Archive for the ‘Navigation’ Category

BBC Trials Something Topic Map-Like

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

BBC trials a way to explain complex backstories in its shows by Nick Summers.

From the post:

Most of the BBC’s programming is only available for 30 days on iPlayer, so trying to keep up with long-running and complicated TV shows can be a pain. Want to remember how River Song fits into the Doctor Who universe, but don’t have the DVD box sets to hand? Your best option is normally to browse Wikipedia or some Whovian fan sites. To tackle the problem, the BBC is experimenting with a site format called “Story Explorer,” which could explain storylines and characters for some of its most popular shows. Today, the broadcaster is launching a version for its Home Front radio drama with custom illustrations, text descriptions and audio snippets. More importantly, the key events are laid out as simple, vertical timelines so that you can easily track the show’s wartime chronology.

With three seasons, sixteen interlocking storylines and 21 hours of audio, Story Explorer could be a valuable resource for new and lapsed Home Front fans. It’s been released as part of BBC Taster, a place where the broadcaster can share some of its more creative and forward-thinking ideas with the public. There’s a good chance it won’t be taken any further, although the BBC is already asking on its blog whether license fee payers would like an “informative, attractive and scalable” version “linked through to the rest of the BBC and the web.” Sort of like a multimedia Wikipedia for BBC shows, then. The broadcaster has suggested that the same format could be used to support shows like Doctor Who, Casualty, Luther, Poldark, Wolf Hall and The Killing. It sounds like a pretty good idea to us — an easy way for younger Who fans to recap early seasons would go down a storm.

This is one of those times when you wonder why you don’t live in the UK? Isn’t the presence of the BBC enough of a reason for immigration?

There are all those fascists at the ports of entry, so say nothing of the lidless eyes and their operators that follow you around. But still, there is the BBC, at the cost of living in a perpetual security state.

Doesn’t the idea of navigating through a series with links to other BBC and one presumes British Library and Museum resources sound quite topic map like? Rather than forcing viewers to rely upon fan sites with their trolls and fanatics? (sorry, no pun intended)

Of course, if the BBC had an effective (read user friendly) topic map authoring tool on its website, then fans could contribute content, linked to programs or even scenes, at their own expense, to be lightly edited by staff, in order to grow viewers around BBC offerings.

I suspect some nominal payment could be required to defray the cost of editing comments. Most of the people I know would pay for the right to “have their say,” even if the reading of other people’s content was free.

Should the BBC try that suggestion, I hope it works very well for them. I only ask in return is that they market the BBC more heavily to cable providers in the American South. Thanks!

For a deeper background on Story Explorer, see: Home Front Story Explorer: Putting BBC drama on the web by Tristan Ferne.

Check out this graphic from Tristan’s post:


Doesn’t that look like a topic map to you?

Well, except that I would have topics to represent the relationships (associations) and include the “real world” (gag, how I hate that phrase) as well as those shown.

The dynamics of correlated novelties

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

The dynamics of correlated novelties by F. Tria, V. Loreto, V. D. P. Servedio, and S. H. Strogatz.


Novelties are a familiar part of daily life. They are also fundamental to the evolution of biological systems, human society, and technology. By opening new possibilities, one novelty can pave the way for others in a process that Kauffman has called “expanding the adjacent possible”. The dynamics of correlated novelties, however, have yet to be quantified empirically or modeled mathematically. Here we propose a simple mathematical model that mimics the process of exploring a physical, biological, or conceptual space that enlarges whenever a novelty occurs. The model, a generalization of Polya’s urn, predicts statistical laws for the rate at which novelties happen (Heaps’ law) and for the probability distribution on the space explored (Zipf’s law), as well as signatures of the process by which one novelty sets the stage for another. We test these predictions on four data sets of human activity: the edit events of Wikipedia pages, the emergence of tags in annotation systems, the sequence of words in texts, and listening to new songs in online music catalogues. By quantifying the dynamics of correlated novelties, our results provide a starting point for a deeper understanding of the adjacent possible and its role in biological, cultural, and technological evolution.

