About

About Scotland The Map

What do we collectively know about all the ‘national building blocks’ of Scotland ie. the things that  individuals, organisation & communities rely on on a daily basis, and therefore spend a lot of their own time & resources finding out about and keeping up with? Where are the fundamental knowledge resources about them located in the public domian? How can you assess them for quality & suitability? Most importantly, how do you access them now – and in the future – so you can utilise them for the benefit of yourself / organisation / community / project?

ScotlandTheMap is a ground-breaking, national knowledge mapping project virtually connecting general, geographic & specialised knowledge resources about the ‘key building blocks’ of the nation, by visually connecting them in digital knowledge maps. This makes them easier to discover, find, understand & utilise, which benefits resource users, creators, and the nation as a whole.

We achieve this using our unique mix of professional information hunting & cartography skills and MindManager, the world leading information mapping software. The resulting HTML knowledge maps – which you are free to view, download & share on this site – open in any modern browser, on any device, without the need for any plugins.

We welcome your feedback & suggestions for subjects for future maps, or other definitive / official / plain old useful 🙂 knowledge resources to link to (as long as they’re freely accessible in the public domain). We are also keen to collaborate with like minded organisations, communities & projects for the benefit of the common good.

Angus McDonald

Scotland The Map Project Director and Knowledge Mappers Founder & CEO

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To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge.
Nicolaus Copernicus
16th Century Mathematician & Astronomer
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Tae ken that we ken whit we ken, and tae ken that we dinnae ken whit we dinnae ken, that's whit it's aw aboot, ye ken?
Rab C. Nesbitt
Contemporary Scottish Philosopher
Rab-C-Nesbitt_300x300
And whilst we're aboot it, tae ken where the hell ye get haud of whit ye need to ken, when ye need to ken it, if ye dinnae ken it awready?
Rab C. Nesbitt
Contemporary Scottish Philosopher
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These knowledge maps show the building blocks of Scotland as they exist today, but they can also be used to strategically think about what could be, and operationally plan the delivery of what will be.
Angus McDonald
Scotland The Map Project Director and Knowledge Mappers Founder & CEO
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The task is, not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.
Erwin Schrodinger
Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist & Cat Owner (Part-time)

Why Digital Knowledge Maps?

In our experience much time & energy is wasted by individuals, organisations & communities hunting for the knowledge they need about Scotland and it’s component parts (it’s ‘national building blocks’), especially at the sub-national level. 1000’s of ‘person hours’ are spent every day floundering around down online search ‘rabbit holes’, painstakingly piecing together the ‘big picture’ from individual knowledge resources scattered around the web, or even creating ‘new’ knowledge resources because they couldn’t find what they were looking for (even though it may already exist)…

And that’s just the time that’s wasted. If the knowedge is crucially required in order for people to fulfill their day-to-day tasks today – which includes operationally planning what needs to be delivered tommorrow, and strategically thinking about what could be in the future – then it’s wasting a lot more other resources too…

In our humble opinion people should be spending their time better actually utilising the knowledge resources that currently do exist – or identifying the gaps where new ones are needed – so that they can better do what they need to do, and progress themselves and their organisation / community / project.

Any tool or technique that makes the knowledge gathering, assimilation & utilisation process quicker, easier and less stressful for all concerned can only be welcomed, and can only benefit the nation as a whole.

Enter the’knowledge map’ – a single, visually rich, information dense, hierarchically structured, intuitive to navigate, easy to share, ‘clickable index’ document…

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Seek And Ye Shall Find... Eventually

“Och everything’s online now, all you have to do is Google it…”

There’s no shortage of knowledge resources about Scotland out there in the online, public domain. And sure, if you only need to find out a couple of facts in isolation now and again, a Google search will probably do it for you – as long as the answer you need is on the first few pages of the 8 million search results returned 🙁 (otherwise you may lose the will to live before you find the ones you need, or indeed reasonably conclude that the knowledge you seek does not currently exist, at least in the searchable pubic domain).

However if you regularly need to find a lot of information out in a more sustained, systematic way, AND record the existence of those new knowledge resources so you can return to them again later, AND build on the newly acquired knowledge they give you now – as is the case in doing desktop research for work and/or personal projects – then you will know what a frustrating & time consuming way of doing things a Google search is, especially if you are starting off from a ‘zero knowledge base’ yourself…

So, so many results to wade through… Results not all presented in order of relevance or importance to you… Resources linked to in different digital formats (eg. webpages, some buried in report documents without internal links, and what about all that data in downloadable spreadsheets?)… Dozens of browser tabs open because you don’t have a robust system of logging a ‘useful’ resource once you’ve found it so you can go back to it later…

We’ve all been there, so what’s the solution?

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Visually Mapping The Knowledge Is The Only Way

Digital knowledge mapping is the only technique we know of that can simultaneously record the existence of potentially 100’s of real world ‘things’, 1000’s of knowledge resources about them, the ‘big picture’ contextual relationship between them and in which they are found, and ‘where they are’ online (ie. their ‘URL’). 

AND do it in a very intuitive way, with a short learning curve, both in terms of making & sharing a map with software, and understanding it so that you can use it to find out what you want…

AND do it using ‘every day’ digital tools found in most office setups, making the requirement for further investment in technology minimal…

AND in a way that actively engages with more bits of your brain than traditional, linearly structured knowledge resources…

AND in a way that is able to cope with the real world as it is, in all it’s well intentioned, information overload, messy, ‘fuzzy logical’, glory…

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Maps Provide A Visually Structured Frame Of Reference For Knowledge

A map encodes & conveys information visually, but crucially does so in a structured way using cartographic principles & devices. So utlises such elements as visual hierachies (more visually prominent things are more important), lines showing relationships between things (equivelant to or a subdivision of?), shapes, symbols (ie. visual metaphors), meaningful colours (eye-catching, complementary & contrasting) etc., all in conjunction with a minimal amount of text (which too is visually formatted using the same cartographic principles). 

Together all these elements create a visually structured framework of knowledge that more actively engages with your brain than a linearly structured, text-only knowledge resource does, and so it is more easily navigated, understood and assimilated.

A map is also just a ‘visually structured index’ of what ‘things’ exist in a particular ‘space’, and the relationships between them within it – a particular (& valuable) type of knowledge resource in it’s own right (as Google Maps know only to well).

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Connecting Visually = Connecting Virtually...

However unlike a ‘traditional’ geographic map, a knowledge map need not be confined to showing only ‘things’ that exist in geographic space. Yes they can show those – and our ScotlandTheMap knowledge maps most definitely do – but they could equally be ‘man made constructs’ that exist in our ‘conceptual space’, such as ‘organisations / bodies’ or ‘sectors’ or ‘networks’ or ‘communities’ or ‘partnerships’ or ‘governments’, or any other number of the ‘real world things’ we create to structure our societies and help us run them on a day to day basis.

Equally the ‘things’ they can map may only exist in a virtual space like the world wide web – which is already hierarchically structured into websites, pages, sub-sections and downloadable files along with some sort of associated human navigation system. So ‘things’ like online knowledge resources about the ‘real world things’ in geographic or conceptual space…

Combining both concepts of ‘spaces’ in the one knowledge map creates a visually structured index of knowledge resources about real world things, that is visually (and therefore virtually) connected to a visually structured index of the real world things themselves…

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Visually Structured Index Becomes Visually Structured Portal

And if the digital knowledge map included the URL of those online knowledge resources, it would not only be a visually structured index of the resources that existed about all the real world ‘things’ of a particular type, it could take users straight to them with a single ‘mouse click’ on a hyperlink.

Then our knowledge map becomes a visually structured portal to – rather than simply an index of – knowledge resources.

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Contextual Knowledge Can Be Embedded & Attached

As well as attaching hyperlinks to external knowledge resources, information mapping software has a range of ‘information cartography’ features that (in the hands of the right map-maker) enables general, contextual knowledge elements to be visually embedded within branches in the map.

Such embedded knowledge can be in the form of imagery – real life photos of people or places etc., or screenshots of ‘knowledge pictures’ like geographic maps (eg. boundary maps).

Or they could be in the form of traditionally structured data devices like spreadsheets or charts. They could also be individual data fields, the values of which can be used to visually format individual branches eg. assigning a fill colour (the same way the ‘thematic mapping’ process colours in areas by value in geographic maps).

Branches can also be individually tagged with attributes, and the tags used to perform simple querying that hides / shows only those branches that fulfill defined criteria in a search (the same as in the ‘geo-filtering’ process used with geographic maps).

By visually incorporating such embedded and attached knowledge about national building blocks into the map, the need to even look up other knowledge resources is much reduced, thus saving even more ‘person hours’ that could be better spent progressing the individual, organisation or community.

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Base Frameworks & Not Re-Inventing Wheels...

As the virtual library of maps of the fundamental building blocks of the nation and the knowledge resources about them grows, it becomes apparent that many of them (in whole or in part) could be re-used to provide a ‘base knowledge framework’ upon which further ‘layers’ of more specialised knowledge branches can be added. So for example our Scottish Local Councils – General & Geographic Knowledge Atlas provides a base framework for our Scottish Local Council Electoral Wards – General, Geographic & Electoral Knowledge Atlas, which in turn forms a base framework for our Scottish Local Councils, Electoral Wards & Local Councillors – Political Knowledge Atlas.

