20 June 2009

3D Maps using 3D TopicScape Pro

    Today I took the time and played with 3D TopicScape Pro, a nice 3D tool that can be used for Mind and Concept Mapping. 3D TopicScape Pro together with 3D TopicScape Lite, products of TopicScape, can be run on Windows 2000, XP and Vista.

    From a first user experience the look and feel is interesting, the tool is easy to use and has a small learning curve, and it includes a few demos which make the learning process easier. The Landscaped Maps seems to be useful for representing several levels of children, though when the number of children is greater than 4-5, the labels are hard to see. The topics are represented as cones (see Figure 1) and to each topic can be attached up to 10 tags, the flagging of topics as important allows easier visual identification.

Learning Mind Map created with 3D TopicScape Pro Figure 1: Learning Mind Map created with 3D TopicScape Pro

    The tool offers multiple views – home, full, top, tag pool and hit list, the later offering an historical list of Map’s elements (see Figure 2). It includes several skins, rich editing and configuring features that add a plus to overall usability.

Hit List for the above Mind Map Figure 2: Hit List for the above Mind Map

    Frankly I was expecting more from the tool and personally I prefer the 2D version of the Map (see Figure 3), it is less graphically loaded, and the increase border or text size can be used to obtain the same visual contrast as in landscapes. 2D Maps have the advantage that they can be constructed using Visio or PowerPoint, two of the tools used by many IT professionals and managers.

In exchange, I would use a 3D Map for representing weighted Topics, in which cone's size would be proportional with its eight. Personal Topicscape, sample 2D Mind Map available with 3D TopicScape Pro Figure 3: Personal Topicscape, sample 2D Mind Map available with 3D TopicScape Pro

    The site offers also a collection of more than 1000 Mind Maps which could give you a feeling what Mind Mapping is about. Actually from the TopicScape’s blog I found the link to a nice source for learning how to make a Mind Map.

Utilizing Mind Maps as a Structure for Mining the Semantic Web Dissertation paper uploaded on Scribd

    Last week, on Friday, I got the news that I am entitled to graduate with the award of MSc in Information Systems Management. I have to recognize that I was a little worried because I knew that the Dissertation paper was not complete, given the time and personal constraints, therefore I had to let lot of material out of the paper, plus that I couldn’t approach all the intended objectives. Anyway, if I consider the huge amount of material I had to read and review, the multitude of topics and the fact I can say I learned something during the Dissertation phase, I can consider myself satisfied. Even more the topic is of actuality, researchers are still stumbling on the road toward a Semantic Web, and there are still lot of things out there to be explored and link to this topic – knowledge management, information/knowledge mapping, complex systems, ecosystems, ecologies, learning, Web Mining, the applicability of the Web 2.0 and Semantic Web within daily life, etc.

    So, here is my Dissertation paper, I know that there are a few typing mistakes as I didn’t had the chance to review the paper and correct it, I actually clicked the send button a few seconds before deadline; there are also parts in which I should have invested more time. There’s a second document, Architeture Appendix, treating roughly the architecture behind a Conceptual Knowledge Base created using Knowledge Maps and their further use in Web Data Mining.

    Overall, I think that the Dissertation paper includes some interesting ideas and links, which could lead to other ideas, though that’s entirely dependent on the reader. I wish you a good and fruitful reading!

04 June 2009

Finally the Digital Book Reader

    Yesterday my Sony PRS-700BC Digital Book Reader finally came, after two weeks and a trip overseas. I wanted so much a Digital Book Reader that I bought one, even if it doesn’t justifies entirely the price though might be useful when reading late in the evening or in trips in which is not possible to pack more than 1-2 books, not to forget the multitude of electronic documents not available in hardcopy. I was thinking to wait for Amazon’s Kindle DX, presented to the public a few weeks ago, unfortunately its (un)availability on European market and nice price made me to give up the idea of buying one. In exchange Sony’s reader looked more attractive as price and what attracted me at PRS-700BC was its touch-screen display and the possibility to add annotations and highlight text, these capabilities not being available in previous models. Using the stylus or direct touching, PRS-700BC allows you to select a piece of text (within the same page), save it and make it available in Notes section. I tested it using PDF documents and Sony’s proprietary format BBeB (Broad Band eBook), it worked acceptable as long the document is adequately formatted, the selection functionality working awkwardly in some PDF documents. The good rendering of PDF documents depends on font’s size, its length and disposal within page; even if font size is changed, the text might not be uniformly rendered, mathematical formulas being deformed, the text loosing of content. In order to avoid text’s deformation the text can be zoomed though I find the feature a little cumbersome to use for continuous reading. There would be also the possibility of exporting other documents to BBeB format, not sure if it really makes sense to do that…

    Why am I talking about Digital Readers in this blog?! First of all because PRS-700BC provides the capability of annotating, highlighting and extracting text from a document, much of what we try to do with Web Pages within Web 2.0 in the attempt to create metadata and a read-write Web. The Notes thus created allow navigating back to the document it contains and in theory can be further used to partially index the document, partially because it doesn’t allows jumping between all occurrences like the search functionality. At it seems the full-word search provides hints based on previous annotations and highlights, that’s a nice feature.

    I wonder whether the previously selected text can be also extracted on a PC in a document together with other information about the document that contains it; normally it should be possible, it’s just a question of programming effort. The text thus obtained could be reused in documents’ indexing or in Knowledge Maps. I hope that future models will have the capability of creating Maps inside the Reader and will that provide richer text formatting and processing.

    Unlike Sony’s Reader, Kindle DX offers wireless connectivity which allows browsing directly Web Pages; Sony should consider doing the same! Just imagine that you can annotate Web pages on your own Reader, isn’t that something?! Of course, it won’t work so easy with heavy content Web Pages, though that’s a start… Anyway, Digital Readers are in their baby steps, there is more to be expected from the use of digital paper technology on which such devices are based. Let’s see what the future reserves us in this direction!