Monday, August 31, 2015

US-Australian Strategic Alliance in Space

Greetings from the Australian National University in  Canberra, where Adjunct Associate Professor James Brown is speaking on "Constellation Coalition: Australia and the US in space".  He described Australia, UK , Canada and USA as the "constellation coalition".

Professor Brown pointed to Planet Labs "agile aerospace" which has an Australian co-founder, launching "doves" (small disposable satellites). Also "OneWeb" who aim to launch 640 satellites, each 150 kg, for LEO broadband. The third was NZ company "Rocket Labs" which has developed a 3D printed rocket engine and carbon composite rocket, plaining to launch from southern NZ.

Professor Brown pointed to a Chinese anti-satellite weapons test which caused considerable space debris, but noted the USA and other countries have been quietly working on anti-satellite weapons. He also pointed out that cyber-attack was a method of disabling satellites without a kinetic weapon (even better if you can take over and use the enemy's satellite).

Professor Brown suggests the USA's goal is to have real time video surveillance satellites. I suggest this is not necessarily a good idea, as more raw data can impede military decision making. A military commander should not be looking at a megabits per second of real time video feed, they should have analysts (or software) doing that and displaying it as a few hundred bytes of information displayed a s a symbol on a map.

The US Congress banned contact between US and Chinese military and civilian space programs. Professor Brown pointed out this differed to naval personnel, where US and Chinese have met their opposite numbers (which is useful when there is tension).

Professor Brown pointed out that Australia's military plans depend largely on access to satellite communications, but spending on space is about the same as Iceland. Australia's space industry is much smaller than comparable countries, such as Canada. But Professor Brown undermined his argument by pointing out Canada put a man in space (which I suggest is little more than an expensive publicity stunt).

Australia's defense space policy, I suggest, can be best illustrated by the arrangement where Australia paid for a satellite, in return for use of the US defense satellite network. Apart from this Professor Brown pointed out Australia uses dual use civilian satellites.

It would be interesting to see if NBN's new, and very capable, satellites are to be used for defence purposes. While these satellites are limited to Australia (and nearby), there will be large amounts of bandwidth and equipment available, which could be pressed into service for military use, if needed.

One interesting aspect is that Professor Brown pointed out Australian common interests with Japan on space policy. One worry is that Japan has been assisted by France (which have interests which do not necessarily align with Australia or the USA).

Professor Brown showed images from the US Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) and discussed a joint US/Australian exercise about a fictional attack on assets in Australia's region. It might seem that Australia could not contribute much to such an operation. ANU may have the most credible Australian space capabilities, with its tracking facilities at Mt Stromlo Observatory (they can also manufacture and test satellites at Mt Stromlo's Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre). Australia also have credible capabilities for developing computer processing capabilities as a by-product of developing the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).

Professor Brown suggested moving space policy to PM&C. One reason suggested was because that is where Cyber-security policy is. Unfortunately PM&C have not demonstrated an ability to effectively administer cyber-security policy and it might be better to move it and space policy to an agency with the required skills.

Professor Brown suggested the 2017 International Astronautical Congress should have senior ministerial representation (perhaps even the PM). The conference is to be in Adelaide and the Australian Government is keen to show support for defense related industry in South Australia. However, 2017 may be beyond the government's planning horizon.

One point is that while there is this discussion of space systems, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) should maintain a usable ground based long range radio network. The ADF Modernized High Frequency Communications System (MHFCS) provides low bandwidth unglamorous but reliable communications and such systems should be retained. These HF networks can only transmit hundreds, or thousands of bits per second, not millions. However, even so this can be used for text messages, still images and limited voice traffic.

Technology Park for Sydney

David Swan reports in The Australian newspaper today "Atlassian push to revive Sydney’s Australian Technology Park" (31Unlocking Sydney’s Innovation Potential" said to include gnomonic modeling of a technology park by PwC. I mentioned ATP in my "Building Arcadia: Emulating Cambridge's High Technology Success" (1998). However, ATP lacks a nearby university campus, to feed the innovation process. In contrast Canberra has a technology zone, which I have christened the "Canberra Start-up Business Boomerang", between ANU and the CBD.

Australian Government Digital Service Standard

The Australian Government Digital Transformation Office is holding a webcast 10am , 4 September 2015 to discuss their Digital Service Standard and Digital Service Design Guide.

