Tuesday 5 April 2011

Back to the Future: Scenarios for Europe 2010 as seen in 1999

Two weeks ago I gave a talk during the MUCS workshop at PerCom looking into how we manage ubiquitous computing environments. I had built that talk some years back and find an occasion to present it roughly once a year. Interesting is that a lot of problems and issues we looked at five years ago are still that: problems and issues.

More interestingly, I used a document from the European Commission in my original talk and now, since I remembered that document, had a look into it again. It is a report published by the Forward Study group of the European Commission titled: Scenarios Europe 2010. You can download the working paper from CiteSeerx (link at the end of this entry). The report was published in 1999, which makes it even more interesting to look at it having seen the actual developments in the first decade of the new millennium by now.

The report identifies five different scenarios and provides a qualitative description of them, aiming to facilitate discussions within the Commission and Europe and to influence policy and decision making. The five scenarios are:

  • Triumphant Markets - in essence the ‘triumph of trade over war’, facilitated by technological advances and full employment in industrial countries but also an increased environmental damage;
  • The Hundred Flowers - grassroot activities taking over from old governments and multi-nationals with an increased focus on local development and probably a fragmentation of business and social life;
  • Shared Responsibilities - reconciliation of ideas such as solidarity and respect, underpinned by technological advances and a drastic reform of the public sector;
  • Creative Societies - after a phase of public spending cuts and new austerity programmes Europe again recognises the importance of the human dimension and the focus is on solving social problems, the tax system becomes ‘green’ and activities beyond the logic of market economy; and
  • Turbulent Neighbourhoods - the world is political unstable and troops are deployed to restore order, even within Europe, still without a coherent foreign and security policy.

After describing the scenarios, the report goes into details about what we know about the future (i.e. what we know in 1999), the key drivers for the scenarios and the used methodology.

From my point of view, the report is interesting because it does not try to predict how Europe will evolve, nor does it focus on a simple answer to how the future will look like. All scenarios cover a wide range of different aspects and many of them are not categorised as simply being 'good' or 'bad'. The problems the report suggests we'll have are here today: water, food, environment/ecology, education and digital divide, security (soft and hard), social and regional imbalances and inequalities.

I am not sure which, if any, of the five scenarios actually describes the world today. It's probably safe to say that the "triumph of the markets" didn't really happen. Technology certainly enabled a different way of us interacting with each other and opened new paths to engaging in social, political and economical issues. The obvious names coming to my mind are Twitter and Facebook being used when the volcanic ash cloud closed most of Europe's airspace (remember that?) or to coordinate protest actions in several countries earlier this year. I would argue that there is a stronger sense of shared responsibility and creativity here as well. Question then is, are we going towards turbulent neighbourhoods right now? Maybe not in Europe.

Well, if you have a spare minute you might have a look at the report itself. The scenario descriptions are not too long...

Gilles Bertrand (Coord.), Anna Michalski, Lucio R. Pench: Scenarios Europe 2010 - Five possible Scenarios for Europe, Working Paper, Forward Studies Group, The European Commission, 1999, available at: (last visited 04/04/2011)

Friday 1 April 2011

IETF RFCs published on April 1st, 2011

This year's fine collection:

  • RFC 5984 - Increasing Throughput in IP Networks with ESP-Based Forwarding: ESPBasedForwarding "This document proposes an experimental way of reaching infinite bandwidth in IP networks by the use of ESP-based forwarding. This document defines an Experimental Protocol for the Internet community."
  • RFC 6214 - Adaptation of RFC 1149 for IPv6 "This document specifies a method for transmission of IPv6 datagrams over the same medium as specified for IPv4 datagrams in RFC 1149. This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is published for informational purposes."
  • RFC 6217 - Regional Broadcast Using an Atmospheric Link Layer "Broadcasting is a technology that has been largely discarded in favor of technologies like multicast. This document builds on RFC 919 and describes a more efficient routing mechanism for broadcast packets destined for multiple Local Area Networks (LANs) or Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) using an alternative link layer. It significantly reduces congestion on network equipment and does not require additional physical infrastructure investment."
My favourite is 5984 ;)

Wednesday 30 March 2011

RFC's on April fool's day (1971-2010)

April 1st is coming soon, let's see what funny RFCs we see this year. Here is a list of RFCs published on April fool's day between 1971 and 2010.