From the introduction:

The notion that one new thing sometimes triggers another is, of course, commonsensical. But it has never been documented quantitatively, to the best of our knowledge. In the world before the Internet, our encounters with mundane novelties, and the possible correlations between them, rarely left a trace. Now, however, with the availability of extensive longitudinal records of human activity online1, it has become possible to test whether everyday novelties crop up by chance alone, or whether one truly does pave the way for another.

Steve Newcomb often talks about serendipity and topic maps. What if it is possible to engineer serendipity? That is over a large enough population, discover the subjects that are going to trigger the transition where “formerly adjacent possible becomes actualized[?].

This work is in its very early stages but its impact on information delivery/discovery may be substantial.

Piercing the Document Barrier

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

If you aspire to return more detailed search results than: “See this bundle of documents” to your users, you are talking about piercing the document barrier.

It’s a benefit to be able to search thousands of articles and get the top ten (10) or twenty (20) for some search but assuming an average of twelve (12) pages per article, I’m still left with between one hundred and twenty (120) and two hundred and forty (240) pages of material to read. Beats the hell out of the original thousands or hundreds of thousands of pages, but not be enough.

What if I could search for the latest graph research and the search results opted out of the traditional re-explanation of graphs that wastes space at the first of nearly every graph article? After all, anyone intentionally seeking out a published graph article probably has a lock on that detail. And if they don’t, the paragraphs wasted on explanation aren’t going to save them.

I mention that because the W3C‘s HTML Working Group has invited implementation of W3C DOM4.

From W3C Invites Implementations of W3C DOM4:

DOM defines a platform-neutral model for events and node trees.

I expect to see graph-based implementations out in force. Given the recent “discovery” by some people that graphs are “universal.” Having a single node is enough to have a graph under most definitions.

For your amusement from Glossary of graph theory

An edgeless graph or empty graph or null graph is a graph with zero or more vertices, but no edges. The empty graph or null graph may also be the graph with no vertices and no edges. If it is a graph with no edges and any number n of vertices, it may be called the null graph on n vertices. (There is no consistency at all in the literature.)

I don’t find the lack of “consistency” in the literature surprising.


Isaac Newton’s College Notebook

Monday, March 17th, 2014

College Notebook by Isaac Newton.

From the description:

This small notebook was probably used by Newton from about 1664 to 1665. It contains notes from his reading on mathematics and geometry, showing particularly the influence of John Wallis and René Descartes. It also provides evidence of the development of Newton’s own mathematical thinking, including his study of infinite series and development of binomial theorem, the evolution of the differential calculus, and its application to the problem of quadratures and integration.

This notebook contains many blank pages (all shown) and has been used by Newton from both ends. Our presentation displays the notebook in a sensible reading order. It shows the ‘front’ cover and the 79 folios that follow (more than half of them blank) and then turns the notebook upside down showing the other cover and the pages that follow it. A full transcription is provided. The notebook was photographed while it was disbound in 2011.

The video above provides an introduction to Newton’s mathematical thinking at the time of this manuscript.

The Web remains erratic but there are more jewels like this one than say ten (10) years ago.

Curious how you would link up Einstein’s original notes on gravity waves (Einstein Papers Project) with the recent reported observation of gravity waves?

Seems like that would be important. And to collate all the materials on gravity waves between Einstein’s notes and the recent observations.

More and more information is coming online but appears to be as disjointed as it was prior to coming online. That’s a pity.

I first saw this in a tweet by Steven Strogatz.

Steven also points to: What led Newton to discover the binomial theorum? Would you believe it was experimentation and not mathematical proofs?

Hmmm, is there a lesson for designing topic map interfaces? To experiment rather than rely upon the way we know it must be?

Spatial Orientation and the Brain:…
[Uni-Sex Data Navigation?]

Monday, March 11th, 2013

Spatial Orientation and the Brain: The Effects of Map Reading and Navigation by Rebecca Maxwell.

