Modeling, Modeling, Modeling: From Web to Enterprise to Crowd to Social

This is our perspective on the world: it’s all about modeling. 

So, why is it that model-driven engineering is not taking over the whole technological and social eco-system?

Let me make the case that it is.

A Comprehensive Guide Through the Italian Database Research Over the Last 25 YearsIn the occasion of the 25th edition of the Italian Symposium of Database Systems (SEBD 2017) we (Stefano Ceri and I) have been asked to write a retrospective on the last years of database and systems research from our perspective, published in a dedicated volume by Springer. After some brainstorming, we agreed that it all boils down to this: modeling, modeling, modeling.

Long time ago, in the past century, the International DB Research Community used to meet for assessing new research directions, starting the meetings with 2-minutes gong shows  to tell each one’s opinion and influencing follow-up discussion. Bruce Lindsay from IBM had just been quoted for his message:

There are 3 important things in data management: performance, performance, performance.

Stefano Ceri had a chance to speak out immediately after and to give a syntactically similar but semantically orthogonal message:

There are 3 important things in data management: modeling, modeling, modeling.

Data management is continuously evolving for serving the needs of an increasingly connected society. New challenges apply not only to systems and technology, but also to the models and abstractions for capturing new application requirements.

In our retrospective paper, we describe several models and abstractions which have been progressively designed to capture new forms of data-centered interactions in the last twenty five years – a period of huge changes due to the spreading of web-based applications and the increasingly relevant role of social interactions.

We initially focus on Web-based applications for individuals, then discuss applications among enterprises, and this is all about WebML and IFML; then we discuss how these applications may include rankings which are computed using services or using crowds, and this is related to our work on crowdsourcing (liquid query and crowdsearcher tool); we conclude with hints to a recent research discussing how social sources can be used for capturing emerging knowledge (the social knowledge extractor perspective and tooling).


All in all, modeling as a cognitive tool is all around us, and is growing in terms of potential impact thanks to formal cognification.

It’s also true that model-driven engineering is not necessarily the tool of choice for this to happen. Why? As technician, we always tend to blame the customer for not understanding our product. But maybe we should look into ourselves and the kind of tools (conceptual and technical) the MDE community is offering. I’m pretty sure we could find plenty of space for improvement.

Any idea on how to do this?


Social Media Behaviour during Live Events: the Milano Fashion Week #MFW case

Social media are getting more and more  important in the context of live events, such as fairs, exhibits, festivals, concerts, and so on,  as they play an essential role in communicating them to  fans, interest groups, and the general population. These kinds of events are geo-localized within a city or territory and are scheduled within a public calendar.

Together with the people in the Fashion in Process group of Politecnico di Milano, we studied the impact on social media of a specific scenario, the Milano Fashion Week (MFW), which is an important event in Milano for the whole fashion business.

We presented this work at the Location and the Web workshop co-located with the WWW 2017 Conference in Perth, Australia.

We focus our attention on the spreading of social content  in space, measuring the spreading of the event propagation in space. We build different clusters of fashion brands, we characterize several features of propagation in space and we correlate them to the popularity of the brand and temporal propagation.

We show that the clusters along space, time and popularity dimensions are loosely correlated, and therefore trying to  understand the dynamics of the events only based on popularity  aspects would not be appropriate.

The paper PDF is available as open access PDF online on the WWW 2017 Conference web site. You can download it here.

A subsequent paper on the temporal analysis of the same event “Temporal Analysis of Social Media Response to Live Events: The Milano Fashion Week”, focusing on Granger Causality and other measures, has been published at ICWE 2017 and is available in the proceedings by Springer.

The PowerPoint presentation is available on SlideShare.

How Mature is of Model-driven Engineering as an Engineering Discipline? – Panel with Manfred Broy, Paola Inverardi and Lionel Briand

Within ModelsWard 2016, just after the opening speech I gave on February 19 in Rome, the opening panel has been about the current maturity of model-driven engineering. I also hosted a poll on twitter on this matter (results are available in this other post).  

I’m happy the panelists raised several issues I pointed out myself in the introduction to the conference: as software modelling scientists, we are facing big challenges nowadays, as the focus of modelling is shifting, due to the fact that now software is more and more pervasive, in fields like IoT, social network and social media, personal and wearable devices, and so on.

Panel included the keynote speakers of the conference: Manfred Broy, Paola Inverardi and Lionel Briand, three well known names in the Software Engineering and Modeling community.

