Friday, September 25, 2009

Comapping: collaborative information mapping



Wallace Tait and Brian Friedlander

Web 2.0 has certainly made a significant impact on the ways we now create, manage and exchange information and knowledge. Collaboration is indeed the corner stone for real time communications within personal, academic and business arenas while using web 2.0 (Cloud) applications.

We have simply been given much more flexibility through the use of cloud computing.

Regarding Visual mapping; cloud collaboration has exponentially increased the potentials for being more effective and productive. The cloud can become a repository (Data bank) for storing and sharing much of your information and knowledge, and you also have control over who gets to access your information too. Less travelling to meet clients, your web space becomes a virtual office and classroom where you can operate, collaborate and present with ease; as long as you have web access.

There’s a recent interesting trend coming from web 2.0 visual mapping apps. They are now moving towards offering desktop versions of their apps, so desktop computing isn’t dead yet.

We were recently given access to Comapping by Michael Pliskin Director of R&D. Comapping is both a web and desktop based information management app that expresses a left to right format defined as visual mapping. The desktop application seamlessly synchronizes with the web based tool.

During the summer of 2006 Comapping was born through a joint venture between Area9 in Denmark and Lanit-Tercom in Russia. These two organizations initially developed and used Comapping as an internal organization wide communication tool. They were frustrated with limitations that traditional mind mapping software posed. Soon realizing they were not alone while facing similar limitations with incumbent mind mapping software applications; Comapping was further developed for wider commercial use.

It’s an awesome information mapping/management tool that enables you to collaborate with absolute ease, and it’s extremely fast. The developers have crafted a new and expressive category of information mapping that is independent of the Mind mapping genre. The Comap, Comapping and Comapper shall without a doubt, be definitions associated with forward thinking information management.

Using Comapping has exponentially enhanced and improved our time and project management, to the point of having more clarity that equates to monetizing other more important aspects of our consulting work. Simply put, Comapping has; and continues to transform our information management capabilities.

In our opinion Comapping has a powerful advantage over mind mapping apps, due to the left to right format and the top down logical process approach of this format. Project managers will most certainly feel comfortable with Comapping, as shall Business System managers who use the ISO 9001 standards.

The left to right format, when mapping expresses a very comfortable and logical feel to Comapping.

Asger Ottar Alstrup, CEO and Board Member of Comapping developed the unique auto-collapsing algorithm that optimizes use of often scarce computer screen real estate while mapping. The animated look to Comapping is very comfortable and pleasing to the eye. Navigation throughout a map while presenting information to colleagues and clients is one of the great strengths of Comapping.

Real time collaboration is indeed a notable strength of Comapping. You will find it easy to invite a colleague into your mind map and give them permission to read or edit your map. While collaborating on the map, you can view where your colleague is and what part of the map they are editing. You can also use a chat window to communicate during the session.

The experience of co-editing the map was fast and flawless. One of our top features of Comapping is the ability to easily publish your Comaps to you blog or web site by simply copying an embed code.

With the recent addition of the Comapping desktop application, and its strong import and export features, Comapping is a strong information mapping tool for your collaboration needs. The desktop version is a clone to the online version, enabling you to work off line when required.

Once you have created your mind map using the desktop version of Comapping you can save it to your online account and then access it through your browser. Comapping gives you lots of options if you would like to Export your mind maps to other applications.

We found the no nonsense approach to mapping information while creating, managing and exchanging relevant business information was performed with ease. The learning curve was so short; we were up and running with Comapping within 10 minutes.

Comapping is continuously being developed, therefore the user can have confidence the developers listen to the voice of the user. Expect a great future from Comapping.

The Personal, Academic and Business application of Comapping is very evident, and we encourage you to download, use and purchase this excellent information management tool. It is available in two formats; desktop and web editions. Visit www.comapping.com for more information.

Below is the Comapping welcome map; to navigate the map, choose a topic and press the tab key.

7 comments:

Blusky said...

Without a doubt Comapping is an elegant, intuitive and simple interface which as the potential to meet the needs of many business mappers. Admittedly it does not have all the bells and whistles of MindManager or the organic drawing ability of Buzan’s iMindmap and applying the Buzan mapping rules would not be straightforward, but is this a drawback anyway? When you consider that perhaps 70% of business mappers could not even tell you what the first two rules were let alone all ten I would suggest it does not matter. This raises an interesting question worthy of separate discussion: “If mapping were truly understood would its use (and hence acceptance) be more widespread?”
Comapping does have some drawbacks:
• In spite of the commercial success of such SaS applications as salesforce.com I find there is still real concern about having potentially sensitive commercial data floating around on someone else’s server
• It has virtually no databasing capability ... but the again neither do MindManager or Imindmap. If you want that capability you would use a decent information handling tool such as Mindsystems Amode (http://www.mindsystems.com.au/products/amode/index.php)
The aspect of this application which causes me some concern is more of a commercial nature simply because the product is so cheap ($US25/year/seat). This causes a few questions to spring to mind such as:
• Does Comapping have a hidden agenda? For examples is the commercial model designed to erode other mapping products or is it being position for sale based on the size of the user base. If so what would happen then?
• How does such a price support future development?
• How does it attract good resellers (and hence local support for users)? For example , let’s assume a 40% margin for a good reseller, then a 100 unit multi-license would bring in $800. Anyone who knows software sales will appreciate that a 100 unit sales is very different from a single sale. In other words the effort needed would not match the return.
• A good reseller would expect to do between $300K and $500K in annual sales on any product. This would equate to approximately 15-25K seats per year which would mean a minimum of 50 first line service calls a week. This does not make economic sense.
To sum up:
1. Excellent interface that will meet the needs of 70% of business mappers
2. It is a mobile solution ideal for collaboration
3. There would have to be some security concerns
4. I have doubts about the commercial viability which in the last analysis comes back to end user support.

