Roman Mars – The 99% invisible city

I really love the podcast 99% invisible that deals with design. Therefore I was excited when they announced a book about hidden design in cities. The book copies the aim of the podcast to make the invisble visible and point the reader to design in cities and the cool stories behind it. It is divided up into several chapters like Infrastructure, Geography or Architecture, that are then also divided up into smaller parts. For instance, the chapter Infrastructure is divided up into Civic, Water, Technology and Roadways.

In each of these sub-chapters you find detailed descriptions of one phenomenon. These descriptions are each one to two pages long, which makes the book easy to read and also makes it a resource that you can read later again.You also do not have to read it from the beginning to end although sometimes there are cross-references.

I really liked to read all the stories of small things you recognize in cities. However, the book is mainly focused on cities in the US. It is also fascinating to see that some of the design concepts are only visible in on or two cities, often due to some historical events or habits.

It is a nice book, can be also used very well as a present. It has really nice illustrations and it looks really significant. You can also use it as a guideline where you can later look at it and find our cool things that are visible in your city. The subtitle is A field guide to the hidden world of everyday design. This describes it best. Take the guide and see what you can see in the field!


Semantic Web Technologies – OWL, Rules and Reasoning

Summary of week four for the course Knowledge Engineering with Semantic Web Technologies 2015 by Harald Sack at OpenHPI.

RDFS Semantics: we need this because there was no formal description of the semantics and then the same querys gave back different results. So you add semantics. Every triple encoded in RDF is a statement and also a RDF-graph is also a statement.

OWL: based on a description logic it consists of classes, properties and individuals (instances of classes)

OWL2 has different flavors with three different dialects (EL, RL, QL), DL (based on description logic and Full (DL is decidable, Full is not). There are different ways to create ontologies. The most important (and shortest) are Manchester Syntax and Turtle.

Classes, properties and individuals in OWL are comparable with the ones in RDFS.

OWL contains NamedIndividuals, which can be introduced directly.

An editor for Ontologies is protege, which can be used as web or desktop application, there are also short courses at their homepage.

Deeper knowledge about OWL in the extra lectures.



Semantic Web Technologies – Ontology and logic

Summary of week three for the course Knowledge Engineering with Semantic Web Technologies 2015 by Harald Sack at OpenHPI.

This lecture deals with ontologies. If you want to speak a common language, you need:

  • common symbols and concepts (Syntax)
  • agreement about their meaning (Semantics)
  • classification of concepts (Taxonomy)
  • associations and relations of concepts (Thesauri)
  • rules and knowledge about which relations are allowed and make sense (Ontologies) (Dr. Harald Sack: Knowledge Engineering with Semantic Web Technologies presentation slides; Lecture 3: Ontologies and Logic 3.1 Ontologies Basics, Autumn 2015)

We define knowledge as a subset of true beliefs. A formal representation of this are ontologies. In philosophy it is also defined as the study of the nature of being and existence and basic categories for beings. In Computer Science: An Ontology is an explicit formal specification of a shared conceptualization (Thomas Gruber – A Translation Approach to Portable Ontology Specifications) Its principles are:

  • concept: model of the world
  • explicit: must be specified
  • formal: must be machine-readable
  • shared: all must understand it the same way

You can divide ontologies by two ways:

  • On their level of generality (top level ontologies that categorize everything in the world (example by John F. Sowa)), or specific for a model, a task or an application
  • On their level of expressivity (how much can you get out of an ontology?)
  • The next thing we need is formal logic. We need formal logic because with formal logic we can deduce things automatically which we cannot do using informal logic. We need propositional logic (make propositions based on true/false values)and first order logic to do this. For a formula the following terms are defined:
  • tautological: all interpretations are true
  • satisfyable: if a model exists for the formula
  • refutable: if exists an interpretation which is not a model
  • unsatisfiable: if no model exists

The next lecture was the tableaux algorithm. This one is used for automated reasoning. You basically create a decision tree and proof by refusion. Lecture 8 deals with description logic. It is important to know that there are several description logics out there. We do not use first order logic to build our ontologies because it would be too bulky. Part 9 deals with different assumptions for the logic:

  • No Unique name Assumption: in description logic individuals can have more than one name, therefore you have to specify that.
  • Open World Assumption: in an empty ontology, everything is possible. You define only what is forbidden.<> Closed World Assumption: Everything that cannot be shown to be true is false, so you have to define everything while creating it –> Databases.



Semantic Web Technologies – RDFS and SPARQL

Summary of week two for the course Knowledge Engineering with Semantic Web Technologies 2015 by Harald Sack at OpenHPI.

Reification allows you to make reference statements. Therefore a statement also gets an URL. It also allows you to make statements about statements and assumptions about assumptions (e.g. Sherlock Holmes thinks that the gardener murdered the butler).

