Posted:July 16, 2007
Since the progression of WordPress beyond version 2.5x, the Advanced TinyMCE plug-in has reached its E.O.L. A better alternative that is being kept current is TinyMCE Advanced from Andrew Ozz. Advanced TinyMCE is still available for download for older WP versions.
Announcing version 0.5.0 !
Download from here

I am pleased to announce a new update to the Advanced TinyMCE Editor for WordPress v. 2.2x. This new version — 0.5.0 — is now much easier to configure and customize thanks to the contributions of Chris Carson of Navy Road Software. You can download the plug-in and get detailed installation and documentation from the Advanced TinyMCE Editor page.

As with the previous version, the Advanced TinyMCE Editor enables you to turn your standard WordPress editor into this WYSIWYG powerhouse:

Enhanced Rich Text Editor for WP 2.2

The Advanced TinyMCE Editor plug-in:

  • Doubles the editor's available functions to more than 60, adding important functions such as tables, styles, inserts, and others
  • Improves existing functionality in handling images, links, etc., and
  • Corrects errors in the standard WordPress visual editor.

And, now, with Chris’ contributions, you can easily configure the Editor via a new Control Panel:

Advanced TinyMCE Control Panel
[Click on image for full-size pop-up]

This panel:

  • Allows you to add and enter new style sheets without needing to modify code
  • Allows you to configure which advanced buttons appear on or off in the Editor
  • Provides guidance on earlier width problems, esp. for small screen (800 x 600) older laptops.

Again, you can get this free WordPress plug-in from here.

TinyMCE and its advanced options are from Moxiecode Systems AB. Please note that the Advanced TinyMCE Editory plug-in has not been tested in WP versions prior to 2.2 and has not been tested in all browsers beyond Firefox and IE.

Posted by AI3's author, Mike Bergman Posted on July 16, 2007 at 12:01 am in Blogs and Blogging, Open Source | Comments (5)
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Posted:July 12, 2007


A Reference for Data Set Interoperability, Look Up and Retrieval

UMBEL is a lightweight way to describe the subject(s) of Web content, akin to the relationship “isAbout”. Its subject reference structure is meant to be simple, universally applicable, and agnostic to the form or schema of source data. UMBEL does not replace formal domain or upper ontologies and has little or no inferential power. It is merely a pool of consensus ‘proxies’ to initially describe what subjects data sets are about.

UMBEL’s design includes binding mechanisms that work with HTML, tagging or other standard practices, including various RDF schema and more formal ontologies. Its reference subject ‘backbone’ is derived from the intersection of common subjects found on popularly used Web sites and other accepted subject references. Access and easy adoption is given preference over inferential or logical elegance.

In addition to its core reference subjects, the UMBEL project will provide look up, query, registration, pinging, and related services. The project is completely open and supported by a community process. All project products are made available without charge under Creative Commons licenses. UMBEL’s development is being backed by a number of leading open data efforts and entities; see the last section for how to get involved.

The UMBEL project stands for the Upper-level Mapping and Binding Exchange Layer. UMBEL is pronounced like “humble” — in keeping with its nature — except without the “h”. The name has the same Latin root as umbrella (umbra for shade, or umbella for parasol), meant to convey the umbrella-like nature of UMBEL’s subject bindings.

What’s the Problem?

With dozens of protocols and hundreds of thousands of potentially useful data sets, there are many challenges to getting Web data to interoperate. Two of these problems are foundational.

First, there are dozens of formalisms, schema, models and serializations for characterizing and communicating data and data content on the Web, ranging from the simplest Web page to the most formal OWL ontologies. A universal mechanism is lacking for how these variations can describe or publish to one other what they are about. This mechanism must be simple, neutral, broadly applicable and widely accepted.

Second, even if this publication mechanism existed, there is no accepted set of subjects for referencing what this diverse content is about. No attempt to date to provide a reference subject structure has been widely accepted.

Combined, these twin problems mean there are few road signs and poor road maps for how to find relevant data sets on the Web. UMBEL provides simple — but necessary — first steps to address these basic problems.

