Ivan Herman—Detailed Curriculum Vitæ

Professional career

I graduated with honors in 1979 at the Eötvös Lóránd University of Sciences in Budapest (Hungary) as applied mathematician. My thesis (which is roughly equivalent, in today’s terms, to a Master’s Thesis) was on mathematical modeling in computational chemistry. I received a scholarship and spent 6 months at the University Paris 6, where I primarily visited courses on mathematical physics, my main interest at the time (which also resulted in my first and probably last publication in pure mathematics).

On my return to Budapest I joined the SzTAKI (Computing and Automation Institute; back then it was part of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), in Budapest, where I made a turn in my professional life and moved to computer sciences. I worked in SzTAKI until 1986 as a researcher. I was part of the group of Pál Verebélÿ; the group’s main activity was the development of a computer graphics display and workstation. It was quite unique group of hardware and software experts working together, from the purely hardware aspects of the workstation up to the operating system facilities and some demonstration applications. I was part of the software team, had the task of developing various system level facilities (e.g., an overlay system) and applications (e.g., printed circuit board editor, a timetable visualizer for the Hungarian railways, etc.). This moved me towards computer graphics as a research and development area and I stayed in that field until 2001. My first publications also got me in contact with the Eurographics Association; I stayed active in the this association as part of the Executive Committee, Executive Board, conference and workshop organizations, etc., until 2001, when I became vice-chairman of the Association (see the list of my professional activities for details).

In 1983 a small group, including myself, made one of the first implementations worldwide of the ISO Computer Graphics Standard called GKS. The software was implemented on UNIX, and was particularly well suited for smaller hardware (small memory, etc.). As a unique feat in the political environment of the time, we could sell this implementation to Siemens AG, which used it as part of one of its UNIX workstation line. We also made some other sales in Germany, and also in the Comecon countries (Romania, Czechoslovakia, etc.). This work led to a number of major scientific publications, and got me involved with the ISO, an involvement that stayed active until the mid 90’s (first as part of the Hungarian and then, later, of the Dutch delegation).

The German software house (called Insotec Consult GmbH; unfortunately, the company does not exist any more) that had to review and choose among the GKS implementations for Siemens (and chose ours) offered a job in Munich, Germany, for the development team at SzTAKI. At the beginning of 1986 three of us moved to Germany with our families and continued a similar development work at Insotec. We made a development of the 3D version of GKS (called GKS-3D) and the other, upcoming ISO standards of the time, namely CGI and PHIGS. Those implementation were successfully sold at various German companies (e.g., Kontron, Krupp Atlas).

I stayed in Germany until 1988 when Paul ten Hagen, then head of the Interactive Systems group at the Centre Mathematics & Computer Sciences (CWI) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, offered me a job at CWI. I accepted the offer and I have been formally an employee of CWI ever since, first on a temporary contract and, since 1990, on a tenure position. I also defended my PhD thesis, essentially based on my earlier research and development work around computer graphics, at the University of Leiden, in the Netherlands, in 1989.

I stayed in the field of computer graphics until the year 2000, although I spend about three years in a completely different area, namely parallel programming, with Farhad Arbab (the project was called “Manifold”). I participated in a Dutch national project on the development of a graphics hardware based on a unique dataflow architecture (unfortunately, the commercial partners went bankrupt during the lifetime of the project, and the project had to stop). In the early 90’s I was workpackage manager in an EU ESPRIT project called MADE, whose goal was the development of a programming environment for multimedia programming; our major industrial partner was Bull, in France. The MADE project also resulted in an ISO standardization work, in cooperation with IMA (International Multimedia Association). The resulting ISO Standard, called PREMO, was meant as a reference model for multimedia programming; I was one of the co-editors.

In the late 90’s I turned my attention towards Information Visualization, more specifically graph visualization, in cooperation with the University of Bordeaux, France. I led a group at CWI, which developed new algorithms and visualization metaphors for graph visualizations, and have developed two generations of graph visualizations software (the second one, called Latour, ended on SourceForge when the group finished its activity, and is maintained by others). I am also co-author of the GraphML Specification, one of the de-facto standard exchange formats for graph visualization packages.

I got involved with the Web in the mid 90’s when I created the Web presence of the Eurographics Association that I maintained it until the year 2000. Also, in 1988, I was asked to act as a co-chair of the 9th World Wide Web (WWW’09) conference, held in Amsterdam in the year 2000. This led to my involvement with the WWW conference series (referred to these days as “The Web Conference 20XX”) through IW3C2, the International World Wide Web Conference Committee; I have been member of the committee since 1988. The conference also got me in contact with W3C (World Wide Web Consortium); I acted as the head of the Dutch Office of W3C in the years 1999-2000.

In 2001 I was offered a job at the W3C to act as Head of Offices, which I accepted as a W3C Fellow for CWI, i.e., keeping my job at the CWI.

Since then all my professional activities have been bound to the W3C. I acted as Head of Offices from 2001 until spring 2006. My role was the coordination of the activities of the Offices worldwide, creation of new Offices (the Finnish, Spanish, Korean, Hungarian, Indian, and Mainland Chinese offices were created in those years), manage their work, and to do general outreach of W3C via the Office network. I also had to regularly give technical presentations, tutorials, guidance, etc., on W3C technologies in general (see my list of presentation, although that list is accurate from 2004 onwards only), particularly in countries with an Office. Although some of the presentations were on all W3C technologies in general, for the purpose of a detailed tutorial I had to dive into particular technologies. In the first few years I concentrated on SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) but, later, my technical interest turned more towards Semantic Web. I also developed different software for the Semantic Web (eg, a SPARQL implementation for Python, which is now integral part of the RDFLib library).

In spring 2006, I was asked by the W3C management to take over the Semantic Web activity at W3C as Activity Lead, which I accepted. It was my role to coordinate the various technological developments within W3C in the Semantic Web area (GRDDL, RIF, RDFa, OWL2, etc.), to initiate new technical works as demanded and deemed necessary for the Semantic Web community at large. This meant regular contacts with companies, institutions, organizations, etc., active in this area of technology anywhere in the World, possibly mediating in conflict cases when the advancement of the standardization activity required it, etc. It was also my role to reach out to other branches of industry that might look at this technology as a solution to some of their technological problems; examples are the Financial Industry (with the usage of XBRL, the financial reporting language), Health Care and Life Sciences, or Oil & Gas exploration. I was also regular participant at various Semantic Web related events (conferences, workshops, etc.), frequently as part of the organization and/or speaker.

In 2013, I changed direction; I initiated a separate Digital Publishing activity at W3C in early 2013 and, at the end of the same year, I gave up my Semantic Web activity leadership in favor of becoming the leader of this activity. While the work itself is similar to what I used to do for Semantic Web (initiate technical work, regular contacts with companies and institutions, etc.), the setting is obviously different. The fundamental goal is to foster a better cooperation between the publishing industry at large and the Web community. Indeed, although publishers of books, magazines, journals, etc, rely more and more on Web technologies, both as for the electronic versions of their products (eBooks, electronic journals, etc.) and the back-end processing delivering content in either printed or electronic formats, there are still lots of discrepancies between the Web community and the publishing industry. Building the bridges, ensuring convergence, creating synergies is in the interest of all, but it requires fostering cooperation, common projects, etc. It is my role to ensure that such a convergence is happening. The activity has been renamed “Publishing@W3C” after the merging of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) and the W3C, in February 2017, and my official title is now “Publishing@W3C Technical Lead”.

In 2018, I have also taken up working in the area of JSON-LD as well as, in 2019, in the areas of Decentralized Identities and Verifiable Credentials, all part of my work at W3C. I have also been member of the W3C teams on overall Strategy, as well as the team on Technology & Architecture since 2016.

In 2011 I was co-chairing the Daghstuhl Seminar on the Future of Research Communication, that looked at ways research publications general should evolve in future. I was also on the Board of Directors of the resulting organization, Force11 (Future of Research Communications and e-Scholarship) until the end of 2015.

For more specific details, I maintain separate lists for my publications (which also includes the various standards that I actively co-edited), the list of presentations I‘ve made since 2004, and my various professional activities (conference chairing, program committee memberships, etc.)

I have also developed some software (in Python and, lately, Javascript or in Typescript) that might be of interest. An example is an SPARQL 1.0 API, a (partial) implementation on the top the RDFLib package. This package has then been added to RDFLib with a proper SPARQL language parser contributed by the community. I have also developed an RDFa Distiller service, i.e., a Python implementation of RDFa 1.1, a similar tool for the conversion of microdata to RDF. The RDFa and Microdata packages (both are also available on GitHub) are also part of the RDFLib distribution on GitHub. I also developed a small package to interface SPARQL queries from Python; this software has been moved to GitHub, and is maintained by Sergio Fernández and Carlos Tejo Alonso (CTIC, Spain).

Some private facts

My family background is somewhat complicated; my mother was French, my father was Hungarian. Although I grew up in Hungary, I have dual Hungarian and French nationalities. This was a somewhat touchy situation until the end of the 80’s, but also made my settling in Germany and, later, in the Netherlands administratively very easy. Of course, by today, with the entry of Hungary in the EU, this issue has become essentially moot. I am married, and have one (adult) son.

I am obviously fluent in Hungarian and French, but also in English. I have a proper, albeit essentially passive knowledge of Dutch and German, and some understanding of Italian. For more private things you can refer to my private homepage.