Almost every year there is one (or more) RFCs for April fool’s day. Watch out for the publication on “April 1” in the RFC index, all ‘normal’ RFCs do not carry the day of publication, only the month
  • RFC 112: “User/Server Site Protocol: Network Host Questionnaire”, by T.C. O’Sullivan, 1971
  • RFC 748: “Telnet randomly-lose option”, by M.R. Crispin, 1978
  • RFC 1097: “Telnet subliminal-message option”, by B. Miller, 1989
  • RFC 1149: “Standard for the transmission of IP datagrams on avian carriers”, by D. Waitzman, 1990
  • RFC 1216: “Gigabit network economics and paradigm shifts”, by P. Richard, P. Kynikos, 1991
  • RFC 1217: “Memo from the Consortium for Slow Commotion Research (CSCR)”, by V.G. Cerf, 1991
  • RFC 1313: “Today’s Programming for KRFC AM 1313 Internet Talk Radio”, by C. Partridge, 1992
  • RFC 1437: “The Extension of MIME Content-Types to a New Medium”, by N. Borenstein, M. Linimon, 1993
  • RFC 1438: “Internet Engineering Task Force Statements Of Boredom (SOBs)”, by A. Lyman Chapin, C. Huitema, 1993
  • RFC 1605: “SONET to Sonnet Translation”, by W. Shakespeare, 1994
  • RFC 1606: “A Historical Perspective On The Usage Of IP Version 9”, by J. Onions, 1994
  • RFC 1607: “A VIEW FROM THE 21ST CENTURY”, by V. Cerf, 1994
  • RFC 1776: “The Address is the Message”, by S. Crocker, 1995
  • RFC 1924: “A Compact Representation of IPv6 Addresses”, by R. Elz, 1996
  • RFC 1925: “The Twelve Networking Truths”, by R. Callon, 1996
  • RFC 1926: “An Experimental Encapsulation of IP Datagrams on Top of ATM”, by J. Eriksson, 1996
  • RFC 1927: “Suggested Additional MIME Types for Associating Documents”, by C. Rogers, 1996
  • RFC 2100: “The Naming of Hosts”, by J. Ashworth, 1997
  • RFC 2321: “RITA — The Reliable Internetwork Troubleshooting Agent”, by A. Bressen, 1998
  • RFC 2322: “Management of IP numbers by peg-dhcp”, by K. van den Hout, A. Koopal, R. van Mook, 1998
  • RFC 2323: “IETF Identification and Security Guidelines”, by A. Ramos, 1998
  • RFC 2324: “Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol (HTCPCP/1.0)”, by L. Masinter, 1998
  • RFC 2325: “Definitions of Managed Objects for Drip-Type Heated Beverage Hardware Devices using SMIv2”, by M. Slavitch, 1998
  • RFC 2549: “IP over Avian Carriers with Quality of Service”, by D. Waitzman, 1999
  • RFC 2550: “Y10K and Beyond”, by S. Glassman, M. Manasse, J. Mogul, 1999
  • RFC 2551: “The Roman Standards Process — Revision III”, by S. Bradner, 1999
  • RFC 2795: “The Infinite Monkey Protocol Suite (IMPS)”, by S. Christey, 2000
  • RFC 3091: “Pi Digit Generation Protocol”, by H. Kennedy, 2001
  • RFC 3092: “Etymology of “Foo”“, by D. Eastlake 3rd, C. Manros, E. Raymond, 2001
  • RFC 3093: “Firewall Enhancement Protocol (FEP)”, by M. Gaynor, S. Bradner, 2001
  • RFC 3251: “Electricity over IP”, by B. Rajagopalan, 2002
  • RFC 3252: “Binary Lexical Octet Ad-hoc Transport”, by H. Kennedy, 2002
  • RFC 3514: “The Security Flag in the IPv4 Header”, by S. Bellovin, 2003
  • RFC 3751: “Omniscience Protocol Requirements”, by S. Bradner, 2004
  • RFC 4041: “Requirements for Morality Sections in Routing Area Drafts”, by A. Farrel, 2005
  • RFC 4042: “UTF-9 and UTF-18 Efficient Transformation Formats of Unicode”, by M. Crispin, 2005
  • RFC 4824: “The Transmission of IP Datagrams over the Semaphore Flag Signaling System (SFSS)”, by J. Hofmueller, Ed., A. Bachmann, Ed., IO. zmoelnig, Ed., 2007
  • RFC 5241: “Naming Rights in IETF Protocols”, by A. Falk, S. Bradner, 2008
  • RFC 5242: “A Generalized Unified Character Code: Western European and CJK Sections”, by J. Klensin, H. Alvestrand, 2008
  • RFC 5513: “IANA Considerations for Three Letter Acronyms”, by A. Farrel, 2009
  • RFC 5514: “IPv6 over Social Networks”, by E. Vyncke, 2009
  • RFC 5841: “TCP Option to Denote Packet Mood”, by R. Hay, W. Turkal, 2010

