I have just given my presentation at Mathematical Knowledge Management 2007 for which I wrote an abstract about 2-3 months ago : Mathematics and scientific markup. I knew that in the intervevning time I would find something new to get excited about – and this has happened – I have added the excitement of the lc-semanticweb. Of course the technology and community have developed since then.
As many of you know I rail against Powerpoint as a prime destroyer of semantic content. Powerpoint also constrains the presenter to a linear mode – yes you can skip a few slides and maybe even hide them, but it’s not easy to flip about. And it’s a poor launch platform for interactive demos.
I’ve done my slides in XHTML+SVG, believing this is the right way to remain true to my campaign for XML. (I’ll do Powerpoint when it’s necessary for business purposes – e.g. to integrate with colleagues, but that’s about it). This worked for a bit but soon hit problems of scale. I started addressing that with XSLT to add menus to the presentation. In fact I started with the wrong technology (for some bizarre reason I chose it to be Windows specific) and have now simply changed to XHTML.
I have over 12000 XHTML slides. (before you get the wrong idea, many of these are scraped – so 3000+ from one example of OSCAR3). But nonetheless there are very many. I want to be able to reassemble them for each talk, and I want the technology to be as simple as possible – ideally none. (The efforts I have used in the past have all been broken by browser “upgrades” – a synonym for disasters).
Some ideas are:
- use a database and craft metadata for each slide
- use something like Spotlight or local Google
but these don’t assemble the talk. So at present I have about 100 directories (maybe with trivial subdirectories) and 5-20 slides per directory. I make the talk by selecting directories which may have some general bearing in the talk – perhaps 20-30. Admittedly it takes memory to work out what is likely to be in each folder but I have to work hard at a talk and the time is well spent. I then asterisk those directories which I HAVE to present (i.e. if I get to 5 mins before the end and haven’t mentioned them, i break off and visit them). I prepare demos (such as BIOCLIPSE, OSCAR1, GoogleInChI, Blue Obelisk GreaseMonkey,) and visits to the WWW (when the organizers have provided it – e.g. the ACS hardly ever does even when I ask in advance – it makes little sense to have sessions about the Web when you can’t get there).
So I prepared this for today’s talk to the MKM. A very nice audience to present to as they understand all about semantic content, namespaces, XML, dictionaries – so none of that has to be explained. I said my hyperslide would be stochastic – I didn’t know what slides I would present and in what order. The demos might break.
They did. BIOCLIPSE hung on Jmol rotation (although I got to demo Jmol later). However I am sure the audience appreciated the value – we’d seen Eclipse being used for theorem proving, etc. GreaseMonkey worked yesterday, but failed today. Now I have reinstalled it and it works great. GoogleInchi failed (is the Google API finally broken?) But OSCAR1 and OSCAR3 worked – and the links out to Pubchem and the chemical blogosphere. And the polymer builder, although I didn’t have time to explain exactly how it was a symbol manipulator. And I certainly covered less than half of what I might have said. But at least the hyperslide approach means I never overrun – as you can stop when you need to.
There are downsides. It’s difficult to keep a record (that’s why videos are useful). And Powerpoint does have the merit of acting as a document container. I’ve tried both S3 ans Slidy but neither help you to assemble talks.
The only complete way to make slides available is to put them under SVN on WWMM. I can copy the directories to a pen drive. But none of this is a record of which slides were visited in which order and what was said.