To liberate content from content containers; to unlock knowledge and the expression of ideas from the files in which they are created. We want to emancipate content, enable it to be fungible, reusable, traceable and open to AI. We want to eliminate the time wasted on re-creating content, just because it cannot be found or is held in an incompatible format. We want to enable content creators to focus on those areas where they have something unique to say, and to empower readers to directly control the content that they consume. We want to bring intelligence to content, and use knowledge about knowledge to fuel new ways of communicating, sharing and learning.
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Semlr grew out of a tool chain created by Mallon Associates, a specialist technology training and technical writing company, to automate the creation of course books and reference material.
Much of Mallon Asssociates' courseware is based on PowerPoint™; which is highly effective for building presentations and course chapters (slides are pictures and notes are the story), but has no facilities to combine such presentations into multi-part books. Using various scripting and automation techniques, the tool chain resolved this by allowing multiple files to be combined to form a course.
Opus extended the ideas in the tool chain with a new concept, to build documents in the same way that developers build software. First create a library of reusable components (presentations), and then create documents by programmatically collating content from the library. This allowed incredible levels of reuse, where the same source presentations might find themselves used in dozens of different documents.
In addition, Opus separated the notion of a document specification, which identifies the topics chapters, appendicies, glossaries, etc.; from document rendering, which defines the output format. Content which may have started life as a bunch of PowerPoint™ files, was now assembled, organised and output in rich PDF, ePub and web formats.
The problem with Opus was that you needed to be a programmer to use it! Documents were defined in an XML language, and the processing took place on the Unix command line. To resolve this the Storyboard was created, a web application that allows any user to assemble content and create documents with little more than drag-n-drop. The documents (including web and twiki sites) could then be downloaded and installed where they were needed.
As soon as people started using the Storyboard it was clear that we needed something else: persistence. Users didn't want to have to download their content and documents, they wanted people to be able to consume them directly online. They wanted facilities for search, permissioning, navigation, sharing and tracking; and they wanted the ability to change source content, and have any dependent documents automatically updated.
After another year of development, Semlr was released as an enterprise content management platform, building on the functionality and requirements for the Storyboard.
Semlr takes a whole new approach to enterprise collaboration in which content is king, moving away from files (which tend to limit the accessibility and granularity of reuse), and away from hierarchical file systems (which limit the way content may be organised). Separated from such traditional containers, Semlr's liberated content is far more malleable, reusable and amenable to intelligent processing.