WinkNLP – a journey to open source



– In this talk, Graype co-founder, Sanjaya, will share:

  1. our transition from working with closed source to open source; 
  2. the journey in developing winkNLP, our developer-friendly, JavaScript library for Natural Language Processing (NLP); 
  3. the challenges we have mitigated and continue to address as the library grows and becomes more robust.

Background: our modest start with small packages — mostly around NLP, and what encouraged us to take a plunge to develop a comprehensive NLP tool:

  1. User feedback and community encouragement
  2. Application of our packages by a range of projects like Social Analyzer and Trustroots, among others
  3. Community role in transitioning licence to MIT from GPL
  4. Our focus on standards, quality and documentation

Beginning: in a landscape dominated by NLTK, spaCy and coreNLP, we began developing an integrated NLP product in late 2018 with the following objectives:

  1. light weight
  2. developer friendly
  3. balance between performance and accuracy
  4. support for pure browser side and server side

Journey: Sanjaya will highlight how with a team of 2½ people we met our objectives and addressed the roadblocks we faced:

  1. the difficulty in finding labelled data with permissive licences for training models;
  2. and our alternate approach, where we:
  3.  created language models using hierarchical finite state machines
  4.  used limited open source data and complemented them with manual efforts
  5. developing a declarative syntax to make winkNLP developer friendly
  6. meeting performance and accuracy benchmarks
  7. outcome — quick demo on web browser
  8. learning from user feedback

– Finally, Sanjaya will talk about where we are today and headed next, including our:

  1. Current challenges: sustaining an open-source project, and keeping pace with a fast-changing technological landscape; and
  2. Future plans: to extend winkNLP to more languages that use the Latin script, as well as Indian languages; and our efforts to nurture a community around the project.  

About the speaker

Sanjaya Kumar Saxena

Co-founder of Graype Systems, Sanjaya loves mathematics, algorithms and programming. Along with nurturing WinkJS — a collection of open source packages for NLP and Statistics, he is pursuing his dream of working with quantum computing. With his four decades of experience, Sanjaya has mentored technical teams at Airtel, Eicher, IFFCO, GE and IBM, among others. His work has received several awards, nationally and internationally, for projects that leveraged Process Automation, Analytics, IoT, and Connected Vehicles. Sanjaya’s research has been published by IEEE and European Association for Decision Making. He has also been a guest faculty at IIM Ahmedabad and Lucknow.

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