Google Tech Talk: Fixing Electronic Literature … with Transclusion

Fascinating Tech Talk by Ted Nelson. For those who haven’t heard of him Nelson is the man who coined the phrase hypertext all the way back in 1963. Nelson has spent several decades trying to make computers easily accessible to ordinary people. He’s been working towards finding ways to improve web structure, arguing that as it stands the web is actually very limited by browsers we use and that the one-way links that appear on pages actually limit connectivity. In part he attributes this to the fact that the web imitates paper … watch the talk to understand why I wont delve into that here.

He’s an advocate of Transclusion based hypertext, the idea of including parts of documents within other documents by reference, so you aren’t storing the same bits of information twice.

After listening to the tech talk what strikes me is that this kind of approach will work well when the transcluded sections of text are actually self contained and that the meaning and the validity of the text is independent of the context in which it is transcluded into other documents. I don’t know how well that would work since context forms an important part of any document, and its very difficult to write documents without forming some kind of context, that’s why there’s always an inherent danger when you tug in a quote that you might mis-represent it or use it in a context it was never intended to ( just ask the Pope!). I know Nelson says that you can compare the context side by side, yet this doesn’t seem intuitive to me.

I know the man is the genius who is credited for inventing hypertext so why am I not convinced, am I missing something? Any thoughts anyone?

Actually thinking about it the Xanadu document browser Nelson shows off in the tech talk, is very similar to a Document Hyper browser developed at Xerox Research that Alan once showed me. I cant find any reference to it … but I’m seeing him tomorrow so I’ll ask him.

Google Tech Talk: Are there search-engine distruptive ideas?

An excellent tech talk about what kinds of technology could be potentially disruptive to Google, and how it to understand it and how to turn these into positives.

The talk focuses around the democratization of  information and the cultural implications of this. What I found really interesting is that this talk touched on several points that Alan made during his talks to our group yesterday about providing better semantic support for users trying to find information.

It’s a truly fascinating talk and if your working with search engines do watch this talk!

Google Tech Talk : 7 ways to ruin a technological revolution

James Boyle gives a fascinating talk about how one might go about undermining the technological revolution of the last 30 years. It’s an alarmist talk, he exaggerates for comic effect but not all that much and it’s extremely thought provoking, especially when we consider the question … how many of those things are we doing now? Much of the talk is around Intellectual Property rights and what that has meant to the technological revolution up and until now, and also how it might evolve going forward. Also he touches on Google’s standpoint on copyright and IP with reference to the Libraries project and Google Books.

One of the funniest anecdotes he mentions is when he spoke to someone from one of the collections societies and said to them “theres always been a private space where people can enjoy music, like in the shower” to which the indivual replied “thats just a problem of monitoring” , on the grounds that it could be interpreted as a performance! 😉

Code reviews at Google with Mondrian

Another excellent Tech Talk. Our development group at Talis has been experimenting with different ways to carry out code reviews and I think its safe to say were still trying to find what works best for us.

I think this tech talk is very relevant not just to the discussions were having internally, but to any organisation that is serious about wanting to ensure that they are developing great, maintainable software.

Hashing, Searching and Sketching

We are doing a lot of work at Talis at the moment on refining the indexing and searching capabilities in our platform. To that end I’ve trying to get up to speed on subject; anyway I came across this fascinating tech talk over at google on using Hashing and Sketching to get improved search results. Its a little over an hour long, and does get very technical in parts but nonetheless it gives a really insight into the possible gains that can be achieved through locality sensitive hashing functions and sketching ( the compression of large complex objects into a few bytes and then comparing these representations to determine how similar objects are).

Robot Introspection: Self Modeling.

Josh Bongard, Victor Zykov and Hod Lipson over at Cornell University have been working on a very interesting research project developing a small robot that can create an “internal model” of itself and then use that model to generate successful motor patterns for movement, before and after damage.

This is based on the notion that higher order animals, like ourselves, have some form of an “internal model”, even though we dont necessarily think about it consciously, yet it helps us to plan complex action and understand their consequences. For example we know if we fall from a great height we could break our legs, if we put our hand through a flame it will burn ( and yes thats generally a bad thing! ) – more fundementally we know we have two arms, two legs, we know where they are in relation to each other and we understand how to use them, as well as what their limitations are.

The guys at Cornell have succeeded in demonstrating how a small long legged robot can synthesize a model of its own topology and then based on this model it can navigate around a small environment and in doing so synthesizes new behaviour before and after it has been damaged, Think of it in terms of a person who has to get from one side of a burning room to an exit on the other side and cant walk because his/her legs are damaged – most humans wont simply lay down and wait, we would crawl, or drag ourselves along.

Here’s a picture of the robot they have developed

Is it just me or does their robot look a hell of a lot like those replicators from Stargate SG1?

You learn more about this research at the projects homepage here.

Here’s a really cool video of the robot in action.

Here’s a link to to their latest publication on the project entitled “Resilient Machines Through Continuous Self-Modelling“, which is well worth reading.

Cluster your JVM to simplify application architecture

Watched this tech talk over at google today, about using Terracotta’s DSO to act as network attached memory sharing critical parts of the Java Heap across servers. The talk focuses on how clustering in the runtime provides a simpler development environment without hindering scale out.

Got me thinking about how this could be quite useful for building distributed applications.

Find out more at http://www.terracottatech.com/.