This process is akin to the one used to build up geographic maps in an online, mapping viewer or a GIS, where general basemap – such as those provided by Open Street Map, Google or Ordnance Survey – provide a general spatial context for additional ‘layers’ of more specific geospatial data (the ‘points, lines & polygons’) that are displayed on top it.

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Thus a well-constructed general knowledge map can be re-purposed to make any number of more focused maps in the future without having to ‘start from scratch’, or re-invent the wheel’ every time…

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants

Aims & Objectives

So now you know why knowledge mapping is such a great idea, what are we trying to achieve with it in the ScotlandTheMap project?

Let’s take these one by one…

Build Up An Online Library – An collection of knowledge resources that

  • individually stand on their own
  • is collectively more than the sum of those individual parts
  • will grow over time to become an archive
  • is accessible to all.

Digital But Tangible – Digital files that…

  • can easily be viewed online
  • can be downloaded and viewed just as easily offline
  • without the need for an internet connection to view it once it has downloaded onto your device
  • or additional plugins

Robust – Once files are downloaded…

  • they will persist forever beyond projects and websites
  • the do not need an internet connection to view it once it has downloaded onto your device, so can be viewed offline, in remote locations with no signal.

Flexible – B

  • Offers many different ‘channels’ to convey information to the viewer
  • Maps can be re-used and re-puroposed, in whole or in part, to build further maps.
  • can cope with the real world as it is, in all it’s messy, well meaning but often falling short, glory (like doing up an old cottage where none of the corners are 90 degrees…)…
  • can be bent to map anything

Visually Structured – Makes sense to ‘look at’, not just once you’ve ‘read it’, just like a geographic map.

Maps of Knowledge Resources – The knowledge the maps contain are of…

  • what things of a particular type exist in the real world
  • some general knowledge about them, cartographically embedded in the map to provide context
  • what knowledge resources about them exist in the online public domain
  • links to where those resources are online (ie. their URL), so map users can access them ‘there and then’ with a click of their mouse.

It is also important to note what the map does not contain. It does not contain all the knowledge about the subject contained in all the knowledge resources it links to, other than the contextual knowledge visually embedded within and attached to the seed branches. In the same way that geographic maps do not contain the knowledge about the real world objects it cntains – “The map is not the territory”

Key Building Blocks Of Scotland – The everyday ‘things’ that together, interweave to form the fabric of the nation..

  • Geographic Subdivisions – Administrative, Government, Electoral, Education, Health etc.
  • Public Bodies, Institutions & Partnerships – Governmental, Councils, Health, Educational, Ecconomic, Arts & Cultural etc.
  • People – Elected Representatives (‘Politicians’), Management / Oversight Boards etc.
  • Communities & Networks – Defined by geography – straightforward enough – but also by interests & activity – economy
  • Economic Sectors – Industrial

HTML maps are not editable.

In order to

It is very difficult & time consuming to produce knowledge resources of ‘what’s what & who’s who’ at the local level everywhere’ for Scotland…

  • diverse geographic nature.
  • the disparate sizes of ‘equivelant administrative units’
  • the number of people & entities involved.
  • the variations in the way things are done locally
  • etc.

Thus those that do exist tend to be..

  • very narrowly focused in scope
  • in a variety of formats, some less useful and / or linkable to than others (eg. buried in appendix tables in report documents)

Usually though there is no single resource that covers the whole nation at the local, community level, and the knowledge is spread across lots of locally produced resources that cover “their patch”.

As you can see below, knowledge mapping is the only technique we know of that can virtually connect together ALL the knowledge resources that do exist – national overview and local detail – to make a single body of ‘national local’ knowledge about a particular aspect of Scotland that is contained in a single digital file that is accessible to all.

One of the main drivers for ScotlandTheMap therefore is to produce such ‘national local’ knowledge maps for as many different fundamental aspects of Scotland as possible, in which every building block of a particular type is included as a knowledge seed branch in the one map document.

There’s no point in having or making resources unless they can be utilised. There are always the same fundamental questions that users – or potential users – need answered before they can…

  • What resources currently exist?
  • Where are they?
  • How can I assess their quality & suitability for my purposes?
  • How do I actually get hold of them – now and in the future – so I can use them to help me do what I want to do?

It stands to reason that the quicker & easier it is for people to be able to answer these questions about knowledge resources about the fundamental building blocks of the nation – the things we all rely on on a daily basis to keep the country going – then…

  • the less time time they will waste hunting for the knowledge resources they need.
  • the more time they will have to actually put the knowledge resources to practical use.
  • the more they will be able to get done for their organisations, communities & projects.
  • the more the nation as a whole will benefit.
  • the easier it will be to identify where there is duplication, errors and gaps in the current knowledge.
  • the less that resource ‘wheels’ will be reinvented.

 

Just like always

HTML maps are not editable.

In order to

A map is the greatest of all epic poems. It's lines and colours show the realisation of great dreams.

The Benefits

All individuals, organisation & communities with an interest in Scotland, not just those that are located here, will benefit from increased access to the knowledge resources about Scotland that our maps provide. Specifically…

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Benefits For Knowledge Resource Users

The ScotlandtheMap project benefits users of knowledge resources in many ways…

Work Visually

Work with knowledge, information & data visually, in a more intuitive, richer environment that harnesses more of your brainpower.

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Quickly Access The Best Available Public Domain Knowledge Resources

Quickly access a professionally curated, intuitive to navigate, virtual library of definitive / official / just plain old useful knowledge resources about the aspects of Scotland you are interested in quicker, easier and with a lot less stress. Use the time & headspace saved on hunting around the web for what you need to know (and remembering what resources are where so you can find them again!) actually using the knowledge gained to do what you need to do.

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Common Interface For Accessing Very Diverse Worlds

Our maps provide robust, flexible knowledge frameworks that can be built on & expanded, or re-purposed & re-used, (in whole or in part), as required. If a resource has a URL, it can be linked to, so maps can provide commonly structured & styled interfaces into potentially very diverse worlds.

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Make New Discoveries & Connections

Discover other knowledge resources about about the aspects of Scotland you are interested in that you may never have known existed, or were put off exploring before because of a ‘difficult’ user interface, or poorly designed internal navigation. This will help you make new connections and expand your own knowledgebase.

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Increased Confidence Navigating The Information Super Highway

Knowledge maps are just like traditional geographic map resources, like your in-car sat nav (or your battered but trusty AA paper road atlas if like us you’re of a certain vinatge :-). You don’t have to stress about remembering where all the individual locations are, or how you navigate between them, because it’s all recorded in the atlas of knowledge. Just knowing it’s in your metaphoric glove compartment and can be dug out and consulted at any time, makes journeying through what can be an overwhelming online knowledge-scape that much easier. It may well even give you the confidence to go off-road once in a while…

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Benefits For Knowledge Resource Producers

The ScotlandtheMap project benefits creators of knowledge resources in many ways …

Your Resources Get Used More Often By More People

As information professionals we know the technical hurdles involved in creating knowledge resources can be as nothing compared to the effort involved in getting them to be used by the people that would benefit most – be they fellow professionals or members of the public. Anything that helps your resources get used by more people, more often, can only be ‘more power to your elbow’ right?

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More Scrutiny = Better Quality Resources

More interested people using your resources means ‘more eyes on’, means potentially better indentification of errors, duplication, and knowledge gaps, which benefits everybody.

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Professionally Crafted, Visually Structured Registers Of National Building Blocks

We use our professional skills to hunt down the definitive registers of the fundamental building blocks of Scotland – often in non-user friendly file formats – and cartography skills to translate them into robust, visually structured, knowledge frameworks that are easier to work with. In the absence of an official, central register for a given building block, our maps provide a virtual one that is at least a digital starting point to build on.

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Incorporate Unique ID Codes & Look-Ups To Maximise Cross-Reference-ability

Our maps also include appropriate official unique identifying codes, and ‘look-up’ index marker tags, wherever possible. As well as being a handy reference in their own right, they maximise the cross-reference-ability between the knowledge resources identified in the map. This may even help you to improve your resource in the future.

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Common Knowledge Framework Templates

Our maps provide robust, flexible knowledge frameworks that can be built on & expanded, or re-purposed & re-used, (in whole or in part), as required, without having to re-ivent the wheel each time 🙂. This means users can use familiarly structured & styled interfaces to access potentially very different worlds. ‘Common knowledge’ also becomes more common.

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Benefits For Us

The ScotlandtheMap project provides us with …

A Professional Challenge For Our Skills & Tools

StM gives us an opportunity to test our abilities to ‘hunt down’ official / definitive / plain old useful knowledge resources, combine them in maps and make them visual. MindManager especially is continually evolving so there’s always something new to test with a view to improving our map making process. An added bonus of focusing on our native Scotland is that, as the project goes on, we are discovering more and more about our homeland that we didn’t know before we started 🙂

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An Information Cartography Testbed

MindManager is the world leading information mapping software because of it’s many unique ‘information cartography’ features. We are using StM to test just how many branches, multiple hyperlinks and embedded images & data features (spreadsheets, charts, property fields & index marker tags) we can squeeze into a single map document before it (or we) falls over? It’s also helping us test it’s growing automated mapping capabilities (eg. the new spreadsheet mapper).

