Semantic Search Engine Gets Help from Facebook Friends

first_imgPerhaps the biggest problem with natural language search is that it’s incredibly difficult to try and automate machine-assigned ontologies. Essentially, machines just don’t get it. This is precisely the reason why Canadian technologist Bruce Johnson switched his focus from semantic tagging to a new style of search. Says Johnson, “Machines don’t really deconstruct language well. They miss so many of the ambiguities and they often don’t pick up on synonyms.” As a result, Johnson’s Semanti was built in the belief that humans are best at determining search relevancy. ReadWriteWeb spoke to Johnson, about how his start up, differs from some of the semantic web’s more-recognized players like Hakia and Powerset.Most semantic search services are natural language search engines; however, Semanti employs a system of personal bookmarks, a drop-down menu with multiple definitions, and search recommendations pulled from Facebook friends. Semanti actually increases relevancy by introducing human eyes and opinions into the search process. Semanti’s search experience is incredibly different than natural language search engines. Firstly, Semanti is not a separate engine, but a Firefox plug-in to be used with Google, Yahoo or Bing. This means that users are not being asked to change the habit of visiting their preferred search engine. Secondly, every time you type terms into your preferred engine, Semanti Suggest automatically provides a drop down menu of possible definitions. The search term “apple” offers the fruit, the company, the car, the record label, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s uniquely named baby. From here, users choose the relevant definition and results from alternate definitions are omitted. This portion of the search is particularly useful if you are looking for one of the seemingly obscure definitions. Additionally, Semanti uses a series of bookmarks to further categorize results. Users install the Semanti browser plug-in and bookmark the pages they are likely to revisit. However, unlike regular web-based bookmarks, Semanti’s MyWeb stores the entire page’s text and the original search terms. Later, when the same page is needed, Semanti scans the bookmarked pages and offers them at the top of search results. This means that the more you search, the more relevant your results are likely to be. Once you’ve saved a few pages to MyWeb, you can also increase search relevancy through Semanti Social Search. Semanti Social Search is a web-based community where you can invite your Facebook friends to share their MyWeb bookmarks. Once a friend has accepted your invitation, you’ve got access to their search results in addition to your own. Now every time you search, Semanti offers your bookmarks and your friends’ bookmarks at the top of search results. Below your friends’ bookmarks, you can also view bookmarks from the Semanti community. Or if you’d like to turn off these suggestions, Semanti also offers you that option as well. Semanti is clearly a new approach to finding information. The drop down definitions are very likely to speed research efforts; however, because the social search component is dependent on our friends, it will be interesting to see how results emerge over time. It’s always a celebration of human achievement to see a community effectively “harness the wisdom of the crowds”; however, there’s always a chance that a good thing can be destroyed by the ignorance of the masses. The community will just have to be discerning with their invitations. Semanti is currently available in French and English and the team of nine plans to roll out additional language versions in the coming months. To install Semanti and test drive the product yourself, visit A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… Tags:#start#startups Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… dana oshiro Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting Related Posts 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Marketlast_img read more

Is It Dangerous for Google to Engage in Issue Advocacy?

