Saturday, 29 January 2011

Mobile Learning - new apps from WolframAlpha

I've been following WolframAlpha for some time - they have an intriguing (some may say mysterious) business model based on a very powerful semantic search platform with ability to answer any and every question with speed and accuracy. I was intrigued therefore when I came across these (new?) apps, which appear to be opening up an entirley new channel for online/mobile education.

No doubt other players are looking at this market (Open University?) but I think that WoframAlpha are currently ahead of the game.

Amplify’d from
An app for every course...
Gain a competitive advantage with Wolfram Course Assistant Apps. Each app is custom designed
specifically for today's popular courses. Wolfram
Course Assistant Apps use an intuitive interface that guides you through
the coursework to help you solve problems, not just give you the answers.

As the makers of Mathematica and Wolfram|Alpha, we have been providing solutions in education for over 20 years. Now we're combining expert-level data, high-performance computation, and state-of-the-art interface design to give you the power to excel in all your classes—right in the palm of your hand.

See more at

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Wolfram Alpha announces changes to its API for semantic search

Wolfram Alpha have announced a big change to its pricing plans which gives non-commercial users 2,000 free calls a month. Also mention of an upcoming data API, which sounds like it might offer a more programmer-friendly version of the results.

Anyone interested in the power and potential of a semantic web search engine should give Wolfram Alpha a try-out.

Amplify’d from

Wolfram Alpha has assembled an impressive collection of information on everything from chemistry to high finance, but until recently external developers could only access it by paying between two and six cents per query. Today the company announced a big change to its pricing plans which gives non-commercial users 2,000 free calls a month, as well as adding new features like the asynchronous delivery of slower results. With few external applications appearing to use the old interface, can these changes open it up to a wider audience of developers?

The API itself is very similar to the Wolfram Alpha Web interface. Developers pass in a query string, and then get back XML results that reflect exactly what you'd see in the browser for the same search. This makes it ideal for formatting and displaying to users, since you get back plain text descriptions and images visualizing the information. This is exactly how most of Wolfram's flagship customers have been using it. For example Bing displays information from Alpha alongside its own search results, and Touch Press uses it to supplement its interactive books.

This is great if you want to show the information immediately to users, but what if you want to understand and process the data as part of your application? You might want run your own analysis on a company's share price, but you'll have a tough time converting their plain text results into numbers you can feed into an algorithm, and though their Mathematica versions are structured, it's not a simple format to read in. This may not be accidental - their terms of service make it clear that you can't "access, cache, store, retain, or in any way compile any copies or portion of any Wolfram|Alpha content." wolfram0.pngWolfram has built up a large and valuable collection of data, and the company doesn't want to make it too accessible for fear that it may be copied. There is a sign of hope though in the mention of an upcoming data API, which sounds like it might offer a more programmer-friendly version of the results.

The easiest way to try it for yourself is through their API Explorer page. If you enter a query, you'll see the XML results appear, along with the URL you'd call from your application to run the same search. The results are split up into sections that Wolfram describe as "Pods." Each one of these corresponds to a different nugget of information related to the terms you entered, and matches the way results are shown in the normal Web interface.

There's a complete reference guide available as a PDF, detailing the options you can specify to narrow down your query, as well as the meaning of some of the results sections.

Stephen Wolfram and his team have created an astonishingly powerful collection of information. As he puts it on the Wolfram blog, the dream is to make this "computable knowledge" available to immediately enhance any program that's connected to the service. Today's announcement is a big step forward to opening it up to far more developers, but it will need much more computer-readable results before it will really fulfill that promise. Do you agree, or am I misunderstanding the power of the API as it is right now? Are there existing applications beyond the handful that Wolfram highlight? Let us know in the comments.


Friday, 21 January 2011

BBC News - A Point of View: Does more information mean we know less?

An interesting article - some of which I can agree with (taking on more and more information does not necessarily make us more knowledgeable). I think the state of your mind can influence what information you are able to absorb and make sense of. Maybe rather than talk about 'fasting' the brain the author could have used the concept of 'reflection', i.e. a calm period where you give the brain an opportunity to organise its thoughts.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

World now in third era of cybercrime

One could ask "what's the connection between Facebook and the Iranian Nuclear Programme?" - Answer - both under attack from cybercrime. Details in this clipping. The quote from the author also worth noting:

"The scale of malicious activity on Facebook appears to be out of control," notes report co-author, Graham Cluley. "The social media site, however, is either unable or unwilling to invest the necessary resources to stamp it out," he writes, the latest in a line of stinging comments he has made in recent months on Facebook's apparent security complacency.

Time for me to check my Facbook privacy settings....again!

Amplify’d from

The year 2010 was a hugely significant one for computing criminality and could turn out to mark the beginning of a 'third era' of cybercrime, security expert Graham Cluley of Sophos has said in advance of the company's latest threat review of the year.

The first era was marked by amateur hacking and virus creation on the PC, the second by the fusing of organised crime with the new technologies of the Internet, and as expected 2010 saw plenty on both these fronts in ever more sophisticated and varied forms.

