The Visual Mapper’s journey into systems thinking. Purposefully complicated yet shouldn’t be.
The first steps of many to the fulfillment of our goals are no doubt taken with trepidation. The apprehension associated with the steps, goals and paths we take on our journeys are somewhat predictable spaces or voids full of process and system potential.
The blank slate of your digital workspace is likened to that of the virgin canvas of the artist who looks into the void of the canvas and envisions what she desires to reveal.
This process of drawing out from that blank canvas is presently understood as a series of synaptic responses within our brain that culminate in actions. Some have posited it as an almost other worldly (non local) connectivity that’s ultimately revealed within the blank canvas. Currently I don’t tune into the other worldly posit.
I do however completely buy into the reality that we can take a blank digital computing workspace and create relevancy and meaning within a systematic framework. When I say systematically, I merely mean method.
We have tools, we have methods, we have visual representations of our intended communications. These individual elements come together (aggregate) into a whole that offers an emergence of thought, feeling and action. On their own they are merely elements; yes they do have their usefulness as independent elements, yet they are best expressed being aggregated into a wholistic representation.
Wholistic may be a reasonable term or definition to speak of regarding this aggregation.
Many of our notable Visual Mapping Knowledge Architect colleagues often speak of systematic thinking; and I understand the term and definition as it’s, for the most part; speaking of methodical or process oriented thinking. I’m big on process approaches too.
There are however very few of our colleagues who speak loudly and confidently in terms of Systems Thinking.
I’ve often wondered why: It’s a question that’s hard to answer as it’s analogous to getting blood out of a stone regarding experiencing dialogue under the systems thinking umbrella. From fellow visual mapping colleagues.
I’ve found though, there’s many within the visual mapping arena who’re not only systematic thinkers but are indeed systems thinkers who may have never realized they are or have simply never felt the need to declare or express they are.
The graphical mapping tools we use scream of system, yet we rarely speak of system or systems thinking in relation to the arenas we service and where our various expertise are expressed.
From QMS auditing, to inventory and production measures and process flows; we’re unwittingly involved within systems and interact and influence them too.
Taking into consideration we are unwitting systems thinkers who decline to express it too well; which is an oxymoron. IMO; we should be speaking of systems thinking more openly among our knowledge architect circles and learning from each other and also from the more formalized colleagues within the systems thinking arenas.
I chased my own tail like a dumb dog for a long time before I broke free from reliance upon a tool, and adopted a multiple formats approach expanding to the use of the Visual Mapping tool-box. And in doing so; I realized the progression from Mind mapping (single format) through to Visual mapping (multiple formats) was a progression of an understanding of system in itself.
Indeed the Visual mapping tool-box is encompassed (enveloped) within the systems thinking mind-set, and we knowledge architects who offer our services to clients for continuous improvement purposes should know this. But of course we do; don’t we?
That is the question, and a challenging one at that.
Conundrums galore for sure for the knowledge manager. BTW we’re all knowledge managers to a degree; if you think then you’re processing usable knowledge.
Ideation; that process of getting your thoughts on paper or digital. Paper works and digital formats work too, both are valid and for many they’ll stick to using one or the other. I find; like me, most use both formats. Paper to make cursory notes that lead into the use of software tools to enable a more defined and refined framework of reference and output.
I doodle a lot, they make absolutely no sense to anyone other than me. The subjectivity of doodling is a form of protective writing that’s naturally encoded. No need for an encryption here eh?
Sketching? No! I’ve never really gotten into sketching like some of my colleagues who are pretty damn good at it. When I say sketching, I mean the more expressive type rather than the stick characters and scribbles, which seem to work too. I’ve noted some colleagues are using very professional type of sketching products on mainly tablets. They are indeed very well done.
The graphic facilitators among our colleagues are quite artistic and if you ever get the chance to witness how and what they accomplish, it’s almost magical. To me though, the time allotted to this kind of artistic approach to creating presentations in real time for clients is almost like a stage act. The audience are captivated and enjoy seeing the final act.
There’s advantages to almost every form of graphical expressions available within the Visual mapping tool-box. Some are more powerful than others and some have had their day and the tool has to be either discarded or redesigned for further use.
The hand drawn mind map claimed the throne many years ago and kind of did have prominence for a time. Software mind mapping came along and functions were added that became a multiple formats approach to what became known as visual mapping. The tool-box of Visual mapping was established when software developers finally listened to their users who asked for rudimentary flow chart functions, Gantt functions and Excel range inputs and outputs. The range of functions and capabilities we have now within a few products is quite amazing.
