Bamber Gascoigne Posted July 24, 2007 Share Posted July 24, 2007 This is the age of the timeline, entirely thanks to the web. Most of us are now familiar with timelines, but we forget how recent they are. Among the four major English dictionaries on sale in 2007 (Chambers, Collins, Oxford, Penguin) only one – Collins – includes timeline as a word. But they all include chronology, in its use as ‘a table or list of events in order of occurrence’. As chronologies they have been around for ages – dead things tucked away at the back of books, and rarely found. I call them dead because each event on this sort of timeline was a lifeless self-contained item, leading nowhere (except of course on to the next event). If you didn’t know what the event meant, or wanted to know more about it, you had a problem. A lot of internet timelines are still like this – plain chronologies. But real living timelines began when digital magic began to be applied to them. It seems to me that these are the elements that have so far brought life and interactivity to timelines, roughly in order of their arrival: * hyperlinks – enabling the user to discover more information at a click * tagging each event as a separate item – making it possible to mix timelines in different combinations * software making it easy for internet users to create their own timelines * horizontal formats, in which two or three different timelines can interrelate (there is no reason why the same shouldn’t be done vertically, where the screen’s width-height ratio would allow space for a greater number of comparative timelines; but experiments so far seem to be mainly horizontal, probably as a result of MIT’s Simile format) * the addition of images and audio and video files * building a search mechanism into each event, thus giving access to much more information than through fixed hyperlinks And in the future, we await the holy grail, the arrival of mashup facilities – so that events entered in one timeline format can be exported for display in any other. My colleagues and I at HistoryWorld and TimeSearch are much involved with timelines. Six years ago we were among the pioneers in letting users mix their own timelines through the selection of areas and themes (in HistoryWorld) And I believe we are the first (in March 2007, in TimeSearch) to have introduced the concept of a timeline incorporating search terms that can be applied to sites of one’s own choice. But in TimeSearch we don’t yet have the facility for users to insert their own material (several of the emails that we got on our launch emphasized a wish for this wiki aspect). And like everyone else we are only dreaming of mashups. I have begun this thread because I would like to find out: what features people find most useful in timelines what facilities you want when creating your own timelines There are already lots of good examples out there. I shall be looking at some of my favourites one by one (and no doubt sometimes my least favourite) to raise the issue of what seems to work best and be most useful. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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