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Visualize Search Results with Google News Timeline

Innovative Presentation of Search Results

Google spends a lot of time working on ways to improve how we visualize information. The latest result of their effort is the new Google News Timeline. The Timeline – currently a Google Labs project – presents news and other data sources on a browsable, graphical timeline.

Available data sources at launch included:

  • recent and historical news,
  • scanned newspapers and magazines,
  • blog posts,
  • sports scores,
  • and information about various types of media, like music albums and movies.

The concept is great! And, with a little work, it will add a lot of value for those who conduct research online. I can see some immediate applications for writers and history buffs.

But unfortunately, the Timeline falls a bit short on delivery today. Here were some of the issues that I discovered:

  • Confusing navigation. I generally can figure out the essence of an application from clicking around inside it. The timeline’s navigation just wasn’t intuitive enough for me but made much more sense after I found and read instructions. Hint: click on a date to zoom in and double click to zoom out.
  • Biased results. Search results return ‘major stories’ but it’s unclear what constitutes major. Like Search Engine Optimization, will this ultimately lead to another competition to get your news displayed on the Timeline?
  • Confusing results. It looks like the search algorithms haven’t been perfected yet. A recent comment on someone’s blog post from 2008 that referenced another date appeared in the Timeline results for 1999.
  • Limited time results. Timeline returns results for decades, years, months, weeks and days. What about now? Here’s what people are saying about the News Timeline, right now!
  • Single source results. Timeline appears to return results from one source at a time (e.g. news vs. blogs, not news and blog). It would be more useful (to me) if it consolidated results from various searches into the single timeline view. This would merge the capabilities of new social media search engines (e.g. icerocket) with time-based results visualization.

And perhaps most importantly (for effective use with Mindjet):

  • Unshareable results. The URLs are not shareable (e.g. I couldn’t email you a link to my timeline results). This is critical for integration with Mindjet! I’d like to be able to drag a result link and or the entire query right onto my map like I can with other web applications. I was able to figure out how to update existing URLs and change to change parameters but that simply isn’t a usable method yet.


Using News Timeline with MindManager

Here’s how I’d leverage the news timeline: I’d love to be able to drag a specific News Timeline directly into my map onto a topic. This is how I add links to many of my maps today. When I return to the map and access the link, I’d see the same results for the original query.

Timeline integration issues:

  • The Timeline’s URL does not change when you create your search. This means the link you add to your map will not contain the correct parameters to recall the specific results when you use the link in the future.
  • The Timeline doesn’t let you “Drag and drop links” into other applications. This functionality (which I use all the time between my browser and MindManager maps) has been disabled to enable the timeline navigation.

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About the Author: Michael Deutch is Mindjet’s Chief Evangelist, content contributor for the Mindjet Blog and the Mindjet Connections newsletter. Get more from Michael on Twitter.

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