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Kartoo Search Engine Presents Results as a Map 279

Posted by timothy
from the cool-idea dept.
cdupree writes "I've just run across a search engine called Kartoo---anyone else know it? Apparently it's been up since April 25. It presents its results in a graphical fashion, sort of like a map, allowing you to refine your query interactively. Admittedly, the "working" picture is a bit dorky, but the site is not dripping with ads (except for itself), and it's interesting to see the connections it finds when you enter, for example, "slashdot." My initial take on the thing is, it looks pretty, it presents the standard information in a new and different manner, but I haven't used it enough to get much in-depth knowledge of how best to use it. Has anyone had experience with this method of presenting search results? Is there background available on the folks who produced it beyond the trivial amount on the web site?" This sounds like a plug, but the few searches I tried with this engine to my surprise turned up interesting, relevant results. Update: 05/28 14:29 GMT by T : Laurent Baleydier adds: "Since last night, kartoo's requests have been multiplied by 20. At this moment, we can't respond to all those requests. We really apologize and we are doing as fast as possible in order to give you the best services."
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Kartoo Search Engine Presents Results as a Map

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  • Pretty interface and nice flowchart of interrelated subjects and sites. Pretty neat.
    • I agree, I could see this being very usefull to see the relationships between hits.. but its no google.
    • Re:Pretty Neat (Score:2, Interesting)

      by moonbender (547943)
      I think the interface is horrible (a bit too many mouseovers), although the presentation in itself isn't too bad. It's certainly quite interesting, though I'm not sure if apart from that, it is actually useful ... Oh and it appears to be slashdotted? Can't get any more results, at least.
      • "I think the interface is horrible (a bit too many mouseovers), although the presentation in itself isn't too bad. "

        I've been aching for a search engine that works kind of like this. I'm not sure of KartOO quite works the way I'm hoping it will (hard to tell when it's Slashdotted...), but it's a good start.

        I really hope that somebody'll develop a file browser for Windows kind of like this. I think I'd work a hell of a lot faster if my hard drive looked like a star-map instead of climbing a tree.
      • Oh and it appears to be slashdotted? Can't get any more results, at least.

        So much for load testing - Did anyone give them a heads up? At least there should be someone on duty since France, etc does not have a Memorial Day, at least not on the USA schedule of holidays.

        Looks like it is back to Ask Taco [asktaco.com] for me

        ;-)

    • by NanoGator (522640) on Monday May 27, 2002 @07:36PM (#3592742) Homepage Journal
      Hey dudes, I've been playing around with the HTML version of the search engine (not sure what's wrong with Flash...) and got some interesting results.

      A lot of people have been complaining about the slow response compared to google, and so on. Well let's not worry about that right now, let's look at what it does do interesting.

      Google is used for very specific searches, and Kartoo doesn't really change that. Instead, I used Kartoo to do a general search. I typed in "Robocop'. Here is the link:

      http://www.kartoo.com/kartoo2/servlet/H?q=robocop& l=1&s=0&lp=1 [kartoo.com]

      Notice it shows a few sites, and even a few words giving you hints about what the site is about. I think this is where some people had some trouble, though. This page is full of javascripts and style sheets, so I can imagine anybody not running IE 5 is going to have trouble. (Sorry!)

      It's pretty cool that at a glance I know what that site is going to show me before I actually read it's description when I move my mouse over it. Right away, without having to read much at all, I knew that I could find pictures of Robocop, information about the movies, and even a hint that there was a series to Robocop.

      This is where the speed comes. Google is fast and all, but I've never found info this fast on a general topic such as "Robocop".

      Go try it out! You'll see what I mean. I don't know if this particular site will become popular, but I do think that it proves that the graphical search enging concept is viable and interesting. I'd still use Google for very specific questions I have, but if I wanted to know about general topics, this would be a very handy place to look

      • Well, it may work with IE due to the webmaster using "stupid browser tricks" but I got javascript errors popping up faster than I could close them using the HTML site in Mozilla 0.9.9. I finally had to "killall -9 mozilla-bin" to get off the site. A search site has got to be browser-agnostic if it's going to succeed commercially.

