Sunday, October 19, 2008

More Compendium history (part 8): Continued Evolution

This is the last of a series.

Time moved on. By 2001, the original team of Compendium practitioners and developers at what was now Verizon had mostly moved on to new responsibilities or left. Various mergers and reorganizations left the effort without executive sponsorship. 

We were able to license the software development to KMi, where Simon Buckingham Shum was successful in continuing the development, funding a full-time programmer, Michelle Bachler, who significantly expanded the tool’s capabilities over the next several years. We continued to find new applications and approaches to complement the existing ones, and formed an international group of interested people called the Compendium Institute, holding annual workshops and creating a website and discussion group (numbering 1,267 members at the time of this writing).

In 2003, Verizon granted permission for the Open University to distribute the software, and eventually the program code, freely. As the number of downloads grew (more than 50,000 by November 2008), new applications for Compendium were developed by others outside the core group, with exciting work being done in public policy exploration, e-Government, e-Learning, and many other areas. 

Within the core group itself, innovation and exploration continued, reaching into areas such as collaborative e-Science combining software-based input with on-the-fly group mapping, personnel rescue support, mapping the Iraq debate, and many other areas. Compendium has taken its place among the leading knowledge cartography approaches. The Compendium community, approach, and software continue to grow and evolve in ways both satisfying and, often, surprising to its originators.

Research and development continue on many fronts and in many places, with universities and individuals around the world making contributions. In 2003, I turned my own attention to a set of research questions that felt key to understanding the practice dimensions and, eventually, to finding better ways to support the training of new practitioners. I'm interested in the ways people find to shape Compendium maps into expressive artifacts, to craft expressive hypermedia knowledge maps on the fly, with groups of people, inviting their engagement, reaching into analysis, modeling, dialogue mapping, creative exploration, and rationale capture as necessary and appropriate. That work is the chief subject of this blog.


Stay Ready, Things Change said...

Having just stumbled, happily, onto Compendium I am delighted to find that such a flexible tool exists. By "stumbled" I mean that I didn't even actually know what tool I was looking for beyond a collaborative knowledge tool.

For years now I've been developing my own tools for accomplishing this kind of mapping of issues with very little integrative success. Gladly, that quest has been pretty much put to rest by my discovery of Compendium.

Regarding the difficulties of adoption/acceptance that you mention in this extended post -- I saw something very similar in the area of Choreology (Benesh Movement Notation System primarily used to notate & document dance choreography). This barrier to acceptance is, in itself, an interesting phenomenon. I think it may have something to do with introducing different kinds of rigor into domains that depend largely on idiosyncratic creativity as their main rigor.

As I continue to improve my understanding and use of Compendium I will look forward to learning more about the history and trajectory of the entire development process along with its utilization and adoption.

Aldo de Moor said...

Great account of the socio-technical evolution of your tools! It would be interesting to do a similar/comparative analysis Mark Aakhus and I did of the evolution of the GRASS tool in our "Argumentation Support: From Technologies to Tools" paper: So much to do, so little time...