Tag Archives: future

Vilfredo on IPCC

One document, multiple point of views

Writing paper is a classic many to one process. With many authors convening together in a single final result. Final result that should contain several claims, often causally related to each other, reaching a final result, usually in the Conclusions. While this structure is useful it is not always easy (or indeed possible) to merge all the authors point of view into a shared world view. The usual solution to this is either to tone down the statements (finding very general ones), or that some authors suffer the indignity of having to signa paper they don’t fully agree with, or having the group split and produce different papers, with different author lists.

One classical example are the IPCC reports. Those are presented every 6-7 years by the Intergovernmant Panels on Climate Change, and should summarise all the recent findings on climate change and global warming. The report is “the largest and most detailed summary of the climate change situation ever undertaken, produced by thousands of authors, editors, and reviewers from dozens of countries, citing over 6,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies” [wikipedia]. Being written by so many scientists from all over the world leeds to serious problems over what is going to be written in such report. The solution was to accept claims only if a certain percentage of the scientists would agree with it. But this leds to a toned down report that under represents the threats we are facing. With reality being always as bad as, and often harsher than the predictions.

A similar problems happen in the authorship of wikipedia articles. Where many authors present their point of view, and often edit wars erupt. Wikipedia policy to “stay neutral”, and add references to each claim are useful but nowhere enough for the kind of disagreements about the world that are presented among the wikipedia authors.

In this paper we want to suggest that it should be possible to present inside the same article competing views, by presenting them side by side. The main part of the paper should remain co-authored. But when we reach the disagreeing paragraph, the alternative world views should be presented side by side, with the initials of the name of the authors that subscribe to each paragraph in tiny print below it.

Note that not all alternative views should be present, just the Pareto Front of them, as explained in the “Don’t vote, Evolve” paper. In brief this is done by listing all alternative versions of the same paragraph, and letting all the participants sign all the versions they subscribe to. Then we define a version A of a paragraph being dominated by a version B of the same paragraph if and only if, the people who subscribe to A are a subset of the people that subscribe to B. The Pareto Front of the versions will then be the set of all views that are non dominated (there is no other version that dominates them).

1) It is important that the authors don’t subscribe just to one version but to all the versions they feel they can accept.

2) Every person that has subscribed to at least one version will find at least one of the versions he subscribe to being present in the Pareto Front (the proof is trivial and left as an exercise). In this sense the Pareto Front represents the view of the whole community with no tyranny of the majority.

How VIlfredo defines groups depending on what people subscribe to

3) Each author that did NOT subscribe to a proposal, cannot have subscribed to any proposal dominated by it (or it would not dominate it). In this way the presented Pareto Front does not just represents competing views but also a minimal division of the group of authors. With people that subscribe only to version A, people that subscribe only to version B, people that subscribe only to version C…, Then people that subscribe to A and B, A and C, …, … . If we have n competing versions in the Pareto Front it will be possible to have 2n-1 groups. Each that represents an alternative point of view.

From a visual point of view, in a static medium the alternative point of view can be shown side by side. In a dynamic medium, one version can be shown with the alternative ones shown as tiny columns on the side. When the reader moves the mouse over them (hovers) the columns would open up into fully readable text (while the previous one closes by the side).

Vilfredo on IPCC

Ebooks, the next revolution. But this time is BIG!

Another revolution is about to happen.

A revolution that is many times in size and importance bigger than the music revolution. I call it the e-book revolution.

In this moment a number of technologies are coming together:

On the one side OCR technologies are reaching a level of sophistication, where it is nearly as easy to photocopy a book as to make an ebook out of it. Do you remember when you would go to a photocopy shop, and ask them to make a copy of the book. Now it is that easy to have the ebook version of it, if you know how to do it. This means that more and more books are available in ebook format.

But the difference between the ebooks now, and the mp3, back then, is that when the mp3s came out, a song (5 minutes of fun) was about 5 MB. And since the internet was slower back then, it would take quite some time to download those 5 minutes of fun. Now a book, is often between 1 and 10 Mega Byte. And it can permit you to read it, study it, but also just to consult it.
More about this later.

I thought there were few ebooks around. That mostly you could find some old classics, but nothing really interesting. I was SO wrong.

Here is a collection available for download from pirate bay with more than 1000 ebooks, all on computer science. Here another with practically all of the ebooks from the “* for dummies” collection.

Those are not just some old classics. Those are good new books.

