deadline surfing

A colleague from a related research institute just expressed the pressure we all experience when facing EU proposal deadlines:
“Sorry, can we reschedule to later? I am currently deadline surfing for the call deadline tomorrow”.

Deadline surfing, of course, means: To have around 20 man-days of work build up behind you, and 5 workdays in front of you. While you wade through the doable tasks in front of you, more work piles up behind you faster and faster, pushing you towards the deadline. Then, the wave breaks, either you surf straight out of it (unbelievable) or you crash and fall into the whitewater (which experienced deadline surfers call the “stuck inside a washing machine mayhem”). The deadline arrives, washes every crashed surfer on shore, while the experienced riders swim out to catch the next set. Once the debris is washed from the beach, the wildlife of scientific work continues.

Let me illustrate the process:
sources, cc-by

In the graph, we compare two typical people being approached by a deadline which they are going to surf. Orang is the prepared and experienced surfer: when he sees the work coming, he gets on top of it early and then rides it at the bottom of the curve, gaining momentum and keeping the work well behind him. Finally, he elegantly finishes before the deadline and turns his board around, before the whitewater of accusations and last-minute panic crushes him. Not so the blue surfer. He waits a bit too long at the beginning, is taken by work to fast which tips him over. Unable to stay in front of the work, he ends up in the whitewater of accusations and last-minute panic.

Further illustrations:

A knowledge worker riding the perfect deadline, excellent sports:
(c) dude crush, flickr

Waited to long to start working, now trying to get away from the deadline, clearly visible for everyone still working (not a good exit, you should dive underwater so that they don’t notice your wipeout):
(c) vaguely artistic

Even a small deadline can trip you (the wave is about the size of a local gov funding contract, or a NOE):
(c) coast guard bm

A team of two knowledge workers stuck right on the deadline. Bob, the lower one is tripped by the tasks slipping away under him, David, the upper, is crashing over him because he depended on Bob’s input for the cost calculation:
(c) localsurfer

A sole knowledge project manager writing the final deliverable for a 15mio EUR IP project that is under close surveillance by the PO already, the double tripping wave means that half the project members invested their money into stocks and expensive mediterrian “research visits” which makes it impossible to meet cost statements (and all accounts receivable):
(c) soulsurfer3 on flickr

I conclude:
“I love deadlines, I love the sound they make when they swoosh by”.
Douglas Adams

p.s.: this is of course related to the deadline of IST calls tomorrow.

PhD step5: burning the last draft

After submitting my PhD in January, I continue my long-term effort to blog about my phd.

PhD BurningPhD Burning - Whisky and Leo

When you submitted your phd, according to an old scottish tradition, you burn the last printed draft in the woods. Gunnar Grimnes and I did adhere to that scottish tradition on the 10th of January 2009, it also includes drinking a lot of alcoholic beverages.

PhD Burning

The tradition also includes defending the thesis quickly, you say something like “I made a phd on helping people remember, and it is great.” – the attackers (your dudes) then shout “It is shit – burn it!”. Do that, and drink alcohol.

Please comment below, blog it, or contact me if you also burnt your phd. use the flickr tag phdburning.

Design for the Other 90%

“The majority of the world’s designers focus all their efforts on developing products and services exclusively for the richest 10% of the world’s customers. Nothing less than a revolution in design is needed to reach the other 90%.”
—Dr. Paul Polak, International Development Enterprises

Design for the Other 90% is an exhibition currently on view at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through May 29, 2009, and online.

There must be a use for technology for the Other 90%. And they are a market – for products that help them improve life, or even stay alive. Products such as the Q-Drum:

It can hold up to 50 liters of water and be used to transport that water over long distances. At an affordable price, saving time and money, all in one, clever, design.

I remember a keynote at the I-Know conference in Graz (I think 2005, and I forgot the speaker’s name – is there a program online?) which was not about knowledge management, but how computer are be used in rural india. One case was to examine eye patients remotely via a webcam – the patient sits in front of the only computer in the village and looks into the webcam, the examining doctor sits somewhere else and gives a diagnose. This cuts travel costs and saves money (and improves health). So, there is a market in the low-income population, for life-improving products.

SemVox DFKI Startup combines Ontologies with voice interaction

“So, computer, please find me all documents that contain research information about a drug that can cure cancer, developed anywhere in the world” – this is a classic question we would like to ask a computer. Actually, its so classic that it is defined as an example in the 1992 version in the TREC test data.

The DFKI Spin-Off SemVox may provide something that helps realizing this. They are combining ontologies with speech interaction:
The SemVox technology enables the user to employ various applications without having to resort to traditional operating concepts such as keyboards or remote controls. Using our technology the user is free to choose between a number of modalities such as speech, gestures, keyboard or mouse or a combination thereof.

semvox logo

Their technology incorporates a heterogenous set of modules that can be remixed to allow different application scenarios. Part of their demos is to tell the computer to “find me an action film”. Nice side-effect: using the speech-synthesis module offered by SVOX, the computer will talk back to you (press release in german).

So – this is a next step to the semantic web,as Vint Cerf has put it:
I’m almost certain you’ll see products emerging that will allow you to orally interact with the network
Sure, it is nearly here, and you can buy the tools for it off-the-shelf. And I guess SemVox is open for investors 🙂

What is really funny, is that today we are very close to actually answer the questions defined as scientific goals in 1992 (for example here, page 64, I was not able to find the original TREC-1 set).

I have seen the SemVox system live at CeBit, I was demoing NEPOMUK (and advertising my startup) 5 meters away from them and we had great fun demoing our products to each other. Here is a picture of Jan, one of the founders:
Jan Schehl, Semvox

The IJCAI-09 workshop on Identity and Reference in web-based Knowledge Representation (IR-KR2009) deadline extended: 16.3.

