HumanSaga: Interactive History Timelines on the Web
HumanSaga is a worldwide web site with a database of historical events, which can be used to explore history by creating and interacting with dynamic historical timelines.
The HumanSaga system achieves a number of solid innovations to the simple timeline by viewing them as sets of separate, individual events. The advances stem primarily from this realization that events should be treated individually and assigned individual metadata as an aid to retrieval. This is a departure from the standard practice of dealing with timelines only as pre-coordinated packages of events which can only be interacted with as sets of events. This change in perspective breaks the traditional document retrieval model because in this new view, retrieved "documents" are really composed of many related smaller documents (i.e. the events themselves). Users of HumanSaga, rather than seeking a handful of relevant documents, instead create meaningful groupings of related documents -- timelines of events. Although in some situations the user will be interested only in a single event document, the desired results in the majority of situations will be sets of events that are meaningful only when viewed together. This naturally follows given the linear and causal nature of history.
Consequently, HumanSaga has substantial added value over existing timeline systems that make events available only in pre-packaged sets which may or may not meet the users' needs. The metadata assigned to each event in HumanSaga provides for their retrieval on the basis of when they happened, where they happened, what subject (literature, politics, etc.) they deal with, and finally any keywords appearing in the event. In addition to this powerful functionality, the interface to the system offers users numerous access points to clarify, expand and narrow down their timelines without having to do a new search. The system was developed and refined through an iterative cycle of development and user testing.