Simple, with Low Expectations

Advocates and users of various models and formalisms on the Web have their real-world reasons for embracing each form. Domain experts and various communities have their own world views, represented by their own vocabularies and structure. Only by understanding and respecting those differences can means to bridge them become widely accepted.

There is, of course, no such thing as complete objectivity or neutrality. But, from the standpoint of UMBEL and its purpose, keeping its approach simple with a minimum of structure poses the least challenge to the world views of existing publishers and data sets on the Web — and therefore the best likelihood of wide acceptance. Where choices are necessary, such as the selection of the reference subjects themselves, building from accepted Web practices and norms helps minimize bias and arbitrariness.

Thus, by necessity, UMBEL must be simple with limited ambitions. Its reference structure is merely a ‘bag of subjects’, with each subject reference only acting as a ‘proxy’ to a set of concepts that specific users may describe and refer to in their own ways. UMBEL’s core structure is completely flat, with no implied hierarchy or structure amongst its reference subjects. UMBEL’s reference subjects are simply that, proxy references and no more.

UMBEL thus has no or minimal inference power (though some disambiguation is possible). Inferencing, usefulness and authoritativeness are the responsibility of others. UMBEL is meant only to be a map to possible subjects, not whether those destinations are worthwhile or, indeed, even correct.

Consensus and Use Determine the Subject Pool

The selection of the actual subject proxies within the UMBEL core are to be based on consensus use. The subjects of existing and popular Web subject portals such as Wikipedia and the Open Directory Project (among others) will be intersected with other widely accepted subject reference systems such as WordNet and library classification systems (among others) in order to derive the candidate pool of UMBEL subject proxies. The actual methodology and sources of this process are still being determined (see further the project specification).

The objective, in any case, is to provide a simple and transparent method for subject selection that reflects current use and consensus to the maximum extent possible. The anticipation is that the first subject candidate pool will number in the many hundreds to the low thousands of proxies.

UMBEL as a general subject ‘backbone’ is meant to be useful as a reference by more specific domains or ontologies, but not fully descriptive for any of them. The core, internal UMBEL ontology is to be based on RDF and written in the RDF Schema vocabulary of SKOS (Simple Knowledge Organization System).

Universal Applicability

Very simple binding mechanisms will be developed and extended to the most widely employed approaches on the Web. UMBEL will, at minimum, support Atom, microformats, OPML, OWL, RDF, RDFa, RDF Schema, RSS, tags (via Tag Commons), and topic maps in its first release. The simplicity of the ontology and approach will enable other formats to be easily added.

Ping, update and registration protocols will also be provided for these formats. Existing project sponsors already possess a variety of ping, update, conversion and translation utilities for such purposes.

Additional UMBEL Initiatives

Besides the core structure, the UMBEL project will also develop a second ‘unofficial’ structure of hierarchical and interlinked subject relationships. This ‘unofficial’ structure will be used solely for look up and browsing functions, and will reside external to the core UMBEL subject and binding structure. Indeed, we anticipate that many such look-up structures from other parties may evolve over time for specific purposes and viewpoints.

Finally, besides development of the UMBEL ontology, the project will also be providing a data set registration service, information and collaboration Web site, tools clearinghouse, and support for language translations and some tools development.

How to Help and Get Involved

The initial project site is at, including this project introduction, the draft project specification (, and other helpful background information. A more interactive Web site is currently under development and will be announced shortly.

A mailing list you can monitor or join to become part of the project is at

Posted by AI3's author, Mike Bergman Posted on July 12, 2007 at 3:36 pm in Adaptive Information, Semantic Web, Structured Web, UMBEL | Comments (3)
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Posted:July 6, 2007

Wealth of Networks

This Book Proves the Adage that You See What You Look For

I have been hearing about Yochai Benkler’s book, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedoms, for some time and his exposition around what he (and many others) have called the “networked information economy.” Benkler, a Yale law professor, offers his 527 page (473 in text) book as a free PDF from his web site under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial Sharealike license. I added his book to my summer reading list.

