Monday, November 26, 2007

Another Interesting Conference - EuroPLoP 2008

Taken from their website:
EuroPLoP™ is the premier European conference on patterns. The conference offers a variety of tracks and workshops that allow you to learn about patterns, to receive feedback on your own work, and to discuss with fellow enthusiasts. It is a unique venue to exchange knowledge about best practices and learn from other experts in various fields.

Check out the website: EuroPLoP 2008.

DIAC - 2008 (Call for Participation)

Twenty-one years since the first DIAC Symposium!

Tools for Participation:
Collaboration, Deliberation, and Decision Support

Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing Symposium Conference on Online Deliberation (DIAC-2008/OD2008)

Sponsored by Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility and UC Berkeley School of Information

University of California, Berkeley June 26 - 29, 2008

At the dawn of the 21st century humankind faces challenges of profound proportions. The ability of people around the world to discuss, work, make decisions, and take action collaboratively is one of the most important capabilities for addressing these challenges.

Researchers, scholars, activists, advocates, artists, educators, technologists, designers, students, policy-makers, entrepreneurs, journalists and citizens are rising to these challenges in many ways, including, devising new communication technologies that build on the opportunities afforded by the Internet and other new (as well as old) media. The interactions between technological and social systems are of special and central importance in this area.

DIAC-08 combines CPSR's 11th DIAC symposium with the third Conference on Online Deliberation. The joint conference is intended to provide a platform and a forum for highlighting socio-technological opportunities, challenges, and pitfalls in the area of community and civic action. Technology enhanced community action ranges from informal communities of practice to democratic governance of formal organizations to large social movements.

We are especially interested in technology development that is already being tested or fielded. We are also interested in theoretical and other intellectual work that helps build understanding and support for future efforts. In addition to exploring social technology, we must at the same time understand and advance the social context
of technology, including its design, access, use, policy and evaluation, as well as intellectual frameworks and perspectives that inform technological as well as social innovation including requirements, case studies, critique and self-reflection, and infrastructures for future work.

Our areas of focus include but are not limited to: deliberative and collaborative systems, e-democracy and e-participation, mobilization and organization, negotiation, consultation, sustainability, community support systems, open source models, human rights, ecological awareness, conflict resolution, justice, transparency systems, media and civic journalism, media literacy, power research, citizen science, economic development and opportunity, peace and reconciliation, infrastructure development, policy, education, community networks, research and development for civil society, social software, virtual communities and civic intelligence.

We are currently interested in the following types of submissions: research paper and exploratory paper presentations (both of which will be peer reviewed), technology demonstrations, workshops and poster sessions. We are currently seeking co-sponsors who can help provide various types of assistance. We are also seeking donations and other support (including volunteer labor) to help make this event successful.

The DIAC symposia have resulted in six book publications (in addition to the proceedings). Although we don't have specific plans at this time, we are hoping to publish our seventh book based on this event.

Guidelines for papers and other submissions

All submissions must be made via the conference submission system on the DIAC-08 web site. Submissions should be written in English and foreign speakers are encouraged to have their submissions reviewed for language prior to submission. Submissions should be formatted for "US Letter" size using 11 point Times-Roman font. Research papers should be a maximum of 10 pages. Accepted research papers should be revised according to reviewer comments and resubmitted by the deadline. Workshop proposals (two pages) should include motivation, objectives, expected outcomes, intended audience, process (including specific description of how people will be engaged during the workshop). Taking a cue from PDC 2008, we are also interested in exploratory papers (4 pages), that reflect novel concepts, works-in-progress, reflections, manifestos or other ideas and issues that aren't currently suitable for a research paper.

Important Dates

  • December 1, 2007 Submission system available

  • December 15, 2007 Early registration begins

  • February 15, 2008 Research paper submissions due

  • March 15, 2008 Demonstration, workshop proposals due

  • April 1, 2008 Notices of research paper acceptances

  • April 15, 2008 Poster proposals due

  • May 1, 2008 Late registration begins

  • May 15, 2008 Completed research papers due

  • June 26-June 29, 2008 DIAC-2008/OD2008

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility

CPSR is a public-interest alliance of people concerned about the impact of information and communications technology on society. By sponsoring international, national, and local projects and events, CPSR serves as a catalyst for in-depth discussion and effective action in key areas.

