Monday, August 09, 2010

Question Answering on the Web

Simplifying Question Answering on the Web by Raghu Anantharangachar and Srinivasan Ramani has been published as HPL-2010-92.
The growth of World Wide Web (WWW) has created a huge repository of information. However, this information repository can only be used by human beings. A person searching for a specific answer to a question can use the web to gather information from various web sites and other information repositories, and manually find out the answer to his question. While doing this, the user also has to understand the contents of each web site or repository, and interpret the data appropriately, as they might be in different formats and representations. Thirdly, the data on the web might be coming from various sources, and security and authenticity is an issue. The user needs to manually check the validity of the data sources, and use the data appropriately. Lastly, to derive answers to questions which need some factual data and some logical reasoning, the user needs to perform the reasoning himself. All these problems make it difficult for the na*ive user to easily obtain answers to his questions and use them for his purpose. We describe a solution to this problem of question answering in the yellow pages or e-commerce context. While we believe that the technology can be applied to other domains, we do not aim at a universal question answering system. We have explored a solution using semantic web techniques which support the creation of a huge machine processable information repository, through a Web 2.0 process, with the users contributing the effort and editors ensuring quality. The system has a simple interface through which vendors can create structured data in the form. Using ontologies standardizes the terminology and eliminates errors in interpretation and usage of terms. We have explored the use of simple and shallow reasoning where possible, to give inferred information in addition to explicitly stored information. Lastly, we describe a simple and intuitive user interface that is interactive. This tool enables the user to express his question in an unambiguous way. A very similar tool enables information contributors to enter information.

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