Saturday, May 20, 2006

Two Types of Yoga

My friend Mark recently told me that there are two types of yoga. I present them here for your edification:

Yoga from India:

Yoga from Horsetralia:

I wish (Oh, how I wish!) that I could take credit for these, but they were forwarded from Mark via a South African mailing list. Unfortunately, they were ungoogleable, so I served them. We wouldn't want them to be lost to posterity! Please comment if you know who should get attribution.

Friday, May 19, 2006

New Semantic Web Activity Lead at W3C

Eric Miller has announced his imminent departure from the World Wide Web Consortium as Semantic Web Activity Lead. Eric has been Activity Lead for the last five years and was instrumental in producing the core technical infrastructure standards (RDF, RDFS and OWL). He has recently directed the formation of working groups to work on rules interchange and life sciences, as well as continuing SemWeb deployment work. The 2006 Semantic Web Activity Proposal summarizes the state of the Activity and future plans. Eric is rumored to be heading for a more hands-on development role somewhere in the SemWeb space.

Ivan Herman will take over the role of Activity Lead in July.

I am pleased to call both men friends and wish them well as they change roles.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

OWL-DL Ontology of Software Engineering Concepts

I have created a simple OWL-DL ontology of software engineering concepts and posted them on my UQ site.
  • OWL-DL ontology of software engineering concepts (Source and OWLDoc)
  • Example of use of the above ontology of software engineering concepts (Source and OWLDoc)

Monday, May 15, 2006

A Big Week for the SemWeb

This has been a busy week for the Semantic Web. Some of items of interest:

TopQuadrant has released a new SemWeb ontology editor (implemented as an Eclipse plug-in) called Top Braid Composer. There is a free evaluation, but a commercial license. The differentiator from Protégé and SWOOP seems to be a greater attempt at visualization.

The Semantic Web and Multimedia Group, Universita' Politecnica delle Marche, Italy, released version 0.4 of DBin, a P2P/SemWeb project for "building Semantic Web communities". The project is under the GPL.

Mark Birbeck has posted his presentation on RDFa for XTech 2006. RDFa (formerly known as the less Googleable RDF/A) is an up-and-coming way to represent metadata in XML, especially XHTML, documents.

Alistair Miles has posted his paper on the requirements for the standardization for SKOS.

Tim Berners-Lee has made public his final draft report on the MIT-W3C DAML program. In the conclusion, he expresses his ideas for the conditions necessary to make the Semantic Web a reality. I think he was pretty honest about the challenges.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

State of the SemWeb According to Google Trends

Weeble introduced me to Google Trends, a new way of tracking trends of Web search terms.

A search for "Semantic Web" yielded some interesting and surprising results. Firstly, the search term activity seemed to have peaked a couple of years ago. Perhaps that is not surprising since that was when RDF and OWL were standardized. Secondly, the regions which lead the pack in searching for the term are:

1. Korea
2. Greece
3. Iran
4. Ireland
5. Singapore
6. India
7. Austria
8. Malaysia
9. Taiwan
10. Hong Kong

Now, I knew that the Europeans were ahead of the US, so Greece, Ireland and Austria didn't surprise me, nor did the US's absence. Korea, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong are all well-known high-techers, so that's OK. But Iran?

Big Brother Should Be Watched

Unsurprisingly, the news media and the US government continue to misunderstand the central issue in the domestic spying revelations I mentioned in Should We Trust Big Brother?. The real story is protecting the civil rights of individual citizens from abuses, not everyday business-as-usual.

The news media have focused on whether or not Americans object to the NSA trolling their telephone records (they don't, by a 65% majority) and the likely prospects of General Michael Hayden to be confirmed as the next head of the CIA.

However, consider the following scenario, where innocent people may be harmed for political gain.

By all reports, including the President's, the NSA has gained access to telephone call records in an attempt to track who terrorists are speaking to in the US. Let's say that a terrorist on a watch list calls a dry cleaner in New York City. Let's further stipulate that the dry cleaner is a legitimate business who is not part of any illegal activities. Lots of other people will use that dry cleaner and some will make calls to them. The NSA will not be able to assume that the dry cleaner is legitimate and so will have to analyze the second degree of contacts. Did the dry cleaner make or receive any calls from known criminals or terrorist suspects?

Perhaps our dry cleaner also services a local politician and his family. Perhaps one of them has made a call to a 1 900 service, or a brothel or just happened to use the same dry cleaner of a terrorist suspect.

Could our leaders resist the urge to use this knowledge for political gain? Surely, some will. History tells us unabashedly that some will not. The theory of six degrees of separation suggests that we are more closely connected to each other than we may think. Should such closeness be used against us, by default and without legislative or judicial oversight?

Thus, without a carefully crafted system of checks and balances (to include warrants), it is my strong opinion that American civil liberties will be damaged by the current system.

I have no objection to the NSA being allowed to do its job! I do, however, believe strongly that trust is earned and not to be given lightly. Trust, say the Russians, but verify. I have yet to hear a single voice raised to explain why the NSA should not be required to get a warrant to access, much less follow, the trail of information available in telephone records.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Should We Trust Big Brother?

USA Today reported today that the NSA is keeping a large database of telephone call records for US citizens, with the raw data being supplied by the large telecom carriers. No surprise there. Still, here are some thoughts on the subject:

One one hand, the limits of current technology would suggest that the NSA would probably need such a database in order to query it for the specific call records they want to find, such as those related to Al Queda, their associates or their correspondents. I can think of no better way to solve the problem, especially when queries may be made during investigations well subsequent to the calls themselves.

On the other hand, I can understand the concerns of citizens not wishing the government to attain, or retain, this information at all. Is there to be no expectation of privacy for any electronic communication? That would engender a great change to the way Americans conduct themselves, especially given the trend to use so many new forms of electronic communications channels.

On the gripping hand, can we trust the NSA and the Administration (any Administration) not to yield to temptation? If we allow them to collect and hold that information, can we trust them not to mine the data? Does not the memory of Joseph McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover suggest that we should not trust George Bush quite that much?

In any society, there are those who will gladly violate the rights of others just because an authority figure told them to. Just where are the checks and balances on executive power under that scenario?

I have to object. On balance, it appears that President Bush is willing to trade a resonable expectation of electronic privacy for a better chance (chance!) of catching a small number of terrorists. I am not. The public good is better served by refusing to become a police state.

Monday, May 01, 2006

For Fathers Only

A friend who prefers to remain anonymous has started a blog on fatherhood. I give him credit for his tagline:

"I used to think I could be a better dad. Then I reset the bar and reminded myself, 'Some animals eat their young.'"

Drawing Grass

Jonathan just pointed me to the Grass Tutorial, showing how an artist used Adobe Photoshop to draw grass. It is definately worth a look by anyone interested in seeing how digital art is progressing.