UC Berkeley School of Information

Providing the world with innovative information solutions and leadership, the UC Berkeley School of Information conducts research, provides policy counsel, and trains information professionals in five areas of concentration including information design and architecture, information assurance, social studies of information, human-computer interaction, and information economics and policy.

Conference Chair:
Douglas Schuler

Program Chairs:
Todd Davies, Jerome Feldman, and Douglas Schuler

Related Conferences

We also recommend the Participatory Design Conference which will be held in Bloomington, Indiana, USA. September 30, 2008 - October 4, 2008. See PDC-2008. The theme of this 10th PDC is "Experiences and Challenges" and it is an excellent opportunity to reassess the achievements of the PD movement and to consider its future.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Economic Patterns: Constructing a Pattern Language for NRM

So I had written a previous post about my desire not to use Drupal and more specifically PHP for my research project. However, I have done some further in-depth analysis of the requirements for the proposed project and I think that considering the needs for a full featured system along with the ability to extend the system to meet some very specific needs, Drupal presents the best option. Like I said previously, it is cheap to host, the coding quality is much better than comparable PHP based systems and I actually do like the templating system they have developed.

Plus, I think Django will just be too much work to build and get up to speed for this project, and Plone is too expensive to host for the groups I’m working with.

I mean, it is a no-brainer. I don’t despise PHP as a language. It’s more that I prefer Python. In that sense I’m not a complete Python Nazi as some out there are.

In all honesty, PHP 5 is actually a pretty good language, it is easy and when compared to Python, PHP is definitely a much better language for the web, so why not use it? Plus, PHP and Flex work well together which provides greater opportunities for integration with the types of systems I’m focused on developing.

In continuing the search for relevant patterns for NRM this next section deals with issue of economics. This is undoubtedly an important element to supporting an effective and livable community. The pattern list drawn from the Liberating Voices! pattern repository follows as:

Again, these patterns were difficult to weed through. However, each of these patterns represent important elements to community empowerment and perhaps more importantly to the research of interest. Each of these are worth consideration. Yet, I would say that it is still important for us to begin thinking about meta-data or semantic annotations for accessing more patterns as contextually related to the work of Community-Based NRM.

Transition back to Drupal

So I had written a previous post about my desire not to use Drupal and more specifically PHP for my research project. However, I have done some further in-depth analysis of the requirements for the proposed project and I think that considering the needs for a full featured system along with the ability to extend the system to meet some very specific needs, Drupal presents the best option. Like I said previously, it is cheap to host, the coding quality is much better than comparable PHP based systems and I actually do like the templating system they have developed.

Plus, I think Django will just be too much work to build and get up to speed for this project, and Plone is too expensive to host for the groups I’m working with.

I mean, it is a no-brainer. I don’t despise PHP as a language. It’s more that I prefer Python. In that sense I’m not a complete Python Nazi as some out there are.

In all honesty, PHP 5 is actually a pretty good language, it is easy and when compared to Python, PHP is definitely a much better language for the web, so why not use it? Plus, PHP and Flex work well together which provides greater opportunities for integration with the types of systems I’m focused on developing.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Building an Integrated Approach to NRM with Patterns as Heuristics

Revisiting the post: Constructing a Pattern Language for Community Centered Information Systems

I decided that despite my focus upon NRM, presenting a holistic vision for community empowerment as defined within the New Community Networks would be an appropriate point of departure. For instance, without an effective infrastructure for community education, community based NRM can be severely hindered. Therefore, understanding some of the opportunities provided by the L.V. patterns could help point to useful elements to ensuring an integrated solution.

After traversing the pattern list at the new Public Sphere Project website, I was able to identify a set of potentially relevant patterns to the work of encouraging community building education.

Education Patterns–

So we have this list of patterns identified as being associated with education. However, it becomes obvious that without a clear problem description or relevant context for application, many of these components might not make sense or have direct application to the types of issues communities are being faced with.

