For a while now I’ve been meaning to share a post about Trailblazer, a Chrome web browser extension I learned about from my friend and colleague Cindy Jennings. Trailblazer is a tool that allows you to track your web-based research path, much in the same way that an explorer will mark a path through a territory. As Clive Thompson writes, in a 2015 Wired essay, the Trailblazer extension puts into practice something that Vannevar Bush imagined in 1945 in his now-famous “As We May Think": the ability to share not just the endpoint of your research but the path that led you to that endpoint.
As Thompson describes it, Trailblazer “creates spiderweb maps of your online activity you can revisit and share ... Traditional academic citations never capture serendipity, the stumbling, associational nature of how knowledge relates to itself. Trailblazer does.”
[Updated to add: Lee wrote about Trailblazer in 2015, which I completely forgot. Mea culpa. One thing that has changed since then is the project’s move to open-source status.]
I’ve played around with the tool a little bit, but I haven’t really relied on it for any serious projects (nor have I used it in any assignments for students). However, I can imagine scenarios in which it would be quite useful. I just wish I had a better idea of what’s happening to the data that I’m generating as I browse the web.
To install Trailblazer, visit www.trailblazer.io with the Google Chrome browser and then click the link that reads “Install the beta.”
Have you used Trailblazer? What do you think? Alternately, what tools do you use to keep track of the paths that you create as you make your way through your research? Please share in the comments.