Thursday, November 27, 2008

Recycling slideware

In my years at HP I have produced a very large corpus of slideware. The sad part of this is that unlike papers, slides are ephemeral artifacts discarded after a single use. I write sad, because a lot of effort goes into the production of a slide deck, especially in industry, where there are strict design rules and everything has to be "high-concept".

In the past I was posting my formal external presentations in my publications web page, as a link in each conference paper reference. This was useful for people finding my publications using a search engine, but now people use more specialized search tools and then find my publications in the digital libraries of various learned societies in whose conferences the work was presented. These digital libraries do not contain slides because they are informal.

There is a service that allows you to recycle your slides. It is called slideshare and allows you to upload your slides for conversion in to Flash objects that can be embedded. Probably the most logical place to embed your slides is your LinkedIn profile, were people in your social network can discover them, download them, and reuse them.

You can also embed the slides in your blog, like here a presentation I gave in September:

As you can see, you can quickly browse the slide deck right here in the blog. If you want to reuse some or all of it, you can click on the title above the slide. This takes you to the slideshare page, from where you can download the presentation.

As you may note, some functionality gets lost in the conversion from PDF to Flash, like the navigation labels in the slide headers. However this is a minor detail. Because the slides are on slideshare's site, you can embed as many slide decks as you want in a post, without burdening your blog platform.

For example, here is my trusty old slide deck on Understanding Color:

Understanding Color
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: color_science short_course)

As you see here, the QuickTime movies are not embedded, but the link on the slides is more convenient anyway, because you can prepare the movies in QuickTime players and show them from there.

Of course, a simple slide deck like this one on MPEG-21 carries over as is:

Introduction to MPEG21
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: mpeg mpeg21)

By the way, each of these slide decks was produced with a different authoring tool. The color cognition deck was produced using the fancy Beamer document class in LaTeX, the introduction to color in the antiquated but robust FrameMaker document preparation system, and the MPEG-21 deck was written in PowerPoint.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The future of electronic paper

The Web site "The Future of Things" has an interesting page on the future of electronic paper. It has interviews with Nick Sheridon of Xerox PARC resp. Gyricon and Till Moor from Siemens. Many photographs show prototypes developed in the laboratories of various companies active in this field. The link is

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pigeons missing in action

It used to be that when traveling you had to bring to your hosts presents from your place of origin. This custom is known in many cultures and words like souvernir or おみやげ (omiyage) have been absorbed in many other languages.

Today this is no longer meaningful, because the concept of exotic has disappeared. This is due to the science of logistics, which has made the transportation of goods so efficient that now you can buy everything everywhere and at the same price.

Despite the miracles of modern logistics, it has a point of failure: the operators follow the instructions of computers, and even if goods are tracked at every step, they can disappear when an unanticipated event occurs.

For example, on September 17 I gave a presentation on color cognition and promised to send a printed copy of Nathan Moroney's color thesaurus and the presentation handout for the asking. When I returned home, I ordered the prints from MagCloud and mailed them to the interested parties.

Unfortunately, the envelopes never arrived. Because the recipients where in different countries, I can be certain that the snafu must have happened before the mail was sorted, i.e., between the mail stop near my cubicle and the United States Postal Service Processing and Distribution Center in San Francisco.

I did stamp the envelopes as air mail. Maybe a confused logistics operator strapped the envelopes on carrier pigeons… Were the carrier pigeon then hijacked in the San Francisco Bay and kidnapped to Eyl?

In fact, most of the time logistics operators do not know what they are doing. They are just trained to blindly and efficiently follow the procedures dictated by the logistics computer. This is one of the tenets of the anorexic company — there are no provisions for the unanticipated or even for incertitude. Immediate action must be taken, regardless of whether it makes sense.

Maybe two countries are a little better off: Japan and Switzerland, where workers are expected to always use their brains when they work (possibly with an exception here in Martigny, where many a brain has become yogurt from boozing Fendant). This is achieved through the concept of the apprenticeship, where future workers are employed as trainees in their future profession while also attending vocational school to develop a theoretical understanding of their chosen profession.

At the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) the DUAL-T project in the field of computer-supported collaborative learning has recently delivered to the Centre Professionel du Nord Vaudois (CPNV) this system to train logistics apprentices:

Some smart young people indeed! Should I have carried the envelopes to Martigny and mailed them from here? Not necessarily, because the logistics at SFO or LAX could have lost my suitcases there.

So, if you come across some lost carrier pigeons with a color thesaurus, please energize them and send them along their way…

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Social Signal Processing

From Eats Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Tuss we know the importance of punctuation and that occasionally it can be a matter of life and death. However, in some cases punctuation cannot come to our rescue.

Such is the case for social signal processing or SSP. We all know what signal processing is, namely the analysis, interpretation, and manipulation of signals. (Incidentally, in our case the signals of interest are color images.) So is social signal processing a European form of socialized processing of images, like social medicine?

In social signal processing the adjective is not social but social signal — it is about the processing of social signals. What makes this confusing is that many of the researchers in this area are signal processing experts. In view of this, the alternate name of social signals understanding is maybe more appropriate.

SSP is concerned with the machine analysis of social behavior. It is a branch of interactive multimodal information management and studies non-verbal behavioral cues and social behavior. Recently SSPNET, a new Network of Excellence funded under work programme topic ICT-2007.2.2 of the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme, has been funded.

Just imagine yourself one day sitting in front of a financial advisor to talk about your retirement savings and consulting an application on your smart-phone that can assess if you are talking to a snake in a suit