Here the CFP from the IR-KR workshop. All who think there are cooler uris than those, submit something.


IR-KR2009 at IJCAI-09

July 11-13, 2009
Pasadena, CA, USA

The IJCAI-09 Workshop on
“Identity and Reference in web-based Knowledge Representation” (IR-KR2009)

July 11-13, 2009
Pasadena, California, USA

held at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence

— IR-KR2009 goals —

The goal of this workshop, which in past years was mainly organised
within the Web and Semantic Web (SW) communities (see past editions at
WWW2006, WWW2007, ESWC200q8), is to widen debate on the impact and the
challenges that the notions of *identity* and *reference* in
web-oriented KR poses to some of the core concepts of AI.

— Background & Description of the workshop —

The Semantic Web initiative advances the idea that the web may become
a space not only for publishing and interlinking documents (through
HTML hyperlinks), but also knowledge bases (e.g. in the form of RDF
graphs) in an open and fully decentralized environment.

Even though models and languages used to implement the nascent
Semantic Web have been taken from long-standing research in AI, SW and
AI have different priorities. While traditionally a strong focus
within AI has been developing theories and code to support sound and
complete reasoning, web-oriented KR has a primary concern of web-wide
information interoperability and integration.

Perhaps the most central issue in reconciling these concernd is the
Principle of Global Identifiers: “global naming leads to global
network effects” (see Architecture of the World Wide Web, Volume One,
2004, at As for the
web of documents, the overall value of such open and distributed
network of truly interlinked knowledge sources, based on global names,
would be immensely bigger than the sum of the value of the components.

This central role of identity and reference for a web-scale KR poses
new challenges to traditional KR, and many researchers have suggested
that the concept of URI may deeply affect the notions of language
(e.g. the semantics of using the “same” URI in different models),
reference (e.g. rigid vs. non rigid designation), interpretation
(e.g. the meaning of “links” across knowledge bases) & reasoning
(e.g. distributed reasoning across theories) in traditional
logic-based KR in AI. This workshop addresses these challenges.

— Expected outcome —

The anticipated outcome of the workshop is to assess the state of the
art in the area of Identity and Reference in AI and the SW, and to go
beyond the limited scope of the current Semantic Web, as well as to
discuss and critically evaluate approach and next steps in
implementing and reasoning about identity and reference. It is
expected that the workshop will provide a valuable opportunity for
cross-fertilization across different research communities.

— Workshop format —

Based on the successful experience in the past workshops on this
topic, the format of IR-KR2009 will be the following:

* a keynote talk that illustrates the importance of the topic
* very short presentations of the accepted papers, to give
participants an overview of the research work of the main
workshop contributors
* presentation of a detailed list of topics to discuss, by the
workshop chair
* extensive, moderated plenary discussion
* collaborative write-up of conclusions and next steps

— Submissions —

The workshop aims at collecting contributions which can roughly be
grouped as follows:

* Foundations: formal and conceptual theories of identity and
reference for web-oriented KR
* Formal theories: semantics for KR on the web, soundness and
completeness of web-oriented reasoning, semantics of interlinked
* Vision papers: visionary solutions to the problems of identity
and reference in KR
* Project papers: descriptions of research & development projects
in this area
* Experiences: contributions from research and industry that
illustrate case studies or approaches to deal with the issues of
identity and reference on a web-scale
* Critical viewpoints: discussions of advantages and disadvantages
of the proposed approaches

We especially encourage contributions from groups or organizations
which are working on assembling large knowledge-based data collections
in order to compare the different practical solutions which were found
for integrating semantic data from multiple sources.

— Submission Requirements and Dates —

IR-KR2009 will accept submissions for full papers, posters and
demonstrations. The selection will be based on the significance and
the quality of submissions as well as oriented towards fostering
cross-pollination and discussions during the event. All selected
abstracts will be included in the IJCAI-09 Working Notes. Authors are
kindly requested to provide keywords upon submission. The format for
submissions is the same as that of IJCAI-09. Please check for the style files. Submissions should be no
longer than 5 pages.

– Submission deadline (papers, posters, demos): March 6, 2009
– Notification to authors: April 17, 2009
– Camera-ready version: May 8, 2009
– Workshop dates: July 11-13, 2009

Submissions will be managed through at:

— Attendance —

Following IJCAI-09 policy, the total number of participants in
IR-KR2009 will be limited to 75 people. This includes organizers, PC
members, invited speakers, authors and attendees. Authors will be
selected based on the significance of their submission and will be
preferred during registration to non-presenting
attendees. Non-presenting attendees will be selected on a
first-come-first-served basis. Please refer to for
the application procedure and fees.

— Workshop Chair —

Paolo Bouquet, University of Trento [PRIMARY CONTACT]

— Workshop Organizers —

Marko Grobelnik, IJS, Slovenia

Harry Halpin, University of Edinburgh

Frank van Harmelen. VU Amsterdam

Heiko Stoermer. University of Trento

Giovanni Tummarello. DERI Galway

Michael Witbrock, Cycorp Inc

— Program Committee —

Confirmed members:

Bo Andersson
Karl Aberer
Michael K. Bergman
Dan Brickley
Werner Ceusters
Kendall Clark
Richard Cyganiak
Hugh Glaser
Nicola Guarino
Gregor Hackenbroich
Tom Heath
Alexander Löser
Antonio Maña
Larry Masinter
Bijan Parsia
Peter F. Patel-Schneider
Valentina Presutti
Marta Sabou
Leo Sauermann
Luciano Serafini
Dagobert Soergel
Andraz Tori
Bernard Vatant is hiring is hiring – and we search for more co-founders. Read our “join the team” page for our three open positions:

  • Corporate Design and Communications
  • Web 2.0 Development
  • Semantic Desktop Developer

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