Similarly, beyond the issue of understanding context is the need to be able to refine the types of patterns that we draw upon. In collecting the patterns for this particular post I had to traverse through 160 patterns just to develop this list. It is clear that this list might be too large for specific community development projects.

Again, the question arises, “How do we make sense of such a dense collection of interrelated knowledge?” Of course this question also generates alternative questions, such as “What ways might we mitigate the complexity of a pattern language,” or “How might we customize the scope of a pattern search in order to ensure that only the patterns relevant to a community problem show up?”

To me this is the core of my research, though NRM is the identified field of study, I have already entered this field with a set of assumptions about the usage of patterns and pattern languages. Fortunately, these assumptions are not all that unverified as others such as Tippet (2004), Cowanand in many ways the work of Alexander himself provides a blueprint for community development and effective interaction with the constructed and natural environment.

However, methodologies for engaging in the construction of pattern languages are mixed, complex and in many ways problematic. Likewise, in using patterns, it seems that practitioners must develop a sort of cognitive linguistic extension of their normal lexicon to include that of patterns. However, this too can be difficult since the domains of patterns span various disciplines from Architecture, to NRM and Landscape Ecology, to Software Engineering and Cybernetic Systems to Social-centric Information and Communication. Often each of these domains contain hundreds of patterns that can make it extremely difficult to find the directly relevant ones.

While I will continue to post the patterns I think are relevant to my work under the framework proposed in Schuler’s New Community Networks, I think it must be understood that this list is in a sense general, and abbreviated in a very unscientific, and most likely biased way.

To get around this issue, I am continuing my work with building a search component around the L.V. system along with a visualization piece that can hopefully be applied to any of these pattern languages. Overall, I think the paradigm is an extremely useful construct that can be applied in a host of soft-system environments. That is of course, if and when we as scholars, practitioners and researches begin to take these shortcomings more seriously and make tools available for groups to more freely utilize these patterns and thereby construct their own context specific languages for solving community problems.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Tech Stack for CI (Revised)

In doing further research on available technology options for the visual learning in time and space application at CTLT, I have been considering a move away from Python and Django. Though I love the ease of working with these tools, I'm very interested in using flex to provide the UI and display of learning data.

So it seems that Flex provides an open SDK for PHP developers and not Python. Though a django developer has submitted a bridge for working with Flex, it still seems immature and I need to learn this fast rather than fighting with a system still in development.

With that said, I'm thinking PHP5 + Propel ORM + Flex, and since I will be using PHP I can't help but write a bridge to Drupal. Of course the application will need to integrate nicely with SharePoint as this is going to be the primary test case for using this custom app. However, I'm not using .NET and I'm not willing to write a custom web-part for this as the application must be available to CMS apps outside of the SharePoint MS paradigm.

So it will live as a standalone application in which others can build modules to extend and integrate into their own learning platforms. Plus, this way the application can be utilized for linking into the L.V. Patterns.

Generating Tag Fields for Individual Patterns: Networking our Patterns

After my evening walk of contemplation I began considering more deeply the idea of tags and providing more powerful ways to express interconnected meta-data as related to the Liberating Voices patterns.

Currently, the L.V. system uses a sort of quasi-tagging approach that defines categories and topics. For the most part these “tags” serve their proposed purpose. However, from my perspective it seems that the lack of dynamic capabilities minimizes the potential for filtering and organizing patterns. Instead, perhaps we should be thinking about ways to enable dynamic tagging where users can generate a folksonomy surrounding patterns.

This doesn’t mean we should get rid of what is already there, but rather we should extend the functionality of the system. It seems that the current terms being used are very high-level and generic. By keeping these more generic terms we can perhaps help frame the types of more user specific tags.

However, rather than merely providing a pathway to develop a folksonomy for the patterns, we must remember patterns exist in an often different way than a lot of content. For instance, patterns are keys or building blocks that exist with a multi-dimensional structure. In this way patterns possess relationships along a vertical as well as horizontal axis.

