Posted:June 17, 2019

Bergen Overview, courtesy of Ben Goode; click for larger versionEnjoying Our First Sabbatical

I have spoken of my wife, Dr. Wendy Maury, a couple of times on this blog. She is a professor of virology in the Department of Microbiology at the Medical School of the University of Iowa, at which she has steadily climbed the rungs over her twenty-year tenure. She has had a successful career, attaining full professorship about a decade ago, while enjoying much publication and research funding success. One of the highlights of her stay was being able to teach our son, Zak, while he was a med student at the medical school. Both of our kids and their spouses are now nearly through their medical residencies. Both kids were greatly influenced by their mother’s passion for science and learning about human diseases.

Watching Wendy over the years I observe it is hard to find time away when one runs a wet-bench laboratory with many students and technicians. There are also grants to write and papers to write and all that comes with teaching and mentoring and peer review and service activities in a university. So, it was something of a surprise when Wendy posed the idea of taking a sabbatical in Norway. We had talked of the possibility many times, but both of our demanding jobs seemed to keep the prospect on the unreachable horizon. And, of the places we had discussed, Norway had not been on the list.Constitution Day Parade; click for larger version

But a colleague of Wendy’s, Dr. James Lorens, had some unique instrumentation and techniques of direct relevance to her interests and a nice set of labs at the University of Bergen. Jim had actually grown up for a time in Iowa City so knew the U of Iowa well. Before we knew it, we had committed to a nearly half-year stay in Norway, where Wendy would accept a temporary position in Jim’s labs at UiB (Universitetet i Bergen).

From that decision in the Fall of 2018 we had about six months to wrap up our stateside activities and get ready to live in a foreign country. That is not an unusual activity for thousands of research and work vagabonds, but it was new for us. We had to shut down two residences, get visas, and make all of the sundry arrangements required for such lengthy stays.

We arrived in Bergen in mid-May, just in time to experience Constitution Day, the most venerated holiday in Norway. Everyone in Bergen — as throughout Norway — dresses in their best finery, including dark suits for the men and traditional dress (bunad) for the women. Parades, marching and drumming, singing, and carousing signal this proud country’s joy and pride of independence. Locals told us they had not seen such glorious sunshine and weather on this day for decades prior. The celebrations were indeed a unique introduction to this proud culture. Fireworks at 11 pm while it was still light caused a phalanx of startled seagulls to stream out from the city center over our house. Drummers and singers passed by our house for some hours after. (I find this drumming business kind of cool, with seemingly at unpredictable times organized groups to single drummers banging martial beats across our nearby park or through town.)

Heading toward Mostraumen fjord; click for larger versionWe’ve been here now a month, and I totally love Bergen and its people. Norway is perhaps the wealthiest country in the world, and the people are well educated, sophisticated, and nearly all speak English. The people are happy, ready to break into song at any excuse, and friendly, though not gregarious to strangers. It is an expensive country on all fronts, from eating out to transportation and housing. There is a wealthy class, but class differences seem small. Service staff appear to be well compensated, one of the reasons, I’m sure, for why general costs for everything are high. The Norwegian sovereign fund from the country’s North Sea oil revenues have been wisely invested. The infrastructure in this country is the best I have seen anywhere, is modern, and very tastefully designed.

Mostraumen fjord houses; click for larger versionBergen is the second largest city in Norway, with about 420,000 people in its greater metropolitan area. It is a maritime city with a climate moderated by the adjacent Norwegian current. Bergen is the gateway to Norway’s fjords, so is also a destination for day cruises, mountain hut hikes, and cruise ships (though those stay down in the harbor area, and are not generally obvious in town). The University of Bergen is a major resource, and students and cultural activities abound. There has been a constant stream of music festivals from classical to rock since we have been here. Last weekend, for example, we saw Mark Knopfler at the 13th century Bergenhus Fortress, which was a spectacular concert at a most unique outdoor venue.Bryggen World Heritage Site; click for larger version

Bergen is nestled in an interlocking series of inlets and fjords with water and islands dotting the meandering paths to the North Sea. The city is surrounded by seven mountains — sites for a famous local daylong hike crossing all peaks by the intrepid, which took place a couple of weeks back — with the two highest easily accessed via the steep Fløyen funicular (inclined tramway) or a gondola ride up to Mt Ulriken. Local transporation is excellent and clean and efficient, including bus and light rail. The city wisely taxes cars heavily with throughways well segregated from living spaces. Traffic and parking congestion is non-existent. It is the most walkable and liveable city I have experienced.