first_imgA Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… brian proffitt Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… Related Posts In an effort to combat anti-homosexual laws that exist in many of the countries in which Google does business, the search engine giant has launched a new “Legalise Love” campaign in conjunction with the Global LGBT Workplace Summit held in London this past weekend. Google has also taken stands on myriad other issues, from piracy to patent reform. Whatever your take on the particular issues, some observers wonder how much political advocacy is appropriate for a company like Google.Not  a SurpriseThat Google took this latest stance is no surprise: The company has already made public declarations against California’s Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriages in that state, covered the cost of a tax that gay and lesbian employees pay when their partners received domestic partner health benefits, and sponsored the It Gets Better Project.Nor is the stance as ambitious as some initially reported when Google announced the new campaign, set to launch in Singapore and Poland today. Some reports, such as this one from the blog, had indicated the new program was actually an international call to legalize gay marriage (the story has since been corrected).Instead, Google’s initiative is aimed at ensuring equality in the workplace.“In all of our 60 offices around the world, we are committed to cultivating a work environment where Googlers can be themselves and thrive. We also want our employees to have the same inclusive experience outside of the office, as they do at work, and for LGBT communities to be safe and to be accepted wherever they are,” Google’s announcement read.Google’s Support MattersThe addition of Google’s voice to the rights of its workers, and of workers globally, is a very important event. Google carries weight, after all, and its corporate officers have a right to make the company’s policies well known. This is not in dispute, and Google has taken advantage of its freedom of speech before. For instance, Google was very much involved in the January 17 protests of the failed SOPA and PIPA bills that helped kill the bills in their respective congressional committees.The question of whether Google will always be neutral in a cause has been answered: They won’t. But is taking any stance on any political issue an appropriate role for Google?The Wikipedia ComparisonWhen Wikimedia joined the anti-SOPA/PIPA protestors for Internet Blackout Day in January, the organization behind Wikipedia made it very clear that as a neutral provider of information, they would not be making a habit of such stances.“What Wikimedia and what the people who edit Wikipedia really want to do is edit Wikipedia. Advocacy isn’t our subject area of expertise, nor is how to prevent online piracy, to be honest,” Wikimedia Foundation spokesman Jay Walsh told NPR’s All Things Considered on January 31.Putting aside for a moment whether one agrees with Google’s stance on the latest issues (for the record, I do), there seems a very real danger when the largest, most influential company filtering the flow of information among billions of people takes a stance on anything beyond basic human rights.Many would argue that LGBT equality is indeed such a right. And certainly Google had a vested business interest in keeping SOPA and PIPA off the board. But just by the virtue of its vast influence, Google could easily find itself under fire by coming down on either side of a controversial issue.The Limits of NeutralityFor some issues, neutrality may not be the best approach, either. There are many causes – fighting illicit human trafficking, for example – that receive nearly unanimous support. And under U.S. law at least, Google is free to state its mind about anything.But Google is a unique company: It is perhaps the world’s dominant dealer in the currency of information. As such, it may need to maintain its image of neutrality in much the same way Wikimedia does – at least in the area of the information and services it provides, if not in its corporate practices. At a bare minimum, Google needs to ensure, transparently, that any advocacy in which it chooses to engage doesn’t affect the search results it provides to users.Even though Google isn’t really a content creator, it’s increasingly finding itself held to similar standards as traditional publishing companies. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Even with the best of intentions, do we really want the gatekeepers of the Internet influencing what information we can access based on their own moral compass? After all, the very thing that one group may want to promote could be the same thing another group is trying desperately to stop.center_img Tags:#Google#web 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Market Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hostinglast_img read more

‘NTR has awakened the self-esteem of the Telugu people’

