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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Sitting right in the middle


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Calais Ecosystem: Calais for Drupal

Time to start talking about great tools that have been built on top of Calais.

Calais is an initiative by Thomson Reuters to provide one of the core building blogs of the Semantic Web: semantic metadata generation. At the core of Calais is a web service that ingests text content, analyzes using natural language processing, machine learning, lexicons and statistical analysis to extract semantic data from the text and return it as structured information – primarily as RDF. Enough about Calais – I’ll write a big long post about it in the near future.

One of our biggest goals with Calais is to develop – or help others develop – tools that translate this from geekdom to real world usability. One of the areas of focus for that is to integrate Calais within a variety of content presentation and management platforms. There’s a wide range of those platforms – but Drupal stands out as being one of the fastest growing ones in the mid-tier publishing space.

Shortly after Calais was released two members of the Phase2Technology team – Frank Febbraro and Irakli Nadareishvili just stepped up and made it happen by building the Calais Modules for Drupal.

These modules provide a strong building block for construction semantically-enabled Calais applications. The modules provide seamless integration between a range of Drupal node types and the Calais service.

From their description…

The Calais module lets you configure which Content Types you want to request Calais metadata on update. The entities returned can then be automatically assigned to vocabularies related to the Content Types, or it can only suggest terms based on the Calais metadata and allow the user to select the terms you want to associate (think of recommending tags). A flexible set of hooks allows 3rd party modules to make modifications before or after Calais terms have been applied. There are many level of configuration and integration and this is just the beginning.

The Calais Tag Modifier module allows for basic blacklisting of tags, so that you never get terms suggested that you don’t care about. The term substitution mechanism also allows you to modify returned metadata before it gets assigned or suggested.

Beyond what Phase2 has developed to date, the Calais Initiative and Phase2 have agreed to work together over the coming six months to release a series of significant enhancements built on the Calais modules. These enhancements will be oriented toward even tighter integration of Calais with Drupal and providing a comprehensive Calais-powered set of capabilities such as topic hubs and other publisher-oriented features.

So – that’s the description: here’s what’s cool. One of the hottest publishing platforms in the world is integrated with Calais. Users can get access to Calais’ capabilities with essentially zero effort. And – all of this was built buy two highly motivated guys that saw a need and just moved in and got it done.

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