The standard is only 2 pages long, listing sixteen criteria for on-line government services. This is not written in the precise language usually used for standards. As an example, there is no version number or date on the web version of the document (the PDF version confusingly says "Version: 30 March 2015").

The introduction to the standard says "establishes the criteria that Australian Government digital services must meet ...", but the next page says "Government agencies will be expected to:" (emphasis added). It is the usual practice when writing standards to distinguish between what is mandatory (by the use of "must" or "shall") and what is option ("may"). Taken at face value nothing in the DTO Digital Service Standard is mandatory, and so it is not really a standard at all.

The sixteen criteria provided in the standard are reasonably clear and provide useful advice. But these are not really standards statements, being more in the nature of aspirational goals, such as "Understand user needs", "Establish a sustainable multi-disciplinary team" and "Establish benchmarks". No details are given as to precisely what is meant or how to go about doing any of this. A standard would normally call up further standards for the details of what to and have a companion guide for the how to. But no standards are cited by DTO and the accompanying guide does not appear to have been written to match the "standard".

The Digital Service Design Guide is a collection of new and existing material. As such it need not be as precisely written as a standard, but it would be useful to have a date and version number on the document, so readers know what they are looking at.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Setting Australia's Strategic Direction: Here and Now

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where John Garnaut, former Fairfax China correspondent and speaking to Professor Hugh White about the "Power Shift" to China and what Australia's response should be.

Illustrating one of the short term decisions for Australia,the ANU Strategic & Defence Studies Centre banner, behind the speakers, has a photo of a Collins Class submarine on it. Australia has to decide what to replace these submarines with. That choice has international political implications, as one option is from Japan. Also there is the issue of what Australia is going to use the largest, longest range,  non-nuclear submarines in the world for (certainly not just to protect the waters around Australia).

John Garnaut asked Professor White if the Chinese government would share power at the international level, when the are not willing to do so internally. Secondly John Garnaut asked if countries in the region would accept Chinese dominance, when so far they have called for US help. Professor White responded that he assumed the Chinese are "normal" and will "strive for leadership" as the British and Spartans did previously.

Professor White argued that the Chinese would have a sense of grievance about what was done to them by great powers from the Opium wars onwards. he commented that Japan was the only economically powerful country in history not to strive for a dominant global position.

Professor White also argued that China could not be trusted to keep a global agreement, unless there were severe sanctions for non-compliance. He pointed out that this is no different to previous European powers which have abrogated when it suited them.

Professor White suggested that Asian countries (and Australia) want the USA to balance Chinese power in Asia, but the USA wants primacy. However, it occurs to me that the USA may not be able to afford the economic cost of stationing military forces in Asia.

Professor White pointed out that while Australia wants t support the USA, it does not want to be explicitly seen as militarily opposing China (with PM Abbot quick to dismiss basing US strategic bombers in Australia). However, I suggest this is more a matter of public relations. Australia will not have US bases, but will have Australian bases with a significant US presence. US strategic bombers are likely to take part in exercises in Australia.

John Garnaut arges that China has not fought a "serious" war since the Korean War and is there primarily for internal security. He also argues that divisions within the Chinese military reduce its effectiveness. However, I suggest China has had several large border incidents. Also China does not have to make use of its military force for it to have an effect. In particular, the British and US Navies have shown how effective a blue-water navy is for applying diplomatic pressure. The PLAN are rapidly learning these lessons. It should be noted that in WW2, it was the Australian Army which developed some of the doctrine which the US Marines then adopted.

Professor White argues that the US Navy has no recent experience of high intensity war. Therefore the Chinese Navy's lack of experience is not so significant. The discussion then turned to the capability of the Chinese Navy to sink US aircraft carriers. However, I suggest Professor White may not be placing enough weight on the development of smaller, lower cost, non-nuclear aircraft carriers. The USA can afford to operate only a small number of large nuclear aircraft carriers.

Once China works out how to build and operate an aircraft carrier, it would be able to mass produce them, at low cost using its commercial shipbuilding industry. However, China might choose to produce cheaper, smaller and more flexible Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships. These look like aircraft carriers and so have the same public relations value. Although China lacks VSTOL aircraft to equip these ships, they could operate attack helicopters in the near term and armed UAVs in the future.

