Trailblazer

The most widely adopted web findability tools of today (like search, bookmarking, recommendation, etc.) are designed for people who know what they are looking for. For instance, travelers looking for the website of a particular airline, or for a certain travel writer’s blog, or price comparisons between hotels. With a clearly defined need, and the ability to phrase it well, one can find remarkably relevant information in seconds.

But, people don’t always go online knowing exactly what they want. It is usually after one finds something relevant that lots of new questions come up. Consider for instance, a traveling couple that has found a good airline deal to Copenhagen. Their search is only just beginning. Their next questions could be: How many days would be good to see Copenhagen? Where should we be located if we are to be central but also have some privacy? Would it be worth it to make a quick trip into Sweden?

Such questions are subjective; no one answer will work for everyone. Further, such information needs could change depending on what a user discovers.

Trailblazer is based on the assumption that people are always discovering content online that might be useful to others with similar information needs. It harnesses permission-based recording of web browsing to generate trails of links followed through cyberspace, and time spent on webpages. Trailblazer runs in the web browser’s toolbar and generates a visualisation of information-rich pages based on the browsing behaviour.

User-submitted parameters contextualise the search and seek the most relevant trails. This helps a user jump ahead to interesting content on the path of a Trailblazer – stuff that he or she would not otherwise know how to seek. As a result, beyond discovering new content, a user of the tool is likely to discover new contexts related to a search. And in time, be a Trailblazer!

“What your friends browse helps you discover the good stuff.” There are four main aspects to this value statement which indicate how the application works:

  • Your Friends: It relies on a user’s community to provide added value for the user.
  • Browse: It harnesses the browsing activity of the community and a user.
  • Discover: It essentially helps people discover new things they did not know how to search for, or did not know existed.
  • Good Stuff: It aims to help users discover web content that they find personally valuable – contextual yet subjective.

STUDENTS