Archive for settembre 2006

The future of the internet

29 settembre 2006

Pew Internet & American Life project has released the second part of its report The Future of the Internet: the paper (115 pages in .pdf) consists of a survey of internet leaders, activists, and analysts showing that a majority agree with predictions that “by 2020:

  • A low-cost global network will be thriving and creating new opportunities in a “flattening” world.
  • Humans will remain in charge of technology, even as more activity is automated and “smart agents” proliferate. However, a significant 42% of survey respondents were pessimistic about humans’ ability to control the technology in the future. This significant majority agreed that dangers and dependencies will grow beyond our ability to stay in charge of technology. This was one of the major surprises in the survey.
  • Virtual reality will be compelling enough to enhance worker productivity and also spawn new addiction problems.
  • Tech “refuseniks” will emerge as a cultural group characterized by their choice to live off the network. Some will do this as a benign way to limit information overload, while others will commit acts of violence and terror against technology-inspired change.
  • People will wittingly and unwittingly disclose more about themselves, gaining some benefits in the process even as they lose some privacy.
  • English will be a universal language of global communications, but other languages will not be displaced. Indeed, many felt other languages such as Mandarin, would grow in prominence.
  • At the same time, there was strong dispute about those futuristic scenarios among notable numbers of 742 respondents to survey conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and Elon University.

    Those who raised challenges believe that governments and corporations will not necessarily embrace policies that will allow the network to spread to under-served populations; that serious social inequalities will persist; and that “addiction” is an inappropriate notion to attach to people’s interest in virtual environments.

    The experts and analysts also split evenly on a central question of whether the world will be a better place in 2020 due to the greater transparency of people and institutions afforded by the internet: 46% agreed that the benefits of greater transparency of organizations and individuals would outweigh the privacy costs and 49% disagreed.”

    Read the whole paper and the 1st part of the report on Pew website.

    Cinque regole per un blog di successo

    28 settembre 2006

    Chi scrive su un blog sa quanto sia necessario proporre informazioni (almeno potenzialmente) di interesse per l’audience di riferimento, ma anche come sia imprescindibile confezionare gli aspetti formali relativi alla comunicazione affinché i contenuti ed il messaggio dei quali il blog si fa medium passino nella maniera più efficace e attraente possibile

    Pronet Advertising offre 5 regole per creare – e mantenere – un blog di successo – eccone un estratto:

    “Although the blogosphere is a new space on the web, it is starting to become a crowded. Millions of bloggers are writing on a daily basis and many of them are writing on similar topics. Because of the sheer number of blogs fighting for the same eyeballs, it is becoming harder to become popular, so the question is how do you make your blog stand out from the rest?

    Most blogs have 1 major thing in common, they are content centric. Content is going to get new visitors to your blog and keep your old readers reading. Here are some things to keep in mind when writing blog posts.

    1. Write quality content that readers can benefit from.
    2. Write on a consistent basis. There is nothing wrong with blogging on a daily, weekly or even on a monthly basis, but whatever your blogging schedule is, try to keep it consistent.
    3. Participate in conversations, it allows you to give your input on the latest happenings.
    4. Keep your content short and to the point. Om Malik once said that it is better to write something in 500 words than 1000 words.

    Steve Krug wrote a book called Don’t Make Me Think and that’s exactly what you should be aiming for when visitors comes to your blog. Here are a couple things to keep in mind.

    1. Your website’s content should be easy to read as well as easy to navigate.
    2. Make it easy for people to find your content by using categories and by having a search feature on your blog.
    3. Make your RSS subscription button easy to access for anyone looking to read your content from a RSS reader.
    4. Limit the options and features on your blog.
    5. Try to avoid technical jargon when possible and when you cannot try to explain the jargon in as few words as possible.