Professor White suggested a nuclear armed Japan might have a stabilizing effect. In response I asked of cyber-warfare might have a de-stabalising effect. What I had in mind was that countries would not know for certain who is attacking them and this might create an "On-The-Beach" scenario, releasing cyber weapons which do not have a decisive or focused effect and cause global collateral damage. Professor White was skeptical of the effectiveness of cyber-weapons.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Australian Electricity Demand in the Future

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Dr Hugh Saddler is speaking on "Electricity demand and Australia’s renewable energy targets: where to?". He showed a graph which showed that the feared "peak demand" for electricity in Australia did not happen. Also he emphasized that not only is demand for electricity in Australia decreasing, but the decrease is accelerating. Dr Saddler points out that some electricity use is not measured (for example power from a roof top solar system which is used in the household). Dr Saddler pointed out this would increase as companies such as Ikea installed their own PV. Residential use of electricity is about at the same level as large industries, both of these are less than general business. All three categories of electricity use are decreasing, residential most rapidly. The largest factor in reduction in electricity use is energy efficiency, not from PV panels. Detached houses use about 50% more electricity than other forms of housing. Dr Saddler concluded that the worst case would be that electricity consumption would remain constant, not increase. Gas consumption for homes is decreasing due to efficient reverse cycle air-conditioning, but this will not significantly increase electricity consumption. There is less scope for reduction for electricity use in business. Interestingly, the Queensland coal seam gas industry is expected to cause an increase in electricity use, associated with the extraction.

Tristan Edis then talked on "50% Renewables: Have We Gone Mad?". He mentioned "Learning the hard way: Australia’s policies to reduce emissions". He argues that regulatory measures have been more effective and less politically contentious than measures such as a carbon price. He argues that emissions need to be reduced by 80% soon and the cost of solar panels and wind turbines have reduced with volume of production. I am not sure I believed Tristan Edis' analysis, but by considering the political palatability of emissions policy he introduced a more useful way to discuss the issues than previously at ANU.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

iGo Mains, Car and Aircraft Laptop Power Adapter

The power adapter for my laptop stopped working so I purchased an iGo Slim Universal Laptop Power Adapter from Kogan. In addition to the 240 volt mains plug (to suite Australia) it also has an EmPower plug to run a laptop from in an aircraft or car cigarette lighter receptacle. The adapter also has a USB socket for charging.

The adapter came with interchangeable plugs for a large range of laptops. It took quite a bit of time to work out exactly which one would fit my laptop (as may look the same but are slightly different sizes). The plugs fit firmly on the adapter and are unlikely to fall off (and be lost). One problem is because of the need for interchangeability, the plugs are large and it is not easy to fit the Ethernet plug next to it on my laptop.

The brief but readable manual for the iGO makes much of its energy saving features. But in practice I found these make the unit harder to use.

The adapter will switch off when it detects the laptop is fully charged and then wake up every 15 minutes to check if more charging is needed. This sounds a good idea, saving the "phantom power" adapters normally consume. But several times the adapter has failed to switch back on, resulting in my laptop battery completely discharging.

Also the designers of this device have failed to realize that people don't just use the adapter to recharge batteries but also to power a laptop for stationary use. When the adapter shuts off power, my laptop switches to low power mode, which is annoying when I am using it at a desk.

In addition, the adapter has not proved very useful for charging USB devices. My phone beeps briefly when changed. So when plugged into the iGO it beeps every fifteen minutes (when the iGO wakes up and briefly charges the phone). This is very annoying.

The adapter would not power my wireless router via the USB socket. The router would start up, but then power would be lost after a few seconds.

Also the iGO came with another set of adapter cables which I can't find a socket on the adapter they fit into.

The iGO would be more useful if there was a way to switch off the power saving feature of the iGO. But the inclusion of an aircraft plug makes up for this inconvenience.

Eco-Annandale Art Show at the Footprints EcoFestival Sydney

Greetings from Whites Creek Cottage, Inner West of Sydney. Helping set up the Eco-Annandale Art Show, at the Footprints EcoFestival. Featuring work by Tim Kyle (Wynne Prize finalist 2014) and Merrick Fry (in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia). Opening at 11am today.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

NSW Government Needs Input on Delivery of Government Services Using ICT

The NSW Government is re-developing its Apps4NSW program (for delivery of government services using ICT) and has company GfK collecting community input.  Workshops are planned for the week of 24 August 2015 in Sydney:
"Workshop sessions for the NSW Government Department of Finance, Services and Innovation 

Hi there,

Recently you took part in a survey for the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation (the Department) for the apps4NSW program.

