Categories
News

Apple

I am not what you would consider a fanboy of apple. I only have one apple device, but I am not planning in buying more and I also do not buy stuff because it says that certain brand. Still, I want to write about apple today because I think they have archived some interesting stuff in two areas and this also intersects very much with our notion of digitization.

These two areas are headphones and watches. Both fields already had very strong players when apple entered the market. Still, they became very successful.

Concerning watches, there was the news that apple sold more watches than the entire swiss watch industry, including fancy names like Rolex. While this is still, great, I think they are not entirely stealing the business of these brands. They steal the business of watches in a certain price range by offering a product that is capable of more functions and interacts well with all your other devices.

I do not think that people rather buy an apple watch, when they wanted to buy a Rolex before, but people who before wanted to buy a dumb watch for maybe 500$ now tend to rather buy an apple watch, that they can use for fitness tracking and is connected to their phone.

Another field is headphones. A long time, there was no a big improvement in headphones. People had their wired headphones attached to their phones, some nerdy people had more expensive headphones, but that was basically it. It just started when there were wireless headphones. These headphones did maybe not offer better sound, but they have the advantage you do not need to worry about cable and other stuff. Again, this was not to tackle the high-prices headphones of the big brands, but rather the mid-priced customers (although they are quite expensive at the end).

With this, they made people buy more expensive headphones and at the end crushed many headphone manufacturers. This video also explains this very well.

It is interesting to see how Apple found their way into these quite markets where there was a lot of electronics already inside, but not so much fancy computational parts. They entered the markets and also changed these markets by providing new product types the old companies did not offer. And yet, they are very successful doing this. Let’s see if in the future other companies manage to revolutionize these markets again.

Categories
General

My musical discoveries 2019

It is the end of the year and I want to use this time to look back at cool new music that came out and cool music that is maybe not so new, but I discovered new. It is kind of hard to tell what was the best new stuff, so I decided to make this list. Here we go:

The first band is Five Finger Death Punch. I knew their name, but did never listen to them. During the year I discovered them and since I got a weak spot for hard/heavy music that is just without a lot of thinking straight into the face, I began to like them.

Long distance calling: Their new album Stummfilm is just great, I also got more into instrumental metal/post-metal this year. This is one of the bands I can highly recommend in this genre.

If you put mongolian folk music and rock together, nothing can go wrong. Just check out The Hu:

The Gardener & The Tree: Their latest album came out 2018, but nevertheless worth noticing: Indie-Folk from Switzerland:

The Pineapple Thief: These guys are – as you might indicate by the appreviation PT a progressive rock band from England, their style is close to porcupine Tree. This is not the worst combination and also the drummer of Porcupine Tree joined them for their concerts this year, which I also attended.

Atmosphere: They are a HipHop band from Minnepolis, making more underground-consciuos rap:

Amon Amarth: I have to admit, I never got into their music and thought that this viking stuff is a little bit childish. But “Twilight of the thunder god” is simply a great song:

Another band I just discovered thanks to a great recommendation of a friend is The National. Indie/progressive? Rock from the US, again a really great concert this year, with maybe the best and clearest sound I have ever heard. Officially they call it Indie Rock, but I am not a big fan of Indie Rock and for me it is way more. Better just listen:

Jinjer play metalcore/progressive metal and have maybe the best female singer in metal right now:

Alcest: The last band is if you need some black metal for dark winter nights or black winter days?? here is it. enjoy 🙂

Categories
General

Why political discussions on Twitter don’t work

Twitter and social media are everywhere. It also seems that political discussions are mainly driven by Twitter and other platforms. Let’s just have a look who is on Twitter in Germany: Only 8% of Germans do have an account on Twitter. Probably this population is even screwed to people who are young, do have higher education and/or work on media jobs. In the US this looks different, there are close to 50 million active users, so one in every six Americans uses Twitter.

But still, it is now possible to talk directly to your politicians and tell them what YOU think and what is important. This means that politics comes down to the “ordinary people”. Well, after looking at who is on Twitter, it is evident that this is (at least for Germany) not true. Furthermore, I think that some (especially complex) discussions are better not done online in general. There are many reasons for this, I think three are most relevant:

  • Audience
  • Trolling
  • Attention

Audience

Everyone working in sales or marketing knows: defining a target audience is really hard: Who do you want to sell your product to? How should use your software? These questions are not easy. If you are on an open social network, this gets even harder. You do not know if your political views about migration are read by white supremacists or Antifa people. Which brings us to the issue that there is constant misunderstanding. This is sometimes intended, but maybe often not. With a joke you might be in some friendship circles a funny guy, in other a nazi, or you might be considered left-wing by some people, but think your opinion is quite moderate or even conservative. A nice piece about this is this article about PewDiePie who became a symbol of white supremacists. Although you probably have to admit that PewDiePie himself does not really know what he believes.

