Jan 11

Commandline twitter revisited

Previously I scraped together a little bash script to post tweets to twitter.  At the time it was just a bit of fun.

Now it’s serious.

Twitter no longer allow basic authentication, so you need to use oAuth or something else. No more posting with cURL.  Luckily there is a command line tool, twurl (installed as a ruby gem), which allows posting from the command line.

So, using twurl, I now have an a perl programme which notifies me if it has been killed or otherwise come across some error condition. I can even get the tweets sent to my phone via SMS using the normal twitter functionality to do this.

Jan 11


I am at my most creative when I have a deadline (blind panic is a wonderful enabler).

Sometimes I can feel overwhelmed by all the possible things I could spend my time investigating. I need focus as an impetus to my creativity.

My new role at Talis is giving me the impetus I need, and giving me the opportunity to invent madly. Who new that after graduating with an art college degree I would end up working with computers and writing code in various computer languages to manipulate data? I am intrigued by the way that we can become something entirely different through only a few small changes – like one of those puzzles where you change one letter at a time to come up with several new words with entirely different meanings.

Consulting in the field of Linked Data is exciting. It is so new that there are new ways of doing things to be discovered. Each project we take on is likely to throw up some stuff we haven’t had to solve before, some new challenges or ways to approach a solution.

Roll on twenty eleven.

Nov 10

Winter man

Found in snow and ice,
A relic from a past unremembered.
Familiar with harsh winters.
Familiar with hunting and gathering.
Familiar with storing up and laying by.
Closed your eyes and dreamt of summer.

Found amidst packets of ice,
An unremembering neanderthal.
Unfamiliar with harsh winters.
Unfamiliar with hunting and gathering.
Unfamiliar with storing up and laying by.
Closed your eyes and dreamt of Tesco.

Oct 10

Watching the semantic web come alive

I am sitting in a meeting room at work and watching our CTO Ian Davis bring the semantic web to life.

Clipper uses javascript ‘recognisers’ to spot properties and classes in RDF data returned from queries. So if Clipper sees a pair of lat/long coordinates, it shows a map.  If the results of a search also include some map data? The recognisers are already there and they just show the points on a map.

So, people introduce new ontologies that describe things. Other people write ‘widgets’ that know what to do with certain properties. If the people who write the ontologies re-use properties that other people have written widgets for, then half the work of visualising the data in the new ontology has been done.

It lives.

Oct 10

Blog-in-Blog: versions in the wild

Blog in Blog: breakdown of versions in the wild

Looking at the download statistics for my WordPress Plugin Blog-in-Blog, (over 15,000 downloads so far whooo!) I see that WordPress is now giving me a breakdown of which versions are still out and running in the wild.  This is interesting.  Most people are using a more up-to-date version – but only just.

I wonder if the picture reflects a quarter of internet users who are always (perhaps obsessively) updating their plugins; a quarter who regularly update their plugins, and the rest who may or may not update plugins.

There’s actually probably a hundred and one reasons why people aren’t using the latest version. If it’s because you are having issues with a new version, then let me know and I will fix it!

Oct 10

Academic open data

What would students do with open data from academic institutions?

What would academics do with open data from academic institutions?

What would administration staff do with open data from academic institutions?

In each case the answer  will be different.

Students will probably want to see where courses are held, and what other extra curricular activities the institution offers or is close to. They may also want to compare their progress against their peers at other universities while they are there. This last idea could provide positive reinforcement in provision of quality teaching.

Academics are primarily interested in a couple of linked questions.  What Is new in my field?  How much stuff have I published in my field and how does that  contribute to the research counts of my department?

Administration staff would probably want to smooth the wheels of tracking a student’s progress through the university.  Which course they are on, who is paying their fees and when, any other status of the system. Not sure if there is any way in which they will want to share information openly? there must be something they wished that they could know easily…

Oct 10

Remove the dust sheets

It’s high time I removed the dust sheets from this blog and tried to discipline myself to actually write something.  To be honest I think I should try to stop thinking in sentences of 140 characters or less.  Twitter has probably clouded my ability to think thoughts longer than a text box with a countdown.

So, change is afoot again. If there is one thing that Talis (my employer) isn’t, it’s static.  The Talis strapline ‘Shared Innovation’ is exactly what we do on a daily basis.  I am currently shifting my role from a purely library focus, dealing with library customers in the library world to dealing with anyone who wants to work with semantically formed data published on the web of data.

How is this different from libraries?  Well, to some extent it is no different.  We are talking about standardising the publishing of data in machine readable form, whereas Library’s deal with information published and catalogued in a fairly standard human readable way.  One of the reasons that it is so easy to find things in a library (no really!) is because there are standard ways to represent, through classification, where the main topic of a book sits, and therefore which books it should be next to on the shelf.

Thus it is with Linked Data and the semantic web, except here the field is so new that we are still evolving the ways to say things about things, and ways to find what other people are saying about things. I plan to explore some of this stuff in later posts.

So, over the coming months, in my consultancy role, I will be getting the opportunity to meet other people who are getting started with the idea of linked data, and sharing with you some of the first steps experiences that I too have been through.

Now, how many of those sentences are longer than 140 characters?

Aug 10

London Dopplering

London dopplers through my room.
Window wide, eyes closed.
Basso rumbles fill unseen silences;
Silences stolen by rail and tyre.

London rush-hour squeals and cries.
Trees rustle silent protest,
Unable to be heard, they menace;
Menace with tripping roots.

London settles with canine bark.
Darkness spreads down buildings.
Yet sussurus murmurs sweetly;
Sweetly describing tomorrows noise.

Aug 10

A Holiday Question

Clive The Gorilla had a question while on holiday. He decided to do something about it, and has kindly shared his thoughts with us. Lucky he took his video camera on holiday eh?

Jun 10

Diagnosis – A dialogue.

I can see an end.
I see it in your face.
I see it in your eyes;
the things you don’t say.

The things you don’t say.
I see pain in your eyes,
I see pain in your face.
I can’t say sorry.

He can’t say sorry.
Sorry is meaningless,
confronted with nothing.
It’s not his to say sorry.
it’s my own diagnosis.