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Department of Informatics

Details Colloquium Spring 2019

28.02.2019 - Blockchain as Organizational Technology

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Gianluca Miscione

Host: Prof. Dr. Gerhard Schwabe


Information technologies have been changing how things get organized for a while now. Free and open source software, peer-to-peer networks, cloud computing, just to name a few waves of digital innovation, are instances of a mode of organizing which has been: a) circumventing the structures and conventions of formal organizations, and b) changing and disrupting markets while opening new ones. The most recent trend of digital innovation is blockchain, which embeds functions that used to be domain of organizations: consensus and authentication. Cryptocurrencies proved at scale the feasibility of an architecture that certifies each token on a network and differentiates it from all others. All copies are the same no more. This newly created scarcity originates both cooperation to keep the system running reliably, and rivalry between actors longing for a finite number of tokens. Thus, blockchain mode of governance is peculiar, and can be studied in application domains like markets (second-hand cars) and public authorities (land registries).



Prof. Dr. Gianluca Miscione is assistant professor in Information Systems and Organization at the Department of Management Information Systems, University College Dublin, Ireland. Since 2015 he has been director of the Centre for Innovation Technology and Organisation – CITO. Previously, he was faculty member at the Geo-information and Organization at the University of Twente (Netherlands) and at the Department of Informatics of the University of Oslo (Norway). His research interests are on the interplay between technologies and organizing processes.
Currently, he is on sabbatical at the University of Zürich, fellow of the Digital Society Initiative, and guest member of the Blockchain Competence Center.


14.03.2019 - Sustaining Open Source Digital Infrastructure 

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Bogdan Vasilescu

Host: Prof. Dr. Alberto Bacchelli


While only twenty years ago open-source software was simply a curiosity that attracted the attention of a few academics and was not seriously considered in the software industry, open-source software today is ubiquitous: it powers applications in virtually every domain, and its economic impact has been estimated at many billions of dollars per year, in terms of both direct reuse value and boosted productivity and efficiency. Given the importance of open-source digital infrastructure to so much of the economy, one might expect that it is adequately staffed and maintained, i.e., sustainable. Yet, as recent reports show, this is often not the case: most users of open-source infrastructure take it for granted, and society at large is unaware of the risks. In this talk, I will review some of the challenges that open-source digital infrastructure faces today and I will give an overview of mixed-methods empirical results from my group investigating and addressing these challenges from a socio-technical perspective.


Prof. Dr. Bogdan Vasilescu is an Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science, engaged in interdisciplinary research is at the intersection of software engineering and social computing. Together with his students and collaborators in the STRUDEL lab (, Bogdan explores large-scale software-related data using a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods, to develop and validate theories about the processes involved in software engineering and computer-supported collaborative work. Prior to joining CMU, Bogdan was a postdoctoral researcher at University of California, Davis, in the DECAL lab. He received his PhD and MSc in Computer Science at Eindhoven University of Technology, both with cum laude distinction. His PhD dissertation won the best dissertation award from the Dutch Institute for Programming Research and Algorithmics in 2015.


09.05.2019 - Security Protocols: from an Art to a Science

Speaker: Prof. David Basin, Ph.D.

Host: Prof. Dr. Burkhard Stiller


Computer security is often approached as an art.  One analyzes threats to information assets and their risks and designs countermeasures to mitigate vulnerabilities.  Computer security can also be approached as a science, based on mathematical constructions and proofs.  We illustrate this in the domain of cryptographic protocols, which are essential for security in  istributed settings like the Internet.  In particular, we examine the role of formal methods in rigorously modeling these protocols and analyzing their security.  Moreover, we describe  ome of the high-level ideas behind our protocol analysis tools and how we, and other researchers, have used them to improve protocol standards.


Prof. David Basin, Ph.D., is a full professor within the Department of Computer Science, ETH Zurich since 2003, where he heads the Information Security Group. Since January 2019, he is department head. He received his bachelor's degree in mathematics from Reed College in 1984, his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1989, and his Habilitation from the University of Saarbrücken in 1996. His appointments include a postdoctoral research position at the University of Edinburgh (1990 - 1991), and afterwards he led a subgroup, within the programming logics research group, at the Max-Planck-Institut für Informatik (1992 - 1997). From 1997 - 2002 he was a full professor at the University of Freiburg where he held the chair for software engineering.
His research focuses on Information Security, in particular on foundations, methods, and tools for modeling, building, and validating secure and reliable systems.  He is the founding director of ZISC, the Zurich Information Security Center, which he led 2003-2011. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the ACM Transactions on Privacy and Security and of Springer-Verlag's book series on Information Security and Cryptography, and he is a fellow of the ACM.


16.05.2019 - Semantic Publishing with Nanopublications

Speaker: Prof. Dr. Tobias Kuhn

Host: Prof. Dr. Martin Volk


Computational techniques are becoming increasingly important in all branches of science, but the scientific findings that result from them cannot be readily interpreted by such computational techniques, because these findings are published in the form of narrative articles. These articles are designed for consumption by human readers but not for automated interpretation by software, preventing us from automatically linking, aggregating, and reasoning with these scientific findings in a reliable fashion. Semantic publishing is an approach to deal with that problem by publishing scientific findings directly in a computer-interpretable fashion. I will introduce in my talk the approach of nanopublications, which provide a structure for provenance-aware semantic publishing based on Linked Data. I will show results on how such nanopublications can be reliably identified and retrieved, how large datasets can be formed from independent data snippets, how natural and formal language can be combined to represent complex findings, and how this connects to the FAIR principles of scientific data publishing.


Prof. Dr. Tobias Kuhn is Assistant Professor at the Department of Computer Science of the VU University Amsterdam. He received his doctorate at the University of Zurich in 2010 for his thesis on controlled English for knowledge representation. After that, he was a lecturer and researcher at the University of Malta, postdoctoral associate at Yale University, a postdoc at ETH Zurich, and a visiting researcher at Stanford University, TU Dresden, and the University of Chile. His general research interests include knowledge representation, socio-technical systems, controlled natural languages, and scholarly communication. His recent work has focused on the nanopublication concept, provenance modelling, decentralized communication techniques, and the FAIR principles for data management.


23.05.2019 - How to Maximize Profit When Selling Multiple Items?

Speaker: Moshe Babaioff, Ph.D.

Host: Prof. Dr. Sven Seuken


A seller of goods often does not know how much the buyer would be willing to pay for each of her goods. How should she therefore sell her items when aiming to maximize profit? When there is only one item for sale, there is a simple deterministic mechanism that maximizes the seller's profit, but in contrast, recent results show that profit-maximizing mechanisms for selling multiple items are very complex, must use lotteries, and moreover, might have to present infinitely many lotteries for the buyer to choose from. The talk will present a simple deterministic mechanism whose profit is not significantly degraded compared to the complex profit-maximizing optimal mechanism. The talk will also survey several other results regarding the complexity of mechanisms that are almost optimal, and regarding optimal deterministic mechanisms.


Moshe Babaioff, Ph.D., is a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research (Israel). He has joined Microsoft Research as a Researcher in the Silicon Valley lab, U.S.A., at 2007.  Prior to joining Microsoft Research, he was a post-doctoral scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His research interests lie at the intersection of Computer Science, Game Theory and Economics, focusing on the design and analysis of electronic markets and auctions. He has served as General Chair (2014) and as Program Co-Chair (2017) of the ACM Conference on Economics and Computation (ACM-EC), the flagship conference in the field of Algorithmic Game Theory.

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