From the post:

The human brain is a remarkable organ. It has the ability to reason, create, analyze, and process tons of information each day. The brain also gives humans the ability to move around in an environment using an innate sense of direction. This skill is called spatial orientation, and it is especially useful for finding routes in an unfamiliar place, following directions to another person’s house, or making a midnight raid of the refrigerator in the dark. Spatial orientation is crucial for adapting to new environments and getting from one point to another. Without it, people will walk around in endless circles, never being able find which way they want to go.

The brain has a specialized region just for navigating the spatial environment. This structure is called the hippocampus, also known as the map reader of the brain. The hippocampus helps individuals determine where they are, how they got to that particular place, and how to navigate to the next destination. Reading maps and developing navigational skills can affect the brain in beneficial ways. In fact, using orientation and navigational skills often can actually cause the hippocampus and the brain to grow, forming more neural pathways as the number of mental maps increase.

A study by scientists at University College in London found that grey matter in the brains of taxi drivers grew and adapted to help them store detailed mental maps of the city. The drivers underwent MRI scans, and those scans showed that the taxi drivers have larger hippocampi when compared to other people. In addition, the scientists found that the more time the drivers spent on the job, the more the hippocampus changes structurally to accommodate the large amount of navigational experience. Drivers who spent more than forty years in a taxi had more developed hippocampi than those just starting out. The study shows that experience with the spatial environment and navigation can have a direct influence on the brain itself.

However, the use of modern navigational technology and smartphone apps has the potential to harm the brain depending on how it is used in today’s world. Map reading and orienteering are becoming lost arts in the world of global positioning systems and other geospatial technologies. As a result, more and more people are losing the ability to navigate and find their way in unfamiliar terrain. According to the BBC, police in northern Scotland issued an appeal for hikers to learn orienteering skills rather than relying solely on smartphones for navigation. This came after repeated rescues of lost hikers by police in Grampian, one of which included finding fourteen people using mountain rescue teams and a helicopter. The police stated that the growing use of smartphone apps for navigation can lead to trouble because people become too dependent on technology without understanding the tangible world around them.


Other studies demonstrate that men and women develop different methods of navigating and orienting themselves to the spatial environment because of differences in roles as hunters and gatherers. This could explain the reason why men get lost in supermarkets while women can find their way around in minutes. Research done at Queen Mary, University of London demonstrated that men are better at finding hidden objects while women are better at remembering where objects are at. In addition, Frank Furedi, a sociology professor at Kent University, states that women are better at making judgment calls while men tend to overcomplicate the most basic navigational tasks.

The use of map reading and navigating skills to explore the spatial environment can benefit the brain and cause certain areas to grow while the use of modern technology for navigation seems to only hinder the brain. No matter which strategy men and women use for navigation, it is important to practice those skills and tune into the environment. While technology is a useful tool, in the end the human brain remains the most sophisticated map reader.

Very interesting post on the impact of GIS systems on the human brain and gender differences in methods of navigation.

Question: Gender differences in navigation are more than folktales so why do we have uni-sex data navigation interfaces?

Infinite Jukebox plays your favorite songs forever

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

Infinite Jukebox plays your favorite songs forever by Nathan Yau.

From the post:

You know those songs that you love so much that you cry because they’re over? Well, cry no more with the Inifinite Jukebox by Paul Lamere. Inspired by Infinite Gangnam Style, the Infinite Jukebox lets you upload a song, and it’ll figure out how to cut the beats and piece them back together for a version of that song that goes forever.

Requires advanced web audio so you need to fire up a late version of Chrome or Safari. (I am on Ubuntu so can tell you about IE. In a VM?)

I tried it with Metallica’s Unforgiven.

Very impressive, although that assessment will vary based on your taste in music.

Would make an interesting interface for exploring textual features.

To have calculation of features and automatic navigation based on some pseudo-randomness. So you encounter data or text you would not otherwise have seen.

Many would argue we navigate with intention and rational purpose, but to be honest, that’s comfort analysis. It’s an explanation we use to compliment ourselves. (see, Thinking, Fast and Slow) Research suggests decision making is complex and almost entirely non-rational.

