Friday, January 31, 2014

Open invitation: Help us make the Organic.Edunet Web portal even better!

Do you speak Organic?
Do you speak Organic?

Are you a researcher, a student, a teacher or a practitioner in the agricultural domain? Are you interested in language technologies and translation innovations? Have you visited the re-designed Organic.Edunet Web portal with its new multilingual services? Check it out now and help us improve by providing your feedback!
Organic.Edunet is an international portal that has been serving the Organic and Sustainable Agriculture community since 2009, bridging together a network of learning repositories and providing its users (such as pupils & students, teachers, etc.) with a significant volume of relevant educational resources on Organic Agriculture (OA) and Agroecology (AE).
Under the scope of the Organic.Lingua Project, the portal was enhanced with new multilingual capabilities, offering automatic translations in 17 languages and more! As we are reaching the end of the project, we are proud to announce that the brand-new version of the portal is now LIVE and you are all invited to test it!
The Public Pilot Trial will take place between Saturday, the 1st of February and Monday, the 10th of February, 2014. A script on how to use the portal is available at
To help us improve, fill in a short evaluation questionnaire, which can be accessed here.
 Your contribution is highly appreciated, as we are constantly trying to develop the services offered to our users, in order to accommodate the needs and requirements of people involved in learning and teaching Organic Agriculture and relevant topics such as ecology, environment, aquaculture, water resources management, sustainability and other green topics.

Thank you for your participation!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

AK celebrates with the New Year's cake: To kopi ti pita!

One of the nice Greek traditions is the celebration which takes after the New Year's day (in the next weeks/months in fact), where a family gathers and celebrates the New Year by sharing equally cut pieces of a special cake. This cake is called "New Year's cake" internationally and "Vasilopita" in Greece. In this direction, AK as a big family who respects traditions, had this nice little celebration in the office last Tuesday, where everyone participated and partied.
AK New Year's cake
The nice thing is that each vasilopita contains a coin; this coin not only brings a year of good luck to the one who will find it in his piece of the cake, but is usually accompanied by a nice present! This year Dimitra found the lucky coin in her piece (she was also the one who brought the cake to the office; strange coincidence, huh?) and apart from the luck she got a nice present from our good friends at Orbita travel agency.
The lucky coin!
There was a small party at the office, including long-time-missed informal discussions and we got to see almost all the team again (apart from Mada, who was greatly missed...); even Babis made an appearance after a couple of weeks on leave due to health issues! This provided the opportunity for another family photo, as you can imagine...
AK family photo - January 2014
Additional photos from the event (small selection; sorry for that!)
P.S. The "To kopi ti pita" part of the title (Kopi tis pitas in proper Greek) is an extremely common expression in Greece, while it is not a Greek phrase; instead, it was a bad moment of a foreigner jewellery seller who wanted to refer in the celebration during his Greek TV show but he failed to do so in proper Greek (of course we understand; it sounded Greek to him!). After that, he managed to make this expression the standard one when referring to the celebration.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Organic.Lingua Final Workshop

Organic.LinguaJust about a month before the end of the Organic.Lingua project, the Final Workshop of the project will be held. More specifically, the Workshop will be titled "Using multilingual technologies in web portals - Challenges & Promises" and will take place on Thursday, February 6th, 2014 between 15.30-18.30 (CET) at the premises of  Città dell'Altra Economia (CAE) in Rome, Italy. It will be co-organised by Agro-Know Technologies and University of Alcalá (UAH), both project partners of the Organic.Lingua project.
The aim of this Workshop will be to present the produced multilingual technologies & framework applied to transform the Organic.Edunet to a truly multilingual service, and their potential to be used in other online services. In this direction, the workshop aims to bring together people from different organizations and initiatives that are active in the Agricultural domain, as well as potential adopters of the multilingual framework, to discuss on how they could take advantage of these multilingual technologies within their institutions/organizations.  During the workshop a set of best practices for transforming an online service to a truly multilingual service will be presented and discussed.

