Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mendeley Hack4Knowledge: towards an "ego wall"

I'm taking a virtual part in Mendeley's Hack4Knowledge event. I'm using this a chance to explore some ideas about building novel interfaces to bibliographic data in Mendeley. One idea is to display a user's entire library in one screen. I think the user interfaces employed by most bibliographic software are too conservative and there some cool things that could be done. For example, see A fluid treemap interface for personal digital libraries (doi:10.1145/1065385.1065512, PDF available from CiteSeer).

One idea I'm playing with is to display all a Mendeley user's papers as a quantum treemap, with thumbnails of the papers and "badges" indicating, for example, how many readers each paper has. The idea is that at a glance you can see all your publications, and which ones are being read the most. You can think of it as an "ego wall" — a quick way to see what others think about your work. Below is part of my library. You can see the full treemap here as an SVG file. Imagine this as an iPad interface to a user's Mendeley library.


Eventually I'll make this live. I'm doing this yet as the script to create the visualisation is slow due to the multiple requests I need to make to get the necessary information. I have to get the list of a user's papers from Mendeley, then I call the API for each paper to get basic bibliographic details. I have to screen scrape the corresponding paper's web page to get the thumbnail and the paper's UUID, which I can then use to get the readership stats via Mendeley's API via yet another API call. Sigh.

Anyway, this is enough hacking for one day. Hope to spend some more time on this project tomorrow.