David Huynh has recently joined the freebase team, after having worked on Exhibit and other SIMILE tools at MIT. His new project Parallax is obviously based on Exhibit (which followed mostly a faceted filtering paradigm) but demonstrates a really interesting “sidewards browsing technique” for navigating related sets of different types of entities.
As an example, you could start with a set of architects, then filter down to all modern architects, plot them on a map, a timeline etc. – quite nice already, but traditional facet browsing in principle. The catch however, is that you can explore related collections, like the buildings they designed, their birth places etc. in the same manner. Very interesting principle and nicely executed, yet a bit hard to explain.
In this screencast, David explains it himself:
Freebase Parallax: A new way to browse and explore data from David Huynh on Vimeo.
As a side remark: academically, I think the Humboldt paper by Georgi Kobilarov first presented this principle (but they also refer to an earlier prototype of David’s work). Unfortunately it was introduced under the name of pivot browsing, which is sort of reserved already for the quite related, but not identical principle introduced in dogear.
Any ideas for a good name? Sidewards browsing? Entity shift? Or just stick with parallax?
I just came across freebase again, and I have to say this thing looks really prospering. Freebase is sort of a metadata / semantic web wiki, structured around topics, types and domains. Essentially, it lets users add descriptions of entities, such as movies, persons, buildings and relate them to each other. The set of properties used, of course, depends on the type of an entity. The project reuses a lot of Wikipedia or other free information, but the interesting thing is the structured approach and, for developers, especially the really powerful API with a very interesting query language approach based on JSON. Mashup time! :)
To get started, browse freebase, e.g. about, say, architecture!