My interview on Social Media and Society: what I said (and what I didn’t)

My recent interview on the evolution of social media and its role in modern society is available on YouTube (in Italian only, sorry about that).

While the 3+ minutes of speech necessarily had to be a general overview on the role and recent changes of social media, I wish to summarise here the some technical aspects of it.

As I mentioned in the presentation:

  • social media changed a lot since their early days, from being consumed on PCs to mobile devices, from general purpose social networks connecting friends to digital stages where we “sell” our life to the entire world, from places where to share personal information to platforms where to publish also objective information coming from the real world experience.
  • social media are nowadays a valuable source of information for companies, who look for (and find) their customers through social media marketing and advertising, and public institutions and researchers, that can leverage on a large amount of data for providing benefits to our everyday life
YourExpo2015 - the Instagram Photo Challenge of Expo2015 MilanoWhat I didn’t say is how you can do that. Well, it’s pretty simple.
The ingredients of the recipe:
  • A lot of users sharing their profile
  • A lot of content (photos, statuses, geotags, descriptions) shared by people
  • (which makes up a VERY big data problem)
  • crawlers capturing this (or stream capturing systems) and storage as needed
  • MODELS of the context, the problem and the solution
  • and DATA ANALYSIS TOOLS for studying the data and extracting meaningful information
To me, the most valuable points are MODELS and ANALYSIS TOOLS. We are doing a lot of experiments on mixing model-driven techniques with semantic analysis, NLP, and social media monitoring. One example of our experiments is the YourExpo2015 Instagram Photo Challenge.
Have a look and participate if you like. More on this coming soon!

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Trends in Web engineering: my 4 takes from ICWE 2012

At this point of the year, just before vacation time, it makes sense to me to think to Web Engineering practices at large and draw some trends and outlook for the field after this year.
As a PC chair of ICWE 2012 (International Conference on Web Engineering), this year I can claim I had a privileged view over the entire event and I think this was a good test for assessing the field.
Furthermore, being directly involved into the organization of MDWE workshop, I have been directly exposed to the specific aspects of the model-driven field for the Web.
I see the following trends in the field:

  • still limited attention to non-functional aspects in Web application development. Honestly, this doesn’t make any sense to me and makes me think that this is one of the reasons why Web Engineering is still seen as a niche sector, both in industry and academia. Actually, at least some awareness starts appearing (e.g., some works on assessing the productivity of model-driven approaches have been discussed), but actual results are still very preliminary. And the Web is ALL ABOUT NON-FUNCTIONAL ISSUES!
  • mashups are still getting a lot of attention, as demonstrated by the successful ComposableWeb workshop too. However, I think we need to rethink a little bit this field. My feeling is that traditional mashups are no longer interesting per se. Even very well known solutions like Yahoo Pipes! have reached a limited audience, and in general mashups have never reached the maturity level that let them be used for producing enterprise-class professional applications. So, am I claiming that mashups are a complete failure? Not at all! They actually represent an important step that enabled the current trends toward Web API integration, which are probably used in most of the existing Web sites. I think that the mashup community in the future should look at the broad problem of Web API integration at large.
  • the role of model-driven approaches seems to slowly move out of its original position, strictly related to modeling of Web user interfaces. The MDWE workshop raised a very interesting discussion on the role of MDE and Agile approaches (thanks also to the support of the nice Instant Community system provided by University of Trento). Some activities, including our work towards integration of WebML modeling with social networks or towards integration with Business Process Management, try to broaden the applicability of the approaches, but I think more effort is needed to revitalize the field.
  • Finally, content and social analysis (both syntactical/textual and semantic) is getting more and more interest in the community. This is demonstrated by the wide set of well-attended ICWE tutorials that addressed these issues (The Web of Data for E-Commerce, Epidemic Intelligence for the Crowd, SPARQL and Queries over Linked Data, Natural Language Processing for the Web).
If you see some other interesting trends in Web Engineering, feel free to share your thoughts!

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