No, email is not a collaborative editing solution—A comparison of the state-of-the-art

If you have co-authored at least one document in your life, you have probably experienced the pain of merging changes manually, especially when these changes are sent as email attachments.

Nowadays there are multiple collaborative editing solutions that enable merging changes automatically. Unfortunately, many professionals are not aware of the capabilities offered by these solutions and keep sending changes as email attachments and merging them manually. Believe it or not, these professionals include software engineers and computer science researchers.

I think we can do better than that…

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The Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread Experiment

Back in 2010, I found myself explaining why the Italian chocolate-hazelnut spread Nutella1 is better than its Norwegian imitationcompetitor Nugatti to my colleagues at the University of Bergen. Yes, like most Italians, I often brag about Italian food.

One of my colleagues challenged me: “I bet what you want that if I give you a slice of bread with Nutella and another one with Nugatti, you will not recognise the difference.”

I answered: “I bet what you want that I will recognise the difference between Nutella and three other spreads, while blindfolded.”

A few weeks later, I ran the first chocolate-hazelnut spread test at the University of Bergen. The test aimed at verifying if it is possible to recognise chocolate-hazelnut spreads while blindfolded.

Me tasting one of the four chocolate-hazelnut spread samples

28 Oct 2010: Me tasting one of the four chocolate-hazelnut spread samples. Photo by Federico Mancini.

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  1. If you have never heard about Nutella, or if you thought Nutella was German, you should read its history.

A new beginning

Dear friends and colleagues,

I would like to thank you for these last five years in Bergen. They made me grow personally and professionally, and I will never forget them.

Now, however, it is time for me to move on. I have accepted a position as Research Scientist at SINTEF ICT in Oslo, and I am looking forward to starting.

My former supervisor Uwe once wrote me “Sometimes changes open unforeseen new perspectives.” This sentence has never seemed more appropriate.

See you in one month, Oslo.

The last four years of my life

From the PhD thesis Diagram Predicate Framework meets Model Versioning and Deep Metamodelling, defended on the 7th December 2011:


The last four years of my life have been dedicated to writing this thesis and to making it as perfect as possible. These years have witnessed days and nights of hard work, discussion, stress, frustration, anguish, insomnia, as well as praise, relief, travelling and fun.

If you are going to read this thesis, I hope that you will find it interesting. If you are just going to browse through it quickly, I hope that you will find the models as beautiful as I do. If you are only interested in this preface, I hope it will leave you with a nice memory.

Bergen, 3rd October 2011


This thesis would not have been possible without the contribution of the outstanding individuals I have met during these four years.

First of all, I would like to thank my supervisor Uwe Wolter, for teaching me a lot of interesting knowledge which spans from mathematics to philosophy and history, as well as for giving me invaluable feedback about my research. He deserves much of the credit for this thesis, and I am indebted to him for all his help and inspiration, scientifically and otherwise. I would also like to thank my co-supervisor Khalid A. Mughal, for suggesting that I enrol in a PhD programme and for supporting all my choices when I finally followed his suggestion. With time I realised that his initiative saved me from becoming a frustrated software engineer.

A special thanks goes to Adrian Rutle, for helping me to get started with my research and for sharing many good times with me, both in Bergen and while travelling. He has been a brilliant colleague and a good friend, and I have many good memories from these years.

I am grateful to my parents Pompilio and Loretta, for all they have done for me, especially for setting my life on what I believe is the right path. I hope that this thesis will make them as proud of me as I am of them.

“Tusen takk” to Synnøve Solberg Tokerud, for her love and friendship, for teaching me about Norwegian and Norway, as well as for her beautiful smile which always helped me to stay positive.

