LinkLog: Engineering for Serendipity

Here is a great call for Open Linked Data by Ian Davis from Talis:

Conjecture 1: Data outlasts code , therefore open data is more important than open source.

Conjecture 2: There is more structured data in the world than unstructured, therefore people who understand structure matter.

Conjecture 3: Most of the value in our data is unexpected and unintended, therefore we should engineer for serendipity

I am not sure about Conjecture 2. I thought there was more semi-structured and unstrctured data than structured data, but I could be wrong about that.

So what does it take to discover the unexpected and uninteded value of data? Data Mining with machine learning algorithms?

LinkLog: Successful Platforms

Here is a nice discussion worth reading about Silicon Valley, recession, disruptive products and successful platforms:

He says that a platform ill be successful if it has three characteristics. It has to be able to commoditize a market. Secondly, it has to obey the 10x better/cheaper rule.

Thirdly, a platform must allow you to add value with custom additions. The reason Netscape wasn’t a platform was that no one could program to it, nobody could add value. (By the way, that’s also true for virtualization…) Unless you have all three characteristics, you won’t have a disruptive chain that can accelerate a startup from zero to sixty, and turn it into a major player.

Makes a lot of sense. Either all these or an outstanding product/business model as in the case of Google Search. The discussion is also optimistic about the prospects of Silicon Valley, some musings about what it takes to increase adoption of Green Technology. Looking forward to reading the second part.

Imagine Cornering Authors…

Once in a while you encounter a novel way some one describes a book. It makes a deep impression. Here is how Scott Aaronson goes about describing a Math book: Princeton Companion to Mathematics

a 1000-page volume that’s sort of an encyclopedia of math, history of math, biographical dictionary of math, beginners’ guide to math, experts’ desk reference of math, philosophical treatise on math, cultural account of math, and defense of math rolled into one, written by about 130 topic specialists and edited by the Fields medalist, blogger, and master expositor Timothy Gowers….

If you love Math, how can you resist such a description?  I like this part:

Picture a stack of yellow books (), and imagine cornering the authors one by one and demanding they tell you what’s really going on, and the result might look something like this.

More than the novel yellow stack depiction, the concept of cornering the authors and demand that they tell you what is going on really appeals to me. I can visualize groups of inquisitive students doing the same thing to teachers along the hallways in schools.

Language is a beautiful thing and once in a while you luck upon a blog post or author with that gift that lifts your spirits.

LinkLog: About Knowledge

In Rendering Knowledge, Dave Snowden talks about seven aspects of knowledge:

  1. Knowledge can only be volunteered it cannot be conscripted
  2. We only know what we know when we need to know it
  3. In the context of real need few people will withhold their knowledge
  4. Everything is fragmented
  5. Tolerated failure imprints learning better than success
  6. The way we know things is not the way we report we know things
  7. We always know more than we can say, and we will always say more than we can write down

I Love This Post: The Education Corps

Consider this the equivalent of Retweet. All I want to do is to point to some post and say I love it and point to others who read my blog and suggest, may be you should read it too.

  • I love it because I do have similar Harmonic Convergences too and jot some ideas down
  • I love it because it is a great idea and I think we need to do a lot more for education

So finally, here is the link, please read it if you like it and may be we can do something together. Now let me go and investigate what the Idea#1 was.

A Couple of Twitter Trends

It is interesting to watch Twitter take off.  Over the past few months, I have seen increasing adoption of Twitter.  Here are a couple of trends worth mentioning.

eZines on Twitter

I think this is a great idea. I follow several ezines (the latest being IDG Connect). I found some of them through Twitter Search and others through links in their email alerts. Here are some advantages:

  • You learn about new articles and webcasts as soon as they are ready (right now many ezines still do a batch mode bursts of Tweets but hopefully that will change).
  • There is finer granulartiy of information. Since each article link is a separate Tweet, you can individually reply to or Retweet, announcing it to your own group of followers.
  • You can also selectively bookmark (favorite) individual articles
  • If you are interested enough in that area, you can even start a group or a Friend Feed room

Even though I used to receive the same information in an email form, when it comes as several Tweets, I am able to do more with it with more convenience.

Twitter Packs

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed one of my friends Tweet about Semantic Web Pack.  Since it is one my areas of interest I followed the link to see what it was. To my pleasant surprise I found these:

  • A Twitter pack is a collection of individuals/bots,  Tweeting about a certain topic. It is like a BOF (bird of feathers) group that I normally participate in conferences.
  • This was in fact a pbwiki application where you can simply follow all the people in a pack (or selectively follow a few)
  • There were several useful and interesting packs

It gave me one click access to my special interest group. Even though I could have done the same (with some difficulty) using Twitter Search, this was so much easier.

Trending Topics

One of the easy ways of following hot news is to subscribe to bots that track  Trends.  It is  a nice way to follow conversations and growing interest in certain topics on Twitter. Two trending bots I follow are Trending and Real Time Trends.

