Best Practices

Below, please find a listing of various tips and tricks for working creatively, constructively, and collaboratively with metamaps. Got something to add? Post it to our Hylo community!

Start with a ‘brainstorm’ of many topics, then refine and organize them

A blank canvas may seem a little daunting. Where to begin? What shape will the map take?

What’s most important is getting initial topic information entered onto the map. It may help to just start adding whatever comes to mind. Don't get stuck on choosing the "right" metacode or title - just let it flow!

Remember, it's easy to change and rearrange later.

Often, maps are created and refined iteratively, as new ideas and insights emerge. It's easy to come back and make edits, or copy to a new map and try a different version.

You may want to try out the "Brainstorm" metacode set, which was designed to facilitate this initial, spontaneous harvest of topics onto a map workspace.

Reinterpret the metacode icons freely

Don’t let yourself get slowed down unnecessarily by thinking too much about the metacode icons and their labels. They can always be changed later, and their meaning is open to interpretation.

Metacodes help others to understand how you are using a given topic. The same topic name may end up in use with multiple different metacodes, each one indicating a different sense of use of the name or concept. Choose wisely to help boost the collective intelligence factor for everyone!

It helps to be consistent about how you use metacodes, but it's good to experiment and sometimes necessary to stretch the definitions. Icons can be chosen based simply on color, without worrying about the name of the type or the iconography.

Got an idea for a new look or type of metacode? Let us know! Available sets are continually evolving.

Use distinctive naming for topics

When mapping in a hurry, short and simple topic titles may seem adequate. However it's important to keep in mind that this means there's a tendency to wind up with lots of nearly identical, generic topics labels that are being used in different ways throughout the database. This can end up feeling like a bit of clutter, and can make it hard to find the 'right' topic when someone goes to locate it or reuse it on another map.

Take a moment when you are creating topics, or shortly after, to add specificity with each title entry, e.g. “John's Active Projects” instead of just “projects” (even if it's then linked to "John" as a separate topic).

What is represented by each topic that you are adding? What makes it distinct so that others will understand how you are using it?

Another helpful practice to keep in mind is that of adding contextual identifiers, such as a short acronym or #hashtag in the title or description, for a related set of topics.

Thankfully, available metadata for each topic like metacode type and creator info will help to reveal context for ambiguous or duplicate topics. You can always consult Topic View to see how an existing entity is being used in the system, for additional context.

Add helpful structure and grouping to your layout

The layout of a map can help to add additional meaning to the way that topics are being used, adding another dimension of information value to the map.

Experiment with different shapes and formats:

  • Play with grid and radial type layouts
  • Place topics as labels or markers that help to define an arrangement
  • Look at how the metacode colors work optimally together
  • In some cases it's useful to work with a timeline along one axis, or an X-Y spatial layout that shows relative physical positioning. Signify these choices, if needed, with a pair of connected topics oriented to define an axis or dimension.

Be mindful of permissions settings

Managing permissions is an important part of working smoothly and effectively within the shared idea space of Metamaps.

Maps, topics, and synapses all carry permissions settings, which can be adjusted independently. New topics and synapses created on a map will inherit the current setting of that map.

Currently, “Public” is a good default setting to begin with. It’s easy to change later! Items with a "Commons" permission are open for other mappers to use and edit. Before making changes to Commons topics, check to see how it's being used by others - even if you were the original creator. You can do this by opening the topic card and clicking the metamap icon to see which other maps it is being used on.

Save backup copies of important commons maps

If you are working with maps in the commons, the layout that you create is susceptible to changes by other users over time. This is great for enhancing shared knowledge, but runs the risk of accidental or unwanted changes too.

There is currently no "undo" or "revert" feature to go back to previous versions of a map.

It may be wise to save a stable version with either Public or Private permission setting. Simply choose “save to new map” and give it an appropriate name. This will not, however, prevent others from editing the title, metacode, or description of any commons topics that appear on the map.

Alternatively, you can easily take an occasional map snapshot image and retain this as a record of the map state, which can guide you in reconstructing something later if needed.

Add helpful descriptions

Topics are more than just an icon and title on the map canvas. Consider how others will interpret and use the information contained there: perhaps a bit of additional info will help!

Take a moment to add a brief note or description in the available text field of maps and topic cards, especially commons items, so that others will know more about how your intended meaning and usage. Paste a reference link at the bottom of the card, and you will see a preview of the linked page content show up in the card body too.

Even if you are just mapping for yourself to begin with, a little bit of extra thought goes a long way towards creating a rich environment for collective intelligence to emerge.

The search box is your friend

We’ve designed the search field to be a convenient way to access almost anything on the site, from almost anywhere.

As you enter text, results will begin to show up in a list below (you may need to pause briefly to see them). Find additional metadata about each result by hovering over it, and then pointing to the cluster of icons to the right.

Some advanced tricks include searching by metacode, creator, or hashtag. Search is a great way to take an exploratory journey through the site and find unexpected niches!

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