Topicmarks

“Our mission is to make long form content as easy and relevant as social media.”
–Topicmarks website

With the increasing popularity of cloud-based services for personal workflows, there is a parallel need for ways to organize that information. As part of my everyday workflow and information management routine, I use Evernote, Google Reader, Google Docs, DropBox, and a good number of locally stored files. I email files and links to myself frequently.  Each of these services is great in its own right, and I use them for different purposes and on different devices.  I use them for both personal and work-related information.

By the very nature of this workflow, I have created several silos I need to go to when I am ready to access information, and honestly, it’s not always easy to remember which silo something resides in. I have topics that span content in those different eco-systems, and it would be incredibly useful to have a centralized view into “everything I have saved or tagged on the topic of RDFa,” for example.

Enter Topicmarks.

Topicmarks has just released a new, free service that “automatically summarizes, indexes, and connects concepts from documents and news articles, allowing users to leverage their personal cloud.”  Topicmarks integrates Evernote and Google Reader with individual document upload and web clipping. Soon, the service will integrate Dropbox, Box.net and Google Docs.

Karl Dawson, Founder and CTO, says “The impetus behind Topicmarks is to build a tool that helps people cope with the globalization and democratization of information.  The problem goes beyond information overload.  We are dealing with the nature of knowledge and how we function in knowledge-based societies.  In particular, we are experiencing extraordinary volumes of knowledge at accelerating rates of change.”

Topicmarks has actually been around since early 2011, and CEO Peter Berger explains how the company has recently pivoted, “Previously, Topicmarks focused on how to identify the most important parts of an individual document. We talked to a lot of our customers and they told us ‘go where my documents are’ and ‘show me interconnections.’ Now, we are not only condensing the most important parts of individual documents, but interconnecting these documents across Cloud services and linking them with real-time news and feeds.”

Given my own workflow challenges, I’m giving Topicmarks a try. Following is a quick tour. The interface is very simple, particularly when considering what is being accomplished here.

With the click of an “Upload” button and one of the icons in the image above, the user can add content to her/his library. Content can also be added through a unique email address provided by Topicmarks. The content is then processed, giving the user various views and search capability across all documents in the library.

Once documents are loaded into the library, the user is presented with a UI that allows for search, index, and discovery. Some of the tools include an interactive word cloud and a dynamic index feature built around concepts that Topicmarks finds in the entire repository.

There is some powerful Semantic Tech under the hood as well. Peter Berger says, “We use a collection of semantic technologies. We leverage both deep and shallow NLP processing to extract data and use triples as a fundamental part of our data handling. We are also using a lot of graph theoretics; while not truly semantic, they help us find meaning within the fuzzy places in data.”

It remains to be seen how people will best use Topicmarks. In a way, the elegant simplicity leaves much of this to the imagination of the user. On their website, the Topicmarks team has listed some uses for the service, and they’ve suggested that Topicmarks “is a way for anyone with more than one cloud service to get more out of their documents.”

In discussing the funding of the company, Berger explains, “We raised an initial angel round lead by the founder of Mint.com Aaron Patzer in April. Right now, we are building up the product to showcase the potential of Topicmarks to as wide an audience as possible.”