Programming Languages

What programming language should I learn, a link I found on Twitter (like most of the other things I seem to find, nowadays) is a nice list and a good map for some one who is learning languages and looking for experimenting more.

I think for each language we can add a set of additional reasons – for example:

php – any work on mediawiki, drupal, joomla etc.
c# – any work on web parts, dotnet components, silverlight RIA
python – any work on django, nltk, machine learning, Plone, zope

In addition, I would add these languages. They are on my list to play around with and build a few prototypes (not sure when I get to them, though)

Boo – A python inspired language for writing DSLs (domain specific languages)
L Sharp or Lisp or Scheme – A list based language for learning programming
Squeak – A small talk based language for building delightful interactive applications
Berkeley Logo – For simulations, nothing beats this lisp inspired language
Prolog – for building logic programs and expert systems (though expert systems are fading away with machine learning based languages)
Haskell – Seems to be catching fire and may be one of the preferred languages for building multi-core apps
Erlang – Another language for building highly robust, scalable, multi-core apps
AIML – Artificial Intelligence Markup Language for buidling chat bots (even has a python AIML engine). Currently working with a student to build a chatbot for SugarCRM
SPARQL – A semantic web query language (easy if you already know SQL)
RDF and OWL – Not really languages in the conventional sense but I consider them as data languages

After writing all this, I decided to put this in my blog since it is worth remembering and updating them.

When I watch some videos on Lisp/Scheme, I understand why Lispers are so religious about their language. I have not seen more efficient/concise ways of solving problems or clarity of concepts.

LinkLog: Social Networks for Creative People, Medici effect, Twitter…

Top 10 Social Networks for Creative People

Besides the usual suspects like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, Ning, there were a few I have not heard of – Behance Network, Shape Shifters, likemind etc.

Twitter as a Tool for Business talks about how to go viral on Twitter and have your message, content retweeted.

Medici Effect (some thing I was blissfully unaware of, till today) – “out of seemingly random combinations have come groundbreaking ideas that have created whole new fields” and the innovative power of intersectional teams

My favorite uses of  Twitter includes the following:

  • Discovering information (for example by following people who tweet about Semantic Web, I get new links to articles etc.)
  • Short, quick discussions – There is something about 140 characters that makes it easy to have short quick discussions
  • Tracking trends (at least trends on Twitter)
  • Spreading news – by retweeting most of the time
  • Asking questions in context – When someone tweets, they establish a context for questions and clarifications
  • Studying interaction patterns – Watching human interaction can be interesting in itself. On Twitter it is a lot more fun
  • Keeping in touch with the family and friends – For quick news/event exchange, Twitter is great
  • Doing some research – While Twitter search is not great, it is reasonable for some quick research
  • Reading News – The top news percolates to the top (retweets). It is also filtered since the people and news bots you follow determine the kind of news that you want to read. Really important news appears real time far ahead of conventional news sources

How Can Students Help Teachers?

Involving Students as Teachers can be an effective means of improving learning. You learn a lot more by teaching. This is being practiced in several places including the MIT TEAL program.

This blog entry that led me to Edutopia has a different, rather innovative idea. Why not use the creative, imaginative power of students to improve teaching?

What if you had to teach the classes you are taking now or something you learned years ago? How would you use technology to do it? What devices, software, games, networks, or applications would you use to help students learn more easily — and have more fun learning?

For instance, imagine that it was your job to teach algebra, Charles Dickens, volleyball, poetry, a foreign language, science, or the Civil War. Would you have your English students use Facebook to create profiles for each main character in Jane Eyre? Would you have them use Garage Band to create a World War II song or the national anthem of a fictional country? Would you use instant messaging or cell phones as tools for classroom discipline? Could you learn math from Mario? The point of this is for Edutopia to gather specific ideas and advice from you for teachers to try in their classrooms. So, be sure to describe things in a way that a teacher – any teacher – would understand. You might want to mention any rules about technology and media that exist at your school and whether or not they would need to be modified. We’d love to hear as many suggestions as you can think of!

I will add a few more to the list:

  1. What happens if there is extra-credits for ideas to improve teaching and learning? Will it encourage students to be creative?
  2. What happens if we use tools like twitter, define hashtags or twitter groups to collect, discuss and implement student ideas?
  3. What if we request students to dream about what they would like to see in a class or alternatives to a class?
  4. Why can’t we try some un-conference ideas in schools?

Meta: This is how I got to this post

1. I was listening to Jon Udell’s interview with Phillip Long on Technology Enabled Active Learning.a few days ago.

2. I gave a talk to NEN students on technology trends but mostly talked about ideas on improving learning (showing the MIT Sketch Video). That seems to have evoked a lot of interest. Many students came up to me and volunteered to help if I start any initiative in improving learning.

3. I read a  post on Twitter that gave me a link to Will Richardson’s  Advice From Students to Teachers on Technology Use

If you have ideas, please post them as comments here or even better on Twitter with a hashtag #helpingteachers