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What is SpicyNodes?

SpicyNodes is an innovative web navigation product that allows users to find information in intuitive and organic ways. SpicyNodes utilizes radial mapping to create visual representations (“nodes”) of information. These nodes are then linked to one another based on their relationships and importance.

What is a node?

A node is a piece of information that is visually displayed, and then linked with other nodes to form a nodemap. A node can depict an idea, a web page, a piece of an application, or a reference point.

What makes SpicyNodes innovative?

SpicyNodes employs a pure “focus + context” technique to mimic the human brain’s perspective, giving users an intuitive navigating experience. SpicyNodes’ at-a-glance visualization of hierarchical or network relationships combined with the interactive fluidity of natural eased-in and eased-out animation reorganizes complex information into straightforward, relationship-oriented navigation that allows users to explore related and relevant information without having to access a multitude of web pages or multiple sites. Because SpicyNodes makes better use of the available screen space by enlarging or rearranging nodes, it can contain more information than a traditional web page while utilizing a fraction of the space.

Why is SpicyNodes a better way to find information?

People today typically find information on the Internet either by performing keyword searches or by browsing a traditional web site. Keyword searches are lacking because many topics on the web are not clearly defined, and because the user has to know the exact keywords in order to obtain the results he or she is seeking. Misspellings or a lack of knowledge about a subject can make finding information similar to finding a needle in a haystack.

Browsing a traditional web site can be equally frustrating. Not only can it be long and unwieldy, but natural connections are not obvious. For example, a new resident to a city may need to know how to get a dog license, what day of the week he should put the garbage cans out, and at which school to enroll his children. Using traditional web sites, he would have to first determine which city departments handled pet licensing and refuse disposal, try to find the information on separate web pages, and then search for the local school district website, and find the information about school boundaries and enrollment. With SpicyNodes, he would simply have to click on a node called “Information for New Residents,” and related nodes for pet licensing, garbage pickup, and school enrollment –– as well as other applicable services –– would appear. All of the information he needs would be in one easily accessible place.

Who can use SpicyNodes?

Everyone from elementary school students to grandparents! The design principles for SpicyNodes were based on an exhaustive review of the literature regarding how user interfaces can enable users to be both more productive and more innovative when using software. SpicyNodes’ graphical representations, metaphors, and spatial positioning of objects are examples of design elements that evoke information-rich representations that feel natural to the user, and thus facilitate effective searching, accelerated discovery processes, and improved collaboration.

What kinds of web sites would most benefit from SpicyNodes?

SpicyNodes is ideal for sites with between 10 and 1,000 nodes that are optimized for browsing either hierarchies or networks. It can be used on web sties from corporations, nonprofits, educational institutions, museums, the media, bloggers, local governments, and poets and other creative people. It is less effective for sites with a great quantity of hyperlinks.

Is a SpicyNodes map difficult to create?

Not at all! Creating and publishing nodemaps is a straightforward, three-step process. A webmaster can quickly set up and configure a node map by defining nodes (manually or via an external resource file or application), customizing nodes using a provided suite of parameters, and then publishing the nodes.

SpicyNodes can be easily embedded in an existing site, or can be linked from a site to a hosted SpicyNodes map with a direct URL. SpicyNodes can also be integrated into other software.

How can a publisher customize the appearance of SpicyNodes?

SpicyNodes offers literally millions of possible style combinations. There are fundamental styles for the nodes and the connections between them, and each can be mixed, matched, and customized across many parameters and colors. The result is radically different appearances between nodemaps, from conservative to futuristic, synthetic to organic, calm to expressive, and clean to complex. This range of designs came from more than a dozen designers and artists around the globe.

If a publisher is overwhelmed by the choices, he or she can use a provided tool that has two continuums: clean to complex and synthetic to organic. The publisher can simply drag each slider to a point in its continuum, and artificial intelligence randomly creates a style that he or she might like.

What is SpicyNodes’ underlying technology?

SpicyNodes was developed using Adobe Flash technology and is written in ActionScript language. The engine is based on a radial tree, with a core layout algorithm that takes into account the number and importance of nodes, the weight of the nodes, and the angle between edges. Animation effects and customizable skins enhance the user experience by mimicking the physical world.

Who created SpicyNodes?

SpicyNodes was set into motion by Michael Douma, the executive director of The Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement. He brought together a team of over a dozen programmers, scientists, visionaries, and other creative people from around the world to develop SpicyNodes.

What's the story behind SpicyNodes?

SpicyNodes was developed out of a passionate belief that traditional ways of finding information aren’t always useful or applicable to information published on the Web, and that finding new information should be a fun, exploratory journey rather than a cumbersome chore. Read more about the history of SpicyNodes.

Story Concepts.

Information Overload: Despite advances in technology, finding information on the Web remains unintuitive and difficult because many topics are not clearly defined, and because answers to questions or information about a subject cannot be located using simple keyword searches. The effect is that we need to know the exact keywords to use in order to obtain the results we seek or risk being overwhelmed with irrelevant information. SpicyNodes organizes information in such a way that users can search by keyword approximations or browse information without becoming inundated with irrelevant results. Moreover, the visual representations used in SpicyNodes allow users to see connections between and interact with pieces of information that they never knew existed. SpicyNodes is a solution to the challenges of organizing data in the Information Age.

The Search for Knowledge: An Historical Perspective: Throughout the history of civilization, many human needs have remained constant, but the need for information has increased exponentially. As the sum of human knowledge grew, so did the challenge of constructing, exploring, classifying, organizing and searching systems of information. Yet until the late 20th century, the most advanced system available for storing and retrieving information was the classified written index, which although adequate, was a fundamentally static, hierarchical system.

The burgeoning of the Internet presented new challenges in developing ways to both display information and to make it accessible to billions of people around the globe. Today, the enormous quantity of information on the Internet is organized in many ways, from simple sets of web pages; to complex, database-driven e-commerce sites; to ever-changing news sites. Users have an expectation that the Internet will provide them with information at their fingertips, but it often does not. In order to make information truly accessible and drive the Internet to fulfill its potential, the gap in organizing online data needs to be filled. SpicyNodes fills that gap.

Collaboration and Visualization: The often-cited Web 2.0 revolution shifted the manner in which people utilize the Internet. Instead of being passive recipients, users are active participants, whether through social networking, blogging, or collaboration using Web-based applications. SpicyNodes not only enhances data visualization, but provides a variety of tools for online collaboration –– whether for idea generation, project mapping, or other uses.

The Many Faces of SpicyNodes: SpicyNodes is highly adaptable, enabling users visualize many different types of information –– everything from music and movies to highly technical material. Broadly speaking, nodemaps can serve five purposes: as site maps to help users navigate a website; as a mind map to help users generate and structure ideas, as well as to aid in studying, problem solving, and organizing; as a creative expression, such as creating interactive poetry; as a content gateway, to organize large volumes of information in bite-sized nuggets; and as a technical or network visualizations, such as a Facebook map.

Tweaking Corporate Images: In today’s marketplace, it’s crucial to boost consumer confidence. Corporations are retooling their logos so that they are softer and more accessible, and a new era of warmer, friendlier, and more helpful corporate web sites is emerging. SpicyNodes is one way for companies to infuse their web sites with inclusive and reassuring qualities.

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