With this in mind perhaps we would instead want to start defining the levels of abstraction that patterns have by numerically describing the various levels. In this way a cluster of patterns would exist at a certain level. Now, L.V. has already categorized or clustered patterns but I do not think this is an explicit field in the database model. I think we need to add it!

To make this usable from a users standpoint, maybe a radio button describing the levels/categories and then some ajax call to the database would pull up all the tags related to a certain level, perhaps you could then define your own tag for the level within the hierarchy. Maybe we want to be able to annotate our tags and discuss the reasoning behind the categorization of the data in such a way. This annotation could in a sense point to related cases where the pattern was used and likewise show the relevance of the tag.

Why is this important to me? Well, because I am in the process of developing a listing of patterns related to my work, but that correlate directly to a previous post. I'm right now looking at education patterns as related to increasing information literacy and knowledge for natural resource management. An alternative and more tag friendly environment as well as way to search and filter through these tags would be great.

Fortunately, we have something like this in its infancy, but I think it will become a priority of mine in the near future as I attempt to build systems and processes to construct pattern languages based upon the L.V. repository.

Wow, I’m not sure if that made any sense, so I think it is worth a use case/interaction diagram at least.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Talk about outrage!

Read this: Asbestos is Not Banned in North America.

Using SharePoint Web Services

In furthering the conceptualization of this Visual Learning application, I was first struck by the possible approaches to querying the needed data. While I am predominately visual and think in terms of how things might look when complete, I recognize that getting data out of SharePoint might be a bit more difficult task than in some other cases.

However, there is much discussion on the use of SharePoint's web services. Some focus specifically on aggregating content from other places to create mash-ups, while others do note the possible importance of getting data out of SharePoint.

So over the next couple of days I'm going to be looking into the process of accessing the SharePoint web services feature and see how well it works. To do this I think I'm going to attempt a script using the python and ZSI library, or PHP and the nuSOAP model.

Either way, it is my hope that the technology will stand alone, outside of SharePoint and yet still be able to work well with the various MySites WSU has. If it works with the MySites then I don't see why it wouldn't work with plone or drupal. One thing that might be an issue is the need to allow for an XML-RPC approach as both Plone and Drupal utilize rpc.

However, more in connection with patterns is the need of this application to be able query the Liberating Voices! patterns. If I can get the query and parsing bit of the application then Yishay maybe able to extend his Mind mapping application to enable through the web mapping. Both pieces together could prove to be a very cool and very powerful solution for visual knowledge representation.

CTLT: Visual Representation of e-Learning

Following a meeting last week it became obviously clear that a few of us at CTLT are very interested in supporting an application that allows users to visually represent learning and information in a more interesting, and perhaps useful way. This is as opposed to the generic lists and document libraries currently available in SharePoint.

The idea behind the application is the construction of multi-faceted views that could produce visually connected components of information associated with a students learning process and outcomes. For instance, we might want to showcase the transition in associated assumptions over a period of time as linked to a primary goal or concern represented by the student at the outset of their recorded learning process. The point behind this part of the application would therefore be driven to represent this data in a time-line format, perhaps centering around the core value of the student.

Another possible outcome of the application would be to produce a cognitive map representing the various pieces of interconnected data relevant to the student’s project. This could be accomplished through identifying the connections between user-defined tags and the associations these tags imply to student information. Again, the output could be a visual concept or mind-map as defined by the student. If using a concept map, perhaps the student would need to be able to amend the visual map in order to add explicit semantic relationships between the various components.

Overall, the project is very intriguing as it has the potential for usage outside of the SharePoint application framework. However, more directly it is something that could represent a very novel approach to representing the types of trans-disciplinary and longitudinal learning that CTLT is trying to capture and promote. It also has direct relevance to some of my work with patterns as the application could serve as a foundation for usage with the visual representation of patterns and for the construction of semantic pattern maps.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Evaluating Technologies for CI Research Project

As you might all know I'm particularly fascinated with 3 core open source projects at the moment. These of course being Plone, Drupal and Django. Plone and Drupal are interesting CMS applications which attempt to be usable systems for developing much more complex and customized software solutions. On the other hand, Django is a rapid development framework that could allow for the development of a Plone or Drupal type application. I think all have a very useful place, particularly within the non-profit software development field.

