18 April 2008

Apture: like Snap Shots, but, you know, useful

My friend Jennifer sent me info of a startup some of her friends at Stanford are launching: Apture, "the first rich communication platform that allows people to intuitively experince the web." From the site:

With just one line of code, publishers and bloggers can quickly and easily turn flat pages of text into a compelling multimedia experience. Apture gives content creators the power to find and incorporate relevant multimedia items directly into their pages. Readers can then access these items without ever leaving the page, providing them with a deeper and more meaningful web experience.

I hate, hate, hate blogs with hover-over previews on every link -- as if I need to see the Amazon.com page for every book the author cites, or the GIS coordinates for every place. (Note to bloggers using Snap Shots: little yellow lines indicating an intersection of two roads I've never heard of in some place I've never been means nothing to me.) So I was skeptical of another tool to help us all "intuitively experience the web."

But Apture works surprisingly well. A small icon before the link indicates its type (a small camera for a photo, a [W] icon for a Wikipedia entry), and the pop-ups are clean, simple. Longer articles offer a "Read more" link, and Wikipedia entries show the first section, with the option to expand. Best of all, multiple media can be integrated into one pop-up without throwing your browser into a frenzy of tab-opening, so that I can start with a small photo, enlarge it with one click, and open a video beside it without ever leaving the main essay. By moving between different images or articles, I'm augmenting the text with content, but it's controlled -- enriching, not distracting. You can see what I'm talking about here. In the hands of the right author, I can imagine this producing quite elegant texts, and vivid reading experiences.

This is better than Hypertextopia, way better than Snap Shots. I'd love to see something like this integrated into million+ multimedia essay tools that are being developed in digital humanities labs right now. I'm a fan.


Can Sar said...

Hi Whitney,

I'm glad you like Apture!

Wikipedia is not limited to the summary, click on 'Summary' in the Wikipedia viewer to see the table of contents for Wikipedia. We are working on an instructional video for all of Apture's feature to make sure that people know about little things like this and are also working on making these more visible and easier to discover.


Whitney said...

Yes, I noticed you could see more than just the summary; I'll change my wording to be clearer. I wrote Jen about this -- I know quite a few digital humanities projects that would be interested in Apture. There's so little dialogue between what DH labs are developing, and what's being developed commercially (for all the obvious reasons, but nonetheless..).