Friday, May 30, 2008

ThoughtMesh: An Innovative Scholarly Publishing and Discovery Model

ThoughtMesh is an unusual model for publishing and discovering scholarly papers online. It gives readers a tag-based navigation system that uses keywords to connect excerpts of essays published on different Web sites.

Add your essay to the mesh, and ThoughtMesh gives you a traditional navigation menu plus a tag cloud that enables nonlinear access to text excerpts. You can navigate across excerpts both within the original essay and from related essays distributed across the mesh.

So let's say you are reading an essay on Modern art. You can pick a single word out of that essay's tag cloud- -say Picasso- -and view a list of all the sections from that essay that relate to Picasso. Or you can view a list of sections of other articles tagged with Picasso, and jump right to one of those sections. You can also combine tags to narrow your search, such as Picasso + Cubism + 1900.

As an author, you can choose to post your essay in a central repository hosted by the Vectors program at USC, the sponsor of this project. Or you can self-archive your essay on your own Web site. [snip]



Innovative Search Options
  • Use tags to find text blocks within the current article

  • Use tags to find related blocks in outside articles

  • Use search-as-you-type lookup to find words in current article

Expandable Navigation Menu

  • Offers more traditional navigation

  • Breaks long essays into easy-to-read screen-sized chunks

  • Can be used interchangeable with tag-based navigation

Automated Tag and HTML Generation

  • Paste in your essay sections and easy-to-use software generates a ThoughtMeshed version

  • Software can auto-generate tags for each text block

  • Or author can assign custom tags

  • Overall tag cloud gives quick sense of article's themes

Meshes (Features For Future Releases)

  • Users can view a map of where the current article fits in the larger mesh.

  • Publications and groups of authors can define and administrate their own meshes.

  • Users can choose only lexias from current mesh, or from all meshes

What's a tag cloud?
A bunch of keywords in a box. Click on one to see text excerpts related to that theme, or click on several to see excerpts tagged with all of those keywords.

What's a lexia?
A text excerpt from a longer essay or Web site--usually a couple of paragraphs. Lots of blogs and newspapers have tag clouds. How is ThoughtMesh different?Most of these sites are data-base driven collections of text blocks run off a single server. ThoughtMesh's tag registry (or mesh) can connect articles on different servers across the Internet.

Is this the "Semantic Web"?
Yes and no. Like the long-term vision of the Semantic Web, ThoughtMesh treats every page on the Web as a potential "database record" to be searched. Unlike the conventional XML-powered vision of the Semantic Web, however, ThoughtMesh's data are only minimally structured in the page itself; instead, a registry of tags housed on a remote host serves to connect all the individual pages. But it's still a model of distributed publication, since in principle the same pages can be navigated via independently operated registries.

So it's like
Sort of.'s global folksonomy of tags is great, but it only indexes entire pages, which is less efficient for finding relevant passages in long academic papers. ThoughtMesh helps trace thematic connections between particular sections of online essays. And ThoughtMesh's tags (and the meshes that connect them) are determined (or at least validated) by the authors of the pages.

Is this "Web 2.0"?
ThoughtMesh exploits participatory media, remote scripting, and lateral navigation. So yeah, you can call it that.


How to Navigate Essays[]

How to Tag an Essay[]


Jon Ippolito
Conceptual architect, client-side designer, and client-side engineer

Craig Dietrich
Designer and server-side engineer

John Bell
Telamon.js author and remote scripting contributor

Chirag Mehta
ThoughtMesh uses Mehta's Tagline software


/ ThoughtMesh" Tag Your Writing. Join the conversation / Jon Ippolito & Craig Dietrich / Vectors: Journal of Culture and Technology in a Dynamic Vernacular / Volume 3 Issue 1, Fall 2007 /

White Papers

/ New Criteria for New Media / New Media Department, University of Maine / Promotion and Tenure Guidelines Addendum: Rationale for Redefined Criteria / Version 2.2, January 2007 /

ABSTRACT: An argument for redefining promotion and tenure criteria for faculty in new media departments of today's universities.


ThoughtMesh Author's Statement


ThoughtMesh Forum



Related Work

/ New Age Navigation: Innovative Information Interfaces for Electronic Journals / Gerry McKiernan / The Serials Librarian, Vol. 45(2) / 87-123 / 2003 / DOI: 10.1300/J123v45n02_06 /

ABSTRACT. While it is typical for electronic journals to offer conventional search features similar to those provided by electronic databases, a select number of e-journals have also made available higher-level access options as well. In this article, we review several novel technologies and implementations that creatively exploit the inherent potential of the digital environment to further facilitate use of e-collections.We conclude with speculation on the functionalities of a next-generation e-journal interface that are likely to emerge in the near future.


1 comment:

Gerry said...

Posted on Behalf of Jon Ippolito

As one of ThoughtMesh's developers, I'm glad to see this discussion and interested in learning more about the limitations you encountered. (Apologies that a spam-blocker seems to have prevented me from replying sooner.)

To edit tags, sign in and click EDIT next to the document in your Author Home. Then you'll see a link to "edit tags" next to each text section. More at

I take your comments to suggest that we could have made this process easier. We've been thinking about this too; a global tag editor that lets you "batch edit" all the tags in your document is also in development.

You may also be interested in the Create Mesh feature, which allows an individual or organization to start their own journal/collection of meshed essays. This just launched a few weeks ago and already some Meshes have 40+ essays.

We've also just launched an onboard review mechanism, in the "peer review" tab; it dovetails well with the journal-like Mesh feature.

Again, I'm grateful for any comments you may have on these developments, and happy to talk you through the interface if that helps.