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Today I visited the Guide to the network society conference at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. I attended a session on the digitization of cities, in which it became clear to me that cities are going to a major change. Due to digital communication and e-commerce, the need for a main city center with shops and facilities like banks has decreased drastically. Because of this, the way we look at urban development is changing.

An interesting talk was given by Eduardo Diaz on the work of GeoCraft. In this research minecraft is used as a tool for children to gather ideas on how do develop their new neighborhood. This can help the municipalities and government agencies better develop urban areas. I see this as a sort of gamified crowdsourcing, with the interesting aspect that rather than developing their own platform they used a game that many children already play. Using an existing platform can be a valuable approach for our crowdsourcing research. Though, limitations can arise with the functionality and design of such platform. Nevertheless, there are many games and forums where enthusiasts share their knowledge to form a sort collective intelligence. I believe this can be a valuable source of information for government agencies, which will become more important in the future.

The second session was about the success and doom scenarios of intelligent computers. Guszti Eiben, Zoltán Szlávik and Noel Sharkey each presented both their hypothetical success story and the worst case outcome of the recent developments in artificial intelligence and robotics. Guszti presented his view on the possibility of killer robots and the ethical responsibilities we have as researchers. From his work on evolutionary computing, he learned it is essential that in the future we allow robots to reproduce only in a centralized system. This allows the evolution of robotics to be stopped by disabling the central replication, in the case it were ever to become hostile to humanity. Zoltan made an interesting statement that it is not intelligent robots that threaten the future of humanity, but it is humans that will try to abuse power with these robots. Nevertheless his experience is that robots are already have a positive contribution to society, for instance in education and helping the elderly.

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Today we released version 2.0 of the CrowdTruth framework. In the update the data model of the platform is changed, so that data and crowdsourcing results can be managed and reused more easily. This allows for several new features that have been integrated, such as project management and permissions. Users can create projects and share their crowdsourcing jobs within these projects. The media search page has been updated to accommodate any type of data, where you can search through the media in the platform. Another improvement to the platform is the automatic setup of new installations. This makes it easier for new users to get started straight away. You can find a list of the changes in the change log. Try out the platform and get started!

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Recently the CrowdTruth team got a paper accepted at ICT Open 2016. As part of this upcoming conference, I visited a masterclass on scientific poster design at NWO. The class was given by two professional designers.

The most important thing in your poster is having a clear message. This can be achieved by creating a visual focus. This means that you should not give all images the same size, but guide the reader visually with placement and size of text and images. You have to be able to read the main message from far away and can include the fine details smaller for when the reader is up close. In order to achieve this, there should only be one main focus point to start from.

After having a starting point, there should be a clear hierarchy throughout the poster. The amount of levels of information should be reduces as much as possible, for instance four or five maximum. Most of the content from your paper is not suitable for the poster, only use the most suitable parts, and optionally include more text with details using a small font size at the bottom. Organize the message systematically by using a grid so that all elements are aligned along this grid.


The typography is another very important but also often forgotten aspect of poster design. Choose one proper typography that is well readable and has enough options to variate in size and style. Though, try to minimize the differences in font size, matching the hierarchy structure of the content. Write easy to read sentences but make sure the lines are not too short or long to improve the readability.

The colors of the poster are also an important aspect. Do not use a picture or image with different colors behind a text, it usually makes it too difficult to read. Applying a drop shadow to solve this is not a good solution. Try to never use shadows. Instead, focus on having a high contrast between the text and background color.

For using images and graphics, apply the same rules as for text color. Choose the most important image and decide if it communicates with your audience. It is better to choose one powerful image than a lot of random images. The chronological order of the poster can be changed by positioning the main thing in an unusual position, but then this focus point and the continuing hierarchy must be very clear.

Finally, it is best with scientific posters to just put all logos in a clear line at the bottom in a color bar. They could also be placed vertically, although this is less common and tends to take up more space. When in doubt, just put something big in the poster to get the attention of the audience. Make the poster stand out from the 200 other ones in the same room.

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On Friday 22 January Gerard Smit (CTO for IBM Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) and Prof. Hubertus Irth (Vice Dean and Research Director of the Vrije Universiteit Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences and Faculty of Sciences) officially launched the collaboration between the IBM Collaborative Innovation Center (CIC) and the VU Faculty of Sciences. In the event students of the Watson Innovation course pitched their projects to a mixed crowd of students, scientists, engineers and business clients.

In the Watson Innovation course, students used Watson to answer questions about Amsterdam, for which Amsterdam Marketing provided the data and use case. The app LocalBuddy was selected as winner, and the students received a prize for their achievements by Amsterdam Marketing.

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Today the students of the first Watson Innovation course by the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and IBM Netherlands presented their group work at the VU Intertain Lab. Representatives from Amsterdam Marketing and IBM Netherlands were present to evaluate the ideas, applications and business plans of the groups. The groups have been working on their Watson powered apps since last November, using the Watson Engagement Advisor and IBM Bluemix. The most interesting project groups will be selected to present their work again next Friday at IBM.

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Today Lora Aroyo presented the first lecture of the Watson Innovation course at the Vrije Universiteit. The topic of the lecture was Cognitive Computing, IBM Watson and looking inside the mind of Watson. There was a high attendance of motivated bachelor and master students with various backgrounds, such as artificial intelligence, computer science, business administration, business analytics and information sciences. We are looking forward to see them develop their ideas with Watson.

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Want to learn about IBM Watson and cognitive computing? Sign up for the Watson Innovation course! The Watson Innovation course is a unique collaboration between the Vrije Universiteit and IBM, in which experts teach you all about cognitive computing and IBM Watson. You will learn how this artificial intelligence system is capable of answering questions from big data, and work in a joint team of Computer Science and Business Students with some of the latest technology.

Have you ever wondered how we could provide tourists in Amsterdam with the best experience? Now is your chance to develop ideas, business cases and real prototypes of Watson to answer all questions tourists have. Visit the course description page to find out all the details.

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On Thursday 9th of October was the Netherlands eScience symposium in the Amsterdam Arena. This yearly event attracts scientists and researchers from many different disciplines. In the digital humanities track, Oana Inel of the CrowdTruth team gave a talk on the Dive+ project. This is a digital cultural heritage project in which innovative access to online collections is provided, with the purpose of supporting digital humanities scholars and online exploration for the general public. This project is supported by the Netherlands eScience center, and uses CrowdTruth for the crowdsourcing of events in historical data. The talk titled “Towards New Cultural Commons with DIVE+” can be seen below.

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Our research group received several awards at the IBM Extreme Blue Expo 2015. In this event, an array of speakers from IBM, Academia and the startup community presented their latest findings. The Shared University Research Award was granted to the Web & Media group of the VU University Amsterdam. This award is a global initiative by IBM to stimulate science and the collaboration between IBM and scientists. Furthermore, Lora Aroyo received a faculty award for her work on our project CrowdTruth, and Anca Dumitrache reveived a PhD Fellowship award for her work on medical relation extraction.

As part of the shared university research award we received access to the Watson Engagement Advisor Research platform, which will be used for collaborative research on methods for the training and evaluation of IBM Watson. In the upcoming months we will jointly host a Watson innovation course for students and Watson masterclasses for professionals. More info will follow on this at a later stage.