iFISH Project Page

New to iFISH? Get a sense of what it can do by playing with our book-explorer at bookfish.net.au.

(Updated June 6, 2016)

Here is a 2-page blurb about iFISH concepts (PDF).

And if you are designing an iFISH idea, here is a list of slider themes that we have played with (rtf document).

Quick links that will run some of the more interesting iFISH examples in a new window (see further down for more details on each):

Current and older iFISH ideas:

Old Flash-based iFISHies:

What is iFISH?

It's exploring rather than searching.

iFISH is a project investigating ways of exploring an information space when you really don't know what you are looking for but have an idea of the kinds of things that you like ('preferences' or 'tastes', we call them). For example, you are looking for a restaurant. The kind of things that you know about are your desires: something romantic, fairly quiet, not too modern, but not exactly traditional either. Definitely not spicy food. These kind of criteria are not easy to specify in Google. If fact, you probably wouldn't want to use Google - you really want to be able to browse and explore easily. That's the aim of the system that we have set up (iFISH). It provides an environment in which you can explore data (such as restaurants) in a playful, friendly way and drive the exploration through your own preferences.

Of course, this concept is not restricted to restaurants. We have ideas for books, wines, accommodation, nutrition, videos, educational resources, people's interests, even people themselves (see our 'Connecting Learners for Collaboration' project).

So, our particular research interests are in using an engaging, affective interface to attract and maintain a person's attention, whilst at the same time trying to keep their focus on the task presented. Hence we want to encourage exploration with mind on task.

You can find some some papers about this research here.

This page links to various versions of iFISH. It's really here for playing and testing purposes - if you got here by mistake and are confused, then go back to my Projects page! But you are welcome to explore and run any of the examples - feedback to Jon welcome :)

Interesting things are added below in reverse chronological order (you need Flash Player installed) .

New November 2012:

We are producing a new version of iFISH that is based on HTML5, not Flash. That means it runs on iPads, Androids, etc. Yeah!

We have constructed a back-end service in the cloud that facilitates: the easy creation on new ‘ponds’ (get used to our fishy terminology!); the entering of ‘fish’ (data elements comprising name, description, images, and links to other online information); and the tagging info such as slider values and filter values.

We are working on creating samples of different front-ends illustrating how this system can be used. These front-ends are written in HTML 5 and CSS and are responsible for general screen layout, behaviour and display of fish, interaction with online discussion forum, etc. All the hard work is done on the server :)

The nicest example to date is something we are preparing to help children discover new books to read. You can play at BookExploramatic. As of early November 2012, we have only 70 books, but we plan to have the entire Victorian Premiers' Reading Challenge list in there for 2013.

What follows below are some older examples of our early ventures with iFISH.


(August 13 2009)

This old Flash version of iFISH was set up to display some of the research projects being undertaken by our department (Department of Information Systems, now the Department of Computing and Information Systems). Clicking on the fish gives brief info of the projects; clicking 'See more in a PDF...' loads a PDF brochure.

You can play with it here.


(May 4 2009)

This version of iFISH (with roots in Dundee, Scotland - when you're onto a name, stick to it...!) has a "school" of fish (a row) that stay together while the order of fish within the school change according to the slider settings. Also the rows themselves change.

We are exploring using this as a way of sorting and presenting learning resources to students to work through as a learning sequence. It's just an idea at present - doesn't do much ;)

You can play with it here.

Examples of using iFISH to research engagement with online tasks

(Feb 2009)

In this experiment Ruud Knieriem (a masters student from Utrecht University) investigated how people engage with online tasks. The research project is part of a Master study in Content and Knowledge Engineering at Utrecht University, The Netherlands, and is conducted under the supervision of the University of Melbourne. Supervisors: Jon Pearce and Gregor Kennedy.

Results of this research will be posted soon.

You can play with some of the puzzles that Ruud set up here (just click 'start' when you see a log in screen). Each opens in a new window:

Restore a picture using sliders

Restore a picture using steppers

Label the ends of sliders by sorting shapes

Label the ends of steppers by sorting shapes

Example of using iFISH to explore subject offerings


This is a version of iFISH (actually gFISH) that presents a set of subjects offered by a department (in 2008). All subjects remain on-screen at all times and they move fluidly as you change the sliders. Slider labels are sensible (unlike the original iFISH below!). Students can click the 'tools' icon on a fish and enter their weighting for any slider. Currently these data are manually aggregated with the existing ratings (well - not at the moment - but they were when we were running an experiment).

You can run this version here, just click 'start' to begin (ignore the 'student number' request).

Original iFISH idea for exploring subject handbook. (iFISH)


This is the original iFISH (play with it here - oops, not working at present - sorry! Aug 2009). It is being produced as a tool with which to explore engagement and affect. The handbook data is from the 2007 University of Melbourne handbook, so it's not up-to-date (and, indeed the handbook is now quite different) so don't use it for real ;)

Slider labels are not what we wanted for this version - they were created from a linguistic analysis process that effectively clustered subjects into groups and we added a label for each group. A better example of sliders with appropriate labels can be seen in the version 'Example of using iFISH to explore subject offerings" above.

gFISH - the generic version


gFISH is the generic version of iFISH (clever, eh?). It is easy to add different data sets and configure how they look on the screen, their behaviours, etc., by simply editing XML files. We have some examples of the use of gFISH quickly mocked up:

Here is an example of using gFISH in the context of people planning to explore a physical museum (click the "Start" button and ignore the slider labels!)

Here is the museum example with the animation turned off (and some sliders replaced by numeric steppers).

Here is gFISH ranking cameras on various criteria.

Tools (out of date now - July 2010)

Tool to construct URLs for different versions of gFISH.

Tool to change config files for iFISH.

Stuff for Jon...