Amy Guy

Raw Blog

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Large handwarmers (crochet)

One of the first useful things I crocheted were these extremely masculine handwarmers.

The extremely soft and fuzzy wool was from Age Scotland I believe.

I used no pattern and had never made handwarmers before, so they came out far too big.  Not to worry, at least you can fit a Tigo in them!

I just repeated *dc ch1* around, dc-ing in the gap left by the chain each time.  I reduced a bit around the wrist area to shape it, but it wasn't particularly effective.  I chained about four, instead of carrying on, to make the gap for the thumb, then continued as normal.  One of them is shorter than the other, because I didn't count anything.

They serve their purpose though, and the lucky owner has even gone so far as to wear them in public in the chilly heights of Appleton Tower.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Week(s) in review: ILWhack and JoinUpEd

11th to 24th February

I went to the Computer Mediated Social Sense-Making workshop; read about it.

I helped organise and run the Innovative Learning Week Smart Data Hack (18th - 22nd), and Edinburgh's version of International Open Data Day (23rd).  Both were successful. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Computer Mediated Social Sense-Making

I was fortunate enough to attend the Computer Mediated Social Sense-Making workshop, conveniently situated on the ground floor of the building I work in, on the 14th of February.

Whilst more technical than the Digital Methods conference I went to in December, the talks and panel sessions served to build upon things I started to think about then.  Namely, beginning to situate my research interests amongst many concepts from the currently quite alien fields of sociology and anthropology.

The talks were varied, and key themes that emerged were the collection/use of data for social improvement (health and wellbeing, teaching and learning, disaster recovery), and the importance of context in making collected data genuinely useful.  A notable challenge is that one piece of data might have a thousand different contexts from the perspectives of a thousand different human beings.  So how to communicate these variations to software that processes this data, and perhaps makes decisions using it?

Perhaps not to worry too much about that at all.  Process things locally instead of globally, using local contexts and understandings, but make sure everything is annotated such that information can still be exchanged across the whole network, and differences in understanding can be accounted for or reasoned out if a need occurs.

For the record, I'm looking at how Semantic Web technologies could be used to better connect human and machine in the context of amateur digital content creation (movies, comics, music, art), including how semantically annotating creative (often collaborative) processes as well as the end products of these processes and the engagement of an audience with these products, could improve the overall experience of creating content (along a number of dimensions).  A massive part of this will be creating tools that actually collect the necessary data from users.  Ultimately, these tools will need to be invisible, ie. easily integrated into existing online routines, with no effort required to use them for the non-technically minded so that a network effect can take place.

Incentives for crowdsourcing came up during CMSSM, and someone pointed out that by gamifying data collection for research projects, incentives become the same as ones offered by gambling companies; something competitive and potentially addictive.  I think things like global systems of reputation and trust are useful on a network where people are to share data about their own work (or opinions of the work of others) and may be nurturing a desire for popularity or exposure on the network (a network where the people are central, because the data could not exist without them, but where the users and the data are simultaneously co-dependant).

Anyway, I'm still brainstorming.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Week in review: Planning trips!

4th - 10th February

When helping to organise an event, it's impressive how much time sending emails, updating websites and spreadsheets, having meetings and generally coordinating things can take up.   So that's a lot of what I've done this week.  Not PhD, but related enough to be excusable... sort of... (Smart Data Hack and Open Data Day: Joined Up Edinburgh)

I have finally booked plane tickets to Serbia for Resonate new media festival, at which I'm hoping to make useful contacts with independent digital media producers, learn some stuff about big data visualisation at the workshops (my places at the ones I've applied to haven't been confirmed yet though), and generally learn more about the digital art scene (and figure out ways SW technologies can benefit people who are part of it).  And also to enjoy Belgrade, as I'll have a spare couple of days either side of the festival.  Because the flights were cheaper then!  Honest!  I actually lost an entire afternoon hunting for cheapest flights on websites that weren't obviously scams (Cheap-o-Airlines?  Really??  Ultimately booking through JAT directly was the best option), then negotiating cheapest trains to London in order to catch flights, then sending CouchSurfing requests, because why spend money on a hostel when you can meet wonderful new people and get tourist advice for free?

