Education Services Australia announces the release of Schools Online Thesaurus (ScOT) v6.7

July 26, 2012

LogoEducation Services Australia has recently announced the release of Schools Online Thesaurus (ScOT) v6.7.

ScOT and agreed standards for digital resources, technical infrastructure, metadata and rights management support a national operating environment for the digital resources and infrastructure.

{Courtesy of the Semantic Web Company}

More info…


Wolters Kluwer Deutschland publish 2 legal thesauri as Linked Open Data

July 26, 2012

WKD Logo

From 12 July 2012, two thesauri (controlled vocabularies) covering juridical/legal topics are provided for free re-use as Linked Open Data: Onethesaurus is covering topics around labor law in German language, while the other one describes German and European courts. Both vocabularies can be accessed at: vocabulary.wolterskluwer.de/.

{Courtesy of the Semantic Web Company}

More info…

It will be interesting to see how this works out. Legal terms are notoriously jurisdiction-dependent. Those working in an EU context will no doubt welcome such a development but outside the EU? Wolters Kluwer are to be congratulated nevertheless. Let’s have more like this!


I think, therefore I classify

July 18, 2012

Stevan Harnad, source WikipediaWell, what a fascinating talk on Monday on the cognitive basis of categorization. The occasion was the ISKO UK/BCS IRSG‘s day conference “I think, therefore I classify“. Among a whole array of interesting presentations – some ten altogether – I found Stevan Harnad’s the most exhilarating. Stevan is Professor in the Department of Psychology at the Université du Québec à Montréal and also Affiliate Professor in Electronics and Computer Science at University of Southampton.

Prof. Harnad reminded us that categorization is something we do from the minute we are born. It is our way of understanding and interacting with the world around us and underlies our very existence throughout our lives. It’s true to say that if we did not classify and categorize things we encounter, then we would not survive. I first understood the fundamental importance of classification after reading George Lakoff’s books “Women, Fire and Dangerous Things” and (with Mark Johnson) “Metaphors We Live By”.

Classification is so fundamental to the human condition that it’s understandable that it does not appear in the primary or secondary education syllabi. It’s innate; we do it without thinking. But where this subconscious function needs to be surfaced and examined in more detail (for example in LIS courses at the FE/HE level), why does it tend to be relegated to a mere footnote if indeed it is mentioned at all?

Sandra Knapp’s fascinating talk on biological classification – “Order out of chaos – classification and naming in biology” – helped me to appreciate that, to the man/woman-in-the-street, understanding the detail of classification techniques is irrelevant. Just as he/she has little interest in the detail of biology, so she/he can get along just fine without an appreciation of the detail of labelling things so they can be found when wanted.

So much for them in-the-street. But the issue remains that there are communities of professionals who would undoubtedly benefit from familiarity with the intricacies of classification, namely any individual or organization that needs to receive, store, retrieve and make sense of information. And that’s almost everyone!

It’s ironic therefore that classification techniques seem to be retreating into a small number of specialized domains where the immense value they add is hidden: libraries and other resource collections, e-commerce product filters, and perhaps what will be recognized as the apotheosis of classification/categorization, the semantic web. It is doubly ironic that LIS professionals are minority contributors to all but the first-mentioned.


“Raw Data Now!”

January 28, 2010

Meaning‘Data’ is not synonymous with ‘meaning’. Although in all the recent fuss about Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s attempt to overturn the UK Civil Service’s ingrained culture of secrecy, this might easily be overlooked.

The announcement of data.gov.uk is to be welcomed, but it is only the first step on a long and complex road. The fears expressed by the data custodians, that data might be interpreted differently from the way intended, just shows how much we are still governed by vested interests who act ‘in our own good’. Sorry, give us the data, and let us make our own interpretations, good or bad.

So, data.gov.uk is a good thing. But it could turn into the veritable Pandora’s Box without some kind of agreed framework within which data are interpreted and evaluated. I am indebted to the KIDMM community for flagging-up the fact that a European focus group has been working on this very problem for some time.

The all-Europe Comité Européen de Normalisation (CEN), is a rather shadowy organisation which seems to work on standards issues in the background, and then suddenly spring into the limelight with a proposal for a new ISO standard. One of their workshops – Discovery of and Access to eGovernment Resources (CEN/ISSS WS/eGov-Share) –  appears to have done precisely this with (I assume) a proposal to the SC34 working group (ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34/WG3). This working group is concerned with producing standard architectures for information management and interchange based on SGML, and their current focus is the Topic Maps standard Topic Maps (ISO/IEC 13250).

