Reducing your printing

Cutting down on printing

The green agenda is everyone’s agenda.  Reading in Friday’s Irish Times paper about HP’s effort to up the recycling content in its cartridges reminds me of how much I have been able to reduce my own printing output in the last number of months.

I have become completely fed up with the idea of receiving a document or a link to a document, downloading it from mail or the internet, printing it out, reading it and binning it or having to find a home for it.  Apart from the obvious waste (ink, paper) the inefficiency and delays in all of this have been annoying me.

In the last number of months I have deliberately tried to review more documents online and capture my thoughts re the documents online.  I have used products such as Posterous and Google’s side wiki to comment where I want to do so publicly, I have kept notes using products including EverNote.  I have added research links and documents to Zotero.  I also use Google Reader and this blog.

My professional training with a large accounting firm provided me with a disciplined approach for reviewing documents, marking up comments, reviewing revised drafts.  In the 80’s this was a paper based exercise.  I have found now working with various word processing packages all of this can be done more effectively online – so long as you know how to use the product and the various features designed to track and report changes.

I have often heard people comment that ‘I can’t review this without printing it out’.  I, for one, have changed my view on this.  Now I generally  prefer to review documents online.  I do think however that those creating documents for review may want to think through their approach to facilitate online review.

So while I would welcome initiatives by companies such as HP to up the green factor in their products I suspect the real way forward is to reduce the volume of printing.  Anyway, if you want to run your business in the cloud then there seems very little sense in carrying around mountains of paper.

Thinking about the scope of semantic web

What’s the semantic web all about?

Read an excellent summary paper by Mills Davis of Project 10X.  Interesting description of the ‘notion’ of semantic web: The key notion of semantic technology is to represent meanings and knowledge (e.g., knowledge of something, knowledge about something, and knowledge how to do something, etc.) separately from content or behavior artifacts, in a digital form that both people and machines can access and interpret.

Would recommend the summary paper to anyone looking to gain an insight into the semantic web 3.0 and its potential.

Email to survive for some time

Andrew McAfee has been blogging recently on coexistence of email and enterprise 2.0/collaboration type tools in the enterprise.  His hypothesis is: ‘Within organizations, collaboration technologies are dictated by the most powerful person involved in the collaboration’.
And following on from this, given the number of CEO’s wedded to email, would seem that email will continue to be the core communications/ collaboration tool for some time, in many organisations.

I think of the challenge differently.  The CEO operates in  a competitive environment, charged with delivering results for the shareholders.  If there’s a better way to run a company many CEO’s will be open to the change.  If there is a better way than email then it’s up to those who understand the alternatives to paint the picture.  There are plenty of CEOs out there who will switch tool sets if they believe in the benefits.

I think the idea of ’email as the graveyard of knowledge’ would be well understood by many CEOs.  In fact many would argue that email, computers, software, in general have been the graveyard of creativity, ‘spark’, stimulating interaction.  Notwithstanding this level of frustration I think many can see the potential benefits of ‘wiki-type’ tools (incorporating social networking functionality) over some combination of email and Word/PowerPoint/ Excel.

Semantic Web 1: Semantics – what is an ontology?

To a computer, the Web is a flat, boring world, devoid of meaning. This is a pity, as in fact documents on the Web describe real objects and imaginary concepts, and give particular relationships between them. For example, a document might describe a person. The title document to a house describes a house and also the ownership relation with a person. Adding semantics to the Web involves two things: allowing documents which have information in machine-readable forms, and allowing links to be created with relationship values. Only when we have this extra level of semantics will we be able to use computer power to help us exploit the information to a greater extent than our own reading.

– Tim Berners-Lee “W3 future directions” keynote, 1st World Wide Web Conference Geneva, May 1994

hen we speak of web 3.0 and the semantic web we focus on computer processing/ understanding of web content.  Currently web sites are ‘marked up’ to make them easier for us as readers of the site to follow them.  Using HTML certain text is marked as a ‘header’, certain text is marked as ‘bold‘, as indented, etc.  All of this facilitates us, as humans, in reading and following/ understanding the content.  But, more importantly, we understand much of the content based on our own knowledge, the context of each phrase/ sentence, etc.

So, how much of this data on the web could be processed (‘understood’) by computers, analysed and presented back to us as humans in a useful format e.g. categorised, annotated, summarised, ranked, etc?  Broadly there are two possible ways forward: software which can figure out what the content is about (Natural Language Processing etc.) or some additional ‘marking-up’ of the content – to flag what specific terms/ words/ phrases mean.

Natural Language Processing is a major area – huge rseearch completed and ongoing, major advances made over the years.

On the mark up front there have also been significant advances and product offerings.

One core element in all of this computer processing/’understanding’ is agreement of the meaning of terms/ concepts – hence the use of the phrase ‘semantics’.  We are all familiar with the phrase often used in trying to resolve/ advance arguments: ‘it’s a question of semantics’.  Generally the intent of the phrase is to say that the antagonist and protagonist agree conceptually but that much of the disagreement is accounted for by misunderstanding/ different understanding of the terms being used by either party.

Dealing with concepts, their relationships and meanings is addressed using ONTOLOGIES.  The semantic web has given rise to a whole field in the development, publication and maintenance of ontologies.  Rather than trying to explain ‘ontologies’ in detail here I think this short video – focused on introducing ‘biomedical ontologies’ – does a great job of explaining the concept of and use for ontologies.

Making Dublin a smart city

Interesting piece in Fortune

San Francisco gets smart with green technology

…in the context of Ireland and its drive for a smart economy and knowledge society.

As I stand at bus stops wondering when the next bus is due and I think about the technology which is so easily available I wonder why we are not moving forward faster e.g. integrated ticketing?

Dublin needs to be a smart city.  Press on asap.  Food for thought in this article.