Monday, February 19, 2007

The Two-Year Birthday of AJAX

(updated at Dec. 18, 2007)

Today (Feb. 18, 2007) is the official two-year birthday of AJAX. Few things have brought the world the impact as great as AJAX. Within only two years, the World Wide Web has changed so much; and the transition is still in process. "Web 2.0" was a term hardly known by many people two years ago while it had already been elected the person of the year of 2006 by Time Magazine. The reason, however, lays on the realization of a simple but remarkable idea---asynchronously transmitting data only when they are requested. The technology syntactically is built upon the JavaScript language. Hence it gets the name Asynchronous JavaScript, which is AJAX.

From the view of web evolution, AJAX provides a brand new solution to support the creation of new-quality web resources, on which Web 2.0 stands. When we name a thing 2.0 rather than 1.x, it means a revolution in certain degree. People who still confuse about the name of Web 2.0 are the ones who cannot see the revolution. In fact, the most revolutionary phenomenon is that Web 2.0 supports new-quality products simultaneously on its data resources, service resources, and link resources. These resources are not effectively supported by Web 1.0. And, every importantly, these new-quality resources are supported because of AJAX.

I am continuing writing the second part of my web evolution article now. I have received several emails asking about the progress of my writing. I am sorry that it is delayed because of my time schedule. Moreover, its content is much richer than the Part 1. Basically, in Part 1, we have presented a story of web evolution. But in Part 2, we will first figure the theory underlying the story, from which we are going to predict the future of the World Wide Web. I hope it would be released in another couple of weeks.

Friday, February 16, 2007

CFP: ESWC-2007 Workshop on Bridging the Gap between Semantic Web and Web 2.0

Here comes a new workshop targeting the research on bridging the Semantic Web and Web 2.0. This workshop is co-located with ESWC-2007.

"Web 2.0 is what happened while we were waiting for the Semantic Web." This was what Dion Hinchcliffe stated on Last November. I highly appreciate this statement because it is a keen observation of the web evolution. We do look for the realization of Semantic Web. But in practice we find that the Semantic Web might not be set up by some elite researchers and scientists. In contrast, it is more realistic to build it from the grass-root. That is, we ask for the help from every normal web user and make the construction of Semantic Web be an aggregation of massive human practices. From this bottom-up approach, we get Web 2.0 (but not Semantic Web yet).

The question now becomes how we can learn valuable lessons from the success of Web 2.0 and apply them to the realization of the Semantic Web. This is thus the theme of this upcoming ESWC workshop. As a PC member, I am really interested in this topic. At the same time, I would like to suggest anyone who is also interested in this topic to try to submit a paper and participate to this event. This will be a very interesting one and Innsbruck is a very beautiful city.

Monday, February 12, 2007

article review: The Death of Computing

Neil McBride recently wrote an interesting article titled "The Death of Computing." In the article, Neil foresaw the decline of Computer Science, due to the decreasing interest about Computer Science from the student side.

By reading this article, it brings me a memory back to the early 90th, when the hype of Computer Science barely started. I was a colleage student majoring on Mechanical Engineering at the time. In 1990, I thought Computer Science was interesting but it was not a real branch of "science" to work on. It seemed to me that Computer Science was nothing but a tool for varied scientists, engineers, or even normal people. Everybody might need to know something about computer and basic programming. But only very few people were really needed to develop these softwares.

This type of thoughts were soon overthrown by the hype of Computer Science, especially the hype of World Wide Web at the rest of 90th. Computer Science became a word that was vogue, modern, and high technical. Even myself, I have changed my major from Mechanical Engineering to Computer Science. I must say that CS is really an exciting field. Comparing to the traditional research fields such as ME, CS grows much faster and it is full of chances for young researchers to explore.

But now, what has happened? Why suddenly CS has been foreseen to its death. I believe a problem of current Computer Science education is that it mixed SCIENCE with TECHNOLOGY too much. For many students, it seems that CS education equals to the programming education, which is completely wrong. This article addressed this important problem, though the author was too pessimistic to the consequence of this problem.

Back to my understanding of CS on the early 90th, CS was about programming languages and theories for a period of time. It was because at the time programming languages were not mature enough for other research to move forward. Essentially, programming languages are the basis of computer science research because we need programs to verify theories. But it is incorrect to limit CS being programming only. To its end, Computer Science is about how to simulate human thoughts using machines. This is a field that probably has no ends. Programming for Computer Scientists likes the lab experiments for chemists and physicists. Even if physicists or chemists do not know how the experimental devices are built, they can still be great researchers on their fields because building these devices are indeed not the main interest of the research, though these devices are necessary tools to reach the main interest.

