Daily Archives: December 14, 2006

IBM Research in the News: IBM and Universities Plan Collaboration

Today’s New York Times Business Section has an article, I.B.M. and Universities Plan Collaboration, about an amibitious program involving joint research by IBM Research and universities:


I.B.M. and seven universities have agreed to embark on a series of collaborative software research projects and to make the results of the work in fields like privacy, security and medical decision-making freely available.

The initiative, which I.B.M. is expected to announce today, is a break with the usual pattern of corporate-sponsored research at universities that typically involves lengthy negotiations over intellectual property rights.

The projects are also evidence that American companies and universities are searching for ways to work together more easily and less hampered by legal wrangling about who holds the patents to research. Those negotiations, according to specialists, can take a year or more — slowing the pace of innovation and prompting companies to team with researchers in foreign countries.

The projects announced today are being done under the guidelines of the Open Collaborative Research program, which began last year with several universities and four technology companies, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Cisco, as well as I.B.M.

I.B.M. and seven universities have agreed to embark on a series of collaborative software research projects and to make the results of the work in fields like privacy, security and medical decision-making freely available.

The initiative, which I.B.M. is expected to announce today, is a break with the usual pattern of corporate-sponsored research at universities that typically involves lengthy negotiations over intellectual property rights.

The projects are also evidence that American companies and universities are searching for ways to work together more easily and less hampered by legal wrangling about who holds the patents to research. Those negotiations, according to specialists, can take a year or more — slowing the pace of innovation and prompting companies to team with researchers in foreign countries.

The projects announced today are being done under the guidelines of the Open Collaborative Research program, which began last year with several universities and four technology companies, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Cisco, as well as I.B.M.

Purdue and Carnegie Mellon University have agreed to work with I.B.M. researchers on a long-term project on privacy and security-policy management. The appeal, Ms. Bertino said, is that I.B.M. has a strong research team in security, and that working with a corporation ensures that university researchers get to work on real-world problems rather than academic theory.

In addition to security and privacy, the joint projects will be in software quality, mathematical optimization software and clinical decision support software. Besides Purdue and Carnegie Mellon, the universities are the University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Davis; Columbia University; Georgia Institute of Technology; and Rutgers University.


I first learned about the Open Collaborative Research (OCR) program well over a year ago. It is a very ambitious program to do fundamental research looking far into the future, on work that might lead to products several years into the future. A key part of the program is that any code produced by the joint efforts is to be made available in open-source form.

By the way, Stu Feldman, who has been at IBM for several years, is the Stu Feldman, known to Unix programmers everywhere as the author of “make,” one of the neatest programs ever written. (As such, he as a programmer for whom the tab character has a special meaning — but we all live to rue some of the errors of our youth.)

I envy the researchers at Purdue and Carnegie-Mellon University who will be working with IBM Research on projects about “privacy and security-policy management,” as they will have the great good fortune to work with one of IBM’s best teams, “Security and Policy,” ably led by Charles Palmer for many years. They are truly as good as it gets at what they do, and are a great group of folks. Among them is Wietse Zweitze Venema, who is mentioned in my post Yogi Yarns – On being lucky. First is not always best. The team includes a group of “ethical hackers,” folks who will test your corporation’s security in ways few people know how to do, but only at your request. As one of them said, “It’s hard for IBM to hire people in this area. Most of the really good hackers have criminal records.” (See for example DUDley Snideley on Software – shutdown shot down, and look for mention of “Cap’n Crunch.”)

I see also, among other groups, mentions of “mathematical optimization,” another area where the IBM team is world-class. Some of their work can be found in open-source form at www.coin-or.org: “The Computational Infrastructure for Operations Research (COIN-OR**, or simply COIN) project is an initiative to spur the development of open-source software for the operations research community.”

During my recent meetings with educators engaged in open-source in Indianapolis in mid-October, and more recently at the Sixth Sakai Conference in Atlanta, there have been several discussions about the difficulties universities face in struggling with the desire to be as open as possible while also trying to monetize some of the intellectual property, notably in the area of biochemistry and pharmaceuticals, that results from their research. This will be the subject of an ongoing debate and discussion for some time, as all engaged in these areas try to find the right balance.

