Oblique Strategies: A Great Way for Getting Unstuck

I’ve been reading Curt Cloninger’s Hot-Wiring Your Creative Process for the past few days.

Although there’s so much that could be blogged about, I can’t resist sharing my introduction to Oblique Strategies via this book earlier this evening. Very briefly, this is a creative technique for getting unstuck. It originated with musician/producer Brian Eno and painter Peter Schmidt.

For a more-complete overview, you can have a look at:

Google Office for the Blackberry

Recently, I’ve been raving about the GMail client for the

It’s feature/functionality-rich, stable and efficient.

How is this achieved? This GMail client is a stand-alone J2ME application for the
Blackberry platform.

Now picture this: A J2ME client application for Google Docs
& Spreadsheets.

This is interesting on a number of levels:

  • It’s feasible! Google Docs & Spreadsheets is likely written in
    some variant of Java (J2*E) already, so paring it down to J2ME is (in
    principle) possible.
  • It would close a software gap on the Blackberry. Although
    Blackberry’s pack a lot of excellent built-in software, they do not
    include office productivity software for word processing or
    spreadsheets. There are certainly third-party offerings available
    for the Blackberry, but these same offerings do not have the
    uniqueness that is Goggle!
  • It would be a serious competitive volley directed squarely at

Of course, J2ME versions of Google Docs & Spreadsheets for the
Blackberry are just a next step. In the broader scheme of things,
along with GMail, Google edges closer and closer to realizing a
complete office productivity suite (aka. Google Apps for Your Domain,

GMail on my Blackberry Revisited

It’s been almost a week since I installed the GMail
client on my Blackberry

I neglected to notice then that:

  • You can view attachments with this client. This is a very useful
    functionality that works with PDFs, images, and office documents. In
    reality, I expect that the GMail client is merely leveraging the
    Blackberry’s built-in ability to do the same. In other words, you
    can view PDFs, images and office docs with the Blackberry’s built-in
    mail client.
  • There are shortcut-keys available. These shortcuts are detailed
    in the online Help area.

On a less-positive note, I’ve failed to notice any support for
GMail’s Drafts capabilities. This means that there is no option to
save a partially composed message as a draft, or to even have the
Drafts folder evident. Taken in isolation, this is a minor
inconvenience. However, taken in the broader context of GMail Drive, this
is a more-serious concern. I’m sure we can expect GMail Drafts support
in a future version of the client.

After a week of being continuously logged in, I am impressed by the
stability of the client. It’s stable, in addition to being
feature/functionality rich and highly efficient!

A Technical Overview of Web Services: An Updated Textbook is Needed

Within a year or two of publication, I purchased the following two
textbooks on Web Services:

It’s now the end of 2006, and as far as I can determine, neither of
these books has been updated.

This seems odd. In the intervening four years:

  • There have been no successors to these books

    no shortage of books on Web Services. However, the more-recent
    offerings are more contextually focused – Ajax and Web Services,
    Java Web Services, .NET Web Services, etc.

  • Web Services continues to gain adoption and continues to

    In isolation, this is ample reason for a plethora of
    successors! (And, as I’ve written elsewhere (GRIDtoday
    , blog
    ), this adoption and evolution has been at the expense of
    Grid Computing.)

Even though I welcome the appearance of contextually focused books
on Web Services, and am delighted to see Web Services’ ongoing adoption and
evolution, I still believe there is a need for successors to Cerami’s
and Deitel et al.’s seminal textbooks.

Hopefully we won’t need to wait too long.

GMail on my Blackberry

I recently added a GMail client to my Blackberry.

This client is a stand-alone Java application that you download and install. Once installed, the client:

  • Keeps you signed in to GMail
  • Checks for and preloads GMail messages

All of this happens in the background. You can go ahead and use other applications on your `berry, and then return to the GMail client. After all, it’s a proper client, not a client running in a browser on your `berry.

The GMail client for the Blackberry is quite rich in terms of features and functionalities. You can:

  • Compose mail – and even use your GMail Contacts
  • Search mail – the client retains recent searches for you
  • Read mail – and this includes manipulating GMail Conversations
  • Work with Starred mail
  • Force a check for mail
  • View collections of mail – e.g., folders, labels, etc.
  • Archive conversations – and when you do, the archiving is sync’d with your browser-based access to GMail(!)

The GMail client for the Blackberry appears to be very lightweight. It works efficiently with the rest of the GMail infrastructure to process your requests (e.g., retrieve a certain mesage, execute a search, etc.). This has always been a capability that impressed me about the Blackberry’s built-in email application. It’s rich in features and functionalities, and yet exceedingly efficient. (There a many providers of desktop email clients that could learn a lot from RIM and Google! RIM and Google grok the online, mobile world so well is scary!)

All of this is great, but here’s the real win for me personally: I now have a fully functional GMail client that is completely independent of my employer. I work for a University these days, so that isn’t a huge concern for me. However, there are times when it’s beneficial to keep one’s employment and private lives separate. With the GMail client on my Blackberry now, I no longer need to forward my GMail to my employer’s email service so that I can see it on my Blackberry.

My only complaint is that I have to actually open the GMail client to see if there’s any mail. There’s is no notification icon 😦

One last thing … You definitely need the unlimited usage plan for data to be exploiting the GMail client on your Blackberry to the degree that I’ve described here!

Fall AGU Meeting 13,000 Strong!

Unofficially, the 2006 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union was attended by some 13,000 people.

That’s a lot of attedees!

More than many IT events!

And not bad for an organization that caters largely to physical scientists.

With focus groups like Earth and Space Science Informatics on the rise, I can’t see this number decreasing!

Of course, the fact that the Fall Meeting has branded itself with San Francisco doesn’t hurt 🙂

Virtual Ontologies

As noted elsewhere, I recently made a presentation at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in a session entitled Earth
and Space Science Cyberinfrastructure: Application and Theory of
Knowledge Representation

Most presenters were focused on the development, integration, and use of formal ontologies. Such ontologies are created from the top down.

In contrast, with my collaborators I’ve been focused on ontology development from the bottom up (please see the figure below). This made me the only presenter who discussed the creation of informal ontologies. To convey the looser formality, some refer to such ontologies as folksonomies.


(There are a lot of acronyms in this figure, and a fairly complex workflow. Please surf my blog and especially my formal publications and elsewhere if you’re interested in the details.)

As the figure seems to imply, informal ontologies are dynamically generated – possibly on demand. For this reason, they are also virtual ontologies. (I believe I’ve just coined a new term!)

Of course, integration of formal and informal ontologies will be a future requirement.

But at the moment, there’s still plenty of room for the basics at bottom 😉

Earth Science Informatics: A Discipline in the Making

Earth Science Informatics: A Discipline in the Making

In a recent
blog post
, I wrote:

Perhaps two years ago, it was a challenge to find appropriate sessions
at the American Geophysical Union [AGU] Fall Meeting for submissions that
addressed the intersection between geophysics and knowledge

A year ago, there were quite a few to choose from.

This year, I was almost overwhelmed by choice.

There’s a very good reason for this sea change.

A critical mass of like-minded researchers is working hard to raise
awareness through tangible outcomes. Some recent outcomes include:

In short, it’s rapidly becoming an exciting time to be involved in the
emergence of this fledgling discipline.

Research Interests

I’ve just added a page on my research interests. Although I blog about a variety of topics, these are the threads of interest that I’ve sustained over some period of time from a research perspective.

I’ve organized the areas of interest in alphabetical order and identified a number of tags that can be used to find blog postings on the same.

I expect to do the same for my teaching and learning interests at some future time.