I also applied for a place at the Semantic Web Summer School in Spain in July.  It looks fantastic and educational and stuff.  And I applied for funding to help cover then 900EUR entry cost (a whole week, accommodation and meals included), and SICSA are providing £500, yay!

Two thirds of Ontologies with a View met this week, and we discussed BBC use of Linked Data.  I only managed to skim the paper, but knew the general principles from articles I'd read about their work before... I will read it properly at some point, though I think a more technical discussion of what they did might be useful.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Week in review: more brainstorming

28th January - 3rd February

I read Annotation of Multimedia using OntoMedia by K. Faith Lawrence et al., and we discussed it during Ontologies with a View.  OntoMedia might well prove useful in that describing the content of digital media can improve searching, sorting and sharing.

I started reading a couple of other papers by Faith, but haven't finished them yet, so expect summaries in the near future.

I brainstormed about decentralised networks, with thinking of ways of individuals sharing linked data about themselves and their projects without surrendering all that data to a server in mind.

Gibbering about decentralised networks

Recently I read and brainstormed some things about interesting ways of creating a decentralised network (social or otherwise). is still coming out on top as having the most potential for something I could actually implement and build upon.  Tent server is originally Ruby, but there are already Python and PHP implementations.  PHP might be the most useful as the mostly widely supported by cheap shared hosting providers, reducing the barrier for people wanting to run their own Tent server.  Depot in particular has the goal of targeting the technical lowest common denominator, and making installation and maintenance as easy as possible for a non-expert.

Problems with having nodes of a network, whereby people who don't want to set up their own node can sign up to someone else's node, include ensuring consistent URIs for things.  If someone wants to up and move to another node, what are the best ways of maintaining connections?  Obviously anyone who buys their own domain name and hooks it up won't have a problem, but not everyone can or will.  A centralised permanent URI service like PURL (or just use PURL..)?

Unhosted and their remoteStorage protocol are interesting.  The idea is that a user registers with a remoteStorage provider, then signs into Unhosted apps with that identity.  Unhosted apps are all frontend JavaScript, and no data is sent to a server.  Anything that needs to be stored - content you creating whilst using the app - is sent to your personal remoteStorage account.  There are only two remoteStorage providers listed though, and one of those is a test one that could get wiped at any time.  The other,, doesn't appear to provide an interface for browsing and exporting what you have stored with them.  Obviously this is an early project, and since anyone with a webserver can theoretically set up a remoteStorage service, has lots of potential.  In the short time I spent investigating, I couldn't work out possibilities for sharing data in your remoteStorage, so Unhosted apps might just be useful for personal, non-collaborative activities.  Some examples they have are a simple text/code editor, a really pretty simple writing interface, to-do lists, time management, favourite drinks list.  Oh wait, is like a twitter service.  Because I don't know anyone else using friendsUnhosted, I haven't tested it properly, but it appears to offer a stream of peoples' statuses, which are presumably stored in their personal remoteStorage.  I'll investigate better.  The mailing list is active and the main developer seems to be on top of things, so this is something to keep a close eye on.

Idea: Possible to set up 'remoteStorage' on peoples' own Google Drive accounts, via that API?

I don't know anything technically about peer-to-peer, but it seemed like a good avenue to pursue with regards to very established, very decentralised networks of people and files.

At an extreme end of 'owning one's own data', I'm curious about storing all your files (eg. linked data graphs) locally and sharing them / accessing other peoples' only through a browser interface.  Drawbacks obviously include your files only being available when you're online.

I read a handful of good things about the G3 protocol and API used in FilesWire, by Dreamsoft Technologies.  I got really excited for a little while, before reluctantly giving up because the whole project seems to be old and very dead.  I did track down the developer on LinkedIn and facebook, but I haven't decided yet if it's worth pursuing at all.

I investigated Freenet, and their freesites.  The Freenet network is all about anonymity; any data you upload is broken up and stored on many nodes in the network.  You can't identify where it originally came from, or where you're pulling something from when you retrieve it.  There were some messages from 2000/2001 on a mailing list about RDF on Freenet, but nothing seems to have come of that.  Requires a software download of course.  Again, I don't know enough about the technicalities yet to judge if something like this would be a viable approach for a decentralised linked data sharing network.

I also came across (the now deceased) Opera Unite, which is a webserver running inside Opera that lets people share files and serve webpages without the hassle of paying for or setting up their own server.