        If you ask me, the site's not ready for prime time, and it's damn sure not load-balanced well enough to withstand the /. effect.
        • You are right about not being able to take the /. effect but it is coming up roses on Netscape 7 aka:
          Netscape 7.0 Preview Release 1
          Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.0rc2) Gecko/20020512 Netscape/7.0b1
      • This page is full of javascripts and style sheets, so I can imagine anybody not running IE 5 is going to have trouble. (Sorry!)

        Worked wonderfully for me using Opera 6.01 under WinXP, and Opera 6.0 under Linux. No IE here :)
  • Porn? (Score:4, Funny)

    by shermon (12704) on Monday May 27, 2002 @06:43PM (#3592540) Homepage
    A search for "porn" took 20 seconds... I don't think this search engine is up to snuff for the internet. :)

  • by quantaman (517394) on Monday May 27, 2002 @06:45PM (#3592551)
    The next thing I got was a graphical representation of the /. effect.
  • It'll hardly take the place of google as my preferred search engine, just too damn slow. But I love a good diagram... and the way it displays the results is very cool... I like it :)

    • by NanoGator (522640)
      It seems like it wouldn't be very hard to make a Graphical UI for Google in much the same way that Kart00 does. It's really only a matter of sending a URL request to Google.com and parsing the HTML it sends down to you. Then you can write your own prog that categorizes the data.

      That'd be a fun project!

      *wishes he had a star-map-like File Explorer for Windows*
      • Already done. The software is called VisIT [uiuc.edu], from the good folks at the University of Illinois, the same campus that has developed a veritable shite load of things for the internet/mac, like Fetch (FTP), and a telnet client.
  • by Sivar (316343) <charlesnburns[ AT ]gmail DOT com> on Monday May 27, 2002 @06:45PM (#3592553)
    Searches take entirely too long (about ten seconds. May not seem like alot, but it adds up) and the main page is Flash galore. You are also redirected immediately when you enter, so you have to hit "back" *realfast* to get back to Slashdot. The idea of presenting results as a web is kinda neat, but it ends at "kinda neat." The results are confusing and look disturbingly similar to the area of the computer tables behind my three computers--everything interconnected and difficult to follow.

    I commend them on creating an original and refreshingly different idea in search engines, but I doubt Google has anything to worry about.

    At least they run Linux [netcraft.com]
    • Nasty indeed. Why would anyone use flash after this [slashdot.org]? Sorry, just not worth it. Think I'm going to download that junk, become root, and install that shit? Nope. With intent like that, I'm not even interested in a free client that can talk to flash. Serve me nice little pictures, please. An animated gif, if you must, but there is no need for goofey propriatory extentions. Sites that hand me "flash/applicationX" don't see much of me.
  • Remember the search engine called Northern Light that organised information into folders? When you searched you could click on topics on a toolbar to refine the search. I dont' know if it's still up but it would be at www.northernlight.com [northernlight.com]
  • My results (Score:5, Informative)

    by pjdepasq (214609) on Monday May 27, 2002 @06:46PM (#3592558)
    I just used Mozilla RC2 (on Mandrake 8.1) to try a search on myself. It was the non-Flash version and I had to dismiss something like 50+ Javascript popup messages.

    Needless to say, I'm already not a fan of the site. Perhaps in time it will prove to be more usable.
  • Well, I found it very limited in many ways, especially to pull up larger numbers of results. When I tried to do a search for my own domain, it didn't even find it, but it did find domains owned by other people with the same name. Yeah, it's cool, but it's not gonna replace google for me. :)
  • I don't know if we the search engine is too slow or if the slashdot traffic just knocked it out but something seems terribly wrong.
  • The relevant results are due to kartoo's new "hamster-rank"-system. They are small, smart and they don't fly away. They don't pick on you eather.
  • by Gerrioholic99 (309014) on Monday May 27, 2002 @06:47PM (#3592565) Journal
    I think i'll stick with google until it takes less than a minute to succesfully search for something google does in 5 seconds
  • by Anthony Boyd (242971) on Monday May 27, 2002 @06:47PM (#3592567) Homepage

    Assuming it'll be slashdotted, for the curious, what it does is something like a graphical Alexa. It shows the main thing you searched for as a sort of you-are-here dot that you can click on, and then it shows related sites and keywords in a connect-the-dots type of image. So I entered slashdot, and got slashdot.org as the main result, but with "linux" and some other keywords around it. I clicked "linux" and got a new graphic with some linux sites, OSDN, and some other related stuff.