Bergen’s combination of water and mountains and green vegetation and summer light leads to a gorgeous environment. Combined with the historic buildings, including the picturesque Bryggen heritage site from the period of the Hanseatic League down at the harbor, there is a beauty to the place that is world class.

With the maritime climate comes rain, which we have seen about half of our days here. For only a couple of hours in early morning could one say it is dark outside, but even on rainy or cloudy days there is generally some break in the clouds with blue sky. About half of the days have been warm and sunny and totally stunning.Alpine lake from Mt Ulriken; click for larger version

The university here has graciously provided a garret apartment in a wonderful house for us to live, right in the center of town next to beautiful Nygårdsparken. To avoid the high cost of restaurants, I experience the high cost of groceries as I shop the local marts daily for our dinner. It has been fun to learn about local foods and differences from the standbys from home. Since I do all of our family cooking, and have for decades, I get to experience all of the shopping variety that our new home provides. It is enjoyable and a hoot, though sometimes the localvore experience can be a challenge to create the meals I contemplate.

Knut Faegris house; click for larger versionWendy’s work is proceeding well, and my own plans for the stay here were to study and research for a new book I am starting. However, it turns out that there is cutting-edge semantic technology and AI work taking place at the university, and I have already given a seminar and begun some collaborations. I have been pleased to meet and have great discussion with Andreas Opdahl, Csaba Veres, and Enrico Motta (temporary appointment from The Open University). There is also a vibrant startup community here doing AI and semantic technologies, including Wolftech and Mjoll. Media is a particular emphasis for these startups.

Bergen also provides a nice jumping off point for travel, especially to Northern Europe. Wendy and I have many trips planned (and some already taken) both to other countries and throughout Norway, We visited Oslo last weekend, and we somewhat duplicated the famous ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ trip on our own. We will continue this cycle of work in Bergen and adjacent travel until our return to the United States in October.Bergen's tall ship, the Statsraad Lehmkuhl; click for larger version

I think I may have had a glimmer of awareness that there was a place called Bergen in Norway a year ago. I generally consider myself to know a bit of the world and have kept many places on a desire-to-visit list. Yet Bergen was not one of them. Our experience so far just goes to show how little we know of the world and its wonders and glorious places. It also shows how being open to new experiences and challenges can bring surprising and unanticipated rewards.

I may post other updates about our experiences as the summer goes on.

Posted by AI3's author, Mike Bergman Posted on June 17, 2019 at 11:32 am in Site-related | Comments (0)
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Posted:May 13, 2019

Evolution, AI3's ThemeIt’s Worked for Me, But is Not for Everyone

It sometimes hits me that I have been ‘telecommuting’ for the great majority of my professional life. I began telecommuting, or telework, in May 1989. That is thirty years ago. My second child was about to be born, and we were anxious to move our family out of Washington, D.C., to seek saner and less crowded climes. That child, Zak, is now in his third year of medical residency and married. My oldest daughter, Erin, is also married and a doctor with a second child on the way. Neither of my kids have memories of me NOT working from home.

Besides my underlying entrepreneurial spirit, going out on my own meant my wife, Wendy, could more easily pursue her professional opportunities back then. When I went out on my own, perhaps stupidly with no contracts or paying prospects in hand (though all worked out fine), my wife was in her first post-doc fellowship at NIH. My choice did indeed give Wendy more flexibility to pursue her opportunities. In the early years, especially, she was able to move with the family to desirable opportunities when and where they arose. She is now a full professor at the University of Iowa, one of the leading medical schools in the United States.

