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The Trellis Approach

Built upon blogging, Trellis inherits the technology’s functionality. Trellis repurposes the abilities of blogging to store, organize, and display information, seeking to facilitate ideation. Posting an entry is equivalent to writing in a sketchbook, although the post can include any kind of media – text, pictures, multimedia, and so forth.

The organizational structures of blogging are also adapted to provide a system for codifying the collected information and enable a historical record of progress. Commenting, a feature common to most blogs, captures feedback and promotes collaboration while keeping discussions adequately focused. Syndication may be used to extend these features and make the process adaptable to future changes in Web technology.

The blogging element powering Trellis is WordPress, an open source Web publishing platform. It includes standard features, a plug-in system for creating custom actions based on PHP and SQL code, and a flexible theming engine.

Hierarchy

Trellis facilitates idea development by establishing both a hierarchy and a chronology for storing knowledge. The hierarchy simplifies the organization of collected information by establishing a singular definition upon which a large amount of information can be ordered. The user is free to apply this rule in any form to organize relevant data. By maintaining an organized knowledgebase, information related to the developing idea is stored within the same environment as the idea itself. This organized, information-rich environment helps to stimulate useful discussion through the chronology.

Chronology

The chronology exists as a story of idea development, a location where new, thought-eliciting processes can be stored and older ones reviewed. Such a method of storing thought lends itself to being based on time, and a blog-like, reverse-chronological display format is used to trace the course of idea development. By maintaining a development blog, thoughts related to an idea can be outlined, discussed, and reviewed over time.

Radial mapping

Radial maps are visualizations of hierarchical structures that place the highest order node at the center of a circle, upon which concentric rings represent children of descending generations. Clicking on a node will rearrange the hierarchy with the selected node placed at the center of the circle. It is a very useful tool for visualizing complex hierarchies of information within a small screen area.

In the absence of organization, an idea becomes increasingly difficult to follow as it accumulates information. Trellis establishes a hierarchy to organize information and implements a radial map for visualizing it. This radial map acts as a sort of indexed notebook where, at a glance, the user can gain an overall picture of the growing knowledgebase of relevant information.

Trellis relies upon SpicyNodes, a flash-based radial tree mapping software, to fulfill its radial mapping element. SpicyNodes is a platform for generating customized radial layouts, as well as an interactive communication system that promotes intuitive browsing.

By using a technique known as “focus + context,” SpicyNodes can show the big picture and synchronously with it, the contiguous details. This perspective allows a user to perceive interdependence when such exists among the visualized items. Moreover, users can “zoom” in and out, adjusting their view, zoomed-in users see fewer nodes in detail, and zoomed-out they see an overview of many nodes.

Creating a space for ideas

Trellis forms an environment where ideas can grow. Such an approach would be difficult to implement within a material environment, as the combination of blogging, radial mapping, and the Internet within a physical realm (like paper) would be cumbersome.

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