As we mentioned before, the Department is looking to re-develop the Apps4NSW program and is taking a community centred service design approach in doing so.

As part of this process GfK Australia will be conducting a series of 2 hour workshop sessions in August with developers, designers, marketers to name a few. The workshop sessions will also provide you with an opportunity to have your say, and network with others in the industry. 

Participation in the research is, of course, voluntary. GfK Australia has been commissioned by the Department to maintain strict confidentiality of individual responses, and the information sent to the Department will not identify individual respondents without your explicit and prior permission. 

Please feel free to forward this invitation on! We would appreciate you sharing this invitation to anyone else you who might also like to take part in these sessions.

If you would like to take part in this research we will need to ask you a few questions first to make sure we invite you to the right session, in will only take a couple of minutes. Take me to the survey

If you have any questions at all about the research process, please email

If you would like to check the bona fide nature of the research, please contact Department at

Your feedback is very important to us and we would greatly appreciate your time in participating in the research."

" ... Just wanted to let you know that we are holding some more workshop sessions next week. When we spoke last week you mentioned that if we were to do some more sessions the following week that you may be available. The potential sessions are below.

Please feel free to share within your network and if you or anyone can make it, please just email or call me to let me know which session/s you may be available for. ...

Mon 24th Aug: 12pm-2pm 5:45pm-7:45pm 8pm-10pm
Tue 25th Aug: 8am-10am 12pm-2pm 5:45pm-7:45pm 8pm-10pm
Wed 26th Aug: 8am-10am 12pm-2pm
Thurs 27th Aug: 5:45pm-7:45pm8pm-10pm
Office & Marketing Administrator, GfK

Australian Politics End of Days

Speaking at the Australia 360 Conference at the Australian National University in Canberra today, Laura Tingle, Political Editor, Australian Financial Review has suggested that Australian politics is at a Doctor Who "End of Days" point. She suggests that the parliament has been degraded, the public service sidelined and the media in a terminator technological revolution.

Tingle argues that the current Australian government has struggled because it could not simply apply (as it had assumed) the style of the previous Howard Government. Similarly she argues that the ALP opposition does not understand why the previous assumptions of left and right politics no longer apply.

I suggest that Tingle's confusion over media changes have the same source as political party's confusion. For someone outside the media and politics, what is happening looks very simple: for the last two decades media delivery is converging on the Internet, it is now converging on the wireless Internet delivered to mobile devices.

To the current generation of consumers, the idea that you would have to collect text based news from a booth on a street corner, printed on paper, once a day is weird. Similarly, the idea that you would wait until 6 or 7pm for video news, once a day is inconceivable. You get text, audio and video news and entertainment, wherever and whenever you want it on our mobile device.

Perhaps it is this technological reality which is also causing politicians so much difficulty. The idea that a citizen would have to wait several years to express their views on how the country should be run is very "last century". I monitor what my elected representatives say via If I want to express my view I can do that with a few button clicks. Smart politicians understand this (including one or two in Cabinet).

Ironically, the Australian Public Service is adapting better to the new on-line world than are their political masters. The Digital Transformation Office (DTO) is reshaping how services are delivered by government. Perhaps the Parliament needs to do something similar on how we are governed.

During the time I was a public servant the public reflection of what happened in government was the TV comedy "Yes Minister". In the new age it is ABC TV's Utopia, which is worryingly accurate.

ps: Strictly speaking, there has been no "End Days" episode of Doctor Who. This was a episode of the "Torchwood" spin-off.

Not Draining the Swamps of the Middle East

Greetings from the Australia 360 Conference at the Australian National University in Canberra. Professor Gareth Evans, ANU Chancellor, said in his opening address that no nation should think they can "drain the swamps of the Middle East". I assume that this was intended as a metaphor to say that there were no easy solutions to unrest in the Middle East. Of course  previous Iraq government did literally drain the Mesopotamian Marshes to drive the population out of the area. Professor Evans also criticized the current government for cutting the aid budget to Africa and thereby reducing Australia's influence in that region and reducing support for Australian initiatives in international forums.