A couple of notable products, whilst adding these other graphical representations to their software was expected and even demanded; the software code became bloated and the product became slow. And the file format wars began. The cloud took care of the file format wars (for now).
Behemoths such as Mindjet, SimTech and CS Odessa prevailed and do so to this day. They all have their unique and peculiar functions and capabilities. So much so; that I actually use all three products, as each product strength is not cloned or emulated within each of these three products.
I shall say though; CS Odessa the developer of the ConcepDraw software range has in fact done the best job of offering three distinct products that are extremely powerful yet can and do have a synergy (they communicate with each other) within an office suite build. The beauty of this approach is that the three distinct products of Mindmap, Diagram and Project can be code design supported and updated as individual products and not be responsible for being a bloated and over/under coded product that needs to be continually monitored for code errors and crashes.
So we know there’s many software products for enabling ideation to be realized. But does the knowledge manager need to or feel obliged to create, manage and present her information and knowledge in a graphical format at all?
To be or not to be a Visual Mapper is the question; and the answer to that is no, not really.
The efficacy of knowledge manager of this part of the 21st century is dependent upon knowing what formats to use; linear and non-linear to create manage and share (present) in formats that have the most synaptic impacts on colleagues ,clients and employees.
In many cases the developers of these awesome products, many I use and abuse have, continued to develop amazing functions and capabilities into their products and seem to have taken their eyes off what has been developed for the knowledge manager parallel to what they have offered.
Again, the knowledge manager doesn’t really need to grab a graphical mapping product to create, manage and share ideation, innovation and creativity with their colleagues and others.
Maybe the developers were aware or maybe they were wilfully ignorant of other approaches that were plodding away and gaining huge user numbers within personal development, academia and business productivity areas.
The graphical mapping developers may indeed be scrambling to develop functions that emulate these non competing product ranges that may in fact challenge the visual mappers reliance upon graphical mapping tools they generally use.
It is after all the job of the information handler, knowledge manager/ architect to be in total control using even relational database functions to keep all of her information and knowledge available in a product/service that is both comfortable to use/view/comprehend and has a very light learning curve.
I continue to use my preferred visual mapping products; yet I have been amazed as to the exponential development of Notion and Roam Research in particular. Have these products caught the visual mapping developers off guard? I’m thinking maybe.
Content has fooled us for way too long; hasn’t it?
The knowledge manager knows all about content. It’s the substance of meaning and the quality that gives purpose to what we wish to communicate.
As we choose a tool to create the framework for the content of our communications; it may be linear or even non-linear. The tools equip us to get the job of communicating the purpose and meaning of the growing content we use and exchange.
Taking a look at many of the works of fellow visual mappers; I’m rather verklempt, and not in a recoverable way when I see some of the overwhelming content of visual maps shared.
I hope I’m not alone as I say that; It’s an indictment against the arena that many create and publish a lot of extremely poor quality visual maps.
I want to be clear; This is an observation and not a judgment. The judgments come from those who look at published works and say; WTF can that do for me?
From the plate of spaghetti mind maps to the hashtag reference overload to the downright WTF mind/visual maps, I scratch my head in disbelieve and wonder if we (yes me too) have gotten our strategies all wrong for sharing and promoting the benefits of visual mapping.
A colleague of mine recently spoke of his continuing work using a mix of mind maps and info graphics with clients to get points across succinctly. He spoke to me of his success using a wall within a meeting or conference room to physically hand draw on the whole wall to create a story line of his clients system issues and potential solutions. I’ve even tried this and it actually works very well; the engagement success with participants works very well too and the information content sticks with all involved.
Of course we know this method is admittedly old school, wasteful of time and resources and harps back to the flip chart days that worked very well back in the day (that day being a long time ago). It actually got rather messy though; didn’t it?
Yet here we are in this part of the 21st century and many of us are using rather impressive technology relating to graphical mapping and expressiveness to continue to create messy WTF visual communications that have a load of content, yet lack something important.
I see this in particular with my favourite products from the overpopulated mind/visual maps via MindManager (and every other competitor) and the same deal applies to TheBrain and also the recent addition of Thortspace. There’s just a natural tendency for users (you and me) to cram a whole load of shit into our graphical structures that screams content yet lacks context.