Trolling

Trolling is also a great problem. People troll because they want to annoy people, maybe just for fund and yes, some might even get paid to do it. I personally respect trolling as a social mechanism that can be very well played. See for this this great presentation. The issue is also not new, you had trolls since the internet started. What is the problem now? When I first used the internet, it was mainly forums where discussion happened. When you were annoyed of the trolls, you could ban them, some forums also created places where trolls could do their trolling without annoying other people. Another rule was not to feed them. Just ignoring helped quite well. What is different now? On Social Media, you cannot just open hashtags or sub-forums where the trolls can live. They still stay in your newsfeed. Yes, you can block them manually, but this is also very time-consuming. Second, trolls get fed no matter what. This old machinery of not-feeding seems to scale very bad. The trolls always find someone who is obsessed with their trolling and so they win. Sadly, the mechanisms of attendance play very well for trolls, too:

Attendance

We all know Twitter and other services sell our attendance to their ad-buyers. (Just read the book The attention merchants by Tim Wu, if you are more interested) Based on this, it is important for these platforms that we spend more time there in order to make more money. So there is an incentive for them to keep us as long as possible on the platform and probably also show opinions that are more controversial, maybe polemic, but probably not focused on a good discussion. If we look at this from the other side, it also gets clear what you have to do if you want to have a lot of followers: produce content that the services rank high and show it often to people. There you are, you produce polemic, polarizing content in order to get ranked higher by Twitter and reach a higher audience.

Summing up, we see why so few people I know in personal do political stuff on twitter. I personally enjoy the discussions about information science, user experience or data science on Twitter a lot, but this is mainly because the audience is clear and there are close to none trolls. Therefore Twitter is for me a great professional tool, but not a digital place to have political discussions. It might make sense also for the media to not see is as this.

Categories
General

Minimalism/Frugalism

I would not consider myself a big minimalist, but after living two months on stuff I could fit into one suitcase and watching some videos about it, I am quite confident to talk about my experiences. I also try to have a quite minimalist lifestyle back in Germany, though.

First, what does it mean? Basically, if you click through Youtube, you find people showing how they got rid of stuff (mostly clothes), room tours through quite empty flats and experiences of people telling that they felt better than before.

I like this approach to have less and therefore not having stuff with me that I need to care about because they need space or I have to take care about them while cleaning them or – with electronic devices – updating. This saves you a lot of time and you can concentrate on things (or people) that are important for you, rather than something that is not important for you (anymore)It really has the potential to make your life easier.

But actually I do not agree with the way of getting rid of things. I actually think it is sometimes also smart to keep things than giving them away now and buying them back later, at least from an economical point of view. One pattern that arose was the people were at the beginning talking a lot how great their life is with fewer stuff, but after a while they see they might need more stuff and so minimalism helps them to find a good balance how much to own.

While clicking through Youtube I found the interviews most interesting where people give a review after living this lifestyle for a certain time. Many got to have more stuff than after they cleaned everything. I do not know how much stuff I own, but I in general like to keep it small and every once in a while I try to get rid of stuff I do not need anymore. Still, I think it makes most sense not to buy everything.

Good links to start are this video in German as well as Minimalismus-Podcast and The Minimalists.

Frugalism

Which brings me to a trend you see often when you look these videos: Frugalism or FIRE, which means Financial Independence Retire Early. The idea behind it is, to save money while you are young, invest into stock exchange, get rich and not work anymore afterwards. The good point again is to see what you really need and then think about if you really have to spend money on this. The bad thing still is that you still have to earn a lot of money, which might be possible for college graduates in their twenties, but not for everyone. For instance, if you need 15.000€ a year, you need to have 25x that sum because the idea is that your stocks raise in value by 4% a year. So you can take out 15.000€ a year while your money in total does not change. So you need to have 15.000€x25=375.000€, which is a lot.

The FIRE folks argue, you can create this amount by investing in stock exchange and get a good interest rate from there: They calculate with 8%, which seems quite accurate, but you still need to earn quite well, so you can invest in the stock exchange.

What I am taking from it? The concept to get an overview of your finance as well as the stuff you own is really great. Many people do not even track their spending, which is actually quite easy, there are a lot of apps around there where you can add your spending, define budgets or even synchronize directly with your bank account. A good video to start is How to be a financial minimalist.