Friday 25 March 2011

Ideas for Workshop/Conference Sessions I (as seen on many workshops and conferences)

Each workshop or conference is organised in sessions. Each session has a title, a chair (or moderator) and specific characteristics. The following notes describe a few session types as I did see on events or organised myself or helped organising. The different session types can be run as described. More interesting is to combine a few characteristics, which can make the event more attractive and/or more interactive. If you do so make sure everything and everyone is well-prepared.

Opening Session
The event organisers officially open the event. They would explain what the event is for, maybe detail the theme of the current edition, definitely introduce the organisation team (committee) and thank them for their work and finally try to engage all attendees in the event. It is good to allow for a few notes on housekeeping and emphasise event highlights (for instance a banquet or dinner or other social events). If the event had sponsors or special contributors introduce them here as well.

Closing Session
The event organisers officially close the event. There might be a best paper award (regular paper, short paper, poster and/or student paper), definitely a positive closure of the event (don't forget to thank everyone: speaker, audience and attendees, organisers, keynote speakers, sponsors). If known at this stage, provide information on the next edition of the event or at least indicate when it will happen and how the attendees can get further information about it.

Keynote Session
This is a longer talk with a broader topic that needs to be interesting for all potential attendees of the event. The speaker needs to be carefully selected to draw people into the session (i.e. have some reputation that interests the attendees). The topic then depends very much on the speaker of course. Important is also to invite someone who is a good speaker! And don't forget to a gift got her or him after the session! On multi-day events, each day can start with a keynote. Single day event quite often start with a keynote, but from my experience it is usually better to have the keynote later in the morning (attendees might come later, other people might just walk-in but not for an early morning session).

Regular Paper Session
A few papers, each given the same time to be presented and each presentation followed by a question and answer round. Requires a session chair, who optimally introduces the session providing an overview of the papers and presentations, introduces the individual speakers and then moderates the Q&A round.

Regular Session with Panel
Similar to the regular paper session, but without the Q&A immediately after presentation. Instead, invite all presenters into a panel with the session chair as moderator and then treat every question as a question to the panel. This requires to make sure that papers in the same session are somewhat related, make sure the moderator and the audience understand this relationship and carefully steer the discussions.

Regular Paper Session with Concise Presentation
A regular paper session that distinguishes between full papers (then long presentations) and concise or short papers (then shorter presentations). This mix allows all accepted papers to present, but ranks them. Be careful not to have too many speakers, otherwise the audience might get confused if the session is too long.

Demonstration Session
A session dedicated to demonstrations, i.e. practical showcases of research. Usually organised like a trade fair, with an open area where people can walk around and watch and listen to what is on offer. Can be combined with a reception (some drinks and small snacks), to bring people in and keep them happy. If you organise one, be careful not to overdo on the drinks yourself. Another option is to run the demonstration session like a regular paper session. However the interactions will be limited and I think this is only useful with a rather small audience.

Panel Session
A group of invited panelists discusses their opinions for a given topic with the audience. The topic needs to be prepared well in advance, and usually each panelist will prepare for a short opening statement. Important for an interesting panel is to invite people who do not agree on everything, can openly and fairly discuss controversial opinions and obviously have a string opinion on the given topic. The moderator needs to be prepared for all eventualities, and should at the end find a satisfying conclusion of the discussion. Important is to keep the initial statements short and allow for plenty of discussion time.

Distinguished Expert's Panel
Same as a panel, but with really distinguished experts in the field.

Invited Paper session
A session that includes papers that have been specifically invited by the programme chairs. This is done to cover certain parts of the agenda or to cover certain aspects that are important but might not have been addressed by regular submissions. The invited papers might be in the proceedings, if so they are usually specially marked as invited.

Thursday 24 March 2011

Ideas for Workshop/Conference Sessions II (as seen on many workshops and conferences)

This note looks at more unusual session types and shows a few possible combinations of characteristics to create more interactions amongst the attendees.

5 Minutes of Fame
A very special session that gives all participant 5 minutes to present their idea or project or solution. The 5 minutes are sharp, use a gong or bell to signal the end of it or simply switch the projector to another screen or change the presentation. No questions are allowed. The best way to organise it is to request all presentations well before the event and combine them into a single presentation with automatic timing (to enforce the 5 minutes). One might want to exclude the speaker’s introduction from the 5 minutes (which will also be helpful for the transition between speakers - remember people will need to leave and enter the stage and that takes some time, too.