So that important thing is CONTEXT. It does seem there’s a semantic misunderstanding for many when we speak of content and context. Just like in the QMS field, procedure and process are often misused and interchanged to mean one and the same thing.
We do come across many visual mappers who make pretty damn awesome yet huge (WTF) and extremely useful visual maps for us to view. They have a ton of content yet the map is so large that it becomes that plate of spaghetti and the context of the original quality and purpose of communications is lost along with any level of client/audience engagement.
Content may be king; yet the king is naked without being clothed in context.
Indeed there may exist much relevant content in our mapped communications and surprisingly even some useful context; we must however continually remind ourselves as to what gives content meaning by way of context.
Contextual extraction is key; yet from the get go we should really be practising good creation and management of content and adding context as we go.
To extract context would be awesome; yes there are tools out there that can take a written article and extract the relevant context for the user to analyze and choose what is relevant for further use.
I personally use my own T.A.P method for doing it right from the get go.
Regardless of how we add or extract context, we should really have good practices that build up from a good foundation that can take the stress of our further adding and building upon content.
Regarding the content we build; there’s a fine line between brilliance and stupidity relating to the outcomes of the work we do as knowledge architect. If at all we ignore the equally important function of context; we become like that king who may have much content yet is completely naked without context.
So the further misunderstanding or; complete understanding and willing ignorance of how information is aggregated data and that information is merely instructional at many levels; and that when context is added to information, we end up with relevant knowledge.
Much more to say of course; I’ve blithered enough and look forward to your feedback and comments. Fire away!
What really annoys you about the graphical mapping arena?
I would suggest you read “annoys you” as (pisses you off).
I’ll use the nicer word of “ticks off”.
There’s a lot to like, even love about this exciting yet frustrating software development arena.
■ I love the fact that everyone keeps in touch and collaborates openly and freely. ■ I love the speed of development for all of my favourite products. ■ I love the developers because they listen to their users and keep in touch.
Now I want to be absolutely clear and state what I’ve just written above is absolute and utter bullshit. Yup; my loved up “I love” comments are indeed not true at all by any stretch of the imagination.
There is though a lot to just simply like about the arena.
■ There’s a plethora of software services to choose from. ■ They’re all, for the most part, rather good products. Very few are crap these days. ■ There’s a few who don’t pretend to listen to their users and actually engage with them.
You know the products for sure, you use some of them and they’ve become your go to products and services that make you the effective knowledge architect you’ve become.
They are indeed all pretty damn good products that (in reality) all do pretty much the same thing as their competitors. Emulating each others functions and capabilities seems to be the unashamed thing competitors do apparently these days. In reality there’s very little (That means there’s some) creativity and innovation coming from the developers at all.
That select few who actually listen to our BMW ranting (Bitching, Moaning, Whining)? You and I know who they are and have a good relationship with them. We say good things about their product and they in turn stick by us (yup that’s the game we play).
Software development is tough game to be involved in. Creating a product that has its beginnings as a thought process that seems to be grabbed from the so called ether; yet is actually a needed (read demanded) product brought forth in almost perfect timing and order. I cite Thortspace and Goalscape as perfect examples of good timing and ordered development.
Some products are developed with the main purpose of engaging a user base and ultimately to be acquired by a larger developer or group of investors. There is a sense of disingenuousness about this process IMO; yet it’s completely understandable when developers who are people like you and I who get older and just must realize they need to experience some kind of well deserved payback for their good works. I say thank you to them too.
Equally some products are in it for the long haul; I have used both TheBrain and MindManager for donkeys years and am happy they have stayed true to their original calling of being the leaders in their fields and sticking around.
What ticks me off about this arena? ■ The lack of real, true and genuine group collaborations. ■ The unfortunate and challenging reality of ego based competitiveness ■ The wastefulness of many developers who’ve gained notoriety by blatant plagiarism
There’s more that ticks me of, annoys me and pisses me off about this arena; yet I am hopeful, being the eternal optimist that this arena may experience a coming together of tools, methods and mind-sets. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Mention the $$$ value of Visual Mapping and people magically listen.
Have you ever felt you’re just speaking into an echo chamber and hearing your own voice say blah, blah, blah? And if I’ve experienced this, then I’m sure you’ve experienced it too.
