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Visualizing Stories On Current Events With Newsmap 114

hrbrmstr writes "Marcos Weskamp and Dan Albritton have created Newsmap, an extremely cool way of visualizing news stories. The site takes the aggregated content from Google News (globally) and maps it out into a visual space. That way, you get an immediate feel for news patterns (what the media in any particular region is gravitating to) - there's quite a bit of potential here."
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Visualizing Stories On Current Events With Newsmap

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  • our beloved search engine : Google. Good to know :)
  • Please correct the google news link. I can't get to the site [google.ca]...
  • Pretty cool (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dealsites ( 746817 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @07:23AM (#8735403) Homepage
    It's obvious that this guy has some programming ntalent. I wonder if Google will chase him down and we'll see this at labs.google.com soon?

    That makes me start to wonder... Maybe the best way to get a job with a company you like is to write some slick code that helps to benefit the company. Once the company finds out about your project, they might decide to hire you. It's kinda of like writting a customized resume for a particluar company.

    --
    No April fools jokes here. I promise! [dealsites.net]
    • Looks damn cool. Guy definitely has some talent.

      Now if it would only render in FireFox I'd use it.

      Opening IE to check the news is like looking at the festering wound on your wrist to check the time....
      • works fine in firebird 0.7
      • It's working for me in FireFox 0.8 (is that a redundant statement?). It crashed the first time I tried it, but that was probably because of the /. effect. I agree with you about switching back to IE being a royal pain. Whenever I do it, I keep center-clicking on links and getting that scroll-cursor.
    • It's obvious that this guy has some programming ntalent. I wonder if Google will chase him down and we'll see this at labs.google.com soon?

      If they did track him down, I'm guessing it would be for his bright ideas as opposed to programming talent - lots of people can program, but fewer can come up with excellent ideas like this.

      • He's not the only one to come up with this, and it's already been demonstrated and rejected by Google.

        Google didn't seem to like it very much.
      • Actually, now that the site came up, I see that it's not what we came up with. It's stupid.

        Bigger text for more popular stories? Ooohhh ahhh....
    • Maybe the best way to get a job with a company you like is to write some slick code that helps to benefit the company. Once the company finds out about your project, they might decide to hire you.

      They might also decide to sue you.

  • so? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kevinvee ( 581676 )
    All of the english-printing countries are reporting about the same 10 subjects anyways, and I can't read the other ones. Its a flashy front end to localized news articles, nothing innovative here.
    • Re:so? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by junklight ( 183583 ) <<moc.thgilknuj> <ta> <kram>> on Thursday April 01, 2004 @07:30AM (#8735422) Homepage
      The news is culled from many sources - each of those sources are edited by people who decide how important any given news item is. This shows an amalgamation of those decisions allowing you to see at a glance what is deemed important or not. But if you would rather read your local paper I am sure no-one will mind
      • Its not that I don't want to be in tune with world news, but when this site shows all the same stories are being read everywhere anyways, and I can get all of those same stories with less flash and flare directly from google news, whats the point? Perhaps I've missed it.
        • Re:so? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by angusr ( 718699 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @07:47AM (#8735484)
          It's not the access to the stories that is the useful function. It's the visualisation of the relative importance of the stories, or - rather - how important the stories are perceived to be by the media (or how successful the propoganda/marketing has been, depending on the story).

          1001 news sources have the same stories, yes. The vast majority have the placment and hence importance of those stories decided by editors who, because they're human, have biases and agendas. Google News (and some others) places the stories based on algorithmic results and hence only shows the "group bias" of the world's media. This is just an easy way to visualise that, allowing single-click filtering on various fields and the ability to see many more stories per page and pick out the "important" ones.

          Yes, nothing terribly mindblowing (and I've seen a file display recently with a very similar layout, showing files as blocks with proportionate sizes and colours based on last access) but it's still neat, and did help me spot some interesting stories that I'd missed on my regular news sites.

          • >>[snip] places the stories based on algorithmic results and hence only shows the "group bias" of the world's media [\snip]

            Of course I don't think the fact that it's done with algorithm's eliminates bias. Somebody has decided to use algorithm_1 overr algorithm_2, which is the programmer's bias. It's objective, I'll give you that, since it is quantified and repeatable. But it's still bias.

