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From Babel to Knowledge - Data Mining Large Digital Collections (20 Mar 2006)
For the past three years I have been experimenting with how to provide such end-user tools that is, tools that harness the power of vast electronic collections while hiding much of their complicated technical plumbing. In particular, I have made extensive use of the application programming interfaces (APIs) the leading search engines provide for programmers to query their databases directly (from server to server without using their web interfaces). In addition, I have explored how one might extract information from large digital collections, from the well-curated lexicographic database WordNet to the democratic (and poorly curated) online reference work Wikipedia. While processing these digital corpuses is currently an imperfect science, even now useful tools can be created by combining various collections and methods for searching and analyzing them. And more importantly, these nascent services suggest a future in which information can be gleaned from, and sense can be made out of, even imperfect digital libraries of enormous scale. A brief examination of two approaches to data mining large digital collections hints at this future, while also providing some lessons about how to get there.
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