Trees, Ficly Trees, Tree Metaphors

June 15, 2010 at 11:06 am (Metaphors and Allegories) (, , , , )

I am not a computer science major, but I am acquainted with the Tree structure. If you are familiar with Ficly, you might realize that Ficly stories are arranged like a tree-like structure. What I like about Ficly though, is that their trees are much closer in form to real trees.

Every story in a Ficly tree has one very important relationship: the story that spawned it, except in the case of the very first ficlet written in that tree: the ultimate seed. Ficly allows for users to compose not only sequels to a story, but also prequels. Much as a tree grows both up as branches and down as roots, Ficly trees grow forward with sequels and backward with prequels. Much like a tree’s thick trunk, the most content is usually concentrated around that ultimate seed. As well, any story can spawn more content both forward and back in time – much like the Banyan tree can drop roots from its branches.

The problem that arises with actually reading through Ficly trees is that there is no single thread that a reader can follow – the stories cannot be arranged in any ordered way along a line that will make sense. What Ficly needs is a way to view the entire tree. I have participated in other’s trees, and have spawned a tree of my own – the story of Verdanus and Tertius which I tagged with “Elysium” for easy searching. There are 14 stories (13 by me), and reading them in the order they appear in the search may or may not give you any idea of what is happening. However, after fifteen minutes of crude photoshopping, I’ve come up with this:
Tree structure of the Elysium stories on Ficly

I imagine that, if this was implemented, a “See this ficlet’s tree” link would lead to a similar view, with each node clickable. Whether it would be an HTML5/CSS3/Javascript object, or simply a visual arrangement of links I can’t say – I’ve no idea what it would take to make such a tree look beautiful regardless of what the story arrangement in it was. However, it would be nice to see the ultimate seed – which I outlined in red – and perhaps arrows along those lines pointing to what each ficlet spawned. The story from which the tree was opened might be highlighted in some other ways, and stories which the user viewing has written might also be marked – as might stories the user viewing has commented on. The number of comments that each story has, or the rating that it has received might also be included in the tree view.

I’m not the programmer for the job – but you might be. If you have any experience with programming visual displays of node-to-node relationships, then this is right up your alley.

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2 Comments

  1. Kevin said,

    I’ve been playing around with this, and I’m still trying to get the tree to 1) look right, and 2) get generated when the story is published so new stories are added to the tree and the tree view gets updated.

    I’m hoping that I’ll figure something out in the next couple of months and get this launched so everyone can see it. It will most likely be an “experimental” feature and we’ll all get to play with it and provide suggestions.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this up! It’s a good idea, and I hope we can do it justice!

    • Yuriy Zubovski said,

      One thing I forgot to mention is Tree subscriptions. So far we can subscribe to authors and particular stories – but subscribing to a tree would give readers the heads up that the tree is expanding into other directions. Since that doesn’t actually require a graphical interface, that might be an option made available before the Tree itself shows up ;)

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