Factual’s Crosswalk API
Factual, which is mining the web for knowledge using a variety of web mining methods, has released an API in the local space which aims to expose, for a specific local entity (e.g. a restaurant) the places on the web that it is mentioned. For example, you might find for a restaurant its homepage, its listing on Yelp, its listing on UrbanSpoon, etc.
This mapping between entities and mentions is potentially a powerful utility. Given all these mentions, if some of the data changes (e.g. via a user update on a Yelp page) then the central knowledge base information for that entity can be updated.
You can try out the system at this demo site.
There are many challenges in this enterprise. Perhaps most importantly, there is the central issue of matching records. While there are obvious scale and performance concerns (do you really want to match 10 million Yelp entities against 10 million Yelp entities?) the key problem is, when comparing two records determining not if they are identical statements but if they are statements about the same real world entity. This is a challenge because the ‘truth’ about that entity may change – phone numbers change, addresses change and even names change. This can be particularly troubling with high density chain brands like Starbucks.
Browsing through the data on Factual’s demo site, I came across many cases where this matching was overly aggresive (what we call over matches – statements about multiple real world entities being conflated onto a single entity)
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