Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Idaho Environmental Summit - Boise December 5-7, 2006

The first annual Idaho Environmental Summit will be held in Boise, Idaho -December 5-7, 2006.

I plan to attend this meeting. It will be interesting to examine if and how this conference may stimulate the use of social networking concepts in the future. New online technologies, some of which I have identified on this Blog, should allow all of the topics that are being highlighted at the Summit to be discussed throughout the year and in the future by interested citizens.

The web site notes that "The mission of the Idaho Environmental Summit is to provide an annual event for the people of Idaho to work together to achieve a healthy environment through communication, education and action. "

Over thirty partner organizations are working together to provide an agenda full of sensational and nationally recognized speakers in six keynote events and over fifty breakout sessions. Environmental subject areas include:

Land Use
Water Resources
Air Quality
Regulatory Compliance
Treaty Rights and Trust Responsibilities
Fish and Wildlife
Community Building and Environmental Science
Cleanup and Remediation
...and much more.

I will write a report here after the meeting is concluded.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Children, EPA and The Semantic Web/ Post #2

"A story from EPA - “Is my child safe from environmental toxins?”

A Google search revealed this topic in the table of contents of an HTML web document titled "Introducing Semantic Web Technologies: Harnessing the Power of Information Semantics."

The story noted above is described as a pilot study underway for the EPA in 2004. "It will apply Semantic Web technologies to integrate distributed data sources including those administered by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and a variety of state government agencies."

"This story is just one example of the tremendous challenges that the federal government faces in relation to the complex organizational structure, the size of its data stores, and the interdependence to other government or non-government entities. These challenges have placed increasing demands for better information sharing, more effective information management, more intelligent search, and smarter decision-making in order to improve government services, enable net-centric defense capabilities and ensure the safety of our nation."

Reading about the EPA story helped me gain a better understanding of how the Semantic Web is being developed and led me to investigate the group responsible for writing it. It is encouraging to find more information about how Semantic Web groups like this are using Collaborative Networking and Wikis for communication. For reader's information below is a quick overview and links to a few of the project pages.

The final draft of this Executive Brief White Paper was published in September 2004 and was developed at KM.GOV by the Semantic Interoperability Community of Practice which " is established by a group of individuals for the purpose of achieving "semantic interoperability" and "semantic data integration" focused on the government sector." KM stands for Knowledge Management and the KM.GOV web site has Knowledge management working groups, special interest groups and a Wiki COLAB:> "An Open Collaborative Work Environment to Support Networking Among Communities of Practice" and more.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Children, EPA and The Semantic Web

Every day I read in the local, national and global news something that makes me wonder why humans are not using the best scientific knowledge that is available, to help guide decisions related to natural resources and ecosystems. From the understanding I have gained over my lifetime I assume that there is enough general agreement about what needs to be done about clean water and air, species sustainability, energy issues, causes of climate change and many other ecological problems that we could be making better decisions every day if we just followed the best scientific conclusions that continue to accumulate constantly from all over the world. I don't understand how citizens can allow short term religious, political and economic issues to overrule science when clearly the future of many living organisms including the human species is at stake. Today I want to write a few comments about the following topics and follow up with more detailed comments in future posts.

1. Is there any scientific doubt that the sensory mechanisms of all organisms including human children are tuned to respond and learn from natural environmental experiences? An interesting new book by "Richard Louv" is available titled, "Last Child in the Woods" - Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder," (The links provided are to Google Searchs.) The book may be spawning a social movement now being developed by schools, states and even government agencies such as the National Park Service and Forest Service called, "No Child Left Inside." (Another Google Search Link) Children and their families are being encouraged to visit parks, wetlands and natural areas. Note that the areas to visit includes water bodies like lakes, rivers and streams. My question is, how do citizens reconcile the need for children to explore these places at the same time allowing more chemical pesticides to be applied by rule changes by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency? Note that the slogan on the EPA web site is "35 years of protecting human health and the environment."

2. "EPA Issues Final Rule on Aquatic Pesticide Applications" is a November 21, 2006 news release from the EPA Newsroom. An article written by H. Josef Herbert, of the Associated Press "EPA Exempts Some Pesticide Use" notes that this is an exemption from previous rules and means that pesticides can be applied directly into water or sprayed nearby or onto foliage over water without a pollution permit from the federal Clean Water Act, if the application is needed to control aquatic weeds, mosquitoes or other pests. He also notes that obviously environmental groups say this ruling will make it easier to pollute the nation's lakes and streams. He also quotes Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who believes the permitting exemption will lead to more toxic pollution getting into lakes and streams. "He said a billion pounds of pesticides are used annual in the United States "and much of it ends up in our waterways."

3. The Semantic Web: I share Nova Spivac's opinion on his blog Minding the Planet, that "ecology is going to be the most important science and discipline of the 21st century – it is the science of healthy systems." In his very comprehensive and understandable November 06, 2006 article "Minding the Planet -- The Meaning and Future of the Semantic Web" he wrote, "Ecology is essentially the science of community – whether biological, technological or social. And community is a key part of the Semantic Web at every level: communities of software, communities of people, and communities of groups. In the end the global mind is the ultimate human community. It is the reward we get for finally learning how to live together in peace and balance with our environment."