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An HTML Map Publishing Testbed

MindManager is really just getting started with the capability for publishing knowledge maps as HTML5 files that retain all the rich, visual content – and just about all the functional interactivity – of the original map, but open in any modern browser, on any device, without the need for any plugins. This is a completely new, and genuinely ground-breaking, way of sharing a huge volume of knowledge at one time, in a form that can still be easily navigated, and we want to push it to it’s limits.

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A WordPress Map Sharing Platform Testbed

Over the last couple of years we have been on a self taught WordPress learning journey, and we’re please with the level of control it gives over the functionality and appearance of web content. With this website we are exploring it’s potential as an HTML5 map publishing & sharing platform. The jury is still out on whether embedding 20MB+ map files in blog posts is a the best way of doing this right now, but as ‘geo’ people we hope that knowledge maps will soon be as easy to incoporate into web output as geographic maps have become.

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An Opportunity To Give Something Back To Knowledge Resource Users

StM provides us with an opportunity to give back to all those professional & voluntary individuals, organisations & communities that keep the nation going on a daily basis. They all need knowledge resources to do what they need to do, so we hope the time our maps save them finding resources can be better spent actually using the knowledge they contain to ‘do their thing’ quicker, easier and with a lot less stress 🙂

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An Opportunity To Give Something Back To Knowledge Resource Producers

Our whole career has been spent using technology to produce visual knowledge resources that support other professionals to do their job, so we know what it’s like for others trying their best to do the same. The technical hurdles involved in creating the resources can be as nothing compared to the effort involved in getting them to be used by the people that would benefit most. This is especially true now with so much white noise in the technology space. We salute your indefatigably with our knowledge maps of your knowledge resources!

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Do not only go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

The Process

Summary

STEP 1 - Hunt Down & Capture Definitive Registers Of National Building Blocks As A Visual Framework Of 'Seed Branches' In Knowledge Maps Using MindManager Software

STEP 2 - Source Online Knowledge Resources (& Their URL's) About Each Building Block And Visually Capture In The Map As Sub-Branches & Multiple Hyperlinks On The Seed Branches

STEP 3 - Publish & Share Knowledge Maps On The Project Website As Freely Downloadable HTML5 Files, As Well As Native MindManager Format (For A Small Annual Or Lifetime Fee To Cover Costs)

STEP 1 - Hunt Down & Capture Definitive Registers Of National Building Blocks As A Visual Framework Of 'Seed Branches' In Knowledge Maps Using MindManager Software

So the starting point of the whole process is the initial capture of all the individual ‘national building blocks’ of a particular type – as taken from definitive, online registers – as ‘seed branches’ in visually structured knowledge maps using MindManager, the market leading information mapping software, and our ‘information cartography’ skills. A single map will contain a ‘knowledge seed branch’ for every building block of a particular type in Scotland, which will run into 100’s and possibly 1000’s of branches.

This is where MindManager information mapping software comes into it’s own – working visually in a drag and drop process to build the initual framework, and then cartograhic tools to visually encode and embed a diverse range of associated knowledge in a way that makes it easier to be understand and assimilated by users.

There are also ever increasing ways of automating the initial knowledge capture process, such as importing spreadsheets directly into MindManager with the new Excel Mapping Tool, or linking to databases. Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools are also becoming possible. However as with mindmapping, there’s nothing like the physical process of making a knowledge map to really improve your understanding of the subject (especially from a base knowledge of zero).

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National building blocks do not exisit in a vacuum, there will be bodies charged with their creation and maintenance, and making their existance known about as a definitive list on an official website somewhere, even if it’s in a downloadable file (such as a spreadsheet) rather than on a web page. 1. Find the most definitive, preferrably official, register of the real world building blocks. This is often a spreadsheet downloadable from a public body website. Note this is often the only knowledge source with the official unique identifiers codes for each building block. 2. Find the relevant worksheet (often there’s more than one). If you are lucky there will be a metadata sheet explaining the general contents of each sheet, and hopefully what the data fields are (often the column heading are abbreviated so it may not be that obvious). 3. Decide what data fields need to be harvested to make up the branch text in the map seed points, and rearrange column order if required. If you have the Excel skills – such as adding and merging columns – then this may help minimise the ‘tidying up’ required in MindManager. 4.Copy & Paste’ the desired cells into the MindManager map at the appropriate place. 5. Sort alphabetically and then do any tidying up of the text required (eg. removing rogue spaces) using the ‘find & replace’ function. 6. Et voila! You’ve now got a visually structured, ‘definitive’ list of building blocks. Note There are also ever increasing ways of automating the initial knowledge capture process, such as importing spreadsheets directly into MindManager with the new Excel Mapping Tool, or linking to databases. Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools are also becoming possible. However as with mindmapping, there’s nothing like the physical process of making a knowledge map to really improve your understanding of the subject (especially from a base knowledge of zero).

Cartography is the art and science of capturing and encoding information in a way that can effectively communicate it to viewers visually, instead of relying on an intellectual understanding of words – usually arranged to form a linear narrative of sentences and paragaraphs and chapters – on their own. Traditionally it is thought of in terms of geographic maps – visually structured knowledge about real things in the real world – but cartographic principles can equally be applied to any visually structured information, such as our knowledge maps.

1. Begin the cartographic process by introducing visual styling, such as variable text formatting to emphasise the most important elements. Shapes can also be used to encode information about the subject. For instance the shapes of a geographic area branch in our maps can indicate the nature of it’s boundaries with adjacent areas – all land (ie. ‘land-locked’), all coastal (ie. ‘island’), or mixed.

2. Add further contextual text to help the user, such as additional identifying codes if appropriate. These may be added incrementally as more knowledge resources are tapped.

3. Add a visual element (or combination) that is unique to that block such as a logo and / or thumbnail location maps. These engage a different part of the brain from plain text, and so greatly enhance user understanding of what the map is about, and provide signposts to navigate around it.

4. Visually embed additional knowledge, especially ‘facts & figures’ data, for handy reference and to add context. This could be in the form of a spreadsheet or a chart, or single data fields. Such data is often to be found in the same official statistics sources as the register. Obviously what data you choose to embed will be depend on the intended use of the map, but a starting point for us is general geo-statistics like physical size, area, population etc. Visual formatting of elements of the map, such as shape and text or fill colour, can be done automatically according to data values.

Note Usually the whole cartographic process is an iterative one, with enhancements incrementally added as more knowledge resources are tapped. It may be revisited entirely if the map is repurposed. 

So now we have our cartographically enhanced seed branches arranged in a simple A-Z list, we need to re-arrange them to form the main knowledge framework of the map. With MindManager we have a range of possible layouts to choose from…

MindManager software was created in the early 1990’s out of a desire to be able to do mindmapping – a manual ‘pen and paper’ technique of creating radiating tree diagrams to aid thinking, learning & knowledge retention, popularised in the 1970’s by Tony Buzan – on a computer. As you can read on the Knowledge Mappers website – and see in the new map layout options screenshot above –  MindManager has moved on a lot since that initial concept…

The main aspect of these developments that is relevant to our knowledge maps is that…

  • Several layout choices – MindManager supports other radiating tree layouts in addition to the ‘radiating from the centre in all directions’ of ‘traditional’ mindmaps –  right / left only, up / down ‘Org Charts’,  single / double sided downward trees, horizontal / vertical timelines – as well as other visual diagram structures like organisational diagrams, process maps, concept maps, swim lanes etc.
  • Even at individual branch level – This flexibility extends to individual map branches, where the layout of sub-branches can be varied to suit the particular contents (to make every map a unique combination of branch layouts).
  • Designed for ease of lookup – With our knowledge maps the map is being used as a static, reference look up in the first instance rather than an iterative thinking tool, so the dynamics of the information flow between the visual map and viewer is different (but the idea of hierarchical structure is still fundamentally integral to the process).

Physical Structure Of Main Branch Framework – Through a lot of experimentation over the years we have settled on an ‘org-tree’ layout for our knowledge maps – a combination of an organisation chart for the main framework, and vertical trees for sub-branches. This has the advantage of…

  • Filling the whole screen with visually rich knowledge branches – The ‘traditional’ mindmap layout leaves a lot of ‘white space’ between branches.
  • Branches expanding in a vertically downwards direction only – In the ‘traditional’ mindmap layout branches move horizontally as well as vertically up and down on the screen when they are expanded, and all that sudden shifting around can be disorientatating to the user.
  • Near familiar ‘pseudo grid’ layout – At first glance the ‘org-tree’ layout resembles a grid, silmilar to the interface of the online task management & collaboration tools that now have become a standard way of working for many (eg. Basecamp, Trello etc.), so it’s a bit of a ‘half way house’ compared to the traditional mindmap layout, which can be disorientating and a bit of a barrier to entry for visual working for many if presented with it out of the blue.