first_imgSitting erect at his medium-size desk in a room on the first floor of his own house at Troop Bazar in Hyderabad, he did not look like a matinee idol. It was 6.30 of a late April morning.He had been at his desk since 4, consulting with his close advisers,,Sitting erect at his medium-size desk in a room on the first floor of his own house at Troop Bazar in Hyderabad, he did not look like a matinee idol. It was 6.30 of a late April morning. He had been at his desk since 4, consulting with his close advisers, and receiving early morning callers. His square face framed by large cheek-bones gave him a granite look. The spacious forehead sported thin white strips of vibhuti. The round head, shaven 108 days before, now wore a thick thatch of deep black hair, trimmed at the neck. Under the forehead, his eyes glowed like burning charcoal. The deep ochre robes magnified his mystique. When he spoke, one could hear the language of India’s New Politics. “This is not the regime of NTR,” he pronounced with a stab of his husky voice. “This is a regime of the people.”Few were able to comprehend the meaning of the Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao phenomenon in January; few comprehend it now. “He is going too fast,” whispered a leading don of the sprawling University of Hyderabad, as if the walls of his living room concealed Telugu Desam ears. “He is making serious mistakes. He is rushing towards his own downfall.” “They don’t understand him,” replies a sympathetic biographer. “He is not from ‘Our India’. He is from the ‘Other India’. He speaks a language we do not understand.”In the Congress(I) and allied camps there is a belief, more of a hope perhaps, that NTR’s celluloid charisma will burn out like a midget meteor, that his ego and lack of intellectual and ideological conviction will rob him of political stamina or throw him into the arms of cynical, opportunistic advisers and sycophants.The few wise and good men who are still alive but politically not quite well in Hyderabad’s ‘Our India’, perceive NTR as a giant rising from the ruins of the Congress system.advertisementBrahmananda Reddy, the last chief minister of the state to be elected freely by members of the Congress legislature party and whom Mrs Gandhi dismissed in 1971, is convinced that 10 years of Congress misrule had driven the population to a desperate search for a crediable alternative; if it were not NTR, it would have been someone else.People’s Movement: This is a view with which the saffron Caesar of Andhra Pradesh largely agrees. “The Telugu Desam movement was already in the heart of the people,” he said in the course of an eloquent interview. “They were waiting for someone to concretise an emotional tide into a political movement. My task is to keep the new consciousness of the Telugu people alive and to use it to bring about a new social and economic order in Andhra Pradesh. Of course, there are many problems. Of course, I am new to politics, and so are most of my ministers. I am not afraid of making mistakes as long as I can correct them. I owe nothing to any caste or interests. I owe everything to the Telugu people.” It clear from NTR’s hybrid earthy vocabulary and according to his main decisions – 32 – in his first 100 days, that “people” means all who are not obscenely rich, all except the most ugly Indians. “We are building a left-of-centre party,” said Parvataneni Upendra, a suave, soft-spoken former railway official, who is now among NTR’s closest confidants.A large group of enthusiastic men and women are helping NTR build the wave of January into a cadre-based political party. Many of them were Lohia socialists; some have been close to either communist party. P. Vasudev, B. Mahendra Shastry and B.P. Narsing Rao.Rama Rao: ‘This is a regime of the people’the three men who are building the trade union front of the party, spoke with elliptical socialist accents. G. Narayana Rao, a successful advocate, and convener of the Hyderabad city committee of the TDP, flaunts a photograph of Lenin in his law office and does not conceal his Marxist persuasions, although he has never been a communist.Slab by slab, through an upward process of elections, NTR and his men have built up the TDP, which now claims an enrolled membership of 25 lakh, each member having paid Re 1 for enrolment.These members have elected 20,000 village committees; the village committees have elected constituency committees and the constituency committees district committees. The last, in turn, have elected a 300-member state committee. It is claimed that 50 per cent of all elected committee members belong to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes, backward classes and minorities, a claim that cannot be verified because no social scientist in Hyderabad has cared to study the formation of the first grass roots state-level party in India in recent years.advertisementPleasant Transformation: In the Congress(I) and allied camps there is a belief, more of a hope, perhaps, that NTR’s celluloid charisma will burn out like a midget meteor, that his ego and lack of intellectual and ideological conviction will rob him of political stamina or throw him into the arms of cynical, opportunistic advisers and sycophants.NTR at his daily durbar outside his residence: Elaborate plansBut there is a growing legion of others who believe that his intentions have already begun to translate into action. The secretariat in Hyderabad, for instance, has been transformed in the brief space of the NTR administration.Indeed, a visit to the secretariat in Hyderabad is a pleasant experience. Perhaps no other secretariat in a state capital looks so clean. Admission is strictly controlled. Employees are served tea at their desks, and the cups and saucers are promptly cleared away. Senior officials have enough time to work in peace. No hush-hush transactions can take place between petty officials and seekers of licences or permits over cups of tea in the canteens. Several sources confirmed that in the Transport Department and in agencies dealing with licences and permits corruption has been stopped.New Diction: The man who has brought this about has never read a book other than Telugu film scripts and at 60 years takes a 16-hour day in his stride – and expects his ministers to do the same. A deeply religious man, he reads from Vivekananda every morning during his puja. Politics for him is no epistemic affair. In fact, talking with him one gets the exciting feeling of listening to a new political diction. It is as simple as his faith in his own