PivotPaths: a Fluid Exploration of Interlinked Information Collections

Saturday, October 20th, 2012

PivotPaths: a Fluid Exploration of Interlinked Information Collections

From Information Aesthetics:

PivotPaths [], developed by Marian Dörk and several academic collaborators, is an interactive visualization for exploring the interconnections between multiple resources. In its current demo rendition, the visualization is linked to an academic publication database, so one can filter for a specific research keyword or the name of an academic researcher.

PivotPaths was particularly designed in such a way that it should encourage users to “take a stroll” in terms of interacting with the information and serendipitously discovering patterns that are worthwhile. PivotPaths took its name through its prominent use of “pivot operations”: lightweight interaction techniques that trigger gradual and animated transitions between views.

More detailed information can be found here. PivotPaths was today presented at the IEEE Infovis 2012 conference in Seattle.

See the original post for the image that I mistook for a presentation from a topic map.

The need for information navigation has increased since the start of ISO 13250 and continues to do so.

Open Data Cooking: Data Visualization that You Can Eat

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Open Data Cooking: Data Visualization that You Can Eat

From the post:

The results of the long-awaited Open Data Cooking Workshop [] in Helsinki have been posted online. The workshop, organized by some very open-minded visualization fanatics, investigated new ways to represent data through the inherent characteristics of food, such as color, form, texture, smell, taste, nutrition or origin.

The workshop encouraged participants to express data in concrete, sensually experienceable food in order to gain insight into the constructions and relations of media. At the end of the workshop, an open data menu was created and publicly tasted.

I started to skip this post but then remembered eating in the Far East, where items on the menu appear in street windows.

Not text based navigation but navigation none the less.

Geometric properties of graph layouts optimized for greedy navigation

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Geometric properties of graph layouts optimized for greedy navigation by Sang Hoon Lee and Petter Holme.

The graph layouts used for complex network studies have been mainly been developed to improve visualization. If we interpret the layouts in metric spaces such as Euclidean ones, however, the embedded spatial information can be a valuable cue for various purposes. In this work, we focus on the navigational properties of spatial graphs. We use an recently user-centric navigation protocol to explore spatial layouts of complex networks that are optimal for navigation. These layouts are generated with a simple simulated annealing optimization technique. We compared these layouts to others targeted at better visualization. We discuss the spatial statistical properties of the optimized layouts for better navigability and its implication.

Despite my misgivings about metric spaces, to say nothing of Euclidean ones, for some data, this looks particularly useful.

If you had the optimal layout for navigation of a graph, how would you recognize it? Aside from voicing your preference or choice?

Difficult question but one that the authors are pursuing.

It may be that measurement of “navigability” is possible.

Even if we have to accept that hidden factors are behind the “navigability” measurement.

Giving People The Finger

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012

“Giving people the finger” is how I would headline:

In a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Perception, researchers at the universities of Exeter and Lincoln showed that biological cues like an outstretched index finger or a pair of eyes looking to one side affect people’s attention even when they are irrelevant to the task at hand. Abstract directional symbols like pointed arrows or the written words “left” and “right” do not have the same effect. Pointing a Finger Work Much Better Than Using Pointed Arrows

I don’t have access to the article but the post reports:

“Interestingly, it was only the cues which were biological — the eye gaze and finger pointing cues — which had this effect,” said Prof. Hodgson, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln. “Road sign arrows and words “left” and “right” had no influence at all. What’s more, the eyes and fingers seemed to affect the participants’ reaction times even when the images were flashed on the screen for only a tenth of a second.”

The authors suggest that the reason that these biological signals may be particularly good at directing attention is because they are used by humans and some other species as forms of non-verbal communication: Where someone is looking or pointing indicates to others not only what they are paying attention to, but also what they might be feeling or what they might be planning on doing next.

I think the commonly quoted figure for the origins of language/symbol manipulation is about 100,000 years ago. Use of biological clues, pointing, eye movement, is far older. That’s off the top of my head so feel free to throw in citations (for or against).

