phd step7: Defending the PhD

On Friday, 5th June 2009, I defended my PhD on “The Gnowsis Semantic Desktop approach to Personal Information Management”. I defined the PIMO ontology, an architecture built on gnowsis 0.9, and evaluated it. My conclusion is: the Semantic Desktop, as I define it, supports users in filing, finding, and thinking about information.

On Friday, I defended the thesis in a 30 minute talk. I concentrated on one story-line “knowing more than you can remember” and knowledge articulation. Thomas Roth-Berghofer passed on a tip by Professor Richter: have one slide in the presentation that is really complex, to show that you did something challenging. So I drilled down on the dropbox application to show the innards of the system. There was a misunderstanding between one Professor and the School of Informatics about the date, so we had to wait a bit until he finally arrived, but luckily everything went excellent. After the talk the Professors debated about the grade and then called me in, this raises the anxiousness effectively. They decided to grade me “sehr gut”, which translates to “magna cum laude” and is the second-best grade (after “summa cum laude”).

For preparation, I collected the major arguments that needed to be in the presentation, cut away all the details, took a lot of my slides from my previous 85 talks about the topics, and changed everything to give one coherent story with coherent examples. I also used a few structuring tricks, such as “in-between” slides to separate areas and nice rounded corners. Here is the presentation on slideshare:

Our tradition here goes on to meet at the institute, drink some sparkling wine and give cheers to the candidate. Professor Andreas Dengel, my supervisor, gave a very nice speech about my work and my personality. I gave thanks to my peers, God and Jesus, and to Ingrid, my wife. Then the tradition is to give the candidate a doctoral hat that is built by his peers. Here is the moment:

Leobard mit Doktorhut

My hat is awesome, it has a burning man in the middle, is made of tape sculpture, and glows in blacklight:
click the picture to read the details.

We then ate good food from the catering company “Klein-Partyservice” who are locals from Kaiserslautern. I also brought three crates of beer, which was more than enough for the 30 guests. Part of the celebration was opening a bottle of Barolo wine from my best friend Ebo, which tasted excellent. In the night, a few of us went to the party in Kramladen and we had a lot of fun with the crew there, like bringing some good wine. And the robot:
Robot dancing frohlocker

DJ Frohlocker

Max and Heiko slept in Kaiserslautern and we all had breakfast together at my place, great:

This is the last important step of my three-year enterprise to blog about doing a dissertation on Semantic Desktop at DFKI (on that page you find trackback links to all steps).
The finishing step will be publication as book and then receiving the title.