The visual mapping arena has rather awesome thought leaders within it, and those of whom I know personally have all experienced the phenomena of speaking knowledge mapping truths and no one is really interested or even listens.
That is until we mention “hey you can actually monetize your information and knowledge”. Holy shit, the stampede begins right after you say that; doesn’t it?
We often speak of creating relevancy, managing effectively and exchanging at cost. Yup that word cost just gets them right off the bat. “Cost you say; how do I do that?” is the cry and it’s a loud cry.
We’ve certainly shared the tools, methods and mind-set of visual mapping over the years; haven’t we? And I would say for the most part it has been a great success; not only monetary success for us but in an academic/training way too.
The absolute joy of training someone to become a more effective information handler and knowledge manager via the tools we use, the methods we teach and the monetizing opportunities we share is priceless to both us and our customers.
As knowledge architects we build frameworks for our colleagues and clients that can be built upon and exponentially expanded upon too. At the base level we help people become more in control of the apparent maelstrom they get themselves into regarding personal, academic and business issues that often overwhelm them.
OMG I often think I should have officially studied psychology; as it’s clear at all levels of involvement within this arena, we seem to be pseudo psychologists who kind of baby sit our clients into a place of calm, clarity and control.
The skill-set of visual mapping does seem to be very prominent, in particular, within the personal development arena. I’ve come across many colleagues who are personal coaches and they all use a form of visual mapping from Mind Maps to Goalscapes, to flowcharts and also info graphics. So these colleagues are true visual mappers who use the ever expanding tool-box full of relevant graphical formats to create, manage and share (exchange) appropriate linear and non-linear information and knowledge.
The monetizing though, that gets many super interested.
I use two products that have allowed me to monetize much of my training work. They are Mindjet MindManager (I use a legacy version) and TheBrain.
MindManager is a behemoth of a graphical mapping product that has endured for many years and has evolved into possibly the only visual mapping information management and presentation tool you’ll ever need.
And then there’s TheBrain (Developed by The Brain Technologies), it’s a pretty damn awesome product that drives past any highly developed product I know of to date that is a true knowledge mapper.
Monetizing your information and knowledge using these two products?
MindManager has an HTML5 output that allows the user to package as much information, data and associated attachments into a visual map and then package it as the HTML file format. This is a rather good way of packaging content for sale to clients. Take a look at the product and discover what this output can do for your monetizing of your information.
TheBrain enables the user (subscription required) to sync what you create from desktop to device via a very secure cloud storage system. This allows you to create a Brain, load it with as much information and knowledge as you like. Sync it to the cloud, sign into the cloud version and choose to share by way of a customized link that you can also unshare too (total control).
I create information/knowledge packages using both MindManager and TheBrain methods for clients. I sell them directly to clients via the HTML5 output and equally I do the same using TheBrain method too via cloud.
At the time of this writing, I am continuing to use and abuse a very interesting product/service called Thortspace (TS). It has given me a new and different perspective on how we may create, manage and share information and knowledge that is complete;y free from the hierarchical approach of all other graphical knowledge mapping products. It's actually a brilliant and even genius product and approach and a further 3D type of approach to visualizing your graphical knowledge work. I look forward to seeing what TS becomes and am currently enjoying using it to discover how it may fit into my software portfolio for personal, academic and business work and models. I am hoping to discover how I may also monetize information and knowledge packages using TS. To date I am rather new to the product and may report back if and when I find a way to monetize and package.
I encourage you to investigate these three products.
The knowledge manager of this part of the 21st century is unfortunately undermined. Maybe the word underappreciated is a better term.
The knowledge manager within any organization is that person who clearly understands the systematic flow of how Personal development, Academic (Training) enhancement and Business productivity are inextricably connected so as to be an expression of a system.
I use the term systematic as it defines more succinctly the relationship that exist between the three independent yet interdependent areas.
The order of personal, academic and business are discretionary based on need; yet they are without a doubt interconnected.
The fact that we communicate within our chosen fields and environments of expertise allows us to view our challenges at a personal development approach of communications with ourselves and other with clarity.
Academic enhancement within our fields and environments also allows us to create, manage and share (publish) our training approaches more than likely making them understandable (universal and generic) for all levels of our environment.
And Business productivity is that area where we must be on the ball and have all the relevant information and knowledge to Define, Measure, Analyze, control and Publish to all relevant functions of our environment of production.
