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One of the interesting releases from this year’s DEMO Fall conference is the Xerox-backed (news, site) Trailmeme, a new form of web publishing that offers users the ability to gather content from the web in a single place, publish it so everyone can see, and in the future will enable others to add to that content.

While the public beta has only just been launched, there has been considerable development work done on this at the Xerox Research Centre in Webster since last year. As of this week anyone can participate by signing up at the Trailmeme website.

Publishing with Trailmeme

Trailmeme is a new kind of Web publishing where users create trails of content on a specific topic. When registered they can also read other peoples’ trails and ‘walk’ them to keep up with any updates they make.

A trail is a partially sequenced collection of pages or destinations, with an overall set of metadata (trail name or editorial comment).

Using destination sites and a suite of tools including browser plug-ins, bookmarklets and plug-ins for website owners, the technology allows users to gather related content from the Web in one place in a trail, which is represented visually on the Trailmeme wbesite.

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A Trailmeme content trail
 

How Trailmeme Works

Like any interactive experience there are two elements here: the person who creates the trail, and the person that ‘follows’ the trail.

The trail creator relates web pages that have been visited and chosen by the trail creator to be placed in a nested hierarchy and presents those related pages as a visual map of content on a specific topic that’s interesting to that user.

The maps that are created -- or blazed -- by creators are published on the Trailmeme website once they have created an account (free) and can be accessed by readers who follow those trails using a picture view and page turning controls.

The creation of trails, however, is not passive and before creating a ‘trail’ users have to install a toolbar that requires them to actively save the details of a site that is being visited before it will be added to the trail.

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Trailmeme in Firefox
 

To read the trails though, it is not necessary to download the toolbar. In order to follow where they are, readers will be able to use a frame bar on the top of the browser page as well as click links to jump about the trail.

Trailmeme and Pulg-ins

And while Trailmeme is still relatively isolated at the moment in that the only plug-ins available so far are for Wordpress (news, site), enabling users to create trails out of posts on their own Wordpress blogs, there are other promised. With this plug-in, users are also offered a one-click generation of PDF eBooks from trails.

While not saying when it will be introduced, Trailmeme says they will be introducing a plug-in that will enhance the navigation around trails too.

Trailmeme also says that in the future users will also be able to collaborate on specific trails allowing other users to add to them and shape their direction. If you’re interested in taking part in the public beta it is currently open for registration and is free. Let us know what you think.