Yearly Archives: 2005

Agent Reputation and Trust (ART) Testbed

Wow, I received an email with another trust-related project.
The Agent Reputation and Trust (ART) Testbed initiative has been launched with the goal of establishing a testbed for agent reputation- and trust-related technologies. The ART Testbed is designed to serve in two roles:
* as a competition forum in which researchers can compare their technologies against objective metrics, and
* as an experimental tool, with flexible parameters, allowing researchers to perform customizable, easily-repeatable experiments.

You can play with the code released on Sourceforge and you can also enjoy the explanation movie!

More from

– 22nd Chaos Communication Congress – Private Investigations – Breaking Down the Web of Trust
Even with tutorials on the WoT and good trust policies the concept of “trust” can still be hard to grasp. Here we’ll look at trust metrics, ways of using current trust systems better, and some non-crypto applications of trust.
Microformats Proposal for Reputation and Trust Metrics By Charles Iliya Krempeaux, B.Sc. Very interesting!!!
[From, subscribe to the rss feed (]

Lies, damn lies, and facts found on the Web

“There are three types of lies – lies, damn lies, and facts found on the Web.”
Dr. Tim Finin, paraphrasing the well known quotation by Benjamin Disraeli on Statistics

This quotation opens the “Workshop Motivation and Goal” of the Models of Trust for the Web (MTW’06), a workshop at the 15th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW2006), May 23-26, 2006, Edinburgh, Scotland.
The workshop seems incredibly interesting.

repressing the “Expression under Repression” workshop at WSIS

I read from Ethan Zuckermann who is currently in Tunis for the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) some shocking news.
I’m here to help run a workshop titled “Expression Under Repression”, hosted by Hivos and organzied by the Global Voices team. When we arrived at the exhibition hall this morning, we were warned that our workshop could be cancelled. (…) Specifically, it was suggested by Tunisian authorities that “expression under repression has nothing to do with ICT for development.
Yesterday, we were warned that our session could be cancelled by the Tunisian authorities. We also discovered that the session wasn’t listed in the official program guide. Today, we came to the room where the session was to be held and there was a sign on the door stating that the workshop was cancelled. Friends who passed by the UNDP booth on the WSIS floor earlier today heard gossip that the security forces would appear at our session and anyone who attended would be arrested. And I got a few SMSs from people who’d asked about our session at the information booths and had been told there was no information on our session.
It is incredibly stupid for Tunisia to just show its repressive and censorship face when all the world is looking in their direction for the WSIS. And we all should really think about it more often, many countries control Internet and negate freedom of expression to their citizens.
Something you can do (but only a tiny contribution of what we should do) is to join the Electronic Frontier Foundation which, among millions of other worthy campaigns, published How to Blog Safely (see also GlobalVoices technical extension and the Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Just one more shocking news, RSF head Robert Menard was not allowed by Tunisian security officials to leave the plane after his arrival from Paris in Tunis.
Too often, leaving in a country where Internet is not (too much) filtered and there is (enough) freedom of expression I forgot about these important matters. If you care about these matters, do join EFF and follow Ethan’s blog.

Apple offers for free MacOSX for $100 laptops, MIT says “No, thanks”

You probably have heard of the MIT initiative One Laptop Per Child, a plan to develop a $100 laptop computer for distribution to millions of schoolchildren in developing countries.
Today I read from WallStreetJournal:
Steve Jobs, Apple Computer Inc.’s chief executive, offered to provide free copies of the company’s operating system, OS X, for the machine, according to Seymour Papert, a professor emeritus at MIT who is one of the initiative’s founders. “We declined because it’s not open source,” says Dr. Papert, noting the designers want an operating system that can be tinkered with.
Wow! Apple offers for free its fabolous operating system and the MIT has the strenght to refuse such an offer. Just think if this would have happened 5 years ago. MIT would probably have been so happy and thanking. But now GNU/Linux on the desktop is almost as usable as other operating systems, and it will be better in few years.
Of course MIT’s refusal makes a lot, a lot of sense and I totally support their decision, even if they should speak fo Free Software and not Open Source. Anyway, embracing a proprietary operating system would not give to schoolchildren in developing countries the freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0), the freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). [Access to the source code is a precondition for this.], the freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2), the freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). [Access to the source code is a precondition for this]. These are the freedom that Free Software gives you.
The $100 laptop is just a mean for achieving a goal, that is reducing poverty (that can be defined as inability to improve your current conditions). In this sense, only the ability to “play with” and study how your tool works, the ability to be an active player in the game and not just a passive swallower of information can produce empowerment. So being able to play with the tool (i.e. access to its source code) is mandatory. And the before mentioned freedoms as well.