The Organic.Edunet Web portal

The draft agenda of the Workshop includes the following topics:
  • The language barrier in the Agricultural Domain;
  • Applying language technologies in agricultural online services: The case of Organic.Edunet;
  • Managing multilingual vocabularies and ontologies;
  • A multilingual framework for transforming online services to truly multilingual;
  • Round Table: Discussion on best practices and networking session

The workshop will also include a networking session, that will give the participants the chance to discuss on potential opportunities arising from Horizon 2020 and Connecting Europe Facility.
You can find updated information on the Workshop in the Organic.Lingua wiki page, and you can register to the Workshop by contacting Mrs. Angeliki Papageorgiou at:
Angeliki Papageorgiou
Agro-Know Technologies
tel. 0030 2106897905
You can also follow the Organic.Lingua project through Twitter & Facebook!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

My three days at Birmingham

I had the pleasure to visit Birmingham some days ago for the 7th Organic.Lingua project meeting, between Tuesday 14th and Friday 17th of January 2014. Being an avid Black Sabbath fan since my high school days, a trip to Birmingham, where Black Sabbath started playing was always a dream - now to come true. I still remember a discussion I had with Susie, a member of the BCU team, back in the Organic.Lingua kick-off meeting, asking her about the possibility for BCU to host one of the project meetings in Birmingham. I had to wait almost three years and for the last project meeting in order to get my feet there!

Ozzy's star at the Birmingham Hall of Stars
Ok, I have to admit that I tried hard to have all my presentations ready before I got to Birmingham, which would allow me to have more free time and spend more time around the city; I managed to do so. I also admit that I had a hard time finding free time during the fully-packed project meeting but feeling the vibes of Birmingham I did not feel tired at all at any time. The time difference between Athens and Birmingham also helped, as I usually went to bed early (based on Greek time) and woke up really early (again due to the Greek time). This allowed me to spend a couple of hours on early Wednesday morning, right after breakfast, walking around the city and taking lots of photos. I have to admit that I was expecting an ugly industrial city; instead, I was amazed by what I actually saw: a lovely canal crossing the center of the city, nice shops, bridges, lovely brick buildings and interesting pubs. On top of that, I loved the classical buildings (reminding me of ancient Greece) and the numerous statues all over the city. All of them well-preserved; no sign of a graffiti or vandalism, a sight commonly seen in Greek monuments (even the most important and historical ones...)

The first day included a visit to Shakespeare's Memorial, at the top floor of the Birmingham library, where the meeting was hosted; this provided an excellent view of the city, as well as information on Shakespeare himself. After the meeting, we had a nice dinner at the Bank. But the best was yet to come...

On Thursday evening, an extremely interesting person was kindly asked (and he agreed!) to guide us around Birmingham and let us know of the cultural history (focusing on the music part) of the city. His name was +Jez Collins and he seems to be a Jack of all trades: Research project Manager at the BCU, the founder of the Birmingham Popular Music Archive, Executive Co-Producer for the award winning documentary "Made in Birmingham: Reggae Punk Bhangra" and a contributor to, among others.

UAH team, Jez and his iPad in the Crown pub
So what Jez did was to pick us up from the Birmingham Library right after the 2nd day of the meeting and guide us through some places where really interesting things have taken place, including concerts of Sex Pistols and Black Sabbath, while sharing the most amazing stories behind that! On top of that, he had a huge collection of related photos and videos in his iPad, through which we had the opportunity to see ourselves what he was describing. The first stop was at the Crown pub, where Black Sabbath gave one of their first concerts; as expected, I got shivers down my spine while entering the pub and exploring every corner. Unfortunately there must have been almost nothing reminding of that period, as the pub seemed to be in idle mode, with pop music coming from the radio and no sign of its history at all available...however, it was still an cozy place to sit and have a beer (and this is what we actually did).

The Crown pub
Unfortunately we had to leave rather early for catching up with other friends in Birmingham so we had to say goodbye rather early. The group went for another round of beers and local food in another pub, while we ended up at a ridiculously expensive (but still high quality and offering meat in large quantities) Brazilian restaurant, where the UAH team along with Greek friends had a nice dinner. That was the end of my 2nd day at Birmingham. Despite the fact that we had a nice time (and a rather lovely dinner), I think that I should have gone for something more traditional and original, following the rest of the team in another pub, tasting local dishes and another round of local beers...these are lessons taken!

After a lovely dinner
That was all about my stay in Birmingham; I would like to have some more time, visiting Aston (where Black Sabbath actually resided) but according to Jez, we would need a ride to get there, as well as more time and we lacked both. However, I hope that I will manage to visit Birmingham in the near future again and see what I have missed this time, also tasting a more traditional part of the city (instead of exotic ones!).

Big thanks to +Jez Collins for the amazing guided tour, sharing his time and passion with the rest of us, and of course to our local hosts (mainly Ben and Katharine from the BCU team) who arranged everything so perfectly!

