The other day NYTimes.com info architect Rob Larson pointed me to the newly-launched NYT Travel section online. Check it out – very rich in data and “ways in.” I first got the chance to see Rob’s thinking in action when he found ways to divide up Times content for AOL readers using sub-collections that you couldn’t create on the web. NYT on AOL had a standing archive of Gardening, Wine, Dining, Dance articles long before the web site even had a decent search function. That was all Rob – he thinks in new media ideas the way Neo sees the code.
Try going to the new Travel section and searching on the word ‘shoes.’ Note the results brilliantly sorted into folders on the left side of the page. How cool is that?
Flat taxonomies and flat results-lists were two of the earliest features of the web – but I’ve never seen results treated as a taxonomy this effectively before. A company called Endeca is offering tools for this. They call it “guided navigation.” A sort of scary term, but an added-intelligence we clearly need in surfdom.
You Google things yourself, but what makes Google good is that it’s doing a little of the thinking for you, with algorithms that check how highly the rest of the web values the sites its searching. I guess Endeca’s “guided navigation” rationalizes the results a bit more. A useful partnership between the “pull” of search-what-you-want and the “push” of let-us-help-you-sort-through-it. It reminds me a little of what Martin said about autonomy and editorial voice in the short interview we did last year – a reader wants both.