Logical Structure Of Main Branch Framework – So the main branch framework determines the physical structure of the map layout, but what of the logic of the arrangement of the seed branches within it? This needs to fit in with the ways we humans structure the world in our heads in order to break it down into manageable chunks so we can make sense of it…

  • Alphabetically – The simplest logic, but at the mercy of the semantics of naming the branches in the first place. For example there is a Scottish Local Council that calls itself ‘The City of Edinburgh Council’ – should it be listed under ‘T’, or ‘C’ (‘City of Edinburgh Council, The’) or ‘E’ (Edinburgh Council, The City of’)?
  • Geographically – The hierarchical nature of administrative / electoral geographic areas lends itself well to our hierarchical branch structure, especially if thumbnail images of geographic maps are embedded in the seed branches at the different levels.
  • Chronologically – Again the hierarchical subdivisions of time into days, weeks, months and years lends itself well to our maps. It works well for published resources where arranging by publication date is often the quickest way to map them inititally until a more subject specific layout suggests itself.
  • Combination – More than one logical structure can be used at a time, such as A-Z within geographic hierarchical areas.

The ‘Ideal’ Layout – So the aim is to fill the width of the screen with visual knowledge, whilst minimising the amount of horizontal / vertical scrolling required by the user. In an ideal world we would aim for 6 – 8 ‘columns’ of branches in total, which includes 2 for the ‘Map Legend’ and ‘Contributing Online Knowledge-bases’ branches. However it’s not an exact science as we are dealing with mapping the real world, which is not under our control. It all depends on the total number of building blocks that have to be included in the map, and how neatly they break down to fit the logical categorisation we are imposing on them.

For example there are quite a few Local Council names that start with the letter ‘E’ so it gets it’s own branch in our alphabetically arranged Local Councils map (and any other maps which use it as a base).

Map Filtering & Layout – The ability to filter maps – ie. hide or show branches – using index marker tags attached to them makes the initial choice of logical layout less crucial. Indeed the simpler the logic, the more flexible the map. For example there is no single, commonly used, but completely unambiguous, way of grouping Scottish Local Councils by geographic area eg. Dundee City Council is in the North East Electoral Region of the Scottish Parliament, but the ‘Eastern Scotland’ NUTS2 (European Union statistical) region. Thus we have chosen the simple A-Z layout which can then be filtered using geographic tags (a process called ‘geo’ filtering, commonly done in dedicated Geographic Information Systems).

Filtered Local Council map showing Dundee as part of the ‘Eastern Scotland’ NUTS2 region for EU statistics

 

Filtered Local Council map showing Dundee as part of the ‘North East Scotland’ electoral region for the Scottish Parliament

STEP 2 - Hunt Down Online Knowledge Resources (& Their URL's) About Each Building Block, And Visually Capture Them In The Map As Sub-Branches & Multiple Hyperlinks On The Seed Branches

Once the initial framework map of building block seed branches has been created and cartographically enhanced, we need to add links to relevant official / definitive / plain old useful knowledge resources about the building blocks freely available in the public domain. This is a 3 stage process – hunting down potential knowledge resources in the public domain (logging their URL’s & internal file paths in the working area of our map as we go), appraising them for suitability and linkability, and finally adding the ‘worthy’ ones to the individual building block seed branches in the main map, as both collections of sub-branches (each with the title of the resource & a single hyperlink to its location online), and as multiple links so that instant access to fundamental knowledge about the building block remains with it when the seed branch is re-purposed / re-used.

Thus as well as being a visually structured, cartographically designed, intuitive to navigate and instantly searchable index of all the ‘building blocks’ of a particular type, the map makes potentially 100’s of relevant knowledge resources about them more easily discoverable by potential users, and instantly accessible with a couple of mouse clicks.

However before we dive in to the detail of visually capturing and encoding knowledge resources in our map, a quick word about…

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In order for a knowledge resource about an individual building block to be included in the map, it will have to fulfil the following criteria…

It exists online – This usually means a website as a whole, or a page on a website, but could be a downloadable file (in which case the link to the file download page will also be included).

It’s definitive / official – As with the the definitive lists of the national building blocks used as a source to create the initial visual framework of knowledge seed branches, the starting point for knowledge resources about them must always be the official sources (the apposite phrase is “straight from the horses mouth”). However it can be surprising just how little depth and breadth of knowlegde some official sources contain. We will still need to include them so that gaps in official knowledge-base can be shown up, but it is for that reason that our main criteria is that the knowledge resources are…

…or just plain old useful – That is what we’re after at the end of the end of the day, knowledge that we can use. Depending on the subject matter there may be other professional – or enthusiastic amateur – experts that choose to share their knowledge freely online, so who are we to ignore it? This may be using their own website, or collaboratively on Wikipedia (see next section).

It’s ‘national local’ – A map covers all building blocks of a particular type in Scotland so in the first instance we are looking for knowledge resources that do the same, or are equivelants of each other. For example Wikipedia has an article on every Scottish Local Council so that could be considered as a single ‘national, local’ source. However each council will also have their own website on which they officially publish their own information, and whilst they cover the same range of subjects (as every council has the same responsibilities) and have similar features (an ‘A-Z of Services’ page, ‘Directory of Local Councillors’ etc.), they vary in how they do it (and therefore what is ‘linkable’), and the breadth and depth of the actual content.

It’s freely available in the public domain – This means it is free to access (ie. no subscription paywalls), and doesn’t involve downloading any 3rd party plugins.

It can actually be linked to – This means they have an individual web address ie. a URL, which unfortunately is not always as straightforward as we would hope. Over the last few years there has been an explosion in tools & widgets available to all web designers (whether professional or amateur) to make great looking pages with interactive, dynamically generated content. However just because the content of the page may change after you click something – say selecting the individual building block from a drop-down menu or list – it doesn’t now follow that the URL (as displayed in the browser address bar) will also change. If it doesn’t, it means that the specific content about the specific building block cannot be linked to externally. In these circumstances the best we can do in terms of capturing the knowledge resource in the map, is link to the page with instructions in the topic note on how to access the knowledge resource about the individual building block.

Our approach to making knowledge maps is the same as if we were making geographic maps. You start off with a basemap (like an Ordnance Survey or Google map) that visually shows all the building blocks and puts them in general, spatial context – where they are in the world but also the spatial relationships between them. Then you add the more specialisied information that you want your map to specifically show as another layer ‘on top’…

General Knowledge Resources – An obvious example would be an online encyclopedia like Wikipedia. When it comes to ‘official’ general knowledge resources about most types of building blocks however, there’s usually not an equivelant, single source of truth. For example for administrative / electoral areas, general (ie. contextal) knowledge ‘facts & figures’ are spread across resources on the Scottish Government Staistics, the National Records Office and Scotland’s Census websites for the Scottish Government, and the UK Government’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) website. However even they don’t have all the basic stats you would want (eg. geographic size), about every building block you would want (Community Councils anyone?).

Geographic Knowledge Resources – Basically maps, but also other resources based on location / place such as gazeteers. As Geographic Information professionals of many years, we understand their value as a fundamental type of knowledge resource in their own right, and the amount of effort and dedication that goes into making them. However with advances in technology they come in a range of digital forms, which vary greatly in their interactivity and – most importantly for adding to our knowledge maps – linkability…

  • Static Geographic Maps – Despite the dominance of online platforms like Google maps et al, traditional ‘static’ maps of national local building blocks are still published to the public domain as downloadable files – usually PDF but sometimes in image file format. These could be a simple location map, or to accurately show boundaries. For example the Local Government Boundary Commission For Scotland publish official, definitive boundary maps of councils, electoral wards and Scottish Parliament Electoral Regions and constituencies as downloadable PDF files, designed to be printed at A4 size (ie on a standard office printer). These sort of digital map files are usually straightforward to link to in our maps, but they can also be incorporated as embedded images in seed branches to improve the contextual knowledge for the user.

  • Interactive Geographic Map Platforms – Google Maps ‘changed the game’ for opening up access to geographic maps online 20 years ago, with the ‘slippy map’. As features have been added – satelite imagery, driving directions, Street View, 3D viewing etc. – they rapidly became mainstream too for users. There are now also other mapping platforms & tools available to organisations & individuals that enable them to publish and freely share their geographic knowledge online. For example as well as the ‘ststic maps’ the Local Government Boundary Commission For Scotland also hosts an interactive boundary map viewer that shows how they have changed over time, with each ‘vintage’ of boundaries being on a separate map layer that can be turned or off. However great though these are in of themselves, it is often very difficiult, if not impossible, to externally link to specific map views within them (ie. the combination of location of centre point, zoom scale and ‘turned on’ data layers). Thus a link to their ‘home URL’ may be listed in the ‘Contributing Knowledge-bases’ branch, but not in the Geographic Resources of individual building block seed branches. A classic example of this would be Ordnance Survey’s Election Maps portal, which allows users to view the definitive digital boundaries for all UK electoral areas as individual ‘layers’ that are manually turned on and off, on an OS map background.
  • Downloadable / Streaming (API) Data For Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – Geographic Information professionals in organisations use GIS software not just to ‘make maps’, but to perform spatial analysis operations of varying degrees of complexity & criticality to the support the operational & strategic goals of their organisations. In order to undertake such analysis, spatially referenced, digital data is required, frequently about the national building blocks we are interested in. Over the last 10 years there is an increasing amount of such data available in the public domain as Open Data, especially from government sources. For example on the Ordnance Survey Open Data Hub users can freely download background mapping and boundary data – BoundaryLine is the official and definitive source data file for UK administrative & electoral boundaries. Technology moves on so though files can be downloaded in traditional way, API’s are available that stream the data straight into GIS software for use.
  • Historic Maps – Usually difficult to find let alone get hold of, Scotland is fortunate on 2 counts when it comes to historic maps. As one of the pioneering nations of modern cartography there is a 350+ year ‘back catalogue’ of maps of Scotland to choose from. Even more fortunately the National Library of Scotland has spent the last 20+ years digitising as many as possible and now has one of the largest online digital map collections in the world. Not only are the files of the individual map sheets available to download from their website, but where possible they have been digitally ‘stitched together’ to form seamless layers that are viewable alongside modern maps from Ordnance Survey, Google and OpenStreetMap on their range of online viewers.

