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semanticus.info: Get the meanings of words

DerKeiler GmbH, Germany

DerKeiler GmbH has made the Internet project semanticus.info publicly available. This free website differs from existing dictionaries and encyclopedias in that it illustrates the relationships between terms as well as definitions of the words themselves.

The idea to develop semanticus came to me as I was searching for a word relating to the topic of finance. Although I found numerous definitions in the commonly known dictionaries, it was not clear which word was used in the context I was searching for.

This is precisely the approach that semanticus.info takes and in doing so, it does not try to compete with established dictionaries, but rather supplements them.

semanticus.info knows that 'Lisp' has several meanings, allows you to explore those meanings, and also displays words from several languages if you wish. semanticus.info knows that 'Lisp' has several meanings, allows you to explore those meanings, and also displays words from several languages if you wish.
Click image to enlarge

More than five million terms are not just briefly and succinctly explained, but the contexts in which the search term can be found are also presented in a clear manner.

If a search is done for the word 'Bacon', all the possible meanings of the word are explained. This way, the searcher can learn that besides being a type of food, there is also a monk, a philosopher and an asteroid named 'Bacon'. If a search is done for the word 'Bacon', all the possible meanings of the word are explained. This way, the searcher can learn that besides being a type of food, there is also a monk, a philosopher and an asteroid named 'Bacon'.
Click image to enlarge

When you read the detailed information about "bacon" as a kind of food, the definition here comes first followed by additional explanation that bacon is a part of a hog and, among other things, belongs to the category "meat." Furthermore, subcategories of the term are presented which show that bacon is used in Canadian cuisine and that there is an "International Bacon Day."

It is possible to quickly discover all the contexts associated with the search term, but the entries invite the reader to browse at length because semanticus.info makes reference to a vast amount of background information on the words, persons, places, businesses and so on.

A special aspect of the project is the application logic which underlies the website. In contrast to almost all other Web 2.0 pages, Common Lisp, a computer language originating from the field of artificial intelligence, was chosen to make the complexity of the website manageable.

The whole semantics.info infrastructure is built with Common Lisp - from building our knowledge base to generating the web front end.

We chose Common Lisp for several reasons:

  • It is a multi-paradigm language, so we were able to mix procedural, functional (thread-safe by design, testable) and object-oriented programming techniques.
  • The Common Lisp Object System especially, allowed us to hide nearly all implementation details in a very efficient way.
  • Naturally, we would never want to miss features like Closures and the Conditions and Restarts system.
  • The most important reason we chose Common Lisp is Macros. By implementing recurring tasks like (db-) class definitions as macros, we were able to save lots of code (and time).

We chose LispWorks because of its mature multiprocessing implementation and the broad range of supported libraries. But the most valuable feature for us is the delivery of an application as a stand-alone executable, which runs on our cluster nodes. The LispWorks compiler optimizes our application so efficiently, that the resulting binary is faster than every other application server we have used before.

About DerKeiler GmbH: Since 2001 the company has been developing and operating Internet projects for the general public. The most well-known project is derkeiler.com, one of the oldest and most extensive Usenet archives with many millions of visitors per month.

Ulrich Keil
Managing Director
DerKeiler GmbH

Links:
semanticus.info
derkeiler.com

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