I understand you may not be able to discuss the details of your work in public, but the metaphor you’re using might be somewhat distracting here. Specifically, it’s always tempting at the start of a project to divide the information you plan to develop into a tree of categorical relationships. The information you actually discover, of course, is never quite what you expected — and the structure you originally built is likely to be wrong.
I talk about this problem of premature formalization in The Tinderbox Way, which you might enjoy.
Let’s look at a specific problem: a year from now, we’re going to have a big election, and you’re going to lead a group of volunteers to advance a particular cause. Let’s say, “awareness of climate change.”
What I’d do to begin is to make a Tinderbox document to hold some things I know I’m going to want to track.
People – volunteers, possible volunteers, experts. Candidates for various offices. Staff workers for those candidates. Lots more people.
News – articles, news clippings, research papers that are relevant to the campaign and our mission.
Events – stuff that’s going to happen. Not just dates and times — you have a calendar for those — but also planning meetings, conferences, canvasses, caucuses, conventions.
Now, a specific event might involve different people, and we can represent that relationship in a bunch of ways. We can:
- have a link from Party Convention to people who are delegates.
- have an attribute DelegatedTo that contains the name of the person responsible for the event.
- have a set attribute that lists the members of the event’s steering committee
- have a text description of the event that lists some possible speakers, each of which has a text link to contact information for that person.
- assign a tag “JulyRockConcert” that’s added to the event, people involved in the event, and news about the event. Use an agent to gather all the notes that use this tag.
An important point is that you won’t know the best way to do any of this when you start out. You might expect to be organizing a dozen volunteers, and you turn around and you’ve got 500. Or you think you’re planning fifty weekly events for about 20 local volunteers, and your national coordinator calls you and says, “drop that — I want you to focus on getting 5,000 people to the July Concert fundraiser.” So, Tinderbox makes it easy to change representations.