Map Specific Resource Collections – As the ScotlandTheMap project progresses we will be building more specialised maps by adding further content to general knowledge maps. For example a general knowledge atlas of electoral areas, which contain knowledge that won’t really change much over time, can be used as a basemap upon which knowledge about current elected representatives – which will change on a regular basis with each general election, but also irregularly with by-elections brought about by death, resignation or other shenanigans – can be ‘overlain’.

Our maps almost invariably include links to pages and page sub-sections on Wikipedia (or other Wikimedia projects) for many good reasons…

Quick to find – If the article exists, it’s often on the first page of Google search results so it’s easily found.

Consistent & familiar layout – Wikipedia pages have a consistent layout familiar to most users. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of many of the official / definitive websites we link to, where the navigation to the level of detail which we are usually interested in can become very inconsistent, even within the terms of website’s own ‘interesting / original’ design. 

Breadth and depth of knowledge – Wikipedia often includes lots of contextual data not readily found on web pages elsewhere, especially if it’s a ‘standard’ type of subject like a local council, administrative or electoral area. This often includes ID codes and general geostatistics.

Historic knowledge – As well as current knowledge about the building block Wikipedia often contains historic knowledge that has long been over-written on official online sources (if it was ever there at all). For example showing all election results for all elections for an electoral area like parliamentary constituencies and local council wards. Or indeed the history of the electoral area itself, which will often have gone through one or more boundary changes over the years, may have been abolished and replaced, or even been resurrected.

Cross-links – One of the strengths of an online, general enclopedia like Wikipedia is all the cross-reference links to other pages within the page of interest, so the user is free to choose what to explore further to fill gaps in their knowledge. However even if users do get ‘lost down rabbit holes’ as they explore, they will always have the knowledge map to return to remind them of where they’ve come from and why they were there!

Source links – As an online encyclopedia, it includes links to the source references, which usually include the official / definitive / plain old useful knowledge resources we seek to map. This is particularly useful as they may not have shown up in an initial Google search (or may be so far down the list of search returns that we lost the will to live before we got to it), or be so ‘tucked away’ on the official source website that we couldn’t find it on our initial search.

May be the only available knowledge resource – Importantly, Wikipedia may be the only useful resource about the building block that we can actually find and / or link to in the public domain (see the previous section on ‘resource linking cirteria).

Squares the circle of public knowledge transfer – As a crowd sourced, online encyclopedia, anybody can contribute to Wikipedia. If, as you are reading the article linked to in any of our maps, you are saying to yourself  things like”why doesn’t it mention such and such…?”, “that’s not up to date, such and such has happened since…”, then why not become an  editor and share some of your hard won knowledge?

Whilst we present this process as a series of linear steps, in reality it’s a ‘safari’ into the unknown, so it’s a ‘roller coaster ride’ of well worn paths, false trails, tangents, blind alleys and back tracking, but also sometimes unexpected treasure troves. Luckily this sort of messy, ‘on the hoof’ way of working is exactly what MindManager software is designed for.

It’s also an organic, iterative process. New resources may be discovered and added to the map, which may change the embedded / attached content. In the updating process we may also discover that a resource that we had mapped before has now disappeared from the web, often due to a website ‘makeover’ that didn’t include all the previous content for no adequately explained reason (eg. there’s been no change in the real world).

Thus as time goes by and updated versions of a map are realeased, earlier versions will become an archive of what did exist at one time…

As mentioned earlier, more automated knowledge capture tools do exist for MindManager, such as spreadsheet importing and database linking. ‘Web-scraping’ – the automated ‘harvesting’ of content from websites – is also of interest. However there are advantages to the manual process, at least in the first instance…

Focus is currently on map design and capacity rather than how it is made – So one of the aims of StM is to capture all the national building blocks of a particular type in the one knowledge map. However until we map them and the available knowledge resources about them, we don’t know how big an ‘ask’ it is…

  • How many links & branches that the map needs to have in order to fulfill this aim will be determined by a combination of the number of blocks in the real world, and by the number of worthy resources available to link to in the public domain. For example there are 1,227 Local Councillors in Scotland. If we find 10 ‘worthy’ knowledge resources about them to link to in the map, that’s 10 x 1,2227 additional branches & links required (13,000+ in total).
  • Just how many branches, multiple hyperlinks and embedded images & data features (spreadsheets, charts, property fields & index marker tags) we can squeeze into a single map document before it (or we) falls over? Well it’s not failed so far (the biggest map we have ever made had more than 17,000 branches).

Gets you to know your resource – There’s nothing like the physical process of map making by combination of hand, eye & brain to get you to understand the resource you are mapping. This is especially true for idendifying it’s shortcomings, both in general and as a suitable resource to be included in the map.

Spot & remedy errors more quickly – It is much easier to recognise errors as you come across them individually building each branch than after the event. Usually this is because something doesn’t ‘look right’ when you see it next to the knowledge seed branch – which you know comes from a definitive register source – or the other resources already captured. And yes we have come across ‘errors’ in the official sources that would have been really, really difficult to spot in an automated process that has to assume the source is 100% correct.

Discover other useful knowledge resources – As well as the possibility of discovering other resources in the safari process, you may also find that a resource is a reliable source of great contextual knowledge that you can cartographically embed in the seed branch to enhance your map. As the link to the source will be part of the map, it’s easy to re-validate it when updating.

A wiser investment of your time – Automated techniques like web-scraping usually require the source website to be well understood at the code level, which takes time and technical understanding. If you just want to capture ‘some’ branches from several different sources then the manual method is probably quicker, and you get the possibility for error spotting. Also if a website is restuctured in the future then it will have to be remapped for the tool so the previous time spent will have been wasted.

Okay now that we’ve got the preliminaries out of the way, what is the actual process we follow to capture the knowledge resources about the national building blocks in our map?

So the first thing we do is create another main branch in our map called ‘Contributing Online Knowledge-bases‘, which fulfills 2 purposes…

  • Working memory – We need to have a working area on our map where we can record the title and URL of all potential candidate knowledge resources, sort & appraise them, and create the branches and links that will ultimately be added to the individual building block seed branches. This sort of messy, ‘on the hoof’ way of working is what MindManager software is designed for.
  • Definitive List Of Sources – Cartographic good practice requires the finished map to include a definitive list of the sources where the knowledge resources included in each building block seed branch have come from. So after all the ‘donkey work’ of making the map branches has been done, the ‘Contributing Knowledge-bases’ branch is tidied up for the final published version of the map where it can provide map users with background knowledge to ‘the big picture’.

So the general knowledge hunting ‘safari’ process is…

  1. Search online to find potential knowledge resources about our key building blocks.
  2. Log the title and URL (ie. their location on the world wide web) of potential resources in the ‘Contributing Knowledge Bases’ branch.
  3. Log the navigation pathway to them within the host website.

1) Online Searching – So indeed just like anybody else who’s trying to find out stuff about a new subject, we start with a web browser and a search bar. However we’re not starting from scratch…

  • we already have the official / definitive register resource(s) we used to create the seed branches that form the initial visual framework of the map.
  • Wikipedia articles are a valuable knowledge resource in their own right, but the ‘External Links’ section is always a good source of potential knowledge resources. This is especially true for more specialised, ‘niche’ resources that may not even turn up in a standard Google search (or be so far down the returns that we would have lost the will to live before we discovered it).

When we are doing a ‘standing start’ Google search in a browser, we can say from experience that once you get past page 3 of the results, there’s unlikely to be anything of relevance, however we usually do persevere into double digits just to be sure 🙂

2) Logging Potential Resource Titles & URL’s – So this is a physical drag and drop process from the source web-browser window to the map window…

  • If what you are dragging across is itself a hyperlink – such as a menu item – then the link will come too and automatically be attached to the sub-branch that is created in the map.
  • If ‘drag and drop’ doesn’t work – usually due to the technical architecture used in the source page – then there’s always manual copying and pasting of the resource title and the URL as a backup.

3) Logging Navigation Pathways – If you are just landing on a resource directly from a link in a list of search results, it’s not always obvious where it sits in the overall site structure, and how you would navigate to it from the home page. Thus once we’ve logged the URL of the resource itself (as given in the initial search results), it’s important that we ‘work our way back up’ the internal navigation pathway from the resource to the home page and log each turn (ie. the navigation menu choices) so we can find it again. It is sometimes the case that in the ‘heat of the hunt’ we can’t quite remember how we found it…

  • Website navigation pathways are usually hierarchical – you drill down through menus and then sub menus etc. Visually recording this sort of hierarchical relationship is one of the things MindManager software was built for.
  • If you’re lucky there will be a ‘breadcrumbs’ trail at the top of the page telling where the page you are on is in that hierarchy.
  • Often the main navigation in a website only goes a couple levels deep, so when you do go deeper than that – and usually we do – the in-page navigation system often changes, with sidebars and drop down lists that aren’t always obvious, consistent, or linkable to.
  • When physically mapping a website’s navigation we get ‘in tune’ with it’s own logic. This may suggest other pathways to explore, which often lead to the discovery of other great knowledge resources on the site. This feeds back in to the whole ‘safari’ search process.

