Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thinkbase: Mapping the World's Brain

If Freebase is an "open shared database of the world's knowledge," then Thinkbase (found via information aesthetics)
is a mind map of the world's knowledge. The interesting and incredibly
addictive Freebase visualization and search tool is the brainchild of
master's degree student Christian Hirsch at the University of Auckland.
Thinkbase is one of the cool proof of concept applications built on top
of Freebase that we mentioned last week.

As we've mentioned here on RWW, Freebase is best suited for complex
inferencing queries -- the type that expose relationships between
various entities to figure out an answer. Things like, "What's the name
of the actor who was in both "The Lord of the Rings" and "From Hell?"
(Answer: Ian Holm)

Thinkbase doesn't necessarily answer those questions -- at least not
directly, but it does allow people to visually explore the
relationships that Freebase can expose. Thinkbase employs the Thinkmap
visualization software to visually represent the semantic relationships
between objects on Freebase as an interactive mind map. Each object on
the map is represented by an icon that corresponds to the type of
object it is. For example, person, place, movie, song, or artwork.

The site uses a two-pane display, putting the relationship map in
the left pane, and the Freebase entry for the active node in the right
pane. Every node on a Thinkbase map and be expanded to see concepts
related to that object, or collapsed to clean the graph of
relationships you're unconcerned with. Every map you create can also be
linked to via a dynamic share URL.

Thinkbase is a really fun visual front end to the Freebase database
that exposes the semantic relationships that such a database can reveal
in a compelling way. Alex Iskold wrote last week
that the problem with semantic search is that we're asking the wrong
questions. Tools like Thinkbase can help us start to think about what
type of questions we should be asking by clearly showing the type of semantic relationships that databases like Freebase excel at finding

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