Dal researchers develop bookmark tagging system

Technology aims to make it easier to share web bookmarks

Evangelos Milios and Marek Lipczak stand in front of their collaborative tagging system information poster. Photo: Andrew Kudel

Have you ever bookmarked a webpage and been unable to find it later when you really needed it?

A team of researchers from Dalhousie University has created a collaborative tag recommendation system that will help computer users organize and share bookmarks in an easier way.

The team, led by Marek Lipczak a third-year PhD student and Evangelos Milios, a professor with the Faculty of Computer Science at Dalhousie received two first-place and one third-place awards out of three categories at a European computing conference.

The competition was the 2009 Discovery Challenge Workshop hosted by the European Conference on Machine Learning and Principles and Practice of Knowledge Discovery in Databases.

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A screenshot of unews.ca being tagged by the collaborative tagging system (BibSonomy). Screenshot courtesy of Marek Lipczak

The research team behind the collaborative tagging system: Marek Lipczak, Yeming Hu, Yael Kollet and Evangelos Milios

The workshop consists of 22 teams of researchers from Europe, China, and the U.S. Dalhousie's was the only Canadian team to compete.

"The competition is part of one of the top conferences in machine learning and data mining. It's a European conference and Europe funds the area very well and it attracts teams from all over the world," says Milios.

The team set out to improve the user experience of managing and sharing bookmarks online through a system known as collaborative tagging.

The problem with current systems being used is that are not very convenient as they rely on user input to organize and describe bookmarks.

"The first thing is that it is time consuming and the other problem is that it is not so easy to give the best keywords from the top of your head when you add a bookmark," says Lipczak.

The team recognized that there was a niche that could be filled by their software.

"Our aim is to automatically propose a set of tags that would be useful for a certain resource or bookmark and then the user can select what tags to use," says Lipczak

Collaborative tagging systems such as delicious, flickr and BibSonomy allow people with like-minded interests to share bookmarks by becoming friends and subscribing to other users' profiles.

The new system allows users to do this simply by automatically tagging and assigning keywords to bookmarks or other online resources that are saved to a user's profile.

The new software created by the Dalhousie team could be very useful for the university community.

"The next step is that bookmarking web pages and assigning tags together actually capture human knowledge. The minor work is done by each a huge number of people who bookmark resources that are then tagged automatically creating a super encyclopedia of human interaction and knowledge," says Milios.

Another aspect of the software that makes it appealing to those doing research is the speed of collaborative tagging.

"The information in collaborative tagging system appears faster than it does in Google. When an interesting webpage is bookmarked and tagged, other users will have access to it faster than Google recognizes it in their keyword searches," says Lipczak.

The team sees  some challenges in making everything work. Being able to properly automatically recommend keyword tags can be difficult as people have varying interests but say they are well on their way to implementing the system in the real world.

"Our online tag recommendation system is public as a web service right now with BibSonomy. It is a fully functional system," says Lipczak.

The system has not gone unnoticed. There has been interest in the open source software from companies in China as well as from Kansas State University.

Lipczak and Milios are confident that the open source software will continue to grow and be improved.

"If people want to modify the code to make it more suitable for their own system they can come to us and we can make it work for them," says Lipczak.

 

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