    It does seem useful, but on Windows, I'd rather just click the "Related" button in IE and get Alexa's list. Here on my Linux box, this is a good substitute for Opera and Konq to use.

    • inevitable slashdotting?

      Have you ever seen Google get slashdotted? if anything, Goggle's cached links get used as a mirror for sites that get slashdotted. Alexa's list is powered by google too.

      Slashdotted a search engine... heh.
  • Slashdotted in less than 3 minutes.

  • by SynKKnyS (534257)
    It claimed no search results for Slashdot. :P
  • by BluSkreen (47256) on Monday May 27, 2002 @06:48PM (#3592574)
    It uses and displays the results of other indexers or crawlers such as Google. It's basically a meta front end for searches.

    The Flash version is a bit slow, even on huge pipes and a faster client.

  • by teslatug (543527)
    That was horrible...I got about a hundred JavaScript error messages...the Slashdotting sure can be brutal
  • Relevant Results? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geoffsmith (161376) on Monday May 27, 2002 @06:49PM (#3592578) Homepage
    This sounds like a plug, but the few searches I tried with this engine to my surprise turned up interesting, relevant results.

    Maybe that's because it gets its results from Google? Try a search for "nanotechnology" in Kartoo and Google, you will find the results are exactly the same.

    Now Kartoo admits they are a "meta search engine", so the real question here is: is this map thing actually useful? And is it worth the 12 seconds it took to make that map? In my small amount of experimentation, I would say its nifty, but not terribly useful, and its slower than molasses.

    Websurfing done right! StumbleUpon [stumbleupon.com]
    • Re:Relevant Results? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by NanoGator (522640) on Monday May 27, 2002 @07:11PM (#3592659) Homepage Journal
      I'm not sure they intended this to replace Google. I think this is meant to be a different tool, not a replacement tool. I think it's more useful as a "How proliferated is this info on the web?" request rather than a "What exactly is a zif-socket?" request.

      For example, I searched for my nickname and found the results kind of interesting. Not really anything to write home about, but I got to go down a lot of different paths. The map was the same time every time I entered my nick, so if I were to come back to it tomorrow, I'd remember which area of the map I was on and try a different one.

      If you're looking for a few fan sites on the Transformers, for example, I can see the visual metaphor being quite useful compared to Google's "we'll list them in order." technique.

      Not sure if that makes a whole lot of sense or not, but I'm starting to get the idea how a visual cue like this could be quite constructive in hunting down hard-to-find info.
      • Expanding on this, the map could show the most travelled paths made by other web surfers, perhaps by making the path look thicker depending on the amount of traffic along that route.

        Could be interesting, certain routes could become major highways, and sites which have major highways connected to them could be ranked higher...
        • Agreed.

          It'd also be cool if the map were more radial so certain types of pages are in one corner, and different ones on the other... that way you could pick a compass direction to scan in.

          Wouldnt that be cool?
    • More then Google (Score:2, Informative)

      by ChaseTec (447725)
      If you click on the Options button at Kartoo you can select which search engines to use.
    • Presumably they are using a PHP/Perl-script to search google for the top-10 results, then do a "google.com?q=link: sitename" for each of those results to see whether any of the pages link to each other.

      I wonder if this is of interest to that "big prize for an interesting use of google data" project, because it certainly seems useful.

      As for the "many javascript dialogs" problem, it looks like they're checking for "Browser version < 4" and then for "Is browser Internet Explorer?", so goodness knows what it thinks Mozilla is... I'm sure they'll figure something out after being hit with a slew of linux browsers from Slashdot readers...
    • (offtopic - about the StumbleUpon sig)

      I tried installing it as user and it failed since it didn't have permission to write to the proper directories/files. It then told me to fix the problem by giving everyone read/write access to /usr/lib/mozilla !!! since when is doing stuff like that "done right?" (Then again, I might just be paranoid since I let a lot of people have accounts on my machines for evangelical reasons.)
      • The problem is with mozilla, it won't allow per-user plugin or chrome app installs. Since the problem doesn't exist on Windows, there hasn't been any rush to fix it.

