site with all of the tools and information they need. Pike County can double the life of its hardware—it's planning on using seven-year-old machines without sacrificing performance—while providing students, teachers and administrators with equal, transparent access to its assets.
The district estimates cost savings of 64% over five years, compared to the cost of servicing the desktops on premises.

Now, I'm a big fan of the work that Walter Bender has been doing at Sugarlabs, as far as live booting a Sugar/Fedora OS off a USB stick, and this is more of the same. A combination of live booting thin OS and cloud computing is very potent.

Another former OLPC employee, Ivan Krstic, who now works in core security at Apple, comments on martian sandtraps. I at first thought he was speaking of golf, but apparently not. Since he began working at Apple, Krstic posts infrequently, but invariably leads to spit-take.

Apparently Mike Cane is done with his eBook Test blog, declaring the Apple iPad a future contender, or something. The vision of the iPad/iStore/iBook etc is there, even if the reality is not, yet, but we can confidently say that, yes, the iPad will change the way we read. Though I'm still holding out for the new Pixel Qi technology from OLPC alumnus Mary Lou Jepsen.

From London writer Marc Nash, an excellent critique of Roberto Bolano's 2666 and the hoopla surrounding the global reading of same at #2666 on Twitter. I am taking part in this reading, but wish I had read Bolano's Savage Detectives first, simply because of 2666's sprawling nature. Comparisons with Gravity's Rainbow, Infinite Jest and Finnegans Wake seems apt, based solely on the fly-leaf and first 100 or so pages.

Nice Valentines Day Cards, from Save the Children.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Axiom Attic: I

Somewhere between
over the sky and
under the ground
my roots lie

An axiom-tree, idiom-bird
climb climb soil
a thermal
buried deep