First, let me say, there are a couple of worthwhile insights in the book, which I’ll get to in a moment. But mostly, I found the book overly long, often off-subject, and too political for my tastes. In fairness, some of this might be due to the fact it was written in 2005 (published in 2006) and the social and participatory aspects of the Web are now widely appreciated. Yet I fear the broader problem with this polemic is that it proves the adage that you see what you look for.

The Main Thesis

Benkler’s argument is that cheap processors and the Internet have removed the physical constraints on effective information production. This is in keeping with the non-proprietary nature of information as a “nonrival” good, and is also leading to the democratization of information production and the emergence of large-scale peer-produced content. Benkler definitely allies himself with the camp of technology optimists, a camp I generally like to visit. His observations about trends and new developments from Ebay to Wikipedia to SETI@home and open source software is now commonly appreciated.

With the costs of information duplication and dissemination trending to zero, the limiting factor of production becomes human creativity and effort itself. But here, too, with Internet users approaching a billion in number, just a few hours of contributed content each easily swamps the ability of even the largest firm to compete. These trends to Benkler presage a “radical decentralization” of information production, and many other changes to the political economy and culture.

A Constipated Viewpoint

That radical changes in the nature of information production and authorship and even the role of traditional publishers or the media are underway is without question. Purposeful collaborations like Wikipedia are now clearly successful and were not forecasted by many. Technorati documents literally millions of bloggers online.

The lens, however, in which Benkler looks at all of these trends is through the “modern” history of the mass media. Citing Paul Starr’s Creation of the Media, he notes how in 15 years from 1835 to 1850 the cost of setting up a mass-circulation paper increased from $10,000 to over $2 million (in 2005 dollars). In Benkler’s view, these cost increases shifted the ability to publish away from the common citizen into the “problem” hands of the mass media. Fortunately, now with the Internet and cheap processors, this evil can be reversed back to a “radical decentralization” of content. Though Benkler specifically disclaims that he is not describing “an exercise in pastoral utopianism,” the fact is that is exactly what he is describing.

There can be no doubt that the role of mass media and traditional publishers is under severe challenge from the emergence of the Internet. It is also the case that we are witnessing citizen publishers and authors emerge by the millions. These changes are momentous, but they do not involve everyone — only comparatively small percentages of Internet users blog and still smaller percentages contribute to Wikipedia (about 80,000 at present based on a user base of hundreds of millions) (part of what I have called the “teeny heads” to contrast with the “long tail”). And, as the traditional gatekeepers of printers, publishers and editors lose prominence, new institutions and mechanisms for establishing the authoritativeness and trustworthiness of content will surely need to evolve.

These real trends deserve thoughtful exploration.

However, there is a reason that publishing costs increased so rapidly in that era of the 1800s. Mass publishing and pulp paper were emerging that acted to bring an increasing storehouse of content and information to the public at levels never before seen.

I have earlier written about how the explosion of information content that occurred at this very same time correlates well with the fundamental historical changes in human wealth and economic growth (“The Biggest Disruption in History: Massively Accelerated Growth Since the Industrial Revolution“). Though mass media may prove to be an historical artifact, I would argue that its role in bringing literacy and information to the “masses” was generally an unalloyed good and the basis for an improvement in economic well being the likes of which had never been seen.

By taking a narrow historical horizon and then viewing it through the lens of the vilified “mass media,” Benkler is both looking in the wrong direction and missing the point.

The information by which the means to produce and disseminate information itself is changing and growing supports an inexorable trend to more adaptability, more wealth and more participation. What we are seeing now with the Internet is but a natural phase in that trend. The “mass media” and the costs of information production of the 1800s was only a temporary phase in this longer, historical trend. The multiplier effect of information itself will continue to empower and strengthen the individual, not in spite of mass media or any other ideologically based viewpoint but due to the freeing and adaptive benefits of information itself. Information is the natural antidote to entropy and, longer term, to the concentrations of wealth and power.

By trying to push the trends of the Internet through the false needle’s eye of political economics, an effort that Benkler also erroneously makes with his earlier analysis of the growth of radio, what are in essence historical forces of almost informational or technological determinism are falsely presented as matters of political choice. Hogwash.

