Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Information Architecture WiKi: A Wilderness With Signposts

IAwiki is a WiKi and in this particular case, it's a collaborative knowledge base for the topic of 'Information Architecture'.

IAwiki is much more than that though. It's certainly a knowledge base, but not exclusively for Information Architects. Anyone involved in any aspect of the creation of information products and services, be they researchers, analysts, journalists or newsmasters, will find this to be an invaluable reference point.

So, what is Information Architecture (IA). Ironically, the term remains "As yet undefined" within the IAwiki, since there is no consensus amongst the many contributors. To be fair, there is a substantial entry with very many contributions in the section Defining the Damn Thing, including a Film Director metaphor, an Architecture metaphor and a Managing Editor metaphor.

What is truly fascinating about the site is that it is constantly growing and self-organising - it's as if it's a living organism. It has also been (self) described as a wilderness...

"but never fear...others have trekked into this wilderness and blazed some RoadMaps and identified good StartingPoints."

StartingPoints are designed to help you:

  • appreciate how long and convoluted the debate is over "just what is IA"

  • find pointers to discussions in progress and questions not yet answered

  • monitor all changes to topic pages

  • find themed collections for specific audiences, through RoadMaps

RoadMaps are guided tours of selected content for specific audiences, complete with appropriate commentary as necessary. There is a:

  • Student Roadmap

  • Practitioner Roadmap

  • InterDisciplinary Roadmap

  • Business Roadmap

  • Consultancy Roadmap

  • Government Roadmap

  • Media Roadmap

  • Issues Roadmap

  • IAwiki Roadmap

  • Theory Roadmap

  • Reading Roadmap

The Site Index lists, as of today, 885 separate entries, with some wonderful, typically esoteric IA terms, such as:

Bread Crumbs
Information Scent
Things On Walls

This is a serious site, with a great sense of humour:

"Post-It": One of the core IA physical tools, along with WhiteBoards. Small bits of paper with stick backs. When combined with WhiteBoards, magic happens.

"XML": Makes structuring data and exchanging data easy. It's parsing it that makes your head explode.

As it's a WiKi, you can subscribe to an RSS feed of updates to the site. There is one little niggle however. The RSS feeds only provide a URL link back to each new item, with a very occasional one or two words of commentary.

This is neither helpful for subscribers who read RSS feeds offline, nor for experienced RSS feed subscribers who speed-read literally hundreds of items a day from multiple sources.

As a potential example of best practice in WiKi design, by the people who should know best about information design, this is not good.

However, this aside, overall it is a truly outstanding resource and well worth wandering around and getting (slightly) lost in for many hours.



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posted by on Sunday, October 17 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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