Trailmeme Revamped

I’ve talked about Trailmeme previously on my blog and during the latter part of this year it went through a bit of a revamp. Trailmeme is a method of organising related web resources in a way that make sense and allows easy navigation through them. It can be used for a variety of purposes – event logging; tutorials; subject resources; mind mapping. The new version looks more polished than the previous one. New features have also been added – you can now create/update a trail in a variety of ways…

  • Advanced create/edit: Access markers you’ve imported into your account; import new markers; add them manually.
  • Quick create: Build a trail manually.
  • Edit Trail Map: Add/edit markers while in the trail map.
  • Bookmarklet: This sits on your toolbar and allows you to add markers whilst browsing the web.

Other features include…

  • Firefox toolbar: Provides the ability to add markers to a trail and search for trails, without needing to visit the Trailmeme website.
  • WordPress plugin: Can be used on self-hosted WordPress blogs as a way to highlight themes covered in a blog or a series of articles.
  • Discussion forum: Could be useful for getting others involved in the development of your trails, or as a way to discuss the ideas raised within the trail.
  • You can also identify if a marker you use has been used on another trail.
  • Social gaming/interaction: Blazer’s Journey. The more active you are on the site, the higher the level you reach.

Image (c) UW Digital Collections / Flickr.

Trailmeme is a lot easier to use since the revamp, whether it’s from the point of view of creating a trail or walking one and I’ve been working on a few new  trails using it. The latest is…

Voices For The Library campaign trail: The starting point for the trail is the VFTL campaign website. By putting this trail together I was attempting to highlight different resources mentioned on the VFTL website. The trail fans out from this website in three spokes – each spoke links to other VFTL web presences; endorsements from other organisations for VFTL; campaigns mentioned on the VFTL website. I’ve had to use intermediary pages for each of the three spokes, as I didn’t want to highlight a particular endorsement, campaign or other web presence from the VFTL website.

Using Trailmeme to document an event

I created a Trailmeme for the Middlemash event , which was held back in November 2009. There was so much information generated around this event that I wondered if it could be presented in a different sort of way.  The good thing about Trailmeme is that you can connect up related web pages in a way that allows you to branch off in different directions.

So, I’ve used the middlemash blog as a central point and branched off to different presentations, linking individual presentations with web sites mentioned in them eg. Tony Hirst talked about Yahoo Pipes, so I linked to the Yahoo Pipes site (as a marker). Paul Stainthorp & Edith Speller also mentioned Yahoo Pipes, so I also linked to the same marker from their presentations too.

Middlemash Trailmeme

As well as the presentations, I’ve linked back to the Mashed Library ning, wiki, Google map, Twapperkeeper archive (for tweets) and as many blog posts about the event as I could find.

I was hoping to link to photos of the event on Flickr, but Flickr doesn’t like to be embedded in a trailmeme. As an alternative, I could probably set up some kind of intermediary link page (if I wanted to keep it all in the box).

I also thought it would be a good idea to have an intermediary page for all the blogs. Otherwise I would have had to link to one of them and then branch out from there. I created a simple document on Google docs which just said “Here come the Middlemash blogs!!!”, published it as a web page and then linked to all the blogs from there. It’s not very pretty, but it does the job.

I’d be interested to see if people find this a useful way of bringing the event information together from a variety of places?

Going off on a tangent now (and unrelated to Trailmeme)… wouldn’t it be good if you had a video of an event and at certain points in the video you could link to related web pages. eg. In the case of Middlemash we might have Chris Keene talking about Aquabrowser during his presentation and at that point a link pops up to take you to the Aquabrowser site. Maybe this does exist – I remember Tony Hirst talking about captioning video with Twitter feeds, so is this feature similar and already available for people to use???

Following Trails in Trailmeme

I’ve shown you how you can set up a Trailmeme . Once you’ve done this you can publish your trail and others can start following it.

On the opening screen you can search for public Trailmeme’s by keyword. From this search you’re given a list of Trailmeme’s you can follow. Choose a Trailmeme and start following. You do this by first clicking on one of the markers and you’re taken to the web page this marker represents.

Follow page on Trailmeme

The web page is now broken up into 2 parts.

On the right hand side you get the web page that has been used as the marker (it appears in a frame).

On the left side of the screen you’re given details of that marker and you’re also shown links to/from other markers (indicated by green arrows). If you hover over the links you can see more details about the marker. To move through the trailmeme map click on these links. When moving through the trail, you can offer more than one link in either direction. So, in my example from the Java documentation page I offered a number of links, depending upon how someone might prefer to learn Java ie via forum, book, or blog tutorials.

At this stage it would be good to see why the trailmeme has been set up in a particular way, why a user has linked various web pages together and why specific links have been chosen. For example, I set my Java programming trail up on different levels – an overview to the left, getting more specific methods of learning ( eg books, forum, tutorials) and method/class tutorials on the right. Given all the time in the world I would have provided links to examples for all tutorials, rather than just a few.

I also think that it would be handy if you could highlight parts of web pages to show why a page was chosen to be included in the trail. Some pages may only be relevant because they contain a useful chunk of information, rather than the whole page itself.

Even though pages are linked, you’re not just limited to staying within the pages in the trail. You can also click on links in web pages as normal.

You can also go back to the map overview, which shows how all the pages are linked.

I found Trailmeme a really useful way of linking sites together and even though it’s early days, I can see the potential in using it as a way to provide tutorials linking related resources, a means of providing subject guides and also as a way of mapping an individuals thought trails – from A to B via Z.

The trail I created is here.

Linking Markers in Trailmeme

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been looking at Trailmeme, which allows you to create a map of linked pages, based around a specific topic. So far I’ve covered what it’s about and what it could be used for and choosing and using markers/bookmarks .

Once you’ve selected your markers you link them together to make a path through the markers/pages. You select the trail you are working on (via ‘Follow’, ‘My Trails’). It opens up with a list of markers associated with the trail on the left hand side and a  work pane on the right.

Initially the work pane displays a column of flow chart boxes and below them various menu options >> create/delete relationship between links, zoom in and out (trails with lots of markers can appear quite small in this window) and you can add further details (Node name, blurb/description, tags and comments) about the link. These details appear when anyone follows your trail. To link, just click on a marker and drag a line to the marker you want to link to. Each marker can have multiple links to and from it. You can also move the markers around the work pane.

Trailmeme Edit Trail Workpane
Edit Trail Screen

In this ‘Java Trail’ I tried to link things logically. Giving an overview on the left side, different general methods of learning in the middle and specific examples of Java programming classes/methods on the right. Even though you can’t do it at this stage, I think it would be useful to be able to group markers together into these logical groups – possibly into folders/venn sets? It would just help to show the logic to myself and others for future reference.

At this stage you can still add more markers and remove any you don’t want.

On this screen you also get the option to view the xml file of your trail, which is interesting to see how it all works behind the scenes. Maybe in future the developers could offer an option to upload/import trailmeme xml files as a way to create trailmemes, as well as using the graphical interface.

It’s fairly straightforward to use and linking web pages using Trailmeme could provide a logical/structured route through what might otherwise seem like a disjointed list of bookmarks.

(to be continued…)

Choosing and Using Markers in Trailmeme

Trailmeme builds linked web trails using bookmarked resources. After setting up your account you can import bookmarks/markers or add them manually to your pool. Once they’re added to your pool you check that they’re useable in a trail. If a marker appears correctly in a frame it’s useable.

At this stage you can see if any bookmarks have been used in another trail by anyone on the site. This could be handy if you’re looking for more markers for your trail – another trailmeme using the same marker may link to other useful resources you could use. I can’t help but think that it would also be useful to be able to link to any other trails that use the same bookmark- possibly creating a trailmeme of trailmemes! It would also be helpful to be able to search your bookmarks/ markers. If you make the mistake of importing all your bookmarks, it can take a while to find a particular one in the pool.

Next, you set up a new trail. You do this by giving it a title, submitting it and adding your markers to it.

Trailmeme Markers
Markers added to 'Java Programming' Trailmeme

For my ‘Java trail’ I decided to add more than just bookmarks for tutorial purposes. I included bookmarks for pages that compared java with other programming languages, the history/background of java, java documentation and videos, tutorials and links to useful books on Worldcat. I wanted the trail to give followers a varied view of Java, including a variety of resources they might find useful.

An aside: I included the programming comparison links as part of the ‘thought process’ experience. Before I started programming in Java I scouted around to see what language would be best for me. I wanted to learn a new language, as I wanted to get back into programming. I’d also seen some wizzy things on the internet that I wanted to find out more about, or create myself. I also thought that as a technical librarian in the internet dominated info world, updating my programming skills would be a good idea. The programming comparison links helped me decide – I went for Java and php in the end.

At the moment the markers in a trail aren’t organised in any useful way. For them to be of any use to others you need to link them together. This is when it becomes a trail. Up until now it’s still just a list of links.

(to be continued)

Trailmeme Introduction

Trailmeme is a way of creating a bookmarked path through online resources. Unlike traditional bookmarking, you can link sites together using trails, therefore creating a route along related online materials. Traditionally you could keep related bookmarks together in your web browser by adding them all to the same folder, but this doesn’t show you how the items are related. Trailmeme is also an online application, which means you can easily share your trail of links with other users.

At first look I can think of a few decent uses for this tool.

(1) A record of how you got from site A to B & the places inbetween – handy for personal use, research or as a thought process trail.
(2) Providing tutorials linking related resources.
(3) Creating subject resources or guides – suggested prefered resources, but with the ability for those following your trailmeme to branch off elsewhere.

Depending upon your reason for creating a specific trail you will want to include different types of links. For example, if you’re creating a tutorial trail you don’t necessarily want your students to see the in-depth thought process trail that led you to choose some links instead of others.

You can set up a trailmeme with a specific theme (eg Java programming), give it a title, tag it and organise the links in it.

I’ve decided to set up a Java programming trail, partly as a thought process trail and partly as a subject guide and over the course of a few blog posts I’ll be going through the process to illustrate what you can do with it.

(to be continued…)