InfoQ published an interview with Tom Preston-Werner on Powerset, GitHub, Ruby and Erlang. I really like projects that try to analyze text/resources on the web and try to implement “smart search”. Powerset is one of these projects. But what I like even more is the approach when we explicitly represent facts/information items using open knowledge representation standards such as Topic Maps or RDF.
Topic Maps can play the role of “knowledge middleware” that helps to integrate various components of “smart search puzzle”. A topic map-based index allows to represent and connect subjects and resources. Explicit representation of relatively small number of relationships (“facts”,”assertions”) between resources and subjects can dramatically change the world of smart search.
Topic Maps based-knowledge middleware is a disruptive technology because it replaces proprietary knowledge organization schemas and modules and it allows multiple players to build various solutions that help to create or use smart index.
Topic Maps-based Ontopedia PSI server, for example, can represent assertions that are manually created by users or generated by some algorithms. We do not have our own text analysis infrastructure, but I hope that in the future we can leverage some services on the web (such as OpenCalais) which can perform text analysis on “as needed” basis. The core ability of Ontopedia PSI server is maintaining explicit representations of subjects that are important for people and ability to maintain assertions about these subjects.
The new version of Ontopedia PSI server can play a role of an aggregator that can extract assertions from existing topic maps/fragements hosted on other websites. Assertions from multiple sources are aggregated into one assertion set/information map/semantic index. Ontopedia PSI server keeps track of information provenance and supports multiple truth values. The server, for example, can handle a situation when one source on the web asserts that Person X did a Presentation P and someone else makes the opposite assertion.
I think that natural language processing can play a huge role in improving search. Ideal text analysis tool should allow to provide ‘clues’ about subjects in a text. I am looking for equivalent of some kind of ‘binding’ that is used in programming quite often these days. I would love to have the ability to provide list of main subjects in a form of PSIs to text analysis tool (using embedded markup or attached external assertions). If I do so, I expect much more precise results. If I do not have an initial list of subjects I expect some kind of suggestions from text analysis tools that I can check against existing information map.
Ontopedia (as many other Topic Maps-based projects) promotes usage of Public Subject Identifiers (PSIs) for “all thinkable” subjects. For example, there is an identifier for TMRA 2008 conference – http://psi.ontopedia.net/TMRA_2008 .
There are identifiers for each presenter and presentation. Basic relationships between various subjects are also “mapped”/explicitly represented. Each basic resource, such as a blog post can have a small assertion set that describes metadata (using Dublin Core metadata vocabulary, for example) and maybe some main assertions. Traditional websites can provide combined assertion sets in XTM or RDF which can be consumed by semantic aggregators such as Ontopedia PSI server. Text analysis is great (when it is good enough). But even simple (semi-)manual “mapping” of subjects, resources and relationships can change the search game.
When we manually try to “map” an existing resource such as a conference website for the first time, it can look as a complicated and time consuming task. Mapping a website for another conference will take much less time. And, of course, in many cases it is possible to reverse traditional website building/assertion extraction paradigm.
It is possible to build nice looking and functional web sites based on “assertion sets”. Topicmaps.com is a great example of this approach. It is driven by a topic map. Humans can enjoy HTML-based representation of this site and aggregators like Ontopedia PSI Server can consume raw XTM-based representation and aggregate it with other assertion sets such as TMRA 2008 conference assertion set.