I have a new bookmark. No, not a del.icio.us bookmark; not some bits in a file. This is the kind you have to go there to get.. go to Cleveland, that is. It reads:
for you love & support
for the Ikpia & Ogbuji families
At this time of real need.
We will never forget
Imose, Chica, & Anya
Abundant Life International Church
Highland heights, OH
After working with Chime for a year or so on the GRDDL Working Group (he was the difference between a hodge-podge of test files and a nicely organized GRDDL Test Cases technical report), I was really excited to meet him at the W3C Technical Plenary in Cambridge in early November. His Fuxi work is one of the best implementations of the way I think semantic web rules and proofs should go. When he told me some people didn't see the practical applications, it made me want to fly there and tell them how I think this will save lives and end world hunger.
So this past Tuesday, when I read the news about his family, the only way I could make my peace with it was to go and be with him. I can only imagine what he is going through. Eric Miller and Brian and David drove me to the funeral, but the line to say hi to the family was too long. And the internment service didn't really provide an opportunity to talk. So I was really glad that after I filled my plate at the reception, a seat across from Chime and Roschelle opened up for me and I got to sit and share a meal with them.
Grandpa Linus was at the table, too. His eulogy earlier at the funeral ended with the most inspiring spoken rendition of a song that I have ever heard:
Now The Hacienda's Dark The Town Is Sleeping
Now The Time Has Come To Part The Time For Weeping
Vaya Con Dios My Darling
Vaya Con Dios My Love
I just discovered Kindle: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device. About $10 per e-book sounds ok, but $0.10 to put my own files on it?!?! It can read blogs like Slashdot and boingboing for as little as $.99 per month over the $399 purchase price. It comes with wikipedia. Say... that sounds familiar... where else can I get wikipedia on a device with a nice display that works in daylight...
Håkon brought one to the video panel at the W3C TPAC this month, while the voice of Lawrence Lessig was still ringing in my head: What have we done about it? he asked again and again in his powerful OSCON 2002 talk:
Lawrence Lessig: I have been doing this for about two years--more than 100 of these gigs. This is about the last one. One more and it's over for me. So I figured I wanted to write a song to end it. But then I realized I don't sing and I can't write music. But I came up with the refrain, at least, right? This captures the point. If you understand this refrain, you're gonna' understand everything I want to say to you today. It has four parts:
Creativity and innovation always builds on the past.
The past always tries to control the creativity that builds upon it.
Free societies enable the future by limiting this power of the past.
Ours is less and less a free society.
I don't sing all that well either, but I play a little guitar, so when Håkon walked into the HTML WG meeting as un-conference pitches were next on the agenda, I pitched a jam session. I dedicated the opening number,With a Little Help from My Friends, to Sam Ruby whose comment prompted me to watch the Lessig show before the trip. The InstantGig was "surreal (but awesome)" according to one account.
Håkon's pitch for open standard video for our cultural heritage inspired One laptop per Kyle, the story of getting an XO-1 for my 8-year-old boy instead of the Windows PC he says he want in order to play the games that his friends all play. Before the trip he told me that he wants to build a web site with lots and lots of games and I thought "but you're just one little boy." But I think I get it now...
He has a new name, by the way: Burn, as in Rip, Mix, an Burn. Rip, after 1 year of musical training, can sound out the Mario theme on trombone or piano in an afternoon, something I can't do after 20 years of training my mediocre ear. And the middle child, Mix, is so charming that if you stop at a red light, he'll have a new friend before the light turns green.
I have one give-one-get-one package on order for Burn; if you're feeling like a patron of the arts and you want to see what happens if Rip and Mix get one too, feel free to send us a Christmas Card with a little something inside.
And look out for SwordPedestal.com, which Kyle picked out. It's only a dream now, but I have a hunch it may one day rival Nintendo for the hearts and minds of a few million people.
I went to Edinburgh last week for WWW2006.
I spent Tuesday in the workshop on Identity, Reference, and the Web (IRW2006). I didn't really finish my presentation slides in time, but I think my paper, A Pragmatic Theory of Reference for the Web is mostly coherent. Each section of the workshop got an entry in a semantic wiki; mine is the one that started at 12:00.
The IRE formalism presented by Valentina and Aldo was though-provoking. I think their proxy-for is like foaf:topic (modulo the way they mix in time). And exact-proxy-for is like foaf:primaryTopic. Very handy. I wonder if foaf:primaryTopic should be promoted to its own thing, separate from all the social networking stuff in foaf.
