Friday, April 11, 2014

Textual and Content-Based Search in Repositories of Web Application Models - TWEB paper

The paper "Textual and Content-Based Search in Repositories of Web Application Models" I co-authored together with Bojana Bislimovska, Alessandro Bozzon, and Piero Fraternali has now been published on the ACM Transactions on the Web (TWEB).

The article examines two different techniques for indexing and searching model repositories, with a focus on Web development projects encoded in the domain-specific language WebML. Keyword-based and content-based search (also known as query-by-example) are contrasted with respect to the architecture of the system, the processing of models and queries, and the way in which metamodel knowledge can be exploited to improve search. A thorough experimental evaluation is conducted to examine what parameter configurations lead to better accuracy and to offer an insight in what queries are addressed best by each system.

You can find the full text here:

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Community-based Crowdsourcing - Our paper at WWW2014 SOCM

Today Andrea Mauri presented our paper "Community-based Crowdsourcing" at the SOCM Workshop co-located with the WWW 2014 conference.

SOCM is the 2nd International Workshop on the Theory and Practice of Social Machines and is an interesting venue for discussing instrumentation, tooling, and software system aspects of online social network. The full program of the event is here.

Our paper is focused on community-based crowdsourcing applications, i.e. the ability of spawning crowdsourcing tasks upon multiple communities of performers, thus leveraging the peculiar characteristics and capabilities of the community members.
We show that dynamic adaptation of crowdsourcing campaigns to community behaviour is particularly relevant. We demonstrate that this approach can be very e ffective for obtaining answers from communities, with very di fferent size, precision, delay and cost, by exploiting the social networking relations and the features of the crowdsourcing task. We show the approach at work within the CrowdSearcher platform, which allows con figuring and dynamically adapting crowdsourcing campaigns tailored to different communities. We report on an experiment demonstrating the eff ectiveness of the approach.

The figure below shows a declarative reactive rule that dynamically adapts the crowdsourcing campaign by moving the task executions from a community of workers to another, when the average quality score of the community is below some threshold.

The slides of the presentation are available on Slideshare. If you want to know more or see some demos, please visit:

The full paper will be available on the ACM Digital Library shortly.

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Monday, March 31, 2014

IFML 1.0: Interaction Flow Modeling Language approved by the OMG

After three years of work, IFML 1.0 is finally approved by the OMG!
The Interaction Flow Modeling Language was actually adopted one year ago, in March 2013, as Beta specification by the Object Management Group (OMG). Since then, the IFML Finalization Task Force worked hard to bring the specification to perfection.

The Object Management Group (OMG) Architecture Board approves the new IFML 1.0 standard on March 2014 in Reston, VA
The OMG Architecture Board gathered for approval of IFML. Among others, you can see Andrew Watson (OMG), Juergen Boldt (OMG), and representatives of IBM, 88Solutions, Adaptive, Fujitsu,  PrismTech and others.
Along the path, we got valuable feedback from implementors of the standard, spanning DSL tool vendors implementing the notation, UML tool vendors implementing the UML profile, and our own developers at WebRatio implementing the commercial industry-strenght modeling tool and code generators, as well as a bunch of opensource IFML editors. We also got feedback from WebRatio customers, which contributed to improve the language notation too.

All this summed up to 77 issues formally submitted to the OMG and subsequently addressed by the task force. The specification document, as well as the machine readable files (XMIs) have been cleaned up and prepared for final publication.
As a last step, the finalized version of the standard has been presented at the ADTF and at the Architecture Board of the OMG during the March technical meeting in Reston, VA, USA.
Version 1.0 is now officially adopted by the OMG. It's just a matter of a few weeks before the final, copyedited version of the specification will be officially available on the OMG servers.
For documentation purposes, here is a snapshot of the program
Meanwhile, you can have a look at the sneak preview of the final version of IFML. Further details are available on the official site.

As Stefano Butti, CEO of WebRatio, says in his recent blog post, IFML is one of the three biggest leaps in WebRatio history (together with the move to the US and the selection of WebRatio as Gartner Cool Vendor). Other vendors have already declared interest and/or started developing some modeling solution based on IFML. We look forward to wide adoption of this new standard, thanks also to the integration with other modeling aspects such as business modeling (with BPMN) and system modeling (with UML, SoaML, SysML, …)!

At the Reston event we also gave away the first copies ever of the very nice IFML Cheat Sheet (or Quick Reference Guide) prepared by WebRatio based on the official specification document.
The cheat sheet is available for free on the learning portal of WebRatio.

IFML CheatSheet - Quick Reference Guide and examples
The IFML cheat sheet: Quick Reference Guide and Examples (on the back side, not shown here).

Here is a small photo gallery of the event location, the WebRatio booth and the program of the AB plenary where IFML was adopted.