Wallace Tait said...

All very relevant points coming from John England MD of Mindsystems, the developers of "Amode".

I believe Comapping will certainly be a hit within academia and business as a cloud computing service. The advancements for encrypting information makes it now more safe to have information hosted on a remote server.

I also feel rather uneasy when speaking about cloud computing becoming so entrenched within the psyche of academia and business, that we foolishly forget the proprietary and security issues associated with hosting information and knowledge in the cloud. I don't believe I am even ready for giving my proprietary information away to the cloud anytime soon.

Comapping does indeed have a desktop edition available (Which I highly recommend), and it gives the user the ability to perform the same cloud computing functions right on their PC desktop.

Taking into consideration the price of owning an online subscription edition, I tend to agree with your findings of creating a tangible ROI.

Comapping is relatively new to market, so I expect agile improvements to the points you made John.

I further agree with your database comments. However,Comapping can embed attachments to the framework of the comap, and this is a rudimentary database function in and of itself.

So Comapping IMO belongs within the Visual mapping category, and I believe further developments will reveal a more robust tool for the information manager of this century.

I personally do need to be more convinced of the absolute validity of cloud computing, but I have confidence we'll see a harmony of sorts between cloud and desktop computing.

Ulrik said...

As the Chairman of the Board of Directors, I appreciate all the kind words about Comapping and would like to address the concerns about the low price. Comapping is heavily supported by Area9 for two reasons: Area9 who is the world leader in a couple of advanced e-learning areas (simulation/debriefing and advanced learning diagnostics/learning path planning) needed a product like Comapping as performance of the commercially available products was not sufficient for handling the hundreds of people, Area9 manages to produce advanced content for the simulators. Comapping is an important technology for that collaboration that among other things lowers the cost of establishing consensus about learning objectives for a given curriculum. Second, for both Lanit Tercom and Area9 this has become an interesting business case as the number of PAID users constantly grows almost with no marketing efforts. We also see a number of specialized applications with commercial opportunities, but we are not in hurry. Having been running software companies since the late 90's, we know that good products take time to mature. We are not driven by competition or by VC's asking for exit scenarios, but rather by solving some real needs and asking the people with those needs to pay for them. This is why we do NOT give Comapping away as others do with Internet products. We have lived through both bubbles now and do still not believe in giving things away - by asking people to pay a modest amount of money to use our tool, we get the users asking for the quality we are also aiming for. "Blusky" is quite right though that this does not immediate work with the classic software distributor model, but it does not have to for Comapping. Consider also that the cost of keeping Comapping running is low, once the investment to develop it has been made. In other words, the basic cost of keeping the servers running is minimal. The revenue we have now is more than enough to keep them running. Further development is ensured because Comapping is vital to the business of Area9.
Comapping lives fine with the amount of users it has now and with the multiple opportunities we have for larger collaborations and adoptions, the perspective is pretty good for the company and representing the largest shareholder, I am very satisfied with the maturation of Comapping.
Does that mean that we are not looking for ways to increase the revenue stream? Not of course not, WE ARE! We just do not wish to either just give the product away or loose the organic growth that viral spreading via the internet is giving us right now. Could we be wrong? Sure! But for us this is a spin-off where we have opened up one of our own tools for a broader audience, so what is the worst that can happen? In other words, this is a calculated bet in a market where most people are jumping from stone to stone to see if the can sell their companies before anybody realizes that this is not a business model that works.
Don't expect that as a like move from Comapping - Comapping will be establishing alliances and will be finding creative ways to spread, but NOT waiting in line up with the rest of the Web 2.0 pack... ☺

All the best,

Ulrik

P.S. The tech guys add the following: ”In terms of connecting to databases, Comapping does support this through the external id concept recently introduced. Also, Comapping has an extensive programming API which allows external applications to work seamlessly with the data, including both reading and changing it."

Wallace Tait said...

Ulrik,
This is an excellent post reply and gives me great confidence as to the intentions, aspirations and business acumen of Area9 and Lanit-Tercom.

I personally look forward to meeting your team at some point.

Comapping has without a doubt, become a stable of my information management and collaboration efforts within my consultancy work. I look forward to being an active user and supporter of the further development of this product that has a wide scope of use within the personal, academic and corporate business arenas.

Blusky said...

Thanks Ulrik .... your comments make absolute sense. We were approached to represent Comapping in the Asia Pacific region and backed away because of the financial model. Please understand we are not a greedy company, but at the least we need to see a large enough income stream to justify the very high levels of customer service we offer. Let me repeat: you applicication is clean, elegant and will serve the needs of 90% of the business community.

Kyle McFarlin said...

I watched the videos at the website and conceptually I'm impressed. I'd love to see a video that covers the visual interface in particular and differentiates comapping from mindmapping. Right now, I feel like I'm looking at the right-hand side of a mindmap without the left. Non-mind mappers probably won't even think twice about that, yet I'd love to just see you address head-on all of the questions mind mappers will have. And I'm sure a lot of external early adopters will come from mind mapping.

Wallace Tait said...

The interesting point about the graphical expressiveness of Comapping is that, it’s not actually Mind mapping. The Comapping developers have either unwittingly or intentionally created a whole new Genre of information mapping format.
The left to right format expresses a very process oriented top down format, yet the mapping of information from the topics to the subtopic and sibling levels are very non linear. So this product indeed has managed to express a whole brained approach to information management, which appeals to the academic and corporate knowledge management arenas.
Coupling this with an extremely fast collaborative web 2.0 cloud service, there’s no doubt Comapping shall indeed become a standard for on line and corporate wide information management and knowledge database services.