A recent Tweet from Tony Hirst alerted me to the Searchme Visual Search service. An example of use of this service searching for “UKWebFocus is illustrated below.

The Searchmevisual.com Service

As the name suggests this service provides a visually-oriented approach to searching and, rather than attempting to describe this service I suggest you try it.

I suspect that an initial response from some information professionals would be to highlight the limitations of such an interface, pointing out the difficulties of more advanced searching. However I feel that this would be to overlook the potential of this type of interface to provide browsing functionality. And this, indeed, was the use case made by Tony Hirst:

@briankelly would like a wayback machine browser for home pages over time. http://beta.searchme.com would look neat? Any libraries for it?

I met Tony at the recent CRIG DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) Metadata Barcamp held at the University of Bath. Over online pharmacy canada lunch I mentioned UKOLN’s JISC-PoWR (Preservation of Web Resources) project and described my interest in ways of exploiting content held in the Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine. I suggested that a generic screen-scraping interface to the service would be useful – and when I returned to the Barcamp later that afternoon Tony demonstrated the first version of the software 🙂 And the following day Tony had started to explore ways of providing a richer user interface to such data. A browse interface such as that used by Search Me Visual could potentially provide a very engaging way of visualising the changes to an organisation’s home page, I would think. And wouldn’t it be great if this could be demonstrated at the JISC-PoWR’s opening workshop on 25 June 2008. Has anyone come across any tools which could do this?