RDFS or RDF Schema puts this further. It adds more semantic expressivity, you can get more knowledge out of the graph. It is also the simplest of the modelling languages (OWL is another, but will be covered later) and describes vocabularies for RDF. What can we do with it? We can build classes to model structures (Planet is class, satellite is subclass of planet, artificical satellite is subclass…, earth is planet, moon is planet and planet of earth, sputnik is artifical satellite and satellite of earth). From this we can infer some information like: an artificial satellite, is also a satellite. Sputnik is an artificial satellite of earth, so it is also a satellite of Earth!

The rest of the lecture focused on SPARQL. This is the language to query knowledge bases stored in RDF. It is similar to SQL syntactacally, but works somehow different because in RDF we are dealing with graphs. You can use it via an endpoint, which is an RDF database that has a SPARQL protocol layer and gives back HTML. It offers you:

  • extraction of data
  • exploration
  • transformation
  • construction of new graphs
  • update graphs
  • logical entailment (inferences)

Results are returned as a triple pattern in turtle + variables. You somehow define a subgraph that the query has to match. Query example at DBPedia. As you can see the syntax is close to SQL, it also offers you filters to reduce the amount of results. If you want to try out SPARQL, OpenHPI recommend the use of Fuseki  or Wikidata.





Semantic Web Technologies – Knowledge Engineering

Summary of week sic for the course Knowledge Engineering with Semantic Web Technologies 2015 by Harald Sack at OpenHPI.

Linked Data Engineering

In general it is difficult to get data, because it is distributed into different databases and you need different APIs to get the data -> data islands. Applying semantic web technologies allows you a standardized interface to access this data. This allows easier reuse and sharing of data.Tim Burners-Lee: “Value of data increases if data is connected to other sources.”There are four principles for linked data:

  1. Use URIs as names (not only web pages, but also real objects, abstract concepts and so on)
  2. Use HTTP, so people can look up the names, but also machines
  3. Provide useful information using RDF and SPARQL
  4. Include links to other URIs, so people can discover more things

If you want to create linked open data, you should have:

  • data available with an open licence
  • machine-readable format
  • non-proprietary format
  • use open standards from W3C
  • link to other data sources

Tour through the linked data cloud (Uni Mannheim):

All these sources are hold together by ontologies. Examples for ontologies:

  • OWL (owl:sameAs or owl:equivalentClass)
  • SKOS (simple knowledge organization system) applied for definitions and mappings of vocabularies and ontologies. Allows you to give relations like narrower or broader, relations and matches.
  • umbel (upper mapping and binding exchange layer) maps into DBPedia, geonames and Wikipedia

Linked Data Programming

How to publish data for Semantic Web? The best way is via a SPARQL endpoint via OpenLink Virtuoso, Sesame, Fuseki. These endpoints are RESTful Web Services, that you can query via JSON, XML and so on. Another way is via Linked Data Endpoints (Pubby, Jetty). There are overlays over the SPARQL endpoint. Another way is via D2R servers, that translate data from non-RDF databases into RDF data. A source for availability is

Metadata and Semantic Annotation

Semantic Annotation: you attach semantic data to your source. Formal:

  • subject of the annotation,  (a book, represented by isbn-number)
  • object of the annotation, the author
  • predicate that defines the type of relationship,relationship, that the author is author of the book
  • context, in which the annotation is made (who did the annotation and when?)

Open Annotation Ontology (developed by W3C)

Named Entity Resolution

When we do semantic annotation we want to get the meaning of this string, like additional information (you annotate Neil Armstrong and get more information about him). The main problem is ambiguity, if you enter “Armstrong” in a search engine, you also get pictures of Lance Armstrong and Louis Armstrong. Context helps us to specify the search and overcome this problem.

Resolution: mapping the word to a knowledge base in order to solve ambiguity
Recognition: locating and classifying entities into predefined categories like names, persons, organizations

Example: Armstrong landed the eagle on the moon
From that you do every kind of combination for these entities and if there are co-occurences in the texts, you can find the best matches. Another way is to look at dbpedia where you can see which of the possible options do have connections to each other.

Semantic Search

When you use a search engine, you will also find ambiguious results. With semantic annotated texts, you can overcome ambiguity. Based on this you can do entity-based IR, so it is language independent. You could also include information from the underlying knowledge base or use content-based navigation and filtering (filter pictures vs. drawings).

You can use it for:
Query String refinement (like auto-completion, query enrichment)
cross referencing (additional information for the user taken from knowledge base)
Fuzzy search (give nearby results, helpful if you have very few results)
exploratory search (visualize and navigate in search space)
resoning (complement search results with implicitly given information)

Another example is entity based search. You match a query against semantically annotated documents (simple entity matching). You can also get similarities, like between Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong (similarity-based entity matching)
relationship-based entity matching: You have the entities astronaut and apollo 11. There are also relationships between astronaut, apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong.
—> these results can complement your search!

