New Search Tool to Unlock Wikipedia
WOULD you like to ask Wikipedia tougher questions than today’s simple keyword searches allow? A prototype plug-in that can do just that will be demonstrated at the World Wide Web conference in Lyon, France, next month.
Called Swipe - loosely short for “searching Wikipedia by example” - the software aims to let users of the online encyclopedia answer complex questions that most search engines would stumble over. For example, trying to figure out “which actresses won academy awards when they were under 30 years old in the last 25 years?” becomes relatively simple when using the program.
To use Swipe, questions are not typed out in the form of the natural language above, but Swipe is nevertheless designed for everyday users: no knowledge of arcane database query languages is necessary, say the developers, Maurizio Atzori at the University of Cagliari, Sardinia, and Carlo Zaniolo at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The pair wrote Swipe using MediaWiki, the software Wikipedia is based on, but it draws its answers from DBpedia, an expansive collection of 3.6 million data entries harvested from Wikipedia’s pages. The data pop up in the info boxes on the right-hand side of Wikipedia entries, which list the details we use to describe the world, such as dates, prices, ages, heights, names, places, distances, bit rates, bytes, running times and geographical coordinates.
At a very basic level, Atzori and Zaniolo use this process in reverse: Swipe “activates” those Wikipedia info boxes, allowing users to take the data in them and create a tweaked version, and in doing so calls up pages that match that altered information. For example, says Atzori: “Imagine you want to search for all Wikipedia pages about singers from North America who are younger than 20.” With Swipe running, you go to an example of a known singer’s page - Lady Gaga’s, say - and in the “Born” field overwrite her age of 25 with “