Wanted: Wiki/Mindmap hybrid/mashup

April 30, 2010

As a photographer I am a very visual person, and am fascinated by the fast-growing area of data visualisation.

Recently I was looking at various wiki options for a private project. Essentially, all that the internet is, is one big wiki. OK, so you can’t edit every site out there, but the principle foundation of both the wiki and the internet is the humble hyperlink. Click here -> go there : a structural link that enables a semantic link. That’s all it is.

There is no shortage of good wiki solutions out there, most of them open-source and free.  For a large-scale wiki I would go with Mediawiki for sure. On a smaller scale I really like Tiddlywiki. Then of course there are the Wetpaints and PBWikis, and loads of others.

For my particular purposes I only need a personal wiki (which, I’ve been told disparagingly by some, defeats the whole collaborative purpose of wikis). Whatever. What I’m wanting to do in my private project is map out a whole bunch of complex data, and create the interlinks between them, to find the central nodes or hubs.

I started playing around with Zim – a very lightweight free wiki with WYSWIG. Its perfect for quick input. But once I’d got all my data in, all hyperlinked together, I found I wanted to get a “big picture” overview of how all the links linked together.

So I started looking at mindmaps. Once again, plenty of great solutions to choose from: Mindmeister, the Brain, and Freemind are just a few of the better solutions.¬† I’ve never really used any of them because for pure mindmapping I personally prefer the good ol’ whiteboard as I find whiteboard markers more “fluid” than a keyboard. But soon you run out of whiteboards and so you have to take a photo of the mindmap and store it away somehwere (where it kind of dies a lonely death). Sometimes I print out the photo on A3 or A2 and put it on a pinboard, but the death is just slower.

But for the particular project I’m busy on, pure mindmapping won’t work either. I’ve got more content than fits into each little bubble. And the bubble’s must be semantically linked from certain keywords within the bubble content, not just “this bubble/concept” is linked to “that bubble/concept”.

It was then that I realised that what I really needed was a wiki/mindmap hybrid. Something that you could build up as a wiki, but then zoom out into “visualisation mode” and see how all the links fitted together. Ideally the size of each bubble/node in “mindmap” view would automatically relate to how many incoming links there were to that node. Or you could adjust the size according to word-count of content, or outgoing and incoming links – any number of things. Just toggle for different views. The “size of bubble” thing would work, I suppose, something like a tag cloud, but more nuanced and granular.

Then on top of that you could have a whole colour key, so that different bubbles or links could be color-coded according to some criteria that you could decide on.

Man, I could go on and on… but after doing a bit of research I found that although there has been some mention of wiki/mindmap hybrids, and even a few rudimental attempts at such… there is a big gaping void in this space. Which kind of surprised me.

Unfortunately my personal project is not a “for profit” project, so I can’t rush out to get a developer to knock something out for me. And, even if I had the time, I don’t have the programming skills to make my own. All I can do is hope that somebody else with the resources stumbles across this need and puts something out there. I reckon a lot of peeps would find it very, very useful.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: