Information, Intelligence, Knowledge

Tools for Building Semantic Applications

Simile is probably one of the coolest projects which simplifies how you can use Semantic technologies. An easy starting point is Exhibit:

a lightweight structured data publishing framework that lets you create web pages with support for sorting, filtering, and rich visualizations by writing only HTML and optionally some CSS and Javascript code.

I have been looking at Simile for a while and more recently at TimeLine. So I was happy to read the Interview with David Karger, a professor at MIT and a Principal Investigator on the Simile Project at Dr.Dobb’s Journal. A few fragments from the interview:

One of the hardest problems is how much variety there is in the data. Traditional libraries solved the problem by mapping all the catalog data into one standard form. That won’t work in the face of this new tidal wave of information.

How can you see the connections between the results from separate sources — e.g., that a book from MIT talks about a painting at the Getty? It’s unlikely the site owners have coordinated their collections to fit together, so how can they be mashed up after the fact? Historically, the only answer has been to do lots of special-purpose systems engineering. But given the exploding variety of collections and usages of them, we need a different answer now.

The Web has been incredibly successful at making huge amounts of new information available to many people. But it still has a long way to go in depth and breadth. Regarding depth, there’s plenty of awareness of the “deep web” — stuff that doesn’t show up on the web search engines because it is buried in special-purpose databases. We think some of our tools can help bring that information to light. As for breadth, while the Web has made it much easier for people to contribute textual information through tools like blogs and wikis, it’s still not really possible for the lay person to contribute rich structured information collections. We think our tools can dramatically lower the barriers for a broader group of contributors to share the rich structured content they know.

We are looking at Exhibit and playing a bit with TimeLine for a couple of our projects.