Initially, I went out on my own as an energy consultant. Through a transition of locations and engagements, which I detailed in my 25th year retrospective, I began emphasizing software development in my businesses. I subsequently had five companies, lived in four states, have worked either alone or have run companies with up to 35 employees, and raised millions in financing. If one is willing to travel, it is possible to pursue any form of knowledge work. According to the Wikipedia entry on telecommuting, as of 2017, roughly 3.7 million employees—2.8% of the workforce—work from home at least half the time.

But travel is exhausting and, for me, a limited reservoir that I drew down early and began to seek ways to restrict. This has been true for me the last decade especially. Under those circumstances, individual contractor or small, boutique consultancies seem better able to be conducted with lesser travel.

I’ve talked in earlier retrospectives about the importance of the fax machine to enable my initial telecommuting. In the early years, what I was doing was rare enough that I spoke several times to business and service clubs about what it was like to telework and how to organize for it. Today, the fax is virtually a machine of the past, and technologies and ways to connect with colleagues and customers and suppliers abound. Telecommuting is no longer remarkable.Mike's Home Office

I’ve also spoken before about the importance of organizing the work space and the home life to support telecommuting. My current office in Iowa, which come this August I will have used for twenty years, is a great example of superior home office space. It is spacious, light-filled, and designed for efficiency. The furniture, which I designed, is perfect as a workspace and for hosting the equipment to stand alone, though those requirements, too, have diminished over time. Apps and multi-function machines that scan and copy and print reduce the equipment footprint.

Mike's Home OfficeI am now in a phase where my client work is diminishing in relation to open-source work, research and writing. When my children were at home, I strictly adhered to treating my office as such, never eating in it or watching TV, for example. I now find I have relaxed many of those earlier restrictions. All of us, I think, have gotten much more used to a streaming lifestyle.

There are many efficiencies and benefits to working from home. Eliminating commuting time is an obvious benefit and not needing to keep disparate work locations (including home) synchronized is a hidden time saver. The ability to handle home maintenance and child supervision are tremendous benefits little discussed.

Social media, while broad and on the surface supporting of even greater interaction, seems to satisfy less than physical interaction, which requires travel of some nature when one telecommutes. I think to be a satisfied full-time telecommuter that one must have the right personality, and be disciplined and not overly needful of constant physical interaction. At the same time, to stay sane, telecommuters should also look to adequate travel to break beyond social media. While telecommuting has worked for me and my family, and now millions engage in it, I suspect only a minority are the right match to it.

The biggest benefit has been the flexibility to both pursue gainful work that I love and enjoy in environments great for my wife and family. We have a pace of life and cost of living that would be the envy of any knowledge worker on the coasts, if they ever stopped to seriously consider it. For me, working from home has been the ultimate in the work-life balance. I feel truly fortunate, while realizing I have missed out on the camaraderie and physical interactions of the enterprise worker. There are always trade-offs.

I, and my family, have been blessed to be able to live where the pace is reasonable and the costs still provide value. I do not mean to make it heroic, but it does take some moxie to just go out in the marketplace, hang the shingle, and put one’s skills on the bottom line. Telecommuting may not be the best path for all, but for those with the right skills and personality, the benefits can be manifest. I hope to enjoy this lifestyle for many years to come. Perhaps you may, too.

Posted by AI3's author, Mike Bergman Posted on May 13, 2019 at 9:17 am in Site-related | Comments (0)
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Posted:May 7, 2019

UMBEL - Upper Mapping and Binding Exchange Layer KBpedia is a More than Capable Successor

After nearly a dozen years of active service, we are retiring UMBEL (Upper Mapping and Binding Exchange Layer) at the end of the year. UMBEL was one of the first knowledge graphs designed to help disparate content interoperate on the Internet. It was based on the (also now-retired) OpenCyc version of the Cyc knowledge structure. Its development and use heavily influenced and informed the KBpedia knowledge graph, an improved successor designed to also support machine learning and knowledge-based artificial intelligence, or KBAI.