    You can have the best blog in the world, but it does not matter if people cannot find it. Use search engines, blog search engines and the social mediums to bring visitors into your blog.
    Search engines – Make sure your blog is optimized for search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN…), that way you have a good chance of getting traffic from them. There are many online documents that give step by step instructions on how you can optimize your blog.
    Blog search engines – ping the blog search engines through services like Ping-o-matic and Pingoat. That way when you post a new entry people can find it through blog search engines such as Technorati and IceRocket.
    Social mediums – Get your content out on sites like digg or

    Try to differentiate yourself from your competition. Standing out is not always a bad thing, if your blog stands out from the crowd it will draw more attention and potentially make it more popular.

    The most important thing that a blogger can do is listen to his/her readers. It is not all about you, it is all about the reader. You can have a great blog, but if you ignore your readers sooner or later they will ignore you and even stop reading your blog.”

    WIF: l’impact factor dei siti web

    25 settembre 2006

    A proposito di qualità – del web, delle enciclopedie autoprodotte e dei meccanismi di rilevazione della popolarità dei siti: Alireza Noruzi, già citato in questo blog (e mio personal guru ;-), ha depositato di recente su E-LIS un paper sul WIF (Web Impact Factor), dal titolo The Web Impact factor: a critical review.

    Evidentemente il web dà luogo ad articolazioni concettuali e reti teoriche radicalmente diverse da quelle che è possibile rintracciare nel mondo delle riviste, e così la metodologia di misurazione ha dovuto adeguarsi.

    “The WIF provides quantitative tools for ranking, evaluating, categorizing, and comparing web sites, top-level domains and sub-domains. There are three types of link. Outgoing links from web pages are here named outlinks, links coming into a site from other sites: inlinks (backlinks), and links within the same site (from one page to another page) self-links. And there are three types of WIF: overall WIF, inlink (revised) WIF, and self-link WIF.”

    Noruzi traccia una breve storia del WIF e sottolinea come in breve sia emersa tra gli studiosi dell’informazione l’esigenza di adeguare e rinnovare il WIF, passando dalla sua prima formulazione alla teoria del WIF revisited, che cerca di limitare le storture connesse al modello troppo semplicistico del parametro iniziale.

    Il paper suscita molti interrogativi sulle reali chances di individuare uno standard quantitativo per la valutazione delle risorse web, spesso mettendo il lettore in guardia sulle modalità di applicazione del WIF e sulle conclusioni che è possibile e/o legittimo trarre da WIF di un certo tipo, fino a concludere salomonicamente:

    The WIF, as explained in the above, is a useful tool for evaluation of web sites, but it must be used discreetly. […] The WIFs are always approximate and not absolute. […] The WIF would still be far from being a quality indicator: link impact is primarily a measure of scientific utility rather than of scientific quality. The WIF is not a perfect tool to measure the quality of web sites but there is nothing better and it has the advantage of already being in existence and is, therefore, a technique for quantitative evaluation of web sites.”

    Wikipedia e i suoi cloni

    22 settembre 2006

    Confortante notare come l’Italia non sia la sola patria di scissioni, rifondazioni, palingenesi e rinascite varie ;-)

    Il co-fondatore di Wikipedia, Larry Sanger, ha infatti dato vita un altro dominio per la creazione e l’archiviazione della conoscenza: Citizendium che sarà però alternativo a Wikipedia, in quanto fondamentalmente basato sull’apporto di esperti che forniscono informazione accreditata e validano le entries altrui:

    Wikipedia has already driven off no doubt thousands of would-be contributors, and there are thousands, if not millions, of people who never would think about contributing to Wikipedia in the first place. We want to set up, not a replacement, but an alternative to Wikipedia, a responsible constitutional republic that makes a special place for experts and invites the general public to work shoulder-to-shoulder with them, he wrote.

    With over a million articles, and a rulebook almost as dense, Wikipedia has demonstrated an insatiable desire to participate, create lists and generate procedures. The result is a huge silo of recorded trivia, and perhaps the world’s largest, most distributed bureaucracy – mostly manned by a casual staff of teenagers and the unemployed.

