A tale of two Atoms: AtomPub and Atom Interface

Two articles about two different technologies both bearing the name Atom caught my attention recently.

20070918a.gif The first was a blog entry on the 24th of July by Tim Bray on the approval of the Atom Publishing Protocol as an RFC standard by the IETF’s Internet Engineering Steering Group. You may already be familiar with the Atom Syndication Format, which is an XML format similar to RSS commonly used for syndicating web feeds (e.g., from Blogger.com). The Atom Publishing Protocol (APP or AtomPub for short) is related to this, being a simple HTTP-based protocol for creating and modifying web resources, and the specification was edited by Joe Gregorio and Bill de hÓra.

20070918b.png The second (unrelated) technology is called the Atom Interface from DERI, and presents an interesting approach to visualise and navigate through tree structures and graphs. The name was chosen as it is based on the metaphor of electrons, atoms and molecules. There is a interesting demonstration of the Atom Interface on YouTube. It uses a “compact radial layout” to organise items around their parents in a circular fashion within a single atom. Although radial layouts and menus are not a new idea and have been around for some years (e.g., Maya’s marking menus, Mozilla’s RadialContext pie menus, Neverwinter Nights’ radial menu), the Atom Interface is novel in that: “(i) it is focused more towards exploring and browsing small and large trees by collapsing/uncollapsing paradigm (as opposite to visualizing the overview of the entire tree or graph), (ii) is more compact in order to emphasize relationships and ease learning and understanding the structure, (iii) preserves full context”. I can imagine this being very useful for visualising one’s bookmarks and tag hierachies, and for navigating the connections to other users’ content (via their atoms).

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