Pearltrees: a multifunction visual bibliographic tool

While preparing the bibliography on energy security foresight, I was wondering if it would be useful to also apply a visually appealing approach to bibliographies, which would then be conceptualized as a product.

As usual, there is no simple answer to this question, and if the classical bibliography will most probably have to be kept for a while, Pearltrees also appears as a perfect bibliographic tool.

Inevitable classical bibliography

By Lynnbwilsoniii, GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Because delivery of product must consider both the product’s material support and the recipient or customer, then the traditional way to write a bibliography will probably have to be kept for some time.

  • Indeed, for anything that uses paper and print as support, the usual, alphabetical bibliography is best.
  • It is furthermore the most practical way to find a reference as quickly as possible, especially for long bibliographies. Indeed, for long and complex topics and thus references, we enter the categorization problem, as usual. If we take the example of an energy flow chart, does it belong to energy demand or energy supply? How can we categorize the energy security problem that would stem from a conflict with Iran: oil price, oil transportation, oil shortage, but also all other impacts on other sources of energy, etc.
  • Finally, a classical bibliography is also adapted to people who may be change-adverse and who attribute, even unconsciously, specific qualities to a classical bibliography (e.g. serious, scientific).

A multifunction visual bibliographic tool: Pearltrees

Yet, using a map, graph or tree, could also be very convenient to show linkages and organize thoughts, as long as the cognitive map thus created remains flexible. It would thus be a first step towards modelling, while also participating in changing the cognitive map of the recipient, notably if the customer becomes a user who can interact with the bibliographic tree. Considering the huge availability of information and analyses, such a map would be truly helpful, notably during the first step of research. @Afrikasources, aka Philip Payet, when we discussed this, suggested to try Pearltrees.

 Energy Security
I have been exploring this platform those last days, notably testing it by converting the bibliography on energy security foresight (click on the Pearl to access the result), and it corresponds almost perfectly and more to what I had in mind.

It is extremely user-friendly, beautiful and allows for entering a short editorial and a specific avatar (picture) for each tree. Posts or “pearls” (nodes) can be moved very easily from one place to another. The design is elegant in its simplicity and the visualisation easy and modular, as shown in the various screenshots.

When putting the mouse over a pearl, a small window opens and displays the webpage picked as pearl; a click opens the webpage.

Interestingly, the way to capture or pick up a pearl (post or piece of information), has to be installed on your browser (this seems to be a trend currently in the sharing and curation’s world, which will change even more the idea of “delivery of product”). Once Pearltrees added to your browser, you do not even have to open the link of a page to add it, but can right-click on its hyperlink, which allows for very speedy action if you convert a bibliography of plan to read the post later (which is essential for all impatient people). You can also choose to which of your tree to add your new pearl or just put it in your tray and sort it out later.

The possible interactions are a very interesting feature of Pearltrees: you can find similar trees and pearls through the “related interests” feature, which is a plus in terms of horizon scanning and research, as you benefit from others’ knowledge, as in most social networking and curation’s platforms. Then you can pick a pearl or a tree of another user (while the initial curator gets the benefit as his work is referenced as being “picked” and receives a corresponding message). Finally, you can set up teams to work collaboratively on similar issues.

You can also link your Facebook and Twitter accounts to your Pearltrees’ and have all your posts there added to your trees, while of course sharing trees and pearls on Facebook and Twitter, by mail or with other Pearltrees users with whom you team up. Those features are crucial in terms of product delivery.

You can embed your Pearltrees into a website, as a pearl or as the full tree. It is likely that we shall increasingly see pearls appearing on posts to indicate that a related Pearltree is available, as done above.

Last, but not least, Pearltrees has a beautiful dedicated app for Ipad, which works perfectly well.

The potential improvements could be

  • to allow linking nodes of different trees or branches, maybe with different types of links, as well as to have two or more parents for a same child.
  • to be able to export the tree to a format other than .rdf (which I could not manage to do, despite research on the web), to allow for exchanges with other social network analysis software, as well as for conversion into a classical bibliography. As far as the latter is concerned, I am afraid that, right now, there is no other way than using the painstaking cut and paste option.

As a whole, Pearltrees is a great tool, certainly the best I have tried and found so far for this usage. Don’t hesitate to share your experience in the comments below and to use and interact with the Pearltrees created.

4 thoughts on “Pearltrees: a multifunction visual bibliographic tool”

Comments are closed.