1 Minute of Fame
If the number of interested people is too much for 5 minutes, one might go for 1 minute. Very tricky, and usually only good for rough ideas (i.e. on a project ideas meeting or brainstorming), but could work on a regular workshop as well. Requires a very very strict and well prepared session chair and should not be very long. The almost only way to organise this session is to request all presentation (1 title slide and 1 content slide) well in advance and provide a combined presentation with automatic timing for the content slide and some common symbol or graphic (on the slide) or sound that marks the end of the 1 minute. Seen on PerCom: put on a graphic saying "Thank You" and ask the audience in advance to klap hands when it occurs. Can be quite funny, and everybody is actively involved.

PhD Topics
Special call or invite for PhD students to present their ideas. Can be either for starters, means the presenters will talk mostly about their concepts or research questions and/or for final year students discussing their results. Special attention here goes to the moderator, who needs to make sure that questions to the students are fair, i.e. do not destroy their work (especially important for starters).

Beer and Pizza session
That type of session will be hard to organise, one needs some budget and prepare for the catering. The idea is that the whole audience is attracted by free food and drinks (substitute beer and pizza by something appropriate to your budget or taste if necessary) and that the session creates a rather informal atmosphere for discussions. Can easily go overboard, especially with alcoholic beverages, but can also be very very funny.

Open Plenary
A single moderator or a team of people present an idea and invite the audience to discuss the idea for a given goal: i.e. next year's workshop topics. Can be very productive but needs a lot of preparations from the moderator/team, to set goals for this session and to make sure these goals are the focus (otherwise discussions will be unfocused leaving the audience unsatisfied).

Town Hall session
Similar to the Open Plenary, but discussing future directions, critic, comments, recommendations and advice from the workshop/conference participants for future editions. Requires the workshop/conference organisers to moderate (i.e. put suggestions forward for discussions).

Hands-on or Breakout session
Maybe something that can happen later in a workshop. If the need occurs during the sessions (and if there is a sufficient audience to allow for a split), parts of the sessions might go to another location (if it is not raining, Trinity has nice college greens) for specific discussions/demos etc.

The Interrupted Session
Similar to a keynote: an invited speaker presents. Differently to a keynote, the audience is invited to interrupt the speaker at any given time to ask questions, and even more important (since it usually doesn't happen on any session) to give statements and opinions. This can lead to large discussions between the speaker and the audience. It does require one or two people in the audience that interrupt early in the talk, to break the ice. Or a moderator that interrupts when s/he sees that the audience got lost. Can be very funny and interesting, depending on the speaker and the topic!

5/1 Minute of Fame and Poster/Demonstration Session
This is a very interesting way to organise poster and/or demonstration sessions. Instead of simply have the posters and demonstrations happening somewhere, allow for a short joined session that has 5 or 1 minutes of fame for all poster and demonstration presenters and then leads into the actual poster/demonstration session. The effect is that the audience gets a very good overview of what it can expect, it can associate topics with faces (that's invaluable) and it can already select where to go (which in turn means that the poster/demonstration presenters will receive interested audience first, thus being really engaged with them for a mutual benefit).

Birds of a Feather session
An (usually informal) session were initial ideas are presented and - more importantly - discussed. This type of session should support the establishment of a group of interested people for a specific topic. It is very unusual on workshops and conferences but common at standard bodies.

Lecture session
Similar to a keynote, but probably more focused on an established topic rather than some groundbreaking ideas or business success. Could end with an examine for the audience, but should not take that too serious.

Round Table
In fact very similar to a panel but for a potentially much smaller audience and usually not in a controversial manner. A round table needs to have a common goal and discuss how to reach it.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

What they did with 100 Million GPS points

We did organise the 8th edition of our Workshop for Management of Ubiquitous Communications and Services (MUCS) at PerCom. The most interesting session was a keynote by John Krumm, Senior Researcher from Microsoft Research. They did collect 100 Million GPS points in Seattle, and then did a lot of analysis with that information. From predicting routes of people, to looking into where they are over a period of time (day, week, month) to how much noise is needed to hide locations. They also did a questionnaire with their volunteers to see when and for what incentive they would give away data about their travelling.

A lot of the information from the keynote is in John's papers and presentation, which can be found at his website. He also has slides from a very similar keynote talk available here. And if you want to play with the data yourself, he even published parts of the set of 100 Million GPS Points.