The knowledge manager: well it may be anyone within life, education or business at all levels. Yes we often come across those knowledge managers who just seem to get it, understand it; yet they keep it to themselves.
You see; Knowledge Management isn’t actually a position within any area. It’s an ability that some, not all, have tapped into. The more I meander through opportunities with colleagues, clients and other potentials; I invariably come across like minded thinkers a doers whom I may define as an undiscovered Knowledge Architect.
“The knowledge architect of this part of the 21st century is defined by their ability to completely understand the differences and advantages of both liner and non-linear knowledge frameworks and when it is appropriate to create, manage and share (present) specific formats with absolute clarity for effective knowledge communications”
Yes the knowledge architect; often that person who’s a little off the wall, even weird, yet is the unsung hero within any environment who can tap into an ethereal type of understanding of systematic thinking and express it in ways that some of the most recognized gifted types in any environment seem to lack.
Of course the knowledge architect, that undermined knowledge manager keeps their gifts, for the most part, well hidden form scrutiny and exposure. We’ve often read that the most gifted individuals within any environment are those who can communicate with clarity to a degree that business especially pays top dollar for.
From the cleaner to the mail sorter, and of course to you and me; the most gifted are the most unexpected epiphanies hidden in plain sight.
Regardless of format (linear or non-linear); the predominant communication trait of the knowledge architect is a graphical format. And Mind mapping seems to be the most prominent form of visual expression.
They have accumulated many tools within a tool-box of visual mapping products that are both linear and non-linear, and regardless of tool chosen; they use them extremely effectively to create, manage and present information and knowledge.
I firmly believe this knowledge architect is a skilled person who’s skill-set should be tapped into, realized and recognized as a certified skill that would enhance and exponentially expand the opportunities of all who would dare be registered and certified as a knowledge architect.
Pie in the sky maybe; yet the graphical mapping arena has wasted much time in products that are pretty damn awesome yet have become personal toys to many and have unfortunately missed out on being a mainstream recognized knowledge management tool rather and have become an outlier.
It would indeed be rather interesting to debate and discuss the potential for a recognition process for the knowledge manager who wishes to have a registered badge of certification recognition.
The late great Mr.Tony Buzan: Taken from us in unfortunate circumstances and the void that was left; well I hope it has been filled with capable people and leaders that preserve his legacy.
I do so admire hand drawn mind maps; as they shout out loud as to the individuality that’s pumped into them by the authors.
I’ve never actually been a Buzan mind mapper though. Yes I’ve hand drawn; I may even be honest and say my mind maps have never echoed any form of the Buzan rules for mapping. I. guess the closest I got to drawing Buzan type maps was the radiant format.
Yet I admire hand drawn mind maps (yeah I’ve said that three times now). They have an artistic flair and are extremely pleasing to the eye and also have distinct synaptic form that’s hypnotizing.
I was showcasing a knowledge mapping product to a few folk some time ago and in the process of presenting the functions and capabilities of the product that was to be a door opener for a knowledge management opportunity; the damn product crashed and the cloud failed me; again!
Now; in any regular situation, the ordinary person among us (who is really ordinary eh) would just have some form of a tizzy, or as we really call it; breakdown.
Yes I panicked and felt really let down by my favourite knowledge mapping tool. Yet I pressed the metaphorical pause button and thought “hey I know how to hand draw mind maps”. So I simply walked over the standard whiteboard and started to draw a mind map of the subject I was intending to speak of.
My ugly hand drawn min maps worked and engaged my audience fairly well. A few mentioned they were really impressed as to my composure ( what; I didn’t show may panic?)as my software crashed and could have made me look like and feel like a blithering idiot. That got me thinking.
In this part of the 21st century, we’re basically hypnotized by technology aren’t we? Hand held devices of all shapes and sizes, the cell phones that have become true computing devices and the cloud (when it’s stable) becomes our virtual office.
Yet when everything goes to hell in a hand basket; the hand drawn mind map comes to the rescue. After my experience, I decided to become a more effective hand drawing mind mapping communicator. No I didn’t draw stick men or add silly quotes, song lines or poetic gibberish; I simply revisited my particular form of hand drawn mind mapping and improved upon the graphical layout.
I did though take a second look at what Mr. Buzan insisted was a real mind map and not as he often said “a proto mind map”. Oh yes I was a proto min mapper no doubt about that.