I have issues with each though and in some sense these issues might be ridiculous, but they are my reasons and I have never been accused of being practical.

The first issue though is practical and that is the hosting cost associated with Plone. Though Plone might be the most feature rich platform (not to mention I know it the best), with its stable integration of GIS through the web apps, it is cost prohibitive for most of the groups I'm currently working with. This is very annoying, but that is life.

The issue I have with Drupal is its use of PHP and its non-object oriented approach to using PHP. Yes, for some this is a stupid reason not to adopt a particular solution. After all, I predominately work with PHP. Not to mention, Drupal is full featured and growing rapidly as more users adopt and build custom modules, extending its capabilities. It is also a cheap solution.

Yet, I like Python, its cleanliness, readability and development speed. As a result, Django provides a very enticing opportunity, to build robust apps with Python. Django is also cheap to host. However, despite the useful helpers such as the Django admin, nice permission system and so on, it lacks a lot of the components already available to Drupal and Plone developers. This means that I would have to implement the various components myself or find like minded people interested in collaborating to reduce development time.

Yet, despite this very obvious problem, I find the lack of a django based application to fit my needs to be very irritating as this is perhaps the most powerful Python web framework I have come across (save for Pylons, but crappy documentation makes for crappy adoption). This almost seems to be a calling of sorts. There needs to be a powerful django app similar to drupal for us pythonistas. Yes, there is PyLucid, but the documentation is not very good and the level of deviation from the core django framework just seems unnecessary to me. There is already so much Django offers that it just seems to be a waste of time.

Now, I haven't completely sold myself on using Django, but I'm using it to write a custom shell of a CMS for JESA, currently the site I built is just static HTML, but as the requirements for this site expand dramatically (as I thought they would) they are in desperate need of an easy to use web app that allows them to extend the site and add content with ease.

This is all volunteer work, but there are some things to be said about doing volunteer work versus contract work. I have been given free reign to build the site and to use whatever technology I want provided the site is secure, easy to use, etc.

So a great opportunity to use django. I think after this I will be better able to gauge whether I want to invest the time to build a base CMS for my research or if Drupal will just have to cut it. We'll see.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Constructing a Pattern Language for Community Centered Information Systems

Returning back to the original focus of this blog I have begun to start thinking of the patterns that might be useful in constructing effective communication systems for natural resource management. The key here is not only providing the environmental information necessary for successful planning, but these systems are centered upon the human element, a central piece of systems design that can be overlooked or in many cases still under-appreciated.

Now, I can think of some pieces that might be useful for environmental monitoring of sustainability focused development such as, web-based GIS, systems modeling applications, weather and climate charts/graphs and maps. However, beyond the modeling and mapping applications that could be integrated, what other elements might we consider in constructing effective information systems?

The L.V. project presents a number of useful pointers that could be utilized for constructing these systems. Some of these patterns have already been mentioned, but I think it might be more useful to define the domains of interaction that could be taking place within the context of designing such systems. As a start this might be more effective than merely listing relevant patterns. Instead if we understand the meta-patterns at play then perhaps we can be more effective in understanding how our list of patterns integrates with one another.

(Source: Schuler, D. (1996). “New Community Networks: Wired for Change.”)

While this interconnected diagram presents some useful things to think about when considering how systems might need to enable community development, I think that environment must be added. With the Environment added to this diagram, I think it is possible to get a clearer picture of what we would hope for in a thriving, sustainable community.

The next step is to identify the patterns that fit under these larger headings. Once we have defined the patterns in relation to the larger elements at play then perhaps we can begin thinking about the systems and technologies that might be supportive of people’s movement in actualizing these fundamental elements.

Now, these patterns seems to address a number of technical as well as human-ceneterd patterns. However, the pattern langauge we see emerging remains at a fairly high-level and there needs to be an extension of these patterns or pattern lanaguage to include the lower-level or more specific patterns related to systems design.

In the next few posts we will explore these patterns as possible contributions to the construction of a gerneal P.L. for community centered environmental informatics.