Well, you know me. Any mention of Topic Maps and I’m anybody’s. So when I hear of an initiative which has developed a proposal which specifies a protocol for the exchange of information about semantic descriptions which conforms to the Atom Syndication Format and the Topic Maps Data Model, and moreover, which works with semantic descriptions represented in XTM 1.0, XTM 2.0 and RDF/XML, then, well, Nirvana!

Thanks to KIDMM, if you’re interested (and you should be!), then this is where you can find the full specification of the protocol SDShare: Protocol for the Syndication of Semantic Descriptions.

Let us know what you think of it, and of its potential in making sense of the vast amounts of data due to be released on the Web.


Open Source Software: A Serious Option At Last?

January 24, 2010

Open SourceI am increasingly impressed by what open source (OS) software communities are offering. Not just in terms of the sheer range of applications, but by their quality too. That’s an observation vindicated by the recent award of DoD 5015.02 Records Management Certification  to Alfresco, according it the kudos of being the first open source product to demonstrate compliance with the strict DoD 5015.02 STD specification for records management. That’s a significant achievement even Microsoft can’t match.

If you visit the Mecca of OS developers, Sourceforge, you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands, of little niche applications of the sort often found on computing magazine cover-CDs, which will be of great use to some, but of no interest to most. But bear with them. Like any jumble sale or bric-a-brac market, you have to plough through the dross to find the jewels. One particular jewel I am playing with at the moment is VirtueMart.

VirtueMart is an OS online e-commerce application, allowing anyone to set up an online sales presence at an incredible level of detail and functionality. It runs under the OS Joomla! CMS, which in itself is a jewel. Although one has to give an equal plug to Mambo, the original OS CMS project from which Joomla! forked some five years ago. Both VirtueMart and Mambo utilise the LAMP development and deployment environment – Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP – although I’m using the Windows variant WAMP.

Why is this relevant to those interested in KO? Well, because I can’t think of any more complex real-world application requiring solid KO expertise than an e-commerce site. VirtueMart has to support and integrate:

  • vendor indentity and brand
  • product classes, categories, instances and descriptions
  • manufacturer information
  • site visitors
  • existing customers
  • product reviews by customers
  • multiple payment methods
  • discount & coupon schemes
  • ordering & order status reporting
  • multiple tax regimes
  • shipping methods & rates

All of these entities (if that’s the right term) have numerous attributes which need to be configurable, depending on what you’re selling. The VirtueMart developers, all of whom have given of their time and expertise freely, have done a really impressive job. Might they have done even better, I wonder, if KO professionals had been prepared to donate their expertise?

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In the course of sifting through Sourceforge, I discovered a number of applications relevant to KO. I shall be featuring these over the next few weeks in our KOOLTools section, as and when I have the time to test them. Bookmark it.


Self-Signifying Data

January 13, 2010

** Event rescheduled to March 24, 2010 **

The digitally-supported brain

The Digitally-supported Brain

Those ISKO UK members who attended Dave Snowden’s memorable seminar in April 2009 – Human-machine symbiosis for data interpretation – may remember what I remember as a collective gestalt. ‘Self-signifying data’ was the phrase, I believe, and it proved more memorable for many even than Dave’s ‘Blanket Octopodes’ (see Dave’s slide set for an explanation.

Why raise this again now? Well, because ISKO UK member Jan Wyllie and business partner Simon Eaton, have for some time been developing a web site/application based on those very principles of self-signifying data described by Dave Snowden. Their Open Intelligence initiative draws on years of experience in Content Analysis, brought up-to-date through Web 2.0 technology. And it’s highly relevant to KO professionals, because KO technologies – categorisation and taxonomies – are at the heart of the Open Intelligence approach.

If making systematic inferences from communications flows using faceted taxonomies, using content analysis techniques to turn the tables on the knowledge glut, or increasing the value and productivity of work groups because they will be working with a much higher level of common knowledge rings a bell for you, then consider attending Jan Wyllie’s one-day Ark Group Masterclass Content analysis: Using taxonomies to improve collaboration. It’s to be held on 10 February 2010, in London, and will feature “the first public showing of the all new Open Intelligence software dedicated to making the social networking experience of creating collaborative intelligence, an engaging, as well as a valuable and productive use of a community’s knowledge working time.”

Further details of this important and pioneering effort are available on the Open Intelligence web site, where you can also book your place.


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