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DoodleBuzz offers a new way of visualizing the news

by Alex in | |

Tired of Google Reader‘s straight-ahead interface for catching up on the latest news? DoodleBuzz describes itself as a “typographic news explorer”. Type in any keywords, and then use your mouse to scribble on the screen; DoodleBuzz will present news stories from your search, arranged along the outline of your doodle.

Quite apart from the fun factor, there’s a practical value to DoodleBuzz. One of the drawbacks of news aggregation is the way it removes the element of serendipty from news reading: we go looking for what we want to read, and then we read it. No incidental discovery, no exploration, no lateral thought.

In Republic.com, Cass Sunstein was one of the first people to point out the social and political cost of that kind of focused reading. With each of us reading our own personal news stream, we lose the common ground on which public discourse is based: the knowledge shared by all the readers of a newspaper, or all the viewers of a given nightly newscast. The recent disappearance of some established local newspapers is a reminder that there’s more than fiction in Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, which envisions a future in which only the most elite class reads a common newspaper; everybody else reads a customized newsfeed.

DoodleBuzz reinjects serendipity into the news aggregation experience. You just can’t stay linear when you’re reading a doodle! I found myself exploring a much wider range of stories, and discovering new areas for investigation, as I traveled along the lines of my doodle. That may not bring us back to the era of a common news source, but at least it gets us out of myopic, search-driven news reading, and back into a way of reading in which we may also discover the unknown unknowns.

No, it won’t replace Google Reader. I suspect DoodleBuzz will live on primarily as proof of concept, party trick, and occasional jumpstart for a day when your brain is feeling lazy and you need a jolt of inspiration and creativity. And let’s hope that some of the creativity happens on the desktops of other web developers as they follow designer Brendan Dawes’ lead in creating an information tool that goes far beyond the ordinary and expected.

 

To appreciate the golly-gee-whiz awesomeness of DoodleBuzz, you have to try it for yourself. Here’s a snapshot of my exploration:

I entered my search on “social media ROI”…

Keyword entry

…then drew a vaguely W-shaped doodle, onto which DoodleBuzz mapped my results.

To display the results, DoodleBuzz zooms in; you navigate your doodle using arrow keys.

Draw another doodle around or out from any news headline, and DoodleBuzz displays an excerpt. Click on the excerpt to go to the web site with the full story.

 

Thanks to Lee Lefever for twittering DoodleBuzz this morning!

First posted on March 14,2009

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