Toddling toward the semantic web: Two approaches

July 2012

Import into Mendeley

In this article I'll describe my experience with two semantic web tools that represent opposite ends of the use spectrum: Information Workbench (IWB) and Zemanta. IWB is a server product designed to help system architects in large organizations store, model, and visualize data from multiple RDF sources. Zemanta is a Web browser plug-in that helps publishers drive traffic to bloggers. Both give us a glimpse into the evolution of the semantic web, but they represent only baby steps on the way to a mature system.

Information Workbench
I became interested in Information Workbench because it's used by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for "dynamic semantic publishing." According to Michael Schmidt, BBC's Senior Architect for R&D, the tool supports the authoring, editing and publishing of metadata following an editorial workflow. It also helps to automatically generate content for sites such as the BBC 2012 summer Olympics coverage, enrich content using metadata, and analyze and visualize data from different sources.

click image to enlarge

IWB is described as a "self-service platform, making it easy for clients to develop Linked Data applications and perform enterprise analytics regardless of their prior experience with semantic technologies or languages." It's currently being used by three kinds of customers:

  • Data Management. Here the focus has been mainly on larger enterprises, but business-oriented subject matter experts can use the tool to improve internal IT operations processes.
  • Life Science. The tool can be applied in both large and medium-sized enterprises to support collaborative, data-intensive drug discovery processes.
  • Commercial publishing. This group uses the tool for automatic content generation, content enrichment using metadata, editing of semantic meteadata, and support for editorial approval processes.

Even though IWB is not being marketed to small publishers, I wanted to see how it would work to connect Montague Institute Review articles to other kinds of semantic data, such as that published by the New York Times. I hoped that the exercise would give me an insight into the state of semantic web technology in terms of utility and usability.


When I installed IWB I was looking for a tool similar to Zemanta that would:

Offer useful end user features out of the box. Zemanta is a tag and link suggestion tool for bloggers. Unlike IWB, which can be used for many applications in conjunction with other tools, Zemanta offers immediate benefits to end users. When creating or editing a blog post, the program makes it easy to add images, books, related articles, data, and tags to blog posts.

Created on 7/31/2012 l Updated on August 13, 2012