Visual metaphors assist busy readers, learners

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Announcing the availability of the first implementation of the Knowledge Ferret open source project.

The knowledgeferret.com adds a compelling visual metaphor to the document reader to help busy readers to make sense of large and complicated documents. The Productivity Commissions recent report into the Not-For-Profit sector in Australia is being used as a test of this technology.

The “Knowledge Ferret” is David’s third exploration of adding visual metaphor to large documents. The first was the Visual PMBOK(r) Guide – jospar.com and the second earlier work was for NSW Health’s Protocols and Procedures for Aged Care Assessment

In the “Knowledge Ferret” the visual metaphor is formed by the index on the left hand side of the document. It shows the topic that is currently in focus and the context of this topic. While the user can’t ever see all the topics in a document at one time, if ever a topic is visible, it is always in the same place in relation to all other topics. This means that as the user interacts and explores the document they are simultaneously building a mental map of the whole document.

While a user is reading a topic, the most similar topics in the rest of the document are highlighted in blue. These blue sections are like a ‘radar’ view into the rest of the document and makes connections between the current topic and other topics, possibly many chapters apart.

The search box returns its results using the same dynamic index using green highlighting. The search function is not designed to be exhaustive, but rather to guide the user to the top seven topics that most closely relate to the search term.

The “Most Read” link just under the search box highlights the most frequently read topics in a dark orange colour.

Using the “Share / Save” link, users may comment on via twitter, facebook and a dozen other social media sites about any topic in the document.

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