Visualizing a flow of events can help our understanding of causes and consequences, but sometimes important details get lost in the overview. Timeline, a part of MIT’s Simile project helps avoid this problem by simultaneously representing events on large and small scales with the ability to pop up background details on each event.
Viewing the same information in linked time bands at different scales gives an interesting feel to navigating a chronology. Minutes and days can be scrolled with equal ease, balancing swift navigation with exact control.
Timeline runs wholly in the browser with no software installation required on either browser or server. It gets it’s data from XML or JSON sources, which means that it can be integrated into almost any web framework, adding another visualization option for extending existing reporting systems and data repository interfaces.
An example of an effective integration of third party data is Jörn Clausen’s USGS Live Earthquake Mashup which uses a combination of Timeline and Google Maps API to present information from the United States Geological Survey’s RSS feed.
Today Wikia launched the alpha version of its search engine. With a combination of technologies from the Wikimedia Foundation and the Apache Foundation (Lucene, Nutch), Wikia has some surprising features. When you conduct a search, in addition to the expected list of websites you get:
a collaboratively edited “Mini Article” with information about your search topic
a list of users whose profiles match your search terms
Wikia effectively combines three established web technologies:
with each topic becoming an ad-hoc social network.
This is an alpha release, and the gaps in the feature set are clearly visible.
no advanced search
a decorative, but unimplemented ratings function
This mix of technologies brings up some interesting questions. Will users participate? How effectively will the community deal with spammers? Where will the balance be reached between findability and privacy? Will the “People” results be dominated by domain experts, subject enthusiasts or spammers?
Wikia Search is innovative, with potential for business and personal networking. Its success will depend on the strengths of the communities it engages.
Every now and then I need to find a new tool to work with. It might be a blog or a content management system, a image gallery or an e-learning platform. It could be for a personal project, for a client’s needs, or just a whim. More often than not my starting point is opensourceCMS.com.
This site hosts 150 live demos of open source content management systems with both the public interfaces and the administrative interface exposed for you to experiment with. This means you can get a quick feel for a packages interface, structure and capabilities without having to download, unpack, install, configure etc.
Three things to bear in mind:
There is only one instance of each package running, so if someone else is evaluating the same application at the same time you will see some unexpected changes.
Each application is refreshed every 30 minutes. This means that all your changes will be lost and you’ll be starting from scratch. This is a way of shortlisting, not of conducting an in-depth evaluation.
Only PHP/MYSQL packages are included. If you’re looking for .NET, Rails or Servlet solutions you’ll need to look somewhere else.
The installations are plain, vanilla, out of the box; no extra plugins, modules or themes. So in Drupal, for example, you won’t see a WYSIWYG editor even though there are several available.
Although the site’s focus is on content management systems it’s fairly broad in its definitions, including blogs, forums, shopping carts, project management systems and e-learning applications in the mix.
I use this site intensively three or four times a year. Each time I use it I save time and effort, quickly drawing up a shortlist of applications that meet my needs or my clients’ needs.