IBM in the News: OmniFind Yahoo Edition, UIMA

I saw mention in the press recently about a joint announce from IBM and Yahoo partnership/offering. As both an IBMer and Yahoo user I was curious to see what was going on. I just did a bit of checking and learned it’s about an IBM technology called OmniFind; see IBM and Yahoo team up on corporate search. Though I haven’t deal directly with OmniFind, I understand it comes in part from IBM Research’s Almaden Lab in Silicon Valley, and it’s the search engine used to power IBM’s inside-the-firewall web site.

I did a little more investigating and see that Redmonk’s Cote' has just written an extensive and very informative post about it, Search 500,000 Documents for Free. I also located a blog by an IBMer named Marc Andrews, Marc Andrews Observations On Demand, that focuses on IBM’s Information Management (IM) Division, what we old-timers think of as the “database folks.” Marc is part of the IM team and has written several posts about OmniFind.

Marc’s blog also mentions IBM’s UIMA, something I’ve been meaning to write about. So here a few thoughts about UIMA.

UIMA stands for Unstructured Information Management Architecture. It comes from IBM Research, mainly from a team at IBM’s lab Hawthorne, NY. (I spent 15 years there — it’s a great place to work.) I first learned of it well over a year ago when I still played a role in Research’s open-source activities. I had a meeting with the chief architect, Dave Ferrucci. UIMA represents years of work at Research and is very, very good software, according to the judgment of several folks whose judgment I trust.There were then some plans to take UIMA open-source. I recall suggesting Apache was the best place to be, but then lost track of what was going on when I moved to another part of IBM.

I learned a few weeks back that UIMA finally made it to Apache. It’s now one of the incubator projects, Apache UIMA Project Incubation Status.

You can learn more about UIMA from Marc Andrews’s blog and at the IBM Research web site, An Open, Industrial-Strength Platform for Unstructured Information Analysis and Search.

Though UIMA is great software, I agree with Redmonk’s James Governor that the name leaves much to be desired. As he put it, “UIMA sounds like a body part.” It’s also a bit odd to pronounce: think “You, He, Ma!” with a silent “H.” UIMA is also an acronym; in particular an FLA, Four Letter Acronym. I’m not fond of acronyms; see Geekspeak and TLA’s.

I do know that a number of universities are interested in UIMA, and I was told a while back that someone from a major foundation was very interested in. I later confirmed that he managed to engage with IBM and even had spoken to the UIMA team in Hawthorne. It’s also used quite a bit in government, as best I understand.

So if you have an interest in this area, it’s well worth investigating.

The Wayward Word Coupon – Birthday Coupon

I received the following coupon from my daughter Jennifer, the author of the Jikes Coupon. It is dated December 8th as that is our joint birthday.

It begins with a photo of Ferrara Cafe, and continues with the following text:


Birthday Coupon

December 8th, 2006

This coupon entitles the blogger of the “Wayward Word Press” to 30 minutes of his loving daughter’s undivided attention as he waxes poetic about Thomas Friedman, Thanksgiving memories with Kermit, JE Sux, and Open Source. During this time, he may spin long yarns and dabble in puns without said daughter wondering when her dad became such a prolific and unstoppable writer. On special occasions, this coupon may be redemmable for 15 minutes of his loving wife’s undivided attention, since she hears about it every day already.

Happy Birthday!

Jennifer


links for 2006-12-14

Programming for open-ness

In a previous post I wrote about the importance of open date formats: The most important WordPress command, and how WordPress supports an open data format for blog content. Since this blog is about open-source and open-ness, let’s put on our thinking caps and explore ways in which we could make WordPress even more open.

I’m using WordPress to write this blog. As the author I have access to information you don’t.I think you should. Here’s why.

A WordPress author has access to a number of tools to assist in creating posts and managing the blog. These tools are collectively called the “Dashboard.”

“WordPress” stands for many things:

  • An open-source blogging package written in PHP and licensed under GPL;
  • A community, wordpress.org that has grown up around the software package and is responsible for its development;
  • A site, WordPress.com, that is hosts hundreds of thousands of blogs;
  • A company, automattic.com, that runs the site and employs most of the WordPress developers.

Before going further, if you are new to the world of open-source, let me suggest the following short course on open-source.