There would be a learning curve in collaboration to use this for UIs. The abstract in question reads:

Pointing with the eyes or the finger occurs frequently in social interaction to indicate direction of attention and one’s intentions. Research with a voluntary saccade task (where saccade direction is instructed by the colour of a fixation point) suggested that gaze cues automatically activate the oculomotor system, but non-biological cues, like arrows, do not. However, other work has failed to support the claim that gaze cues are special. In the current research we introduced biological and non-biological cues into the anti-saccade task, using a range of stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs). The anti-saccade task recruits both top – down and bottom – up attentional mechanisms, as occurs in naturalistic saccadic behaviour. In experiment 1 gaze, but not arrows, facilitated saccadic reaction times (SRTs) in the opposite direction to the cues over all SOAs, whereas in experiment 2 directional word cues had no effect on saccades. In experiment 3 finger pointing cues caused reduced SRTs in the opposite direction to the cues at short SOAs. These findings suggest that biological cues automatically recruit the oculomotor system whereas non-biological cues do not. Furthermore, the anti-saccade task set appears to facilitate saccadic responses in the opposite direction to the cues. Giving subjects the eye and showing them the finger: Socio-biological cues and saccade generation in the anti-saccade task

PolyZoom a New Tool to View, Study Graphics

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

PolyZoom a New Tool to View, Study Graphics

From the post:

Researchers have created a next-generation zoom function to view and compare portions of complex graphics such as scientific images, city maps or pages of text. The new tool, PolyZoom, makes it possible to simultaneously magnify many parts of a graphic without losing sight of the original picture.

“With standard programs, once you zoom in, you lose perspective and have to zoom out again to see that bigger picture,” said Niklas Elmqvist, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University. “This new tool maintains your perspective or orientation.”

The zoomed-in regions appear as separate pullout boxes displayed next to each other. These boxes, or “correlated graphics,” allow the user to see where the magnified viewpoints are located in relation to each other and the whole.

“The tool is useful if you are trying to compare different spaces on a map, like the city centers of two major metropolitan areas, segments of a Hubble Space Telescope picture or even pages in a lengthy document,” said Elmqvist, who is working with doctoral students Waqas Javed and Sohaib Ghani. “Say you are a historian looking at a large collection of scanned pages from a book. You might want to zoom into a particular page and read the words, or look at many pages at the same time and compare those.

Key point:

This new tool maintains your perspective or orientation.” (emphasis added)

When you think about it, that happens a lot, loss of perspective or orientation. In a reading context i would say I “lost” my place in the text.

Web browsers allow you to tab but that isn’t the same. Can open new “windows” but they are cluttered with all the navigation crap. Would be nice to have resizable panes with scroll bars that you could “pin” to locations on your screen. Seen anything like that recently?

You can see the paper on this technique:

Or try out a demo:

Open Specification Interactive Pivot

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Open Specification Interactive Pivot

Uses Sliverlight technology to provide navigation across most of Microsoft’s Open Specifications (more are coming).

I had to switch to my IE (version 8) browser to get it to work but I guess it really didn’t need a “best if viewed with IE * or later” warning label. 😉

Impressive work and not just for the search/browsing capabilities. The more such information becomes available, the easier it is to illustrate the varying semantics even within one corporate development domain.

Not that varying semantics is a bad thing, on the contrary, they are perfectly natural. But in some cases we may need to overcome them for particular purposes. The first step in that process is recognition of the varying semantics.


Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

DocumentLens – A Revolution In How Researchers Access Information & Colleagues

From the post:

Keeping up with the flood of scientific information has been challenging…Spotting patterns and extracting useful information has been even harder. DocumentLens™ has just made it easier to gain insightful knowledge from information and to share ideas with collaborators.

Praxeon, Inc., the award-winning Boston-based leader in delivering knowledge solutions for the Healthcare and Life Science communities, today announced the launch of DocumentLens™. Their cloud-based web application helps scientific researchers deal with the ever increasing deluge of online and electronic data and information from peer-reviewed journals, regulatory sites, patents and proprietary sources. DocumentLens provides an easy-to-utilize environment to enrich discovery, enhance idea generation, shorten the investigation time, improve productivity and engage collaboration.

