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Saturday, June 29, 2002

Visualizing Webs of BlogThreads: Jon visualizes David commenting on Jon's response to Joe.

My reader(s?) will recall that I have an unhealthy interest in visualizing information, especially meme flow.  The advent of Kartoo, Trackback, and a recent exchange with Joe Gregorio which has now ramified to Dave Weinberger sets the stage for this little experiment.  (Later, I'll entertain comments on whether it is hopeless to imagine that this might become an automated visualization and tracking process.  But right now, I have a windmill to tilt at.). 

First, I did the usual boxes and arrows, using color and shading to add information and reduce visual complexity. I think its understandable, but "too busy".  Besides, does it add value? 

Then it occurred to me that the arrows could be eliminated by adopting some perhaps-intuitive conventions.

  Sequence-of-creation --> Up-Down progression.
  Direction of influence (inferred from linking) --> Back-front "underlap".
  Identity of Author --> Color and lateral position.
    Part-Wholeness --> nesting
           part-wholeness can be intrinsic to a message (as in the first Orange box)
          or it can can be imputed after the fact by an observer.  (The grey box) 
  etc. The green curved arrows are, thus, redundant (but helpful)

Anyway, at the last minute I realized that I could attach hyperlinks to visual objects (I'm doing this within MS Excel) and that I could save this as a web page.  I wasn't surprised to see that IE can render the resulting HTML but I am surprised to see that the Opera Browser does too but the conditions under which it works are very mysterious.  (Try this link You may need Excel; but you can also see the effect best by accessing the Excel file itself at if the file is there.)

Regardless, the net effect is somelike this, where clicking on a box on the left calls up the web page on the right:


 I think this does add value, especially since the Opera Browser lets me create a linked window, thus turning the visualization into an ever-present map (rather than just another page to jump to and from).

This exercise suggests (to me at least) that "conversations" in real life and on the web, for all their complexity, could be visualized and elucidated well beyond simple boxes, arrows, and threading of conversations.

P.S.  I think I remember that that StorySpace used to something along these lines.....

comments? [] 11:21:43 PM    

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