While thinking about search functionality aspect of WordPress Atlas, I was reminded of Search Hat and MSN SearchPoint ideas which I blogged about in 2004. MSN team seemed receptive but Google implemented it first then dropped it for various reasons.
In context of the Atlas, the idea is best described as as Search Blog. But, ironically, this term is difficult to search for obvious reasons. John Battelle even uses it in his blog’s name. Maybe someone will come up with a better name.
Search Blog is a blog about other blogs/websites. It’s primary function is to provide a search context. Simple, seemingly familiar yet distinct in usage. Don’t remember if Yahoo directories allowed each directory to be used as search context. It’s an obvious idea in hindsight. Jury is out on whether it’ll be popular however.
Atlas needs to be a Search Blog as well.
Disclaimer: This is a personal side-project, not an official Automattic project, and in no way reflects official plans.
In Beyond Future of WordPress Platform, I wrote:
WordPress Atlas – uses data-science to pull blogs and websites into neighborhoods, towns, and cities based on topics, interests, and relations. Intention is to use real world metaphors to make discovery and sense of community more natural and explicit than, say, blogroll or news aggregators.
I now think the Atlas without data-science. How?
Using what we already have: blogs, bloggers, blogging tools, and WP community.
So WordPress Atlas is just a loosely-coupled network of blogs using a new class of themes, themes that displays blog contents in a way that looks map-like. Atlas blog contents are information about other blogs. Yes, Atlas blogs are like Linklogs but more visual-centric.
What does it look like? Rather what does this reminds you of?
Pinterest! It’s a place where people collect bookmarks presented as cards, through which people can chat with others, etc. Those cards are place-like when laid out.
But Pinterest layout is not static so they change which is not at all map like. Value of maps is in stable visual memory. Buildings and streets may come and go over time but not overnight or by mere window resize.
So Pinterest-like but layed-out in a virtual page over which visitors will zoom and pan over like Google Map.
Who will build Atlas blogs and will they come? I’ll answer this with another question: who builds and maintains those Awsome-xxxx lists on Github and do people use them?
Visual layout is an essential differentiator. Other-wise textual awesome-list is better. It’s a difference that gets emphasized each time user navigates from a blog to a map it links to: destination map will knows where, in its layout, the referring blog is and display the neighborhood around that blog, maybe with some fancy transition animation.
Atlas pages contain cards laid out in visually memorable, relatively compact patterns. These cards could not only be about individual blogs but blog pages, people (like designers and developers relevant to the neighborhood) and plugins.
Notion of neighborhood helps with discovery and creates a sense of community.
Destinations, what cards are about, can be in multiple maps, and maps of same neighborhoods can exist at different depth and filtering (like tourist maps) as well as languages.
Atlas layout style is dictated by theme designer with vary capabilities. Some would allow streets to be named, like Fashion street, on which cards for major vendors could be placed and backstreets for boutique shops. Maybe specialty shops will form their own specialized clusters, like Latex Cave. When a neighborhood gets too crowded, they can be broken out to their own map linked from original neighborhood. Expansion is no problem. Real Estate value may or may not be controlled. Depends on map creator’s revenue model.
Experiments to do: Build a prototype Atlas theme then use it to create an aggregation blog using the theme. Use existing standards like Image Map. Search should include all the blogs on a page as user would expect. This adds value beyond mere link directory role. Get feedback.