Monday, June 29, 2020

Define thyself

For many years I’ve classified myself as a Visual Mapper.
And for those who use their personal definition of visual mapping arbitrarily, here’s one definition of many.

“Visual Mapping is a multiple formats approach to graphical thinking, expressing and doing”. 

This is further defined by The founder of Mindsystems John England; "Multiple modes of information expressed within a flexible workspace"

Visual mapping is expressed within a knowledge management tool-box, an ever growing one, that’s full of graphical and non graphical tools that enable the user to reach in and grab a tool that works for their specific need to create, manage and express their information and knowledge.
So in reality; the Visual Mapping tag may becoming rather tired as the term and definition of Visual Mapping has morphed and merged into the arena of Knowledge Management.

Yes we give tags to ourselves and the things we do for sure. Yet it’s natural to tag ourselves and in order to play the SEO game and to network ourselves as a product or service that attracts like minds, colleagues and prospective clients.
Over the years I’ve been loyal to a few tools that have consistently provided me with the visual mapping means to create, manage and share information and knowledge within a graphical framework.

The graphical frameworks have ranged from Flowcharts to info graphics to concept and mind maps. I term all of these graphical tools as Visual Mapping.

There is however an apparent conundrum that has raised its head recently for me regarding the relationship between Visual Mapping and Knowledge Management.

Do we really need to look at a graphical format that tends to be non-linear?
It is a good question isn’t it?

And the straight answer is no! I love to use graphical outputs, but again the answer is No!

Information and knowledge management are linked by the content information contains and the context knowledge enables. And it certainly doesn’t need to be expressed as a non-linear graphical framework at all. Weird coming from me eh; the quintessential visual mapper.

The thing is; the graphical frameworks we view within examples of mind maps and associated outputs such as TheBrain and a recent and brilliant product named Thortspace ( I call it TS as I spell it wrong all the time) seems to be how the brain functions.

TheBrain software/service and Thortspace software/service:

TheBrain software has been around for 20+ years and has developed into a polished professional product service. The developer of TheBrain; The Brain Technologies, has corporate backing and use.
The Brain is a systematic graphical framework of hierarchical and associative knowledge mapping and management functions and capabilities.

Thortspace software is a relatively new product/service on the market and at the time of this article it remains to be in a beta cycle (although it's been around for some years actually as a beta product). Thortspace has a unique way of allowing the user to escape from hierarchical structures yet also enabling a linear view to spheres of content that contain the potential for extreme knowledge mapping/management.

Both TheBrain and TS are completely different approaches and therefore don’t currently compete in the same knowledge handling/management spaces. Yet I believe they may compete for the same or similar users in the near future.

The conundrum is though; we know our human brain works abstractly and it may be useful to view and work abstractly using a non-linear framework; but we actually require access to linear models too. Whole brain thinking is a thing and wholistic may best define it.

Many of our colleagues who are software developers of the vast range of awesome visual mapping products currently available; well they tend to IMO (with good intentions), laser focus in on a their specific graphical format to (in reality) the detriment of using the equally valuable linear view of information and knowledge too.

Balance though is key. Linear and non-linear are equal IMO and should be treated as equally valuable to the mapping/management of information and knowledge.

Another reality check to the developers of these awesome Visual Mapping products and services? Whilst they have certainly perfected their products; they’ve kind of been willingly forgetful as to other notable products and services that have evolved into the mainstream as knowledge handlers and managers too. These products are predominantly linear by default and relational database by nature of their design from the get go.

I personally use Notion, and have transitioned much of the work I stored within the graphical framework of TheBrain into Notion; that is until TheBrain develops to a stage that enables similar functions and capabilities of mentioned products. The other notable linear products that compete with Notion?; they are Roam Research and a relatively new product called Obsidian. Notion IMO is the most developed and supported of these linear products. As of March 2021; the amendment made to this article must of course add the rather amazing ClickUp to the tool-box of knowledge management products of note.

I use a few products I’ve been given access to for graphical mapping of information and knowledge. There’s a plethora of products on the market and many of them are (to be frank) absolutely crap. There’s a few that stand out as well developed, supported and capable products. But then again, out of the few that are damn awesome; they have all seemed to copy the hell out of each other regarding functions and capabilities.

I would say the most plagiarized product in the visual mapping arena has been and continues to be MindManager. It’s the most capable graphical knowledge mapping product on the market; End of!

Although I use and abuse a few products; I’ve filtered them down to two (2) that are integral to my knowledge mapping. They are TheBrain and MindManager.
There are a few other MindManager type products but they are unfortunately sorely lagging behind the behemoth that Mindjet MindManager has become.

Here I’ll put a word in for a few products that supplement my main products and that have functions and capabilities that are surprisingly missing in MindManager.
These products are SimTech MindMapper, Conceptdraw Office, Xmind and Goalscape.

Defining thyself though; as you know, I define myself as a Visual mapper yet more so a Knowledge Architect. The knowledge architect defines knowledge processes and identifies the technology requirements for creating, capturing, organizing, accessing and using knowledge assets.

How do you define yourself in relation to information and knowledge work?