Archive for the Hacking Category


| September 21st, 2011

Many a times I’ve stared at Explored Flickr Photos and tried grokking its artistic nuances. Due to lack of artistic sensibility, at times I fail to understand the techniques or properties that the photographer used or intended to capture. But the Flickr community is brimming with experts who often chime in about what they like/see in comments. My #nlproc hack (for the upcoming Yahoo! Winter Hackday) aims to solve this by summarizing this expert knowledge (wisdom of crowd) for a photograph.

What You Comment Is What You See (WYCIWYS) is a Flickr hack that harnesses the comments of photos to determine the attributes/properties of the photo that people are talking about. It also gives a sentiment score (+ve) for each attribute to help a user gauge what other users find most interesting about a photo. Following are some outputs for WSCIWYS (click to zoom):

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what the bleep!

| March 4th, 2011

Profanity is often prevalent in user generated content (like comments). Websites that do not want to display such profane comments/content currently employ masking as a solution to get rid of profanity. Masking replaces the profanity in the content with characters like ####. The masked content still though conveys the existence of profanity to the user. Humans have built up a great language model to infer missing words. Try it yourself – it should be easy for you to guess a bunch of profanity words for the following sentence:

What the ####!

My hack (Bleep) for the Yahoo! Spring ’11 Hackday is yet another natural language hack that tries to remove the profanity from a comment without altering the semantics of the content. In brief, removing the profanity word from the content makes the parse tree less probable. The algorithm tries to alter this improbable parse tree to find the best local parse tree.

Following are some corrections suggested by Bleep:

`Fact`orize Your Search

| August 14th, 2009

Dygest and a hackday later, @sudheer_624 and I (@semanticvoid) are back with ‘dfacto’, codename for our latest search hack for Yahoo! Hackday Summer 2009.

I think that search is undergoing a paradigm shift – its no longer about who presents the best ten blue links but now more about presenting the answers upfront. Dfacto (pronounced as ‘de facto‘, Latin for ‘by [the] fact‘) is aimed at addressing this issue. A large percentage (nearly 68%) of queries are informational queries – one where the searcher knows what she’d like to do or find but does not know how this can be achieved. Dfacto is aimed primarily at addressing this class of queries by presenting a set of facts associated with the query/topic to the searcher. It uses natural language algorithms to get facts that are most “semantically” related to the query. In lay terms, it literally tries to understand your query and the results. I’ll save the algorithmic details for another post. The few examples below show how it works:

Disclaimer: This is a work in progress, so you might notice a few ‘facts’ that are irrelevant to the query.

Lets say the searcher is (losing hair and) looking for causes of hair loss. Normally he/she would need to click through a bunch of links to get an overview on the causes. This hack on the other hand makes life a bit easier by presenting the causes upfront (click to enlarge):

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'hair loss cause'

Along with the facts, we also list the source from where it was extracted. Alternatively, the searcher can also select a bunch of facts he/she thinks are relevant and refine the search. This in turn would yield a new set of ‘web results’ along with new refined and related ‘facts’.

Another example (one which I particularly like) is a query about ‘table manners’. This precisely lists a set of etiquette’s to follow at the table (click to enlarge).

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'table manners'

Alternatively, Dfacto also serves well as a product research tool. A query for ‘iphone 3gs’ yeilds (click to enlarge):

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'iphone 3gs'

On another note, if you have a date in the coming weeks you might be interested in reading the list below (:

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'first date tips'

Happy hacking!

Dygest Your Search

| March 19th, 2009

Update: This hack won the coveted ‘Search’ category award.

For the last couple of days, I and @sudheer_624 have been busy working on this hack for a Yahoo! Hackday. Although still a prototype, the hack has turned out to be interesting so we thought of putting it out for others to play around with.

Dygest (pronounced as ‘digest’ – thanks to @bluesmoon) is aimed at changing the conventional way of displaying search context via a snippet to a more informative, machine generated document summary. There two kinds of relevance for evaluating search results:

  • Vertical relevance: determined by the ranking algorithms.
  • Horizontal relevance: the contextual information made available to the user about the result – Searchmonkey is a good initiative on this front.

The current way of displaying this context is via a snippet of text under every result. This snippet shows the neighborhood of the occurrence of the query terms. Usually this information is not rich enough for a searcher to make the right judgement about the result. This causes the searcher to switch back and forth between the documents and the search results if the the page is not relevant. This can be frustrating at times.

Dygest aims to solve this by either replacing or enhancing the current search snippet with a summary of the result page. At its core lies a summarization engine which figures out what the *real* content of the page is (distinguishing it from the other junk like surrounding text, navigational text, comments etc) and then performs text summarization on this content. The summary of the page is then displayed to the user via the appropriate interface. How cool is that?

The user no longer needs to click on irrelevant links. He/She can perceive the theme/important facts of the page from right within the results page. The other advantage of this is that it gives the user a good overview of the query topic – he no longer needs to spend time reading many long documents but rather read a few summaries from the top results to get a good overview of the subject. This is particularly well suited for mobile devices where its frustrating to switch back and forth between pages and the search results. This is also fit for news articles where we just need the important facts about the story.

Well, here is an example to convince you. A search for ‘Carol Bartz’ yields the following result which at the first glance is not at all informative.

Enhancing the existing view with an abstract of the page helps gauge the content and theme of the document. This would now look like:

Dygest outputs the following summaries for the query ‘Iran‘ restricted to Yahoo! News:

And following for ‘Obama stimulus plan‘:

Currently, Dygest has two interfaces – (1) a search interface powered by yahoo boss and (2) a searchmonkey plugin. Its just a prototype so be kind and don’t be too judgmental.

Start dygesting here.