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Wednesday, October 22, 2003

SketchWeb Maps the Neighborhood

With SketchWeb you can map related sites by giving a single starting point URL, like “”. The tool behaves a bit like the TouchGraph Googlebrowser. (Unfortunately, Touchgraph often crashed my machine.)


How does this work? It’s quite easy: I use the Google Web API to grab related sites by using the “related:” search operator. I do this recursively, where each new child node will look for half of the amount of related nodes as the parent node (starting with 4 original related sites from the core node in the center).

I might add the possibility to make the URLs behave as link in a future version. Also, it could be possible to define any node as new center to recalculate the complete neighborhood.

Memomarks for Interactive Quests

When I was a little younger, I read many choose-your-own-adventure books*.
If you don't know them, they're interactive "you are the main character" books, where you read a paragraph or two, then make a choice where to go, which transfers you to a numbered station somewhere else in the book.

*I then continued to write those quests myself using pen and paper and trying it out on friends. Pen & paper is not the most flexible, so I switched to the computer. After many dissatisfying approaches (that was back on the Amiga 500), my AScript and Madventure systems, and some years later, I developed QML (the XML-based Quest Markup Language with platform- and media-independent output).

Using Google for Collaborative Storytelling

There are also systems out there that let you create those quests within a group using a single server, making for collaborative storytelling.

Another new way to create collaborative Interactive Fiction is to create a page on your server and upload a memomark link into the future, to be used by the next writer, who follows the same scheme.

What's a memomark? It's just like a bookmark of a webpage, except that it collects a bunch of words unique to that page (or a group of pages). The page can even move its location and the link will still be inactive.

Memomark-Quest Syntax, and Example

So how exactly does all this work? How do you create a "Memoquest"?
First of all, it only works if people collaborate. Also, Google – or another search engine – then must index the page. Then, people have to find the page and create new stations.

This is how you write a start station:

Memoquest Start: Lost in the Maze of Terror
You are standing inside a maze. If not for your burning torch, it would be completely dark in here. You get a rest and eat something or you continue walking.

The first link/ choice will go to Google and look for this:

The second points to, you guessed it:

So in HTML source, the syntax is:
<a href="">get a rest and eat something</a>

And these are the memomarks into the future. All one needs to do to continue this story is to catch the memomark using this syntax:

Memoquest: Lost in the Maze of Terror 2a
You sit down on the cold ground, eating some bread. Wow, you needed that. A rat is running by. Do you follow the rat, or try to feed the rat some bread, or ignore the rat?

The headline above is important. You need to repeat the exact string "Lost in the Maze of Terror 2a" to catch the memomark. And that's all there is to it!


So now what you need to do if you want to collaborate is to start your own page, follow-up on the choices delivered above, check which ones don't get any results in Google, and create your own page (which is linked to from somewhere, so Google can find it). Of course, more people then you write their quests, so there is the potential for a little bit of extra-choice after the reader follows a link to make a first choice.

You can of course also create your own start page. (The title needs to be relatively unique in order to be correctly delivered by Google later on.)

If enough people write their own piece of adventure, then all a player has to do to start a quest is to type "Memoquest Start" into Google, and there will be delivered a set of quests on the result page. (And all you need to do to get all Memoquest stations written is to search for "Memoquest", since I created the word and it only gets one result in Google so far.)


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