A realtime interactive visualisation of boards.ie semantic data in a three dimensional space.

Introduction

This project is submitted for entry to the Boards.ie SIOC Data competition held in association with DERI. Boards.ie have made their data (over 10 years of online discussion) and around 9 million documents in total available for the contest, and invited submissions to create something which uses the data in an interesting manner.

Please note this application is designed to consume live SIOC data and so a sample of the boards.ie data is replicated & hosted for demonstration purposes.

Designed & Developed By Darren Geraghty

What is this?

SIOC.ME is a web based application which renders boards.ie SIOC & FOAF data within a 3D space. It does so in real–time and allows a user to navigate and explore forums and conversations in a unique interactive manner. Originally static visualisations were considered, but then I chose to design a tool which would allow a user to become more involved with the handling of the "boards.ie" data hopefully resulting in a more immersive experience from a user's perspective.

As semantic data aims to make a more smarter web, enabling bits of data to 'talk' to each other and in turn providing a richer and more intelligent source of information, our ways of viewing and managing this data will have to evolve in tandem, a smarter interface to engage with the smarter web. A new generation of user interfaces will have to become more flexible and malleable, allowing for live real–time 'mash-ups' of data in a more engaging intuitive manner. As technologies such as touchscreens and web-enabled portable devices are embraced into the mainstream market access of data will not always be browser based going forward, interfaces may not always be manipulated by clicking a mouse and indeed data may not necessarily exist in one dimensional systems. Whilst three dimensional interfaces are not always the best solution for every application they can certainly add great value for certain user tasks, and circumstances where such solutions are of benefit will become more apparent as time progresses. Humans have always had a natural acuity for spatial navigation, and using the "Z- Space" to navigate layers of content or query multiple blocks of data will become more intuitive and in turn the use of dimensional space within interfaces will become more common and useful.

A particularly useful side-effect of achieving a semantically-enabled web is one which allows devices & interfaces to be cognisant of the predetermined structure of data, in turn this will allow multiple interfaces to consume the same 'machine-readable' data with ease. One of the primary goals of this project was to demonstrate this fact by designing an application which renders the data in a unique manner.

Fittingly one of the main inspirations for this project came from one Tim Berners-Lee, who when once asked to define what Web 3.0 may look like he responded –

" I think maybe when you've got an overlay of scalable vector graphics - everything rippling and folding and looking misty - on Web 2.0 and access to a semantic Web integrated across a huge space of data, you'll have access to an unbelievable data resource. "

What does it do?


The application allows a user to select a forum from boards.ie and explore it within a three dimensional space, each element is represented graphically within the said space. The application consumes the relevant SIOC data "on-the-fly", dynamically rendering the data as visual entities. These entities are clickable and a user can interact with threads, posts and also users – exploring and manipulating the data in real–time as the user interacts.

You can watch the videos below to see the application in action...


How do I use it?


Controlling the Application.
The 3D space in which the data is rendered can be navigated using the controls detailed below. Keyboard keys control two cameras which are used to move the viewport around the actual scene.

Once the application has loaded within your browser window you are then presented with a menu from which you can select a forum to browse.

When you have selected your forums close this menu, you will now see that the forums have been added to the space

Clicking on a forum label will load the first set of threads associated with the forum, clicking again on the forum will load the next set of threads and so forth...

Next we can click on a particular thread to explore further, doing so will load a "sioc-o-sphere" of post nodes, clicking again on the parent thread will load the next set and so forth...

Clicking on one of the post nodes will load that post and the avatar relating to the user who posted the comment

Clicking on an avatar associated with a post will fetch all of the friends of that particular user and display the relevant avatars, these are held within the siocosphere generated for this particular forum.

We can now use the FOAF menu to manipulate the current set of FOAF data loaded into the space. This menu can be accessed by clicking on the FOAF icon displayed in the top-right of the interface

Selecting one of the formations - Carousel, Linear, Stacked, Random or Grid will arrange the FOAF data in that particular formation.

Clicking on an avatar will cause the interface to zoom-in to that particular avatar, it can also be pushed or spun by clicking on the corresponding icons attached to that avatar.

You can also click the help icon on the bottom-right corner for a reminder of the controls to navigate around the 3D space.