FAQ

What is Visual Net?
Visual Net is enterprise software that provides a graphical user interface to online information. Conceptually, it does for shared information exactly what the Windows or Macintosh desktop does for your personal information on your personal computer.

Visual Net uses similar techniques to those used by cartographers (mapmakers) for centuries to create large-scale browsable maps of data. This enables users to navigate and find information more intuitively and efficiently.

What is Visual Net’s Return on Investment?
On a high level, with Visual Net you will:
Achieve broader and deeper utilization of your information inventory.
Spend less time looking for information and more time using it.
Not have to spend time dealing with long search-result lists.

Determining specific ROI is highly subjective from industry from industry, and from organization to organization. That being said, part of Antarctica’s vision is to be distinguished as a company by our focus on business value. For each potential customer, we will not proceed unless there is quantifiable ROI for your organization. We are happy to present case studies for you.

Is Visual Net a search engine?
Visual Net is not a search engine; however, it is software that helps people search more effectively and locate relevant information faster. It does this through the use of browsable subject maps. Users can point and click through the maps to discover information. We like to think of Visual Net as a Browse Engine(TM).

That being said, Visual Net is not trying to replace search engines. There is a need for both as people routinely perform different kinds of searches. If you are searching for information that is very specific (for example, Andrea’s trip report from last Comdex), a search engine will do a good job of finding it. On the other hand, if don’t know exactly what you’re looking for and need to do some exploration (for example, find out what research there is on joint problems in newborn babies, or which sectors in Life Sciences are getting a lot of financial investment), it is more helpful to be able to browse through available information than use a search engine. In most cases, this latter example is the case. People are unsure of the keywords they should use or their search topic is too general, yielding too many irrelevant results from a search engine.

How does Visual Net work with Knowledge Management applications?
KM generates a lot of hype and buzzwords, but it’s mostly about capturing useful information and making it easy to find again when you need it. Visual Net, itself, is a Knowledge Management application.

Visual Net is a natural fit to partner or integrate with existing KM vendors. One of the key findings in KM is that not all information is equal in value; from library stacks to online repositories, value tends to concentrate in a relatively small number of resources, and drop off dramatically such that huge amounts of information are never used, once created. One of Visual Net’s features – bringing the most important objects to the top of the maps – is tremendously important in this context. Visual Net also allows the non-expert user to point and click through data maps without the need to understand how information is organized, so KM customers get more and better use of the knowledge bases built for them.

How does Visual Net work with Business Intelligence applications?
Business intelligence is concerned with taking vast amounts of information and making it comprehensible and useful for ordinary people. Existing products use a wide variety of textual (lists, summaries, and so on) and graphic (pie charts, bar charts, and so on) tools to do their job. Oddly enough, none of them use map-style graphics for this purpose. Visual Net is a natural add-on to the existing repertoire of Business Intelligence tools, and is easy to integrate with them.

How is Visual Net deployed and customized?
Most of our deployments are measured in weeks or even days; Visual Net is lightweight, easy to deploy, and easy to integrate.

  1. Decide what information you would like to map and how the information will be structured. If your data is not already categorized, we can introduce you to one of our partners.
  2. Determine how you will use Visual Net’s graphical tools to meet your business needs and those of your users: what information objects appear first on the maps, what colors, shapes and sizes will be used, how will the objects be positioned on the maps. Antarctica or one of our implementation partners will work with you to answer these questions.
    It is difficult to imagine how your maps should look. The best method is to avoid investing a lot of time planning, but to simply draw the maps. Most people are very surprised at what their data “looks” like. From there, it is easier to identify what variables need adjusting.
  3. Send us a dump of the information to be mapped; you can use formats including tab-delimited, XML or RDF, or talk directly to our SQL database.
  4. We work with you to decide how important metadata should be displayed on the maps. This metadata may include document type, date, file size, popularity, or any other attribute that you believe will help your users identify relevant information faster. We use this information to determine which objects appear first on the maps.

How do I integrate the maps into my web site?
Each of our maps has a URL, so you can put pointers to maps in your existing web deployments, or even include them right in the middle of an existing page. And you can set it up so that when you click on a Visual Net map, it launches back into your application, instead of into another Visual Net map.

Bottom line: Visual Net integrates smoothly and easily with existing Web deployments.

What software do I have to install?
Visual Net requires a simple install of a CD on your server; it takes relatively little disk space. It doesn’t require the use of any commercial databases or application servers.

It isn’t necessary to install any software on users’ computers – Visual Net can display maps through any version of any Web browser. Of course, things work better with more modern and standards-compliant web browsers. In addition, the map display of Visual Net doesn’t require much computing power, even older computers with little memory will run it just fine.

On what operating systems does Visual Net run?
Visual Net’s server is implemented as a module that runs with the Apache web server. Apache runs on every computer system, from old-fashioned mainframes to any version of Windows to the most recent Macintosh laptops.

In principle, Visual Net can run on any computer that Apache supports. Because it’s efficient and inexpensive, we recommend using basic Intel boxes (Dell, HP, Gateway, or your local clone vendor) running the Linux operating system.

Normally, it’s simplest to deploy Visual Net by itself on a dedicated Intel-class server (typically less than a thousand US dollars); its back-end talks to the world through a basic SQL interface, and the front end has a Web Services interface that you address using ordinary URLs. Typically nobody would need to know what operating system is being run.