        A better solution for a multi-user system is to give your user's group access to /usr/lib/mozilla, but I gave the simplest solution for a single user desktop system(which I'm assuming will account for the large majority of installs) I figure anyone running a multi-user system with untrusted users knows how to give just themselves and root access to /usr/lib/mozilla.

        I hope you enjoy the toolbar!
        • by Bastian (66383)
          Fooled around with it for about 2 hours last night. This is easily the best toolbar plugin I've used yet. Awesome! =D
    • Now Kartoo admits they are a "meta search engine", so the real question here is: is this map thing actually useful? And is it worth the 12 seconds it took to make that map? In my small amount of experimentation, I would say its nifty, but not terribly useful, and its slower than molasses.
      It seems that Kartoo merely links sites which have the same word appearing in the summary for the set of 10 results showing. So I'd have to say that it looks cool but is in fact completely useless. Now if it fetched the actual pages and analyzed the common terms it'd be useful, although very slow. Google could do it reasonably quickly with the cached copies of the pages.
  • Apparently it's been up since April 25

    Well, good thing you posted it on Slashdot. Everyone site should go down at least once ever 3 months.

  • Mirror (Score:4, Informative)

    by Triskaidekaphobia (580254) on Monday May 27, 2002 @06:50PM (#3592590)
    Since we can now add "Search Engine" to the list of sites we've killed, here's a mirror [freesoftmag.com] of what the search results look like if you're lucky enough to get that far.

    Can't quite see the point of it myself. I like a ranked list, like Google.
    • ...we can now add "Search Engine" to the list of sites we've killed...

      Actually we've now officially killed [slashdot.org] Search Engines (plural) if you count beta [google.com] sites...which this one pretty much seems to be.

      Thanks for the mirror.
  • I don't have flash, so i used the html version. Searched for "linux" and it came up, said results 1-10. But there was nothing displayed. moved my mouse around and i got an incredible ammount of annoying ass javascript error boxes, an endless stream of one after another. Couldn't get to X to close the tab, couldn't close mozilla the proper way, had to kill it.

    Bad first impression.

    Frankly I think it should have warned me about needing javascript or similar stupid shit. I wouldn't have bothered.

    Go google.
  • DMCA (Score:4, Funny)

    by hhg (200613) on Monday May 27, 2002 @06:50PM (#3592594)
    Try a search for "Fuckhead", and see a fine map of Capitol Hill emerging.
  • Is he smoking a green, jagged cigarette, or is a green thunderbolt protruding from his right cheek? Which of those downward bent lines is supposed to be his mouth? The image looks like something from a dream after I've had too much pizza before going to bed.
  • Well it doesn't work for me NS4.5, Flash installed but Javascript disabled.

    It sat there for 40 seconds counting away the seconds and then told me:

    "the connection with kartoo failed. If the problem persists, you can send us a message on kartoo@kartoo.com and we will try to find a solution:-)"

    Maybe it didn't like my firewall? maybe javascript is mandatory? Maybe it's just slashdotted?

    Whatever the reason, I see little use for a search engine that doesn't work -- regardless of how pretty the graphics are ;-)
  • dancing llamas (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mrpuffypants (444598) <mrpuffypants@@@gmail...com> on Monday May 27, 2002 @06:53PM (#3592604)
    the problem with this and a lot of other search engines is that they always try to 'revolutionize' the searching experience.

    Back 'in the day' Altavista and Yahoo did it right: focus on searching and that's all. If i go to the library to find a book i don't need to look at a dancing llama for 10 seconds before i enter, it's just useless and flagrant.

    Now, though, we have Google, which has realized what makes a search engine useful, and look at it: it's the most popular on the internet.
  • there's an HTML version that doesn't seem to be as hard on the server as the Flash version. At least I was able to access it with no problem.