So now we’ve got a visually structured list of potential knowledge resources about our building blocks, the appraisal process begins. It should be said though that, as information professionals that have been doing this for a while now, we know the sort of resources we are after. If it caught our attention in the first place it’s usually worth recording in the map, whether that is as a link on every building block seed branch, or just a single link for background knowledge in the final ‘Contributing Online Knowledge-bases’ branch.

Getting to know you – We really get to know each resource and understand it before we commit to mapping it…

  • Who created it and why?
  • Where did the knowledge came from in the first place? Is it a definitive, original source of knowledge or does it just reproduce knowledge from other sources with nothing new to add to it?
  • How is it structured?
  • What knowledge does it include and, just as importantly, not include etc.

Official / Definitive does not automatically mean useful – It can be surprising just how little depth and breadth of knowlegde some official sources contain…

  • For clarity and removal of doubt, we will still need to include them, but it is for that reason that we like to link to as many different sources as we can, even if there is overlap.
  • External sources often have the contextual and historical knowledge the official websites – which are usually set up by an official body with a specific brief, to be a source of the latest information on a specific subject to probably an expert user base – either lacked in the first place, or no longer have. It is dis-heartening when we see previously valuable content not ‘make the cut’ to be included in the newly revamped / completely overhauled website.

So now we’ve got a structured list of knowledge resources about our building blocks that we want to incorporate into the map, the ‘donkey work’ of the ‘capture & build’ of the knowledge resource linking branches begins. As with the seed branches, some sub-editing and cartographic technique needs to be applied to make the branches as easy to understand as possible, and to standardise the user experience across all our maps no matter the sources. So to make the whole process as efficient as possible, all the branch & link fabrication work is done in the working area, with the finished knowldge resource link branches only being added to the seed branches in the main map once they have been quality checked…

Drag And Drop Linking Text – As with the initial visual capture of the seed points themselves, each knowledge resources is added to the working area of the map in a drag and drop process from the source web-browser window to the map window. If what you are dragging across is itself a hyperlink – such as a menu item – then the link will come too and automatically be attached to the branch that is created in the map. 

Branch Text Title – Initially this will be as per the source website, which is usually an option from a menu. This may requiring some sub-editing by us to standardise the user experience.

Branch Text Format – Our knowledge resource branches are usually simply formatted text ‘Source Name: Resource Title’.

Topic Shape – Single link knowledge resource branches all have the same shapes so they can be consistently identified on the map. It is the ‘document’ shape commonly used in univeral modelling.

Link Title – When the link is dragged across from the source website, it brings an associated link title with it. This is the text that is displayed as a tooltip when the cursor hovers over the link icon attached to the end of the branch, and in the list of links displayed in the side panel when multiple links are attached. Sometimes this link title text is systematically well structured and informative, othertimes less so…

  • could just be the URL text, which can be a (very long) filepath in logical, plain english, or system generated ‘gobledeegook’ that is meaningless to the user.
  • could be completely absent!
  • could have formatting issues, especially lots of ‘space’ characters at the beginning such that there appears to be no title text.

There’s generally no ryhme or reason to it, so we have taken a design decision to replace the supplied link title text with the same text used in the branch title.

Link Icon – With luck the ‘favicon’ – the little link icon that the source website serves up to MindManager that is displayed at the end of the branch (so we can’t control what it is) – will provide the visual element that hopefully both identifies the source and is unique to the branch (within the context of the adjacent sub-branches of other resource links). If none are supplied then the generic link icon is displayed.

As with the capture of the seed branches, we go back and quality check the captured branches with attached links before going on to the next stage. It saves a lot of time doing this on the initially captured branch than later in the process when the error may be perpetuated in multiple branches.

So now we’ve got a bunch of beautifully constructed, finished branches with a single link to a named knowledge resource about our building blocks, they need to be moved to the map in the appropriate place.

When adding the finished resource link sub-branches to the building block seed branches, we group them into related collections. This aids users to find / discover resources, especially with added visual elements like icons. The search function of our maps is super quick, however the visual structure & layout lends itself to easy browsing and discovery so even if you consider yourself well versed on the subject, it’s worth having a wee donder around the map yourself as you never know what you might discover…

General Knowledge Resources – An obvious example would be an online encyclopedia like Wikipedia. When it comes to ‘official’ general knowledge resources about most types of building blocks however, there’s usually not an equivelant, single source of truth. For example for administrative / electoral areas, general (ie. contextal) knowledge ‘facts & figures’ are spread across resources on the Scottish Government Staistics, the National Records Office and Scotland’s Census websites for the Scottish Government, and the UK Government’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) website. However even they don’t have all the basic stats you would want (eg. geographic size), about every building block you would want (Community Councils anyone?).

Geographic Knowledge Resources – Basically maps, but also other resources based on location / place such as gazeteers. As Geographic Information professionals of many years, we understand their value as a fundamental type of knowledge resource in their own right, and the amount of effort and dedication that goes into making them. However nowadays they come in a range of digital forms, which vary greatly in their interactivity and – most importantly for adding to our knowledge maps – linkability…

  • Static Geographic Maps – Despite the dominance of online platforms like Google maps et al, traditional ‘static’ maps of national local building blocks are still published to the public domain as downloadable files – usually PDF but sometimes in image file format. These could be a simple location map, or to accurately show boundaries.  For example the Local Government Boundary Commission For Scotland publish official, definitive boundary maps of councils, electoral wards and Scottish Parliament Electoral Regions and constituencies as downloadable PDF files. These sort of map files are usually straightforward to link to in our maps, but they can also be incorporated as embedded images in seed branches to improve contextual knowledge.
  • Interactive Geographic Map Platforms – Google Maps ‘changed the game’ for opening up access to geographic maps online 20 years ago, with additional features being added ever since that rapidly become mainstream too – satelite imagery, driving directions, Street View, 3D viewing etc. There are now also other mapping platforms & tools available to organisations & individuals that enable them to publish and freely share their geographic knowledge online. For example the Local Government Boundary Commission For Scotland also hosts an interactive boundary map viewer that shows how they have changed over time. However great though these are in of themselves, it is often very difficiult, if not impossible, to externally link to specific map views within them (ie. the combination of location of centre point, zoom scale and ‘turned on’ data layers). Thus a link to their ‘home URL’ may be listed in the ‘Contributing Knowledge-bases’ branch, but not in the Geographic Resources of individual building block seed branches. A classic example of this would be Ordnance Survey’s Election Maps portal, which allows users to view the definitive digital boundaries for all UK electoral areas as individual ‘layers’ that are manually turned on and off, on an OS map background.
  • Downloadable / Streaming Data For Geographic Information Systems (GIS) – Geographic Information professionals in organisations use GIS software not just to ‘make maps’, but to perform spatial analysis operations of varying degrees of complexity & criticality to the support the operational & strategic goals of their organisations. In order to undertake such analysis, spatially referenced, digital data is required, frequently about the national building blocks we are interested in. Over the last 10 years there is an increasing amount of GI  available in the public domain as Open Data, especially from government sources. For example on the Ordnance Survey Open Data Hub users can freely download background mapping and boundary data – BoundaryLine is the official and definitive source data file for UK administrative & electoral boundaries. Technology moves on so though files can be downloaded in traditional way, API’s are available that stream the data straight into GIS software for use.
  • Historic Maps – Usually difficult to find let alone get hold of, Scotland is fortunate on 2 counts when it comes to historic maps. As one of the pioneering nations of modern cartography there is 350+ years worth of ‘back catalogue’ of maps of Scotland to choose from. Even more fortunately the National Library of Scotland has spent the last 20+ years digitising as many as possible and now has one of the largest online digital map collections in the world. Not only are the files of the individual map sheets available to download from their website, but where possible they have been digitally ‘stitched together’ to form seamless layers that are viewable alongside modern maps from Ordnance Survey, Google and OpenStreetMap on their range of online viewers.

Map Specific Resource Collections – As the ScotlandTheMap project progresses we will be building more specialised maps by adding further content to general knowledge maps. For example a general knowledge atlas of electoral areas, which contain knowledge that won’t really change much over time, can be used as a basemap upon which knowledge about current elected representatives – which will change on a regular basis with each general election, but also irregularly with by-elections brought about by death, resignation or other shenanigans – can be ‘overlain’.

So now we’ve got a beautifully constructed, hiearchical map of visually rich seed branches and sub-branches with single links to key knowledge resources about them arranged into related collections, we have one more task to do to complete the main content of the map. We copy selected links to the most appropriate official / definitive / useful resources from the sub-branch collections and attach them to the seed branch.

The ability to attach multiple hyperlinks to a single map branch is a unique ability of MindManager software, and probably the single most important feature of our knowledge maps. It means that the links to the fundamental knowledge resources about the building blocks can stay with the seed branch no matter how it might be re-used / re-purposed in other maps in the future.

