Ian was born and raised in the northern suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa. He would often wonder as a child what lay beyond the ivy-clad walls of the university, and was afforded the opportunity to see for himself when he was offered a place as a BSc Computer Science undergraduate in 2004.
Upon completing an honours degree in this field in 2007, he concluded that the benefits of academia were too good to pass up, and undertook an MSc degree with Associate Professor Gary Marsden the following year.
His academic successes have been recognized and rewarded with three scholarships during his career at UCT, culminating in an invitation to join the Golden Key International Honour Society at the end of his honours degree.
For his Master’s thesis, Ian decided to investigate the influence that temporal data has over the effectiveness of information retrieval mechanisms, after realizing that search engines were much less enthusiastic about temporal relationships than he was. While most of the world was briefly but understandably obsessed with the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, search giants of the Internet remained disappointingly unaware of how synonymous the terms ‘Beijing’ and ‘Olympics’ had become. Similarly, he imagined that would-be tourists would appreciate a friendly word of warning from Google when returning results for queries such as relaxing holidays in South Ossetia.
His thesis builds on work undertaken during his honours year that investigated the feasibility of what he terms spatially enhanced tag clouds. Tag clouds are collections of words (called tags) that users have selected to best describe some digital artifact, such as an image or article. Together, these tags offer a means to quantify a zeitgeist of a particular collective, giving insight into their particular attitudes and current standpoints.
Having observed that alphabetically ordering these tags was unquestionably unimaginative at best, he decided that there must be a better way, and proposed that users be afforded a means to cluster related tags to show association. Search engines could then incorporate these temporal, user-defined associations to improve the relevance of the results that are returned.
For the purposes of his Master’s thesis, he plans to leverage off the Google News service to monitor the altering associations that individuals place between concepts. The results of targeted searches of Google News would be transformed into a spatially enhanced tag cloud that would form a foundation upon which users could generate search engine queries by re-arranging tags. This visual approach to query generation would express pertinent associations between tags so that queries might incorporate temporally significant perceptions.
Ian enjoys speaking in the third person, and is shamelessly addicted to television series, with Battlestar Galactica appearing as his favourite. When he is not sitting in front of a machine, he can be found on the mountain or on his surfboard along the Cape’s coast somewhere, or even in a dojo.
He is a keen martial artist, within reach of the coveted black belt, and believes that it offers him a means to remedy the effects of his dependence on biscuits and coffee. Once he has completed his studies, he dreams of exploring Europe for as long as he is financially able to do so.