Twine is targeted straight at groupware and knowledge-management apps
that have mostly been confined to enterprise installations, and opening
that up to a broader base of consumers. The startup has raised $5
million from Paul Allen, Peter Rip, Ron Conway in April, 2006, and has
done work for DARPA.
CEO Nova Spivack took me through a demo. On the surface, Twine is a
place to organize information you find or create on the Web—bookmarks,
notes, videos, photos,contacts, tasks. (A Web browser plug-in makes it
easy to save stuff to your Twine wherever you may find it on the Web). You
can also share that information with a private group or publicly. Once
you ingest in all the information you want to organize, Twine applies a
semantic analysis to it that creates tags for each document or video or
photo. The tags match up to concepts that Twine’s algorithms associate
with each piece of content, regardless of whether that concept is
specifically mentioned in the Web page or other content being tagged.
For example, you might bookmark this post and Twine would create tags
for all the people mentioned in it (Nova Spivack, Paul Allen, Peter
Rip, and Ron Conway). It would also create tags for the organizations
related to the post, such as Radar Networks and DARPA, but also Paul
Allen’s venture firm Vulcan Capital—even if Vulcan was never mentioned
in the post.
What Twine does is automatically generate smart tags and connect
them together. There is also a social element. If you share a Twine
with others, each piece of content that someone brings into that online
space is associated with that person. So when you do a search, the
results that come back are influenced not just by the tags, but also by
who put the information into the Twine in the first place. “It’s the
wisdom of crowds plus the wisdom of computers working together,” says
Spivack. The more closely related that person is to you, the higher the
relevance. At the same time, Twine is creating a very detailed profile
of your interests which it hopes to run highly targeted ads against.
Twine is putting structure onto all of this unstructured data that
is out there by analyzing it and adding tags to it that are connected
together. The network of links between these tags is something that
Spivack calls the “semantic graph,” which includes the “social graph”
that is made up only of those tags categorized as people. Bu the
semantic graph is bigger than that, comprising other tags such as
organizations, places, and other categories.
Rather than create a semantic index of the entire Web, which would
be a huge undertaking, Spivack is starting with just those parts of the
Web people feel are important enough to save in their collections. Then
he applies natural language processing and semantic indexing to just
that data. “If you just sucked in the whole Web,” he says, “you would
get stuff people didn’t want. Here we are looking at who thought it was
important and why.” It’s also cheaper to do it this way, since it’s a
more limited set of data that needs to be run through Twine’s semantic
Everything in Twine will become widgetizable and exportable
elsewhere. There will also be a full set of APIs. All the data will be
able to be taken in and out. Other search engines will be able to index
anything in a public Twine, along with the smart tags that have been
appended to the information there. “When you put stuff into Twine,”
says Spivack, “Twine enriches it, but you can take it out.” Of course,
all of those enriched tags will point right back to Twine. “We’re the
only place that can even see the connections between things,” says
Spivack. Well, not quite yet. People have to start using Twine first.
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