Ginsberg's talk hit on one of the most important questions: "Do I commit to a document just because I use one of its terms?" His answer was basically to reify everything; I think we can do better than that. Peter Patel-Schneider's talk basically gave a 'no' answer to the question. I don't think we should go that far either, though from a standardization point of view, that's sorta where we're at.
Steve Pepper's talked about published subjects and public resource identifiers; I can sympathize with his point that we have too many URL/URI/URN/IRI/XRI/etc. terms, but when he suggests that the answer is to make a new one, I'm not sure I agree. He argues to deprecate all the others, but as URI Activity lead at W3C, I'm not in a position where I can overrule people and deprecate things that they say they want. I agree with him that the 303 redirection is too much trouble, but he doesn't seem to be willing to use the HashURI pattern either, and as I said in the advice section of my paper, that's asking for trouble.
On Thursday, I was on a panel about tagging versus the Semantic Web: Meaning on the Web: Evolution or Intelligent Design?. Frank started by debunking 4 myths about the Semantic Web. I gotta find Frank's slides. "I'll hold up one finger whever anybody says myth #1, and so on." As the the other Frank was talking about tagging, Frank held up 2 and 3 fingers, and the audience pointed out that he should have held up 1 finger.
I talked without slides. I think I got away with it. I said
that I don't expect symbolic reasoning to beat statistical
methods when it comes to the
wisdom of crowds, but
who wants to delegate their bank balance or the targets
of their mail messages to the wisdom of crowds? Sometimes
we mean exactly what we say, not just something close.
I suggested that GRDDL+microformats is a practical way to get lots of Semantic Web data. And I brought up the problem with iCalendar timezones and noted that while timezones data should be published by the government entities that govern them, Semantic Web data from wikipedia might be a more straightforward mechanism and might be just as democratic.
So much for philosophical discussions; stay tuned for another item about SPARQL and databases and running code.
My regular schedule of working group meetings and conferences had a gap in April, and my list of reasons to chat with Ben was growing, and we're recruiting some UROPs to work on the tabulator project this summer, so I flew up for a visit to MIT.
I didn't have any particular appointments the first day, so I used the few spare minutes on the T between the airport and MIT to scare up contacts using my handheld gizmo. It turned out Aaron was in town and available for lunch in Harvard Square. We talked about life in start-ups, standards orgs, and research. He suggested layout stuff from Java and Apple should make its way into CSS and offered to write up a few details.
Elias is learning more than he ever wanted to about calendars and timezones. It's like Dougal Campbell said to microformats-discuss:
My server is in timezone A, but I live in timezone B, but I'm posting information about an event that will occur in timezone C. Shoot me now.
On this trip, a Samsonite Dimension Notebook Case from SAM's replaced my aging W3C bag in my travel kit. I think I like all the little pockets and such, but I'm not sure; sometimes I miss the simplicity of one big compartment. I'm sure that I'm not happy that my Kensington K33069 Universal AC/Car/Air Adapter stopped working somewhere between MIT and MKE.
That's one of the reason that I always pack some light reading on dead-trees. I enjoyed escaping into Scott Lasser's Battle Creek on the way home. Baseball and fathers. Good stuff.
Some notes on the workshop are taking shape:
A look at emerging Web security architectures from a Semantic Web perspective
Comparing OpenID, SXIP/DIX, InfoCard, SAML to RDF, GRDDL, FOAF, P3P, XFN and hCard
At the W3C security workshop this week, I finally got to study SXIP in some detail after hearing about it and wondering how it compares to OpenID, Yadis, and the other "Identity 2.0" techniques brewing. And just in time, with a DIX/SXIP BOF at the Dallas IETF next week.
SxSWi looks to be quite the PathCross: The microformats panel on Monday is what put the conference on my radar this year, but it's just one of dozens of panels that I really want to see. It's overwhelming. Of course, that's part of the appeal of the Austin/SXSW scene: creative chaos. As a student, my creed was "never plan more than 15 minutes ahead." Life was much simpler, in many ways, back then.
Other stuff I'm looking forward to:
- Saturday: Matt May's invitation to a social event looks interesting.
- Sunday: Flickr, Upcoming.org, and Del.icio.us in the company of Yahoo!. I RSVP'd, but so did 390 other people. If the Iron Cactus were big enough to fit all of us, I: think I would remember it. Oh... hmm... it seems to be on 6th street; the names on the clubs there rotate with the seasons; some of them big enough, if we don't all show up at once.
- Tuesday: Kevin Lawver: How to Convince Your Company to Embrace [Web] Standards
- MattB will be there
I'm driving down with Mary and the boys, stopping to visit folks here and there.