            ~b
            • It's not meant to eliminate bias, it's meant to display bias and make it obvious. The idea is that you can see at a glance the relative popularity of a given story, and that you can see the most popular (presumably the most important) stories most easily.
          • It is interesting to see the general popularity and importance of news stories in a nifty graphical layout. But isn't the priority of the news featured on the Google News front page already determined by popularity and importance? Is there any new information being provided here?
          • Why in god's name would I care about how important the stories are perceived to be by the media (or how successful the propoganda/marketing has been, depending on the story)? This opacifies the news even further instead of helping me find interesting information. This is in effect a media echo chamber echo chamber. If this software were to be customizable, and we were able to invert and tune some of the criteria, then maybe we would get somewhere.
    • the UK has TWICE the coverage of international news compared to the US!

      Although, having seen domestic US TV in the States - I'm not surprised. Switch the 5 mins of local news we get here in Ireland/UK with 5 mins international 'roundup' and you wouldn't be far off!!!
      • More comparisons (Score:3, Interesting)

        by zoney_ie ( 740061 )
        Hmmm... Interesting. France and Canada have a similar ratio of national and international stories to the US!

        The German Google news has a whopping huge ratio of entertainment to news!

        However, India and Australia are WAY low on National news! (Even the UK despite the highest proportion of international news has more national news)

        That's all folks, I'm sick of waiting 5 hours for each page to load up (even if it is subst minutes hours)...
    • I agree.

      This infact is a kitsch smorgasbord of information that's quite off-putting.

      I ask to be saved from the hordes of designers who monger (only) variable text sizes as epitomes of visualization. Visualization, by it's very nature, is defined [reference.com] as the process of formation of a mental image. It's what's inherent to photographs and pictures amongst other entities. Surely not much of a (memorable) image being formed here.

      Personally, I much rather prefer the more subtle, appropriate and to the point l

  • by klokwise ( 610755 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @07:28AM (#8735414)

    Stop Press!

    ... and all other amusing phrases to go with their breaking story of "500 Internal Server Error".

  • by syslog ( 535048 ) <naeem@noSpAM.bari.cc> on Thursday April 01, 2004 @07:28AM (#8735415)
    This is a pretty cool concept - maybe desktop environments like KDE and GNOME could do something like this. Something simple, like making most often used files, programs etc larger and more apparent, with the less used items growing smaller and smaller with disuse till they disappear entirely and are cleaned up from the system.

    Of course such a system would require a bunch of gotchas to be taken care of... no one wants "ls" deleted just because a user didn't use it for a month :) Maybe only largish applications are affected by such an algorithm? Maybe the distribution marks certain directories as do-not-touch items, and the rest are affected? Maybe only user-installed apps are affected?

    Thoughts?

    -naeem

    • I kinda like that idea, however, as opposed to the system "cleaning up", a nice feature would be to inverse the reults, so you can see which items you wouldnt mind having cleared up, so you are safe in the knowledge that ls wouldnt disappear, but you could see, for example, software you installed to test but forgot about before you got around to uninstalling. I install a LOT of software and forget to uninstall so this is something I've thought about before.
    • by tiled_rainbows ( 686195 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @07:34AM (#8735438) Homepage Journal
      Trouble is, I have the opposite problem in real life: I have now problem finding the last ten documents or so that I've been working on, but if I want to find something from a couple of weeks ago, it's a real pain if I can't remember where I put it. And I'm bad at filing stuff in any sort of systematic way, so it's often a PITA.

      Maybe your idea would be useful to me if I could rewind somehow and take a look at what my desktop looked like an a certain date in the past, showing all the files and stuff I was using most round that time.
      • by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @10:54AM (#8737165) Homepage Journal

        I'm bad at filing stuff in any sort of systematic

        Me, too.

        I've tried to clean up my top level home directory so that there's only a screenfull of concise subdirectories listed, then everything goes into those.

        Problem is, some of those subdirectories become chock full at the next level. I have a directory called "tmp/src" that includes about every imagined release of some interesting application tarball ever made.