In the process of investigating the Buzan method further, I re-engaged with hand drawn mind mapping to a degree to which I now advise many who are interested in becoming more effective knowledge managers to consider a course in hand drawn Buzan mind mapping first before they proceed to relying upon software and services.
It saved the day for me when I needed it, and I often, in my spare time create artistic mind maps that seem to take me to a place of relaxation and almost a meditative state.
It is IMO very a worthwhile endeavour to acquaint yourself with the Buzan methodology and mind set; you won’t regret it and you may even discover that it may save your presentation ass too at some point. So yes hand draw, and do it your own particular or peculiar way; but I would most certainly advise anyone to go straight to a Buzan mapper for instruction and leading.
Than you Mr. Buzan for your wonderful gift of hand drawn mind maps.
Some just don’t ever break free from the basics do they?
Some of our friends and colleagues whom we’ve introduced to the tools, methods and mind set of mid mapping at the basic level and through to graphical knowledge mapping at the intellectual extreme; well they frustrate the friggin hell outa me at times.
The basics of anything is a natural process though; isn’t it? And as much as their discovery of a new tool, and that deer in the headlights look many of us have when we see it for the first time; unbelievable as it is, many simply don’t break free of the basics at all.
I recall my first dip into the mind mapping pool, donkeys years ago; it was quite the experience and I had to get my water wings on (remember those?).
The genesis; that beginning to our journey in and through and without a doubt becomes a maelstrom we must learn to navigate regarding tools, methods and the melding of mind sets.
Many we introduce; some (very few) become experts, even thought leaders, and many are stuck like the needle of a record player in a groove of their own making. That groove seems to be their comfort zone of repetitively reworking their maps to make them look even prettier. And the maps?; OMG they are an expression of how much they may have misunderstood how to use their tools and the potentials for getting past information and moving into knowledge mapping/management.
As I write this blithering article I am scanning some of our colleagues who publish mind maps. BTW I use the term mindmap as it’s a convenient term that is a mistaken yet mainstream understanding of an expression of graphical mapping (yes it’s an SEO curse).
Some mind maps are damn impressive information overviews; yet most are like a plate of frigging spaghetti.
I really don’t get it regarding why some who obviously have the ability to understand aggregated data and to make it into a mind mapped graphical expression, only to lose the intention of clarity by presenting a plate of spaghetti to you, me and the world is a challenge to the intellect.
The number of WTF moments and sighs of “shit here we go again with the charts stuff” when I hear and see audience reactions to one of those plates. There’s even a place where you can join and share the hell out of your information overviews. I left that nonsense approach some time ago.
I get; the need for some of our colleagues to be loved within the pseudo arena of mind mapping and to be recognized as some kind of expert, guru and even thought leader within the mind mapping arena (not a real one btw).
But the continual repeat, repeat of formats and overcrowded mind maps that defy an understanding that enables a user to get past mere information overviews and into the knowledge management area (a real arena btw) is just bereft of meaning to me.
BTW; This phenomena of creating overwhelming, confusing and contradictory graphical expressions isn’t in reality a newbie thing at all. We have some of our seasoned visual mapping colleagues who use multiple formats of graphical expressions; and the overwhelming, confusing and contradictory presentations come from them too. I’ve even made up a few WTF maps.
So getting past the newbie phase is one challenge; yet the bigger challenge is to progress and navigate beyond the maelstrom of newbieizm (I know it’s not real word). That further challenge of a tendency of presenting overwhelming overviews that just, well; overwhelm. It is a conundrum to be solved.
Have you also experienced this phenomena of perpetual newbieizm that is seen in so much of the work of those we’ve introduced the tools, methods and mind set of mind/visual mapping to?
Have you assisted your well meaning colleagues to break free of that maelstrom of basicizm (yup another unreal word)?
It is a riddle (conundrum) to be solved; yet it is interesting in a psychological sense to understand and study why you, me and everyone else either continue to do this or used to, and have broken free of this practice.
I look forward to your particular take and experiences.
Feel free to blither and if you’re as good at blithering as me; it may be even be interesting.
The graphical knowledge mapping arena is kinda boring
Well it was; that is until Thortspace arrived. Now from this point on I’m going to use TS, as I always seem to misspell Thortspace and insult the developer and seasoned users. I’m really good at insulting anyway, even gifted lol.
TS; well I define it as knowledge architects dream, yet conversely it may be your nightmare to get to know how to use and abuse it. In my case a willing nightmare.