Manfred Broy highlighted:

  • there is a different between scientific maturity and practical maturity. Sometimes, the latter in companies is far beyond the former.
  • a truck company in Germany has been practicing modelling for years, and now has this take on the world: whatever is not in the models, doesn’t exist
  • The current challenges are about how to model cyber-physical systems
  • The flow of model must be clarified: traceability, refinement, model integration are crucial. You must grant syntactic and semantic coherence
  • You also need a coherent infrastructure of tools and artefacts, that grants logic integration. You cannot obtain coherence of models without coherence of tools.
  • You need a lot of automation, otherwise you won’t get practical maturity. This doesn’t mean to have end-to-end, or round-trip complete model transformations, but you need to push automaton as much as possible

Lionel Briand clarified that:

  • by definition, engineering underpins deep mathematical background as a foundation and implies application of the scientific method to solving problems
  • maturity can be evaluated in terms of: how much math underpinning is foundational, how many standards and tools exist and are used, whether the scientific approach is used
  •  Tools, methods, engineers, and scale of MDE are increasing (aka. MDE is increasingly more difficult to avoid)
Paola Inverardi recalled a position by Jean Bezivin:
  • we need to split Domain Engineering (where the problem is) and Support Engineering (where the solution will be)
  • MDE is the application of modelling principles and tools to any engineering field
  • So: is actually SOFTWARE the main field of interest of model-driven engineering?
  • In the modern interpretation of life, covering from smart cities to embedded, wearable, and cyber-physical systems, is the border between the environment and the system still relevant?
  • In the future we will need to rely less and less on the “creativity” of engineers when building models, and more and more on the scientific/ quantitative/ empirical methods for building models

The debate obviously stirred around this aspects, starting from Bran Selic who asked a very simple question:

Isn’t it the case that the real problem is about the word “modeling”? In any other fields (architecture, mechanics, physics) modelling is implicit and obvious. Why not in our community? At the end, what we want to achieve is to raise abstraction and increase automation, nothing else.

Other issues have been raised too:

  • why is there so much difference in attitude towards modelling between Europe and US?
  • what’s the role of notations and standards in the success / failure of MDE?

What’s your take on this issue?
Feel free to share your thoughts here or on Twitter, mentioning me  (@MarcoBrambi).
Respond to my poll on twitter!

To keep updated on my activities you can subscribe to the RSS feed of my blog or follow my twitter account (@MarcoBrambi).

EventOmeters by Fluxedo: the new actor in Event Management. Mobile app + social media (semantic) analytics + IoT

Following up on my recent perspective that moves from model-driven development to hidden-model products, together with the Fluxedo team and in collaboration with WebRatio and Eurotech, we launched a new product called EventOmeters.

EventOmeters allows businesses and event organizers to increase the effectiveness of their events, involving participants and being able to rely on certain measures for the analysis of returns on investment in trade fairs, music, sports and in general of any gathering of people.
The role of the partners is as follows:

  • WebRatio is a leading provider of tools, methods and services for the rapid production of customized applications,
  • Fluxedo is an innovative start-up focusing on mobile app development, social network integration, and semantic social media analytics,
  • Eurotech will integrate data from IoT sensors whose data is made available realtime through cloud technology.
EventOmeters has been already used in the context of the FuoriSalone, within the Milano Design Week. In this setting, the product featured around 20.000 downloads of the official mobile app of the event and an analysis of more than 110.000 social media posts.
You can find more on this at:
Here is the storified summary of the launch event that happened on April 21, 2015 in ExpoGate in Piazza Castello in Milano, Italy:
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Keynote speech on User Interaction Modeling at Modelsward 2015 in Angers

On February 10, 2015 I gave a keynote at Modelsward in Angers, France.

The speech focuses on the modeling of software UIs through graphical domain-specific languages and in particular shows the new standard adopted by OMG called IFML (Interaction Flow Modeling Language) at work. My presentation illustrates the basic concepts of IFML, presents the design best practices and integration with other modelling languages, and discusses some large-scale industrial experiences (also featuring quantitative measures of productivity) achieved through IFML and associated full code generation techniques.

The full video of my presentation (1 hour long, if you can endure it!) is available on Vimeo thanks to the Insticc service. See it here too:

Bran Selic, Mark Van Den Brand and Marco Brambilla: Panel on State of Modeling.

Within the Modelsward conference held at ESEO in Angers, France, the warm up session has been delegated to a panel on the state of modelling, where panelists Bran Selic, Mark Van Den Brand and myself discussed about their vision on modelling.

Plenty of good points came up both from the panelists and the audience.

The main message from Bran Selic was:

  • Non-functional modelling is wrong, both in terminology and semantic senses
  • the so called “ities” are more than 50, and still each of them needs to be covered with different techniques and tools
  • The term implies a second-order importance, and a negative definition which are bad by themselves
  • Furthermore, you cannot cover them separately wrt functional requirements, because it’s not true you can cover them through aspect-oriented or separation of concern. For instance, you cannot put in “reliability” to a system after you have covered the functional aspects only
  • So, best to call them “qualities” of the system. Even in ancient Greece, quality was undistinguishable from the thing itself

On the other side, Mark Van Den Brand was pointing to:

  •  the risk for software engineers to become obsolete, because every domain expert is going to build his own tools and languages by himself
  • the software engineers then should become more interdisciplinary, while not delve into becoming domain experts of some sort.
My provocative message at the panel was that:
  • Modeling is dead! In the sense we cannot expect
  • We should move to Un-Modeling Practices, that is: remove modelling as a tool for everybody, using modelling tools as experts, and let people enjoy only the little bit they deserve, without forcing MDD frameworks, which are usually not easily accepted
  • Modeling should be used under the hood and each actor should be shown the proper tool (including programmers, who are not easily buying the model-driven approaches at all)
  • This will not be possible until language and tool designers will be software engineers only (just think at the terrible modelling tools we are able to build).
  • Here is the slides I used for my pitch:
I think all this poses extremely complex challenges to the modelling and software engineering community. It’s up to us to keep up with these challenges, or become obsolete (aka. remain a very small niche in the software development world).

