As a side product of my work on web feed visualization, I made a small comparison of different ways to deal with temporal information in lists of microcontent, such as e.g. blog entries.
1) Ordered list without gaps: Clearly, the most space-efficient solution – however, only temporal ordering is preserved and not temporal structure. It is not visually evident how the items are distributed over time.
2) Calendar: Each time unit (days for example) has equal space assigned, regardless if there are items assigned or not. A precise display, however, very space-inefficient, since a lot of the display space is typically used for displaying “nothing”.
3) Accordion: Similar to calendar view, but empty time units are displayed on much less screen estate. This gives a pretty good first-glance impression of large gaps and close-together items. However, depending on the temporal structure, there might still be large streaks of wasted space for large gaps.
4) Folded gaps: This is the solution I propose (and which I believe is novel. If otherwise, I would be happy about a short notice!): Temporal gaps are displayed as if a part of the list was folded to the back of the display. Short gaps have almost the same size as in accordion view. Long gaps are larger, but do not grow linearly, but with the square root of the number of empty time units. Visually, this is justified by introducing shading to indicate that the “original material” is folded to the back. Folding also provides a plausible model for interactive adjustments such as regulating the gap size.
To support my argument, I also made small demonstrator based on actual web feed data. It takes a while to load (~700k of data), so please be patient. On the left, you have a menu for selecting different feeds. On the right, I drew a connection of each item to a calendar with fancy curved lines. You can adjust the size of the displayed items with the zoom slider.
Let me know if it works for you – technically and conceptually!