Archives mensuelles : avril 2005

From OWL to Plone

I found a working path to transform an OWL ontology into a working Plone content-type. Here is my recipe :

  1. Choose any existing OWL ontology
  2. With Protege equipped with its OWL plugin, create a new project from your OWL file.
  3. Still within Protege, with the help of its UML plugin, convert your OWL-Protege project into a UML classes project. You get an XMI file.
  4. Load this XMI file into an UML project with Poseidon. Save this project under the .zuml Poseidon format.
  5. From poseidon, export your classes a new xmi file. It will be Plone-friendly.
  6. With a text editor, delete some accentuated characters that Poseidon might have added to your file (for example, the Frenchy Poseidon adds a badly accentuated « Modele sans titre » attribute into your XMI) because the next step won’t appreciate them
  7. python -o YourProduct yourprojectfile.xmi turns your XMI file into a valid Plone product. Requires Plone and Archetypes (see doc) latest stable version plus ArchgenXML head from the subversion repository.
  8. Launch your Plone instance and install YourProduct as a new product from your Plone control panel. Enjoy YourProduct !
  9. eventually populate it with an appropriate marshaller.

Now you are not far from using Plone as a semantic aggregator.

Social software for skyscrapers

(Via Designing for Civil Society). iSociety was exploring the idea of using social software in local contexts, specifically in a local residential area (a set of skyscrapers). They see the potential of social software in its ability to

  • facilitate better face-to-face [communication] : create introductions between people who recognise their shared interests and want to meet
  • circumvent face-to-face [communication] : enable weak norms of cooperation between people who don’t want to meet, or can’t, but still have shared interests (which they may not even be aware of)

I would call this last case « loosely coupled communication » in the same way the blogosphere enables distributed conversation.

They identified three fields of use for local social software :

  • infrastructure : transforming your local facility manager into a blogger so that residents get involved in managing shared facilities (elevators, shared areas, …)
  • tasks : facilitating the scheduling of activities such as sport, local trade or childcare with an online reputation system and group forming features
  • culture: for people interested in linkage with neighbours for it’s own sake

They think the higher potential is in the « task » field because

studies show that activities such as these which require cooperation have a better impact on social capital than projects such as community centres, which promote cooperation.

In other words, as they say :

Social capital is best pursued obliquely

Their conclusion that local residential areas may not need generic social software but task-oriented social software.

This reminds me of a community project I ran when I was younger : the volunteer team I was part of wanted to socialize with some youngsters who lived in nearby slums because we were curious about how it was to live in such poor districts. The best way we found to get into this distant social context was to first identify a very concrete project that would require us to meet these other teenagers. We heard a local association in such a slum was training volunteers in improvised acting. My team was poor on acting but we were strong in video technical skills. So we had in hand a reason to go to this association and ask for help to complete our task/project : making a short video fiction with other young volunteers. We made this short movie together (it took one year of work during our week-ends) and it was a lot of fun ! Moreover, this project was a success in building local social capital because it was task-oriented and its success required strong cooperation.

Identification and naming practices

States have been precursors in building registers of persons. Here are some national practices and projects in civil registration systems, vital statistics and other administrative identity systems :

You are building an international directory of persons, you know that you will record names, surnames, given names. But what does « surname » mean ? Will you be understood when you ask a foreigner his given name ? Here come culture, society and naming practices :

You’ve got existing databases that you want to link to your fresh new directory of persons. But how to build that link ? How to match records coming from different databases when they don’t share a common unique identifier ? This is the art of record linkage :


I wanted to give Alban and others pointers to my resources on the topic of transliteration. But I can’t find my transliteration documents any more ! Anyway, my experience is that transliteration is a tough problem and after having thought a little bit on this topic, we decided not to automate the transliteration of individual names but to make people input their name according to their own habits in a more or less transliterated form. It would have been great if you were able to automate transliteration (maybe with the help of a virtual Unicode keyboard ?). The main advantage of standardized transliteration is that it is supposed to give you a standardized representation of the name of a person. You might then rely on this standardized naming elements in order to build a unique identifier. But the problem is that many language transliterations are not standardized, plus these standards evolve too much. A greek colleague of mine told me that his name was transliterated many times with many different output (creating problems at the airport, I let you imagine). Transliteration definitely remains as a problem for strong identity management. At the moment, you should just try to workaround it until transliteration standards are more robust and widely adopted…

Anyway, here are some pointers on how to process non-latin documents and maybe transliterate them :

Using social software locally

Yet another idea of innovation that has been floating around, in the blogosphere and in my wish list : inventing/deploying systems that connect people one with another in local contexts.

The main idea of such systems is that they are

  • useful locally : they stimulate the development of connexions between persons on a given place or neighborhood :
    • their output = development of new projects, partnership building, local business transactions, meeting new people, involvement and participation in local activities and projects
    • they connect people who share :
      • a common event (exhibition, meeting, forum, conference, trade show)
      • or a common area (district, city, business area, public place or infrastructure)
  • tools in the hands of facilitators and mediators, people who act as hubs and networkers, so that these people can generate a wider and more efficient scope of socialization
  • technical innovations because they rely on emerging technologies such as social software (including blogging), advanced identity management, semantic technologies, knowledge technologies, …

Potential issues : Privacy of data generates important legal and technical difficulties ; data describing individual is precious and difficult to access and manage with good-enough privacy guarantees ; there is a high risk that these systems won’t be used the way they were intended to ; change management is an issue when working with local organizers/networkers/mediators who tend to discard technical innovations as not-enough-human and/or fear for their jobs ; these technologies are far from mature !

Potential market #1 : social networking during events :

  • Sector : professional events marketing and organization, with organizers of trade shows, of conferences, meeting events
  • Profile of a sponsor : a company with a very « high-tech » profile on its market, with the will and characteristics of an innovator
  • Issues at stake : Event makers say the main value they provide is the social connexions their event provides to their customers ; they want to facilitate the connexion between exhibitors and participants or between participants themselves ; they want to make these connexions persistent after the end of the event ; their purpose may be to enhance the satisfaction of exhibitors and/or participants.
  • But… I don’t know this sector so your feedback and ideas are appreciated !
  • Example of such a business : Jambo for conferences

Potential market #2 : social network for local development

  • Sector : urban planning and local development, with a public agency (national agency for urban renewal, regional council, public institution), or para-public organization (non-profit, « hybrid economy company » delivering services to cities) in charge of the development of a given area
  • Issues at stake : In the field of local development, one big target is to develop sustainable social or business relationships in a given area. But local developers only act indirectly on these relationships : urban planning, area marketing, public services, … In the best situations, their mediation and networking efforts hardly rely on human handcraft. The issue at stake is to systematize and extend these networking practices and to exploit the address books of local actors at their best.
  • But… social software are « hard » industrial tools applied to a « soft » issue ; they aren’t seen as useful because the tools are here but the profitable uses are not validated. And fortunately, public agencies don’t invest money on « soft » issues handled with industrial tools !

Une voix en vrac

La philosophie des carnets web, c’est d’écrire « avec sa vraie voix« . Gilles (celui qui est en vrac), fait encore mieux : il parle sur son carnet, avec sa vraie voix. Voici donc le premier carnettier francophone (que je connaisse) qui se met au screencasting, grâce au logiciel Camtasia. Du côté anglo-saxon, c’est Jon Udell qui a ouvert la voixe du screencasting. Ne loupez pas l’excellente démonstration de la wikipedia en screencasting par Jon Udell.
Gilles, tu as une voix délicieusement québécoise !