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Infographic of the Day: Ask Ken, a Visual Browser for Wikipedia

The hyperlink has served us well in the last 15 years or so. But I’ll bet you that 15 years from now, the hyperlink will be as passé as a dial-up modem: As information proliferates, we’ll need better visual organization of that data.

Ask Ken

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The hyperlink has served us well in the last 15 years or so. But I’ll bet you that 15 years from now, the hyperlink will be as passé as a dial-up modem: As information proliferates, we’ll need better visual organization of that data.

A number of dataviz experts have been arguing that point recently, and we’re seeing steady progress towards that goal. For example, last year saw the introduction of Think Map (and its Visual Thesaurus.)

And, launching in preview today, we have Ask Ken, a “visual browser” for Wikipedia designed by Michael Aufreiter at Quasipartikel Labs.

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It’s pretty simple to use: You type a topic into a search field and that brings up a circular graph whose segments show related subtopics and resources for that topic.

As Aufreiter admits, it’s still a little rough around the edges–the visualizer, if anything, is held back by the articles themselves and the inter-relations that are embedded in them. But once we get semantic search engines that can mine those connections? Then the sky’s the limit for visual browsers like Ask Ken. For now, AskKen relies onFreebase, a database that relates Wikipedia articles–but as you can see, those connections still lack the richness of meaning and context that you’d hope for in a true semantic seach engine. But things should be getting better, and so will projects like AskKen.

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About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.

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