Thesis Complete

Well, it has taken a year of my life, but my masters thesis is now complete and ready to be reviewed by my supervisor and external reviewers. In hindsight I am very happy I chose to do my masters rather than a PhD – my preference in life is to be more practical rather than theoretical. Right now I’m about to get back into full-time development of Centruflow leading in to CeBIT in March next year – we have some awesome technology in the pipeline!

My thesis is titled ‘Improving Centruflow Using Semantic Web Technologies’. It weighs in at 139 pages or a little under 34,000 words. I start it by quoting Blaise Pascal “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time”. The thesis covers a lot of software development detail but at the heart of it is a decent chunk of maths. This surprised even me, as I am by no means a mathematician.

You may notice my writing style has become severely ‘relaxed’ – too much ‘proper’ writing in my thesis has forced my brain to try to rebel – my sentences now instead flow into each other as a series of hyphens. 🙂

If anyone is interested in checking out the thesis feel free to ask – I’m more than happy to hand send it out. The only reason I don’t provide a link here is that I’d really like to know who is interested.

What is the Semantic Web (or, Turning Data Into Information)

I’m working on my thesis at the moment, and am writing a bit of an introductory section about the semantic web. As soon as I started writing it, I thought it would be good to include on this blog. Because of this it is not overly formal, but I think it gives a good impression of what the semantic web is, in my opinion. Attached below is the entire section, copied as-is.

In our opinion and understanding of the semantic web, the goal is simple to describe, but complex to successfully implement. We believe the semantic web enables the intelligent and automated reuse of the masses of data that is available on our computers and networks for our benefit. Data is not valuable in and of itself, and it is through the conversion to information that we as humans can actually proceed to be better informed as to the availability of options and the consequences of our actions.

Before this is possible, the groundwork must be put into place, and that is the current state of the semantic web. RDF and OWL are slowly becoming more stable as standards definitions for the means of semantically marking up data, SPARQL is becoming the de facto means to query such data, and more frequently are we encountering situations where, visibly or not, applications (and this includes web applications) are using a solid semantic web foundation to not only give themselves a ‘foot up’, but to also be more interoperable in the long term.

Once this groundwork is in place, the varied ideas that have been floated by the visionaries behind the semantic web (notably Tim Berners-Lee) become a lot more realistic. We are of the belief that this is no longer a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’, and perhaps most importantly, depends now only on the uptake of the W3C standards by the large software vendors such as Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, and SAP. This has already begun.

To be clear, the semantic web will not make websites any prettier than they are now (thanks to the Web 2.0 emphasis on design), but it’ll allow them to be smarter, and more connected. People have reserved the term ‘Web 3.0’ for many things (including the semantic web faction), so we will avoid confusing this any further, but suffice to say, the semantic web will be the next (or the next next) big thing for the internet.

This section of my thesis very closely ties to a piece of software I’m involved with called Centruflow. It’s goal is to turn data into information by transforming any data source it is pointed at into a visual graph that may be clicked around and explored in real time. If you’re drowning in data, you should definitely check it out!

If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask. I have over 30,000 additional words I could copy in here if anyone cares 😛

Masters Thesis and RSS

A few tips for anyone supposed to be working hard:

  1. Don’t have your RSS feed reader set to check for news every 15 minutes.
  2. Especially when writing (such as I am doing with my masters thesis), don’t have the radio playing.
  3. Don’t do things you didn’t resolve to do (I’m supposed to be writing, not coding).

NZ-made Information Visualisation Software

In response to Daniel Lawson’s blog post regarding TouchGraph, I’d like to draw attention to Centruflow, which is a New Zealand based software framework that does precisely what TouchGraph does, but in my opinion better…

I’ll leave my justification for this for another day. I just wanted to get this blog out there to say to everyone: support New Zealand made! 🙂

Thanks Sun!

Just a quick blog to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Sun Microsystems. Today I received delivery of a SunFire X2200 M2. It is a dual-core AMD64 (Opteron? I’m not up with naming schemes anymore – I gave up after Pentium II) 1.8GHz, with 2gigs of RAM, a 250gig SATA hard drive and a DVD ROM drive. They donated it to me to use to primarily port my research to Solaris, but once that’s done it’s mine to keep.

A few screenshots of the server on my office floor:

My new Sun Server

My new Sun Server

My new Sun Server

My new Sun Server


This is all working towards the announcement of the release of an end-user ready release of my research from the past few years – stay tuned!