DigitalFriend Blog

July 2007

Tagging RSS Feeds via the Knowledge Tree

Tue, 31 Jul 2007 19:00:15 +1000

By: gosh'at' (Steve Goschnick)

An option has been added to the RSS Editor within the DigitalFriend that uses the FUN interface of the Knowledge Tree, to simply 'tag' an entry with keywords. RSS files have a <category> option which is generally under-utilitised by the RSS-file editing public. We figured that it should be made far easier to tag RSS items, in order to help the authors of news items to tag their items. So, we use the KnowedgeTree itself - which is where the DigitalFriend user stores their various files and other resources - as a user-friendly selection mechanism.

Open rss file menu.

Image #1 : The RSS Category edit dialog, lets the insertion of tags/keywords using the KnowledgeTree interface (click the image above, for a larger image of the series of dialog windows that 'Insert' leads to).

The RSS category field has both a keyword/tag and a 'domain' from which the keyword hails (i.e. a taxonomy or ontology). Many RSS file producers use keywords that include a 'path' (from a hierarchy) of keywords, to qualify the keyword putting it in context. For example, the Australian national news broadcaster the ABC (, tag most of their news story RSS feeds with their own 'path'-oriented keywords. Eg. Here's two fragments from one of their RSS files:

<category domain="ABCSubjects">Disasters and Accidents:Accidents:Road</category>

<category domain="ABCSubjects">Rural:Agricultural Crops:Grain</category>

To enable the DigitalFriend user to choose to include the path of keywords in the KnowledgeTree rather than just the last node/directory chosen, a checkbox can be ticked to include the path. Note that the path separator used is the colon character ( : ).

Kevin Sheedy = Uncommon Loyalty

Wed, 25 Jul 2007 22:48:52 +1000

By: gosh'at' (Steve Goschnick)

On hearing today of Kevin Sheedy getting the chop at Essendon Football Club (AFL - Australian Football League) after 27 years as The Coach, I'm going to venture a very rare Religious-oriented blog-entry today...

I recalled something I was quite proud of as an Essendon supporter and as an Aussie, while visiting the land of the Pom. It was early in Kevin Sheedy's 27 year coaching career, in the year 1985 when I travelled about Europe for most of the year. After being in London for several weeks I'd seen no news of Australia in the main British newspapers at all - zip, not a sausage. Then, one story from home hit the front page of one of them: "Australian Coach Knocks Back $1.5 million!". The single Australian event that captured the attention of the British press was Kevin Sheedy declining a record offer to coach the Sydney Swans... I wonder if any of the current Essendon Board were around then, and whether they'd comprehend it if they were? The scum bags!

Future Ethnography for Future Casting

Fri, 13 Jul 2007 22:22:20 +1000

By: gosh'at' (Steve Goschnick)

"How do we reconcile understanding through observation (e.g. ethnography), with intervention through design?" The Program Manager for ACID (Australian CRC (Cooperative Research Centre) for Interaction Design) Smart Living, Ian McColl (and associate Ingrid Richardson), was outlining one of their goals - a methodology tentatively called Future Ethnography to help future-cast (apologises for the nested acronymn!).This was an informal seminar in the IDEA Lab (our Interaction Design Groups lab) last Friday. ACID has four major research programs - Virtual Heritage, Digital Media, Multi-user Environments and Ian's baby: Smart Living (local, global, family, community). Ethnography hails from antropology, as such users of ICT products are observed insitu in the way that they go about their lives (when applied to ICT) - to gain understanding through observation. Apart from ethnography, there are two other fields that they wish to sythesise into the method 'Future Ethnography' , namely: participatory design and action research ("interative ethnography"). Participatory designers have "absolute reverance for the opinions of participants", but nonetheless, designers are interventionists - bent on introducing innovative new products and artefacts (and apparently, they are "methods junkies"). Ian's group seem to be interested in all sorts of things: health - both self and the planet; sustainability - economic and social; minimising ones footprint; eWork; communities, which are often 'crystalised through a threat' e.g. such as suburbanising the beach; and needless to say: embedded computing and mobile ICT.

