Interactive timelines

Timelines are important and necessary visual elements that make any presentation that encompasses any historical information – be it personal, healthful institutional, youth health national or be it related to recently or long passed times -. Luckily there are a couple of platforms out there, rubella free of charge, that researchers can use to make their work more appealing as well as to give it an extra visual dimension. 

I would say that there are two categories of timeline visualization tools: 

  • those that aggregate information already present online that they aggregate using an integrated search engine  such as Dipity, Viewzi or Spacetime 3D
  • those that allow users to create their own timelines such as TimeToast, XTimeline, LifeSnapz or LifeBlob.

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I’ll try to take them one by one and highlight some of their features. I’ll start with one of my favorites, a new way to experience search as they like to call it, Viewzi,

Starting from simple search topics, the platform offers plenty visualization options, all a click away. One can choose between web screen shot, simple text, power grid, google timeline, viewzi news or 4 news sources, photo tag cloud, photos, videos from Joost, YouTube and Viddler, all these great for media/communication/historical research. There are some more fun options such recipes, weather, celebrity gossip and everyday shopping. 

Thanks to their use of Adobe Flash (c) technology the timelines that Viewzi creates are crisp and refined. I’ve put here an example of photo tags that I have generated based on a long search “beijing 2008 olympic games human rights”. I was allowed to move the main tags around which triggered even more information to be shown as well as links between notions. The graph shows that the notions of olympic games, china and human rights are interdependent and inter-related.  

When you start using it, do take some time to read the “more info” on each visualization option. It will tell you where the data comes from, who loves it and how it was rated.  You’ll also get some recommendations for what the visualizations provided work best. Although it is not clear to me yet, creating an account might be necessary as well as give you access to additional features. 

Picture 3Dipity aggregates its data from on a “combination of search services and APIs to pull in content from across the web that has been posted to popular websites like YouTube, Flickr, Digg and DayLife” and is making available all timelines via RSS. What is really nice Dipity is that it allows merging two topics, or two timelines giving plenty of comparison opportunities to researchers. It does requires users to create an account though. 

Dipity also has some big plans for the near future. The website promises to come up soon with printing options as well as with more options for those users interested in generating their own timelines based on their own datasets. Furthermore, sharing and embedding options are also in the works. 

Finally, similar with the web visualization of Viewzi you can see your results in a website-flip format using SpaceTime3D

Picture 1 TimeToast is among the newest timeline makers online and does exactly what is says: allows you to create timelines and share them on the web. Timelines can be bookmarked, shared or embedded.

It’s the same that XTimeline wants to do though being in a beta stage and having just recently launched there are no examples to look at yet. 

LifeSnapz would be, in my opinion, better for online collective photo albums since it allows multiple users to update the same timeline. It supports video and maps as well and has a comment options.  It is specially addressed to families but researchers looking into family genealogies or oral history projects might give it a thought. 

Finally, LifeBlob has more of a community feel to it but its offer is intended to reach beyond personal use, colleges, companies and researchers being invited to use the platform as well.  It has a different look, a bit more polished and professional compared to TimeToast but similar sharing options. Below is an example the platform provides. 

LifeBlob Academy Award for Best Actress’s Timeline:

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Whatever your research, remember that web 2.0 always has a solution to visualize it.

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