Online research can be a messy process. Anyone who’s ever searched for something online, only to find themselves hours later, hazy and buried under dozens of open browser tabs, will have some idea of the impetus behind Wellington software startup Twingl.
Trailblazer, Twingl’s first product, is a web browser add-on that automatically tracks and visualises the various paths people take as they follow their nose through any form of online research.
The obvious application for such a product is the education market, which is exactly where Twingl and the company’s backers are taking the product first.
Andy Wilkinson, Twingl’s founding chief executive, was in the late stages of a multi-school pilot programme and on the verge of launching a nationwide school holiday Minecraft competition when he took time out to explain how Trailblazer takes the donkey work out of documenting the research process.
“Trailblazer makes your learning visible. Say you’re researching something new – it might be a paper at uni or an overseas holiday – and you end up with dozens of open browser tabs, bookmarks and a Word document full of notes, well we’ve built a browser extension that turns all those tabs into a map which shows you why that tab is open and where to go next. It also automatically organises the notes you take. And in schools, your teacher will be able to see your map as well, so they can become better at teaching you how to research more effectively online.”
Wilkinson’s belief that humans are spatial thinkers kicked off the idea for Trailblazer.
“The internet doesn’t give you a very good sense of space, it’s almost edgeless in a way and anything we can do to help shape and adapt that content to the way our brains actually work is a good thing.”
Twingl itself is a product of New Zealand’s flourishing startup ecosystem, beginning with Wellington Startup Weekend in 2013 and progressing to the Lightning Labbusiness accelerator programme this year, where Wilkinson and his fellow co-founders, Greg Signal and Matt Kennedy, raised $100,000 in seed funding to develop Trailblazer.
This story originally appeared in the NZ Herald.