Compendium (software)

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Screenshot of v.1.5.2
Developer(s) Compendium Institute
Written in Java
Operating system Cross-platform
License GNU LGPL

Compendium is a computer program and social science tool that facilitates the mapping and management of ideas and arguments. The software provides a visual environment that allows people to structure and record collaboration as they discuss and work through 'wicked problems'.

The software is currently released by the not-for-profit Compendium Institute. The current version operationalises the Issue-Based Information System (IBIS), an argumentation mapping structure first developed by Horst Rittel in the 1970s. Compendium adds hypertext functionality and database interoperability to the issue-based notation derived from IBIS.

Compendium source code was fully released under LGPL licence on 13 January 2009.[1]


Compendium visually represents thoughts and illustrates the various interconnections between different issues (or questions), ideas (or answers), and arguments. It can be used for applications as varied as: issue mapping in meetings, design rationales and requirements analysis, meeting management (agendas and minutes), action item and issue tracking, requirements management, classification, management templates, and reference databases (such as personal knowledge bases).

The creation of 'issue maps' graphically represents the relations between issues and ideas, and facilitates the understanding of interconnected topics through diagrammatic representation.

The software can be used by a group of people in a collaborative manner to convey ideas to each other using visual diagrams. A group facilitation method called 'dialogue mapping' is especially suited for use with Compendium.[2]

Compendium templates for critical thinking can be used to create argument maps using the 'argumentation schemes' developed by argumentation theory scholars Doug Walton, Chris Reed, and Fabrizio Macagno.[3] Argumentation schemes are pre-defined patterns of reasoning for analysing and constructing arguments; each scheme is accompanied by a list of critical questions that can be used to evaluate whether a particular argument is good or fallacious. By using these argumentation schemes, users of Compendium can examine claims in more detail to uncover their implicit logical substructure and improve the rigor and depth of discussions.[4]


Ideas are represented as icons called 'nodes'. There are ten types of node: question, answer, list view, map view, pro, con, note, decision, reference, argument. There are three types of relationship between nodes: associative, transclusive, categorical. Images can be placed directly into a view, assigned to a node, or assigned to the background picture.

  • Drag and drop documents and websites onto a map
  • Complete freedom to arrange icons
  • Keyword tagging
  • Map and label the connections between concepts to illustrate links
  • Create dialogue maps to display links between everyone's ideas in group projects
  • Create argument maps collaboratively, editing each other's writing
  • Create issue/problem templates
  • Share learning pathways
  • Organise large amounts of information
  • Place resources in sequence to develop a learning path

Users can choose to use Compendium with either the Apache Derby (internal) or MySQL (external) relational database management system.

The software is networked and supports concurrency and different views when using MySQL.


Compendium is the result of fifteen years of development in collaborative modeling, initiated in the mid-1990s by Al Selvin and Maarten Sierhuis at NYNEX Science & Technology; the theory behind the software hails from the 1970s, when IBIS (Issue-Based Information System) was first conceptualised by Horst Rittel. Selvin and Sierhuis built on Jeff Conklin's earlier hypertext issue mapping software: gIBIS and QuestMap.[5]

Many associations have thence contributed ideas to the development of Compendium. These institutions include Blue Oxen Associates, Center for Creative Leadership, Open University's Knowledge Media Institute, Verizon, CogNexus Institute, and Agent iSolutions.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Buckingham Shum, Simon J (13 February 2009). "Compendium released open source". Compendium Institute. Retrieved 11 January 2015. 
  2. ^ Conklin 2006; Zubizarreta 2006
  3. ^ Walton, Reed & Macagno 2008
  4. ^ Buckingham Shum 2007
  5. ^ "Compendium project". Knowledge Media Institute, Open University. 2009. Retrieved 11 January 2015. 
  6. ^ "Participating institutions". Compendium Institute. 2007. Retrieved 11 January 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

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