On that score, during the year criminals appeared to migrate to some degree from old-style spam and web exploits to embed themselves in the next e-crime battlefront, social networks.

"The scale of malicious activity on Facebook appears to be out of control," notes report co-author, Graham Cluley. "The social media site, however, is either unable or unwilling to invest the necessary resources to stamp it out," he writes, the latest in a line of stinging comments he has made in recent months on Facebook's apparent security complacency.

But it is the 'third era' that has finally started in earnest that marks out the last year as different, and which can be defined loosely through the sudden emergence of cybercrime as a geo-political theme.

Hillary Clinton railed at China in thinly veiled terms for its supposed involvement in the Aurora attack on US companies, Stuxnet hit the Iranian nuclear program in what now looks like a carefully-crafted targeted attack, and a new UK government suddenly defined cyberdefence as one of its highest military worries.

Topping the year off were the extraordinary leaks of US military and diplomatic data to Wikileaks, and the hacktivism of the Anonymous group which developed the idea of cybercrime as an unconventional political tool.

"2010 was an unusual year. This was the year the gloves came off and it became serious," comments Cluley.

All three tiers of cybercrime - nuisance hacking, the criminal, and now the paid or unpaid political hacker - represent a threat to consumers and companies alike and sometimes telling them apart can be difficult.

A good example of how these different layers can fuse into one crime came with September's odd 'onMouseOver' Twitter worm, which was a social media attack that caught out senior political figures, including Sophos notes, ex-UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown's "wife Sarah Brown, Lord Alan Sugar, and even Robert Gibbs, the press secretary to US President Barack Obama."

One encouraging and significant statistic from 2010 was a spike in the number of arrests for alleged cybercriminal activities, which hit organised gangs as well as loners out to cause nuisance.

Before 2010, Internet crime was assumed to be low risk and the pressure to find the culprits was apparently modest. Now, with cybercrime suddenly deemed important by governments, criminals in developed countries can no longer assume they won't be found out and possibly even, in 2011, extradicted from countries other than the ones in which crimes were committed.


Tuesday, 18 January 2011

10 years of Wikipedia

In case you missed this - a great Podcast from a number of contributors (including Jimmy Wales) to mark the 10th anniversary of Wikipedia. Follow the link below to get to the podcast.

Amplify’d from

It started as a hobby with noble aims and has blossomed into the fifth most popular website in the world - with over three million English articles alone, ten million contributors and 175 languages.

Today, it's hard to imagine life without Wikipedia. When you want to know more about anything, what do you do? You turn your computer on, put your query into a search engine, and in the first few hits there's a Wikipedia page. It's easy to see why the English site alone gets over nine million views per hour.

In this documentary, Science in Action presenter Jon Stewart explores this truly global phenomenon as it continues to grow at an impressive rate, despite surviving on only 50 paid staff and being run as a charity.

Why has it become such an invaluable resource? How has it changed over the decade? And is it a reliable source of info and news or a symptom of the spread of mediocrity and devaluation of research?

As it enters its tenth year, we look at the history and evolution of Wikipedia - which by allowing people from opposite sides of the world to contribute - has grown into one of the most popular websites on the internet.

What does the future hold for the site? Will it simply be replaced by another way of sharing knowledge on a mass level? Or will Wikipedia one day contain the sum of human knowledge? And are there any downsides to this democratisation of information?


Saturday, 15 January 2011

Pezholio » Blog Archive » A beginner’s guide to SPARQLing linked data (Part 1)

A great introduction to the world of linked data, RDF, triple-stores and SPARQL, with plenty of examples of how to construct a SPARQL query for local government spend data. Looking forward to part 2!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Internet 2010 in numbers

A useful set of statistics from Royal Pingdom in the following categories:

+ Email

+ Websites

+ Web Servers

+ Domain names

+ Internet users

+ Social Media

+ Web browsers

+ Videos

+ Images

Pie Charts:

+ Web browser market share, December 2010

+ Internet users divided by region, June 2010

+ Web server market share, December 2010

Some of the Many Stats You'll Find:

+ 294 billion – Average number of email messages per day

+ 480 million – New email users since the year before

+ 255 million – The number of websites as of December 2010

+ 88.8 million – .COM domain names at the end of 2010

+ 100 million – New accounts added on Twitter in 2010

+ 250 million – New people on Facebook in 2010

+ 20 million – Videos uploaded to Facebook per month

+ 5 billion – Photos hosted by Flickr (September 2010)

Amplify’d from

What happened with the Internet in 2010?

How many websites were added? How many emails were sent? How many Internet users were there? This post will answer all of those questions and many, many more. If it’s stats you want, you’ve come to the right place.

We used a wide variety of sources from around the Web to put this post together. You can find the full list of source references at the bottom of the post if you’re interested. We here at Pingdom also did some additional calculations to get you even more numbers to chew on.


  • 107 trillion – The number of emails sent on the Internet in 2010.

  • 294 billion – Average number of email messages per day.

  • 1.88 billion – The number of email users worldwide.

  • 480 million – New email users since the year before.

  • 89.1% – The share of emails that were spam.

  • 262 billion – The number of spam emails per day (assuming 89% are spam).