Edit 27/01/2014: Ben Wells (BCU) shared this interesting and well-designed video by BCU featuring Jez Collins and his research; you should definitely take a look at that!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Organic.Lingua 7th project meeting

The 7th (and final) project meeting of Organic.Lingua took place between 15-17 of January 2014 at the lovely premises of the newly built Library of Birmingham, hosted by BCU. Just one month before the end of the project, the consortium had an opportunity to meet for the last time and coordinate on the final details before the end of the project and the upcoming final review meeting (to be held in Luxembourg by the end of April 2014). The K-C team could not physically attend the meeting; however, Christoph and Dominik participated through Skype video calls when needed (focusing on the sessions on the UGC widget and recommendation service) and thanks to the facilities of the meeting room their participation was smooth. As a member of the UAH team, this time I presented the re-engineered Organic.Edunet Web portal, the revised AgLR tool and the developments in agriMoodle (the latter is also available at the GitHub).

Short break during the meeting
All aspects of the project were discussed per Work Package, pending issues were highlighted and solutions were proposed. All activities are planned for the next month and everything is expected to be completed by the end of the project. There were also several news in this meeting; Raluca Ionescu from the BCU team made her first appearance in an Organic.Lingua project meeting after a long-time involvement in the project, replacing Ben Cave, the usual representative of the BCU team (who was attending the agINFRA project meeting in Budapest at this time). At the same time, it was Katharine's last involvement in the project, as she has a new placement and Ben Wells from BCU will be replacing her until the end of the project.

Created with flickr slideshow.

The meeting was full of nicely organized events as well; kudos to the local organizers for that!  The first day included a short visit to the Shakespeare Memorial Room at the top of the Library, which provided an insight to the Shakespeare's work and also a magnificent view of the city (which was heavily photographed by the project partners!). It also included a well-thought dinner at a restaurant next to the canal.

Inside the Shakespeare memorial
The 2nd day included an amazing tour in Birmingham, focusing on the music history of the city, which proved to be really rich (and much richer that we initially though!). Our guide was Jez Collins from BCU, a person heavily involved in the cultural activities of Birmingham and really keen on promoting the city's cultural history (also the founder of the Birmingham Popular Music Archive).  Jez used his knowledge, experience and combined with photos and videos from his iPod in order to introduce us to hidden spots of high interest in the city. The bonus of this short tour was a stop at the Crown pub, which is supposed to have hosted the first Black Sabbath gig ever; however, there was nothing to prove the history of this place now...

Jez Collins and the UAH team
Overall it was an amazing experience, combining three days of intensive collaborative work and social activities. Many thanks to the BCU team (mostly Katharine Fuller) for organizing everything so nicely and arranging the accompanying social activities; it was one of the best project meetings ever!
You can find additional information about the meeting in the interesting blog post by Salvador Sanchez (the coordinator of the project) in the IEUAH blog, as well as in the Agro-Know blog.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Agro-Know on the move (Part II)

Well, today was one of these days, when a large part of the AK team is travelling on the same date. Nikos Manolis, Andreas and me found ourselves on the same flight without even knowing; my colleagues travelling to Budapest for the agINFRA project meeting while I was travelling to Birmingham for the Organic.Lingua 7th project meeting - both flights through Munich (the common part of our trips). Nikos Marianos had taken an earlier flight to the UK for the Organic.Lingua meeting, Giannis would join us on the following day while Babis had to cancel the trip he was sharing with Andreas and Nikos Manolis due to health issues. Needless to say that during the 14th-17th of January, the AK office was half-empty (or half-full, from an optimists point of view!).

I arrived earlier and managed to get in the lovely Aegean lounge at El. Venizelos airport, which provided a quiet environment, fast wireless internet and coffee/snacks; an ideal place to work before getting on board and much more convenient than the gate seats...

Working in the Aegean lounge

While waiting for boarding, we also met Dr. Vangelis Karkaletsis from NCSR Demokritos, a good friend and partner in the Semagrow FP7 project, who was travelling to Luxemburg for the "Info Day for Big Data and Language Technologies", a part of the Information and networking days - H2020 Work Programme 2014-2015, Connecting Europe Facility. These topics are in at the heart of what all three projects (agINFRA, Organic.Lingua and Semagrow) are working on.

We all flew together to Munich and then separated; I had to rush in order to catch my flight to Birmingham while Andreas and Nikos had some time to spend at the airport before boarding to their flight to Budapest. We all arrived to our destinations safe and well in the end, having some time for last minute preparations for our meetings.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The power of sharing and contribution

As I have mentioned in the past, I am an avid user of social media tools and sites, both for personal and for professional purposes. When I find something interesting, I like to share it through Twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc., so that it can also be discovered by friends, colleagues and followers, and this is a process I really enjoy. The objective is always the same; the mean depends on the kind and amount of information to be shared - shorted for Twitter, elaborated on Facebook, blog etc..