So the aim of this Future Ethnography is to straddle the "observation-implementation dialectic". They hope it to be a methodology that "reconciles the understanding through ethnography with the intervention from design". In the absense of thinking anything constructive to ask, my question was: "Can't these people (ethnographers, designers, action researchers) just meet more regularly to share their perspectives? Afterall, the political doctrine under the title of Separation of State, calls for the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government to be independent" to maintain checks-and-balances... I don't like being a stick-in-the-mud, but I think this is a common issue with multi-disciplinary research - when should concepts and practitioners merge into some hybrid of the respective parts, and when should they kept their independence but share their respective views from time-to-time? Probably, some times they should sythesise something new, while other times, not... I hate being on-the-fence too;)

Lightning can afford to strike twice

Sat, 7 Jul 2007 15:38:53 +1000

By: gosh'at' (Steve Goschnick)

This is my impression and reflection upon a research seminar given by Michael Papasimeon (in Computer Science & Software Engineering, University of Melbourne) yesterday, about modelling agent-environment interaction, inspired by the concept of Affordance from ecological psychology. The concept of Affordance from ecological psychology reminds me of lighning: if you've seen recent research on lightning using high speed photography, you may have seen that lightning not only comes from the clouds, but also a simultaneous arc rises up from the earth to meet the one coming down from the heavens, and then baaboom! the two form a single arc of action. J.J. Gibson's theory of Affordance (1979, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception) is about the 'possibilities for action that we perceive' with a given thing, material, object, space, etc. E.g. Its not a good idea to make a chair out of glass, no matter how strong it is, as people perceive it as breakable and will hesitate to sit on it. Returning to my lightning theme, church spires keep on begging to be struck, such is their affordance.

Anyway Micheal's software agent research is about 'Modelling Agent-Environment Interactions in Multi-agent Simulations', drawing inspiration from the theory of affordances. His particular area of simulation is of landscapes in which pilots fly imaginary jets, with various agents 'in-the-loop', in war-game situations. To help the agents 'choose' the possible sensible actions, affordances are put into the environment, to help them in the action-identification process, before the selection-of-action process. This is akin to putting some intelligence into the environment (Michael called it an 'illusion of intelligence' and analogous to 'intelligent labelling' of HTML with tags in the Information Agent field. He also referred to the 'annotated environment' work by Patrick Doyle reported at AAMAS'07). His models then, are about action opportunities, which in turn are: context-sensitive, view dependent, dynamic, relational. About relating perception to action, relating perception to embodiment.

Taking affordances into account, led him to modelling affective aspects of an environment as relationships, such that future possible actions taken by an agent, take into consideration: properties of objects, relations of objects, mental properties of the agents, (action-oriented) capabilities at hand, (mental-oriented) capabilities at hand. Instead of talking about 'action selection' he talked about 'affordance selection', then two broad categories of: 'affordances in the environment', and 'affordances in the head'. These two terms remind me of several things: of direct manipulation interfaces, that also reduce possible actions, and thereby simplify interfaces. And of stealth in games (simulated or otherwise) where players use affordance to distract opponents away from certain courses of action (and that reminds me that I saw the use of the term 'social stealth' the other day in a new game on the XBox 360 ... computer games continue to use and sometimes lead whatever computer science research comes up with).

Some good questions/comments were raised at the end by various attendees, including: viewing 'learning' as a 'capability' in agents, and then learning has the ability to change affordances of a given situation; and viewing affordances as communication (e.g. communicating an intention via the environment after you've moved on).

...taking that point to the extreme, I've long thought that Bluetooth could do wonders in the modern cemetery: The granite slab has some affordance as a 'stage' that is never used. Image if people left video epitaphs (and more) that fired up in your Bluetooth device as you went by the various tombs - that would certainly enliven the vast amount of land they currently under utilise! and give some credence to the concept of ghosts:)

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