Sunday, July 15, 2007

Some Kind Words

Steve Goschnick at Solid Software in Melbourne, Australia had some kind words for my paper entitled "RESTful Software Development and Maintenance" given at the 2006 Open Source Developers Conference in Melbourne. Thanks, Steve!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Press Release for PURL Code Rewrite

Zepheira, OCLC and the W3C announced today a project that we have been working on for a month; the complete re-write of the software behind the Persistent URL (PURL) service.

The full press release is here.

I am particularly happy to say that we are working toward a proper Open Source (Apache 2) release of the new code, and enhancements to deal with important issues for the Semantic Web (such as support for HTTP Range-14 return codes). OCLC has also asked us to help build a community around the code to assist both its maintenance and its future direction. That is a refreshing change and should be welcomed by all.

I can't wait to start building services on top of this stuff.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Zepheira Team Picture

Here is a good shot of the current Zepheira team. It was taken at the 2007 Semantic Technologies Conference during the Zepheira reception.

Left to right are Brian Sletten, Eric Miller, Kathy MacDougall, Bernadette Hyland, Uche Ogbuji and yours truly.

Defining Liberalism

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's wonderful Quirks and Quarks radio show interviewed David Sloan Wilson on 23 June 2007 regarding his new book Evolution for Everyone. I belatedly caught the podcast while on holiday, oddly enough in Canada.

Prof. Wilson specifically addressed group dynamics and the thinking of humans in terms of social groups. It seems easy for Westerners to think of ourselves as individuals and ignore our obvious group dependencies. He mildly denigrated the thoughts of Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan and the other evolutionary rationalists when he discussed the place of religion. Interestingly, Wilson noted that 95% (his measurement; I have not verified it but do not think he was speaking rhetorically) of conversations between people in a church relate not to theology but to group dynamics (how people can/could/should get along with each other). He uses this fact to suggest that religious thinking evolved (in a biological sense) to assist us with group behavior. He didn't mention the Baldwin Effect in the podcast, but I look forward to seeing whether it is discussed in the book.

I am particularly interested in the "us versus them" boundary in human behavior and Wilson discussed that. He noted the peculiar tendency of soldiers to act altruistically toward each other while killing the enemy; an extreme form of "us versus them" behavior and one close to the behavioral patterns found in and between hunter-gatherer groups. Then he said a fascinating thing: if one were to consider the group size to be larger, then one sees the killings as immoral. That immediately made me think about liberalism in our society.

What makes a liberal? Why do some people (myself included) become more liberal as they age? I was reared in a conservative, mostly rural society, attended a military college and was surrounded by conservative people until leaving the Navy. However, my thoughts became more liberal as I traveled and observed. Bill Clinton has said "The Democrats win when people think", which may be the same thing. Using Wilson's way of thinking, it suddenly makes sense that the ivory halls of academe are bastions of liberalism. Travel and thinking tend to make one see the world as a wider and more interconnected place. The group size one sees, in other words, becomes larger. Perhaps, as in the case of some, the observed group size becomes the size of the entire population.

I think this is a very, very useful meme. It is the first way of thinking about the differences between people's politics of which I am aware that both satisfies Occam's razor and provides a basis for further negotiation. Once the basis for disagreement is known, a solution is surely closer.

TKD Virginia State Games

I participated in my first Tae Kwon Do tournament a couple of weeks ago at the Virginia State Games near Richmond. It was surprisingly fun. Our dojang did well. I was particularly pleased at picking up the gold for forms, even if it was the old guys' division. In the picture below, I am the geek on the right.