destiny, in ‘his God who has set his destiny.Above all NTR has awakened the self-esteem – atma gauravam – of the Telugu people; his own English for it is “consciousness”. This is the staple of his political line. But he does not see it as chauvinism.When he says, “God has given me this role,” he doesn’t talk like the tin-pot dictator of a neighbouring country; what he means is that he couldn’t be cast in the role of chief minister of a major Indian state and leader of 53,600,000 people after 33 years in the film world if such were not God’s wish.The new role has made him a legend; people do not see him as a film hero any longer; the saffron Caesar is not the same person who has entertained them in 292 movies. “I have promised the Telugu people a clean and efficient government. There shall be no corruption and extravagance in my administration.” He has taken sanyas to symbolise these values.Andhra Pradesh is not strong in infrastructure; its rank is 10th among the states, and it lags behind its three southern sisters, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. It lags behind these states also in the quality of life. So, argues NTR, the poor need to be tended with some care; infrastructure can wait.advertisementHe is as good a capitalist as Indira Gandhi; the refreshing difference is that he doesn’t talk “socialism”, he hasn’t read the books. He would like private capital and enterprise to exploit the state’s rich natural resources and he is prepared to give them attractive incentives.Whether he can keep his promises or will falter and slip, time will tell. The signals so far are mixed. He has been trying to be true to his words. At the same time, he has betrayed despotic traits. Telugu society is fragmented by a maze of factions, castes and group interests.He has been trying to navigate the shoals with firmness of mind, and has shown his flair for boldness. He has brought about a new tone of austerity, simplicity and discipline into a wobbling administration suffering from acute hypothermia or low body temperature.At the same time, on the negative side, he has needlessly displeased large segments of people, has parted company with some of his better comrades, and sometimes he is tempted to talk, if not act, like an uncrowned king.One of his brightest achievements so far is communal peace in the twin cities of Hyderabad-Secunderabad, which have been so often wracked by communal riots. The one action that has, more than anything else, made the poor identify with the NTR regime is the provision to supply 25 kg of rice each month at the rate of Rs 2 a kg to families with an annual income of Rs 7,000 or less.Andhra Pradesh is the second state in India, after Kerala, to bring the rural poor within the reach of the public distribution system. Another major step NTR has taken for the benefit of the poor is to build 10,000 houses in 1983-84 in each district for the weaker sections of the population.These houses are to be constructed by the beneficiaries themselves. He has also promised to provide each of the 4,350 ‘problem villages’ of Andhra Pradesh with at least one source of potable drinking water. He means to keep the promise.He seems to have worked out in his vigorous mind a line that divides the social elements he wants to carry with himself from those whom he may have to fight down or isolate as political opponents.In the former category are clustered all peasants. NTR has no intention of taxing the income of rich farmers, women, urban and rural poor, the poorer middle classes, industrial workers and the youth. In this massive, mixed constituency, he has a distinct bias towards the rural people.His targets are the “mean Mughals of Delhi” and their cohorts in Andhra Pradesh: politicians as a class, corrupt contractors and businessmen, and corrupt bureaucrats and highbrow intellectuals – elements that have cut off big slices of the nation’s resource cake, leaving very little for the largest number who live below the poverty line.Strong Measures: The controversial decisions he has taken are to be seen in the context of the ‘polarisation’ NTR has worked out in his mind. He has reduced the number of public corporations by two-thirds, from 48 to 16, thereby dislodging a tribe of inefficient, corrupt politicians from their peaks of patronage, power and wealth. The suspension of only a handful of corrupt officials including three IAS men has been enough to drive a grim warning to the vast army of 7 lakh government employees. He stunned the entire south by directing the Tirumala-Tirupati Devasthanam to deposit its surplus funds, amounting to between Rs 31 crore and Rs 46 crore, in a government treasury instead of nationalised banks.It was a shrewd move which protected the income of the Devasthanam, which runs 37 temples and 20 educational institutions in the south and the north and, at the same time, significantly enhanced the Government’s credit rating with the commercial banks.Once again, the action divided the elite, and angered a powerful interest group, but rallied majority support to NTR in the Devasthanam itself. He has banned the long-practised evil of capitation fees in professional colleges and private practice by doctors in government hospitals and denied government houses to those who have built one or more house of their own anywhere in the state.Not only has he deprived former legislators of their pensions, he has strictly forbidden present ones to interfere in the working of the administration. Indeed, NTR has taken away from them their self-serving tools of patronage and power; they can neither ‘recommend’ candidates for jobs, nor clients for licences and permits, nor can they manipulate postings or transfers of administrative officials.Educating Legislators: The cutting deprivation has angered