Faceted Semantic Browser (FACTIC)

A tool for effective browsing of large structured information spaces.

Institution: Slovak University of Technology
Technologies used: Java, Sesame 1.2.2, Web Services
Inputs: Domain ontology, user input (restrictions)
Outputs: Domain ontology instances that meet user-defined restrictions.
Documentation: HTML, doc, JavaDoc

Addressed Problems

At present, the challenge of information processing is shifting from using closed and relatively small information spaces towards the use of open and comparatively large information spaces. One example of such an open information space is the domain of research articles.

However, the challenge of large open information spaces lies in providing a simple, yet effective way of finding, sorting and viewing relevant information. An effective means to accomplish these goals is the use of a faceted browser if the semantics of the information are known or if it is well structured. Classical faceted browsers are insufficient in providing efficient access to information due to the amount of available information. E.g. the number of available facets or the number of possible restrictions in individual facets is too high for users to comprehend and use effectively.


The basic principle of the faceted browser lies in the use of a classification ontology that describes important aspects of instances from a domain ontology, which are then used to define restrictions on the instances. The user can reduce the total number of displayed instances by enabling one or more restrictions thus decreasing the size of the visible information space. Individual restrictions can be further combined to form complex restrictions ultimately allowing the user to perform more precise queries.

One way to address the problems of information overload is the use of personalization and adaptation based on a user model. Adaptive selection and sorting of facets and facet restrictions with regard to the current user goals and preferences reduces information overload while adaptive link annotation provides guidance and improves user awareness of the visible information space.

We use Factic to adapt and present information about publications such as abstracts, authors, and author affiliations, article classification, topics and keywords. The user has the choice to either sort publications based on a single attribute or according to their relevance computed from the user model and search query. Users can choose from a variety of facets that narrow down presented publications based on their attributes such as the year of publication, author, author affiliation, publication type, subjects covered. Furthermore, the set of accessible facets and the order of individual facets and facet values (restrictions) is adapted to current user goals and preferences as defined by the user model.

Furthermore, a faced browser allows the user to perform the following (additional) operations:

  • Placing complex restrictions on instances
  • Sorting of instances
  • Comparing instances
  • Searching within a subset of instances with an external tool
Example of a faceted browser interface.

Example of the graphical user interface of Factic - our personalized faceted browser prototype.


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