    KartOO HTML [kartoo.com]

    Look but don't touch, though, at least in Moz RC3. If you mouse-over one of the links in the map, it'll bomb you with a series of java alerts.

    Sweat

  • They better drop the flash stuff, and clean up stuff for bandwidth reasons. It appears that they just search other engines, not a bad thing, but with /. hitting it now, the searches merely time out.

    Not only that, but every section of the website that is supposed to have some feature (search bar for your web page, screensaver, startpage, etc.) has something completely different in it. Like for instance the "put kartoo in your startpage" results in "email your friends about kartoo". And "install kartoo on your website" results in simply link logos. "screensaver" results in desktop backgrounds.

    I applaud what these guys are trying to do, but it looks to me like they have been focusing on things other than achieving their goal.
  • by MbM (7065)
    Incase anyone was wondering what it looked like, here's a screenshot from one of the help pages: screenshot [kartoo.net]
  • Some experience (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GigsVT (208848) on Monday May 27, 2002 @07:12PM (#3592664) Journal
    Back in college, I would participate in research studies to earn a little extra money. One of the studies was of a 3D graphical method of laying out links to web sites. I was given time to look over the program, then they asked me to find certain information.

    It was pretty interesting, the program was similar to the interface to Chime for chemistry, you could zoom in and out and rotate the link structure. I'm not sure what the result of the research was, and I'd say it was a toss up as to whether it was easier to use or not.

    Maybe the CS grad student that did the research reads slashdot and he can tell us how it turned out.
  • Generating Images (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fliplap (113705) on Monday May 27, 2002 @07:16PM (#3592678) Homepage Journal
    So the image creating scripts are hosted on another machine "nfrance.com". But the really cool thing is that you can make the thing say whatever you want by changing the URL of the image a bit. See:
    I'm sure if you put in enough effort you could draw pictures [nfrance.com]

    of course slash-code f's with the URL so here's an smlnk: (ps. smlnk.com shortens URLs mostly for usenet or irc postings so don't be freaked out be the redirect)
    http://smlnk.com/?EPRZ4J7R [smlnk.com]
  • Back in the day, the pre-Compaq day -- when men were men and AltaVista was a project at DEC -- they offered a java applet which rendered your search as a network of related topics. You could interactively refine your search by adjusting the fittness of the various topics in the map. Ahh, the good old days.
  • Over at this area of map.net [map.net] there is something even better- a web directory represented as physical locations located on parts of Antarctica (and the site also has the domain name antarcti.ca for its services). It uses data from the Open Directory Project, formerly GNUhoo, a directory that is somewhat open and is a better one than Yahoo's directory, and one that Google uses in large part to find relevant results.
  • Kartoo surrenders.
  • Wow, depending on which browser I use, it looks either like a screenful of JAVASCRIPT ALERTS or the KDE bomb (Konquerer dying with a segfault).

    score: F+


  • The search engine was slashdotted, no big surprise there. But the thing that will keep me from ever visiting this site again is that when I repeated clicked the Back button and hit Alt-Left, I kept getting their page. Anybody who pulls that lame crap to keep people from backing out of their site SUCKS DONKEY.

  • by ynotds (318243) on Monday May 27, 2002 @11:55PM (#3593475) Homepage Journal
    For once I got to something early on thanks to a tip from a friend and it was mostly stable running Moz 0.98 under Mac OS 9.1 over cable although once or thrice it seemed to stop accepting input into its search bar.

    I'd been waiting for somebody to try something genuinely useful with Flash for a while, at least useful beyond providing something to hide behind when you haven't got any real content, and while Kartoo is nice enough to now be near the top of my five miles of mostly unsorted bookmarks, one side of me wishes that they'd waited for SVG to be a bit more available.

    Maybe I was lucky in my first choice, but I opted for "complexity nonlinear emergence" and was richly rewarded. The visual presentation of results and associated keywords seemed like a significant step forward and led me to a bunch of useful cross disciplinary sites that I haven't had a chance to more than skim yet.

