September 2010


Datasets in the Linking Open Data project, as ...Image via Wikipedia

Wow.  If you thought the Linking Open Data cloud had grown between September 2007 (right) and July of 2009 (below), take a look at this to see where we are NOW!

Instance linkages within the Linking Open Data...Image via Wikipedia

As Richard and Anja note on the site linked above: The cloud images show “some of the datasets that have been published in Linked Data format, by the Linking Open Data community project and other organisations.

Where is this going? Andreas Blumauer of Semantic Web Company, in Vienna, put it well: “15 years ago we all were excited when we published HTML for the first time and it didn’t take a long time until all of us were “on the internet”. Now we are starting to publish data on the web. Based on semantic web technologies professional data management will be possible in distributed environments generating even more network effects than Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 ever did.”

Some might ask where value derived from this cloud, or if membership in it just marketing?  Talis’ Tom Heath outlines, in the latest issue of Nodalities Magazine, that without Linked Data, there couldn’t be a Semantic Web.  Being linked and of use means having been made available following Linked Data Principles.  This includes: things having unique identifiers (URIs); that are in the form of hypertext (HTTP) so they are standardly navigable (dereferencable); at which destinations there is useful and standardly interprable information (in RDF/XML) describing the thing; and which contains links to other things (read: HTTP URIs which also contain RDF/XML).  Through explanation of the progression from FOAF files, (where the “things” at these “URIs” are individual people, collectively representing the basis for semantic social networks), to working out standards around what constitutes an information vs non-information resource (via httpRange-14), Tom makes the all important point that: each step along the way is an essential building block toward where we are going.

And where (at this stage) is this?  When Tony Shaw, of Semantic Universe, pointed to Linked Data in his recent article “Nine Ways the Semantic Web Will Change Marketing“, he was pointing to its impact on Marketing.  But beyond that, we can take from his explanation the broader capabilities afforded by it: findability, pullability, mashability, mobility – essentially interoperability, as applicable to any activity, sector or function which involves information (read: data).  Can you think of any that don’t?

Enabling data in this way (with all these building blocks) is “one” thing – moving control closer to the end user, and toward solutions and value.  Making it “usable” is yet another.  Every interaction is marketing (good or bad) for the resources of the interaction.  The opportunity this points to is, through the leveraging of those capabilties, to improve the experience around deriving those solutions and achieving that value.

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Image representing WebMediaBrands as depicted ...Image via CrunchBase

Today, WebMediaBrands announced that it acquired the Semantic Technology Conference (SemTech) and Semantic Universe.  SemTech has been the main non-academic annual gathering for the Semantic Technology space for six years thus far.  In the past few years, WebMediaBrands has also been active in the space, with its SemanticWeb and MediaBistro arms, and its organizing of related events including the Web3.0 Conference and before that, LinkedData Planet.

Semantic Technology ConferenceImage via Flickr

W3c semantic web stackImage via Wikipedia

  The combination of WebMediaBrands’ year-round focus on the space (through regional and sub-sector targeted events), with the annual convention that SemTech has been, should result in driving the space forward.  Together, their now complementary efforts should facilitate momentum on the commercial side of the space.  Perhaps we’ll also see the development of some useful industry-wide resources, as a result.

Update: Press release from Semantic Universe

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Statue of Isaac Newton at the Oxford Universit...Image via Wikipedia

The plan for Newton run #3 was to just “not think about it, and just let the shoe do the work”.   The reality was that I ended up focusing on how the strike compared to my normal one – and since, as I’ve mentioned, I’m not much of a heel striker anyway, it felt almost normal.  A little too normal.  So I became more deliberate about the toe-heel plant sequence.  Near the end of this run too, I was getting the moonwalk / wheels spinning in reverse sensation.

As with my other Newton runs, I followed with a few Asics Cumulus miles, intentionally trying to keep the same toe-heel strike order.  This wasn’t all that difficult to do, (at least relative to being deliberate about it in the Newtons).  The real test will be what happens in the Asics after this placement is more the norm in the Newtons, and happens without thinking.   This, of course, prompted some wondering about whether the change will really come from the focus, or from the shoe.

Run #4, though, was to be all about short stride length and increased turnover (to 180pm), with the only attention on plant to be about its location – directly beneath me, and not at all in front (with zero attention on the strike order).  The result, because of the mechanics of this movement, was that the strike was more toe-first, regardless. Followed again with a few non-Newton miles, continuing to focus on stride and plant-location, the strike did continue to be in the forefoot.  I’ll keep up the comparison to see what happens.

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Felix, Foot-Dragging Again?Image by william c hutton jr via Flickr

Ok, I’m still not able to “just go, and not think about it” with these new treads.  Just to review, I’m trying these out to assist in changing my form, though I think I was doing a pretty good job with mid-foot plant.  The idea with the Newtons is that they’ve got reduced heels, and thickened mid-foot – so there is more likelihood of the foot planting front-first than with the typical built-up heel of today’s running shoes.  The built-up forefoot is in the form of lugs that are supposed to depress into spaces in the sole, and spring back out in concert with your own, more springy turnover that would result from shortened stride and increased turnover.