  • Point your browser to wordpress.com/signup. Follow the instructions that will let you create your very own WordPress blog, on the same site as this blog, so you’ll be able to play with the “big boys” from the get-go.
  • You’ll be asked to pick a name for your blog. If you aren’t sure, just use “twitxxx,” where “xxx” is a three-digit number.
  • Follow the instructions so you can learn to write the first post. Give it the title “?” and content “!.” That’s just two characters. It shouldn’t take long.

If you want to get a sense of the WordPress software, let you browser take you to wordpress.org. Poke around, especially the documentation (“Docs”) section.

Once you’ve written the post, you can explore other “Dashboard” functions; for example, “stats” will tell you about your readership.

Here’s a brief summary of the Dashboard options:

  • Dashboard
    • Dashboard – summary of recent posts and comments
    • Blog Stats – summary of total views, referrers (how people reached your site), posts views (with total views for each)
    • Feed Stats – number of people reading your posts via feeds
    • Friend Surfer – a way to share with your friends and family (I haven’t used this yet)
    • My Comments – links to comments you have made in other WordPress.com blogs that refer back to your blog.
    • Tag Surfer – list of posts by people using same tags you do
  • Write
    • Post – to write a new post
    • Page – to write a new page
    • Note: You can have outstanding entries for each of these – things you have started but not yet finished.
  • Manage – manage your prior posts, comments, and such. Manage means view, revise, or delete.
    • Posts
    • Pages
    • Uploads – files you have uploaded (I haven’t uploaded files yet)
    • Categories – create and delete categories (Categories are similar to tags. I’ll be discussing how to manage them in a forthcoming post.)
    • Import – to incorporate content from another blog, typically when converting from another blog to WordPress
    • Export – to save your content. See The most important WordPress command
  • Comments – to mange user comments
  • Awaiting moderation – to review comments, either because you have asked to review all comments, or because WordPress has found one that it thinks needs your attention (these are usually spam. I’ve only gotten a couple of them.)
  • Askismet spam – a list of comments that have been automatically deleted by Akismet. (Reviewing this from time to time can cause one to rethink one’s views about the death penalty.)
  • BlogRoll – managing a list of blogs you think your readers may find of interest. (I used to have, but pulled it down a while back, lest people think that the folks on the BlogRoll might be endorsing my views.)
  • Presentation – used to decide how your content is presented.
    • Theme – revise your theme, the overall look and feel of your blog. I used to use this, but am now locked into Cutline by Chris Pearson. See Ferrara Cafe, and so won’t be using it for some time.
    • Custom Image Header – to select image for your blog header. Per previous entry, I’m locked in Ferrara Cafe, and so don’t use this.
    • Sidebar Widgets – choosing the widgets, such as the “Search” box and the “Calendar” that help uses navigate your content.
    • Edit CSS – to edit you Cascadign Style Sheets (CSS). This lets you customize your site. You need to be an expert and you need to pay to get the right to do this. I live a simple life, and so don’t do this. See Keep it simple – live a default life
  • Users – manage who can read and mofidy the blog to modify. I live with the defaults here.
    • Authors & Users – to manage the lists of readers, authors, and contributors
    • Your Profile – basic info about you as the author, including the password
    • Invite – form that helps write mail to folks you think might want to try WordPress
  • Options – basic information about the blog, such as title, date format, and such
  • Upgrades – additional functions you can get if you are willing to pay for them, such as getting more space to store uploaded files.

    All these Dashboard functions are currently available only to the author. But, if I want to be as open as possible, then for example I have no objection to people being able to see my Blog Stats, including Referrers, Views per post, the graph of traffic over the last month, and so forth.

    Beyond that, I’m willing to share anything that doesn’t allow someone else to hijack my blog. For example, you shouldn’t be able to read or modify the password, nor should you be able to write content, or delete posts. On the other hand, you should be able to see my options, which upgrades if any I have purchased, and so forth.

    For example, I’m a big fan of newegg. I would be willing to share my account info, so you could see what I bought and when I did, and perhaps even what I paid. It’s my information, after all, so why should I have to manually copy it over to make it available to you?

    I think this would be useful for any piece of software that is meant to be used as a web application – give the author as much freedom of action as possible, so they can a open as they desire. Why, assume that since some Dashboard options must be available only to the option, then all should be. Let the author allow allow others to look over their shoulder, so to speak, but make sure only that author controls the keyboard.

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