A rural computer for free, Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid and WSIS

From rediff:
In an effort to spread information technology literacy and make the Internet more accessible to the masses, Hong Kong based has launched iT, a stripped-down version of a personal computer which will be distributed free of cost to lower income individuals and small businesses. iT is a compact, portable desk top computer equipped with Windows CE (operating system for hand-held devices) complete with everything necessary to connect to the Internet, and has home entertainment devices, a printer, a USB card reader for reading memory cards of digital cameras and many other USB peripherals.
It seems there is a new attention on how to squeeze business opportunities out of the poor, since they are so many. In fact how will this firm (the one giving away computers for free) make money? This device has a conventional keyboard with 14 additional keys, 10 of which will be sponsored by firms that want to tap rural markets, like a firm selling seeds or crop insurance. By pressing the relevant “hot key”, farmers can directly access firms’ websites where product information will guide them to making the right purchase.
I’m a bit skeptical about this approach (especially about the choice of Windows CE that means no real endogenous development can spark) but I don’t have too much experience about the topic, even if these days I’m reading a lot about ICT4D, Information and Communication Technologies for Development (more about this later).
Related to the “economic opportunities at the Bottom of the Pyramid”, I would also like to share that a new economical thinking seems on the rise patronized mainly by C.K. Prahalad. I keep finding his ideas, in particular the ideas presented in his book “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits“.
This is a purely capitalistic approach to reach one of the millenium goals: halving extreme poverty by 2015. I can see why International Economic Agencies (WTO, World Bank, …) and the rich countries who govern them like this approach: the new mantra might sound something like “no more need to donate percentages of the GDP to poor countries, just let keep our corporations trying to maximize their profits and everything will settle down by magic”.
I have no idea if C.K. Prahalad’s approach can really work, surely it is very realistic and not abstact, it argues about a possible way to eradicate poverty. It is not serious to criticize without proposing an alternative and I don’t really have experience on macroeconomics. I’m more for approaches like global redistributions of richness but at the present moment they are politically totally unviable and unproposable.
Going back to the rural computer for free, I would like to underline that from 16 to 18 November 2005 there will be in Tunis the World Summit on Information Society. Surely one of the topic will be if and how ICTs will help in reaching the millenium goals and reduce global poverty. I’ll try to keep an eye on it.

Users reviews are THE market

Users reviews of products (like “I bought an Ipod and it was not working” or “I went yesterday to XYZ Restaurant and it was fabolous” or “i saw ‘paradise now’ and it was great”) are the basic building blocks of Recommender Systems. And of course they are able to determine the success or failure of a product. Many people nowadays before buying a product check “what Internet is saying about this product?”, usually the level of information awareness is precisely this one.
So, it should not be surprising that:
There are authors on Amazon who write reviews of their own books under pseudonyms
at least one U.S. author was mistakenly outed on’s Canadian website as having written a review of his own work. The real names of thousands of people who had posted anonymous customer reviews under pseudonyms like “a reader from St. Louis” were revealed online for several days – a mistake that finally was corrected after reviewers, some of them authors themselves, complained.

a restaurant is suing, a company that collects restaurant reviews from common consumers and posts them online and in a book, for damaging its reputation. (…) seeking a public apology and 50,000 yuan (US$6,173) each in compensation.They are also demanding the Website delete all of the negative comments it has posted online and stop publishing a guide book with negative comments”.
– and mainly that Amazon Gets Patents on Consumer Reviews
Review your local dry cleaner, pay $10 million?
User reviews are a hot new content area, being used by Google (Quote, Chart), Yahoo (Quote, Chart) and MSN to sweeten their local search results. But as of Thursday, such consumer reviews could put search providers, as well as thousands of e-commerce sites, video rental or review sites and online booksellers, in the sights of’s (Quote, Chart) lawyers.

