Author Archives for Fran

Chaotic pile of books on a long table

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August 7, 2018 12:03 am Published by Leave your thoughts

I haven’t been writing much recently, because I have been very busy getting a couple of StartUp projects off the ground. Building tech from scratch is very different from what I have usually done during my career, which is work with large and mature systems. Early days It has been a real adventure and we have had lots of twists and turns along the way. We started off rising to a challenge set by the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) – the financial regulator of Quebec. They sponsored the FinTech Formathon and gave us a 3-month salaried runway to get... Read more »

The Compassion Machine by Jonathan Belisle from the Ensemble Collective.

AI – a real revolution, or just more toys for the boys?

October 28, 2017 3:53 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

AI and ethics are hot topics again, after having been dormant for a while. The dream of creating intelligent androids to serve us runs deep – there are countless examples in mythology from the metal servants of Hephaestus to Victorian automata – but the fear of our creations gaining consciousness and turning against us runs deep too. Modern slavery and exploitation of our fellow humans show that the urge to command and control is as old as humanity, and the ability of the powerful to deny the very consciousness of the exploited is only fading gradually. Women, children, and slaves... Read more »

Bridge in Winnipeg, 2016

Interlinguae and zero-shot translation

August 21, 2017 3:35 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Last year Google announced that it was switching Google Translate to a new system – Google Neural Machine Translation (GNMT). One of the most exciting developments for linguists and semanticists was the observation that the system appeared to have generated an intermediating “language” – an “interlingua” – that enabled it to translate two previously untranslated languages. There were a flurry of articles (e.g. New Scientist, Wired) and as usual with AI topics, a certain amount of excitement and speculation over machines becoming autonomous and superintelligent, and perhaps even conscious, as well as some detractors – e.g. Google translate did not... Read more »

Image of book cover 'The Accidental Data Scientist' by Amy Affelt

The Accidental Data Scientist

August 8, 2017 2:14 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

The Accidental Data Scientist* by Amy Affelt is a clarion call to librarians and other information professionals to immerse themselves in the world of Big Data. As such, it is a solid introduction, emphasizing how the traditional skills of librarians are crucial in ensuring that Big Data are reliable, properly prepared, indexed, and abstracted, and intelligently interpreted. Affelt reassuringly shows that the ‘problems’ of Big Data are not new, but very familiar to librarians, and indicates ways that librarians can add value to Big Data projects, by ensuring such projects deliver what is expected and anticipated. Data and Computer Scientists... Read more »

Descent of man

Data as a liquid asset and the AI future

April 19, 2017 5:25 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Getting back into the swing of meetups again, last night I went to the MTLData meetup – a group of data scientists and enthusiasts who are looking to raise the profile of data science in Montreal. The event featured a panel discussion on the topic of ‘Build vs Buy?’ when considering software for data solutions. The panellists were Marc-Antoine Ross, Director of Data Engineering at Intel Security, Maxime Leroux, consulting data scientist at Keyrus Canada, and Jeremy Barnes, Chief Architect at Element AI. The chair was Vaughan DiMarco of

Lincoln Cathedral

Making KO Work: integrating taxonomies into technology

March 17, 2017 2:16 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

The recent ISKO UK event Making KO Work: integrating taxonomies into technology offered four very different but complementary talks, followed by a panel session. These provided a good overview of current practice and largely concluded that although technology has advanced, there is still need for human intervention in KO work. Can You Really Implement Taxonomies in Native SharePoint? Marc Stephenson from Metataxis gave a clear and helpful overview of the key terms and principles you need to know when using taxonomies and folksonomies in SharePoint. SharePoint is very widely used as an enterprise document repository, and although its taxonomy management... Read more »


Fake news and virtual reality – You can lie to my face, you can’t lie to my heart, can you?

February 23, 2017 6:02 pm Published by 1 Comment

On Monday I went to an in_collusion event which showcased two companies producing works in Virtual Reality, one focused on its use in marketing (Fusion Works), the other uses VR to make art (Marshmallow Laser Feast). The presentations were excellent and the demonstrations of the technology were a lot of fun, but I left feeling equally thrilled and terrified. In a world where people seem increasingly unable to tell the difference between fact, opinion, belief, biased news, erroneous news, propaganda, and downright lies in the form of flat websites and screens, how easy will it be to manipulate people through... Read more »

25th International World Wide Web Conference in Montreal

April 23, 2016 8:35 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

The 25th International World Wide Web Conference was held in Montreal, which meant I was able to attend the whole week. Nevertheless, with 118 papers, 72 posters, 30 demos, 21 workshops, and 7 tutorials, I still had to miss plenty of intriguing-looking sessions. One in particular I was sorry to miss was the presentation of a paper on how the qwerty arrangement of letters on a keyboard affects perceptions of the positivity of words – words with more “right hand” letters are considered more positive that those with more “left hand” letters. So, presumably, anything with an “-ing” ending is... Read more »

Inadvertent Cruelty – Algorithmic or Organizational?

February 17, 2015 4:20 am Published by Leave your thoughts

In 2013 I asked whether social media were mature enough to handle bereavement in a sensitive manner. Last week Facebook released the options either to have your account deleted when you die or to nominate a trusted legacy manager to take it on for you as a memorial (Facebook rolls out feature for users when they die ). This was in response to the distress of relatives who wished to retrieve a lost loved one’s account or did not want to undergo the the eerie experience of receiving automated reminders of their birthday or seeing their name or image appear... Read more »

We don’t know where you live…

October 19, 2014 7:51 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Earlier this month the Estonian government opened its “digital borders”, allowing registrations for “e-citizenship” (there are two interesting pieces about this in New Scientist: E-citizens unite: Estonia opens its digital borders and Estonia’s e-citizen test is a test for us all). Does the new form of citizenship mean the end of the nation state? The Estonians appear to be creating a new category of “nationality” and the move has prompted a flurry of debate on whether or not this heralds the end of the nation state. “Nationality” has always been a problematic and somewhat fluid concept. Although people are often... Read more »