    Sanger said he thought that humanity can do better than Wikipedia, and Wikipedia’s shortcomings today were probably unsolvable.”

    Le citazioni sono tratte da The Register, ma negli ultimi giorni la notizia si è propagata in rete in miriadi di articoli… La diagnosi di Sanger su Wikipedia sembra non lasciare appello: la battaglia per un’informazione aperta e democratica e però anche di qualità e accreditata, è aperta…

    DRIVER: networking european scientific repositories

    20 settembre 2006

    At last also Europe is going to deploy a common policy for repositories of scientific and academic resources… An international partnership has started work on a project to build a large-scale public infrastructure for research information across Europe.

    The Digital Repository Infrastructure Vision for European Research (DRIVER) project responds to the vision that any form of scientific-content resource, including scientific/technical reports, research articles, experimental or observational data, rich media and other digital objects should be freely accessible through simple Internet-based infrastructures.

    Like GEANT2, the successful European network for computing resources, data storage and transport, the new DRIVER repository infrastructure will enable researchers to plug into the new knowledge base and use scientific content in a standardised, open way. The project is funded by the European Commission under the auspices of the “Research Infrastructure” unit.

    Open Access to research information is vital for researchers and helps the public appreciation and understanding of science. DRIVER will be helping countries to create networks of openly-accessible repositories for research information.

    DRIVER will demonstrate the potential of a future pan-European Digital Repository service to researchers, research-funding agencies and institutions. Availability of such a basic scientific content infrastructure should encourage academic and/or non-academic service providers to build high-valued and innovative services on top of it.

    By now partners of DRIVER are:

    Quality assessment per l’informazione online

    18 settembre 2006

    Sulla scorta di alcuni materiali letti negli ultimi tempi mi piacerebbe avviare una riflessione sulla quality assessment del web, e sulle esperienze che cercano di interpretarla. Paolo Avesani e Diego Sona, che hanno presentato il loro progetto Quiew in Bicocca in occasione del secondo meeting ISKOI, hanno sollecitato l’interesse verso forme di selezione e indicizzazione dell’informazione gestite da software come quello su cui lavorano all’ITC-SRA.

    Anche il lavoro di Thomas Mandl, Aquaint, presentato nel paper Implementation and evaluation of a quality-based search engine, mira all’obiettivo di realizzare un software in grado di operare una valutazione dell’informazione online. I formati delle risorse oggetto della selezione sono rappresentati dall’ampio spettro che va dai siti web ai testi in pdf alle slide ai feed RSS etc.

    Quiew inoltre si occupa anche di categorizzazione dell’informazione censita, mentre lo scopo di Aquaint è semplicemente quello di procurare, in base al matching di parametri codificati, informazione pertinente in maniera efficace.

    Il punto di partenza però è lo stesso: analisi dei meccanismi che presiedono al ranking dei motori di ricerca (link analysis) e delle loro distorsioni (effetto Matthew, Google bombs etc.) e attenzione alla difficoltà di rintracciare termini oggettivi e stabili di valutazione dell’informazione online.

    Quiew realizza un meccanismo di apprendimento per cui, a fronte di una selezione effettuata ex-ante dal software, esiste la possibilità, per il catalogatore cui la risorsa online venga sottoposta, di accogliere la segnalazione, e quindi validare la risorsa, oppure rigettarla e quindi respingere con essa i contestuali criteri selettivi del motore.

    Aquaint si basa invece su decine e decine di feature individuate come fondanti per una valutazione della qualità dei siti web: una sorta di griglia di Whittaker in azione per l’analisi informativa. L’aspetto che trovo interessante, qui, è l’attenzione alle forme esteriori di un sito: grafica, disposizione dei contenuti, layout, DOM.

    Rimando alle due presentazioni per gli approfondimenti del caso, ma rilevo come il ranking qualitativo sia diventato un obiettivo e una sfida ormai presente in molti progetti di recupero dell’informazione così come nella riflessione sul futuro dei motori di ricerca.