The delegates are tweeting from the conference with hashtag #ANUAustralia360

Program for the Conference

08:30- 09:00     Opening remarks - Prof the Hon Gareth Evans ac qc , ANU Chancellor

09:00- 10:30     Panel One: Contexts
Moderator Michael Wesley
The Political Context – Laura Tingle, Political Editor, Australian Financial Review
The Security Context – Rory Medcalf, Head, National Security College, ANU
The Economic Context – Warwick McKibbin, Professor, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU

10:30-11:00     Morning tea  

11:00-12:30     Panel Two: Regions and Relationships
Moderator Hugh White
PNG and the Pacific – James Batley, Distinguished Policy Fellow, State, Society & Governance in Melanesia Program (SSGM), ANU          
Southeast Asia – Greg Fealy, Head, Department of Political and Social Change (PSC), ANU
Northeast Asia – David Envall, Research Fellow, Department of International Relations (IR), ANU
South Asia – David Brewster, Visiting Fellow, Strategic & Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), ANU       The United States – William Tow, Head, IR, ANU

12:30-13:30    Lunch  

13:30-15:00     Panel Three: Policy
Moderator Jacinta O’Hagan
Diplomacy and Institutions – William Maley, Professor of Diplomacy, Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy (APCD), ANUDefence and Security – Andrew Carr, Research Fellow, SDSC, ANU
Environment and Development – Meg Keen, Senior Policy Fellow, SSGM, ANU
Trade and Finance – Brendan Berne, First Assistant Secretary, Trade, Investment and Economic Diplomacy Division, DFAT
Law, Values and Humanitarian Concerns – Luke Glanville, Fellow, IR, ANU

15:00-15:15     Afternoon tea

15:15-16:45 Panel Four: Australia’s Prospects
Moderator Kieran Gilbert      
Michael Wesley, Director, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, ANU
Hugh White, Professor of Strategic Studies, SDSC, ANU
Jacinta O’Hagan, Director of Studies, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, ANU

16:45-17:30     Drinks and networking

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Applying German Renewable Energy Transformation in Australia

Andreas Löschel, Professor for Energy and Resource Economics, University of Münster, will speak on "Germany’s energy transition and implications for Australia", at the Australian National University in Canberra, 12.30pm, 28 August 2015.

"With the energy transition or Energiewende, the German government aims to deeply reduce carbon dioxide emissions by increasing renewable energy to 60 per cent of total energy supply by mid-century, and by drastically reducing total energy consumption.

Achieving these ambitious goals could have significant economic and social costs, and poses challenges for policy design and practical implementation. Germany’s support for renewables through long-term feed-in tariffs is effective, but not efficient. EU emissions trading scheme are not high enough to trigger fuel substitution. In energy efficiency, large gains were made since the early 1990s but in recent years annual improvements were at only half the rate required to achieve the targets. Germany’s industrial energy costs remain competitive and there is no structural shift away from energy-intensive industries. To succeed, the Energiewende will need clearer priorities and a hierarchy of the many separate goals.
Many of these issues are relevant to Australia’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition in Australia’s energy system, and especially the current policy debate over renewable energy.
Professor Andreas Löschel holds a chair for Energy and Resource Economics at the University of Münster and is Director of the Centre of Applied Economic Research Münster (CAWM). He chairs the Energy Expert Commission of the German Government to monitor energy transformation. He served as Lead Author on the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, was visiting scholar at MIT, Stanford, Tsinghua and ANU. Before his present appointment Professor Löschel was head department at the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) in Mannheim and Professor of Economics at the University of Heidelberg. He advised the European Commission, the European Parliament, the OECD, the World Bank and national ministries in Germany and the UK on environmental, energy and climate change issues. He has been ranked among the 25 most influential economists in Germany.
Professor Loeschel’s visit is arranged by the Centre for Climate Economics and Policy at Crawford School, with funding from the German government."

Monday, August 17, 2015

Tools for IT Startups

Greetings from the Australian Computer Society (ACS) in Sydney, where Fernando Parra from Pollenizer Global, is speaking on "How to Use Lean Startup Tools to Build, Test, Measure and Learn". ACS NSW Branch has a very active Startups & Small Business Special Interest Group (Startup SIG).

Fernando cautioned against premature expansion of a new business. He argued that the business should first carry out experiments to see if they are solving a real problem before making a large investment. With new on-line tools a business does not have to big to start out. Fernando pointed out that Facebook started out with students at just one university as customers and then added others. He has a set of recommended tools for test, build, measurement, and learning.

One of Fernando's insights was to experiment to see how long it takes the user to "get" your product. As an example, a user has to have about 14 friends in a social media product for it to be useful.

Advance Queensland Knowledge Economy Strategy

The "Advance Queensland Knowledge Economy" from the Queensland government is a little difficult to find details of. There is a website, which lists some initiatives, but I could not find a document describing the overall strategy (if there is one).  What I could not find was anything like the ACT Government's Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN). This is a partnership with local universities to foster start-up companies. University students and former public servants are given training and support to set up new companies in Canberra.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Women at the New Theatre Sydney

Clare Boothe Luce's "The Women" opened at the New Theater Sydney last night. It is on until 12 September 2015: frock up and join in.

The costumes were lavish and performances good, but I had difficulty understanding why NT put this pay on. But then perhaps this is a play, by, and for women (the playwright and entire large cast are female). The characters spend two acts talking mostly about women, a little about men, their faults and the human condition. We never see any of the men mentioned, but they are described so well, they seem to be just off stage.

Standout performances were from Jade Potts as "Little Mary" and Sandy Velini in multiple roles.  The entire cast made a reasonable attempt at a New York accent. They also  recovered well from the usual opening night glitches (one ad-lib to cover a slip about where the scene was set was so good it was probably better than whatever the playwright wrote). At times it was descending into farce, with characters rushing in and out of the doors on opposite sides of the stage. Also the music was a little anachronistic: the theme from A Summer Place" (1959)?

The sets were a little austere for 1930s high society New York, but this showed off the lavish dresses to good effect.

By modern standards the play is a little long. But in compensation one of the delights of a New Theatre performance is the capacity to have a generous cast. Several of the actors play multiple parts, but I was surprised there were eighteen people filling the stage at the end. With a modern play you are lucky to have one third this number.

Clare Boothe Luce was a Republican representative for Connecticut in the US House of Representatives, helped create the Atomic Energy Commission and was Ambassador to Italy, before writing "The Women". As such she is not the the typical source of New Theatre material (although the play has one character who claims to be a communist). Perhpas Net Theatre needs to get back to their core business of working class angst, with something like the Canadian play "Lac/Athabasca".

"The Women" is on at the New Theater Sydney until 12 September 2015. This would make a good Hens Night: frock up and join in.

ps: Thats two New Theatre for two complementary opening night tickets. As this was opening night there were drinks and Maltese savoury pastries, from the Pastizzi Cafe opposite the theatre. Other nights I recommend a visit to the Cafe, before or after the play.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

What LinkedIn User Think My Skills Are

Here is are the top 20 skills LinkedIn users think I have.I did not nominate this list, LinkedIn seems to extract words from my profile. and ask people I am connected to if I have those "skills":
  1. Policy
  2. Government
  3. E-Learning
  4. Analysis
  5. Research
  6. IT Strategy
  7. Governance
  8. Data Analysis
  9. Moodle
  10. Strategy
  11. Sustainability
  12. ICT
  13. Higher Education
  14. Information Technology
  15. Adult Education
  16. Management
  17. Project Planning
  18. Strategic Planning
  19. Staff Development
  20. Open Source
It is perhaps not so much that I know about these topics, more that these are things I talk and write about a lot and so people assume I must know something about them. ;-)

What People Look at in a Web Search

Ying-Hsang Liu, Lecturer. Charles Sturt University, will speak on "Individual differences, user perceptions and eye gaze in biomedical search interfaces" at the CSIRO ICT Seminar Room, Computer Science and IT Building, Australian National University, Canberra, 4pm, 17 August 2015.
"User search behaviour studies suggest that individual differences, such as domain knowledge, search experience and cognitive styles, are important factors affecting people’s interactions with search systems. However, very few studies have investigated the effect of individual differences on eye gaze for the design of natural search user interface. In this seminar, I will present findings from an eye-tracking study of the biomedical domain experts’ interactions with novel search interfaces. Thirty-two participants searched eight complex questions on four different search interfaces, which are distinguished by whether the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) terms are presented and how the displayed MeSH terms are generated. Our findings reveal that domain knowledge and search experience significantly affect the users’ areas of interest (AOI) of different interface elements. There is a significant interaction effect between search interfaces and cognitive styles. The implications for search user interface design will be discussed."