As of this announcement, all further development on UMBEL has ceased. It will be formally retired on December 31, 2019.

While Fred Giasson and I are ceasing our roles as editors of UMBEL and are ending our support of its Web sites and code, we would also be pleased to transfer any rights to the system, including UMBEL’s Web addresses and intellectual property, to any entity that is willing to keep these resources active. There may be users that may want to see the continuation of the system for their own purposes. The specific resources available are:

Realistically, with the emergence of KBpedia, we do not anticipate these resources to be in demand; nonetheless, we would be pleased to discuss transfer of these assets. Please contact me directly if you are interested.

UMBEL has been a great source of learning and a basis for many of our customer engagements over the past decade. UMBEL helped point us the way to ‘super types‘, the importance of disjointedness, the essential need for broad alternative labels (‘semsets‘), and the importance of a modular architecture and typologies. It is with much friendship and thanks that we bid adieu to UMBEL and its users and customers.

Posted by AI3's author, Mike Bergman Posted on May 7, 2019 at 9:46 pm in Big Structure, Ontologies, UMBEL | Comments (0)
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Posted:April 15, 2019

KBpediaNew Release Includes Manually Vetted Wikidata Mapping

One of the reasons for releasing KBpedia as open source last October was the emerging usefulness of one its main constituent knowledge bases, Wikidata. Wikidata now contains about 45 million useful entities and concepts (so-called Q identifers) and more than a quarter billion data assertions across scores of languages [1]. Many of the efforts undertaken for KBpedia’s open-source release and others since then have been to increase coverage of Wikidata in KBpedia [2]. With the release of KBpedia v 2.10, we have extended the mappings to Wikidata instances to more than 98%. We also have increased coverage of other aspects of structure and properties within Wikidata to very high percentages. In this version 2.10 release we also manually inspected all 45,000 mappings of KBpedia reference concepts to Wikidata instances, resulting in many changes and improvements. The quality of mappings in KBpedia has never been higher.

KBpedia, as you recall, is a computable knowledge graph that sits astride Wikipedia and Wikidata and other leading knowledge bases. Its baseline 55,000 reference concepts provide a flexible and expandable means for relating your own data records to a common basis for reasoning and inferring logical relations and for mapping to virtually any external data source or schema. The framework is a clean starting basis for doing knowledge-based artificial intelligence (KBAI) and to train and use virtual agents. KBpedia combines seven major public knowledge bases — Wikipedia, Wikidata,, DBpedia, GeoNames, OpenCyc, and UMBEL. KBpedia supplements these core KBs with mappings to more than a score of additional leading vocabularies. The entire KBpedia structure is computable, meaning it can be reasoned over and logically sliced-and-diced to produce training sets and reference standards for machine learning and data interoperability. KBpedia provides a coherent overlay for retrieving and organizing Wikipedia or Wikidata content. KBpedia greatly reduces the time and effort traditionally required for KBAI tasks.

KBpedia is also a comprehensive knowledge structure for promoting data interoperability. KBpedia’s upper structure, the KBpedia Knowledge Ontology (KKO), is based on the universal categories and knowledge representation theories of the great 19th century American logician, philosopher, polymath and scientist, Charles Sanders Peirce. This design provides a logical and coherent underpinning to the entire KBpedia structure. The design is also modular and fairly straightforward to adapt to enterprise or domain purposes. KBpedia provides a powerful reference scaffolding for bringing together your own internal data stovepipes into a comprehensive whole. KBpedia, and extensions specific to your own domain needs, can be deployed incrementally, gaining benefits each step of the way, until you have a computable overlay tieing together all of your valuable information assets.