As I read and research ideas about the future of the Semantic Web I understand the potential for how expert knowledge that is trustworthy, reputable and reliable is accumulating and will become more and more important in the future. Meanwhile, I believe there is already valuable expert knowledge that we use every day and could use even more effectively to help solve a myriad of ecological problems that are accumulating at an alarming rate.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Semantic Web -Minding the Planet, by Nova Spivack

I received some nice comments about my last post about the Semantic Web. One of these pointed me to Nova Spivack's Blog where he has several recent posts related to this topic. I found his insights to be very interesting and foward thinking. For those interested in learning more I suggest you read his posts I have noted below.

In the November 6, 2006 article titled "Minding The Planet -- The Meaning and Future of the Semantic Web " Spivack provides a "Prelude" explaining some of his background and a successful attempt to provide "a detailed introduction and context for the Semantic Web for non-technical people."

November 12, 2006
What is the Semantic Web, Actually?

November 15, 2006
The Semantic Web is About Helping People Use the Web More Productively

I plan to read more of Nova Spivac's posts and will comment more in the near future.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Semantic Web - A third generation?

The Semantic Web is a concept that seems to be re-emerging as a third generation of the thought about the World Wide Web. Expert or knowledge based computer programs are commonly used by businesses and one would hope by government agencies and community organizations. Clearly the increasing power of computers, search engines, and data base information availability promises to increasingly add a new interactivity to the Internet and the World Wide Web which should help humans address complex natural resource, environmental and ecosystem issues.

I intend to make a few notes now and continue to explore these concepts in much more detail as time permits.

A Wikipedia entry notes that the concept of "An expert system also known as a knowledge based system, is a computer program that contains some of the subject-specific knowledge of one or more human experts. This class of program was first developed by researchers in artificial intelligence during the 1960s and 1970s and applied commercially throughout the 1980s."

An entry note under Purpose in Wikipedia for the term Semantic Web notes that in 1999 'Tim Berners-Lee originally expressed the vision of the semantic web as follows:'

"I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analysing all the data on the Web – the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A ‘Semantic Web’, which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The ‘intelligent agents’ people have touted for ages will finally materialize."

On November 11, 2006, John Markoff wrote an article in the New York Times titled, "Entrepreneurs See a Web Guided by Common Sense." In this article he refers to the emergence of Web 3.0. and he also refers to Tim Berners-Lee's call for a Semantic Web in 1999.

Of current interest, "Berners-Lee launches a web science initiative," is the title of an artcle by Clement James, on November 3, 2006. In the beginning of the article James notes that "Tim Berners-Lee, father of the World Wide Web, has announced the launch of a long-term research collaboration between MIT and the University of Southampton that aims to turn the web itself into a fundamental science.

The Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI) will generate a research agenda to understand the scientific, technical and social challenges underlying the growth of the web.

Research will focus on the volume of information on the web which documents more and more aspects of human activity and knowledge.

WSRI research projects will weigh such questions as: 'How do we access information and assess its reliability? By what means may we assure its use complies with social and legal rules? How will we preserve the web over time?' "

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Two new Social Networking opportunities

Two recent announcements about new social networking opportunities are worthy of note. I believe it is very evident that we, as users of the internet, are being enabled to build specialized networks for local social and environmental topics. As we learn how to use these new opportunities citizens should have a much more active involvement in deciding future natural resource and ecosystem issues.

is developing a wide variety of useful internet applications that qualify as social networking opportunities. Google Earth, by itself, is just an amazing way for people to share photos and web site information about geographic locations people care about. Combined with all of the other Google Services and Tools Internet users are gaining new options that they have never had available to them before.

As explained in the Ning article below, Google is not alone in developing amazing new options and opportunities for individual and group networking opportunties we can learn how to use in the near future. This is an exciting time for internet users who want help change how we participate in our democracy.

October 31, 2006 - Ben Ames, IDG News Service, wrote an article in titled Google buys JotSpot, offers free wiki pages. "In a bid to grow beyond its roots as a search engine, Google has acquired JotSpot, a developer of wiki technology for collaborative Web sites. Earlier this month, Google announced it would offer online word processing and spreadsheet applications to its millions of Web searchers. The company also has a blogging service, but hasn’t yet introduced a tool for Web-based collaboration."

The Jotspot web site notes that is not accepting ..."new account registrations while we focus on migrating to Google's systems." They will notify you when registration is open if you provide an email address. On a Frequently asked questions JotSpot page "Why is Google acquiring JotSpot?" The answer is "Google shares JotSpot's vision for helping people collaborate, share and work together online. JotSpot's team and technology are a strong fit with existing Google products like Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Google Apps for Your Domain and Google Groups.

