Coauthoring papers with people in vastly different timezones has the advantage that there's someone working on it 24/7. And also that you're not distracted by debating changes in realtime, you can just get on with it and deal with the consequences later..
Gatekeepers are required in academic publishing to enforce quality, coherance and to lend authority. When anyone can publish anything, as is the case on the Web today, lies and misinformation spread much faster than the truth. People publish opinions as facts, distorted interpretations of data, make general statements based on samples and take things out of context.
Academia is better than this. We value scientific rigour. We value evidence for claims, and repeatability of experiments. Nothing is more important to us than seeking the truth, whole and unbiased. Except tenure or grant funding.
People all over the world write about their experiences, but these are anecdotal. If I want to understand a topic, I read about it in an established journal or conference proceedings. I can tell it's reliable because I have to log in from behind my institution's IP address to access it. It's great that the taxpayers generously cover the cost for me to access material that most of them can't.
Not that they want to. The general public, and even our world leaders, are skeptical of 'experts'. Despite the fact that we have devoted our lives to specialising in one topic so we can understand it to its fullest, so that others don't have to. They deried us as 'out of touch'. Meanwhile continuing to proliferate their gut feelings on social media, spreading nonsense, missing nuance.
It's a good job we can rely on our trusty paywalls to keep the real knowledge separate from all of that.
Why is three positive conference reviews more reassuring than one thousand facebook comments?
How do I know the reviewers are experts? I don't know who they are. I know the context and background of my facebook friends, I can critically interpret their replies. The reviewers are anonymous. They're people who had some time, just barely, probably during a commute or on the toilet. Or who owed someone a favour.
I've reviewed papers, usually having been asked to by the person who was supposed to be reviewing, about topics I barely know. I think: "it's okay, the other reviewers will swing it if I'm wrong."
the problem of restricted access can easily be solved using existing infrastructures and with a small additional effort on behalf of the authors or their librarians - Pandelis
If you are Web savvy, it is a 'small effort' to self-archive your work in a space you control. But not everyone can manage that. And then, feedback, reviews and collaboration also in a space you control is no 'small effort'. Linking to and from specific parts of other research is not trivial when reports and results are missing fine-grained open identifiers. Maintaining your reputation and tracking the effect of your work (so that other researchers and institutions take you seriously) is no 'small effort'. Searchability and guaranteeing long-term persistence is no 'small effort'. There's still a way to go on both the infrastructure and cultural fronts here.
The (Social) Web has most of the pieces. They just need putting together.
Amy wrote about hacking, academia, linked research, & selfdogfooding
Even though I'm fully sold on the whole selfdogfooding thing, I'm continuously impressed at how many suddenly-urgent bugs are being thrown up by using the subject of our paper as the tool to write the paper.
Amy wrote about life, w3c, academia, standards, & arguements
If someone had told me a year ago all this w3c stuff would involve so much arguing I might not have bothered. On a similar note, if someone had told me academia would have involved so much public speaking, I might have given that a miss too. Probably best I just keep obliviously forging ahead.
I enjoyed WWW2015 because I got to hang out with emax and Dave and other SOCIAM people and talk about decentralisation, and eat lots of vegan gelato, and was still on a travelling and hacking high from the two weeks prior.
But content-wise, what I saw was disappointing at best, largely depressing. I unfortunately missed most of the SOCM workshop, which I'm sure would have catered to my tastes a lot more, as my presence was mandated in Microposts2015 on the same day. The Microposts workshops have a bias towards SNA of Twitter, in which I'm tangentially interested, but there's only so much SNA I can take and I think I took it all in 2013. The social science 'track' (two papers) was most interesting. I much prefer when social network users are treated as complex beings than dots and lines.
I flitted between tracks on security and privacy, and web science for a couple of days. I deliberately avoided anything to do with social networks which turned out to be damned difficult. Web science can be a bit big-data-analysis heavy, but often has some interesting human-social (as opposed to social-data) stuff to pique my interest. I went to security and privacy sessions because it's almost guarenteed to not have any social networks, and is usually either scandalous or practical, or both. Often over my head, but also often contains concepts directly relevant to my day-to-day that I wouldn't pick up on otherwise.