This enables the collections of single link sub-branches to be removed from seed branches to ‘make way’ for another layer of sub-seed branches to be added – each with their own collections of sub-branches of single links to knowledge resources about them – without losing the essential knowledge links about the base layer building blocks. By doing this it is possible to build up a series of detailed knowledge maps about each level of blocks in a hierarchical series, without visually overhwelming the user.

For example the Local Council seed branches in our Scottish Local Councils – General & Geographic Knowledge Atlas provide a ‘base layer’ for the Electoral Ward seed branches in our Scottish Local Council Electoral Wards – General, Geographic & Electoral Knowledge Atlas, which in turn provide a base layer for the Local Councillor seed branches in our Scottish Local Councils, Electoral Wards & Local Councillors – Political Knowledge Atlas.

As mentioned already this process is akin to the one used to build up geographic maps in an online, mapping viewer or a GIS, where general basemap – such as those provided by Open Street Map, Google or Ordnance Survey – provide a general spatial context for additional ‘layers’ of more specific geospatial data (the ‘points, lines & polygons’) that are displayed on top it.

No map is complete without a legend – the bit that explains about the different elements that go to make it up. The Map Legend branch describes all the knowledge content embedded in, and attached to, each of the different seed branches, including links to further contextual knowledge resources. There is a certain amount of cross-over with the ‘Contributing Knowledge bases’ branch.

STEP 3 - Publish & Share Knowledge Maps On The Project Website As Freely Downloadable HTML5 Files, As Well As In Native MindManager Format (For A Small Annual Or Lifetime Fee To Cover Costs)

So now we have our visually structured index maps of ‘all the important things of a particular type in Scotland as well as all the official / definitive / plain old useful knowledge resources about them’, we need to share them with as many people, organisations, communities and projects as possible.

We do this by exporting the maps as HTML5 files (another one of MindManager’s unique capabilities) and publishing them on our WordPress project website so they can be be freely viewed & downloaded by anybody (though download requires BASIC membership, which is free 🙂 HTML maps retain all the rich, visual content – and just about all the functional interactivity – of the original MindManager map, and can be viewed in any modern browser, on any device, without the need for additional plugins or a continued internet connection once downloaded.

For those professionals / dedicated amateurs that want to take things to the next level and amend, adapt & repurpose ScotlandtheMap knowledge maps for their own use in MindManager (or other) information mapping software, we also make the original MindManager file (.mmap) available to download on the website for a modest annual or one off lifetime membership fee for PRO members.

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So now we have our visually structured index maps of ‘all the important things of a particular type in Scotland as well as all the official / definitive / plain old useful knowledge resources about them’, we need to share them with as many people, organisations, communities and projects as possible. How do we do that?

Well great though MindManager software is, not everybody has it installed on their devices so they can amend, adapt & repurpose – as well as just view – the maps in original (.mmap) file format. However it does have another unique trick up it’s sleeve upon which the ScotlandTheMap project is entirely reliant.

MindManager is the only information mapping software that can also publish it’s maps as HTML5 files.

So what’s the big deal about maps as HTML files? Well they’re…

Just about the same as the original – HTML versions of knowledge maps retain all the rich, visual content – and just about all the functional interactivity – of the original MindManager map. It’s also continually being developed. For example HTML maps can now be visually filtered using the index marker tags attached to branches.

But a bit bigger – The file size of the HTML version of the map is about 40 – 50% bigger than the original MindManager (.mmap) file, depending on the type of content (the presence of lots of images is really what bumps up the file size no matter which file format).

Easily Viewed – Just as importantly HTML map files can be viewed…

  • In any modern web browser software – Which is basically all of them – Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Microsoft Edge etc…
  • On any device – Desktop computers, tablets and smart phones (all of which come with browsers pre-installed!)
  • Without the need for any software plugins – No need for additional bits of software to be downloaded and installed on your device in order to open and view your file properly,
  • As standalone files or embedded in web pages – The .html file can be viewed as you would any other file downloaded from the web or file sharing service (eg. Dropbox), or sent as an email attachment – by double clicking on it on the device. However like a Google Map it can also be embedded within a frame on a web page and viewed without the viewer consciously downloading anything (the file still has to be physically ‘hosted’ on a server somewhere and ‘served’ to the page when viewed). An example would be our ‘map of maps’ is embedded in the footer of every page of this website.
  • On-, or off-, line – Once the file – or the web page in which its is embedded – has downloaded to the device, there is no need for an internet connection in order for it to be viewed and interacted with. Obviously a connection is required to view the online knowledge resources linked to in the map, but the contextual knowledge contained in the seed branches of the map itself will be available.

So now we’ve got the easily viewable and shareable HTML version of our knowledge map, we can make it available to the world on the StM project website…

For Free – As noted in the ‘benefits of StM for us‘ section below, we want to give something back to the dedicated professionals & volunteers that need to use the knowledge resources in our maps in order to do what they need to do, and also the information professionals that produce them in the first place. Making the HTML maps available for free is our way of giving back to Scotland.

Published ‘In’ Blog Posts – Because the whole idea of knowledge maps will be unfamiliar to most, we want to include lots of descriptive information about each map as well as the ability to view and download it. This lends itself more to a blog site with file download capability, as opposed to a store setup where files have to be added to carts and then ‘purchased’ (even though they’re free) before they can even be viewed, let alone downloaded.

Viewing The HTML Maps – As mentioned already HTML maps can be embedded in a frame within the body of a web page, just like a Google Map (as per our ‘map of maps’ is embedded in the footer of every page of this website). We experimented with embedding the maps wthin the blog post page at the start of the project, however we decided it was ‘a bit too much’ visual overload, as well as big map files appreciably slowing down the loading time for the whole page. Thus we have now opted for a ‘view fullscreen’ button instead so the map file opens as a standalone page in a new browser tab after the user clicks it when they’re ready to explore.

Downloading The HTML Map File – Though downloading the HTML5 file is also free, users will need to register for basic ScotlandTheMap membership, first. This is free 🙂, and only requires minimal details to set up the account.

So making the HTML version of our maps freely available to view and download from our website ensures that everybody has access to a visually structured index of all the important building blocks of a particular type in Scotland as well as all the official / definitive / plain old useful knowledge resources about them.

But what about those professionals (and dedicated amatuers) that need to build on that knowledge in order to ‘do what they do’ – strategically plan & operationally deliver the activities and services of their organisations, projects and communities? For them our knowledge maps are only the starting point. They will want to amend, adapt & repurpose the content – in whole or in part – to build their own maps, using their own copy of MindManager (or other) information mapping software.

So to support those that want to take it to the next level, we also make the map files available to download in the original MindManager (.mmap) file format on the website. We do this through a further tier of PRO membership, with a modest annual, or one off lifetime, membership fee to help support the project.

A map is the greatest of all epic poems. It's lines and colours show the realisation of great dreams.

Featured Knowledge Map

Scottish 'National Local' Council Maps

The geographies of Scotland’s 32 Local Council Areas dominates Scottish public life – whether that be through the planning & delivery of essential / life enhancing services to local communities via Planning Partnerships, Health & Social Care Partnerships etc., or democratic oversight & accountability via the election of local councilors to electoral wards & community councils (the next ‘tier’ down, but still facilitated by Local Councils).

However because of the diverse geographic nature of Scotland, the disparate sizes of ‘equivelant administrative units’, the number of people & entities involved, the variations in the way things are done locally etc., ‘national overview of ‘what’s what’ at local level everywhere’ resources are very difficult & time consuming to produce, so those that do exist tend to be very narrowly focused in scope.

But what if there was some way of connecting together those ‘national overview’ resources that do exist, with ALL the locally produced local knowledge resources, to make a single body of ‘national local’ knowledge accessible to all? Something like a visually rich, information dense, hierarchically structured, intuitive to navigate, easy to share, ‘single, clickable index’ knowledge map perhaps?

Thus knowledge mapping Scotland’s Local Councils, their administrative & electoral geographies and associated bodies has been one of the first priorites of the ScotlandtheMap project, and over time they will be used as the framework upon which we will build a comprehensive virtual library of ‘national local’ knowledge.

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Scottish Local Councils General & Geographic Knowledge Atlas

This Scottish Local Councils General & Geographic Knowledge Atlas (19 Sep 2019) ‘visually connects’ together general, geographic & electoral knowledge resources about ALL of Scotland’s 32 Local Councils for the very first time ever in a single, information rich, intuitive to navigate, easy to share, digital document. With thumbnail location maps & other embedded ‘geo-statistical’ contextual knowledge, and 100’s of hyperlinks to official / definitive / ‘plain old useful’ knowledge resources available in the public domain, this map will help you to discover what you need to know about Scotland’s Local Councils. It’s also the base upon which we will build many other Scottish ‘national local’ knowledge maps.

If you are new to our knowledge maps then please browse the HTML Map Mini Guide first before viewing the map itself. Visit the map post page itself and you can also see a summary of the map content, the main features, and some fun facts 😉 Please provide your feedback, or suggest additional content, in the map comments, and please also share it with your networks. You can also find other maps using the map finder panel, or the map of maps.