November 8, 2006 - Martin LaMonica, wrote a article for CNet titled Ning brings social networking to the masses. "Marc Andreessen and Gina Bianchini took the stage at the Web 2.0 Summit here Wednesday to publicly launch, which lets people build Web sites for online socializing." He quotes Gina Bianchini CEO of Ning, ""What's different about Ning from other services is that we give you your own video site like YouTube, or social-networking site like MySpace," she said. "But unlike being a page in somebody else's service, it's yours. You get to choose what it's about."

Lamonica also quotes Mark Andreessen, best known as a Netscape co-founder, "Our basic theory is that as people get more sophisticated and used to social networks, they are going to want a lot more flexibility and a lot more customization," Andreessen said. "We're making a big bet that there will be a lot more social networks over the next couple of years."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Net Neutrality and the new Congress

It seems very likely that new U.S. House of Representatives and Senate will reconsider actions taken in the recent past concerning "Net Neutrality" and other technology related legislation. This is a positive turn for the opportunity for individuals and organizations to continue to develop Social and Community Networking applications related to natural resource and ecosystem projects.

"What the Democrats' win means for tech," written by Declan McCallagh and Anne Broache for CNET today, notes that "the outlook for technology-related legislation has changed dramatically overnight. On a wealth of topics--Net neutrality, digital copyright, merger approval, data retention, Internet censorship--a Capitol Hill controlled by Democrats should yield a shift in priorities on technology-related legislation."

New announcements taking place now at the Web 2.0 Conference (renamed Summit) are very interesting. Rafe Needleman, CNet Web 2.0 Blog has listed links to thirteen "Launch Pad" products and companies selected as "The official start-ups of Web 2.0."

I will write more about some of these in the future as I have time to explore.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Digital Democracy and Web 2.0 ?

As expressed in earlier posts I am interested in how new "Social Networking" and "Web 2.0" concepts can be developed to encourage individual citizens to become more interactively involved in natural resource and ecosystems that affect them and the communities they are concerned about. Clearly we are now seeing the "tip of the iceberg" in how this interactivity might start to develop in the future. My view is that we, as individuals, will ultimately be the ones that produce the energy and involvement that will make this work. We have to learn how to use, and modify, the social networking tools that will be provided. In the article noted below Dan Fost makes a reference to a social networking Wiki project called "BarCamp" which encourages people to set up "un-conferences ... freewheeling roundtable discussions about how to use the latest technological innovations." This is a good example and a useful project to consider.

Yesterday, in the San Francisco Chronicle, Dan Fost wrote a very interesting overview noting critics an supporters of these concepts in an article titled, 'Digital Utopia - A new breed of technologists envisions a democratic world improved by the Internet.' "Behind the random silliness of YouTube videos and the juvenile frivolity of MySpace Web sites lies a powerful idea: Everyday people are using technology to gain control of the media and change the world.

At least that's what a new breed of Internet technologists and entrepreneurs want us to believe. The new Internet boom commonly referred to as Web 2.0 is really an exercise in digital democracy."

Interestingly, Fost concludes the article with what I feel is a pessimistic statement by Tim O'Reilly, organizer (and copyright, or service mark, name holder) of the popular Web 2.0 Conference, the third of which will begin this Tuesday in San Francisco. "Web 2.0, he says, is about business. He says many tech movements start out with similar idealism, only to give way to capitalism."

There are so many complexities related to the current use of the term "Capitalism" and how it is related to unexpected negative changes to natural ecosystems around the world, that if the term Web 2.0 is to be defined this way, I will probably prefer not to use it in the future. The more general term Social Networking is more acceptable and I hope a term will emerge that provides a positive movement toward sustainable ecosystems, if that is still possible.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Public Fear, Democracy and Web 2.0

Jennifer Granick wrote an article for Wired News on Oct, 25, 2006 titled "Saving Democracy With Web 2.0." She writes, "I'd like to see applications that go further, mashing up statistics about government procurement contracts with databases of campaign finance donations -- visually tracing the path of a dollar as it travels from campaign contributor to contract procurement."

My concern is that we the public are not able to fully understand important natural resource and ecosystem issues because information is often controlled or interpreted by special and political interests. I believe that the new developments in Social Networking and Web 2.0 applications can help create a groundswell of public interest in making the government and special interests much more responsive to the public concerns for a sustainable local, regional, national and global future.

Granick also quotes Bruce Cahan, president of the nonprofit Urban Logic, "We read of billion-dollar national infrastructure repair cost studies on the eve of highway legislation, or scary medical risks on the eve of public health or environmental budget hearings," Cahan told me. "Special interests with special knowledge compete to out-shock us because we've made their funding depend on public fear.

"But with a common performance benchmark, we can model urban risks so that both voters and markets can hold government accountable for creating multidimensional solutions to complex problems." Granick writes that "Cahan proposes using new data-sharing technology to blend various performance metrics for cities into a spatially weighted measure called "sustainable resiliency." People can then use the measure as ratings for capital markets, insurance and even politicians."