I almost cried at the programme for the last couple of days. Literally every session was about social data mining, bulk analysis of social data for tracking and profiling social network users, targeting advertisements, and generally selling people stuff. There was even a track called 'Monetization'. I figured the safest bet would be the W3C track which promised awesome WebRTC demos, which Claudio from Telecom Italia delivered, but then he [reminded](socialwg irc minutes) me that their interest in this stems from wanting to do live product placement in streaming video based on people's interests from social media and ohmygodicannoteven. I tweeted in anguish for a while, then dret summed it up pretty well:
"generally speaking, i'd like to see more "how to make the web work better" at #www2015, and less 'how to make more money with the web'." - @dret
In desperation (I'm on a linked data burnout currently) I dropped by the RDF session but it was ten similar-but-different-mine-is-better-i-promise ways of doing entity recognition - or if it was anything else it was so far divorced from practical application - and I just don't care.
In a last ditch attempt to learn something interesting, I went to the Industry Knowledge Graphs pecha kucha session. Google, Micorsoft, Elsevier and Tagasauris talked about how great they are at absorbing all the data. And.. getting the crowd to curate it nicely... and... not giving any of it back... oh. Because if someone uses it and it's wrong they might get sued? Sure. Whatever. Oh and then Lora Aroyo broke my heart by describing how to make anything and everything a 'shoppable experience' and Dave and I bolted to join Max in a coffee shop.
I had a great ciocolatte with almond milk, then we went for pre-dinner spaghetti in a rave cafe and talked about decentralisation and I recovered.
Overall it was a pretty productive couple of days, because I wrote this post about ActivityStreams and did some more AS2.0 experiments, fixed some bugs in my micropub endpoint and templates, and tweaked my CSS and added my /travel page. And evangelised the Social Web WG to Max a bit. Maybe I couldn't have done that if the conference had captured my interest, who knows.
And I discovered polenta toast with porcini mushrooms, and ate a lot of different flavours of vegan gelato. That's a net win.
Amy wrote about academia, www2015, advertising, tech, & industry
if the only way to get anything done in academia is to be a pawn for industry, fuck that. It's not the case - research for general public good is funded, tho probably not nearly enough. It's depressing that that is entirely not reflected in today's conference sessions
Advice: willful misunderstanding, and audience as individuals
Picked up on some great advice during an afternoon-long course entitled 'How
to do an Informatics PhD' a couple of weeks ago.
All through my undergraduate, and probably High School as well, I was told
that when writing assignments I should treat the person marking it as if they
don't know anything at all about the subject. They're stupid. Leave
nothing unexplained. Of course, we were often also told to 'keep things
concise' and usually had to do this under the constraints of page or word
Problematically, some people could have interpreted this as an opportunity to
try to pull the wool over their marker's eyes, or baffle them with science.
Typically, the marker will know something about the subject, so that's
probably not a great tactic.
I see where this advice comes from of course, and a couple of weeks ago I
heard it phrased in a different way, that makes far more sense.
The examiner will be knowledgeable about the subject, but given to willful misunderstanding of what you're trying to say.
I think that gives a much better guide to how and when to explain things. And
also makes them more of an enemy to be conquered, than an inconvenient fool to
And whilst I'm recounting advice I like, here's something that has stuck with
me since 2010, from my manager at Google at the time.
When presenting to a large audience of people, don't think of them as a crowd.
Think of them as many individuals. Make your presentation as you would to a
single person. It just so happens that there are lots of single people
there all at the same time.
Since letting that sit in my subconscious, nerves before giving a presentation
have shrunk to negligible levels. It may be that over the past two years I've
become more confident anyway, but I used to be thoroughly terrified of
standing up in front of even a classroom of people the same age as me. I
wouldn't talk out in lectures for the most part of my undergraduate, and
harbored a gut-wrenching fear of being picked on to answer a question. As did
most people, I imagine.
I make sure to actively observe how I feel when watching someone else present.
I look at other people in the audience too, and note the attitude and
techniques of the presenter. (Consequently I probably leave having no idea
what the presentation was about). The results are usually that a majority of
people aren't listening properly. A vast proportion certainly aren't angrily
judging the presenter's every twitch. Things people notice and get upset
If they can't hear you.
If you're just reading off slides, particularly if you try to act like you're not.
That sure is a short checklist of things to avoid. There must be more that
can go wrong. Reasons people will stop listening, include:
If they can't hear you.
If you're just reading off slides, particularly if you try to act like you're not.
If they're not interested in what you're talking about. (Pro tip: _make _them interested).
If you're not making any sense at all.
If your slides are more interesting than what you're saying. (I really like presentations without slides. So long as the speaker is engaging, of course. Slides with lots of words are a definite negative, in my book though).
And some of my personal nitpicks include:
Drawing attention to a mistake by apologising for it. From being on both sides of this situation, it usually feels right to do so at the time, but until you do, four fifths of the room won't have noticed, and the fifth that did will forget within the next few seconds. Point it out, and everyone will remember.
