Information Retrieval and other interesting topics

Ian - by Almer

About The Site

The aim of this site is to cover some of the more relevant areas of information science and natural language processing for web developers working with PHP. The focus isn't on necessarily providing step by step how-to tutorials, but to look into the topics and difficulties in those areas, and to do so with the relevant examples illustrated using PHP, plus the occasional note on other subjects that are worth talking about. For me, writing the ideas into (hopefully) coherent posts clarifies my own understanding and appreciation of the work.

About Me

My name is Ian Barber, and I work as a Developer Advocate for Google+, in Google's London office in the UK. You can contact me by sending an email to Ian Barber (one word) at I look after the PHP extensions for SVM and LAPACK support, and am involved with the ZeroMQ messaging system community. You can see the code for these and various other bits and pieces on github. You may also be interested in a short book on messaging I wrote: The Message Is The Medium (it's free!)


I have been lucky enough to have presented, given keynotes and sat on panels at a number of conferences, and am always on the look out for new and interesting places to speak. Some of my talks and where they were shown are listed below - mostly the slides are available and in some cases video.

Building A Firehose

"Excellent all around, to me. Very knowledgeable, good eye contact with audience; engaged everyone in the room. Kept a good pace from beginning to end. Excellent use of examples to illustrate whatever point he was making, on every slide. Great slides; very readable, communicated message well." - Clark Everetts on

PHP Tek 2012 - slides
PHP Masters 2012 - Online

Clojure For PHP Developers

"Nice intro to Clojure. Appreciate the comparison bits of PHP code and how you would implement it in Clojure." - Ed Finkler on

PHP Tek 2012 - slides

Debugging: Rules & Tools

"Debugging talk from the man who can fix anything @ianbarber #phpnw10" - lornajane on twitter

"Ian, I stumbled on this through a blogger at the International PHP conference. I am not a PHP developer, but I am the author of the book. I am very impressed by your use of the rules to introduce the tools -- of course, I’m convinced that this is a completely thorough and useful presentation as a result! Congratulations on a very well done presentation. I hope you had lots of enthusiastic attendees and good feedback." - Dave Agans on slideshare

"A great talk full of practical tips and anecdotes, leaving me with a number of things that I should look into further. Ian is a great speaker who clearly has a great wealth of knowledge, so I'm enormously grateful that he shares it with everyone as I for one benefit hugely!" - loonytoons on

PHP Northwest 2010 - slides - video
International PHP Conference 2010 - slides
PHP Tek 2011 - slides

Deployment Tactics

"@ianbarber @wildbit @thinkvitamin - we @silenceitinc really enjoyed your presentation, especially the deployment part, look forward to more" - cole jackson on twitter

ThinkVitamin Code Management & Deployment Conference 2011 - slides

Hangout Apps

Devfest London 2012

How To Stand On The Shoulders Of Giants

"I am a huge fan of Ian's speaking. He is natural, talented speaker, who can make the most complex topics understandable. This was the first talk I've heard him give on a less 'technical' topic, and enjoyed it very much. It was a superb opening keynote and set the tone for the conference very well by making insightful observations, and useful metaphors. Highly original, enjoyable and enlightening." - Marc Gear on

PHP Northwest 2011 - Keynote - slides video
PHP Benelux 2012 - Keynote

In Search Of - Integrating Site Search

"Excellent. Clear, concise and was very interesting. Covered everything I'd hoped he would cover. Was nice to see someone who knew his subject very well and the examples were very good." - craigwillis on

"I heard a lot of good things about this talk, but never had the chance to see it. Ian has the reputation of being a professor and proved to make good on that reputation. Very technical, lots of algorithms, but quite easy to understand. Mission accomplished!" - ThijsFeryn on

PHP UK 2010 - Slides - audio.
Dutch PHP Conference 2010 - Slides
International PHP Conference 2010 - slides

PHP Barcelona 2010 - slides

Solr: Beyond The Basics

"Solr: Beyond the Basics" conf. @ #confoo was really interesting! High quality talk! - @pierrevoisin on twitter

Confoo 2011 - slides

Taking Sites Mobile

"A good talk on the general ideas one needs to thing about when designing a mobile application. He gives some great ideas on what programmers need to think about when they are attempting to refactor for mobile or what they should think about when starting from scratch." - Chris Tankersley on

PHP Tek 2012 - slides

Teaching Your Machine to Find Fraudsters

"Great talk, again clearly knowledgeable on the subject, good pacing and good delivery. I will definitely investigate the svm extension for my next classification need. Thank you." - Jason Sweat on

PHP Tek 2011 - slides

PHP UK 2012 - slides

The Cookie Law

Interview with me about the talk on webdev360.

PHP UK 2012 Unconference - slides

What Are You Talking About? Document Classification In PHP

"Just a great talk! Tons of information, not presented so much as to be an authorative source but rather to first provide a brief overview, and then motivate you to go out and get into it. A little outside the standard PHP conference fare but definitely useful to a lot of developers, which is what makes it so great." - from

Dutch PHP Conference 2009 - slides.

Sogeti Engineering World 2010 - slides.

ZeroMQ Is The Answer

"Top notch talk from Ian Barber, whose depth and range of knowledge is outstanding. Great balance between introduction of 0MQ and the level of technical detail, and wonderful to see example running code demonstrated on the fly." - Marcus Deglos on

PHP UK 2011 - slides - video
Dutch PHP Conference 2011 - slides

PHP Tek 2011 - slides

ZeroMQ: Messaging Made Simple

Erlang Factory London 2011 - slides - video


There are few great books on some of the subjects I'm interested it that I would recommend to anyone.

In information retrieval and classification:

  • Ricardo Baeza-Yates and Berthier Ribeiro-Neto, Modern Information Retrieval. Addison-Wesley. 1999.
  • Christopher D. Manning, Prabhakar Raghavan and Hinrich Schütze, Introduction to Information Retrieval, Cambridge University Press. 2008.

The full text of the second is available on the book's website, and is a great, up-to-date introduction.

In messaging:

  • Gregor Hohpe and Bobby Woolf - Enterprise Integration Patterns. Addison-Wesley. 2003
  • Patterns in Network Architecture - John Day. Prentice Hall. 2008

Enterprise Integration Patterns has a good accompanying site.

In machine learning/AI:

  • Toby Segaran - Programming Collective Intelligence, O'Reilly. 2007