        Then, documents can hide way down in some particular project directory.

        Instead of a static view of my files and work, I'd like VFolders that could be generated a lot like Google Searches, including criterion such as file type, time last accessed, keywords in the document.

        I remember reading once of some crazy guy that used CVS for his home directory, but I think CVS is too clunky. But he had gem of an idea: time travel - "I want to see my desktop from 8 months ago".

        And, yes, while a graphical tree is really nice, I'd like to be able to navigate through any tree using pure text-based tools, terminals if I desired.

        Maybe then I could make my own "/usr/bin" sane instead of what my sysadmin thinks is a good idea.

    • by Zog The Undeniable ( 632031 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @07:37AM (#8735449)
      No thanks. I *hate* the personalized menus in Windows and Office XP, and they seem to have removed the ability to turn them off now.
      • by bheer ( 633842 ) <rbheer@NOspAM.gmail.com> on Thursday April 01, 2004 @08:04AM (#8735529)
        > they seem to have removed the ability to turn them off now.

        Windows: "Start | Setttings | Taskbar and start menu" has a checkbox (different locations I think for 2000 and XP/2003) to disable personalized menus. If you use XP's Luna theme (why?), the "All Programs" flyout is un-personalized.

        Office (2000, XP, 2003): right click on the main toolbar, Customize, Options tab, uncheck "Menus show most recently used commands first".
    • I worked on something similar once. Used a fairly obscure mathematical technique known as formal concept analysis to group objects (which were documents in this system) according to their relationships to each other. Each document would be defined in terms of keywords (which were generated using an automatic text summarisation tool) and the system would output a graphical representation of the relationships between them, with the most general documents at one end, and the most common topics at the other.
    • maybe something like this blog treemap [samuelwan.com], or this one that represents file sizes [win.tue.nl]
    • maybe desktop environments like KDE and GNOME could do something like this. Something simple, like making most often used files, programs etc larger and more apparent, with the less used items growing smaller and smaller with disuse till they disappear entirely and are cleaned up from the system.

      Neat idea, there's a small problem. I keep a lot of stuff sitting around for archival purposes, and I'm sure others do as well. I hardly ever access any of them (files or programs), so under your system they'd eve

    • by SlashDread ( 38969 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @08:15AM (#8735568)
      OMG, the TeleTubby startmenu from XP reinvented.
      I -HATE- that auto-rearrange stuff.

      My user manuals now read:
      - Click the startbutton.
      - Find wherever Windows XP has put you foo-app today.
      - Select that.

      "/Dread"
    • by six11 ( 579 ) <johnsogg@cNETBSDmu.edu minus bsd> on Thursday April 01, 2004 @11:12AM (#8737354) Homepage

      Newsmap is based on Treemaps, which is both a conceptual GUI idiom as well as a commercial product [umd.edu]. This is the work that Ben Schneiderman is most well-known for, and he's been working on different forms of interactive information visualization for decades.

      The parent was asking about projects like KDE and Gnome picking up cool concepts like this. The HCI world is full of 'hey neat' ideas that on the surface really seem like they should be brought into the fold, but aren't for a variety of reasons. One company in particular that I worked for (and won't name) has a really cool project that I feel could become a standard UI idiom like radio buttons and scrollpanes, but the product is doomed to failure because the company is horribly mismanaged and (having been the sole coder--as an intern, even) I also know the code to be completely inflexibly designed. Furthermore, they want to make all sorts of money on the thing, which means they're charging customers an arm and a leg to use it.

      The Linux desktop environment projects have issues equally as inibitive as the one described above, but rather than being financially oriented, their problems are more about ego and (with the exception of some of the KDE guys) a complete misunderstanding of what HCI is all about. I really wish KDE/Gnome would use these experimental UI metaphors, but alas, I think their structures prohibit this sort of thing.

      • The Linux desktop environment projects have issues equally as inibitive as the one described above, but rather than being financially oriented, their problems are more about ego and (with the exception of some of the KDE guys) a complete misunderstanding of what HCI is all about.