The Department of Informatics at the University of Bergen has given me a private office, a good salary and great financial support, and I am thankful for that. I would like to thank the Programming Theory group, especially Marc Bezem, Torill Hamre, Anya Helene Bagge, Valentin David, Dag Hovland and Federico Mancini, for creating a stimulating environment to work in, for all the chats about informatics and teaching, for all the empirical studies on espresso and on chocolate spreads, as well as for all the feedback they gave me about my work. I am also grateful to the administration of the Department of Informatics, especially Ida Holen, for patiently listening to my rants every time I needed to vent my frustration, Petter Bjørstad and Torleiv Kløve, for supporting my stays abroad, and Steinar Heldal, for guiding me through the bureaucracy of the University.

My research was carried out in cooperation with fellow researchers from the Department of Computer Engineering at the Bergen University College. Thanks to Yngve Lamo, for his suggestions about how to deal with the Norwegian system, and Florian Mantz, for being an excellent flatmate and for preparing pancakes every Sunday.

Part of this thesis was written during my 4-month stay at the Department of Computer Engineering at the Autonomous University of Madrid. “Muchas gracias” to Juan de Lara and Esther Guerra, for taking care of me during my stay and for giving me plenty of insights which ended up being almost half of this thesis.

I would like to thank my opponents Reiko Heckel and Einar Broch Johnsen, for all the time they have spent reviewing this work, and Michal Walicki, for coordinating the committee. I am also grateful to all my fellow researchers and anonymous reviewers who pointed out flaws and suggested possible improvements in my research.

Despite all the time spent preparing this thesis rather than hanging out, I still have many friends left, and they should all be awarded for their patience. In Bergen, Mikal Carlsen Østensen helped me with practically everything before and after my move to Norway. Diego Fiore has been one of my closest friends, who shared countless discussions about the grotesque society we live in with me and was a perfect companion on many suffocating trips around the world. Paolo Angelelli has also been a very good friend, who contributed a lot to the discussion about how to develop an ideal society. My stay in Madrid would not have been the same without Lucia Cammalleri, Teresa Terrana and Daniele Sidoti, who treated me like a close friend since the first day we met. In Italy, my good, old friends Maura Brandimarte, Albert Marsili, Marino Di Carlo, Graziano Liberati and Angelo Di Saverio have been there every time I was back home, and I really appreciate it.

Finally, this thesis would not have reached this level of art without the free and open source software I use and enjoy. A special thanks goes to the communities behind GNU, Linux, KDE, Firefox, Kile, Inkscape, Subversion and Git.

Four months in Madrid

Shipol Airport, Asterdam. Two hours left before my connection to Bergen. I am not coming back home from a business or leisure trip this time, but from a four-month exchange stay in Madrid.

Research fellows at the University of Bergen are encouraged to spend from three to six months abroad to get in touch with another research group and work in a different environment. During the MoDELS 2010 conference in Oslo, my supervisor and I discussed the possibility of my exchange stay with Juan de Lara and Eshter Guerra from the Autonomous University of Madrid. The idea of staying some months in the south of Europe after three years in the North was appealing to me, and Juan and Esther seemed positive as well. Eventually, the idea became a plan, and I came to Madrid in February.

I lived in the centre of Madrid, which happens to be the centre of Spain as well, historically speaking. My flat was located 200 meters away from the so-called Kilometre zero, the ancient starting point of all the measurements in Spain. I loved the atmosphere of the city centre, incredibly lively and dynamic. I even loved the noise that you hear in the bars… Yes, the noise of people speaking and toasting and laughing and enjoying life, something that reminded me a bit of Italy and that I missed so much in Norway, where people are usually scared of speaking too loud or too much.

Juan and Esther have been very kind to me. They helped me with the accommodation and the transportation, provided me with an office and a workstation, introduced me to the campus and the city. It has been a rewarding experience to work with them, both scientifically and personally, and I sincerely hope that we will continue the cooperation in the future.

But my stay in Madrid would not have been the same without the people I met there. Thanks to Serena, I got in touch with a group of people from Italy, France and Spain. It was a pleasure to meet Federica, Antonino, Mathilde, Vani, Ysa, Clara and Jose. But above all, it was fantastic to meet Lucia, Teresa and Daniele; lovely people, who treated me like a close friend since the first day we met. I wish most of Italians were people like them; I would consider moving back to Italy.

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