But why are users going through the whole work of digitalizing a single book to post it online? I guess this text will explain us: Continue reading

Integrating browsers and feed readers

Speaking about things that should happen, and that have not happen, one thing that I still have not seen is a browser with a feed reader such that when you go to the web page that is linked to a certain feed, it updates the feed and assumes that you have now read that feed. So for example I add Jim feeds, but on a certain period I am just passing through his web page very often. Obviously if he is updating his blog I would see it. The feed reader does not need to give me that information.

I have added the feeds of some major newspaper, but I also often go to the web page, and the result is that bloglines keep on telling me that those feeds have 200 entries that I should look at.

A new Base

Hello everybody, I’m back.
The vacations were very good, and soon I’ll pull all the pictures on the moblog, with the descritpions and the embarassing details. Now I’m back to work in Jena.
One of the things that is happening to me at the time is that my computer is physically falling to pieces. It is an old laptop of a brand I don’t wish to nominate not to increase their visibility since it gave me all sort of problem freezing about one time a week at least. Having to look for a new model I started thinking about the products around, and I reached the conclusion that we are ready for another big jump. And generally a new product which will make a new base in the economy of Pda. (Yes I am looking for a laptop for me and I end up writing about PDA. So what? Sue me).

It seem to me that there are 4 different products on the market which really need to be integrated and when they will be integrated there will be a big jump in terms of potentiality. I am speaking of:

  • Smart Phones (with Camera)
  • PDA
  • GPS
  • IPod

Right now no product that I know of that is on the market have is really all four at the same time. There are some shy tentative to do the integration but no one has really managed.

Let’s look why those 4 instruments should all be present in one tool and what extra do we get. The smart phone will give the possibility to phone and more important to be in touch on the internet all the time. The more we go on the lower the tarif will be. In Italy is already possible to have a flat rate of 20 Euro a month that let you connect to internet anytime between 6pm and 8 am and during weekends and holidays (It is through TIM, if you are looking for it). It is very good. I wish here in Germany there was a similar possibility. With time the prices will inevitably drop. What all this mean is that the tool, that from now on I will call eBase, will have the possibility to be in contact with the internet pretty much all the time.

When I was in Prague at the European Go Congress I bought a small PDA, used, for 20 euro. It works fine and it permitted me to simply record all the official game I did. If the tool was already online I could have sent them to internet immediatly. But wait, if the tool is on internet I can also play go online directly from the PDA. Imagine, you are on your bus and you play online with someone, far far away, in a distant galaxy. And because more and more of the work is moving on internet, with del.icio.us, calendars on line, office on line, and so on, this would mean that you get all your data all the time. And this on a PDA. So on something that is big enough to actually do some work, read some web pages, and generally be useful.

And now the first critic will be, but what about making phone calls. Will not that be unconfortable? Oc course an eBasa have to be bigger than one of those miniaturized phones that are available right now. On the other hand I see more and more people using those bluetooth microphone to speak. You can still keep your eBase in your pocket while you speak.

Now PDA and phone integrated are already around. And they work quite well. In fact many smart phones are in a sense a PDA plus a phone. I use to be quite skeptic about those tools. Especially about how easy it is to write on the screen itself, but after my last PDA I had to change my mind. It works very well.

But now the last two elements, the IPod and the GPS. Already many smart phones have an mp3 reader inside. But the real novelty in the IPod is not the mp3 reader, but the memory. The fact of having 40 gb of memory means that everybody can carry ALL the music he likes with her. No smart phone that I know of offers this service. This is fundamental. If eBase have also to be a working tool it has to have a huge memory. 40 GB is the minimum. But what else would mean to have an IPod fully integrated with a PDA plus a smart phone. Well, for once it means that you can get your podcast directly on your phone. And since (see above) your phone is supposed to be on internet pretty much all the time you are getting your podcasting all the time from internet directly on your phone. Yes, we had reinvented the radio. And since this is going to have a bigger screen than a mobile (apart that flexible screens are coming out in an case), we can even consider having video podcasting with us. Essentially to have it we just would need some of the smart phone that we already have around and pack them with enough memory, and a flat rate connection to internet. Nothing too incredile.

