Author Archives for Fran

The Information Master – Louis XIV’s Knowledge Manager

January 4, 2014 4:38 pm Published by 2 Comments

I recently read The Information Master: Jean-Baptiste Colbert‘s Secret State Intelligence System by Jacob Soll. It is a very readable but scholarly book that tells the story of how Colbert used the accumulation of knowledge to build a highly efficient administrative system and to promote his own political career. He seems to have been the first person to seize upon the notion of “evidence-based” politics and that knowledge, information and data collection, and scholarship could be used to serve the interests of statecraft. In this way he is an ancestor of much of the thinking that is commonplace not only... Read more »


On being the only girl in the room

December 14, 2013 10:55 am Published by 1 Comment

Perhaps it is because I am settling into a new culture, or perhaps it is because my new time zone has altered the nature of what I see in my Twitter feed, but there seem to have been a spate of articles lately about sexism faced by women working in technology, which makes me very sad. This was on my mind when I received from a former colleague a copy of a report we had co-authored. As I read the list of names, I was struck by how wonderful a group of guys they were, how intelligent, creative, and technically... Read more »


How semantic search helps girls and boys, but in different ways

September 1, 2013 5:36 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

While researching something else, I happened upon this rather cheering paper: The effect of semantic technologies on the exploration of the web of knowledge by female and male users. Gender issues only tangentially affect my core research, as I generally focus on linguistic communities that are defined by organizational or professional context, so gender effects are rather diluted by that point. I also prefer collapsing false dichotomies rather than emphasizing difference and division, and so I was very heartened that this article shows how semantic techniques can be unifying. The study is based on observing the search strategies of a... Read more »


Semantic Search – Call for Papers for Special Issue on Semantic Search for Aslib Journal

August 3, 2013 3:00 pm Published by 1 Comment

This special issue aims to explore the possibilities and limitations of Semantic Search. We are particularly interested in papers that place carefully conducted studies into the wider framework of current Semantic Search research in the broader context of Linked Open Data. Research into Semantic Search and its applications has been gaining momentum over the last few years, with an increasing number of studies on general principles, proof of concept and prototypical applications. The market for Semantic Search applications and its role within the general development of (internet) technologies and its impact on different areas of private and public life have... Read more »


To index is to translate

July 28, 2013 5:40 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Living in Montreal means I am trying to improve my very limited French and in trying to communicate with my Francophone neighbours I have become aware of a process of attempting to simplify my thoughts and express them using the limited vocabulary and grammar that I have available. I only have a few nouns, fewer verbs, and a couple of conjunctions that I can use so far and so trying to talk to people is not so much a process of thinking in English and translating that into French, as considering the basic core concepts that I need to convey... Read more »


Can you use statistics to find meaning?

June 23, 2013 4:43 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

I enjoyed this article in New Scientist about using statistical analysis on the Voynich manuscript to try to work out whether it is a meaningful but secret code or just gibberish. Ultimately, I remain puzzled as to what the statistics actually tell us. They identify patterns, but meaning is more than simply patterns. However, the fact that certain sets of symbols in the Voynich text appear to cluster in sections with common illustrations suggests it is code. The counter-argument that you could deliberately fake such clustering by mechanical means is intriguing. Without far larger samples, and an understanding of random... Read more »


This time it’s personal data – Indiverses and Personal APIs

June 5, 2013 5:10 pm Published by 5 Comments

Sooner or later I was bound to find some other Semanticists in Canada and on Thursday I attended a Semantic Web meetup in Montreal. The audience was small, but that led to more of a group discussion atmosphere than a formal talk. The presenter, Dr Joan Yess Kahn, has coined the term Indiverse – Individual Information Universe – to facilitate her thinking about the set of personal information and data that we accumulate through our lives. She pointed out that some of this information is created by us, some about us, some with our knowledge and consent, some without, and... Read more »


Tagging the cart before the horse – Getting your project plan in order

May 11, 2013 2:28 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

When people launch search improvement or information organziation projects, one of the commonest mistakes is to be over-eager to “just get the content indexed or tagged” without spending enough time and thought on the structure of an index, what should be tagged, and how the tags themselves should be structured. This typically happens for two reasons: 1. The project managers – often encouraged by service providers who just want to get their hands on the cheque – simply underestimate the amount of preparatory work involved, whether it is structuring and testing a taxonomy, setting up and checking automated concept extaction... Read more »