What is Online Knowledge? How can OpenCalais help create better Online Knowledge?

, Sunday, November 8th, 2009

Much has changed since humanity acknowledged the word knowledge and started to classify the various subject matters into categories and taxonomies of learned disciplines.
The definition of knowledge is outside the scope of this article because of simple reasons. I am not as qualified as the university professors, or librarians who pour their blood, toil, trouble, and tears into the understanding of knowledge and wisdom.

What I do know about is what knowledge is online. Since Sir Tim Berners-Lee (Yes. He was knighted.) created the World Wide Web to link documents together on the then nascent Internet, knowledge became more than monolithic documents or books that were linked loosely via citations and references. Instead of specifying in APA, MLA, Chicago, or Turabian style where the source of a particular knowledge was, one could directly link it using something called “HyperText”, or what some know as “Hyper Text Markup Language”. Today, all websites that you see online are built with a combination of HTML, some JavaScript, and possibly some Flash or Java.

Never mind what the knowledge is built with. Let’s examine very briefly the trend of tagging and keywording content. “Tagging” or “keywording” existing content can help web site users browse through indexes of such tags or keywords similar to how a book may be indexed by the editors and publishers. What was the first representation of such archaic systems on the Internet? Search Engines. Search engines were of two varieties. Directories such as Yahoo or Excite and Search Indexes such as Alta Vista. Both had their place. If you wanted to browse through a human edited directory, you had good reason to. People had taken the time to classify and organize the websites using their God given intellect. If you wanted to search, you also had good reason to.

Since the computer was able to search all of the content in a set of knowledge automatically, search indexes could be created using complex algorithms. One of the reasons Google succeeded in the search indexing industry was because they figured that relevant pages would link to each other and the more relevant websites would have higher density of connections. Similar sites around similar sets of knowledge would coalesce using the network effect to create centers of knowledge. Further more, content that is properly tagged and keyworded can heighten the quality of the search because the search engine has the power to correlate keyword usage and the keywords themselves.

What is OpenCalais?

The Calais Web Service:  The Calais web service automatically attaches rich semantic metadata to the content you submit. Using natural language processing, machine learning and other methods, Calais categorizes and links your document with entities (people, places, organizations, etc.), facts (person “x” works for company “y”), and events (person “z” was appointed chairman of company “y” on date “x”). (OpenCalais 2009)

Now that you have a bird’s eye view of how knowledge is stored and sought online, let’s talk about OpenCalais. OpenCalais is a toolkit that can be used by Content Management systems to automatically find the best set of keywords to represent a particular piece of content. Instead of having to pour your blood, toil, sweat, and tears, you can have a machine do it for you. OpenCalais is not for consumers and must be integrated into an existing piece of online content management software, or be integrated into a custom solution.
If you have a 5-10 page website, you probably don’t need to use OpenCalais. If you have a catalog of any kind, be it books, products, article, or news you should look into integrating this tool so that your website becomes easier to search and navigate on your website as well as through external search engines. OpenCalais looks at your content and finds out if there are references to people, cities, companies, industry terms, and a number of other existing knowledge centers.

A test using the OpenCalais Document Viewer

A test using the OpenCalais Document Viewer

To demonstrate what OpenCalais can extract from your content, I submitted the content of this article above this sentence to get this screenshot. I’m only showing the highlight of one found term. Similarly, the other terms that were found are connected to vast amounts of knowledge already exist intent on the internet. Those knowledge centers have relevant information and hence if your content is relevant, it is given a high content relevancy rating for each word that it finds. Apparently, my article on “Online Knowledge” only gets a rating of 35%. It’s better than nothing. I’ll try again next time. You can try yourself using their Document Viewer. If you want help in implementing this great tool, let us know by contacting us through our website’s Contact Us page.

One Response to “What is Online Knowledge? How can OpenCalais help create better Online Knowledge?”

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