Upcoming talk at the Berkman Center

Here’s the blurb for a lunchtime talk I’m giving next Tuesday, December 7, 12:30 pm, at Harvard’s Berkman Center. Update: Slides here.

The elmcity project invites everyone who publishes community calendar events to:

  • Realize that event data published in a structured format, unlike data published as HTML or PDF, can be routed through pub/sub syndication networks.
  • Make public calendars available in the appropriate structured format: iCalendar (RFC 5545), the venerable Internet standard supported by all major calendar applications and services.
  • Recognize that iCalendar is the RSS of calendars. It can enable a calendar-sphere in which, as in the blogosphere, everyone can publish their own feeds and also subscribe to feeds from other people or from network services.
  • Help build the data web by owning the parts of it for which we ourselves are the authoritative sources.

The elmcity project delivers enabling technical infrastructure for this new approach to the community calendar. The project’s calendar syndication service is free; it runs open source code on the Microsoft Azure platform; it provides all of its syndicated data in open formats.

The real challenge isn’t technical, though, it’s conceptual. Most people don’t know how they could (or why they should) be the authoritative publishers of their own data. Missing concepts include:

  • The pub/sub communication pattern
  • Indirection (“pass-by-reference” vs “pass-by-value”)
  • Structured versus unstructured data
  • Data provenance
  • Service composition

Along with reading, writing, and arithmetic, these Fourth R principles will empower an informed and engaged 21st-century citizenry. As Jeannette Wing argues in her computational thinking manifesto, computer and information scientists are no longer the only ones who need to understand and apply these principles. Now we all do.

Drawing from the experience of the elmcity case study, this talk will explore what these Fourth R principles are, why they’re hard for most people to understand, how we can teach them, and why we should.

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4 thoughts on “Upcoming talk at the Berkman Center

  1. Very cool, Jon. Will this be recorded and published (IT Conversations or Berkman or the like)? I haven’t done any actual curation for Myrtle Beach in over a year, but I consult the widget on our local blog aggregator regularly.

  2. Yes, it should appear at http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/interactive

    I consult the widget on our local blog aggregator regularly

    Glad to know that it’s useful!

    I think that the folks who really have an incentive to curate aggressively are local newspapers. It’s been a tough slog to get a foot in that door, but I may finally be making some headway.

  3. It was really nice to meet you, finally! Thanks for coming. I wish we’d had more time to talk, but I will content myself with listening to your recent podcast on the trip home and catching up on your activities.

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