I’ve been doing some work recently with a “taxonomy” of technology “building blocks”. Even though a taxonomy is technically expressed as a hierarchy, technology terms do not really fit into a hierarchical structure – what we really need is a network diagram but management want it to look like an organisation chart (some cynical people might say that’s all they understand)!
My colleague, Alan Dodd, who understands TOGAF (I’m not an enterprise architect) has been instrumental in defining a structure that we can slice many different ways, generating views based on particular metadata and he’s also the one who came up with the idea of using Visio 2007’s Organisation Chart Wizard to import data from an Excel spreadsheet and use the column headings as metadata. For example, if I have columns of: Item; Parent Item; Vendor; and URL, I can build the hierarchy using the Item and Parent Item columns and the Vendor and URL columns can be defined as metadata on the shapes in Visio, from where I can save the whole diagram as a web page (and the URL data will actually work as a link). Add a bit of conditional formatting and we have something that’s actually quite usable as a navigational tool for linking to the various technology building blocks.
The problem I had was that my diagram was huge and needed to be zoomed it to 500% in order to be legible. Increasing the font size didn’t help either, as that just needed larger shapes, making the overall diagram larger (and so the default, whole page, view was just as tiny). What I needed was a way to adapt the zoom factor on the diagram… for instance to set the initial view to 500%.
It turns out that’s perfectly possible using
?zoom=500 on the end of the URL to load the diagram. After a brief conversation on the Microsoft Discussion Groups, John Goldsmith has helpfully posted the four basic URL parameters accepted by Visio-generated diagrams served via HTTP.
The next steps will be to make the diagram zoom closer than 500% and then the big one… to automatically generate the Excel data from a SharePoint document library. Answers on a postcard…