Wikis are largely about creating, organizing, and sharing knowledge. Most people think of textual and static graphic information created, organized, and maintained by groups of people when they consider what makes up a wiki. The integration of visualization tools is one of the more interesting developments in wikis recently though. As an example, the Thinkbase tool provides an ability to visually navigate and explore Freebase, an open, shared database of the world’s knowledge. The Thinkbase Blog is a good resource for learning about Thinkbase.
In fact, John Hosking recently provided an overview of how to use visual wikis. He discusses three types of visual wiki applications, including using Thinkbase and Freebase together to augment search and navigation, development of a Visual Body of Knowledge Explorer (VBKE) using ThinkMap and Convergence (an organizational wiki) to support a dynamic view of the information architecture of Convergence, and ProcessMapper (using ThinkMap and MediaWiki) to support visualizations of business process mapping in a wiki.
I just recently ran across Forbes’ early beta version of a Wiki application for visually creating organization charts of U.S. corporations. The idea is to tap into the collective knowledge of readers of Forbes to build organizational charts of various corporations. The introduction of the application noted:
This is an experiment in collaborative problem solving, where our goal is to create something of great value to the whole web community. While it may be tempting for some to erroneously delete people and to create mock titles for others, we hope the community will protect the integrity of this experiment.
The visual Org Chart Wiki allows you to search by company or person to view the organization chart of publicly listed U.S. companies, their boards of directors and senior executives. The concern about maintaining the integrity of an open visual wiki like the Forbes Org Chart Wiki is legitimate. Stewart Mader pointed to this kind of challenge for wikis in wikipatterns, noting that it is useful to distinguish between an “All-Virtual” wiki community, such as Wikipedia, and wiki communities organized around connections and relationships in organizations, such as Enterprise 2.0 applications.
It will prove interesting to follow the Forbes’ Org Chart Wiki. However, it seems to me that developing a visual organization chart wiki for enterprise purposes, such as mapping out customer organizations in B2B market segments, perhaps even specifying links between positions, i.e. people, in multiple customer organizations, offers a useful variation on the approach taken by Forbes. I’d be interested in hearing about other uses of visual wikis.
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