Summing up, I think both concepts are quite good, you see many people putting it into the extremes, but this is not necessary. Integrating at least a little bit of frugality and minimalism into your life might help spend less time on things you don’t like and make your life easier. Still, a good guidance for how much is Marie Kondos:„Does it spark joy?“

Categories
Science

DHD 2019

Last week the conference DHD 2019, the German digital humanities conference took place in Frankfurt.

One remarkable discussion I heard was from a panel about 3D-modelling and the reconstruction of buildings. People in this panel were talking about the problems their field has and one was the lack of standards. As we all can imagine it is really hard to reconstruct old objects and buildings.

Some buildings have been re-build, destroyed or have never been built at all. This creates many uncertainties when it comes to questions like: How did the building originally look? Was it built as the architect intended it to be built? If we then look at standards, we see the importance. With a standard, one could exactly see what the other researcher wanted to show with their modelling and exchange and shared work would also be easier.

Another interesting talk was the keynote by Jana Diesner. She talked about her research in computational social science at the University of Illinois. She at first urged for a better collaboration between computational social sciences and digital humanities. This I also think is really important and there are certain fields that are quite close. Actually I think that maybe some of my research more falls in the field of computational social sciences than digital humanities because my institute is still focused on social sciences and the experts in my field are also doing qualitative social science research. The other thing I found remarkable are her stories about the ischool she is working at. In the US, there are many ischools now. The concept (as I understood it) is to bring researchers from different fields like social sciences, information science, computer science and psychology to do research in the broader sense about information. This can be a very fruitful combination because it also brings together new methods and ideas, which always helps to open our minds for difficult questions.

I did not attend so much of the conference because it was just next to my office and I had other stuff to do, but a really cool thing was the poster-slam and the poster session itself. It is just nice to look at posters and being able to discuss research directly with the researchers in a private way and it is also a nicer communication than just via journal articles and presentations.

Categories
News

Semantic MediaWiki Conference (SMWCon) 2018

Semantic Media Wiki Conference (SMWCon) 2018 took place in Regensburg. In this post, I highlight some of the talks I liked or where I want to share my opinion on. Sorry if I did not talk about yours. This is no critique, rather due to my limited time ;))

The first day was all about business applications. It seemed to me that there were a lot of efforts to somehow standardize solutions for project management, technical documentation and other stuff. One remarkable thing was the project zoGewoon, where the company put a lot of effort in design and usability of the system. This turned out to be very interaction and easy to do, which makes sense for the target group being people with disabilities looking for a place to live. Another cool thing was the Extension VEForAll that introduces Visual Editor working within Forms. This is not possible yet and gives a great advantage when it comes to usability because Page Forms as well as the visual editor helps a lot to make editing wiki pages easier.

The keynote was about how language shapes perception. Marc van Hoof linked this from Orwell’s distopia of Newspeak to the way how we organize knowledge in ontologies. He also votes for a user-centred way of naming and creating these ontologies in order to make it easier for users to perceive information and link this to their everyday lifes. This also leads to the concept of folksonomies, although my impression was that Folksonomies are below the hype time, but maybe they come back…

On the second day my favorite talk was the presentation of the new features of Semantic MediaWiki 3.0. There were several cool things like the improvement of the list format and data tables format. Also you can enter now semantic querys in the search field directly. Karsten also visited the Wikimedia technical conference and said that MWcore will be more open to wishes of third parties, which is remarkable.

On the breaks the big topics were of course the new features in SMW 3.0 like migration and new features. Another topic was (maybe because there were many people from companies and not so much from research) the way of telling people of smw (and then also selling it). It was kind of consensus, that people tend not to talk about wikis anymore, but knowledge management systems. First, because people tend to think about wikipedia when it comes to the openness but also because there are many ways of tweaking input (thanks to forms) and style (thanks to tweeki and Chameleon) were can customize the system very much and be a lot freer than only provide a clone of Wikipedia.

Viktor Schelling talked about WSForm, which might replace page forms and does some stuff very good, like providing templates at every page and not only Template-Pages. I am very excited to see their release and try it out.Talking about graphs, Sebastian Schmid has an improvement for Result formats, which is using the library mermaid, which can display graphs, the one basic principle of knowledge organisation in SMW. I am happy to see the application of this because there is lot of graph data stored in SMWs out there.

At the end it was two nice days in the beautiful city of Regensburg. The conference dinner was really nice in the old city centre of Regensburg. Also thanks to the people at Gesinn.it and TechBase Regensburg for organizing and providing the place.

Categories
General

Installing Nextcloud on a Raspberry Pi using snap

Nextcloud offers some great functions when it comes to sharing data in your local network. I mainly needed a tool to sync a calendar on my network with my devices. I was also thinking about a lighter software like Baikal, but the installation of most of the others seemed more difficult to me than nextcloud, so I choose this.

I used the snap package of nextcloud, so I did not need to do a lot of configuration for the server and it is just ready to start. Have a look at the snap installation.

Connecting calendar clients

I connected an android client, evolution and an ios client. The connection of the android device and evolution is pretty easy, it just works if you create a new calendar using the provided link. For android you have to use the software DAVx5 to establish a connection.

On ios the connection only works with https enabled (I did not find another way to set it up, if you know, please share). Therefore you need to set up https using snap. (if you run into problems on your pi, maybe have a look here) After this you can simply create a new caldav-connection on your ios device. In my case it also worked directly with the basis url (e.g. https://yourdomain.com/nextcloud) without the other adresses the manual wants you to use.

Categories
General

My Audio setup

In this article I will give a little big of background to my music system and why I use the certain components.

First, the speakers: I use some speakers which enable me to give input via USB. This has the great advantage I can use whatever computer I want to push the music signals to the speakers. (side note: I am using some speakers by Nubert, which also have digital and analogue input for other sources) My music comes directly from a raspberry pi with Mopidy and Raspotify. These two tools allow me to play basically all the music I have on hard disk or to stream it from the internet. I also programmed some small software, that shows the title and artist on a small display and I added some buttons, so I can pause the track and turn the pi off.

The connection using USB is actually very great since it reduces the amount of cables a lot. Before this, I used an external sound card, which also worked well, but needed more space. Another option would be HiFiBerry, but I do not have any experience about sound quality.

Why did I use this setup and not buy directly speakers like from Sonos or other systems? I like to keep my system as easy to repair and change as possible. My speakers will probably last longer than my raspberry, so I want to able to change the way music comes to the speakers. Also, I want to be able to change my streaming service. All this might or might not be possible using out-of-the-box systems.

And finally, the raspberry pi and mopidy are open systems, where you can add your own code in order to improve your setup.

Categories
General

Raspotify – Turn your pi into a Spotify server

As some of you know I really like to use a raspberry pi as music server. Therefore I want to introduce a nice tool: Raspotify. This little program turns your raspberry pi into a Spotify server as you might also get it when listening on your computer or on other systems like Sonos. The really cool thing is: it just works out of the box and you can use your phone as a remote control. I actually prefer it right now over the usage of Mopidy-Spotify, which has some problems since Spotify is blocking the API more and more. For instance, it is not possible anymore to load playlists.

I do not know if this will improve in the future or if Spotify nudges us to use their service. I would prefer to have a system working directly together with mopidy, still bundles everything, but we will see.

The installation procedure of Raspotify is actually as easy as it can get: you only need to type one command and it does everything. But pay attention to change the settings (in the paragraph Configuration at the page) to get higher quality playback.

Categories
General

Digital Humanities at Hochschule Darmstadt

In summer semester me and Professor Rittberger will be giving a class about digital humanities at Hochschule Darmstadt in the major information science. Here is our syllabus, I will try to upload slides as well (but in German).

We want to give a broad overview about what Digital Humanities mean. There are also other classes dealing with text-mining, so we do not focus so much on it (there are four lessons about it, though)

  1. Introduction to Digital Humanities: What are DH, what can we do with digital methods
  2. Research methods: Qualitative and quantiative methods in social sciences, hermeneutics, virtual research environments
  3. Law, ethics: Basic understanding what law means and what problems it can cause. This leads to data management and open data
  4. XML: Basics about XML, why DTDs are useful, standards like TEI (2 sessions), XML regarding ontologies
  5. Editions and digitalization: What are editions, how can we create them digitally? How do we digitize content?
  6. Basics of Text analysis: Distant Reading, Google n-grams, how new methods in text analysis can help in research
  7. Named-Entity-Recognition: We chose this problem of NLP to give an overview of what can be done using new technology and also to compare approaches from computer science like machine learning with approaches from information science and semantic web
  8. Topic Modelling: Basic introdution and practial usage with R
  9. Network analysis: Basics of network analysis and how to use it for instance for plays. Tool: Gephi
  10. Geoinformation: How can we code geographical data, how can we use it in DH?
  11. 3D-Modelling: What new approaches are there using 3D-Modelling, how can we use it in DH? Tool: Blender