Thursday, June 18, 2009

Code Cleaning, Short Term Memory, and Bread Crumbs...What?

  Lately I haven't added many new features to my extension. Instead I've been refactoring the code, changing variable names to make it more understandable, and separating related methods into a few extra javascript files. This helps me get everything straight it my mind - just today I noticed there was a file called graph.js and could not remember what it was for. It turned out it was an old file from two weeks ago, from when I was trying to build an XML file parser to build the graph structure into an XML file. This "code cleaning" will hopefully help me be more productive.
  My latest addition has been a context menu, for right-clicking on nodes of the graph, to open up a few extra options - Delete, Collapse, New Edge (?). I'm really at the stage where I have to come up with ideas on how the user may want to manipulate this graph (Any suggestions will be much appreciated!). One feature that I'm interested in adding is one that Steve mentioned, when Anita Sarma came to visit on Tuesday, which I would term as giving the extension a short term memory. The situation is as follows: Sometimes you don't know when you begin that your browsing session will be important enough to record until you visit a number of sites and reach a certain point. In this situation my extension cannot help, the user has to know to begin with that their future browsing will be useful and relevant. Steve told a story about a group who were teaching students with mental handicaps who would continuously record the students, how they got along, and so forth. Even though they were constantly recording only a certain time frame was ever SAVED, say one hour. So if something happened that warranted actually recording, one of the supervisors could press record or save so that the film would actually be saved to a persistent storage, along with the one hour of film previously recorded that has not been wiped. I could add the same feature, not based on times but based on a user specified amount of URL clicks or site visits. The idea would be to continuously log sites - even if its off - but once a certain number of entries are in the database the first ones would get overwritten. Then, once the logging feature is activated, the history will also be there. Now, this would have to be an option that could be turned on and off as desired, since often times the past, say, 30 links before the logging feature were turned on may be completely irrelevant, and just cause more work for the user to delete all those nodes out. Also, I'd have to do some tests to find an optimal default number of sites to remember from the past. Any thoughts on the utility of this idea?
  I've been trying to find more information that Gina Venolia has done, with Microsoft Research, related to semantic searching and the most effective ways to display information about a web page. However, I've yet to find the specific or relating papers. The limitations of using only favicons are readily noticeable, so I would to find a solution that can convey more information at a glace than just the website - that is, assuming the user is familiar with the site's favicon. Come early next week, I will be taking a closer look at thumbnails - a visual representation of the page layout is the most immediately identifiable form to convey all needed information in.
  I'm relatively far into development now, yet I still have no name. I tried asking a few non-computer scientist friends, explaining the basic idea of it. The best suggestion I've received so far for a name is Bread Crumbs. Also, I remember from the initial discussion about this with Steve that he kept saying things along the lines of "It's like leaving a trail of bread crumbs for yourself." I'm still open for suggestions, but by the end of next week I'd like to have a name. 

1 comment:

  1. I like BreadCrumbs. Neat name.

    Here's the work by Gina that I think Anita was talking about: