A few weeks ago, I pointed to a post by Shelly Hadyuk from TheBrain Technologies , in which she made the case that traditional hierarchical mind maps may not be the best way to present complex information and knowledge . This post generated more comments than any other in the history of this blog (22 to date). Most readers agreed with Shelly’s assessment, and were excited at the prospect of being able to represent more complex relationships in their visual maps. Here is a sampling of reader comments:
This reader addresses the limits of hierarchical mapping: "I find the radial tree structure of mind mapping very limiting. It works OK for representing a restricted set of knowledge, but if you need to dissect a large problem it fails, as you cannot rotate the problem around (you are always in the pathway of a set hierarchy). That means you’re limited in your problem solving or analytical approach by the way you structure your tree."
One reader compares the branches of mind maps to tables in relational databases, where multiple tables of data can be linked in multiple, complex relationships: "I believe we should take the next step and (be able to) link any record to any other record in whichever table (map topic). Then the notes in mind maps can be truly object-oriented and the mind maps (can show) multiple perspectives."
This reader envisions a visual mapping tool where selecting one topic causes related topics to re-cluster themselves into a new constellation, which will reveal new insights and connections: "If this is the beginning of a trend in mind mapping software, it’s good news! I imagine ‘picking up’ a semantic network by the mode I’m interested in, ‘shaking it out’ so the links cascade down, studying it, then selecting a new node and repeating the above process."
A PersonalBrain power user tells us how he employs the program: "As an avid user of both MindManager and PersonalBrain, I believe that both have their place. However, I think that in order to deal effectively with the glut of information we receive daily, we need to organize beyond simple hierarchical systems, and work in conjunction with our brains… I currently have nearly 14,000 thoughts in my brain (his PersonalBrain file, not his “wetware” brain), and am able to see connections beyond the normal hierarchical view. I use PersonalBrain as my main interface, storage system, information management tool, creativity laboratory, presentation system, etc. Everything else links to it and through it, including MindManager, Outlook, Word, Excel, etc.."
PersonalBrain is a great tool, but the interface still needs work, according to this reader (I agree – CF): “My biggest struggle with MindManager is that each topic can only be a child of one other topic. Relationships are visually cumbersome at best. If PersonalBrain (TheBrain’s single user mapping software) gets more polished (the user interface feels pretty cludgy right now), I would be hard pressed not to switch over. The ability to navigate nodes and see the relationships to other concepts is extremely powerful."
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