Wikipedia needs MAPA

I have been thinking about Wikipedia a bit more than usual recently. Even at "the pond" where Chris and I go with the kids to swim and relax with friends there have been Wikipedia discussions. Thank goodness that I actually pay attention to Geoffrey Bilder's trust del.icio.us links and so I had something to contribute. On the drive home yesterday I was thinking again about Wikipedia and wikis in general and it occurred to me that they need MAPA [*1][*2].

MAPA is a system for mapping web sites. The mapped pages are hierarchically displayed using orthographic projection and presented using progressive disclosure. That is, MAPA does not try to show everything but instead shows mapped pages around a focal mapped page and you refocus the map by selecting any other focal mapped page. The orthographic projection's two and half dimensions reduce obscuring the map when further annotating or adorning the presentation of the map and mapped pages. This is the visual side of MAPA.

What was equally important to MAPA's success as a map was that it discovered the content's natural hierarchy using David Durand's "organizer". Where the discovery was not quite right, hints could be given to the organizer to re-arrange the hierarchy. What was truly magical was that often only a handful of hints were necessary to map sites as big as ibm.com and javasoft.com (aka java.sun.com). And this is where I think MAPA could really help the Wikipedia. Even if you don't believe knowledge can be strictly organized hierarchically, having some hierarchy would greatly aid anyone orienting themselves within the Wikipedia content after having just jumped there from a Google search result.

[*1] "MAPA: a system for inducing and visualizing hierarchy in websites" http://www.kahnplus.com/download/pdf/mapaht98.pdf
[*2] "Applications of Isometric Projection for Visualizing Web Sites" http://www.dynamicdiagrams.com/all_pdfs/idj_10_3.pdf