WebRatio boothOMG AB agenda for March 2014

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A standard UML profile of ArchiMate for Enterprise Architecture

Today at OMG a proposition has been made to going forward to a standardization of UML profile for Archimate. As such, it also acts as a bridge between  the OMG and the Open Group.

ArchiMate is a visual modeling language for Enterprise Architecture.

Current implementations of UML profiles for that are provided by SparxSystems and Modelio. There is no formal metamodel for ArchiMate. However, a few seminal semi-formal metamodels are around in white papers. The idea is to have a RFC (Request For Comments) out in June 2014, based on an agreed upon UML profile.
The task is complex, also because there is some kind of relation with TOGAF (at a certain point in history this was true, then the two worlds diverged but there is still some overlap).

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Roman Pichler on Agile Product Strategy at the AgileForInnovation event

On March 14, 2014 Politecnico di Milano hosted the AgileForInnovation event, organized by CEFRIEL and the Software Engineering group at DEIB (more specifically, by Elisabetta di Nitto, in the picture with Roman Pichler).

Elisabetta di Nitto and Roman Pichler
The event started with a keynote by Roman Pichler on Agile Product Strategy, which was very motivational.
The main message was: before delving into details of product design and implementation, one should focus on:
  • Market: Who are the users? Who are the customers?
  • Value Proposition: Why would they buy it? What value would they find it useful?
  • Business Drivers: why is it worthwhile to invest in it? What are the business goals?
A possible tool for focusing on this is the Vision Board, comprising: 

  • Vision statement
  • Target group: who?
  • Needs: why?
  • Product: what? (top 3 features that makes it stand out)
  • Value: How much?
Here is an example of vision board (courtesy of Roman Pichler):

Vision Board for agile product innovation
Example of Vision Board for agile product innovation.

You start applying validation on the idea. One of the main concepts then is to be able to understand immediately that your validation is giving back some signals of risk of failure. You must be able to fail and learn fast. You must be able to PIVOT, i.e.: if the product strategy is invalid, you need to stop or change, and pivot your strategy early. This is not easy:  accepting failure is not easy task!
But if you want to innovate in a lean and agile way, failure is part of the game. You must prepare a safe environment for failure.
One typical agile approach is SCRUM, which promotes quick "create-validate-analyse&update" cycles on the product deliveries.
Along these rounds, you may need:

  • refinements
  • early pivots (and then you go back to the vision board) when the feedback challenges your fundamental assumptions
  • late pivots and late failures (which is obviously much more painful and costly).
Here is the full slideset of Roman Pichler's speech:

Roberto Acerbis presenting history
and customer cases of WebRatio.
Agile Product Strategy from Roman Pichler

Within the same event, I gave a presentation on "Agile Sw Modeling for Increasing Productivity: Impossible Reality?", where I presented our experience with IFML, WebRatio and agile practices.

A presentation by Roberto Acerbis (see picture) covered the part of industrial experience and starting up of WebRatio.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Code Generation conference is back!

Code Generation, the premiere venue for model-driven addicted, is back in Cambridge for 2014!
If you are in the field of software modeling, software languages, design and development tools, model interpretation, executability and (of course) code generation, you should definitely attend the event.
The conference is a great mix of presentations, workshops and hands-on sessions.

We also gave our own presentation at Code Generation 2012 on WebRatio and IFML.
Here is the video of our presentation published on InfoQ.

This year the conference features a tutorial on Adaptive Embedded Development with Stephen Mellor, plus keynote speeches by Juha-Pekka Tolvanen (CEO of MetaCase) and by  Johan den Haan (CTO of Mendix).

You can find more on the official conference web site:

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Interdisciplinary projects results of Lake Poli School (LaPS) 2014 at Politecnico di Milano

LaPS - Lake Poli School - Politecnico di Milano, Como, 2014
On Friday February 28, 2014 the Como campus of Politecnico di Milano hosted the final workshop of the Lake Poli School (LaPS).

Lake Poli School was born to address integration between universities and companies, alignment between higher education training and external needs, and cross-disciplinary interaction between students from different cultural background.
LaPS is providing an interesting arena of interaction and collaboration between students, companies, teachers and researchers on issues which have emerged as relevant in the last years.
LaPS is connecting students coming from different disciplinary courses: Environmental Engineering, Computer Science and Engineering, and Management Engineering.

LaPS includes three main activities:
  • Development of a business case in which a selected group of international students work with companies, guided by Politecnico's research fellows.
  • Seminars on 'hot' issues as Creativity and Innovation, Networks, Ethics and Social Responsibility.
  • A final workshop to award the best group and the most entrepreneurial work.
This is the wonderful brochure of the multidisciplinary projects that have been developed during LaPS 2014 (High-resolution PDF, 38 MB). During the final workshop, one project has been selected by the jury and one project by the public and the two best projects for 2014.

Here is a picture of the meeting of the jury that selected the winner project of the 2014 edition of LaPS (together with the ballot in front containing the votes of the public):

Some videos are available on YouTube regarding the preliminary presentations of the groups given in December 2013 too.