“One of the most challenging problems researchers face is collecting, integrating and understanding new information. Keeping up with peer-reviewed journals, regulatory sites, patents and proprietary sources, even in a single area of research, is time consuming. But failure to keep up with information from many different sources results in knowledge gaps and lost opportunities,” stated Dr. Dennis Underwood, Praxeon CEO.

“DocumentLens is a web-based tool that enables you to ask the research question you want to ask – just as you would ask a colleague,” Underwood went on to say. “You can also dive deeper into research articles, explore the content and ideas using DocumentLens and integrate them with sources that you trust and rely on. DocumentLens takes you not only to the relevant documents, but to the most relevant sections saving an immense amount of time and effort. Our DocumentLens Navigators open up your content, using images and figures, chemistry and important topics. Storylines provide a place to accumulate and share insights with colleagues.”

Praxeon has created, a website devoted to the new application that contains background on the use of the software, the Eye of the Lens blog (, and a live version of DocumentLens™ for visitors to try out free-of-charge to see for themselves firsthand the value of the application.

OK, so I do one of the sandbox pre-composed queries: “What is the incidence and prevalence of dementia?”

and DocumentLens reports back that page 15 of a document has relevant information (note, not the entire document but a particular page), highlighted material included:

conducting a collaborative, multicentre trial in FTLD. Such a collaborative effort will certainly be necessary to recruit the cohort of over 200 FTLD patients per trial that may be needed to demonstrate treatment effects in FTLD.[194]

3. Ratnavalli E, Brayne C, Dawson K, et al. The prevalence of frontotemporal dementia. Neurology 2002;58:1615–21. [PubMed: 12058088]

4. Mercy L, Hodges JR, Dawson K, et al. Incidence of early-onset dementias in Cambridgeshire,

8. Gislason TB, Sjogren M, Larsson L, et al. The prevalence of frontal variant frontotemporal dementia and the frontal lobe syndrome in a population based sample of 85 year olds. J Neurol Neurosurg

The first text block has no obvious (or other) relevance to the question of incidence or prevalence of dementia.

The incomplete marking of citations 4 and 8 occurs for no apparent reason.

Like any indexing resource, its value depends on the skill of the indexers.

There are the usual issues, how do I reliably share information with other DocumentLens or even non-DocumentLens users? Can I and other users create interoperable files in parallel? Do we need or required to have a common vocabulary? How do we integrate materials that use other vocabularies?

(Do send a note to the topic map naysayers. Product first, then start selling it to customers.)

The web of topics: discovering the topology of topic evolution in a corpus

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

The web of topics: discovering the topology of topic evolution in a corpus by Yookyung Jo, John E. Hopcroft, and, Carl Lagoze, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA.


In this paper we study how to discover the evolution of topics over time in a time-stamped document collection. Our approach is uniquely designed to capture the rich topology of topic evolution inherent in the corpus. Instead of characterizing the evolving topics at fixed time points, we conceptually define a topic as a quantized unit of evolutionary change in content and discover topics with the time of their appearance in the corpus. Discovered topics are then connected to form a topic evolution graph using a measure derived from the underlying document network. Our approach allows inhomogeneous distribution of topics over time and does not impose any topological restriction in topic evolution graphs. We evaluate our algorithm on the ACM corpus. The topic evolution graphs obtained from the ACM corpus provide an effective and concrete summary of the corpus with remarkably rich topology that are congruent to our background knowledge. In a finer resolution, the graphs reveal concrete information about the corpus that were previously unknown to us, suggesting the utility of our approach as a navigational tool for the corpus.

The term topic is being used in this paper to mean a subject in topic map parlance.

From the paper:

Our work is built on the premise that the words relevant to a topic are distributed over documents such that the distribution is correlated with the underlying document network such as a citation network. Specifically, in our topic discovery methodology, in order to test if a multinomial word distribution derived from a document constitutes a new topic, the following heuristic is used. We check that the distribution is exclusively correlated to the document network by requiring it to be significantly present in other documents that are network neighbors of the given document while suppressing the nondiscriminative words using the background model.