Major Activities for Version 2.10

Almost all efforts related to KBpedia v 2.10 were focused on Wikidata, though, with their close alliance, many changes also were reflected to the Wikipedia mappings. As noted with the v 2.00 release, the first effort we had was to map Q items (IDs) that have much instance coverage, but were lacking in prior mappings. This attention resulted in adding a net 973 Q IDs to KBpedia. This number is a bit misleading, however, since in the manual inspection phases many duplicates were removed from the system (approx. 2100) and earlier mappings to category Q IDs (approx. 2700) were upgraded to their more specific Q ID instance. Thus, nearly 6,000 Q IDs are now different in this version compared to the prior version 2.00. Since many of the Q IDs also have a direct mapping to a Wikipedia counterpart, these mappings were updated as well. Besides incidental improvements to definitions, linkages and labels that arise when doing such inspections, which were also attended to whenever encountered, no further major changes were made to this newest release.

We are now in very good shape with respect to our mapping and coverage of Wikidata (with a similar profile for Wikipedia). Across a breadth of measures, here is now where we stand with respect to Wikidata coverage [3], with implementation notes provided in the endnotes section:

Wikidata Item No. Items No. Mapped Items Coverage [3]
Q IDs 45,306,576 45,882 00.1% [4]
Q instances 45,306,576 44,458,015 98.1% [4]
Q classes 2,493,795 2,312,116 92.7% [5]
Properties 5,910 3,970 67.2% [6]
P Statements 256,298,963 246,055,199 96.0% [7]
P Qualifiers 38,866,255 31,756,937 81.7% [7,8]
P References 24,582,259 20,121,794 81.9% [7,9]

One of the first observations that jumps out of the table is how relatively few mappings (~ 45 K, or 0.1%) are sufficient to capture nearly all (98%) of the instances contained in Wikidata. This is because a Q ID may be an individual instance or a parent to multiple instances. The KBpedia mappings focus on the parents, through which the individual instances may be obtained. By virtue of the additions and Q mapping improvements in this version, KBpedia has expanded its instance reach from about 30 million entities to now 45 million entities.

Another observation is that we are also capturing a significant portion of the structure of Wikidata (93%) as provided by the mappings to Q IDs with significant subClassOf connections (P279), which is where the taxonomy of the knowledge base is defined. A third summary observation is that we have similarly high levels of coverage to Wikidata properties. However, at present, this is the least developed area of KBpedia with respect to use cases or cross-knowledge base mappings.

A minor change, but useful to the KBpedia Web site, has been our downgrading of the OpenCyc and UMBEL mapped items. They are still mapped in the knowledge structure, but the Web site removes their links in order to highlight the most popular knowledge bases.

Despite these upgrades and enhancements, the coverage of KBpedia in my new book, A Knowledge Representation Practionary: Guidelines Based on Charles Sanders Peirce (Springer), remains current. The book emphasizes theory, architecture and design, which remains unchanged in this current new release of KBpedia. Also note that future areas of improvement were listed in the KBpedia v 2.00 release notice.

Getting the System

The KBpedia Web site provides a working KBpedia explorer and demo of how the system may be applied to local content for tagging or analysis. KBpedia splits between entities and concepts, on the one hand, and splits in predicates based on attributes, external relations, and pointers or indexes, all informed by Charles Peirce’s prescient theories of knowledge representation.

Mappings to all external sources are provided in the linkages to the external resources file in the KBpedia downloads. (A larger inferred version is also available.) The external sources keep their own record files. KBpedia distributions provide the links. However, you can access these entities through the KBpedia explorer on the project’s Web site (see these entity examples for cameras, cakes, and canyons; clicking on any of the individual entity links will bring up the full instance record. Such reach-throughs are straightforward to construct.)