And the last one is the GPS. We already have that too. Some smart phone have GPS included, and many can have it outside. It seem that until things are not integrated in the base object people don’t use them. It it was for me I would have never bought an external camera to use with my phone. But the model I needed had also a camera included, so I had to take it. And it ended up being what I use most, and I have the most fun with. I think the same goes with GPS. Wait until all phone have GPS. Wait until any phone can tell you the road to anywhere you want. Both in terms of streets, and in terms of physical distance (3 miles in direction 121 degrees). Wait until every picture that you make comes with the exact coordinates of when and where it was taken. And then you will have the possibility to put a picture on internet and everybody can find that exact spot (and of course you can obscure that possibility, to protect your privacy). Wait until you can make a search on internet on all pictures around a certain place. And then the integration of the internet and human beings that wish to be part of the internet can be really strong. And then you can search a post in your blog by where it was written, more than when it was written. And any document we write will not only have the date but also the location. And we start refering to places with their coordinates. Like we do now with time.

Think about it. Before the invention of the calendar people would refer to time by relating with big events. Two years before the flood. 3 years after the king got into power…
Now we have some universal ways to refer to time. 5th of October 2003. We still refer to things respect to an event (’3 months after the twin tower’,…) but mostly we use the western coordinates. And the fact of giving to each user the possibility to know what time it was (the invention of the watch) made it possible and practical for people to refer to time in a precise way. As soon as we have some simple object that is with us all the time and that tells us our spatial position we will start to use this coordinates in the same way.

So I think those 4 objects should come together. And they will. And whoever will do it will get a big share of the market (and maybe this is why it had not happened yet, as each company keeps hold of its own patents to avoid the other being able to make the integration themselves).

I only gave here a sketch of the possibilities of such a tool. In a sense something like an eBase could be enough for a person to interact with the social coomunity. Would be enough to let someone discuss with others and participate in the emerging democracy that we seem to have finally started creating.

I am sure this object will come out. The question is not ‘if?’, the question is ‘when?’, and ‘what should I buy in the meantime?’.

Tag Clouds are hard to Spam

I think the time have come to write my third, and hopefully last contribution to the topic of tagclouds.

I have been hearing a lot of talk on how users should not use too many tags in linking to url. I also am the maintainer of the mindmap maker, and I often look at some of the maps generated (available to everybody). There is a number of people who tend to use an average of between one and two tags per URL. Their maps are often very ordered. No clustering, no hierarchy. (Forgive me if I don’t put a link to such a map, but since I am going to bash this way of using delicious, I’d rather bash a method than a specific human being. Just go to the list of maps and open a couple, odds are one of them will be of the type I am describing). This way of using delicious uses tags as folders, just with the modification that every now and then you can put an URL in more than one folder at the same time. A bit like big bookstore might carry several copies of the same book, and store them in more than one place (and the Tao Te Ching, ends up in New Age -God knows why- and in Religion).

Of course tags tend not to fit exactly. My Tag Clouds and Cultural Change will be under Tags or Folksonomy or Sociology… Whatever you chose you probably will not put it under Ajax. And yet most of the analysis was done studying the spreading of the term Ajax.

Let’s make a few simple calculations. Continue reading

BBC backstage and News in Folksonomy form

Some things are bound to happen. And they tend to happen at the right time. We have been using tags from years now, but the momentum have builded up, day after day. Always seeing more and more computer programs using them. Starting from deli.icio.us and flickr. Then 43 things.com, consumating.com, tagsurf.com and all the clones of the above (BTW if anybody can find me a small open source server program that emulates Flickr for personal use,I would be grateful). And of course technorati tags, and GutenTag that give rss feeds to technorati tag.
But something was missing. Somthing that some people might have noticed. The news were not playing with tags. News were still presented in the old top down way: politics, economics, international…
On Google News, as well as CNN. On Yahoo News, as on BBC.

But finally something is starting to move over there too.
Two services, pretty much at the same time were presented: Yahoo News with tags and BBC with tags.

But there are some serios differences between the two services. Yahoo content is being automatically indexed by a program, who imposes the tags according to what keywords are found in the text. As such Yahoo tags is a Top Down keyword classification of stories.

Instead (and here you can see the revolutionary spirit blowing through English news services), BBC program is a truly down up grassroot program. A program where everybody can add any tag to any article.
The difference is not a minor one, as in the first case it is the user that have to adapt to the world view of Yahoo, while in the second it is BBC that includes in his wider world view the user one. In a sense it is a case of Tagsonomy vs. Folksonomy, or
narrow folksonomy vs. broad folksonomy.

Of course both the program are still in their first days. Full of bugs, and of suggestion from us on how to make it better, smoother, and nearer to our personal desires.

Of course having anybody being able to add any tag to a copy of the BBC content is full of political dangers. What is stories about important politicians start to be tagged as ‘dictator’ or ‘wanker’. This is in fact inevitable, but politicians showld well use this as an indication of their popularity, than something to be changed.

