Sunday, February 15, 2004

Other ways of looking at things

Awhile back I posted a link to MusicPlasma, a relational database of bands that shows you what other bands are near the band of interest in some sort of ideological/genre/vibe dimension. This method of data presentation has apparently come of age; I've seen two more examples (both useful) recently.

Kartoo is a 'metasearch engine' with an interactive visual display interface... type in a search term, and you are shown a Flash diagram of the area of infospace local to your term. While their interface is far from optimal, I think it is a step in the right direction... the linear and stratified methods we use to access data right now are pretty archaic when you think about the immensity of the exponential growth in online formation... the tools aren't keeping up with the reality of the situation, which is that data has a multidimensional aspect that can't be efficiently described by the Google-like set-theory algorithms, i.e. if (search) is a member of the same set as (document), put (document) in search results. This is much too limiting for things as simple as cataloguing my CD collection, let alone tracking the sum total of published digital information.

The Visual Thesaurus uses a similar paradigm, generating graph diagrams to show relationships between words based on affinity to the search term or many other relationships: antonyms, is a participle of, pertains to, is a type of, is a member of, etc. The interface is clean and efficient, and I think it will become a regualr tool for me.