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Detect and visualize text reuse within collections of plain text or XML documents.

Intertext combines machine learning with interactive data visualizations to surface intertextual patterns in large text collections. The text processing is based on minhashing vectorized strings, and the web viewer is based on interactive React components.

App preview


This application uses MongoDB as a database. You can install and start MongoDB on OSX with the following:

brew install mongodb
brew services start mongodb

For Ubuntu 16.0.4 LTS:

sudo apt install mongodb
sudo systemctl start mongodb

This app also uses Node.js as a web server. You can install Node on OSX with the following command:

brew install node

For Ubuntu 16.0.4 LTS:

sudo apt install nodejs
sudo apt install nodejs-legacy  

(The last of these ensures /usr/bin/node actually calls /usr/bin/nodejs, which is required for the version of webpack used here.)


Once the dependencies outlined above are installed, you can run:

# clone the application source code
git clone

# install the Python dependencies
cd intertext && pip install -r requirements.txt --user

# install the node dependencies
npm install --no-optional

# detect reuse in the included sample documents
python intertext/

# start the web server
npm run production

If you open a web browser to localhost:7092, you will be able to browse discovered intertexts.

Discovering Text Reuse

To discover text reuse in your own text files, install the app dependencies (see above), then replace the files in data/texts with your text files and replace the metadata file in data/metadata with a new metadata file. Make sure your new text files and metadata files are in the same format as the sample text and metadata files.

Once your files are in place, you can identify intertexts in the data by running:

npm run detect-reuse

After processing your texts, you can examine the discovered text reuse by running:

npm run production

Then navigate to localhost:7092 and search for an author or text of interest.


config.json controls the way Intertext discovers text reuse in your corpus. The only required fields are infiles and metadata, though several other options may be specified to override the defaults:

Field Default Remarks
infiles None Glob path to files to be searched for text reuse
metadata None Path to the metadata file describing each input file
max_cores cpu_count - 2 Maximum number of cpu cores to use
window_size 14 Words in each window. Increase to find longer matches
step 4 Words to skip when sliding each window
xml_tag False XML node from which to extract input text (if relevant)
encoding utf8 The encoding of the input documents
same_author_matches True Store matches where source author == target author?
mongo_host localhost The host on which Mongo is running
mongo_port 27017 The port on which Mongo is running
db intertext The db in which Mongo will store results
*n_permutations 256 Increasing this raises recall but lowers speed
*hashband_length 4 Increasing this lowers recall but raises speed
*min_similarity 0.65 Increasing this raises precision but lowers recall
* = essential analytic parameter

Providing a value for one of the files above will override the default value.

Sample config.json file:

  "infiles": "data/texts/*.txt",
  "metadata": "data/metadata/metadata.json",
  "max_cores": 8,
  "min_similarity": 0.75


Each corpus must also have a metadata.json file that details metadata for each input file. Each input file should have one top-level key in the metadata file, and each of those keys can have any or all of the following optional attributes (example below):

Field Remarks
author Author of the text
title Title of the text
year Year in which text was published
url Deeplink to a remote server with the text (or related materials)
image Image of the author in src/assets/images/authors or on remote server

All metadata fields are optional, though all are expressed somewhere in the browser interface.

Sample metadata.json file

  "34360.txt": {
    "author": "Thomas Gray",
    "title": "An Elegy wrote in a Country Churchyard.",
    "year": 1751,
    "url": "",
    "image": ""
  "37519.txt": {
    "author": "Anonymous",
    "title": "Elegy written in Saint Bride's Church-Yard.",
    "year": 1769,
    "url": "",
    "image": "src/assets/images/authors/default-headshot.jpg"

Running on a Compute Cluster

If you have access to a multi-host compute cluster (a.k.a. a supercomputer), you can run intertext jobs by creating a number of jobs and passing host_id and host_count to the intertext process. The first of these arguments should identify the index value of the given job, and the second should identify the total number of jobs that will run. For example, to run 75 jobs on a Sun Grid Engine queueing system that uses module as a dependency manager, one can submit the following job file:

#$ -N job-name
#$ -o output.log
#$ -t 1-75:1
#$ -r y
source ~/.bash_profile
module load python/3.6.0
python3 intertext/ -host_id=${SGE_TASK_ID} -host_count=75

This can be submitted with qsub where FILENAME refers to the name of the bash file with the content above. Each of those intertext processes will receive a unique job integer--{1:75} according to the -t argument provided--as sys.argv[1] and the total number of jobs as sys.argv[2].

Please note all jobs will need to finish a task before any job moves on, so you should only submit a number of jobs equal to the number you can expect to run at the same time on the compute cluster.

Deploying on AWS

The following covers steps you can take to deploy this application on an Amazon Linux AMI on AWS.

While creating the instance, add the following Custom TCP Ports to the default security settings:

Port Range Source Description
80, ::/0 HTTP
443, ::/0 HTTPS
27017, ::/0 MongoDB

After creating and ssh-ing to the instance, you can install all application dependencies, process the sample data, and start the web server with the following commands.

sudo yum update -y
sudo yum groupinstall "Development Tools" -y

# Node

curl -o- | bash
. ~/.nvm/
nvm install 6.10.0
node -v

# Mongo

sudo touch /etc/yum.repos.d/mongodb-org-3.4.repo
sudo vim /etc/yum.repos.d/mongodb-org-3.4.repo

# paste the following:
name=MongoDB Repository

sudo yum install -y mongodb-org
sudo service mongod start
sudo chkconfig mongod on

# Python dependencies

sudo yum install libxml2-devel libxslt-devel python-devel -y

# accept the license agreement and default install location
source ~/.bashrc
which conda

# create a virtual environment for your Python dependencies
conda create --name 3.5 python=3.5
source activate 3.5

# obtain app source and install Python dependencies
git clone
cd intertext
pip install -r requirements.txt --user

# Intertext

# install node dependencies
npm install

# process texts
npm run detect-reuse

# start the server
npm run production

After running these steps (phew!), you should be able to see the application at http://YOUR_INSTANCE_IP:7092. To make the service run on a different port, specify a different port in server/config.json.

To forward requests for http://YOUR_INSTANCE_IP to port 7092, run:

sudo iptables -t nat -A PREROUTING -p tcp --dport 80 -j REDIRECT --to-ports 7092

Then users can see your application at http://YOUR_INSTANCE_IP without having to state a port.


Detect and visualize text reuse





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