Friday, April 25, 2008


Just like Ploppit, Plukkit is shaping up to be an API framework between the User GUI and the backend. It may be interposed between the client and Dspace (for data, media, etc.) as well as between the client and Geoserver (for maps). We should experiment with the new (1.5) Lightweight Network Interface being put together at MIT by the Dspace team there (since I am teaching there this semester, I should go meet them!). Another model for the geospatial component of our repository may be the work that ERDAS (Leika) is doing with Leika Titan. Maybe there's something to be learnt there and possibly some open source code that we can coopt for our Ploppit and Plukkit GUIs. Worth investigating...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Supermemo Italian? Faggeddaboutit!

One of our primary goals is to provide international access to Venice City Knowledge, with a focus on English content, but we still have to come to grips with the bilingual issue at some point. After doing some homework on why classes don't work and on how to learn any language (quickly), Kyle Miller and I put together a list of key Italian words and phrases, by frequency of occurrence, that we think all Venice students should master.
Meanwhile, a Wired article on "remembering" came out that featured the Polish inventor of SuperMemo, an intriguing program that helps the users to remember concepts by exploiting the long-forgotten (1885) discoveries of german psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus. The idea is to remind the learner to review the lesson just before he/she forgets it! The precise spacing of the reminders is what Ebbinghaus discovered and what Polish inventor Piotr Wozniak has desiged into the algorithm of Supermemo.
So, in true 2.0 spirit, we have created a randomized testing process (visible only by WPI users under ITALIAN) based on the most important key words (by frequency) which will be repeated by the students at pre-defined intervals, based on the Ebbingaus-Wozniak spacing! Isn't that something? The last exam in the sequence will be a sort of "admissions" test for the IQP 2.0 students before they begin the preparation in earnest in September. We'll see how well it works in practice!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dspace up and running

We followed up on Dspace after the Santa Fe meeting with Knowledge Reef. Working quietly behind the scenes, as is his style, Ilan Shomorony -- a Fall 2007 graduate of the Venice Project Center -- installed Dspace on our Venice Server and got it up and running -- no small feat! Now, we are deciding exactly how to organize the reports, datasets, presentations, images, maps and other documents produced by WPI teams and others. We are creating a Venice Open Archive community and plan be the first ones to contribute to it. Meanwhile, Marko at Knowledge Reef has confirmed that they intend to run our Venice Dspace archives through their semantic engine to turn our Venice City Knowledge into a "reef"... Sounds wild! I am hoping that this may be linkable to GeoNames whose Web Services might even come in handy for Ploppit and Plukkit. Could Dspace and its URI's be the key to most of the Venice 2.0 releases? It seems to me that it may even play a key "backend" role with LOUIS and uScript. We shall see...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

PreserVenice, Giovani Veneziani and il Fondaco

One of the long-term goals of the Venice 3.0 initiative is to launch a non-profit organization for the preservation of Venetian public art, under the name PreserVenice. We have done just about all of the work that we could do to get this started. The only piece missing has been our ability to find someone who would take on the challenge of actually launching the non-profit and begin collecting donations and start restoring public art, which - after all- is the whole point of PreserVenice. In the spirit of collaboration that has always marked our work, we have recently reached out to a couple of Venetian organizations that promise to be great partners in this initiative. One is called I Giovani Veneziani and brings together young Venetians who deeply care for their hometown. The other is called Il Fondaco and is really a company that is active in a lot of areas, including restoration.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Venice Project Center alumni - how many?

We think we have finally figured out how many WPI students have travelled to Venice to complete their Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) from 1988 until today. Hamlet Nina, who is himself an alumnus of the VPC, where he completed his project on socio-economic issues in the fall of 2007, has cross-checked our own Project Database with the information held by the WPI office of Alumni relations. The result? Take a guess...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Sunspots in Venice

We are exploring the use of Sunspots (Sun Small Programmable Object Technology) for our postmodern postmortem project in Venice. These tiny battery-powered, rechargeable gadgets seem ideally suited to prototype and deploy many of our issue-centered urban installations in Venice. Each sunspot comes with a radio-accessible (802.15.4) 32-bit processor board, with zigbee (an RF bluetooth+ protocol) and a 4Mb flash memory. Daughter boards can be plugged into the processor board to add accelerometers, GPS, GSM/GPRS, temperature, and other sensors. Thanks to Bob Breznak and Prof. Pollice, WPI projects can get a 3-piece kit (one base + 2 remote devices) for only $300. Programming is done in Java, with standard development tools. I can't wait to see these in action in Venice!