The dream is that its arrived like prophet preaching salvation to those of us who’ve been trapped in very good, even awesome knowledge management tools that have themselves been trapped in the hierarchical frameworks they cleave to. Hierarchies may become extinct to the knowledge handler of this part of the 21st century. They have their uses for linear processes; yet TS handles that too in a very quirky way.
TS is a complete break from hierarchy. I am a long time user of TheBrain; it’s integral to my business portfolio of software that enables me to flippantly call myself a Knowledge Architect. Yet the hierarchical structure just kills my expectations for furthering the knowledge management arena.
A note regarding any comparisons between TheBrain and Thortspace: There aren’t any notable comparisons I can note that are worthy of comparing like for like at this time. Both products are unique. TheBrain is hierarchical and associative and Thortspace is completely free of Hierarchy. They don’t currently compete with each other; yet I believe they will vie for a common user group soon enough. If a user wants to break free from Hierarchy Thortspace is the thing; end of!
TS has indeed been a light at the end of the tunnel for my knowledge mapping/management needs. I am a serious knowledge manager who needs a serious knowledge mapping tool that allows me freedom to toggle between linear and non-linear views. The Think and Do views of TS do just that for me.
Is it perfect? Hell no; there’s much more development required for it be perceived as The knowledge managers tool of choice. But what TS does have is a sound foundation in a format that enables a true sense of where graphical knowledge mapping/management is heading and what it can and shall achieve.
Thortspace is going places and it’s going to get known more in the mainstream pretty damn fast. The user base is growing exponentially and the feedback I’m getting is that corporate is having a more than curious look at it too.
Oh I mentioned the nightmare of getting to know and abuse TS. To date; I’m way past the beginners stage of frustrating functions, capabilities and behaviours of the TS product/service. It’s been a journey of journeys getting to know the product as I tend to (like many of you) make judgments and assumptions of a product based on what I already use in my mainstream.
Getting past the beginners stages of TS is such a relief. It’s at that point when your baptism of fire is over that you may see the real usage of TS. It’s a rather good product with interesting functions and capabilities, even brilliant and genius. I’ve had a few epiphanies already to date regarding what I may use TS for, even some colleagues and clients have requested I show them what it is capable of. I’m going to leave the showcasing to the folks at TS; they’ll do a better job than me at my stage of newbie use of the product/service to date.
I won’t go into any of the functions and capabilities here; I’m hoping Phil Shepherd (Founding Director at TS) or a developer colleague at Thortspace will have the time to contribute a meaningful article that would overview what TS is all about and what it can do for you as an established or seasoned knowledge handler/manager.
Mind mapping; It had such potential regarding becoming a mainstream tool for creating, managing and the exchanging of information and knowledge.
The SEO has been abused to hell by product developers who’ve created yet more clones of products they’ve either admired or simply plagiarized. So there’s a plethora of products on the market, and there’s more being developed as I write for sure.
Some have come and gone; those that have endured are the products that have gained some kind of notoriety merely by way of their user base exposing the product.
Users can and have been abused though. For a developer to abandon a global desktop favorite in order to drag their old users into a cloud based system is almost criminal; isn’t it?
The failure of product isn’t down to what’s the best or worst product; it’s user based. Remember the Betamax versus VHS debacle? Yup Betamax was far superior to VHS but politics and corporate shenanigans along with the user base of VHS won the day. Of course this exposes my generation and age eh lol.
The analogy though applies today for sure when we speak of the mind mapping product out there. Some are simply genius and some are, well; absolute and utter crap.
Unfortunately the untimely passing of the great late Tony Buzan revealed an abject disrespect for the man and his mind mapping legacy.
The mind mapping arena; that mom and pop cottage industry that gave birth to the software mind mapping arena goes back a long way. There was a few rather good products back in the day; I used a few of them. The genesis of what became MindManager (Mindman) developed by the Jetter’s has endured and become a corporate behemoth. However in the process it lost the stage of being the peoples mind mapping product to other products that stayed true to a more organic Mind mapping experience.
I would say Xmind has become the peoples modern Mind/Visual mapping product due its price point for regular everyday folk. The fork in the road was when the Jetter’s left Mindjet to pursue other altruistic ventures. Since then Mindjet grew, went through struggles and then was obtained by Corel.
Mind mapping fading to grey?