At the moment anybody can add a tag in the BBC news page by login in as ‘guest’/'guest’. And already we have some people who have tagged some stories as ‘wanker. But if we go to delicious we see that nearly no one have used such epitome.

Why is that? My personal position is that people are more careful when tagging something for their own personal use. On delicious everybody have an account. And although you could have as many account you like, they cost. They cost time and memory to set it up. So we all tend to have just the minimum amount of acount needed. But on BBC, at the moment, only BBC person are allowed to have their own account. We normal human being, can just be guest. Ans as such we might feel deresponsabilized respect to what we wrote. So I think that, although the experiment is great, it will only work properly when everybody can set up his own account, and serch his account, or the account of another, well defined person.

Of course this also open up all sort of extra possibilities. After all, if anybody can tag any article with his own tags. Then to each article a set of tag will be defined. What is I want to receive (maybe on my mobile) all the articles tagged with a certain keyword. The possibilities are really endless.

And to look at those possibilities BBC had started a whole new project, called BBC Backstage where geeks are invited to collaborate with the staff of BBC to develop the API to permit to everybody to reuse the BBC material. Cross this with the fact tha much of this material is copyrighted with a copyleft copyright (copygotit?), and you see how the whole situation can positively explode.
Imagine, much of the material from BBC, offered for free, in the way wanted by the best geeks and hackers, to produce information in any noncommercial way they please.

Already many ideas are flowing? An RSS for the results from sport match. Crossing google maps with BBC News.

Possibility to have BBC news accepting trackbacks.

And many many others.

All this would mingle BBC with the common people. Think, all the news, mixed and remixed. Commented, trackbacked. Until you can read an article from BBC news from any device (through rss), in any format you want (through your rss reader). Filtered anyway you want (through folksonomy), and seeing the world response to that article(through trackback and comments).

Thank you BBC
(and no, I am not paid by BBC)

Thanks also Wired for some inspiration.

Technorati rss 2: Guten Tag

As I predicted a service on the net that offers an rss feed of blogs with a certain keyword / tag has appeared. It is It’s a Tag world from Stephane Lee.

The system seems still in its infancy (the name needs to be shorter, for start, to be used as a tag itself) , but by offering the rss feeds of blog entries they give a really valuable tool to the blogphere.
Now, either Technorati starts offering the rss feed itself, or sues Creative Mobs (enstranging a big part of the blogsphere), or accepts to coexist with another, potentially aggressive, competitor.

And indeed, it’s a tag world,
worse than that:
it’s a tag eat tag world!


P.S. The system has also a certain humor and pragmaticity, the general tag page is called: ‘Guten Tag’ (german for ‘Good Day’). And each tag, has, in its header, a link to the equivalent Wikipedia entry (which works fine only in English, unfortunately, but still…).

Thanks Stephane.

Tagsurf first review

This is going to be big. It’s called tagsurf. When we were setting up the taoist discussion board, at Tao Bums, I was looking for a board that permitted me to tag individual messages with different tags. The reason is that over there we are now a group of friendly people and every thread start with a topic, but often touches many separate ones. The board had to be in PhP for reasons only knew to the web master, but that we all were happy to follow. So we started looking around, but no board with tagging facility went up. Nothing. I had to admit that the idea was quite new, and I have not seen any such board around in any case. And then we decided for phpBB which being open source would have had new versions with any new cool geeky thing appearing every so often. Well. Now I finally found the first tag based discussion board. It’s called tagsurf. And is very cool. You get to write messages and tag them. As tag you can use any word up to any size. Now, the result of this is that you can tag thing with the url of something. So immediatly a series of utilities started appearing:
People (first one I saw doing it was Russell Beattie) added a tagsurf button. In short if you click on that button you get all the comments on tagsurf that uses your permalink as a tag. In a sense it is outsourcing the discussion board.
Yes, I added it too, is down near the little technoraty bubble, and I just needed to add:
<a href="http://tagsurf.com/post?tag=<?php the_permalink() ?>">Tagsurf this</a>

in the template.

I also went back to see how was tagsurf behaving in del.icio.us. It seem that, as it often appear in other cases, the meme is 6 days old. At the beginning few people noticed it, and now is starting to explode. I too found out because of the delicious discussion board, which I would suggest anybody who is interested to anybody who is interested in delicious OR folksonomy

I think this tagsurf will and can have great impact. They already have some API defined.

I also got an eye to their privacy policy. It seemed simple and clear. Yet now I cannot find it anymore. I suspect that they might be working on it right now.

