What is TextData?

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Background and Motivation

The TextData project (formally SeekNet, The Community Digital Library) began in the fall of 2022, and its original purpose was to support an information retrieval and ranking course assignment at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The original development was done by Kevin Ros, the TA at the time, who created a basic version of TextData to be used in the course. As the semester progressed, Kevin and his PhD advisor/course instructor, Dr. ChengXiang Zhai, realized that TextData could be generalized to a much more powerful online platform that could support numerous features, act as a sandbox for researching retrieval and recommendation, and allow the collection of various data sets to study user interactions. Since the fall of 2022, Kevin had led a team of developers, from the University of Illinois, under the supervision of Dr. Zhai, to build TextData into what you see here today. And TextData has become a central component in Kevin's PhD thesis.


The purpose of TextData depends on you and your goals:

  • As a user, ...
  • As a developer, ...
  • As a researcher, ...


TextData has been built on and has led to numerous publications and posters:

Our current and future research projects include many exciting directions, including contextual search, automatic content organization, content visualization, chatbot integration, and user studies. We are always looking for collaborators; if you would like to get involved, then please reach out to Kevin Ros at [email protected].


Creating an Account

You must make an account before you can begin using TextData. An account can be created here. Note that accounts made on the website will not work when running the the service locally through localhost, so you will need to create separate accounts.

Installing the Extension

The Chrome extension is available in the Chrome web store and can be installed from here. After installing, you will be able to log into your account that you created using the TextData website. The extension defaults to logging in users via the hosted version of TextData, so if you wish to use the extension with your local instance, then you will need to change the extension "Backend Source" setting.



The source code for TextData is available on GitHub. If you notice a bug or would like to add a feature, then we welcome pull requests. If you have an idea for a larger feature or structural change, then please reach out to Kevin Ros at [email protected].


We are always looking for collaborators across research disciplines. Whether it be information retrieval, recommendation, user studies, HCI, or any other area, please reach out to Kevin Ros at [email protected].

TextData is an online platform designed to remove the knowledge barriers of online information discovery by leveraging the collaboration of communities.



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