Mark Birbeck's Blog

On agile, big data and the semantic web.

Using Knife to Launch EC2 Instances Without a Chef Server

In this post we look at how we can make it easy to launch servers on Amazon’s EC2. We’ll use Knife to launch our instances since it gives us a lot of other features that we can make use of when managing our servers. But we’ll do this without the complication of setting up a Chef Server.

Choosing a Blogging Platform

The great thing about not having blogged for a few years is that I’ve just had the opportunity to survey the blogging landscape. If you’re drinking lean start-up kool aid or you’re a technical blogger, then what I learned may be useful to you.

Dog Bites Man in Race to Semantic Web

Facebook’s adoption of RDFa as a way to provide extra features to its users has met with an ecstatic welcome by some, and suspicion and criticism by others. Here we discuss whether some in the semantic web community may be being too hard on their efforts.

Issue-driven Development With Mercurial Patch Queues and Google Code

Note that since this post was written I’ve moved to Git and GitHub. However, I still use the same workflow.

One of the things I like best about using Mercurial patch queues is the way that you can continually refine the commit message before you send anything back to your repository. Since the message won’t actually appear in your revision history until you convert the patch to a proper commit, you can hone the message as you work. This becomes particularly powerful when combined with Google Code’s ability to update issues based on your commit messages, and greatly assists with issue-driven development.

Treating URIs as Strings Considered Dangerous

Since URIs are often conveyed as strings it’s tempting to manipulate them as such, but it’s better–and safer–to delegate URI manipulation to special functions. These can then have their own unit-tests, which will take into account the edge-cases that can catch us out.

The Joys of Mercurial

No-one needs to be told that any project you work on needs a version-control system. Nowadays, even when writing documents or OWL ontologies, I’ll use source control, and if it’s something that can be shared with others, then I might even start up a new Google Code project, so that I have a wiki and issue-tracking, too.

Evangelising RDFa in Australia

I was recently lucky enough to take my first trip to Australia. I was there to do two talks, the first on RDFa and its use in Government (given in Canberra, the home of the Australian government), and the second, a talk on RDFa and its impact on the web (given at the Web Directions South 2009 conference).