What is an Information Radiator?

An information radiator is a large, highly visible display used by software development teams to track progress. The term was first coined by Alistair Cockburn, one of the judges for the Ultimate Wallboard contest, in his book as follows:

“An Information radiator is a display posted in a place where people can see it as they work or walk by. It shows readers information they care about without having to ask anyone a question. This means more communication with fewer interruptions."

  • Is large and easily visible to the casual, interested observer
  • Is understood at a glance
  • Changes periodically, so that it is worth visiting
  • Is easily kept up to date

Information radiators can take a variety of forms, from wallboards to lava lamps and traffic lights.

Check out contest results »
The Ultimate Wallboard 2010.

Traditional Information Radiators

Information radiators take on many different shapes and sizes. Traditional implementations range from hand-drawn posters of burndown charts to coloured sticky notes on a whiteboard.

Video

What makes a good information radiator? Check out the 10-min lightning talk from Summit 2010.
Watch Video »

 

Alistair Cockburn's project wallboard

The JIRA Wallboards Plugin turns a dashboard into an information radiator

Modern Information Radiators

Many development teams create elaborate information radiators using electronic devices like traffic lights or glowing orbs to indicate build status. Most teams, including many at Atlassian, roll their own electronic wallboards to pull real-time data from development tools for display on large monitors over the team workspace.