The Noisy Channel


Elastic Lists for Faceted Search — Now Open Source!

May 20th, 2010 · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

If you like faceted search and are interested in design patterns for it, I encourage you to check out Moritz Stefaner‘s work on elastic lists. Here is his description:

Elastic lists allow to navigate large, multi-dimensional info spaces with just a few clicks, never letting you run into situations with zero results. They enhance traditional UI approaches for facet browsers by visualizing weight proportions, animated transitions, emphasis of characteristic values and sparkline visualizations.

And the good news is that elastic lists are now an open source project, available under anĀ Apache 2.0 license. Also available for free is a book chapter on faceted search user interface design that Stefaner co-authored last year.

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Greg Linden // May 20, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    Huh, what did you think of the NYT demo on Mortiz’s site? The one here?

    To me, it shows everything that can go wrong with faceted search. Try a search for [google] in that demo. If you have the reaction I did, you’ll hit immediate paradox of choice from all the options presented, many of which seem almost random.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of faceted search when implemented well. I’m just not sure this is the best example of a well done implementation?

  • 2 Daniel Tunkelang // May 20, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    That demo has issues, but I don’t think those damn elastic lists per se. Some of my criticisms: too many facet values as refinement options, lack of parallelism (e.g., locations aren’t hierarchical and some options should be children of others), lack of normalization of organizations (e.g., google and google inc.), and a confusing description facet (e.g., choices include “computer software” and “software”). In contrast, the Nobel Prize demo strikes me as a much better demo of elastic lists.

  • 3 Moritz Stefaner // May 26, 2010 at 4:20 am

    Thanks for your comments. Please keep in mind that this was more a tech demo to show that Elastic Lists can also be used with web APIs such as the NY Times one. In this situation, particularly the design of the facets and their values is not something I have control over. Find some more info here:

  • 4 Daniel Tunkelang // May 26, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Moritz, thanks for stopping by! I do think it’s important to distinguish data quality issues from interface ones. That said, I often feel interfaces need to adapt better to realistic levels of data quality. But I realize that implementing such an adaptive approach is a hard research problem.

  • 5 Mark Cruze // Jun 18, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Thx for sharing this information.. I also found this interesting article on faceted search.. Check out

  • 6 Daniel Tunkelang // Jun 18, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Mark, my pleasure, and thanks for the link.

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