BarCamp Bangalore 7 (BCB7)

I was not sure what to expect. I have not been to one of these BCB events before. I attended an un-conferences in the valley (MashupCamp2). Bangalore is certainly a “happening place”. I could not attend all the sessions but the level of  both technical and social conversations amazed me. (I have some sentimental attachment to Bangalore. That is where my first successful startup happened. I spent about 6 years from 1983-1989). I have been visiting Bangalore on and off but spend the bulk of my time in India in Chennai. I was surprised to find a lot of people from other parts of the country at BCB7.

Here are a few of the sessions I attended (some fully others partially).

  1. Conceptual Search by Core Objects
  2. Wolf Framework for building SaaS applications
  3. eLearning Discussion
  4. Py3K  where we break all your code
  5. ZiMesh – A semantic Information Management and recommendation engine
  6. EduVid
  7. How can U make the best use of undergrad life
  8. A session on connecting college students with industry projects (I forget the title)

I wish I had gone to more sessions. But the conversations in the corridors were sometimes so engrossing, I could not pass them up. I learned as much listening to speakers, from the questions and chatting with  participants outside. A brief description of some people I was lucky to meet and events that I managed to be part of.

  • An undergraduate student spends more than 12  hours a day,  editing wikipedia and became one of the administrators. He gave a talk on Wikipedia 101. He is certainly a source of inspiration. He was lucid in his presentation and championed the cause for more people to get involved. Meet Srikeit, the amazing guy who is going to go a long way. When you have so much enthusiasm and passion, the world will part, to let you go ahead.
  • Wolf showed  a simple framework for building a SasS applications. By separating the business rules into an easy Excel style interface, they showed how to build a simple payroll app in minutes and refine it without writing a single line of code. It is a free service up to three users. You can get more info here.
  • There was a lot of talk on Semantic Web, triple store optimization, Twine and other semantically rich topics.  Shantanu from ZiMesh seemed extremely well informed about the technology aspects. His enthusiasm was contagious.
  • The Conceptual Search session was great (it was the first one on the first day) and both Raghu and Praveena were patient with lots of interruptions and suggestions. We talked about contextual search, semantic search, limitations of current keyword search. CoreObjects, the company behind this technology seems to have a couple of implementations done already.
  • The eLearning discussion was one of the most dynamic I have seen. I pitched in a bit since it is one of my favorite topics. I should thank Rajiv for pulling me into this session as I  was wandering around the corridors talking to people.
  • I made a presentation on Technology Trends. I had a lot of interaction towards the end of the talk and outside.
  • Attending a session that was really meant for undergrads gave me an inkling into the problems students face. Their biggest complaint – not enough interaction with the industry. I am trying to fix that with a local school in Chennai but my model is not really scalable. We need a movement to attack this problem.

Thanks to the organizers and wonderful volunteers who made it such a successful event. I can’t leave this without mentioning Ashwin who was everywhere fixing WiFi problems on laptops. He personifies the spirit of a true OpenSpace event. There are far too many names to mention but you can find them all here. I met a lot of cool dudes and made some friends.

Overall, it was an extremely satisfying event. I will do it again. And again. And again.

Wikis and Information Intelligence

Information Intelligence is the practice of gathering intelligence useful to an organization. It uses Open Source Intelligence to enrich an organization’s ability to gather intelligence for internal use.

Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is an information processing discipline that involves finding, selecting, and acquiring information from publicly available sources and analyzing it to produce actionable intelligence. In the Intelligence Community (IC), the term “open” refers to overt, publicly available sources (as opposed to covert or classified sources); it is not related to open-source software. OSINT includes a wide variety of information and sources:

  • Media – newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and computer-based information.
  • Public data – government reports, official data such as budgets and demographics, hearings, legislative debates, press conferences, speeches, marine and aeronautical safety warnings, environmental impact statements, contract awards.
  • Observation and reporting – Amateur airplane spotters, radio monitors and satellite observers among many others have provided significant information not otherwise available. The availability of worldwide satellite photography, often of high resolution, on the Web (e.g., Google Earth) has expanded open source capabilities into areas formerly available only to major intelligence services.
  • Professional and academic – conferences, symposia, professional associations, academic papers, and subject matter experts.[1]

In addition to these Media mentioned above there are several sources for Web Data Mining. There are several aspects of improving Information Intelligence:

  1. Gathering information from a variety of openly available sources
  2. Supplementing the open source intelligence with internal information
  3. Providing a collaborative platform to share information
  4. Enriching information – tagging, interlinking, annotating
  5. Versioning information to keep it current
  6. Providing a semantic layer for easy retrieval and integration with other tools
  7. Providing both a horizontal view and specific vertical views of the information

Wiki is an ideal tool for managing Information Intelligence inside an organization. You can start with a base wiki technology like MediaWiki (used by Wikipedia) and build additional layers like Semantic Media Wiki or provide structured data access like DbPedia . You can get information on several vertical sharing information sites using MediaWiki here.

A good example of both horizontal and vertical views is demonstrated by the US Government initiatives Diplopedia and Intellipedia.

Recent congressional testimony from Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia,[5] notes the difference between vertical and horizontal information sharing and suggests that both could be successful e-government endeavors. Intellipedia is an excellent example of sharing information horizontally across agencies, and Diplopedia has found similar success in sharing information within the Department of State bureaucracy. Statements on both wikis encourage cross posting of relevant information as appropriate.

Wikis provide a great foundation for Information Intelligence. Enriching Wikis with semantic annotations, providing more powerful viewing options, granular addressing and increasing the quality of links may go a long way in increasing their effectiveness.

Meta:

This entry was triggered by an email invite to an Intellipedia session at the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.

Making Search a Ubiquitous Infrastructure Component

Search is currently used as a Web Application. Imagine Search being a component of a wide variety of applications. The founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, plans to make that happen with Wikia.

Wikia is an open source search engine that plans to release both the source code and search data to the public.

“We have open-source software and cheap commodity computers in an open, neutral setting so that people can innovate very cheaply,” he says, adding that this allows people to experiment and perhaps make search a ubiquitous infrastructure component. Wales anticipates that many organizations will build their own search engine services thanks to the software’s availability on an open platform, and he says the trick to persuading people to use Wikia Search is delivering quality and a search experience that is at least as good if not better than their preferred search engine.

Almost every web site needs some kind of search engine and so do organizations. Imagine an open search API (currently you can use Lucene) broadly available for use. Imagine the ability to build your own ranking algorithm where the relevance factors are more in tune with your requirements.

You can do all these with a set of open source components from Apache. But an effort like Wikia is likely to accelerate the effort somewhat. Wikia may take a while to take off. But here in lies the opportunity for a wide variety of new products and innovations in search.

via ACM Technews: Wikipedia Co-Founder Tries Similar Idea In Search