October 30, 2002
4:03 AM   Subscribe

For all those words-lovers among us, the Visual Thesaurus from Plumb Design has recently been updated, to celebrate the company's 5 years anniversary. The classic edition we all know is still available here. Just beautiful.
posted by XiBe (23 comments total)
(I did many searches to see if the new version was mentioned earlier in MeFi or MeTa, but could only find mentions to the now "classic edition", which I linked to. If indeed someone already mentioned v2.0, please kill the thread)
posted by XiBe at 4:05 AM on October 30, 2002

This is the first time I've ever used one of these mobile-like search engines where I've found it to be even remotely useful. I've seen it applied to websites search engines before, and I can't seem to grasp the reason why anyone would use one. And even though I consider myself a very visual person, I still think using an interface like this is fairly clumsy compared to the more traditional way you'd use a thesaurus. But thanks for the link. I'll use it next time I need a thesaurus, and try to see the advantages.
posted by crunchland at 4:26 AM on October 30, 2002

Agreed, crunchland. Why would I use this when I could go to any dictionary/thesaurus that loads instantly? While it is great to look at, it seems impractical.
posted by ashbury at 4:35 AM on October 30, 2002

It's pretty. It's what an online thesaurus would look like if Jeff Goldblum needed to use one in a hollywood movie.

But it's not nearly as user-friendly as a paper book.
posted by mmoncur at 4:37 AM on October 30, 2002

Lev Manovich gave a talk here last week and said that while visual interfaces are brilliant on a small scale (for instance to organise your computer desktop) they can be useless in accessing huge amounts of data - so we search the web using text based search engines. Or does anyone know of graphical interfaces to huge masses of data that are really more useful than text?
posted by jill at 4:51 AM on October 30, 2002

Yeah load time makes it impractical for my dial-up use, but it is pretty functional except that you have to chase the damn floating buttons with your mouse. But it does look cool.
posted by gametone at 4:59 AM on October 30, 2002

It begs the question though: is the Internet primarily responsible for imparting information or for eye candy? Otherwise known as the "Content vs. Design" debate. Can't the two be combined?
posted by ashbury at 5:14 AM on October 30, 2002

It's sad, really. I'm reminded of those electronic books that came out a few years back -- the Rocket Book and all that. The technologist in me wants so badly for it, and things like it, to succeed, but in the end, they don't because they're not as practical and user friendly as regular books.

On the other hand, my 12 year old niece has to lug 50 lbs. of text books around in a backpack every day, and I think putting all of those textbooks into electronic form on a durable Rocket Book with a gig or two of memory would be a great application. But who wants to give a 12 year old $1000 worth of electronics?
posted by crunchland at 5:18 AM on October 30, 2002

I don't know, I think it's pretty cool. It seems to be designed as a thesaurus 'explorer', rather than a straight reference. (For which a book is better, agreed.)
For example, I started with 'loquacious' and ended up at 'centrifugal' in minutes.
It's more like a stream-of-consciousness word explorer than a straight thesaurus. I might not use it to look something up, but I might use it in one of those 'what's that word I'm looking for?' situations, or I might use it just because it's nifty.
posted by Fabulon7 at 5:37 AM on October 30, 2002

Fabulon7 said it better than I would have (guess I need something more than just a thesaurus, then).
posted by XiBe at 5:43 AM on October 30, 2002

What Fabulon7 said. Falling more in the "edutainment" category than anything else...loved the visuals triggered by the word "simple", which were anything but.
posted by squasha at 6:41 AM on October 30, 2002

I generally use a thesaurus when I'm looking for a word that's sort of like you know but not quite, kind of with a little tinge of whatever. It often takes several lookups to find the right word for what I want. This tool would be perfect for that sort of searching.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:03 AM on October 30, 2002

This is like watching randomly generated poetry. Neat.
posted by atom128 at 7:07 AM on October 30, 2002

Very cool! I agree that I probably wouldn't use it if I was actually looking for a word, but since I love language I think it's a great toy, and could probably spend several hours with it.
posted by kate_fairfax at 7:33 AM on October 30, 2002

As a professional writer, I've used this tool for years. I still will use a traditional thesaurus if I am looking for something specific, but I've found the visual thesaurus a great tool for brainstorming using those odd word linkages to take my mind places it wouldn't normally go. In that respect, the new version will only enhance its usefulness for me.
posted by trox at 7:43 AM on October 30, 2002

Wonderful post. I found it reminiscent of an earlier thread about the text-input system Dasher. I think this version of a thesaurus may be more useful than some give it credit for. On the other hand, there are those that feel thesauri in general are overused and over-rated.
posted by TedW at 8:04 AM on October 30, 2002

Note that you can always use the 'standard' WordNet LDB, where this information all comes from. There are OK client apps for most platforms.
posted by neustile at 8:27 AM on October 30, 2002

Or does anyone know of graphical interfaces to huge masses of data that are really more useful than text?

I believe Rene Descartes came up with something that people have found more useful than text....

(For certain kinds of data)
posted by badstone at 10:04 AM on October 30, 2002

Also, that application thingy that you access the text based search tool with has all sorts of dynamic, spatial presentations of complex data - menus, scrollbars, layout managers, hyperlinks...

Visualization does it's best job when it's unnoticed, unappreciated, and un-cute.
posted by badstone at 10:13 AM on October 30, 2002

XiBe:Thanks for the link. We are probably too linearly trained to fully appreciate it, but just imagine a generation that grows up on a 3 dimensional thesaurus of word connections. I imagine memory could work this way, connecting various meanings and concepts of a word.
posted by semmi at 4:38 PM on October 30, 2002

Reminds me of a program called "the Brain" that's been around a while. Alas, I seem to have misplaced the link.
posted by rushmc at 8:08 PM on October 30, 2002

Good idea. Poor usability. A moving target in the center needs to be clicked to see the definitions of words. The options aren't readily available. People here missed the point of the different sized words. Plumb design blew it.
posted by xammerboy at 4:14 PM on October 31, 2002

Search engine variation on the theme.
posted by rushmc at 5:50 PM on October 31, 2002

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