Monday, October 13, 2008

The (Freebase) Parallax View

Sometimes, looking at an issue, a concept, or a subject from a different vantage point gives us a whole new means of comprehending the topic. Ultimately, shifts in the direction of our inquiry, engendered by changes in the manner in which we're making observations provide new perspectives. By observing a notion from different angles, we end up with a parallax view of the idea. We begin to understand that there are more layers of meaning to take into account, additional details that are worthy of inspection.

Humans appreciate familiarity. We grow accustomed to routines and fall into them with startling regularity. When we use a particular path to arrive at a desired destination, whether making our way to a market or an answer to a question, the ruts that form our route are continually reinforced by our travel. The more often we progress along the circuit, the deeper the rut becomes, the more ingrained the routine is in our approach. For example, many individuals, when conducting research these days, automatically turn to Google or Wikipedia for an answer without bothering to deviate to an alternative road to enlightenment.

To be sure, Google and Wikipedia are useful tools for research. Both are invaluable for tracking elusive explanations. However, neither of these paragons of probe are the quintessence of query. There are other avenues of access to answers. Research scientist David Fran├žois Huynh points out this fact eloquently as he discusses the merits of Freebase Parallax, a "a novel browsing interface" designed for use with Freebase, an open, shared database of the world's knowledge. Dr. Huynh's impressive video demonstration of Freebase Parallax ought to convince even the most die-hard fans of Google and Wikipedia that a fresh perspective can often yield richer solutions in a shorter amount of time.

Freebase Parallax: A new way to browse and explore data from David Huynh on Vimeo.

Related links:
  • Drop by Freebase and check out the Categories there.
  • What do you know about a unit of knowledge? Google's relatively recent Knol is designed to help users locate an authoritative article about a given topic.
  • My apologies to director Alan J. Pakula and actor Warren Beatty for alluding to their 1974 film the political thriller, The Parallax View, in my post title. No conspiracy was involved. It's an engaging (if not disturbing) work of cinema that's guaranteed to deliver a shiver or two.

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