Semantic Mashups

Updated: Just wanted to update everyone that the meeting has been changed to the 29th. Same venue and times.

Just wanted to drop a note that I’ll be giving a presentation on Semantic Mashups at the next Chicago Semantic Web User Group meeting in July. Here is the description of the talk:

This month the talk will be given by one of our organizers, Griffin Caprio, on Semantic Mashups.


A mashup is a web page or application that combines data or functionality from two or more external sources to create a new service. Semantic mashups take this a step further by utilizing semantic web technologies to create a richer experience. Using RDF, SPARQL and URIs, mashups can evolve past the simple reuse of data and into the discovery of new knowledge.

In this talk, we’ll be presenting sports statistic semantic mashup examples and explaining the underlying techniques and technologies that make them possible.

Speaker Bio

Griffin is a startup oriented entrepreneur with substantial experience in all phases of IT governance, product development and software engineering. Focusing on using technology to solve real problems and reducing friction of how technology affects everyday life, his company, 1530 Technologies, builds well engineered products for real world problems.

We are also scheduling some time for people to meet and talk.

Food and drinks will be provided, however it would be appreciated if you can chip in $5 to help cover our costs.

If you want to come, please RSVP using the links above. That will help us get a idea about food & drinks as well as take care of the building security.

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Usability With Web Apps

As I start working here at 1530 Technologies, I’m starting to see just how important it is to keep usability in mind.

For example, the registration process can make or break any web application. If there are too many steps involved in getting registered and if the user is not dead-set on the product, they may lose interest. I implemented two such usability improvements on one of the apps we’re working on:

  • If a user has already registered to use our service and they are not logged in, he’ll see the initial information/sign-up page. If the user inputs his name into the email sign-up form, he will be redirected to the login form with the login already filled in. This helps to reduce the amount of clicking and typing that a registered user has to go through to access the web application.
  • When a user signs up, they receive an email with a link to activate their account. Clicking on the activation link in an email will activate their account, but it will also log them in immediately (instead of having to log in manually). If a user has just activated via that unique activation url, it makes sense to automatically log him in. This also reduces mouse-clicks, typing, and time (that the user needs to look for the login form.

Given my limited knowledge, I think these are simple usability tweaks that anybody could integrate into their page. Good Luck!

Analyzing Apple's Announcements

There were some exciting announcements from Apple at WWDCtoday! Being a Mac OS X user (though still chugging along with a mid-2007 Whitebook with cracks on the edges and a not-bright-enough screen) and having an iPhone (with dust creeping under the screen), I’m pretty excited about all the new announcements. Here are my initial reactions:

  • New Laptops
    • I really like the idea of built-in batteries. Being a student in college, I’m around power outlets most of the time, but even in class, having this increased power efficiency really helps. I’m not too worried about having to buy extra batteries because I won’t ever be that far away from an outlet. If Apple is going to charge me for $129 for a new battery anyway, I don’t mind getting a longer-lasting (both one-charge-wise and life-time-wise). Though, I have heard good things about Fastmac batteries, which are only $99.
    • The old unibody macbook branded as a MacBook Pro now just makes sense. The lower prices and the (re)addition of a firewire port help to sweeten the deal for potential switchers to the OS X platform.
    • I at first was extremely excited about the price drop of the lowest end MacBook Pro to $1700, but I’m not stoked about the fact that it doesn’t have discrete graphics. Though I don’t do much gaming, having discrete graphics (after going through this horrible experience with integrated graphics only on my Macbook) is important to me. Guess I’d have to go one step up…
  • New iPhone
    • The upgraded camera seems like it would be the one killer feature for me. Having focus opens up many creative possibilities (without resorting to cases and such to provide macro capability).
    • Find My iPhone, in which you can track down a missing iPhone through MobileMe, sounds incredibly awesome (whenever I can fork out the money for MobileMe…)
    • The addition of hardware peripherals to the iPhone platform adds amazing possibilities. Turn-by-Turn GPS at last!
  • Snow Leopard
    • The updates to the Finder seem pretty cool. The Quicklook tweaks look pretty useful (though I admit I don’t use Quicklook much as it is now). I actually don’t hate the Finder as much as a lot of other people do. The one thing I’m looking for is a way to have a 2-pane view in which I could easily copy and paste things (such as dragging to Applications from a disk image)
    • OpenCL, which as I understand it is offloading normally CPU-bound tasks to the graphics processor, sounds like it could be amazing (all the more reason to get a computer with discrete graphics)
    • Text-Expander-like capabilities (predictive text-filling in based on snippets) integrated into the system seems like it could be be very useful.