I also made a small bookmarklet to post an entry on tagsurf about a specific page. Just drag the word bookmarklet on the bar and it should work. Of course for it to work you have to be logged in in tagsurf.

    Great points:
  • trackback: every post gets is an entry point for trackback. In other words anything you say can receive trackback from anything else. You say something here, and it get people in the blogsphere chatting. And you can follow their conversation. This is something very important that was missing in all the bullettin board I have been using. In a sense many discussion board are only looking in. This is also looking out.
  • trackback 2: Every post that you make can send trackback to anything you want. The software to do this automagically respect to the other posts inside tagsurf is still missing, but I can’t imagine it not appearing very soon.
  • possibility to mix different threads: since each post gets as many tags as the poster want it is quite easy for people to join different threads of discussion.
    Problems I might see coming.
  • Spam, spam, spam: I recieve about 30 spam trackbacks a day. And they get filtered by cool programs and finally deleted by me. Yet those programs need me to make the final judgement. Who will make the judgement for all the trackbacks in all those posts? Will the user have to? Can someone close the trackback from his own posts? I see many problem and much discussion over here.
  • copyright: This is another big one. Let’s say that I post a cool entry in tagsurf, who gets the copyright of it? It might be important. Imagine that someone takes it, and wants to add some extra tags. But adding tags is not allowed at the moment. So he copies the post and just reposts it with the extra tags. Do I have a say on it?

All together I think this is a wonderful piece of new technology. When tachnoraty started his tag page I wasn’t very impressed, but this, I think, will make some huge effects. And still I can’t see all the implications.

ADDENDUM: just as I ended this post I read fully the great and very interesting post from Russell Beattie. And I found that he had made exactly the same bookmarklet. Oops. Well, I hope he will not sue me, I haven’t copied his code. I just reinvented the wheel.

ADDENDUM to the ADDENDUM: As I was looking at all the people who were commenting on the thread on Russell post I noticed another post with the same bookmarklet. And I thought I would have been the first ;). At least I get to see if the trackback to posts over there actually works.

ADDENDUM to the ADDENDUMto the ADDENDUM: trackback does not seem to work, or the comment is being held back for security reasons

Third Map Maked Debugging session

Did some more debugging. Now any unicode the user used in the tags should be ok. Still there is a big brick wall in terms of memory usage. And some users are not having any luck just out of the fact that their map is taking so much resources that it goes beyond the ISP limit. I could work hard and distribute the whole calculation so that all variables are stored on disk, so the memory would never be hit, but honestly, it is not my top priority at the moment. I am here to help those users run the program on their own machine. And eventually we might solve that problem too. So, what are my top priorities:

  • Add an rss feed.I would like to add an rss feed that every time a new map is done, the feed gets updated. It wouldn’t just tell the name but all sorts of data, like the list of the Main Tags. So the users could see if they might be interested in checking the new buddy’s map
  • Insert a way for user to delete their own maps. If I am going to go into hosting business, I am not going to be one of those hosts where you can add info, but you cannot delete it. I am aware that users info ultimately is adding value to my site, as such I want users to be happy in having their map here. Not forced.
  • Insert a general log of all the maps that are being started, and ended. Right now such a log is absent, and there are about 200 maps completed, and more than twice maps that have been started. So about 300 have been dropped. I bet many of those users would have success, if they tried right now, after those 3 deubugging session. Still I want something that tells me: Warning warning warning, map dropped. Bug? OutOfMemoryError?
  • Add the number of posts inside a tag. Just obvious
  • Probably add some of the MainTags as keywords to each single map. The problem is: which? All is too much. All the ones that contain more than x posts, y subtags is not flexible enough. The solution should be: if a MainTag is part of a ParetoFront of Delicious than the keyword should be there. The fact that this means writing a whole program that stores in a database the latest ParetoFront is just a small detail ;). And before you ask: no, I will not need anybody’s password to do that, and the data will all be public.
  • Add a bookmarklet to save a map in your own delicious, with the keywords as tags
  • Change the map, so that it can run on a single tag. Useful for big complex maps like mine, and others.
  • Make it change the Title of the Map Page, to show the owner of the map. Useful if people want to add the maps to their delicious pages.

And then there are some tests I would like to make, like:

  • Check if it would make sense to show all the tags that appear with a single tag, and not the subtags.

There is more? If you can think of other modifications , please drop a line in the comment section. Also if you tried to run the map maker and it is not giving you satisfaction let me know. I’ll whip it appropriatly. HarHarHar. (I’ve always wanted to say that!)