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View / Download Options

Anybody can view the html version of the map as a standalone webpage in a new browser tab, using the ‘View HTML map full screen’ button below. Ordinarily to download the HTML5 file – for viewing on or offline in any modern browser, on any device, without additional plugins – you would need to register for basic membership (it’s free 🙂 However for this featured map you don’t even have to do that (but it would be nice to see you back again if you find it useful). Likewise to download the map in MindManager (.mmap) format – for viewing, amending, adapting & repurposing in MindManager software – you would need to have upgraded to PRO membership for a modest annual, or one off lifetime, fee (to help us keep the ScotlandtheMap project going). Already joined? Login here.

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Knowledge Map Mini Guide

We create our digital knowledge maps linking to 100’s of public domain knowledge resources about the ‘building blocks’ of Scotland using MindManager, the market leading information mapping software for over 20 years. One of MindManger’s many unique features is the ability to publish a knowledge map as an HTML5 document that…

  • retains all of the knowledge, and most of the interactivity, of the original.
  • is viewable in any modern browser, on any device, as a stand-alone webpage that doesn’t require any external plug-ins or internet connection to ‘work’ (ie. they can be viewed offline).
  • can be embedded in an existing webpage using a standard i-frame and URL (whilst being hosted elsewhere).
  • can be shared in the usual ways that files are shared, including being sent as an email attachment.
  • is ‘thumb friendly’ for viewing & interacting on touch screen devices such as mobile phones.

If you have not encountered an HTML knowledge map before, treat it like a Google Map. You can pan about, zoom in and out, and clicking on map branches will activate content (single hyperlinks, multiple hyperlinks, notes, embedded data feature toggles etc.). Notes & hyperlinks will open up in a side panel in the browser window (mobile users – see ‘Tips For Mobile Users’ below).

We pack a lot of knowledge ‘bits & pieces’ into our maps, either embedded within, or attached to, the 100’s of map branches (‘topics’) that provide the visual structure that connects them all together. This video explains the different types of knowledge content.
Now that you know the different elements that make up one of our knowledge maps, this video shows the basics of navigating your way around it and accessing the hyperlinks to the public domain knowledge resources about the ‘building blocks’ of Scotland.

We make the HTML versons of our maps available to the world for free by publishing them within ‘map blog posts’ on the ScotlandtheMap.info WordPress blog website. This video explains the layout of the posts and how the maps can be viewed online as a stand alone page in your web browser, or downloaded to your device and viewed offline at your convenience.

As stated already our HTML knowledge maps are “thumb friendly and viewable in any modern browser, on any device”. Here are a few extra tips to enhance your user experience if viewing maps on a small touch-screen device…

1) Vertical Scrolling Of Webpage – If your ‘scrolling thumb’ is anywhere within the embedded map window when it slides across the touch-screen, you will pan around the map rather than scroll the webpage as a whole. To counter this there is always a narrow margin around the map panel at the edges of the screen, which you can ‘drag’ to move the page. (Viewing the map full screen in a new browser tab also gets round this issue :-).

2) Activating Branch Content – Clicking on map branches will activate content. Notes & the list of attached hyperlinks will open up in a side panel in the browser window. On mobile phones this panel can be take up a disconcertingly large proportion of the screen. If you don’t want to access this content, just click on the map background away from the activated branch, and the panel will disappear.

3) Following Hyperlinks – If there is a single hyperlink on a branch then clicking on the favicon symbol at the end once will activate it and the web resource linked to will open up in a new browser tab. If the topic has multiple hyperlinks attached (another unique MindManager feature) then these can only be followed by clicking on the link in the list in the side panel that opens up within the browser window when the branch is clicked. Note that notes and hyperlinks are on separate tabs within the sidepanel if both are present. Hyperlinks are listed in the ‘Attachments’ tab.

4) Map Content Version – Work the ‘Lo-Fi’ (most images removed) version of the map if your device has limited capacity. But that is not to say that the ‘Hi-Fi’ version can’t be viewed, and they do not work fine once they have loaded. It will just take longer for them to load, say 30s – 2 mins depending on the connection. For example we have viewed & worked with the ‘Hi-Fi’ version of the Scottish Local Councillor map – 2000+ branches, 6000+ hyperlinks, 1600+ embedded images, including a location map for all 32 councils and 324 electoral wards as well as a colour photo of every one of the 1227 councillors – on a Samsung Galaxy S7 no problem.

1) Maps In Native MindManager (.mmap) Format – Whilst our HTML maps are interactive, they are not editable. This can only be done within MindManager and the maps republished as HTML. Generally speaking ScotlandtheMap maps will be available to download in native MindManager (.mmap) format from the Knowledge Mappers map store. Click the button below the map if present to go to the map page on the store website (opens up in a new browser tab).

2) Other Information Mapping Software Users – Many other information software programmes have the capability of importing MindManager map files (MindManager was the first software of it’s type and has been the market leader for over 20 years). A word of caution however. Our maps fully utilise the large range of unique ‘information cartography’ features available in MindManager – large maps (1000’s of branches), ‘rich (ie. variable) formatting’ of topic text, multiple hyperlinks, embedded data features (spreadsheets, charts & topic properties), layout variations within the same map etc. – which are not supported by other information mapping software programs. Thus even if your program can import a MindManager file, how it copes with each of these features, and what it renders on-screen as a result, will vary from the MindManager version so user beware!

How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?

The Feedback

We want these knowledge resource maps to be used by as many individuals, organisations & communities with an interest in Scotland as possible. You can leave any feedback or suggestions in the comments sections of individual map posts, or you can leave general feedback ​about any aspect of the Scotland The Map project on our message page.

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We do not know why we are born into the world, but we can try to find out what sort of a world it is.

The Team

Knowledge Mappers

The ScotlandtheMap project is conceived, managed and delivered by Knowledge Mappers Ltd., a small but dedicated Glasgow-based digital mapping consultancy & publishing company with 50+ years collective experience and a unique mix of geographic & knowledge mapping expertise. Our ground-breaking projects, products & services visually connect individuals, teams, organisations & communities with the knowledge resources that they need… to do what they need to do… quicker, easier, and with a lot less stress… and the common good will probably also benefit as a result.

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Angus McDonald

Scotland The Map Project Director and Knowledge Mappers Founder & CEO

Connect with me...

But enough of the ‘spiel’. We’ve already said why we started ScotlandtheMap and what we get out of it, what about…

You

We have many more maps planned, or already in production, and if you subscribe to our mailing list we will keep you posted as we add them to the site. But we’d also like your input along the way. So whilst waiting for the next map to ‘drop’ (as the young people say), could you please…

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View the HTML maps in the map posts

Anybody can view the html version of the map as a standalone, full-screen webpage in a new browser tab, using the ‘View HTML map full screen’ button in the map posts.

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Download the HTML maps for viewing on or offline in any modern browser, on any device, without additional plugins

To download the HTML5 file you will need to register for basic membership (it’s free :-). This means you can view the knowledge map offline in any modern browser, on any device, without additional plugins –

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Have a play with the maps already on the website

Experiment with the many ways to access & view the maps – on the map post itself view it fullscreen in a new browser tab (the big gold button), or download the HTML file (the big purple button) for viewing & sharing offline. Browse the archive pages, use the Map Finder panel on every page, or browse the ‘Knowledge Map of Knowledge Maps’ in the footer of every page.

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Share the maps

There are sharing buttons at the bottom of every page on the site so you can quickly share the maps with the contacts in your networks that you think would benefit from the knowledge they contain.

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Use the comments section below the maps to leave your feedback & suggestions for future updates, or you can leave general feedback ​about any aspect of the Scotland The Map project on our message page. Remember the knowledgebases we link to in our maps – definitive / official / or just plain old useful 🙂 – need to be freely accessible in the public domain.

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If you have a project you think that we could collaborate on for the common good, then please get in touch.

More About Digital Knowledge Mapping

For those of you unfamiliar with the digital knowledge mapping process, here are just some of the features and benefits …

Work visually

Work with information ‘visually' in a form that's easier and more intuitive to navigate, assimilate & share

Connect Virtually

Connect together 1000's of otherwise physically unconnected & disparate knowledge resources virtually around 'seed points' in a single, visually structured, digital document - if it’s got a URL, it can be linked to in a map!

Connect Quickly

Quickly build & share 'clickable index maps' of libraries of visually connected digital knowledge resources, making them instantly accessible

Retain Context

Record the fine detail but retain 'the big picture' context, all in the one, hierarchicaly structured document

Record Everything

Create BIG maps, with 1000's of branches

Flexible Knowledge Frameworks

Create 'knowledge framework basemaps' that are useful, contextual knowledge resources in their own right, but that anybody can add further information to in the future to make more specialised knowledge maps (just like 'layers' on top of a geographic map)'

Map Finder Panel

Use the tools in this panel, which is included on every page (as is the sticky menu at the top of every page) – to find the maps you are looking for. You can do a free text search, or filter by category, tag or publication date. Alternatively you can just browse the ‘All Map Listing’, or the ‘knowledge map of knowledge maps’ at the foot of this (and every) page for one that catches your eye.

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Search Maps

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Share

Please share this page with your networks so that as many people, organisations and communities as possible can benefit from the Scotland the Map project knowledge maps.

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