I believe the research of Computer Science is repeating the same orbit that had been walked by the other traditional branches of science. During the early stages of physics and chemistry, many researchers had focused their work on developing lab equipments to facilitate the research (and even until now, few researchers still work on this type of study). For students, learning to using these experimental equipments is also an important part of their study, but it is not the goal. The real goal of physics and chemistry is to discover natural laws rather than to build more experimental devices. And this is why their research is named to be "science."

I think Computer Science education should start to address this problem and let students understand the real meaning of Computer "Science." Pure training of programmers is not a proper goal of Computer Science education. In my mind, the training of programmers may need to be handed to individual departments. To the end, the programmers always work for specific domains of work and it is best that they are the experts on both programming and domain knowledge. Unless they work for the domain of Computer Science, it is less valued to train many Computer Science programmers to handle cases on varied domains.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Article review: We are the Web

I just read a remarkable article written by Kevin Kelly---"We are the web." Kevin is a well-known writer, editor, publisher, and possibly the most important to this context, he is a famous participant and observer of "cyberculture". When I am writing my article about web evolution, I am so glad and feel amazing to watch several of the thoughts been forseen by these great thinkers such as Kevin.

But looking back now, after 10 years of living online, what surprises me about the genesis of the Web is how much was missing from Vannevar Bush's vision, Nelson's docuverse, and my own expectations. We all missed the big story. The revolution launched by Netscape's IPO was only marginally about hypertext and human knowledge. At its heart was a new kind of participation that has since developed into an emerging culture based on sharing. And the ways of participating unleashed by hyperlinks are creating a new type of thinking - part human and part machine - found nowhere else on the planet or in history.

Web begins from its newborn stage. After more than 10 years, it finally comes to the pre-school stage. The lack of creative thinking of machines is thus understandable. In essence, are there many people who care about what newborns think? Even after they become pre-school kids, we still often neglect what they think because their thinking can barely bring any value to the world. Therefore, we have no driving force to implement mechanism to enable machines think.

But this phenomenon is going to change on the next-generation web. We start listening to what elementary-school children think because in this new stage of human life, children do have the capability of producing valuable results based on thinking. Hence it is valuable for us to enable machines think when web evolves to this new stage too. Web evolution is directing to this goal. Kevin will see what he expects becoming reality in the near future (though it must be progressive).

No Web phenomenon is more confounding than blogging. Everything media experts knew about audiences - and they knew a lot - confirmed the focus group belief that audiences would never get off their butts and start making their own entertainment. Everyone knew writing and reading were dead; music was too much trouble to make when you could sit back and listen; video production was simply out of reach of amateurs. Blogs and other participant media would never happen, or if they happened they would not draw an audience, or if they drew an audience they would not matter. What a shock, then, to witness the near-instantaneous rise of 50-million blogs, with a new one appearing every two seconds. There - another new blog! One more person doing what AOL and ABC - and almost everyone else - expected only AOL and ABC to be doing. These user-created channels make no sense economically. Where are the time, energy, and resources coming from?

One fundamental and unique character of human beings is the expection of being immortal. This is the reason why religion only exists among humans but not any other animals. This character, however, is the basic driving force of blogging. Though certainly everyone will pass away eventually, it is still very attractive if we known that we can keep the virtual-self (i.e. our thoughts, beliefs and personal history) forever on the web. "I am not ash in history but a living person that has contributed to the world!" This is an internal voice on almost every one of human beings. Blogging is the current way of allowing normal people to be immortal. But I am confident that it is just a beginning. Virtual clones of us are going to be produced on web and people are going to be enchanted by this type of new technologies.

There is only one time in the history of each planet when its inhabitants first wire up its innumerable parts to make one large Machine. Later that Machine may run faster, but there is only one time when it is born.

You and I are alive at this moment.

Yes, I deeply appreciate for my living in this great time. Now it is another great time period on human history as the time periods about the first and second industrial revolution. We are within a new industrial revolution. There are so many new inventions now, just like what had happened before. Similarly, there are (and will be) many great names both on people and companies in this period. Some of them have already appeared and some others are not yet. Surely we should be glad that we are now living in this greatest time, and may have chances to witness some greatest legends in the history.