We’ve moved to a new blog server

Still using WordPress software but hosted by the Computing Services department at the University of Oxford (where we work):


This is the last post by modelling4all project team here – please visit the new blog server to see what we’ve been up to lately.


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Micro-behaviours and BioBricks — cross discipline lessons about modularity?

As I read the following about efforts at MIT and Stanford to develop BioBricks, a modular way to develop synthetic DNA I saw a close similarity with the micro-behaviours of the Modelling4All Project.

What if this engineering approach is wrong? You can’t just break cells down into modular parts and then reassemble them, because part of what makes them function are complex interactions between parts that we don’t yet understand. What if we don’t know enough about DNA to program it as exactly as we would a computer? What if most researchers need specific parts nobody else wants, or ones more complicated than simple BioBrick parts? And ultimately, what should we try to build?

from http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/2009/julaug/features/biology.html

These questions can be translated to our approach to building computer models out of modular pieces.  How important are interactions between parts? How often do modelling efforts require custom micro-behaviours?  In the current library micro-behaviours are “simple” but will many models need more complicated ones as well? What should we build?

Food for thought…

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Connect with Modelling4All

You can now connect with Modelling4All by:

Following @modelling4all on Twitter

Becoming a fan of our Facebook Page

Posting to our Discussion Board

Hope to see you there!

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New enhancements to the Modelling4All software

Today we updated the Modelling4All software at http://modelling4all.nsms.ox.ac.uk/Model/

The most important new feature is that micro-behaviour pages can have editable lists of micro-behaviours on them. This makes it much easier for non-programmers to customise existing micro-behaviours. The default library of micro-behaviours (Full-library in the Resources area) has been updated to take advantage of this. Documentation of how to author such micro-behaviours is at http://modelling4all.wikidot.com/modelling4all-programming-guide

Many small enhancements (including the ability to import a micro-behaviour by providing its URL) were also added. Many bugs were fixed, in particular, a problem where in some versions of FireFox the entire application became hidden has been fixed. Full details at http://code.google.com/p/modelling4all/source/list

Please discuss any issues at http://groups.google.com/group/modelling4all and report any bugs at http://code.google.com/p/modelling4all/issues/list

Explore, create, share, and enjoy!

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Oxford University seminar on Modelling4All Project: 26 May

We’ll be giving a talk about the project at the Oxford e-Science Centre at 2pm on 26 May. Details at http://www.oerc.ox.ac.uk/events/The-Modelling4All-Project-A-web-based-modelling.0

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New Modelling4All Behaviour Composer release

modelling4all.org has a new version of our web-based modelling software service. The main enhancements are:

  1. Micro-behaviours can include editable text areas in code to simplify setting parameters.
  2. Micro-behavioiurs with editable text areas can be copied simplifying the setting of different parameters for different agents.
  3. Split screen option added so one can browse and build a model without flipping between the two work areas.
  4. Many features previously provided by tabs are now accessed by the equivalent of a menu bar to improve usability.
  5. The tabbed interface now removes tabs when full to avoid clutter and horizontal scrolling.


And please send send bug reports and suggestions at http://code.google.com/p/modelling4all/

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Modelling the spread of infection through social networks

Ken and Howard worked with Dr. R. Belshaw to develop an online practical that guides students in exploring the dynamics of the spread of disease through different social structures. The three hour practical was run yesterday with 25 students working concurrently, individually or on pairs. Aside from a few usability issues all the students successfully completed the exercise.

The guide made use of the Google Spreadsheets web service to allow the students to systematically explore simulations and collaborate in ‘pooling’ together data (in more-or-less real time) into a number of histograms. Google spreadsheets was also used to allow students to answer a number of questions with the aim of sharing answers between the class (i.e. ‘peer learning’).

Dr. Belshaw is keen to share the tutorial with other teachers. He has requested that we allow him to add a creative commons license to let others know that they can use and re-purpose the tutorial as long as they acknowledge his work. We’ve logged this request in the project issue tracker and will explore the creative commons tools that can be used to achieve this fairly easily.

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Draft of a paper about the project now available

Ken Kahn and Howard Noble have recently submitted a paper to the SIMUTools’09 Conference. Comments are welcome. This is still a draft so please don’t cite it.

The Modelling4All Project — A web-based modelling tool embedded in Web 2.0

The Modelling4All Project is building a web-based tool for constructing, running, visualising, analysing, and sharing agent-based models. These models can be constructed by non-experts by composing pre-built modular components called micro-behaviours. We are attempting to seed and nurture a Web 2.0 community to support modelling. Models, micro-behaviours, lesson plans, tutorials, and other supporting material can be shared, discussed, reviewed, rated, and tagged.

Download the draft.

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Our plans to be a COMPONENT in other web 2.0 sites

We just wrote a short plan about how we plan to get tagging, discussions, ratings, and the like by allowing others to embed the Modelling4All services into other web sites. See


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