        I can't help but wonder if this is the case with the decision to make the scrollbar thumb change size in proportion to the number/size of the content in a window or list. Maybe on its surface it might have appeared to be an inter
        • First let me say (unrelated to your comments) that I've been reading some of Havoc's thoughts on usability and I need to include him on the list of 'clued in' individuals.

          In response to you, I think specific widget behavior changes should only go into widespread use if they have been scientifically tested (usability testing). Of course, the itch to change it has to originate from somewhere, and in the case of open source software that source is almost always some hacker. So in this case, somebody thought t
          • My biggest frustration is in convincing my higher-ups that when making UI decisions, ego (somebody just deciding that something is of no practical use, for example) is the wrong way to do it,

            I understand this completely. In the past I have made that mistake myself, implementing something because either I thought it would be "neat", or because I mistunderstood how a particular function would be applied. I am wiser now. I know that it is not I who should be directing the end user, but they who should be di
    • Like Personalized Menus in Windows/Office we all love to hate?

      I don't think so. And I don't understand what is so cool about the newsmap. May be I am missing some important Flash functionality, but to me that looks just like a bunch of stupid rectangles with smallish newslines. In its current state it is no better than opening bbcnews.com or something like that. I mean, waiting ages for the Flash to load only to find out that some news are considered important and others are compressed so much as to make t
  • by quantaq ( 643138 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @07:29AM (#8735421)
    This one isn't a hoax. This actually looks like a cool and potentially useful product.
  • It works! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @07:33AM (#8735431)
    hat way, you get an immediate feel for news patterns (what the media in any particular region is gravitating to)

    I clicked on the link and Mozilla popped a window saying "The document contains no data" : this indeed matches exactly what I've been seeing in the TV news for years.

    Well done!
  • Wow... (Score:5, Funny)

    by scrm ( 185355 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @07:33AM (#8735432) Homepage
    The main headline is Internal Server Error. Pretty neat.
    • Maybe the cashe...
      http://www.google.it/search?q=cache:83f8 2y5zAiEJ:w ww.marumushi.com/apps/newsmap/+newsmap+site:marumu shi.com&hl=it&ie=UTF-8
  • Kinda Neat. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @07:35AM (#8735443)
    I guess the tech economy is improving. We are getting more cool stuff stories and less lawsuit stories (except for SCO).
    The only problem I really have with this type of technology is that it makes a less popular story so small that you can't read it. It also may make some people think that a less popular story is not as important as a more popular one, which is not always the case. I often find the popular news stories to be things that people can easily take a stance on without reading the details. And the less popular ones you need to read the details to get.
    I feel mapping like this could cause important information to be put away in a way that cannot be found.
    • I agree with you that sometimes it's difficult to find smaller, less popular stories. However, I don't think that was the goal of this project. It was designed to see quickly and visually trends in the news; what the media is focusing their attention on.

      The value in this kind of tool isn't in the individual stories it shows. The value is being able to quickly see what occupying our society's mindshare. It gives a glimse as to what the media finds worth writing (and reading) about.

      Just my $0.02

  • by SSJVegeto2001 ( 630176 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @07:37AM (#8735448)
    I tried to use this and I ended up with strained eyes. It seems like a good idea, but I think most people will stick to using what they are used to. It might help if they softened the colors a bit.
  • by thrill12 ( 711899 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @07:40AM (#8735460) Journal
    While this is really cool, it is ofcourse a snapshot of current state of affairs: how many times is a certain news item highlighted.

    The very small items could however be interesting too:
    Take for example a small accident that gets catched on by more and more news companies as time goes on, simply because it is found out that an important person was involved.
    Thus, 'small' news items that have a 'high rate of increase' across various sites should be voted more important than static ones.
    For simplicity sake, perhaps this could be done visually (simply animate the news from a certain point in time forward to the now, and you see developments more clearly).

