Interactive 3D concept mapping...does your brain work like this?
March 8, 2008 8:04 PM   Subscribe

Family Tree of the Greek Gods is a site using a visual organizer (now in beta) called Spicy Nodes. They call it a "natural and inviting" way to present information in "nuggets" that move in virtual space as you view them one by one. Another example: Daylight Savings Time.
posted by Miko (23 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Beautiful! I love it.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:12 PM on March 8, 2008

Current god: Priapos. Sorry, no description available.

posted by yhbc at 8:15 PM on March 8, 2008

Two very uncompelling examples from an ease of use standpoint.

I could see using the interface for extremely casual browsing of small amounts of information, but for deep information it faces some serious organizational issues.
posted by tkolar at 8:17 PM on March 8, 2008

I agree, tkolar.
posted by Miko at 8:27 PM on March 8, 2008

Pretty neat! Definitely worth following, thanks!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:28 PM on March 8, 2008

similar to numerous mind-map tools like TheBrain. Appears to have more visual customization capability though.

These things can be decent, but in general I find them overwrought and unwieldy. Just because a brain may make conceptual association webs doesn't mean that presenting information as visual association webs will make the information simpler to understand or digest.
posted by C.Batt at 8:29 PM on March 8, 2008

Terrific thanks for the post
posted by mattoxic at 8:37 PM on March 8, 2008

Kind of neat, but for me they run half the advantage of showing these as maps by having the positions of the various nodes and sub-nodes rearrange whenever you focus on a new spot. I have a hard time remembering who's connected to who and how it's all laid out if it doesn't stay in the same place over time.
posted by echo target at 9:18 PM on March 8, 2008

Wait! DST is tomorrow?! Dang! Thanks for the reminder!
posted by SPrintF at 10:20 PM on March 8, 2008

I have a hard time remembering who's connected to who and how it's all laid out if it doesn't stay in the same place over time.

Makes me think of how in the mmo I play now, one has both a minimap that orients based on where you are facing, and a local map that stays fixed with regard to one's position. To navigate best, you need both. I think that a combination is the best way, personally. You can switch from one to the other as events or perspective warrant.

This thing said one of the Moirae (Lakhesis) was a male. WTF, I thought they were known as being female. Wikipedia backs this up. So I dunno what the deal is there.
posted by marble at 10:41 PM on March 8, 2008

Terrible name, slow awkward interface. It concentrates too much on nodes' immediate neighbors at the expense of the overall picture.
posted by orthogonality at 11:17 PM on March 8, 2008

And oh dear god those clouds in the DST example entirely privileges form over content, to the point of being pretty but useless.
posted by orthogonality at 11:19 PM on March 8, 2008

It's cute but clumsy. It achieves what wikis have failed to do, in that it shows the context of an item up-front, but at the cost of being able to show very little information. It also feels very hierarchical - like a traditional top-down outline converted into a straightforward diagram, with none of the wild interconnectedness that moden hypermedia systems encourage. and as echotarget points out, it keeps moving all over the place, and seems to super-privilege whatever's the focal node with extra menus.

Snark over. Back to bed.
posted by davemee at 3:35 AM on March 9, 2008

My critique was that it prevents a user being able to use advance organization before taking in information. There's plenty of research showing that advance organization works: if you can scan an information set and understand the number and scope of categories of information you are about to take in, you stand a much better chance of absorbing and remembering it. The brain creates a rough map of the information space that can then be filled in with detail, but is generally of the right scale and importance.

With this interface, you can't know at the beginning how much information there is, how it is weighted, or how long it will take you to exhaust the resource. It's not physically clear which information is trivial and which is vital. This is where some very old systems, like a table of contents with subheads, work perfectly brilliantly.

I also didn't like the way it required your eye to jump all over the page looking for more nodes, particularly in the 'cloud' one. You spend more time trying to remember which one you've already visited, after backtracking, than focusing on the information.

My take was that it's a mildly fun way to explore information, but not an effective way to create a research or learning tool.
posted by Miko at 4:32 AM on March 9, 2008

I'm with Miko (FPPer): Flash is not an effective way to create a research or learning tool.
posted by mistersquid at 4:58 AM on March 9, 2008

mistersquid, I was about to snark that Flash is not an effective way to create anything at all and should be eradicated from the face of the Earth. But then I ran across this nifty interactive graph in the HTML version of the Daylight Saving Time site linked in the FPP. So I guess those Flash developers can contribute something useful. You just have to keep 'em on a tight leash. Don't let 'em take over the site.
posted by sdodd at 10:47 AM on March 9, 2008

This strikes me as a fun way to hop around, absorbing neato factoids by serendipity. Reminds me of the early days of the web before I caught wind of search engines.

Also: "At the back of the Daylight Saving scheme I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy and wise in spite of themselves." Robertson Davies, The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, 1947, XIX, Sunday.

...that's JUST how I felt this morning, too. Me and you, Mr. Marchbanks. Me and you.
posted by not_on_display at 10:09 PM on March 9, 2008

This is just a close-up of a standard data visualization fisheye view of a graph, btw. But it would be cool if this kind of thing and more advanced data visualization practices became more widespread on the web like the examples in this post show. I've been kind of surprised that fisheye graph site navigation tools haven't been more common.

A good critique, Miko; I think if they weren't doing the close-up by trimming off the distant vertices, but rather showed the entire graph at the same time (as in my link above) it might address some of the context issues you're pointing out.

Also, in my experience this sort of thing doesn't replace existing navigation like a TOC, but rather supplements it. Sort of like if you browse through the Yahoo directory, you're picking through TOC-like navigation pages, but you have the breadcrumb at the top as a supplemental navigation aid.

This would be a cool way to browse the MeFi tags via the "related words" connections.
posted by XMLicious at 6:23 AM on March 10, 2008

Those examples look much more useful, XMLicious. Not only can you see the scope at a glace, you can also see which elements have a greater number of connections to other elements, which might create some sense of the relative weight and value of each concept in advance.
posted by Miko at 8:39 AM on March 10, 2008

It's daylight saving time, not daylight savings time. I know, I'm one of like three people who care.

Cool visualization, and agree that it's a fun way to explore. Daylight saving time is a bizarre subject for this type of visualization, though.
posted by desuetude at 9:13 AM on March 10, 2008

It's daylight saving time, not daylight savings time

I normally care about stuff like that too, but I honestly never noticed.

I took as in the noun "savings," not the verb "saving." That we were accumulating savings of daylight, not that we were actively saving daylight. It's probably influenced by the common use of "savings" in "savings bank." We may have an urge to apply the rule for "National Savings Bank" to "Daylight Saving Time." "National Saving Bank" would sound odd.

But heck, now I know.
posted by Miko at 9:17 AM on March 10, 2008

It really should be hyphenated -- daylight-saving time. Not only is it more grammatical, but it actually makes sense that way.

I fight a losing battle, but we've all got to be dorks about something.
posted by desuetude at 12:18 PM on March 10, 2008

But is it really the time that is saving daylight? Shouldn't it be daylight-saving schedule, perhaps pronounced all British-like? (just kidding)
posted by XMLicious at 12:24 PM on March 10, 2008

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