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07 July 2007

Visualizing complex document sets

We have been meaning for some time to mention the release of a new demonstrator from Project Xanadu.

For those unfamiliar with the history of ancient computer science theory, Xanadu has been since the 1960’s a nearly mythical chase for a system which would perform hypertext like functions. That an entirely robust and working system has been developed which drives the entire intertubes since that time has been of little concern to the creators of the system – they have an elegant theory and will not be deterred from seeing it through. For this, we commend them, and wish them luck in doing so.

However, it appears the demo still lacks any of the sophistication we have come to expect in modern search and visualization applications. We are also deeply unsure as to the scalability or robustness of a fully realized application and server architecture – to say nothing to the final aesthetics.

Nonetheless, the concept remains intriguing. We have long been interested in complex three dimension visualizations of document sets (STARLIGHT and IN-SPIRE come first to mind), and we would love to see additional options available to the working level analyst with as little overhead burden as possible.

As for us, we would just like to have an original Memex desk as envisioned by Vannevar Bush. Maybe rendered in a nice steampunk iteration, with plenty of Victorian gloss to our pagan (if not barbarian) thinking….