Unfortunately mind mapping has become passe to many. The term mind map doesn’t do much for the modern information manager at all. When we have other competing products that really don’t rely solely on non linear radiant formats and rely on desktop to cloud to device apps that are so well designed, the user really doesn’t need to view their information in a mid map at all.
This is certainly where the mind mapping developers have dropped the ball. They actually believe their product matters to the common man who has moved on and the mind mapping developers are stuck in their mind mapping parallel universe.
Sounds oh so ominous and depressing doesn’t it? But it’s reality; mind maps on their own just don’t cut it any longer. The developers managed to grab some inspiration from their users who demanded more formats such as flowcharts, concept maps, timelines and other graphical outputs.
The dovetailing output to Office formats and project management was rather good too
Of course we have such products as Notion, Roam Research and Obsidian now that have basically offered their users a linear approach that just works for the busy person of this part of the 21st century.
Maybe the salvation of the mind mapping products is to take a look at some kind of collaboration with or to these linear products.
All conjecture of course and we could ramble on about it to no avail.
The developers are notorious for not acknowledging their user base opinions or suggestions for product improvement. And when there is a decent improvement proposal made, the user suggestion is met with the usual “That’s a great idea, we have that in our road map”.
Makes you want to tell them to F***off eh?
Fading to grey? Yes it has over the years; yet maybe a resurgence may be heading our way in the guise of some interesting desktop and cloud products that may impress a new generation of graphical knowledge mappers/managers.
Strong and abusive language warning for sensitive girly man types.
Of late; it's been a roller coaster journey for me regarding my use and abuse of social media. It certainly hasn't been easy and the roller coaster ride I speak of hasn't been the amusement park type.
It's been a rough couple of months for sure; at times I've thought about throwing the fucking towel in altogether. And being the quintessential Glaswegian who never gives in and never surrenders; I thought to myself "Fuck social media and fuck those who use it for nefarious agendas, I'm going to do my thing anyway".
Well my thing is knowledge mapping/management and I classify myself as being rather successful over the past 30 years of heavy duty involvement within the mind mapping arena and also the graphical knowledge management arena.
We graphical mappers are a really fucked up group in reality. How so? Well we are individuals who for the most part are strong willed and we don't work well with other visual mappers at all. The competitiveness of our arena has made us loners who rarely collaborate with so called fellow knowledge architects and have become weary of our competing colleagues who tend to become agent provocateurs to our quest for stability and success.
The further reasons are numerous of course and if you are one of my close knowledge architect friends with whom I have worked very well with (yes we can accomplish it sometimes); you'll know exactly the gist of the "We don't work well with others" thing. And if you're in denial; well I don't know what the fuck to say that would jolt a doze of reality into your denying mindset. It's not all roses and bubblegum in our arena at all.
Our knowledge management mojo gets lost sometimes; not only lost it needs Indiana Jones to find it, as it becomes a quest for the Holy Grail at times to find it again.
When it gets lost, it's a struggle; a trapped down a deep hole with apparently no way out.
Yet there is indeed a way out. And that way is metaphorical of course, just like that deep hole.
The genuine colleagues within the knowledge management arena are so astute so as to see your slide down that hole. They recognize the disaster that may be pending for you and they reach out to you. They reach down that hole and you see a hand, and there’s a voice; it speaks loudly “Hey grab my hand, I’ll lift you out”.
Metaphors speak volumes eh. Our colleagues, those of whom we’ve worked well with in the past, well they’re the one’s who reach out and lift you. The others who previously took from you and ran like the fucking wind away from you when they fucked you over; (those agent provocateurs) they are nowhere to be seen.
So; I am thankful that there have been some within our arenas who have been so genuine, so as to even deliver that proverbial Spiritual experience to us when we needed it. There are times when you reach a point where you may even find calmness in the maelstrom of your mojo missing escapade, and you find that spark of motivation that seems to come from outside of our consciousness, finding that mojo that’s in reality simply hiding from us.
You see; our mojo never gets lost, it gets misplaced and often becomes tainted with the plethora of ideologies associated with our almost spiritual quest for temporal perfection.
Stay true to yourself, your values, beliefs, thoughts and actions.
It’s your system of success; make it even more successful.
Founder of Visual Mapper: A graphical Knowledge Architect with a passion for assisting those who seek to become more effective information and knowledge managers. I use the tools, methods and mindset of Visual Mapping.