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Month: March 2019

Liquid | View Application (layout tests)

Layout tests for a citation layout application.

Full Meta-Jacket

The user drags a PDF icon onto the workspace and the application checks whether it has full metainformation attached for citation. If not, it asks the user to select the name of the document and gives the user a list of a few places it can search for metainformation, including the ACM Digital Library or by the user pasting a Bibtex text or manually entering the data.


I experimented a bit with how to represent documents (as icons to make them take the same space or as text), people (bold), headings (san serif, same as Author headings) and comments (italic) and how ctrl-clicking could bring up different dialogs for options:

I also changed the canvas to a light grey and did some experiments with real documents, shown as two line serif type and headings in san-serif to see clustering:

I also looked at some different ways of showing active/selected documents, highlights and connection lines etc.:

Structure: Columns

I moved onto columns since we have tried that before in early Author dynamic Views and it seems to make sense to be able to anchor items to headings.

Here is a test where more annotations are shown (in yellow, as they would appear in the document) and there is green text above one of the columns (it seemed easier to skim when I used columns) designed to indicate an unread document:

However, based on how well the columns seemed to work, I then had the notion of having a column to the left for un-read and therefore un-categorized papers and the idea of having a column on the right for used or refused documents took too much space so refused documents now appear under the un-read column and used documents (copied for citation) are grey but this can be toggled).

I am really quite pleased with this layout, in it’s Trello like column style but I honestly don’t think it really adds much functionality beyond what normal citation managers do so I’ll pause this direction.

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Liquid View for LR Brainstorming

The murder wall.

We have seen it in myriads of movies and it always impresses:

Fincher, 2019.

There is something magical about being able to visualise a problem on a wall and to be able to put up relevant information, order and reorder it and connect it with lines of string and annotate and comment and do what you want as you build up the shape of the problem.

Apart from using projectors, digital ‘walls’ do not have the space but they do have interaction and linking capabilities which have so far not yet been unleashed.

KJ-Ho ( a part aside )

KJ-Ho is a method invented by the Japanese ethnologist, Jiro Kawakita, developed as a result of having difficulties in interpreting ethnographic data in Nepal and should be possible to do in a Dynamic View, giving us one clear starting scenario. His method puts unstructured information on a subject matter of interest into order through alternating divergent and convergent thinking steps. Jiro explained the process in his paper (Kawakita, 1991), where I have inserted basic arrows to indicate possible use in the Dynamic View:

Label Making is the process of writing down everything relevant on index cards.
Label Grouping is the process of grouping the cards according to relevancy.
Group Naming to name the groups of cards.
Spatial Arrangement to arrange the Groups into useful arrangements.
Relationship Settings to use links to indicate the relationships between the objects/nodes, where the shapes of the links convey the nature of the relationship:
– Cause and effect: One is a predecessor or a cause of another ––>
– Interdependence: Objects are dependent on each other <––>
– Correlation: Both objects relate to one another in some way ––
– Contradiction: Objects are conflicting to each other >––<
Verbal or written explanation. The last step is to explain the chart clearly which other visual thinking systems neglect


But back to the main issue. My PhD problem to help solve is postgraduate students doing their literature review. What are the main impediments? I am planning a focus group to find out more details but a few points have already appeared:

Finding literature.
Deciding what to read.
Deciding what citations to follow when reading.
Organising useful documents and their notes and annotations while removing useless ones.
Organising the useful citations into a structure which shapes an argument.

When reading a document and it seems useful, it becomes useful to be able to quickly tag it or annotate it and to use the annotation to find it and use it later. For example, when I read Big Text Visual Analytics in Sensemaking (Bradel, Wycoff, House, North, 2015) there was a screenshot of a 3D literature review space which reminded me of how messy these visualisations can become and I’d like to make that point in my LR so I’d like to be able to type that into that document’s notes and to organise my notes in a freeform space later and to then cite it.

Liquid | View application (for the Dynamic View)

An ideal way of doing this would be to download the PDF with all its own citation information attached (title, authors, publisher, abstract etc.) and drag that onto a Dynamic View where I have all the citation information (and a link to my local copy) and the notes I wrote so that I can use the KJ-Ho method or similar to organise my documents and when it comes to writing and editing I can drag this citation from my Dynamic View (application or screen in Author) onto text in Author and it assigns that text with that citation, including my notes, and the entry in the Dynamic View gets tagged as ‘used’ in this document.

Not THAT would be useful. THAT would be an academic murder wall worth ‘killing’ for :-)

To break it down, it would require a way to download a PDF with all the citation information (Liquid Browser plugin could likely do that, at least from ACM), build an app and a space for the visualisation and integrate it with Author. Yes, this makes sense… Now I’ll just have to have a little chat with Jacob….

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“Is this citation useful?”

A long time ago, in a place quite near, I worked with Fleur and Rob on making a server based ‘Hyperwords’ system for the Chinese NBA (National Basketball Association) website through Solina, which I have put up a brief video capture of:

We built the system to show a graphic when the user pointed to a player or a team which should instantly and visually answer the question of whether the player or the team is any good–how they are doing now and how they have done historically. This was not a difficult design task but of course it took much work and iteration to get it right. The problem was with the data API and collaboration with its provider.

For my PhD I am doing something very similar: When a reader comes across a citation in a document or in the References section, how can the system answer the question: Is this useful? And if it is, how can I most effectively access the document in a way where I know where I found it and see its further context?

Human recorded information is prone to error and bias so it turns out that the simple act of specifying the identity of a citable document, whether book or academic article can turn out to be messy and therefore this needs to be designed into the system. As many have suggested before (Nelson, Gutteridge etc.) a way to easily tunnel in and out of documents and contexts can be useful.

All information is liquid but our tools are not.

all information is liquid. Hegland, 2019.

When coming across a citation in a document a mouse-over which performs searches to see further information about the article itself, such as the abstract and the authors, could quickly and effectively help the user decide whether to download the article.

I’ll therefore be looking at the ACM Digital Library which has a well structured corpus of information about documents and authors. This should be somehow scrape-able for what we are talking about, for a proof of concept. For example, someone cites ShyWiki: a spatial hypertext wiki prototype (Solis & Ali, 2008) and the user can click on this citation for an expanded citation dialog:

enhanced citation dialog. Hegland, 2019.
All the information above is available on the site and, with permission, should be easy to put into a view like this.

The user should be able to click on the name of the document to open it on the site to download it and more.

It’s a simple thing, but could it be useful? Could further interactions come from this approach?

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