Navigation of a corpus on the basis of such a process would indeed be rich, but it would be even richer were multiple ways to represent the same subjects mapped together.

It would also be interesting to see how the resulting graphs, which included only the document titles and abstracts, compared to graphs constructed using the entire documents.

From Search to Discovery

Monday, February 28th, 2011

From Search to Discovery by Tony Russell-Rose.


The landscape of the search industry is undergoing fundamental change. In particular, there is a growing realisation that the true value of search is best realised by embedding it a wider discovery context, so that in addition to facilitating basic lookup tasks such as known-item search and fact retrieval, support is also provided for more complex exploratory tasks such as comparison, aggregation, analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and so on. Clearly, for these sorts of activity a much richer kind of interaction or dialogue between system and end user is required. This talk examines what forms this interactivity might take and discusses a number of principles and approaches for designing effective search and discovery experiences.

Topic map projects looking to develop successful interfaces would do well to heed this presentation.

Experiencing Information – Blog

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Experiencing Information is a blog by James Kalbach.

Kalbach authored Designing Web Navigation and a number of other publications on information delivery.

I will be mentioning posts by Kalbach that seem to me to be particularly useful for topic map interfaces but commend the blog to you in general.

Endeca User Interface Design Pattern Library

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Endeca User Interface Design Pattern Library

From the website:

p>The Endeca User Interface Design Pattern Library (UIDPL) describes  principled ways to solve common user interface design problems related to search, faceted navigation, and discovery. The library includes both specific UI design patterns as well as pattern topics such as:

  • Search
  • Faceted Navigation
  • Promotional Spotlighting
  • Results Manipulation
  • Faceted Analytics
  • Spatial Visualization

The patterns are offered as proposed sets of design guidelines based on our research and design experience as well as lessons learned from the information search and discovery community. They are NOT the only solutions, strict recipes etched in stone, or a substitute for sound human-centered design practices.

When the week starts off with discovery of a resource like this one, I know it is going to be a good week!

Bobo: Fast Faceted Search With Lucene

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Bobo: Fast Faceted Search With Lucene

From the website:

Bobo is a Faceted Search implementation written purely in Java, an extension of Apache Lucene.

While Lucene is good with unstructured data, Bobo fills in the missing piece to handle semi-structured and structured data.

Bobo Browse is an information retrieval technology that provides navigational browsing into a semi-structured dataset. Beyond the result set from queries and selections, Bobo Browse also provides the facets from this point of browsing.


  • No need for cache warm-up for the system to perform
  • multi value sort – sort documents on fields that have multiple values per doc, .e.g tokenized fields
  • fast field value retrieval – over 30x faster than IndexReader.document(int docid)
  • facet count distribution analysis
  • stable and small memory footprint
  • support for runtime faceting
  • result merge library for distributed facet search

I had to go look up the definition of facet. Merriam-Webster (I remember when it was just Webster) says:

any of the definable aspects that make up a subject (as of contemplation) or an object (as of consideration)

So a faceted search could search/browse, in theory at any rate, based on any property of a subject, even those I don’t recognize.

Different languages being the easiest example.

I could have aspects of a hotel room described in both German and Korean, both describing the same facets of the room.


  1. How would you choose the facets for a subject to be included in faceted browsing? (3-5 pages, no citations)
  2. How would you design and test the presentation of facets to users? (3-5 pages, no citations)
  3. Compare the current TMQL proposal (post-Barta) with the query language for facet searching. If a topic map were treated (post-merging) as faceted subjects, which one would you prefer and why? (3-5 pages, no citations)

Semantic Now?

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Visit Semantic Web, then return here (or use a separate browser window).

I went to the Semantic Web page of the W3C looking for a prior presentation and was struck by the semantic now nature of the page.

It isn’t clear how to access older material.

