I discovered Dipity via the Reuters article An open-source timeline of the virtual world. The article discusses the creation of a Virtual Worlds Timeline on the Dipity website. Dipity lets anyone create an account and start building timelines. In the case of the Virtual Worlds Timeline, the creator chose to permit others to collaborate on the timeline. Dipity also provides four ways of viewing any timeline: a classic left to right scrolling view, a flipbook, a list and a map.
I chose to experiment by creating a timeline for Spellbound Blog. Dipity made this very easy – I just selected WordPress and provided my blog’s URL. This was supposed to grab my 20 most recent posts – but it seems to have taken 10 instead. I tried to provide a username/password so that Dipity could pull ‘more’ of my posts (they didn’t say how many – maybe all of them?). I couldn’t get it to work as of this writing – but if I figure it out you will see many more than 10 posts.
I particularly like the way they use the images I include in my posts in the various views. I also appreciate that you can read the full posts in-place without leaving the timeline interface. I assume this is because I publish my full articles to my RSS feed. It was also interesting to note that posts that mentioned a specific location put a marker on a map – both within the single post ‘event’ as well as the full map view.
Dipity also supports the streamlined addition of many other sources such as Flickr, Picasa, YouTube, Vimeo, Blogger, Tumblr, Pandora, Twitter and any RSS feed. They have also created some neat mashups. TimeTube uses your supplied phrase to query YouTube and generates a timeline based on the video creation dates. Tickr lets you generate an interactive timeline based on a keyword or user search of Flickr.
Why should archivists care? I always perk up anytime a new web service appears that makes it easy to present time and location sensitive information. I wrote a while ago about MIT’s SIMILE project and I like their Timeline software, but in some ways hosted services like Dipity throw the net wider. I particularly appreciate the opportunity for virtual collaboration that Dipity provides. Imagine if every online archives exhibit included a Dipity timeline? Dipity provides embed code for all the timelines. This means that it should be easy to both feature the timeline within an online exhibit and use the timeline as a way to attract a broader audience to your website.
There has been discussion in the past about creating custom GoogleMaps to show off archival records in a new and different way. During THATCamp there was a lot of enthusiasm for timelines and maps as being two of the most accessible types of visualizations. By anchoring information in time and/or location it gives people a way to approach new information in a predictable way.
Most of my initial thoughts about how archives could use Dipity related to individual collections and exhibits – but what if an archive created one of these timelines and added an entry for every one of their collections. The map could be used if individual collections were from a single location. The timeline could let users see at a glance what time periods were the focus of collections within that archives. A link could be provided in each entry pointing to the online finding aid for each collection or record group
Dipity is still in working out the kinks of some of their services, but if this sounds at all interesting I encourage you to go take a look at a few fun examples:
- The 100 Most Influential Americans: The Atlantic recently asked ten historians to compose their own lists of the 100 most influential Americans.
- Johnny Cash Recorded Appearances: Click on a few of these and you will see the amount of detail that has been added is amazing – video clips, map locations and set lists are included for most of these
- Civil Rights Movement – apparently created by students in “Taft’s thrilling third period American history class at USM”
And finally I have embedded the Internet Memes timeline below to give you a feel of what this looks like. Try clicking on any of the events that include a little film icon at the bottom edge and see how you can view the video right in place:
Image Credit: I found and ‘borrowed’ the Dipity image above from Dipity’s About page.