Google boost Jabber + VOIP, Skype releases IM toolkit, Jabber for P2P SPARQL?

Interesting times for the personal Semantic Web: “Any client that supports Jabber/XMPP can connect to the Google Talk service” Google Talk and Open Communications. It does voice calls too, using “a custom XMPP-based signaling protocol and peer-to-peer communication mechanism. We will fully document this protocol. In the near future, we plan to support SIP signaling.”

Meanwhile, Skype (the P2P-based VOIP and messaging system) have apparently released developer tools for their IM system. From a ZDNet article:

“Skype to wants to embrace the rest of Internet,” Skype co-founder Janus Friis said during a recent interview.

He did offer hypothetical examples. Online gamers involved in massive multiple player mayhem could use Skype IM to taunt rivals and discuss strategy with teammates. Skype’s IM features could be incorporated, Friss suggests, into software-based media players for personal computers, Web sites for dating, blogging or “eBay kinds of auctions,” Friis said.

I spent some time recently looking at collaborative globe-browsing with Google Earth (ie. giving and taking of tours), and yesterday, revisiting Jabber/XMPP as a possible transport for SPARQL queries and responses between friends and FOAFs. Both apps could get a healthy boost from these developments in the industry. Skype is great but the technology could do with being more open; maybe the nudge from Google will help there. Jabber is great but … hardly used by the people I chat with (who are split across MSN, Yahoo, AIM, Skype and IRC).

For a long time I’ve wanted to do RDF queries in a P2P context (eg. see book chapter I wrote with Rael Dornfest). Given Apple’s recent boost for Jabber, and now this from Google, the technology looks to have a healthy future. I want to try exposing desktop, laptop etc RDF collections (addressbooks, calendars, music, photos) directly as SPARQL endpoints exposed via Jabber. There will be some fiddly details, but the basic idea is that Jabber users (including Google and Apple customers) could have some way to expose aspects of their local data for query by their friends and FOAFs, without having to upload it all to some central Web site.

Next practical question: which Jabber software library to start hacking with? I was using Rich Kilmer’s Jabber4R but read that it wasn’t unmaintained, so wondering about switching to Perl or Python…

Balkan Barnraiser

I’m reading up on the Barnraiser project after Tom Calthrop got in touch about FOAF. Their Web site offers open source ‘social software’, as well as reports on incubator projects such as their Kosovo research tour (see project plan) from last year.

In 2004 we started work in both Kosovo and Serbia in incubating interest in ICT and in our platform. This became known as “the Kosovo youth project”, however we prefer to call it our “Balkan youth project” as it is expanding throughout the region.

In the mid 90’s war broke out across many parts of the Balkan region. This culminated in NATOs bombing of Serbia which lead to its eventual defeat in the Summer of 1999. Serbian forces fleeing Kosovo left behind them a land ethnically cleansed with hundreds of thousand of refugees returning from Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. The UN took over the administration of the province and the task of rebuilding its society started.

Today the need for education in Kosovo is vast, enhanced by the large number of disabled victims of war that find it hard to receive a standard education.

The economy is poor. International aid is being reduced and unemployment is on the rise (currently estimated at between 60% and 80%). Youth are increasingly finding it hard to see any future for themselves or their families.

Despite the problems, there are success stories in Kosovo. With the influx of aid in the past 5 years, Kosovo has a broadband wireless Internet infrastructure. Pristina, the capitol has over 100 Internet cafés alone giving youth plentiful access to Internet based communications technology (ICT).

Most Kosovo youth use the Internet for chatting and playing multi-player games. Sadly, they are unaware of the potential to learn using the world wide web for educational purposes Here we see a vivid reminder that installing hardware and providing Internet access alone is not enough.

Our project is run by local youth in Kosovo. In their words, “to provide us with an Internet based network to better our education, move us towards economic growth and self sustainability and allow us to participate in the information society”.

Looks like a very worthy (and timely) project. I hope to find some way to help…

The stuff people are made of

Brain and spinal cord with attached spinal nerve roots and dorsal root ganglia. Functional Neuroanatomy of Man, ie. Neurology section from Gray's Anatomy, 35th edition. p807
Just saturday-morning-stumbled upon Channel 4’s Anatomy for beginners site, via Dead Interesting, via Flickr. I missed the TV series (as well as the Body Worlds touring exhibition), but the Web site has plenty. There are sections on the anatomy of movement, circulation, digestion, and reproduction. The image used here isn’t from that site, but taken from an old Neuroanatomy textbook. While we’re used to seeing disembodied images of the brain in popular media, it is still fairly unusual (and hence unsettling, like Channel 4’s Anatomy website) to see it partially embodied, ie. with a spine attached. I often wonder whether people would think about the relationship between brains and minds differently if they were more accustomed to seeing such images…

Nearby: Anatomy in Wikipedia

Empathy, Art or Science?

head of a  papier-mâché model from Dr. Auzoux collection, Smithsonian.From xForums, “the last bastion of intelligent discussion”, via Daily Kos:

That sucks and the guy deserves money but it’s really not the guards fault his spine is made out of paper mache.