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Measuring Social Dynamics of Social Media

Ian Wood will speak about "On Measuring Social Dynamics of Online Social Media", at the Australian National University in Canberra, 11am 17 August 2015.
"Modelling and measuring social processes such as the dynamics of social identities and norms, community rituals, shared symbols and beliefs etca is an area at once immensely important and immensely difficult. Some progress has been made with modelling such processes, but measuring them has been largely elusive and usually remains the domain of subjective interpretation of social and cultural artifacts.
This work makes some small inroads into methods for quantification of social processes and into the collection of social media data containing the rich dynamics needed to capture their traces. I present a system for the collection of richly dynamic Twitter data using a novel approach to identify a targeted Twitter community. Data was collected from the apro-anaa (pro-anorexia) community operating on Twitter for 2 years 9 months, resulting in a corpus of over 1.2 million tweets from 300 thousand users with records of over 3.2 million changes to users follower lists and profile metadata.
Three methods for investigating aspects of social dynamics are presented with the collected pro-ana data as a test case: an approach to combine Bayesian topic models with word frequency based psychometric tools to identify corpus-relevant contexts of the target psychological phenomena; a Bayesian model, applicable to large data sets, which associates topics generated by topic models of text data with communities inferred by network community detection models; a methodology for identifying linguistic markers of group induction processes."

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Broken Disap SR Capsules

A pharmacy in Canberra dispensed Diasp SR (from Aspen Pharma Pty Ltd, Batch number 5150346, 200mg/25mg dipyridamole and aspirin) to me in place of Asasantin. Two of the 60 capsules were broken, spilling their contents into the bottle. Apart from wasting about a dollars worth of medicine, the spilled contents, which had the consistency of sand, stuck to the other capsules giving them a very bitter taste. I showed a broken capsule to the pharmacy and today advised the supplier of the issue directly, in case there is a manufacturing problem. It is possible to tell if the capsules are broken by shaking the bottle and listening for a sound like sand moving around, rather than the rattle of capsules.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Free Apps for Education in Africa and PNG

Harry Longworth, co-founder of the not-for-profit OATSEA Foundation, talked last night on "Educational apps for free education" at a meeting of the ACS e-Learning Special Interest Group at ANU University House, in Canberra. He demonstrated Teachervirus Open Source technology to provide free education for developing nations (as entered in the Global Learning XPRIZE). Harry emphasized that they were aiming to curate the best of on-line educational; materials, not create their own and used as an example the  African Storybook Project's e-books. OATSEA are looking to use Raspberry PI computers to act as Wi Fi nodes to provide educational content in areas without Internet access. Harry has been speaking at venues in Canberra to get technical and educational help wioth project, including at ANU TechLauncher, Orana HotPot, and the Inspire Centre University of Canberra. Education will also feature at the ACS Canberra Conference 2015, where Information Technology Educators ACT (InTEACT) is providing the education stream (I am on a panel).

ps:  A speaker and topic is needed for the last e-learning SIG of the year, 5 for 5:30pm, 11 November 2015.

Canning Stock Route Exhibition in Canberra

The National Museum of Australia are reprising their Kaninjaku: Canning Stock Route exhibition in Canberra until April 2016. This is a smaller version of the exhibition which I saw in Canberra in 2010 and has been touring Australia. It features paintings from significant Australian indigenous artists and the best use of multimedia at a museum I have  seen (by Lightwell). If in Canberra, do not miss this free exhibition.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Installed IBM SPSS for Linux

I am studying statistics and the course came with a license for the IBM SPSS statistics package (Version 23.0). But I only received installation disks for Apple OSx and Microsoft Windows, no Linux. So I went to the IBM SPSS site and downloaded a trail version of SPSS for Linux (all 890 Mbytes of it). Much to my relief this installed okay and when asked for a licensee, the one which cam with the disks was accepted. All I need to do now is work out how to enlarge the text of the SPSS interface so it is readable.