Here are the various KBpedia resources that you may download or use for free with attribution:

  • The complete KBpedia v 210 knowledge graph (8.5 MB, zipped). This download is likely your most useful starting point
  • KBpedia’s upper ontology, KKO (332 KB), which is easily inspected and navigated in an editor
  • The annotated KKO (321 KB). This is NOT an active ontology, but is has the upper concepts annotated to more clearly show the Peircean categories of Firstness (1ns), Secondness (2ns), and Thirdness (3ns)
  • The 68 individual KBpedia typologies in N3 format
  • The KBpedia mappings to the seven core knowledge bases and the additional extended knowledge bases in N3 format
  • A version of the full KBpedia knowledge graph extended with linkages to the external resources (10.5 MB, zipped), and
  • A version of the full KBpedia knowledge graph extended with inferences and linkages (14.7 MB, zipped).

The last two resources require time and sufficient memory to load. We invite and welcome contributions or commentary on any of these resources.

All resources are available under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license. KBpedia’s development to date has been sponsored by Cognonto Corporation. We welcome suggestions for further enhancements or tackling your own improvements. Please let me know what ideas you may have.


[1] Useful mappings exclude mappings to internal Wikimedia sources (such as templates, categories, or infoboxes on Wikipedia and Wikidata) and scholarly articles (linked in other manners). There are about 45 million ‘useful’ records in the current Wikipedia based on these filters.
[2] ‘Coverage’ is understood to be the percentage of useful instances in a source knowledge base to KBpedia that are actually mapped to a specific KBpedia reference concept or property. These source instances are not included in the KBpedia distribution. They are accessed from the source knowledge base directly. Manipulation of the KBpedia knowledge graph results in the identification of this external source data.
[3] The number of items shown for Wikidata does not reflect the total items on the service, but only those that are useful and relevant after administrative categories and such are removed.
[4] See the text where we describe how choosing to map appropriate structural nodes in Wikidata, which themselves have many child instances, leads to large percentage coverage of all available instances. Instance relationships are obtained from the P31 Wikidata property. The Q IDs were obtained from a Feb 19, 2019 Wikidata retrieval.
[5] Like the instance (P31) retrievals, the subClassOf (P279) data was obtained by a SPARQL query to the Wikidata query endpoint. Try it!
[6] The properties data was obtained from the SQID Wikidata service on April 4, 2019. Note, if you try this link, be patient for all of the data to load.
[7] A Wikidata statement pairs a property with a value for a given entity. It is equivalent to an assertion. It is the most basic factual statement in Wikidata.
[8] Wikidata qualifiers allow statements to be expanded on, annotated, or contextualized beyond what can be expressed in just a simple property-value pair.
[9] Wikidata references are used to point to specific sources that back up the data provided in a statement.
Posted:April 9, 2019

A Knowledge Representation Practionary$25 to SpringerLink Subscribers

After resolving some technical glitches, Springer has finally made available my new book, A Knowledge Representation Practionary: Guidelines Based on Charles Sanders Peirce, in paperback form. The 464 pp book is available for $24.99 under Springer’s MyCopy program.

MyCopy is available to SpringerLink subscribers who have access to the computer science collection. Most universities and larger tech firms and knowledge organizations are current subscribers. You should be able to login to your local library, go to SpringerLink, and then search for A Knowledge Representation Practionary. If you are a qualified subscriber, you will see the image to the right on the results page.MyCopy Banner (If you are not a subscriber, you should be able to find a friend or colleague who is and repeat this process using their account.) After choosing to buy, you will be guided through the standard transaction screens.

As Springer states, “MyCopy books are only offered to patrons of a library with access to at least one Springer Nature eBook subject collection and are strictly for individual use only.” 

Though only printed in monochrome, my figures render well and the quality is quite high. The cover is in color and the paper quality is high. I waited to get a copy myself before I could recommend it. I think the overall quality is quite good.

To learn more about my AKRP book, including a listing of the table of contents, see the initial announcement. Also, of course, Springer subscribers have access to the free eBook, and hardcopy and other versions are available. Unfortunately, I think prices are unreasonably high for non-Springer subscribers. Please let me know if you need to find a cheaper alternative.

BTW, if you read and like my book (or even otherwise!), I encourage you to provide your rating to Goodreads.