All-in-all, a pretty eventful WWDC. Going to Google I/O a week ago and experiencing the conference thing (and getting a free Google Ion phone in the process), I would love to go to WWDC next year and see what (Steve Jobs, hopefully) has in store for us.

Unions and Capitalism

Labor unions have been around for decades.  They formed as a way to prevent management from treating labor unfairly and to guarantee certain rights for their members.  Labor unions subsequently rose in power and began to handicap companies ability to cut costs and maximize shareholder value.  In this way, they are counter capitalism, since capitalism is meant to maximize profits for it's shareholders.  Now, this isn't to say that labor unions are evil or a bad idea, just that the two ideas have fundamentally opposite goals.

Unfortunately, where labor unions once were the champions of honest hard working people, they became the poster child for corruption and greed.  It's no coincidence that the labor unions rose in power at the same time the Italian mafia rose in power.  Now, the nefarious element has been largely removed from the unions, but the greed still exists.  Ultimately, union leaders and members could not see the correlation between their increasingly skyrocketing salary, retirement and health demands and managements increased use of outsourcing.  After all, nothing about capitalism requires the use of domestic labor.  This has contributed to the down fall of not only companies, but entire industries and sections of the country.  Nowhere is this more evident than Detroit and the auto industry.  It's a shame that management and labor couldn't see the end coming and agree to make individual sacrifices for the good of everyone.  This doesn't mean that the American auto industry would have been saved, but it would have made it easier to compete if people weren't making $35+ an hour for assembly line jobs.  My father ran a manufacturing company for almost 20 years and in the end he was a victim of the same fate.  People sweeping the floor at his company were earning $20/hr.  In the end he just couldn't compete with foreign labor prices.

Chicago is going through its own labor union negotiations right now.  In an effort to save 1,500 city jobs, union leaders are meeting with the mayor and his administration to come to some sort of agreement.  This includes concessions on both sides, which is welcome news.  It seems as though people are starting to understand that the economy is constantly changing and shifting.  That is until I read this quote from the union chief:

"There's got to be assurances that, 10 years from now, these jobs that
our members have are still gonna be there for them," he said.

It's amazing to think that people are still looking for 10+ year job security in such a changing environment. If you have a guaranteed job for 10 years, what incentive is there for you to change?  Instead of figuring out how we can take what we have and freeze it in time to preserve it, we should be figuring out how we can better equipment the people whose jobs are going to be obsolete to tackle new jobs.  One of the strange facts about the current economy is that there are thousands of jobs that are still vacant and with no supply of people filling the positions.  Unfortunately, these jobs  are in emerging and sometimes complex industries like IT and health care.   We should be retraining people in these industries rather than trying to maintain and blue collar / assembly line economy.

Hello, 1530 Technologies

Hi, I’m Michael Chang, the intern that Griffin was talking about. I’m excited to work at 1530 Technologies this summer and get my feet wet in web development. Throughout the summer I will update the blog with what I’m working on as well as any musings I may have about the web or technology in general.

On one last note, Go Lakers!

No Chicago Semantic Web Meeting This Month

The usual meeting this month conflicts with the Semantic Web Technology Conference being held in San Jose.

Since a number of organizers and attendees will be going to the conference, we’ve decided to give everyone a break this month. We will be picking it up again in July, when I’m is planning on presenting a talk on Semantic Mashups.

I hope everyone enjoys the start of Summer!