One of these cases was a tweet about the Greek version of the Data Journalism Handbook by Charalampos Bratsas (Open Knowledge Foundation Greece), as shown below:

I found the idea really interesting and the Greek version well-implemented, so I re-tweeted the original tweet. After a couple of weeks, I came across a really interesting analysis of the dissemination of the Greek version of the Handbook through Twitter. It seems that I was one of the first 238 users who re-tweeted the news, as shown in the following image.

You can see my avatar at the bottom left side of the graph
16 hours after the initial tweet, there had been 471 retweets through a core of 60 accounts involved, which are considered relatively high numbers.

My avatar is moved to the right center of the graph in this one; many more accounts are involved in this case

It is cases like these where I feel that every slight individual contribution can make a difference. I share something that I find interesting and this might provide a unique opportunity for a friend/colleague of mine to get to hear about this news item/event etc. and then he can also share it with his circles. Share after share, good and interesting news can reach really remote recipients in a really short time; all these powered by the World Wide Web and mostly Web 2.0 tools.

Both graphs were taken from the OKFN Greece web site, which provided this interesting analysis. You can follow OKFN Greece at Twitter, Facebook and of course their website.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

First steps into 2014

Just a couple of days before I get back to the office after the Christmas break, I started planning (don't expect too much, just a rough scheduling) my first steps in 2014. An indicative list of things that I will be working on in the next couple of months is the following:

  1. Preparation for the 7th (and last) Organic.Lingua project meeting. The meeting will take place in Birmingham, UK between 15-17/1/2014 and will be the last opportunity of the project partners to meet and discuss the next steps in the project, before its end and the upcoming review meeting (which will take place later in 2014).
  2. Final revisions in the Organic.Edunet IEEE LOM AP and the Organic.Edunet OA-AE ontology (also to be presented at the Organic.Lingua PM)
  3. Finalize all pending issues related to the Organic.Lingua multilingual content population before the end of the project (28/2/2014), such as the fine-tuning of the workflow for the User Generated Content.
  4. Contribution to (at least) two deliverables of the agINFRA project, both of them related to data integration.
  5. Work on the integration of a CRM tool in the metadata integration workflow, which will allow us to better organize not only the contact database of the data providers but also allow various team members involved (e.g. data and technical team members) to indicate the status of the metadata integration of each collection. It also provides a number of advantages which will be mentioned later, as soon as the integration is completed.
  6. Update my slides of my Big Data in Agriculture presentations, which were prepared in late 2013.
  7. Keep the Agro-Know dissemination tools, like the newly introduced blog, the Facebook page and the Twitter account updated (a task I really enjoy!)
I expect other urgent tasks to appear in the meantime, some of them unexpected but I will keep some slots in my schedule flexible enough to make sure that there is time for everything to be delivered on time. There should also be time for the upcoming trips and for some publications as well!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The relation between success and a Facebook account

Today I came across this tweet from a really funny account:
Then I thought that it is not only funny but also presents an interesting aspect; is really Facebook taking too much of our (precious) time? Is it worth spending quality time on Facebook (and other social media sites)?
Even for our daily routine, Facebook is a useful tool for disseminating our projects and their outcomes, present the updates of our work, share interesting links with people who usually belong to a common group or follow a page. It is a common practice to create a Facebook page or group for each one of our projects and use it to attract people who also use Facebook for professional reasons. I can recall the Facebook pages for agINFRAOrganic.EdunetVOA3ROrganic.Balkanet and of course ISLE (one of the most dynamic project pages), while we also maintain the Green Ideas Project page and the one for the Green Hackathon. Of course Agro-Know has its own Facebook page, which was rather recently launched and is now frequently updated.
On the other hand, Facebook started as a social media site which everyone used for sharing mostly their personal updates, personal photos etc. I notice that sometimes when I log in to Facebook to share a project update in the corresponding page, I see some notifications that I want to check, messages that I would like to respond etc. Generally, I believe that one could spend hours and more hours on Facebook for browsing news, updates and even chat. As a result, I tend to avoid using Facebook even for professional purposes, at least during the most productive hours of the day.
After all, Nikos and Giannis, both AK CEOs and people that I personally consider successful, do not have Facebook accounts (ok, Giannis has one, but it seems to be in hibernation). Is it just a coincidence or a fact, according to the aforementioned tweet? Have they consciously chosen to refrain from spending even the slightest amount of time in this social network and instead focus on their professional goals or are they just too busy to notice the Facebook avalanche?