Another approach is directly selecting named Entities. So you directly click in the entity that you want. Example are the articles at

Exploratory Search

Extension of traditional search and Semantic Search

  • Retrieval: You look for something specific (like a book) and know how to specify it
  • Exploration: You already read “1984” and want to read a book that is close to this one. In a library you would ask the librarian and he will tell you what to read next. We want to have this in our search system as well!! In a traditional library you can look at the shelves and can maybe also find another book that is similar.

For whom is it made?

  • People that are unfamiliar with the domain
  • People who are unsure about the ways to archive their goals
  • People who are unsure about their goals, you want to find something, but you cannot specify it

You can make graphs with the semantic information you have in order to give the user more information about the original result (more books by one author). You could also get broader results (you read a book by Jules Verne and get as a recommendation books by H.G. Wells, who was influenced by Jules Verne). Another example: start with Neil Armstrong — Apollo 11 and other crew members — Apollo 11 is part of apollo program and you find other apollo programs — you find apollo 13 and find out that there was an accident — you find the crash of the space ship “challenger”.


Semantic Web Technologies – Ontological Engineering

Summary of week five for the course Knowledge Engineering with Semantic Web Technologies 2015 by Harald Sack at OpenHPI.

Ontology Engineering

Pyramid for knowledge management:

  • Data: raw data, facts about event
  • Information: a message to change the receiver’s perception
  • Knowledge: experience, context, information + semantics
  • Wisdom: application of knowledge in context

In general it makes sense to follow some methodologies because creating an ontology is quit complex.

Ontology Learning

Can we create ontologies automatically? Ways to do this:

  • via text mining from text
  • via linked data mining from e.g. RDF graphs
  • concept learning in Description Logics and OWL (related to linked data mining, but also)
  • crowdsourcing via Amazon Mechanical Turk or games with purposein short there are three steps: term extraction – conceptualization – evaluation. Actual challenges in Ontology Learning:
  • Heterogenity
  • Uncertainty: the quality is low, you cannot be sure whether the information is right or not
  • You need consistency because otherwise you cannot do reasoning
  • Scalability: make sure that it is scalable
  • Quality: you neet to evaluate it and make sure it is right
  • Interactity: you need to involve users to help you improve the ontologies

Ontology Alignment
What is it? You try to find similarities between ontologies in order to combine them. But: an ontology only models reality, it is NOT the reality. The problems are similar to natural language: you run into ambiguities. You can also have problems with different conventions (time in seconds vs. time in time points), different granularities and different points of views.

You have differences on the syntactical, terminological. semantical or semiotic (pragmatic) level

Ontology Evaluation

This is the quality of an ontology in respect to a particular criterion. There are two basic principles:

  • Verification: it encoding and implementation correct (more the formal side)
  • Validation: how good is the model and how well does it match reality?

Criteria for validation:

  • correctness:
    • Accuracy (precision and recall)
    • completeness
    • consistency
  • quality:
    • Adaptibility
    • Clarity
    • computational efficiency
  • organizaional fitness (how well does it integrate in my software/organisation
  • conciseness

Artificial Intelligence – Breadth-First and Depth-First-Search

Summary of week one of the MOOC Artificial intelligence at edx.

The lecture deals with artificial intelligence, which means in this context, that we want to program computers that act logically, we do not want them to act like humans and we also do not want to build an artificial brain to understand how human thinking works.

The first problems are search problems, like finding the shortest path to a point in grid. For this you can use two types of search:

  • Breadth-First-Search: You try out every point around you and if do not reach the goal, you try the points next to these points and so on. The good thing about this is, you find the shortest way, the bad is it takes very long.
  • Depth-First-Search: You go down one way until the end (for instance, you always take a left turn) and if this does not work, you try another path. The good thing about this is that you probably find the solution faster than with Breadth-First, but you may not find the best solution.

In real-world-problems you sometimes also have costs, that you have to add to the problems, for example if you want to find the shortest path between two cities by train, you probably want to use the shortest distance and not the connection with least steps (edges in the graph).

A real improvement can be made if you add heuristics to your model, like you calculate the distance to your goal. Using this you can combine the  this heuristics with Breadth-First-Search in order to find the best solution faster because you know when your search brings you further away from your goal.


Semantic Web Technologies – RDF

Summary of week one for the course Knowledge Engineering with Semantic Web Technologies 2015 by Harald Sack at OpenHPI.

The first week covers the basic principles of the technologies for the semantic web, especially RDF, which is one of the languages you can use for encoding information semantically. The basic principle behind the technologies are triples, which consist of subject-predicate-object. So you encode all your knowledge in that way, for example: Pluto – discovered – 1930.

One problem is that because of the syntax the expressions tend to be very long, so you can use abbreviations with namespaces like in XML or turtle, which helps you also to shorten your syntax.

Mr. Sack claims that with Semantic Web technologies you can go one step further into a web of data, because it is very easy to create data that is machine-readable. He gives a lot of examples using DBPedia. This site also provides a good interface, where you can download data in different machine-readable formats like xml or json. Example-page for Pluto.