If you say something wrong, just correct yourself and move on (but don't leave it uncorrected, this is usually noticeable).
If it's a technical problem, keep talking whilst it gets sorted. This boils down to not relying on technology to keep your presentation interesting. I am aware that there are some situations where this is impossible.
Weak intros and outros. I've been guilty of both of these. I plan to pay more attention to upcoming talks in order to fix this. It's something I always forget to notice. But for now:
Starting with filler words, like 'So, ...', 'Right then...' or 'Okay, ...'.
If you've been introduced, you don't need to repeat it, especially not in a way that draws attention to the fact you're repeating it.
Make it clear when your talk is done. Don't trail off with '...and that's that then.' 'Any questions?' is usually okay, but only if it follows a distinctive final sentence. Jumping to that from what feels like half way through a paragraph is a bit rubbish in my head, but in all honesty will probably go unnoticed by the audience. Except me.
Fortunately, my days of feeling agonisingly self-conscious whilst presenting
are long gone. On top of that, I find doing as little 'rehearsal' as possible
boosts the natural fluidity of a presentation, and in turn my confidence. If
I haven't rehearsed, there's nothing to forget to say (and suddenly forgetting
what comes next is the _biggest _killer of flow, something I discovered during
French oral exams). That only works if you're very familiar with the subject
matter. And if you're not, you probably shouldn't be presenting about it.
Disclaimer: I'm very early in my academic career, and haven't presented a
whole lot. The biggest audience I've talked in front of was about 120.
Despite the theory, I suffer from having neither a naturally loud voice, nor a
naturally beaming expression. So all round, I'm probably not very good.
Even though I don't officially start my PhD until the 1st of October, today
really felt like a proper first day of term. I got up early went to a couple
of fourth year/MSc classes that I've decided to sit in on
(HCI and Text
Technologies), went to
training for tutoring/demonstrating, filled in some forms, got my new student
card (that doesn't expire until 2016!) and most importantly, got the key to my
office in the Informatics Forum.
My PhD ideas are vague at best right now, though it'll definitely be within
the realms of the Semantic Web. According to the proposal I wrote to apply
for the position back in May, it'll be to do with provenance of and
collaborative creation of digital media artefacts, like comics and films.
It'll be interesting to watch that morph and change.
Though I became aware of Semantic Web stuff during my undergraduate, I
developed my knowledge during my MSc at Edinburgh. Primarily by taking the
Multi-Agent Semantic Web
Systems course for credit,
enjoying it a lot and doing pretty well. (I should be TAing/marking for that
this year). I also learnt lots about linked data and other such things at
conferences and hacks like Dev8D, and various open data
meet-ups. I'm super excited about the future of the Internet - particularly
making sure it remains an open, public platform for uncensored expression and
knowledge sharing (fingers crossed). Since I'm a technologist, not a lawyer
or policy-maker, I have to address this with theoretical and practical
research around how people create and share things, and ways to improve
connectivity (between people and data), which of course includes the big
problems like privacy, security and identity.
Whilst I'm confident enough to say I know quite a lot about designing and
developing for the Web these days, my Semantic Web knowledge really consists
of a basic grounding, and a lot of enthusiasm.
There's a ton of research going on in various related areas, so I've decided
to read one or two relevant academic papers a day... forever, I guess... and
make notes on what I read. Publishing my notes here works as a subconscious
stimulant, to make sure I actually get it done. A lot of them might be
foundations, or basic stuff, but I intend to cram as much as possible -
especially in the couple of weeks before I start propertly. So look out for
those! (If you're interested. If not, ignore them).
MSc by research Interdisciplinary Creative Practices
Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh
Core classes taught concepts from architecture, philosophy, art, sociology, media theory, political sciences, choreography, design, history, literature... and who knows what else. My eyes were opened to a million new ways of thinking about the world. I started to understand 'research by practice' and the value of play. There was still a lot of artsy crap I couldn't accept, but it was mostly okay. I took electives inside my comfort zone, from the School of Informatics (Advanced Natural Language Processing and Multi-agent Semantic Web Systems). I worked on group projects with an awesome and diverse bunch of people from whom I learnt a lot.
Thesis: Location-aware literature
(I cleverly wrote this thesis in Google Docs, but I might translate it to HTML and link to it one day).
Wanting to see undergraduates behave and be treated as producers, empowered to shape their own education, rather than passive consumers who pay for course material and expect to be spoon fed, I dogfooded this concept and committed to even more things. Mostly hassled other students, organised a few events, spoke at a few conferences as a token-proactive-undergrad, and complained too much about the structure of my degree. That's how I remember it, anyway.