The Friday Fillip

The fillip’s a little earnest today, inasmuch as it actually involves the word insasmuch and, more to the point, deals with a research tool.

But it’s kind of a fun one. Felix Nyffenegger has created a mind map way of approaching topics in Wikipedia. WikiMindMap works via a simple search function: you enter the term you would like dealt with in Wikipedia (in any of a number of languages) and get a set of topic heads linked visually to your search term. Based on the browser that drives Freemind, this tool shows you which topics are expandable and which lead you to a site outside Wikipedia. I picked a big topic — “Canada” — to see how it would handle large amounts of interrelated data.

click on image to enlargeThe results are shown in long lists attached to my central term. Those at the bottom are expandable, and at first it wasn’t clear how I was to “get” to them, because they disappeared off the window and there wasn’t a scroll bar. But the small magnifying glass gives you a panoptic view of the mind map, and clicking on any part of it, re-centers the map to suit your needs. You can also make the map larger or smaller, but zooming out too far makes the text illegible, of course. (Speaking of zooming, you can make the above image larger by clicking on it.)

This could be useful to give you a quick overview of a complex topic. And I’d really like to be able to get it to digest any wiki I pointed it to.

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