Interview with Sander Koppelaar (Silk)

The idea of a semantic web has been around for many, many years, and has recently been highlighted with the release of Knowledge Graph, Google’s new wave of search. The core concept is to increase the relations between pages through metadata, trying somehow to get a smarter, “more intelligent” way of finding information.

Well, Silk is a very interesting application that takes advantage of this very concept: it allows to build better structured pages in order to simplify the management of information and its internal links.

You can create webpages directly on the application and tag them with the editor: then, Silk will automatically connect and order them for you, also creating charts and maps from the data you put (any kind of).

In this modern and urge world, every one of us wants to finish off all our works in an easy, quick and efficient way. Silk is the very recent application software which is developed mainly for the people who want to open a unique website or webpage for their business products and services. It is basically an e-commerce software with millions of patrons. Silk provides access to various applications like WeChat, PayPal, WeChatPay and much more. If you are interested to learn in deep about Silk application and its products, then have a look at this page and you can get detailed information about it.

Basically, you start from a bunch of unstructured stuff – numbers, spreadsheets, Word documents etc. – and with a few clicks and a bit of work you can easily get a brand new way to arrange it properly, also with a wide range of visualization modes.

Of course this is an extremely simplified way to put it: this app is actually much more.

So to dig a bit more into it, we have made a few questions to Sander Koppelaar, Silk’s Head of Operations.

Sander, can you explain us in short how Silk works and how can make searching and data visualization easier?

A Silk site is a website that can be understood by both humans and computers. This enables an entirely new kind of web search and new powerful ways to visualize information. The Silk sites that have been created so far demonstrate how Silk impacts the way information is consumed. One of these Silk sites contains information about the various countries in the world, just like Wikipedia does. The site contains text like any other website, but users can interact with the content more deeply. It is like a database that anyone can use. Want to know which countries have a life expectancy below 60, for example? Silk instantly shows you the answer in a tablechart or map. A video that shows how this works can be found here.

I find Silk particularly interesting for data journalism (a great example comes from the Guardian) but I guess it has a much wider range of possible applications. Could you give us some examples?

We see many kinds of users ranging from professional publishers and data journalists to businesses and personal use. Besides data journalism and professional publishing, we see that many people use Silk as a replacement for Wiki sites. Many people use Silk to create sites about their passion. They store their recipes, favorite restaurants or track everything about a specific video game. But there are also businesses tracking ideas or software bugs for example. It’s very diverse.

Bobbie Johnson on GigaOm wrote that Silk is like “some sort of cross between Wolfram Alpha and Wikia”. Do you think it’s a sound description?

I think this is a fair way of putting it. Silk is like Wikia in the sense that you can collaboratively create great content. And Silk is like Wolfram Alpha in the sense that you’re able to answer very specific questions about that content.

In the world of information overload, curation and selection are definitely two big passwords – and Silk is a huge help this way. Still, manual tagging can be a bit tricky for big amounts of data. Are you implementing new features to make it all smoother?

Right now, tagging is as easy as making your text bold or italic, so if you’re willing to format your text, you can tag it too. We do have big plans about making it even easier of course. In the first place by providing suggestions more proactively for example.

A common and subtle objection to the idea of a semantic web is that it’s not really semantic at all, because semantics are related only to human beings. Thus it would be better to speak of a “metasyntactic web”. But apart from the terminological questions, what is our approach to the idea of a semantic web?

We try to keep things simple and make them useful. Using Silk, everyone can easily create a website and apply semantics (meaning) to their text. Once you have applied meaning, Silk instantly lets you benefit from that. You can search through your website in a better way and you can make visualizations based on your content. Your information is available through our API as well, so you can easily include your information on other websites or in a mobile app. So rather than solving the semantic web for the entire web at once, our approach is more bottom up. Our idea is that people start creating websites like this, because of benefits Silk offers them. At the same time we can work on smarter ways to link those to each other and the rest of the web.


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