Insights Around Successful Social Collaboration

Benkler, however, does observe two useful dimensions for measuring social collaboration efforts: modularity and granularity. By modularity, Benkler means “a property of a project that describes the extent to which it can be broken down into smaller components, or modules, that can be independently produced before they are assembled into a whole.” By granularity, Benkler means “the size of the modules, in terms of the time and effort that an individual must invest in producing them.”

Benkler’s insight is that:

“the number of people who can, in principle, participate in a project is therefore inversely related to the size of the smallest scale contribution necessary to produce a usable module. The granularity of the modules therefore sets the smallest possible individual investment necessary to participate in a project. If this investment is sufficiently low, then incentives" for producing that component of a modular project can be of trivial magnitude. Most importantly for our purposes of understanding the rising role of nonmarket production, the time can be drawn from the excess time we normally dedicate to having fun and participating in social interactions.”

To illustrate this effect of granularity, he contrasts Wikipedia with its simple entries and editing and bounded topics with the far-less successful Wikibooks, which has much larger granularity.

Creators of social collaboration sites are advised to keep granularity small to encourage broader contributions, and if the nature of the site is complex, to increase the number of its modules. Of course, none of this guarantees the magic or timing that also lie behind the most successful sites!

Worth a Skim

I think that Benkler’s arguments could have been more effectively distilled into a 30-page article, with much of the political economy claptrap thrown out. But, there are some worthwhile references (including Elizabeth Eisenstein’s Printing Press as an Agent of Change, as well as Starr). The book is definitely worth a skim.

Posted by AI3's author, Mike Bergman Posted on July 6, 2007 at 3:44 pm in Adaptive Information, Book Reviews | Comments (1)
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Posted:June 19, 2007

Sweet Tools Listing

AI3′s Sweet Tools Listing Updated to Version 9

This AI3 blog maintains Sweet Tools, the largest listing of about 800 semantic Web and -related tools available. Most are open source. Click here to see the current listing!

AI3‘s listing of semantic Web and -related tools has just been updated to version 9. This version adds 42 new tools since the last update on March 11, bringing the total to 542 tools. As noted in the last update, the compilation is now largely complete. These new listings are mostly newly announced tools in the last three months, though some are stragglers missed from previous listings.

As before, the updated Sweet Tools listing is provided both as a filterable and sortable Exhibit display (thanks again, David Huynh and MIT’s Simile program) and as a simple table for quick download and copying. (Hint: sort on ‘Posted’ for 6/19/07 to see the 42 latest additions.)

Background on prior listings and earlier statistics may be found on these previous posts:

With interim updates periodically over that period.

Posted:June 12, 2007
Since the progression of WordPress beyond version 2.5x, the Advanced TinyMCE plug-in has reached its E.O.L. A better alternative that is being kept current is TinyMCE Advanced from Andrew Ozz. Advanced TinyMCE is still available for download for older WP versions.

Supercharge Your WP Blog with this Full-featured Visual, Rich-text Editor

How would you like to turn this:

Enhanced Rich Text Editor for WP 2.2

into this?:

Enhanced Rich Text Editor for WP 2.2

and, in the process, correct other WordPress visual editor problems and make it easier to maintain and extend for editor functionality? Then, welcome.

WordPress’ existing rich-text editor is a modification of the TinyMCE JavaScript WYSIWG text editor. However, the WP project team modified the standard distribution in ways that tend to break the linkage with independent TinyMCE developments, limit available functionality, and change the editor’s behavior.

This new Advanced TinyMCE Editor, which builds upon successful earlier distributions, has been developed for WordPress v. 2.2. It:

  • Doubles the editor’s available functions to 60, adding important functional areas such as table, styles, inserts, and others
  • Improves existing functionality in handling images, links, etc.
  • Corrects errors and (what I would assert to be) arbitrary restrictions in the standard WordPress visual editor, and
  • Provides cleaner and (hopefully) easier ways to maintain and configure your WordPress editor yourself.

Please CLICK HERE to download the plug-in, get installation instructions, read detailed documentation, learn how to modify, or see additional background.

Posted by AI3's author, Mike Bergman Posted on June 12, 2007 at 11:38 pm in Blogs and Blogging, Site-related | Comments (50)
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