One of the perks of working in HCIR is that you get to meet some of the coolest people in academic and industrial research. I met David Huynh a few years ago, while he was a graduate student at MIT, working in the Haystack group and on the Simile project. You’ve probably seen some of his work: his Timeline project has been deployed all over the web.
Despite efforts by me and other to persuade David to stay in the Northeast, he went out west a few months ago to join Metaweb, a company with ambitions “to build a better infrastructure for the Web.” While I (and others) am not persuaded by Freebase, Metaweb’s “open database of the world’s information,” I am happy to see that David is still doing great work.
I encourage you to check out David’s latest project: Freebase Parallax. In it, he does something I’ve never seen outside Endeca (excepting David’s earlier work on a Nested Faceted Browser) he allows you to navigate using the facets of multiple entity types, joining between sets of entities through their relationships. At Endeca, we call this “record relationship navigation”–we presented it at HCIR ’07, showing an how it can enable social navigation.
David includes a video where he eloquently demonstrates how Parallax works, and the interface is quite compelling. I’m not sure how well it scales with large data sets, but David’s focus has been on interfaces rather than systems. My biggest complaint–which isn’t David’s fault–is that the Freebase content is a bit sparse. But his interface strikes me as a great fit for exploratory search.