    This thing is certainly an eye-opener however, applauds to the designer.
  • Old news (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Ardisson ( 398692 )
    It's not new : see swissmap.ch [swissmap.ch]
  • Screenshot (Score:2, Informative)

    by Devar ( 312672 )
    If anyone wants a screenshot of what the page looked like before its hosting server melted through the floor, here you go [ii.net].
  • Cool, but why flash? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by scrm ( 185355 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @07:45AM (#8735478) Homepage
    The idea is excellent and the implementation works well (for a beta). But I can't see why the programmer used flash when it seems like a tool that could be done so easily (and in a bandwidth-friendly fashion) using colored HTML tables.
    • or some CSS work, so it is still up-to-date when using tables to format everything is finally put to rest.

      But maybe Flash is just what he knows best, and other versions could follow if it becomes more popular. Can't please everybody with your proof of concept work.
    • Vertical text is a pain in the a$$ to do in html
    • Probably because most people have no concept of tables using percentages. Note the overwhelming number of sites that are constrained by a master table set to 800px width.

      Granted, considering what that screenshot someone posted looked like, it may be next to impossible to accomplish that in tables and make it work right. But I would have given it a shot.
  • by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @07:46AM (#8735481)
    i feel abou this the same way i felt about bill herrick's glass topped trout stream coffee tables - now this is different in a good way.

    assuming it's not a hoax, it'll be on my bookmarks bar at the top of the news list.
  • by Dark Lord Seth ( 584963 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @07:48AM (#8735485) Journal

    <--- You are here.

    The latest news article is over here --->

    CmdrTaco is not here --->

    <--- ... but here.

    Also, articles in sector 24-D are down for maintenance and the MPF ( Moderator Patrol Force ) has had som skirmishes with GNAA trolls in sectors 12-C, 13-C, 13-D, 13-E and 14-D. Beware of crossfire and goatses.

  • by agslashdot ( 574098 ) <sundararaman.krishnan@NOsPam.gmail.com> on Thursday April 01, 2004 @07:57AM (#8735513)
    Heatmaps have been around in the trading space for a while now. Every brokerage firm & most trading mags have heatmaps which show where the market is headed visually, exactly the way this "newsmap" works. eg. Nasdaq heatmap [nasdaq.com]

    Another area that could benefit from it is Google Zeitgeist [google.com]

    • I think the exciting thing here is the excellent (not just neat, but surprisingly useful/usable) implementation of a treemap [umd.edu] pulling from publicly available data.

      Also, while treemaps aren't new (see Smart Money's Market Map [smartmoney.com], MSR Netscan [microsoft.com]), they are qualitatively different visualizations than the heatmaps you mention.

      (Also, the Flash loads much more transparently and the overall design is much slicker and well designed than most of the Java versions out there)

  • news on a map (Score:1, Redundant)

    by oimachidave ( 767389 )
    I found the interface rather disorienting. Redtailcanyon.com [redtailcanyon.com] maps news stories onto an actual map.
  • by Chriscypher ( 409959 ) <slashdot@me[ ]edia.us ['tam' in gap]> on Thursday April 01, 2004 @08:07AM (#8735536) Homepage
    The tool is very similar in concept to Map of the Market [mapofthemarket.com], found on smart money's site. It visually displays stocks positioned by market segment and sized by capitalization. It's very handy for distinguishing overall stock market trends.
  • Cool! (Score:2, Funny)

    An all new way I can watch for SCO news spikes!!!

  • Usenet map (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GMO ( 209499 )
    I can't see anyone having mentioned this, and I don't know if it has featured before on /. but:

    http://www.cs.umd.edu/hcil/treemap-history/all10 20 01.jpg

    show a 'treemap' of usenet. it's kind of inevitable that 'sex' and 'erotica' should be so large ...
  • Internal Server Error
    The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request.

    Please contact the server administrator, mail@marcosweskamp.com and inform them of the time the error occurred, and anything you might have done that may have caused the error.

    More information about this error may be available in the server error log.

