How can I get all my research into one easy-to-use visual chart?
January 20, 2008 6:54 PM   Subscribe

What is the best application (hopefully easy to learn) that will let me build an easy to create timeline of religions, myths, and cults, with the option to click on (or hover the mouse over) different highlighted words to show up more information? Or does anyone know where said timeline exists?

In the next fifteen weeks I have to research and write the first fifty pages of a novel, which I am basing on the idea of "belief." This will be in several different areas, but especially on spiritual belief, and as I have a lot of time on my hands (who needs sleep?) and I am a research junkie with a terrible memory, I would like to create an easy-reference guide to the plethora of beliefs that I will be referencing.

I have a huge number of links already for data, so gathering the information is not a problem. However, within each type of belief I would like to chart the date it started (earliest at the top), and the type of belief (a different color for myths, religions, and cults). However, once I have each one there, I would like to be able to easily see information such as "current supporters," "concerned with current actions or the afterlife," "monotheistic or polytheistic," and several other criteria, including a paragraph or three about the interesting, unique aspects of said religion, cult, or myth.

My problem is I don't want it to be too huge, so I would like the information about each thing only to be shown when you hover the mouse over them, or click on them.

Eventually, although this isn't vital at the moment, I would also like to have the option to click on "myth" or "monotheistic" or "suicidal," or whatever the criteria, and have a list of all the groups that are within this criteria.

Does anyone know of an application that will allow me to do this? I am using, by the way, a Mac OSX (10.4.11), and know how to use Photoshop, Illustrator, and inDesign, as well as Word, Excel (slight), and almost no knowledge of powerpoint.

Otherwise, does anyone know where I can find the information that I am looking for, either in a text book or on cd? Thank you!

posted by omnigut to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Smile Timeline.

Religious timelines in Smile.
posted by orthogonality at 7:02 PM on January 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

I was looking for a timeline application a few weeks ago to help my daughter with a school project. Although I don't think it's a web-app, this seems pretty good for print solutions:
posted by burhan at 7:03 PM on January 20, 2008

Bee Docs Timeline

A review of the product, along with a discount code for 15% off valid until the end of January.
posted by needled at 7:11 PM on January 20, 2008

We had one about religions posted on Metafilter before, here it is.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 7:12 PM on January 20, 2008

If that doesn't work, and if you want to incorporate the advanced features (e.g. filtering to find all monotheistic religions), you could get a programmer to adapt Simile (which orthogonality posted a link to) for that. Simile gets its data from an XML file. So, if you find a way to dynamically create different XML files (with data obtained from a database query like select * from religions where num_gods = 1), you have your web app. This is a pretty well-specified project, so you might be able to find someone to do this cheaply on,, or another one of those sites.
posted by lunchbox at 7:56 PM on January 20, 2008

Thanks everybody! You guys are so quick. However, a few questions:

For "Bees Timeline," "Timeline Maker," and "TimeFlyer" I see no option to "click" these entries to bring up more information.

"Simile," seems easy to use, but do they have anywhere I can get help if I get stuck trying (for the first time) to write in XML? I understand I can just use their timeline and enter my own dates, descriptions, etc, but just in case something doesn't work...

Lunchbox, when you mention "cheaply on rentacoder," do you mean under a hundred bucks?

"Similar Diversity" is a great image, but perhaps not perfect for my needs (I once created a similar graphic after parsing Blake's poems, then using the words (their size dependent on their frequency) to draw a profile of his face. Thanks for the link, however, it's very interesting.

So, on reflection, is either "Bees Timeline," "Timeline Maker," or "TimeFlyer" will allow me to enter more information on each topic only viewable if I click on them, or I should try to work out how to write XML code on Simile, or pay a guy to do it. Anyone know which my best answer is?

Finally, if I did get someone else to do the Simile thing, if I gave him/her a copy of an Excel Spreadsheet with all the information on it (about three hundred entries with about five parts of each entry), would that be enough? Should I give them a small number of entries, see what they do, and then copy it myself afterwards? I'm guessing that the code is easy to follow once you see how it is done the first few times.

Thanks again, everyone,

posted by omnigut at 8:31 PM on January 20, 2008

omnigut writes "'Simile,' seems easy to use, but do they have anywhere I can get help if I get stuck trying (for the first time) to write in XML? "

Use this XML validator to figure out what's wrong with your XMl. Download smile's sample XML, then start replacing their entries with yours. Once you're comfortable with that, figure out how to mass transform your data into an xml format. Use the validator to see what if anything is wrong.

(Me, I'd put the excel into a databse, and select out xml.)

I suspect that there are probably experienced Smile users, who if you ask nicely and take the time to make your questions clear, will be willing to help you. I'd avoid rentacoder.
posted by orthogonality at 8:58 PM on January 20, 2008

Nick: I don't know how much it would cost, since I've never used the site myself; maybe others would have a better idea. But this is a fairly straightforward small-scale project; you could take a look at other projects currently being bid on and compare. Disclaimers apply when finding programmers through these sites; make sure the person you assign the job to has a very good reputation.

I don't think it would save you money to give only a subset of the database to the programmer, since if the code is correct, it should be able to handle any number of entries, large or small. Besides, the idea of giving the assignment to someone else is that they can do it more efficiently than you can, so you might as well let them finish the job.

Good luck!
posted by lunchbox at 9:01 PM on January 20, 2008

Thanks eveyone, you've been a big help. Simile, here I come...
posted by omnigut at 5:29 AM on January 21, 2008

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