But something strange did happen this time out – at about the middle of this second run.  It is a little hard to describe, but what comes to mind is a combination of a) doing the moonwalk, and b) the illusion of wheels spinning backwards when they’re clearly going forward.  The wheel illusion has been referred to as the wagonwheel or stroboscopic effect, attributed to position of spokes and the timing of film frames.  In this case though, the feeling seems to derive from trying to conceptualize the movement – and since the brain is so used to feeling heel first and then toe, encountering them in reverse may just be sending the signal that this must be backward motion.  The strangest part is that it makes it feel as if the foot is pushing forward through the plant  We’ll have to see if this wears off over time.

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This is a third post in what is turning out to be a series related to running form, and trying out some Newton running shoes (the Sir Isaac model – or Newtons on training wheels).  The objective in this little experiment is to try to shift my form to be more efficient.  Beyond shortening stride, it is about a deliberate toe-plant, with the intentions being to not only reduce impact and body wear, but to increase effectiveness of horizontal propulsion – and therefore speed and endurance.

Forefoot WearImage by Morten Liebach via Flickr

First run: Recommendation is to start out with short runs, so I did a couple of miles on them, and threw on my basic asics.

For starters, if you’re going out intending to change your form, you’re going to find yourself thinking really hard about things you normally just do automatically.  That’s exactly what was happening – thinking toe-plant, roll back, spring back – and every other element of your body movement comes into question.

The sensation of having lugs under your forefoot is certainly odd – and by the end of the first couple of miles, I was thinking that the balls of my feet would be aching later in the evening.

Cover of Cover of City Slickers

After watching City Slickers years ago, and liking the Norman character (that was the cow), I swore off eating veal.  Well that first run reiterated this sentiment; I kept being reminded of this decision for the next day or so by my screaming calves.  (I was given fair warning to expect this, and this is part of the basis for easing into wearing these shoes).

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So many fit folks that I talk to have had to give up running due to worn out knees, saying “doctor says I’m done”.  There are certainly times that I’ve felt like I was “done”, and I didn’t need anyone to tell me that!

A series of gait graphs, in the style of Hilde...Image via Wikipedia

Some of the basis for my past running thinking and experimentation has been about performance and efficiency, while some has been about longevity and wear-and-tear prevention, and some has just been about comfort and/or curiosity.   But thinking a bit more about about the mechanics of foot plant, stride and gait has me thinking I might dig in and make a go of some longer term, deliberate exprimentation – with enough time to unlearn some old habits and get beyond the awkwardness of shifting form.Here’s the text I posted to a running forum to see what thoughts and opinions might get thrown back:

Dilemma with mechanics and fitness

For context, at present, my running is not about races, performance or competition, but more for fitness (both physical and mental).  I’m also very analytical and enjoy considering and observing the differences that variations in mechanics can provide.

I am on the fence about trying out the Newtons, as I appreciate their mechanical potential, and have tried the pose method with ordinary shoes with no success (albeit likely with too little experimentation).  So here’s my question:  Given the improved biomechanics that can achieved with the:

  • reduced ankle roll motion potential of non-heal strike,
  • reduced compression of the quad on extension,
  • reduced arm swing (since the stride length is shortened)
  • and overall reduced heart rate resulting from all of the above,

If one’s objective is physical conditioning (vs competitive performance), would use of the Newtons reduce the ability to achieve the cardio and circulatory benefits sought (without having to double the time and distance of my running).

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Fox and Haskell formula showing the split betw...Image via Wikipedia

I was glad to receive one thoughtful response pretty quickly, saying “if it aint broke, don’t fix it”.  I can certainly understand where they were coming from – but I do think that if you’re doing something that has been shown to break it over time, you might want to think about fixing it even though it hasn’t broken anything yet!  Also, my question was really more to the point of objective – that is, if you get more of a workout running inefficiently, and you don’t care about winning or beating anyone else, does it make more sense to keep doing it inefficiently and get a better workout, or could you still make a case for making the change.

I’ve emailed the company that makes the Newton to get their thoughts on my question, but in the meantime, I’m probably going to grab a pair and try them out.

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Picture ? in robotic gait sequenceImage via Wikipedia

Not quite sure where I’m going to go with this, but along the way, I’m going to take some notes.

Running is something that I’ve long done, but without having given it a whole lot of thought.  Let me restate that: it is something I’ve done without analyzing it as much as I might ordinarily analyze things.  Let me try that again: … without having talked as much about my analysis of it.  That’s probably because most of the analysis has been something to keep me busy on longer runs, and has been in my head (and mostly without a spreadsheet being involved! – noted emphasis on “mostly”, rather than on “without”).

The thinking has generally been around foot plant, leg movement, energy and efficiency, translation of forces, performance… It really all began when making subtle shifts in center of mass and body angle, in order to give tiring parts of me a break – so I could make it all the way home. This evolved to trying out variations of foot-plant; softening ankle, knee and hip joints on impact; and even to deliberately reaching for heel plants to see if beginning some backward foot motion just prior to impact might give some pull-power (the way toe-clips for biking enable capturing the upward leg movement when driving the pedals around, to contribute to forward force and movement.

The experimentation wasn’t particularly scientific, and the most memorable observation was of a different kind of tired (specifically in the hamstrings). Next up was a little reading about Pose and some deliberate forward tilting and intentional toe-heel planting.  Beyond being a little awkward and almost confusing to the subconscious, I recall the lower legs taking quite a beating from that experiment.

Over time, I’ve evolved to a quiet and soft, mid-foot strike which seems to have served me well.  But I’m thinking more about what’s being left on the table.

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