I do enjoy trawling through someone else del.icio.us tags. First, bookmark a web page. Instantly find out who else has linked to it, and in turn what they have linked to. The act of bookmarking a site is a different thing from posting on a blog. A blog is a public diary, whereas a linklog is more a private scrap-book. Rumaging around in it feels slightly illicit. The act becomes a guilty pleasure, even if the whole point of del.icio.us is openness and sharing.
It was via del.icio.us that I sumbled accross Aharef (Subtitle: The Link Salt in the Web Soup). A page innocently named “Websites as graphs” caught my imagination with a very simple tool, which allowed me to generate the image below.
[photopress:sitemap.jpg,thumb,alignright]This intruiging pattern is not an organic chemical or a subway map, but a graphical representation of this site’s homepage (you can click it to enlarge). Each node represents an HTML tag such as DIV or SPAN. Begining with the black HTML tag/node which begins pretty much every page on every website, each line represents one tag ‘nested’ within another. The grey clump is the header information; the orange mess is the block of recent posts (uneven in length and content); and the regular protrusions that look like dandelions comprise my blogroll.
The page at Aharef gives some sample maps from popular websites, like Google and Boing-Boing. What I enjoy is how the more aesthetically pleasing patterns belong to those sites with a better site structure. A sparse pattern with plenty of red dots implies a complex site designed with tables. A cleaner, simpler site will have fewer but more concentrated nodes. They illustrate how a site with a clear structure will allow more people to read the information more efficiently.
Thinking about the philosophical ideas of mapping and representation, I wonder which is the ‘true’ representation of the document: the web-page or the diagramme? Both are valid ways of interpreting the same information. I wondered if a page could be created in which a greater meaning to the content could be found within its source code. My first, rudimentary attempt is called “I Had A Little Nut Tree”. You can also watch the visual representation spawn via Aharef. The poem is a friviolity in itself, but given a twist by its unique code structure.
I am reminded of other ways in which the same information can give rise to different things, depending on the medium you read it in; I am reminded of how the written word can take on a different meaning when read out loud; or how two people can interpret the same book as having different meanings; I am reminded of the post-Borgesian play Hear No, See No, Speak No; of the ‘graphic’ function in Apple iTunes that creates screen-savers from my MP3 collection; and how DNA code can be rendered not only into living things, but also into chromatographs so accurate that we can point at a bizarre pattern of dots, and give it a person’s name.