    It has been interesting to compare Kartoo with Google Sets [slashdot.org] that was discussed here last week. Both are novel approaches to situating search items in context, but at least for "complexity nonlinear emergence" Google Sets is singularly unhelpful.
  • This looks like an implementation of Self-Organizing Map system using neural nets for categorization of documents. It probably is working something like this:
    1. Retrieve documents relevant documents based on keywords. As someone else already pointed out, this is a meta-search engine -- it is using other search engines to gather links and then retrieving those documents.
    2. Using those documents, it computes a context for each word. This is done by assigning every word a random vector of say, 70 or so elements. The context is then computed from average of the vectors of the words surrounding each word, in the entire text collection.
    3. These vectors are then used as inputs into a neural net -- the closest matching vectors on the net are labeled with the corresponding words and the neural net is smoothed from there with the associated context vectors. This creates a word category map.
    4. A word histogram is then built from each document. This histogram is then mapped to the word category map and the resultant vectors are used as an input to another self organizing map -- the document map.
    5. The document map represents clusters of related documents.

    Obviously there are many different ways to do this, for example, use other criteria such as noun phrases instead of words, and there are lots of variations within just this particular implementation. I can't actually see what Kartoo is doing because the site isn't working for me, but I suspect it's something similar -- I think the 'Topics' is for example the word or phrase category map and the 'Sites' is the document map.
  • I remembered having tested this site last year.
  • I'd make that April 25 2001. I saw the beta of this site over a year ago, and it went operational in the wake of the dot com crash, so it's more like a year old.

    Is it really true that Slashdot only just realised this kind of thing has been quietly adding extra time to your searches to give you some flash graphical map?

  • time waster.... (Score:2, Informative)

    by DeanOh (61485)
    OK: The interface is non-intuitive, the 'mapped' results are inscrutable (and mostly irrlevant), and they homepage contained a whine about the 20-fold increase in traffic since the slashdot article appeared. Not ready for prime time. And located in France (does this mean it was a fine French whine??). I'll stick with Google......
  • Dynamic clustering ? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cjstephen (123844) on Tuesday May 28, 2002 @07:29AM (#3594152) Homepage
    Has anyone had a chance to try the clustering option ?
    Is this the first full web search tool to display results using dynamic clustering ?

    I only had a brief play with the non-clustering version prior to /.ing (using "chocolate cake")
    and thought it summarised the options very well. The speed wasn't great but not too bad either for the work I think it was doing. If they can work on scalability a bit more perhaps they'll have something.

    A while ago I implemented a dynamic clustering search/refine system based on a Xerox PARC idea called "Scatter-Gather". Potentially, it gives good results, but since clustering is naturally
    an O(n^2) operation, you need to find shortcuts to make it quick enough.

    Clustering is finding groups of documents in a collection which interrelate more to each other than to the other documents. e.g. the results for "chocolate cake" would hopefully partition into cake recipes, cake shops, cake mix, diet tips, chocolate appreciation societies etc etc..

    From what I've seen, my guess is that with clustering off (the default) it's doing some sort of pseudo-clustering a bit like this:

    * Starts with an indexing search engine's results.
    * Re-indexes these or their summaries, binning the usual stop words like pronouns and weighting by frequency in the sub-collection.
    * Picks some distinctive/distant vectors, i.e
    documents which contain few overlaps with each other.( picking a few samples O(nlogn) ? )
    * Labels them with their distinctive terms and displays.
    * Allows the initial "Google" search to be refined +/- these terms.

    With clustering on, I'd guess the main differences to be in the document sampling and query refinement. I'll take another look in a couple of days time. Has anyone tried it out ?

    Clustering is expensive, but I still think it's a useful tool for presenting and refining results. This is the best example I've seen so far. The graphical presentation feels fairly natural and intuitive.

    It would be a nice option to have on Google to say "cluster my results", when you notice there are distinct classes of result you want to isolate. I'd wait 30s for that.

    Colin
  • You can't use it right now because their requests have been multiplicated by 20.
  • Most users think they want results in a graphical form, but usually when presented with the actual display, they dislike them.

    One of this days, somebody will find the right way to display search results graphically, but so far all of those that I've seen fell well short of the standard ranked summary list presented by Google.

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