By then, the network woes of Monday and Tuesday had largely faded from memory.
I was on two of the plenary day panels. Tantek reports on one of them: Microformats voted best session at W3C Technical Plenary Day!. My presentation in that panel was on GRDDL and microformats. Jim Melton followed with his SPARQL/SQL/XQuery talk. Between the two of them, Noah Mendelsohn said he thought the Semantic Web might just be turning a corner.
My other panel presentation was Feedback loops and formal systems where I talked about UML and OWL after touching on contrast between symbolic approaches like the Semantic Web and statistical approaches like pagerank. Folksonomies are an interesting mixture of both, I suppose. Alistair took me to task for being sloppy with the term "chaotic system"; he's quiet right that complex system is the more appropriate description of the Web.
The TAG discussion of that session started with jokes about how formal systems is soporific enough without putting it right after a big French lunch. TimBL mentioned the scheme denotational semantics, and TV said that Jonathan Rees is now at Creative Commons. News to me. I spent many, many hours poring over his scheme48 code a few years back. I don't think I knew where the name came from until today:
Within 48 hours we had designed and implemented a working Scheme, including read, write, byte code compiler, byte code interpreter, garbage collector, and initialization logic.
The SemWeb IG meeting on Thursday was full of fun lightning talks and cool hacks. I led a GRDDL discussion that went well, I think. The SPARQL calendar demo rocked. Great last-minute coding, Lee and Elias!
There and back again
On the return leg of my itinerary, the captain announced the cruising altitude, as usual, and then added
... which means you'll spend most of today 6 miles above the earth.
My travel checklist worked pretty well, with a few exceptions. The postcard thing isn't a habit yet. I forgot a paperback book; that was OK since I slept quite a bit on the way over and I got into the coding zone on the way back more about that later, I hope.
See also reflections by:
... and stay tuned for something from
My January travel took me to MIT for a one-day DIG meeting where the main thing I can remember is discussion of CSAIL's support for SVN over AFS, and moving development of tabulator and dbview there so that students can commit without w3.org write access.
Then it was off to DCA for a Policy Aware Web project meeting where we reviewed the status of the demo, which is moving along nicely aside from a persistent problem in the cwm proof generation/checking stuff, somewhere near a unification algorithm. We developed a 4-party federated authorization use case involving OpenID and stuff. Stay tuned to see if we can build it...
I spent most of Friday afternoon trying to get ssh+svn to write to an AFS volume. I could get my kerberos credentials to go accross the ssh connection, but I can't seem to get the right AFS credentials while I'm at it.
postscript: Chris helped me get it working. The undocumented trick was setting the option "GSSAPIDelegateCredentials" to "yes" in my ~/.ssh/config.
A couple years ago, my flight to BOS for some meeting (the TP?) got me in at about 8:00 on a Tuesday night. I arrived with no plans for the evening, and couldn't scare up anything interesting to do. When I got to CSAIL/stata the next day, I found a flyer about csail hockey on Tuesdays. Darn! If only I had known!
On another trip to BOS about a year later, I managed to get out on the ice with them. The format was great: there's one group that knows what they're doing (the "B/C line"), and another group that tries not to fall down too much (the "D line"). The B/C line goes out there for 2.5 minutes and then a whistle blows and they all clear the ice, and the D line (including me) fumbles around for a 2.5 minutes, and the cycle repeats. After an hour of that, I was totally exhausted.
I was using all borrowed equipment, and I think the skates didn't fit me well.
So this time, I brought my skates. Yes, that meant trusting the airline with checked baggage, something I haven't done for years.
This trip took me to Montreal for a big W3C membership meeting and then to CSAIL for a TAG meeting. There's a rink in 1000 de La Gauchetière across the street from the meeting hotel, and I got in a couple hours on Saturday. Then during the TAG meeting lunch break on Tuesday, I did some skating at MIT Johnson ice rink.
And finally, at 11pm Tuesday night, I played CSAIL pick-up hockey with my own skates. This time, there was no separation of D skaters from B/C skaters. I figured out that my main job was to get out of the way when they started skating real fast (I know from coaching little-league soccer what a waste it is for two attacking players to be taking the same lane). I think I made one or two useful defensive plays, and when the puck was passed to me a handful of times, I think I passed it to one of my team-mates more often than I gave it to the other guys.
Though I didn't feel as completely wiped out as last time, I did get a good work-out, and since the game ended around midnight and I got back to my hotel around 1am, that 7am alarm for my flight the next morning came pretty early.