    Apache/1.3.27 Server at www.marumushi.com Port 80
  • by WebTurtle ( 109015 ) <derek&blueturnip,com> on Thursday April 01, 2004 @08:19AM (#8735584) Homepage

    This is a great technology for those studying media and culture. It reminds me a bit of the HP technology that tracks the spread of stories on web logs. What would be interesting is a combination of the following:

    • the information and utility of Newsmap.
    • the tracking of the HP blog project.
    • the ability to track the author, source, and parent company of each article.
    It is interesting to see how much press a given story is picking up, but it is even more interesting to track what media giant is publishing that story in as many of its subsidiaries as it can. This would allow people to see just how much control each conglomerate has over what news the public is allowed to consume. By the same token, what stories are seeing the least coverage? What potentially important news is being "obscured by shit"? Who publishes the news first? What companies merely follow stories that others have already broken?
  • Are people now submitting stories mentioned in subthreads yesterday, and getting them accepted? This was mentioned in the Google thread.
  • by spun ( 1352 )
    I have a crick in my neck now. When you click on any of the single categories, many of the headlines are written sideways. Still, very cool.
  • Not so new (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It is a cool idea, but an identical service, called I believe "Newsmaps" was operating in 1999-2000, so its not such a new concept. The old Newsmaps service presented the data as a hilly island, with bigger stories generating tall peaks. There were separate islands for different types of news - breaking stories, business news, entertainment drivel, etc. I am not sure why it failed, but perhaps not having Google around to do all the hard work of data collection had something to do with it.
  • Draw map of major media coverage? Not hard at all [idocs.com]
  • See the original homepage for this type of visualization (called a treemap) here [umd.edu].
  • by johnjay ( 230559 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @08:40AM (#8735730)
    Interesting problem he has with choosing to emphasize the font size vs. the size of the story's block. Two stories with equal-sized blocks have different fonts based on the size of their headline. Being used to newspapers, I tend to think the headline with larger font is more important story. I think he is right to go with block-size as the indicator of a story's prominence in the media. Think of the opposite approach: A story with a one-word headline, but a huge font ("War") would have the same-sized block as a story with a multiple-word headline that was less important. I think that would result in a more confusing visual metaphor.

    So, I think the programmer had a difficult design choice, but made the right decision. In order to use this effectively, I have to retrain my eye to judge importance according to the amount of real-estate being taken up, not by the size of the font.
  • smartmoney.com has had an application like this for some time, it displays stock market activity graphically with larger boxes indicating more importance.
    http://www.smartmoney.com/
    tools->ma p of the market
  • ... on a few headlines. They opened up separate browser windows. The first one was washingtonpost.com and the page read "Register now. It's free and It's Required." What a news. The second one was http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com and there was only one line. it said "The specified module could not be found." hmm... Looks like we got the winner... Or in the next few months this will be perfected...

    another thing I have to note is that when I selected another country, it took forever to load/change
  • by Petronius ( 515525 ) on Thursday April 01, 2004 @08:59AM (#8735861)
    headline #1 in big bold type: (.) (.)
  • If you like (or dislike) that one, check this out: World Disasters [mapreport.com]

    It's done on a world map interface. It's quiet today, but some days there are a lot of items on there.
    --b
  • Not intending to do self promotion, I'll point first to a competitor's product rather than my own:
    Hivegroup's Honey Comb [hivegroup.com] relies on the treemap [umd.edu] technique from University of Maryland. This is far cooler idea than those lame heatmaps.

    If you want a free try on your own data, you may also try my own version of the same stuff: ILOG Discovery [ilog.com].
    • I agree that this newsmap is an infant implementation of this type of visualization. The Hive Group [hivegroup.com] not only has some impressive demonstrations of treemap technology, they also build tools that allows you to create treemaps of your own data. Their product is mature and has shown its capability in displaying very large data sets.
    • Thanks for the tout, thbb.

      Weskamp and Albritton have done a nice job in making a slice-and-dice treemap truly lovely.

      If you're interested in using a similar concept for managing corporate information, please check out our stuff [hivegroup.com].
  • I think it's a really great thing, but how practical is it? To me, it just seems a bit to cluttered. I think sometimes we focus more on how good something looks as compared to it's actual use. :/
  • Is this guy TRYING to get depressed? Thank god ./ is here to boost my happiness factor back up.

  • I watched it for 5 minutes and nothing changed.
  • I've collected a few interesting forms of visualization, and introduced them via a semi-rant about lack of user interface innovation here [tauceti.org]. Nick.

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