If America were Iraq what would it be?, Juan Cole (Informed Comment, 22 September 2004).

What if, from time to time, the US Army besieged Virginia Beach, killing hundreds of armed members of the Christian Soldiers? What if entire platoons of the Christian Soldiers militia holed up in Arlington National Cemetery, and were bombarded by US Air Force warplanes daily, destroying thousands of graves and even pulverizing the Vietnam Memorial over on the Mall? What if the National Council of Churches had to call for a popular march of thousands of believers to converge on the National Cathedral to stop the US Army from demolishing it to get at a rogue band of the Timothy McVeigh Memorial Brigades?

Papier Mâchè spine xrayImagine having a papier mâchè spine…

SVG-based MozMapEditor

MozMapEditor screenshots look very promising. Layered map overlays, with polygon/polyline/point authoring, all built with XUL and SVG in Mozilla. I hope the overlays can be disentangled from the SVG and reused in GML, KML etc. There’s a mozdev site on the way…

Anti-Marxist Propaganda Methods

A couple of excerpts from the fascinating Nazi and East German Propaganda archives (see their FAQ), including pre-1933 publications and training materials. Makes for very unsettling reading.

It is nonsense to think that a popular style of speaking (which often turns out to be vulgar) is enough to win sympathy for the speaker in a meeting of workers. The opposite! The Marxist worker can tell what is genuine and what is artificial. When he sees that a speaker has taken on a “popular” style of speaking, or that he wears a shirt without a collar, or rolled up sleeves or other things like that, he becomes reserved and critical. Obviously a workers’ meeting is not a university auditorium. The speech must be simple and clear. But coarse language and shabby clothing generally harm the overall impression, just as do an elevated, lecturing style and elegant dress.


They want a plausible justification and good reasons for doing what they instinctively feel. For decades the materialist worldview was pumped into them. They learned to evaluate everything from a materialistic and rational perspective. As convinced Marxists, they were ruled by cold, clear reason, not be feelings. Mind and stomach, not heart and soul, were the driving forces behind events. In their heart and soul many of these former Marxist workers are already National Socialists; only their materialism keeps them from breaking with the false gods of the past.

The movement’s speaker has the task of making it easier for Marxist workers to break with the past. He must be ready and able to give these citizens a logical basis for their emotional longing for National Socialism. He can do that only by knowing the Marxist worldview as well as he knows his own. He must be able to deal directly with the ideas of Marxists in the audience. He must be able to handle even the best Marxist discussion speakers.

Leaflet map

The task of putting some of this information on the map is rather daunting, once you actually start wading through a pile of leaflets looking for locations, places, times, contacts details, Web addresses. But I think it can be decentralised, and the folk who make the leaflets, maps and guides for a city have a lot to gain from making their content more machine-accessible and freely share-able. Well, most of them do.

PortCities Bristol Watershed Cinema CITIZINE Colston Hall Decode Bristol International Twinnings Association Bristol Evening Post Venue Days Out Guide 2005 Southbank-Bristol Arts Trail Clifton Suspension Bridge - Free Guided Tours ARAG newsletter - news from the Somali community activePosters - "Connecting pringed matter to a world of on-line content" Depict! "Can you do it in 90 seconds?" Guided Walks of Bristol The Cube Microplex Creative Bristol St Werburghs Community Centre The Bristol China Partnership Relay audio toor "Your gude to council services and city news... and your summer fun events calendar" Ian McNabb plays the Prom, Sat 10th Sept 2005 Southbank Bristol Walkshops - walking workshops with your digital camera At-Bristol Crossing Continents - Stories of migration and the search for a better life (exhibition at the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum) Empire and us, at the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum Fresh Five - Young People's Film Festival, at the Watershed Bristol Visitor - "The Bristol Tour with live guides and headphones" The Prom (Nov 2004 listings) Bluescreen - open film screenings, at the Cube Microplex Bristol Fairtrade Directory A stroll in the Park - Celebrating 25 years of extraordinary street theatre, Bristol‑based Desperate Men invite you to accompany them on a free promenade and voyage of discovery. Venue Magazine Part-time and Short Courses - Lifelong Learning for the General Public Wessex Trains' pocket guide, available from Uni Bristol for students Bristol University International Affairs Society see Indymedia - 'In light of recent events at the Easton Community Centre we, some of the former staff at the Centre, feel it is important to express our incredible sadness and anger regarding the decision to close the Centre without any community-wide consultation.' Haunted and Hidden Bristol Walking Tour 20p books and the Decorated World Ordnance Survey - Britain's national mapping agency Bristol c/o Google Maps