I have to confess to having only a passing interest in self-promotional, puff pieces, including logos.

I assume that is true for many of the competent researchers working with the W3C. (There are a lot of them, this is not a criticism of their work.)

So, where is the interface that enables quick access to substantial materials, including older standards, statements and presentations?

I understand at least some of the W3C site is described in RDF. What degree of detail, precision, I don’t know. Would make a starting point for a topic map of the site.

The other necessary component and where this page falls down, would be a useful navigation choices. That would be the harder problem.

Let me know if you are interested in cracking this nut.

Research: What is the Interaction Cost in Information Visualization?

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Research: What is the Interaction Cost in Information Visualization? by Enrico Bertini, came to us via Sam Hunting.

A summary of Heidi Lam’s A Framework of Interaction Costs in Information Visualization but both will repay the time spent reading/studying them.

However intuitive it may seem to its designers, no “semantic” interface is any better than it is perceived to be by its users.


  1. After reading Lam’s article, evaluate two interfaces, one familiar to you and one you encounter as a first-time user.
  2. Using Lam’s framework, how do you evaluate the interfaces?
  3. What aspects of those interfaces would you most like to test with users?
  4. Design a test for two aspects of one of your interfaces. (project*)
  5. Care to update Lam’s listing of papers listing interactivity issues? (project)

* Warning: Test design is partially an art, partially a science and partially stumbling around in semantic darkness. Just so you are aware that done properly, this project will require extra work.

Reactive information foraging for evolving goals

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Reactive information foraging for evolving goals Authors: Joseph Lawrance, Margaret Burnett, Rachel Bellamy, Christopher Bogart, Calvin Swart Keywords: field study, information foraging theory, programming


Information foraging models have predicted the navigation paths of people browsing the web and (more recently) of programmers while debugging, but these models do not explicitly model users’ goals evolving over time. We present a new information foraging model called PFIS2 that does model information seeking with potentially evolving goals. We then evaluated variants of this model in a field study that analyzed programmers’ daily navigations over a seven-month period. Our results were that PFIS2 predicted users’ navigation remarkably well, even though the goals of navigation, and even the information landscape itself, were changing markedly during the pursuit of information.

In case you are wondering, “PFIS2 (Programmer Flow by Information Scent 2).”

A study of user information seeking behavior over seven (7) months following two (2) professional programmers.

Provocative work but it would be more convincing if the study sample were larger.


Thursday, October 7th, 2010

WebGraph was mentioned in the article Fast and Compact Web Graph Representations.

Great work on the web graph, with software and data sets for exploring!

(Warning: If you like this sort of thing you will lose hours if not days here.)


  1. Is the Web Graph different from a graph of a topic map?
  2. How would you go about researching question #1?
  3. Would your answer to #1 vary depending on the topic map you chose?
  4. Would the size of a topic map affect your answer?
  5. How would you test your answer to #4?
  6. What other aspects of graphs would you want to explore on topic maps?

Fast and Compact Web Graph Representations

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Fast and Compact Web Graph Representations Authors: Francisco Claude, Gonzalo Navarro Keywords: Compression, Web Graph, Data Structures


Compressed graph representations, in particular for Web graphs, have become an attractive research topic because of their applications in the manipulation of huge graphs in main memory. The state of the art is well represented by the WebGraph project, where advantage is taken of several particular properties of Web graphs to offer a trade-off between space and access time. In this paper we show that the same properties can be exploited with a different and elegant technique that builds on grammar-based compression. In particular, we focus on Re-Pair and on Ziv-Lempel compression, which, although cannot reach the best compression ratios of WebGraph, achieve much faster navigation of the graph when both are tuned to use the same space. Moreover, the technique adapts well to run on secondary memory and in distributed scenarios. As a byproduct, we introduce an approximate Re-Pair version that works efficiently with severely limited main memory.

Software & Examples: Fast and Compact Web Graph Representations

As topic maps grow larger and/or memory space becomes smaller (comparatively speaking), compressed graph work becomes increasingly relevant.

Gains in navigation speed are always welcome.