all or most opposition MLA’s, particularly those belonging to the Congress(I) ; it has created discontent and grumblings among TDP legislators too.NTR deliberately refuses to allow his legislators to feel important until they have proven their worth by obeying his instruction to live in their respective constituencies when the legislature is not in session, study the problems of each constituency and its people and act as a living link between government and people. His actions and attitudes may spark rebellion in the ranks of party MLA’s, especially those who had to finance their own election campaigns hoping to more than make up the investment with the sweet spoils of office.NTR himself is free from such fear. He has drawn up elaborate plans for the education of his MLA’s in the art and science of administration and democratic government. In any case, so supreme is his position in the party that he can smother dissent and opposition with the firmness that awes his admirers and critics alike. But therein also lies the danger to his own future.The libertarian Caesar must take his own lessons in the nimble arts of democracy, in dealing with people in his own camp as well as his opponents. He can’t afford to make enemies needlessly and at random.Awakening: Above all, NTR has awakened the self-esteem – atma gauravam – of the Telugu people; his own English for it is “consciousness”. This is the staple of his political line. But he doesn’t see it as chauvinism; in fact, he doesn’t comprehend the meaning of the word. It was not India, nor the north, which had crushed Telugu consciousness. It was Indira Gandhi. Her electoral defeat acted as the great catharsis. As Ramoji Rao, editor of Eenadu, explained: “With Indira Gandhi’s defeat, the Telugu people have asserted their self-esteem. They are now satiated. It is over.”Andhra Pradesh is the most northern of the southern states; almost everyone in Hyderabad speaks Hindi. “The south as a geopolitical or even emotional concept doesn’t exist in Andhra Pradesh,” affirmed Ramoji Rao, “as it does in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.”The chief minister himself dismisses all talk about disintegration of India as the “brainchild of journalists, intellectuals and Congress(I) people”. For him a strong, prosperous ‘Telugu Nadu’ means a stronger, more developed India; what he vehemently rejects is the right of Delhi (not India) to fatten itself at the expense of the Telugu and other peoples.In that sense, NTR is a more ardent advocate of a more equal relationship between the Centre and the states than the chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.He will use the Centre-state issue to mobilise popular support for his government. The Telugu Desam, he said, would put up its own candidates for the next parliamentary election: “We must have our own people in Parliament to project the causes of the Telugu people.” It is most unlikely that he will forge an alliance with the Congress(I), trading in Lok Sabha seats with Mrs Gandhi for an enduring TDP regime in Andhra Pradesh.Southern Idea: He has high hopes of cooperation among the southern states not ruled by Congress(I). Though the concept of a council of chief ministers in the south came from Karnataka Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde, NTR is probably now its most enthusiastic and systematic champion.He is very proud of the agreement he has concluded with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.G. Ramachandran, to use the bountiful waters of the Krishna – or the Telugu Ganga – to quench the thirst of Madras city as well as the Rayalaseema and Nellore regions of Andhra Pradesh.”In six or seven years, Rayalaseema will be a granary of the south,” he said, his deep-black eyes burning with hope and pride. “There should be an all-India council of chief ministers,” said he, raising his voice. “There are many issues that can be resolved by chief ministers but are complicated by the Centre.”He expects the council of southern chief ministers to set the pace of events by following up the Krishna waters accord with several others relating to borders, rivers, electricity sharing and meeting one another’s urgent foodgrain requirements. Above all, he expects the four southern states to act together to wrest from the big jaws of the Centre larger slices of finance to fuel the currently slow-motion engine of development.Historic Process: I f the politically disparate southern states can cooperate to resolve regional problems and quicken the south’s development, this will provide precedents that might help the opposition elements to learn more effectively the gentle and subtle arts of coalition. In any case, southern regional cooperation, NTR believes, will act as a catalyst for the next phase of Indian politics. He has already decided to open Telugu Desam “windows” in Delhi and Bombay, in the Hindi belt as well as in Calcutta.The south is coming to the north in a big way for the first time in India, reversing a historical process. But neither NTR nor his men see this as a north-south polarisation in Indian politics. On the contrary, they see this as a new catalyst for stronger and deeper national integration – both vertically and horizontally.Meanwhile, N.T. Rama Rao is thoroughly enjoying the new role in which destiny has cast him. For once he is the producer, director, script-writer and hero of a real-life film; he has the studio floor entirely under his command.The saffron Caesar tries to fathom the turns and twists of theatre to which he is new. He must rewrite the script, improvise the lines, find actors who are adequate for the numerous new roles that come up from nowhere. Shooting has just begun. The director-actor has no idea where it will end, or when or how.last_img read more