We frequently want to visualize a lot of pages on a wiki at once. One way to do this is to draw maps, by hand, of the pages on the wiki.

In our heads, we house intuitions, fragments, of how pages relate to various other pages.

Some people envision that wiki have no structure. But, to a regular of a wiki, islands of structure appear in our heads. Some pages are more important than others. Some pages represent key ideas, others are merely subsidiary. Some pages have been traditional hubs of activity. Major pages link to other major pages, and there's probably a backbone of structure.

In this page, we call it a "Time Stamped" map. This is because the structure of a wiki can can change dramatically. This is an effort to combat ChangeFailure. The map clearly states: "This is a map that was constructed on such-and-such date."

Some tips for drawing a TimeStampedMap:

The map has it's own page. The page is named in a way that includes the theme, and the month, and the year, that the map was made.

Presently, we have:

Then, on the pages that are on the map, place a tag with the name of the page with the map.

That way, when visitors come, they will find the map. They'll be looking at a page, and will most likely find a key page. At the bottom, they'll find a link to the map. Hopefully they'll click on the map, and see a good bird's eye view of what's going on.

The Wiki Nodes Network

This strategy may also work for WikiNodes and TopicNodes?, to help people find related wiki and discussion.

Criticism of the PublicWebJune2004Map

Look at the PublicWebJune2004Map. Note that the top-left corner does a good job of graphically demonstrating the theme for that section. Note how the graphics are all together, and cooperate with one another, forming a progression.

But look at the lower- it is not immediately obvious how HubAndSpokeWikis, BlogControlledByWiki, SharedAwarenessSystem, DocumentsVsMessages, and HiveMindTheory relate.

Can we improve this?

Yes we can.

First, we explicate the thematic connection:

Second, we make a graphic that encapsulates those themes.

We are talking about information, information, information. How it moves, how it's used, what it's shape is.

This is a very technical thing we are talking about. The image I see in my mind is of lots of pipes, in a big complicated spaghetti, like a vacuum tube network in Brazil (the movie.) There are lots of little messages, posts, flying around in this tube network.

So, a good theme for the drawing for this bottom-left corner would be a giant tube-like network.

From DocumentsVsMessages, we know we need messages, and documents. The messages will be small, flitting about the tubes. The documents will be larger, and slower, and require big pipes.

HubAndSpokeWikis is about how documents move between wiki. So, the diagram needs some distribution between multiple wiki, with big fat tubes between them. Documents slowly march out from a wiki to spoke wiki.

BlogControlledByWiki can be drawn from a wiki with a thin little pipe ejecting messages continuously (haha! in theory…) to a blog, drawn as a ticker-tape rolling down.

See, already, right there, we have an excellent integration of the ideas from DocumentsVsMessages, HubAndSpokeWikis, and BlogControlledByWiki. If you just label the phenomenon on that picture, then you have it all in a snap. Otherwise, we just look at the picture and go, "What? How are these related? Say again?" Labelling them all, it's immediately obvious what the pages are about, and how they relate. Or at least, you have a framework immediately, that you can attach the information to as you learn. It will all be automatically integrated in your mind, then, as you read them then.

Now we are in the right frame to bring in SharedAwarenessSystem and HiveMindTheory.

These are actually very different than the things in our pipework!

So, what do we do? This is where we bring the people in.

We draw bunches of people. First, the foreigners, who are looking at the BlogControlledByWiki. We can draw one guy in the wiki, writing up the summaries, and turning a crank. Stretch the pipe going from the wiki, stretch it going waaaaay out, way far away, and have a bunch of people (haha! - but, I'm trying to work with the idea as it was, in 2004- we now know this doesn't work, but- we're trying to learn map making technique, not updating the old map to present understanding)- have a bunch of people, getting the little fast message packets on the other side of the pipe, and seeing the blog ticker tape roll down.

Close to the interior of the wiki, we draw the people who participate in the wiki. This includes the guy turning the crank, churning out the BlogControlledByWiki posts. We draw that they are seeing another ticker, coming from a pipe- this ticker is releasing what we know to be RecentChanges.

Now we make a label, with unarrowed lines connecting to both the blog readers and the wiki editors, sort of hovering above the two, that reads "SharedAwarenessSystem." We can also write, a little further away from the action, the graphics, but near "SharedAwarenessSystem," the word "HiveMindTheory."

That's because "HiveMindTheory" is the odd man out here. We're already distant from the mechanics of the machinery of documents and messages by the time we are talking about the "HiveMindTheory." So, the HiveMindTheory should be drawn in a cloud, even. It's very etherial, to the prior discussion.

This concludes the criticism of the PublicWebJune?2004Map.

The lesson we draw from it, is to integrate the pages by a meaningful, coherent metaphor. Otherwise, people just look at the arrangement, and go: "Hunh?"