The patents are simply absurd (you can read them in the article) and I’m not going to comment them and I’m very happy that at least for now Europe voted against Software Patents).
About reviews, I think that creators should be free to publish their opinions (in term of reviews in this case), they should own their reviews (hreview seems a great format for this task), reviews should be released under very liberal licences and everyone should be allowed to aggregate the reviews and do whatever she prefers with this information: offer a Recommender System service, use them for her own decisions, …. Reviews are one of the cornerstones of the Information society and they should be usable by anyone who has an idea.

Spyware Sony seems to breach copyright

From The spyware that Sony installs on the computers of music fans does not even seem to be correct in terms of copyright law.
It is simply great. While Sony claims that it installed software secretly on the computers of unaware customers in order to protect the copyright of its musicians (while everyone knows that Sony is just trying to perpetuate its dying
business model), Sony itself does not care about not respecting the copyright of the author of the software LAME that is licensed under the so called Lesser Gnu Public License (LGPL).
It turns out that the rootkit contains pieces of code that are identical to LAME, an open source mp3-encoder, and thereby breach the license.
This software is licensed under the so called Lesser Gnu Public License (LGPL). According to this license Sony must comply with a couple of demands. Amongst others, they have to indicate in a copyright notice that they make use of the software. The company must also deliver the source code to the open-source libraries or otherwise make these available. And finally, they must deliver or otherwise make available the in between form between source code and executable code, the so called objectfiles, with which others can make comparable software.

A Semantic Mobs Manifesto for the (r)Evolutionary Web: rejected!

One night, many days ago, Bru and I had a night divertissement (as I liked to call it). During a funny Skype session, we created a paper for SWAP2005 (Semantic Web Applications and Perspectives, 2nd Italian Semantic Web Workshop, Trento, Faculty of Economics,14-15-16 December, 2005). The title of the paper is “A Semantic Mobs Manifesto for the (r)Evolutionary Web” (pdf). Since the conference is in Trento, I’ll probably go anyway so the idea was to get one more publication (is there another reason for sending a paper to a conference? ;-)). As I already said, it was a night divertissement, it took us few hours creating it, well, most of the time was spent in chatting about the possible title. We skyped really improbable titles I think I remember. And it was a lot of fun.
Anyway I received few days ago an email saying that the paper was rejected (in the following there are the reviews in case you are curious). I think reviewers did the right thing in rejecting it. It was not a serious contribution to science but more a provocation (and a funny-for-us night divertissement).
So how we created the paper? We took verbatim a blog post by Ryan King titled “An Evolutionary Revolution – On the shoulders of giants” and we inserted it in the paper. Since the blog post was resealed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licence, we could import it legally, in fact we of course gave credit to Ryan King in the paper, we re-released the paper under the same licence and the paper was not a commercial work.
Then we added a short quibbling about how with the Semantic Web envisioned in the conference, a paper like this one would be easily creatable by some software tool, expecially when i a short future the number of creative commons released text works will be huge. The last lines of the abstract hinted a matrix-like scenario in which (human) researchers will be no more needed. The title was entirely Bru’s fault. Don’t tell him but I think we got rejected because of the title ;-)
So, well, enjoy it, it is released under a creative commons licence, respect the licence and do whatever you want with it, yes you might even want to cite it in a “real”paper, that would be a larger point about “what are conferences for in an era of free, decentralized publishing?” but I guess you will have to wait another post for it. Anyway, don’t worry, it is not a unexpected or clever post, nothing more that our rejected submission for SWAP ;-)

In the following you find the reviews we got and at the really bottom the text version of the paper.
I wonder if Danny Ayers was one of the reviewer since he writes “I nearly had a dilemma over whether to give something a positive rating simply because it was really cool, rather than bringing significant academic value to the field. Again fortunately for me the material in question did have value in the latter sense as well, so I could call it a Clear Accept without any ethical worries.” But it can’t be because our paper has no value in the latter sense ;-)
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