  • 2.9 billion – The number of email accounts worldwide.

  • 25% – Share of email accounts that are corporate.


  • 255 million – The number of websites as of December 2010.

  • 21.4 million – Added websites in 2010.

Web servers

  • 39.1% – Growth in the number of Apache websites in 2010.

  • 15.3% – Growth in the number of IIS websites in 2010.

  • 4.1% – Growth in the number of nginx websites in 2010.

  • 5.8% – Growth in the number of Google GWS websites in 2010.

  • 55.7% – Growth in the number of Lighttpd websites in 2010.

Web server market share

Domain names

  • 88.8 million – .COM domain names at the end of 2010.

  • 13.2 million – .NET domain names at the end of 2010.

  • 8.6 million – .ORG domain names at the end of 2010.

  • 79.2 million – The number of country code top-level domains (e.g. .CN, .UK, .DE, etc.).

  • 202 million – The number of domain names across all top-level domains (October 2010).

  • 7% – The increase in domain names since the year before.

Internet users

  • 1.97 billion – Internet users worldwide (June 2010).

  • 14% – Increase in Internet users since the previous year.

  • 825.1 million – Internet users in Asia.

  • 475.1 million – Internet users in Europe.

  • 266.2 million – Internet users in North America.

  • 204.7 million – Internet users in Latin America / Caribbean.

  • 110.9 million – Internet users in Africa.

  • 63.2 million – Internet users in the Middle East.

  • 21.3 million – Internet users in Oceania / Australia.

Social media

  • 152 million – The number of blogs on the Internet (as tracked by BlogPulse).

  • 25 billion – Number of sent tweets on Twitter in 2010

  • 100 million – New accounts added on Twitter in 2010

  • 175 million – People on Twitter as of September 2010

  • 7.7 million – People following @ladygaga (Lady Gaga, Twitter’s most followed user).

  • 600 million – People on Facebook at the end of 2010.

  • 250 million – New people on Facebook in 2010.

  • 30 billion – Pieces of content (links, notes, photos, etc.) shared on Facebook per month.

  • 70% – Share of Facebook’s user base located outside the United States.

  • 20 million – The number of Facebook apps installed each day.

Web browsers

Web browser market share


  • 2 billion – The number of videos watched per day on YouTube.

  • 35 – Hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute.

  • 186 – The number of online videos the average Internet user watches in a month (USA).

  • 84% – Share of Internet users that view videos online (USA).

  • 14% – Share of Internet users that have uploaded videos online (USA).

  • 2+ billion – The number of videos watched per month on Facebook.

  • 20 million – Videos uploaded to Facebook per month.


  • 5 billion – Photos hosted by Flickr (September 2010).

  • 3000+ – Photos uploaded per minute to Flickr.

  • 130 million – At the above rate, the number of photos uploaded per month to Flickr.

  • 3+ billion – Photos uploaded per month to Facebook.

  • 36 billion – At the current rate, the number of photos uploaded to Facebook per year.

Data sources and notes: Spam percentage from MessageLabs (PDF). Email user numbers and counts from Radicati Group (the number of sent emails was their prediction for 2010, so it’s very much an estimate). Website numbers from Netcraft. Domain name stats from Verisign and Internet user numbers and distribution from Internet World Stats. Facebook stats from Facebook and Business Insider. Twitter stats from Twitter (and here), TwitterCounter and TechCrunch. Web browser stats from StatCounter. YouTube video numbers from Google. Facebook video numbers from GigaOM. US online video stats from Comscore and the Pew Research Center. Flickr image numbers from Flickr. Facebook image numbers from this blog.


Thursday, 6 January 2011 buys DimDim web conferencing company officially announced today its acquisition of Indian web conferencing company Dimdim for approximately $31 million in cash. It is anticipated that will integrate DimDim's features into their SaaS Chatter product.

The Dimdim web site now allows only existing customers to login, with a note that new registrations are not being accepted. The open source community edition is still available for download from Sourceforge but will no longer be maintained by All free accounts are being shut down.

DimDim was (is) a component of the Knowledge Hub (a projects I'm deeply involved with)  and would have provided a free-to-use conferencing facility for Gov/Local Gov users of theThe Knowledge Hub when it is launched later this year. The full implications to the Knowledge Hub project are being assessed.

Posted via email from stephendale's posterous

Why You Need a Social Media Policy | Reuters

The article cites three good reasons to craft a social media policy:

1. Protect your company’s reputation

2. Minimize confusion about murky legal issues.

3. Raise awareness of your brand.

Does your company have a social media policy?

Monday, 3 January 2011

The Biggest Tech Surprises and Disappointments in 2010 - DailyFinance

No major suprises here - Facebook continues on its mission for world domination; the iPad hits the mark for big boys' toys; video game developers are realising that substance trumps presentation (3D is not the panacea for user immersion); Groupon is the one to watch; privacy is an illusion; Google has 'buzzed' off.

I think that about sums up the social web landscape for the start of 2011!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

10 great Enterprise 2.0 presentations

A collection of compelling presentations, covering Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, socialmedia, the Cloud, mashups, Knowledge Management , Information Management....and more. A good reference source.