But if we put it into a meaningful metaphor, not only do our readers get an insight into how the pages relate, but we ourselves get new insite into how the pages relate. We become smarter because we actively integrated the ideas. (See: InformationKnowledgeAndWisdom.)

The process we followed was:

  1. Look at your ideas, and pick out the main themes.
  2. Draw the themes.
  3. Figure out how the ideas relate to the drawn themes, and highlight them.

Yay! It's Visual:MultiVariate!


What's the significance of this? Who cares? I mean, all we're doing is attaching a date to a map, right?

I just feel that- if the map has a date, then people are more forgiving if it has errors, or serious omissions, than if it is dateless. Such a small change, such a big effect!

Also- if a map is really old, you know (and visitors know) that it's really old. If it gets ridiculously old, you can just delete all mention of it.

I think, also, that we should probably auto-archive pages that haven't been touched in over 6 months. All that means is that it says, in red, at the top of the page, "This page is more than 6 months old, and is considered Archival material."

If you're searching, pages in archival should probably be given special treatment. Perhaps "search archives," and "exclude archives," or perhaps written in another color or with an icon to denote old age. And perhaps we ask google to not index them, so that google doesn't attract people coming here, interested in our old ideas.

Maps don't need to be humourless graphs. We can draw mountain ranges, buildings, people, submarines, all sorts of stuff in them. :)

Here's a map I made, that reflects some of how I think about various subjects:


There's a lot to criticise about the VisualLanguage. The use of colors is off-balancing, and the fills on everything but ThePublicWeb doubly so.

I should have put gears around the arrows about SocialSoftware. The image for InternetConcentration is too rough. The paths are easily merged, and should be. Perhaps even made thinner, as well.

On the good side, I think it definitely brings life to ideas! I think that the use of people is good, and that perhaps there should be even more people on the page. We also need more icons.

When SVG hit's wiki, we'll build more TalkKits, and I think we'll see an explosion of reusable symbols and diagrams. Some diagrams will become familiar "places," referenced over and over again, to highlight relationships between places, sort of like Mentat:MemoryPalaces.

I really think that our tools are getting in the way of our liveliness..! With easy pictures, this would be so much more fun. Not that it isn't fun right now. :)

What do you all think? Do you think this the TimeStampedMap is okay? Would you mind if I gave this map a page, and started placing references to it around the site, on the pages named?

I love these mind-map kind-of map with icons and arrows and text and little inside jokes. I don't believe it has to be timestamped, however. ;)

Dou! Forgot the timestamp!


There. :)

Course, this could just be a silly idea. But whatever. :)

It seems fun.. where are the secret troll hangout? This got me to remember that I think a detailed breakdown of all the different parts of a wiki would be very helpful to some people. WikiParts is a list of what makes a wiki work. And why it is so cool.

I love the internet concentration symbol, this maelström black-hole little swirly. Very good, your visual language, Lion. I somehow like the way you position the carrot in front of the wikidonkey's nose. :)

We could develop a visual language – like a LinkLanguage, but visual – an IconLanguage?, if you want, for this wiki. Then wherever we talk about HubAndSpokeWikis, we'll use the icon from the map above. I really like these maps. We should find a way to make editing them really easy. Then we can do away with the ASCII maps as well. ;)

A CommunityWiki Visual:TalkKit! :) I wouldn't mind.

I've already got a few that I used to make these; One is full of people, one is full of "document" images (the message icon, the document icon, the hypertexts, the log.)

Though, I want a different HubAndSpokeWikis icon than the one I made above…

I'm not sure how to make editing really easy. (grumble grumble) I'm not sure if anything less than a souped-up Visual:InkScape or Visual:SodiPodi can help us out on that front. :(

But I'd be happy to upload the icon SVG, and excited seeing it being used. If we want to regularly edit these, we'll need to do one of two things:

  • Upload SVG, and have your server automatically generate the PNG from SVG. (This is not as hard as it sounds- there is a command line option to InkScape to perform just such a conversion.)
  • Upload both SVG and PNG images. SVG=editable, PNG=visible

Ug. My latest addition really belongs on the Visual wiki, somehow. Maybe take the lesson from it, put it on the visual wiki, and point that entry back over to here, for a good example.

Should probably move it to "LessonsDrawnFromTheJune?2004Map," too.

Just copy both. The example here might be updated one day and it would invalidate your "lesson". Love the lesson, btw. Somebody should apply it and illustrate the various points with small diagrams containing only the two or three elements from the preceding paragraph and put it all together into a "result" diagram.

Define external redirect: TopicNodes LessonsDrawnFromTheJune PublicWebJune IconLanguage

EditNearLinks: WikiNodes