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The Cloud meets Model-Driven Engineering

Cloud computing is enormously promising in terms of providing scalable and elastic infrastructure for software applications, as well as innovative business opportunities.

However, its complexity (both in terms of understanding and adoption) is often underestimated.
That’s why Model-Driven Engineering (MDE), whose focus is to elevate conceptual models to first class artefacts of the software development process, can come at hand also for addressing software issues on the cloud.
MDE is enormously promising in terms of automating tedious or error prone parts of systems engineering. There is a huge potential in identifying synergies between MDE and cloud computing; this is the focus of the workshop CloudMDE 2014. This year, the MODELS conference will host the second edition of the workshop, in Valencia (Spain), on September 30, 2014.
Here are a couple of excerpts from the workshop call.

Model Driven Engineering (MDE) features powerful tools, including for constructing models and managing them (e.g., via transformation, code generation, merging), though numerous challenges and difficulties arrive in adopting and deploying the tools. MDE principles, practices and tools are also becoming more widely used in industrial scenarios. Many of these scenarios are traditional IT development (e.g., focusing on code generation), and emphasis on novel or evolving deployment platforms has yet to be seen.

Cloud computing is a computational model in which applications, data, and IT resources are provided as services to users over the Internet. Cloud computing exploits distributed computers to proxvide on-demand resources and services over a network (usually the Internet) with the scale and reliability of a data centre. There are different types of clouds; organizations can provide hardware for clouds internally (internal clouds), or a third party can provide it externally (hosted clouds). A cloud might be restricted to a single organization or group (private clouds), available to the general public over the Internet (public clouds), or shared by multiple groups or organizations (hybrid clouds).

Let’s put them together! A nice example of this is the brand new cloud implementation of WebRatio.

All the papers presented at the workshop are available online as CEUR-WS proceedings at:

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The IFML tour – Part 2

After reporting on my recent tour presenting IFML in the US, I wish to mention my last IFML trips. I have been invited in two remarkable venues for presenting IFML:

  • at the University of Luxembourg (research group of Lionel Briand) and at the Luxembourg office for informatization of the public administration.
  • at the MUMIA COST Action meeting on standardization for NLP and search user interactions, held in Thessaloniki, Greece.

They have been both wonderful occasions for exchanging ideas on IFML, getting in touch with new people, and fostering new possible research directions.
Some images of the two places are reported below. Don’t expect fancy tourist pictures, I just took them on my way to the meeting place, or at the meeting itself.

  • about Luxembourg:


  • about Thessaloniki:
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Mobile, Cloud, BPM through MDD for fostering the business. Presentation at SMAU 2013

Yesterday, together with Matteo Sassi from WebRatio, I gave a seminar at SMAU 2013 on applying model-driven engineering solutions to Mobile, Cloud, and BPM technologies for fostering the business.
The main message is that MDD and MDE can dramatically increase efficiency, flexibility and effectiveness of the enterprise by letting it address better the needs of the customers.
The presentation I gave is reported here below (in Italian).

Here is the setting of the presentation, with Matteo Sassi doing the demonstration of the WebRatio tool for BPMN and IFML modeling, quick prototyping and deployment on the cloud.
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The IFML tour

I hadn’t time to do that before, but I wanted to mention my last tour for disseminating IFML and WebRatio.
That happened last September. I spent one week traveling around the world, specifically:

Marco Brambilla visiting Shihong Huang at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL.
Myself and Shihong Huang at FAU.
  • Monday in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, discussing my experiences with IFML, BPMN, WebRatio at the CPSM 2013 (Workshop on Communicating Business Process and Software Models) I organized at the IEEE ICSM conference together with Irene Van Der Feesten and Dirk Fahaland.
  • Tuesday in New Brunswick, NJ, USA, with a meeting on IFML and a booth at the OMG Technical Meeting.
  • Wednesday in Boca Raton, FL, USA, with a class to M.Sc. students and a seminar at the CS&E department of Florida Atlantic University (FAU), guest of Prof. Shihong Huang.
  • Thursday in Hoboken, NJ, USA visiting and discussing adoption of IFML at the Stevens Institute of Technology, guest of Michael Zur Muhelen, and in Brooklyn at the NYU-Poly.
  • Friday back to Milan, in a workshop with people from TU Delft, discussing possible integration of modeling approaches and IT solutions based on IFML in city management problems.

Well, an interesting week I would say 🙂 .
Upcoming trips for IFML evangelization include: L’Aquila (Italy), Genoa (Italy), Thessaloniki (Greece), and Luxembourg. I foresee another interesting closing of the year.

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