And, finally, here is a storified list of social interactions that happened during the event (including links to media):

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Universal Modeling Languages vs. Meta-languages: the case of Wolfram Language

A nice discussion has been triggered by Jean B├ęzivin yesterday on Twitter, starting from this video that gives an introduction to the Wolfram Language:

 Wolfram Language introduces itself as a knowledge-based programming language. I think this is a very interesting and powerful approach. However, the online discussion among us modeling people focused on understanding the positioning of such an approach within the classical modeling approaches. Main questions discussed were:

  • What kind of language is it?
  • What is its relation to domain-specific languages (DSLs)?
In summary, I think we can say that Wolfram Language can be seen as a UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE (as opposed to domain-specific), because it aims at covering ontological knowledge of the universe. Interestingly enough, this also opened a side discussion on what is an ontology, in technical and philosophical sense, with Paola Bonomo, Erik Wilde and many others.
However, for being strictly universal, the language should be able to describe itself and to describe reality states in thorough way (and Jean-Jacques Dubray was disappointed about the coverage of this aspect by Wolfram). This raised the question of whether any language should be able to describe itself. I think the final conclusion was that this is not the case. For instance, DSLs typically do not span to describing themselves. And Meinte Boersma correctly pointed out that this is not the case even for most general-purpose languages. 
So probably the property of self-description is a general, independent classification dimensions of languages, as suggested by Jean Bezivin. Actually, if you think about it, actually in the metamodeling stack only the M3-level (metametamodeling) languages satisfy self-descriptivity property!

A visual summary of the Twitter discussion is reported here:

If you have any insights on the topic, feel free to share it!

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sneak peek at IFML 1.0 (the Interaction Flow Modeling Language) by the OMG

IFML 1.0 is almost here!

As you may know by now, the OMG standard Interaction Flow Modeling Language (IFML) is designed for expressing the content, user interaction and control behaviour of the front-end (aka view) of software applications.
And if you don't know anything about IFML, you can just visit or have a look at this introductory presentation:

The round of refinement applied to IFML Beta 1 by the finalization task force (FTF) in OMG has been closed this week, as reported on the IFML OMG wiki.
The task force has addressed 77 issues raised by users and implementors in these months, and has compiled a new version of the IFML metamodel, UML profile, and specification document, currently labeled as Beta 2. This version is the candidate for the issuance of IFML 1.0.
Since I've been leading the task force efforts and I know how much improvement has been put in this new version of the language, I'm happy to share with you a preview of this new version, well before the official one will be released (tentative release date is April 2014)

A short summary of the changes is available in this presentation: Interaction Flow Modeling Language: updates on the Beta2 version - by the OMG IFML FTF.

The machine readable files are available too (metamodel, UML profile, and diagram interchange). Additional ancillary files (MagicDraw model sources, figures and so on) are available too.
Here is an example of IFML diagram you can draw with the new version. For instance, you can distinguish between throwing events (black circles) and catching events (while circles), and you have new concepts, such as «Menu».

IFML diagram example describing the UI of a mailbox, with possible actions on the messages, and event-driven on-screen notification of action results.

Related posts:

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Students quality of life - interdisciplinary project

ASP 2014 kickoffLast Friday I participated to the kickoff event of Alta Scuola Politecnica, the school of excellence for Politecnico di Milano and Politecnico di Torino, which reunites the top students of the two universities for special events, courses and interdisciplinary projects.

The reason I was there is that we are proposing an interdisciplinary project on Students' Quality of Life.  The proposed project will complement the traditional efforts toward studying the quality of life (QoL) by the statistical institutes and environment research agency with new indicators leveraging people’s willingness to participate, and new technologies including both crowdsourcing and Volunteered Geographic Information. The Project will focus on Turin and Milan urban areas and devise new indicators of QoL based on the interest of the participants (e.g. sustainability of resource consumption - energy, water, land-, mobility, access to services, illegal waste dumping, measures of happiness and satisfaction, etc.) 

It will then compare the results across the two cities and monitor evolution over time. It will also support the collection of official data by ISPRA and ISTAT. A useful starting point for the project will be the analysis of existing efforts in Europe in citizen-based projects and citizen observatories as well as the development of smart cities to integrate the provision of technologies with human capital development.

The project will be of interest to architects and urban planners, urban analysts, civil engineers, IT specialist and electronic engineers, transport engineers, and other specialization as they will be able to identify QoL indicators closer to their area of specialization and expertise. The Project will be work win close collaboration with the Urbanqool Project (Citizen Science Observatory of New Indicators of Urban Sustainability) of the European Commission Joint Research Centre, Digital Earth Unit.

The testing will be done on the student population to define indicators of quality of life of university students in urban areas.

The project will be in collaboration with the European Commission JRC (Joint Research Center) in Ispra, Italy.
Here is our poster and the JRC representative during the event:

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