December 12, 2014

Turning Data into Information by Using Context

Posted in Content Management, Databases, Digital Libraries tagged at 5:16 pm by mknight1130

How can you search data from multiple databases when the terminology may be different? For example, you may type in “Python” in Google. Are you a techie who is interested in the programming language python or a parent who would like to find out when the python exhibit opens in the local zoo? How can a computer tell the difference between the two contexts? You will find, below, how this issue is being addressed.

A community called the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has been trying to come up with standards, mainly for web sites.  The W3C has generated a Data Activity ( group to develop standards and vocabularies, in part to improve interoperability between data base terms. Since the W3C Data Activity group addresses how to connect terms from different sources, I think this will also apply to your issue.

A couple of frameworks allow for interchange between many different databases by describing concepts and the relationship of the concepts. I think also these schemas allow for defining contextual constraints. The frameworks consist of RDF and RDF Schemas, SKOS, OWL, RIF.

While standard vocabulary is a starting place, of course, development tools are needed to allow for different database terminologies to work together. A list of development languages that would be helpful can be searched from the W3 Tools- Semantic Web Standards site ( There are over 300 tools. A tool that has had some positive press and was introduced at an O’ Reilly conference, is SPARQL( .

Let us say that you don’t have the time or resources to look at connecting databases by scratch. I recommend that you look at DSpace or . The MIT libraries have developed a digital archive of materials. In part, the institute has come up with a way of connecting search vocabularies and contexts, easier. You could also find services available to help you get going. Dura-Space is an open technology project to provide guidance in using D-Space. However you need to foster research and be open source, DuraSpace.Org ( may be an option. I think these folks offer free consulting in using DSpace.

For the average user who wants to make searching the web easier, you may wish to try Context Miner ( Funded by a National Science Foundation grant, Context Miner automatically crawls some specific websites and gets contextual data. You use context miner to set the context and the terms through a campaign. Context Miner uses these parameters to get you the relevant information and looks beyond the literal.

As you can see from the text above, you can find several tools to make your searching and database-integration easier. These put the context in data. Also stay tuned. You will find an exciting future making data more meaningful and searching more integrated.


January 14, 2013

Technical Writing Tools

Posted in Content Management, writing tagged at 1:27 am by mknight1130

Technical writers need flexible tools to collaborate with their peers and to ensure their words reach readers. No longer do writers and readers confine content to a piece of paper. They interact with content and reuse it in a variety of contexts. To meet these demands, a technical writer requires a good content management system. Confluence and Framemaker are examples of two such applications.

Confluence, created by Atlassian, combines desktop editing  functionality with dynamic capabilties to interact with other team members. Confluence users can edit documents quickly by using macros to replace content and to automatically upload documents. Writers use Confluence to keep the look and feel throughout a set of documents and to pull excerpts from one section or file format to another.  This tool allows content to remain fluid and usable among different types of content, while still maintaining the overall integrity of the document. Confluence power allows more than one writer to edit a document while maintaining the changes from each. Writers can use confluence to assign and manage tasks, obtain comments from their peers, contribute feedback, and track their content evolution. Confluence allows team members to search for particular content and task status while notifying others of updates. Writers can use this tool to look up technical requirements, forming the backbone of help content. Confluence users will find a power and ease in writing about and accessing technical knowledge.

Framemaker , produced by, uses XML (Extensible Markup Language) and DITA (Darwin Information Technical Architecture) to define and use content elements. Content from one document can be searched and applied to a different context, such as a pop-up from hovering over an image. Through XML and DITA, Framemaker enables the writer to specify a hirearchy of elements, allowing for consistency among descriptions and content placement. Readers in return, can easily access documentation through a variety of media, including cell phones and Kindles. Moreover, Framemaker authors can upload a variety of media, including videos and images, to enhance their writing, making content dynamic. Content, created through Framemaker, can be transferred easily across different file formats and documentation structures, while maintaining consistent terminology.

Framemaker and Confluence provide technical writers tools to make content dynamic and accessible by a wide audience.