The Rise of Named Entity-based Applications

Named Entity (NE) technology has gained momentum in the information world. Let’s take a look at two innovative applications:

NE-Powered News Aggregation

(actors: Daylife, TextMap, EMM NewsExplorer, Kipcast, etc.)

News aggregation dates back to early academic demos NewsBlaster and NewsInEssence. Then, two major commercial services were launched by a small company and a big player (see if you can tell which one is which): Topix.net and Google News.

The new generation of news aggregation platform is powered by named entity recognition. NEs are the heart and soul of news: NEs are the who, the when, and the where. A lot of information can be analyzed using NEs, just think about plotting the popularity of entities over time and generating geospatial heat maps (take a look at TextMap for instance). However, the main improvement to traditional news aggregation brought by NEs is how they connect between people and things.

DayLife is exactly about NE connections and, as a bonus, it has an elegant Web interface. For instance, there is news on the front page about Glaxo (a pharmaceutical company) defending the virtues of Avandia (a diabetes drug). In the connections, we find the FDA (government regulator), David Nathan (a diabetes specialist), Henry Waxman (the politician who announces the hearing), and so forth. It is an ultra-summary; a starting point for analysis; news extracted from its static media and connected to the world.

NE-Powered People Search

(actors: ZoomInfo, Spock, Wink, etc.)

Are you googling your colleagues, your date, your boss, your old friends, or even yourself? We are all doing it! And what we find is ambiguous. My homonym writes sick poems, my colleague was a governor in the late 1890’s, and this guy I wanted to hire published weird photos on Flickr – or was that someone else?

NE-Powered people searches are all about resolving this ambiguity, a problem known as “personal name disambiguation“. ZoomInfo clusters person and generates profiles specifying past employment, education, and geographic location. But let’s be honest, this is a very difficult problem! That’s why ZoomInfo often gets mixed up. Spock offers $50K to whoever can send them the best disambiguation algorithm.

As Aldous Huxley said, “the author of the Iliad is either Homer or, if not Homer, somebody else of the same name”.

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