Calais Ecosystem: Gnosis for Firefox & IE

One in a series of posts on cool tools that have been built using the Calais service from Thomson Reuters. I promise a big post on what Calais is, what it does, why we’re doing it and all that jazz in the near future. In the meantime feel free to visit the site (above) or my really quick Calais overview in my last post on Drupal.

If you’re like me you spend a lot of your time on the web reading the news, reviews and blog postings. It’s great – but sometimes I wish I had my own research assistant to highlight the important stuff and do a little research for me. If I’m reading about a person or place or company I’m interested in I find myself doing a lot of copying, going to Google or Wikipedia, pasting, searching, finding the tab I was originally on, finding my place in the article, etc, etc. And I’m mostly just reading because I’m interested -  researchers, bloggers and journalists spend many hours at a stretch doing this.

Gnosis isn’t quite as good as your own personal research assistant – but it’s a step in the right direction.

Built as a plugin for both Firefox and IE, Gnosis sits in the background and analyzes what you’re reading. Using the Calais web service it finds the people, companies, organizations, locations and quite a few other things in the text and marks them with a fairly subtle underline.

When you hover over one of those items Gnosis pops up a smart and contextually relevant information box that lets you search for companies in places that know about companies, people in places that know about people, locations in things that know about locations. You get the idea.

You can do this on demand when you’re reading something – or you can update the Gnosis preferences and tell it to do it automatically on specific sites. I’ve set mine for automatic tagging on most of the major news sites, a few blogs and Wikipedia. A small warning – Gnosis sometimes breaks on Ajax heavy sites like the Google RSS reader. We’re working on that.

Speaking of Wikipedia – Gnosis is a great tool for use there. While the individuals creating Wikipedia articles try to do a good job hyperlinking items in the article to other relevant Wikipedia articles – they often miss the boat. Many of the items in the article that should be hyperlinked are not – forcing you once again into a cycle of cut, paste, search, etc. Gnosis solves that by automatically hyperlinking relevant items and allowing you to navigate directly to the appropriate Wikipedia page.

If you want a quick snapshot of all of the people, places, things, etc mentioned in an article then just open the Gnosis sidebar. It will give you a quick overview of everything it has found and allow you to navigate directly to the things you’re interested in.

That’s the description: here’s what’s cool. Gnosis let’s you apply the power of high end natural language processing and semantic analysis in a simple way to an everyday task – reading on the web. You don’t need to understand RDF triples or the semantic stack – it just helps you get something done. And – the current version of Gnosis is just the start. Future releases will draw on the expanded capabilities of Calais to tell you what the most relevant items are in what you’re reading and to link those items to the growing linked data ecosystem. Stay tuned.

The Gnosis homepage is locate here.

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