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Mind Maps: the Poor Man's Design Tool

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the asking-for-directions-is-taboo dept.

Programming 97

CowboyRobot writes "'UML too complex? Flowcharts too old school? Mind maps offer a simple way to capture designs and weave them together elegantly.' The quickest way to begin designing a program is to simply write down the steps in normal text, but this method breaks down with more complex projects. UML can be a useful format for larger projects but can be difficult to get right, especially when trying to use it with a less conventional project. The middle ground are 'Mind Maps,' 'a diagrammatic representation of loosely connected ideas. They are a central tool in brainstorming sessions. Mind map tools help capture ideas and then mush them around until you have the structure you want.'"

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97 comments

Oh boy (5, Funny)

Mska (2742945) | about 2 years ago | (#41535247)

Slashdot discovers mind maps. News at 11.

Re:Oh boy (4, Insightful)

stephanruby (542433) | about 2 years ago | (#41535355)

Slashdot discovers mind maps. News at 11.

Wait until you guys discover doodling... Doodling is my secret competitive advantage.

And unlike mind mapping, you don't need some fancy software to do it with, I doodle my ideas on paper napkins, pizza boxes, and unopened envelopes all the time.

Re:Oh boy (3, Interesting)

isorox (205688) | about 2 years ago | (#41535415)

Slashdot discovers mind maps. News at 11.

Wait until you guys discover doodling... Doodling is my secret competitive advantage.

And unlike mind mapping, you don't need some fancy software to do it with, I doodle my ideas on paper napkins, pizza boxes, and unopened envelopes all the time.

What's wrong with opened envelopes?

Re:Oh boy (3, Funny)

dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) | about 2 years ago | (#41536127)

unopened envelopes

What's wrong with opened envelopes?

Much cheaper: you get less bills

Re:Oh boy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41537931)

Got a diagram for that ?

Re:Oh boy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41535497)

You can do mind maps on paper too, fucktard.

Re:Oh boy (5, Funny)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | about 2 years ago | (#41535751)

Perhaps you can come back to myspace and doodle my google til its reddit and I yahoo all over your facebook.

Re:Oh boy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41537171)

you sir are brilliant. i can't agree more. doodling is far superior than using fancy charting software. plus, i'm too stupid to use fancy software like that, i find it annoying.

Re:Oh boy (1)

ebbe11 (121118) | about 2 years ago | (#41537379)

And unlike mind mapping, you don't need some fancy software to do it with, I doodle my ideas on paper napkins, pizza boxes, and unopened envelopes all the time.

Ahem...

Mind mapping is perfectly possible using pen and paper. Actually, IMNSHO it is much better than using a program as there are no constraints on how you make the mind map. You might call it structured doodling :-)

Re:Oh boy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41538103)

I was doing mind mapping AKA spider notes back in 1987. No software available, much less required.

Re:Oh boy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41542033)

Slashdot discovers mind maps. News at 11.

... I doodle my ideas on paper napkins, pizza boxes, and unopened envelopes all the time.

Platform independence at its finest!

File under: Been there, done that dept. (-1)

KrazyDave (2559307) | about 2 years ago | (#41535253)

OpenDoc, Apple Computer ca. 1990. Was truly a thing of beauty.

Ahem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41535257)

Why do I feel like I'm being marketed to?

Re:Ahem (3, Informative)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | about 2 years ago | (#41535433)

I don't know - it's a free / open source mind mapping tool he recommends.

I suspect (4, Interesting)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about 2 years ago | (#41535261)

I suspect we all know what a Mind Map is, and what their uses are. Alas, I don't know of any program which implements the original concept for Mind Maps (BBC2's "Use Your Head" series from the 1970s). Does any existing program support cyclic relationships, for example? Other than as a hack with external arrows or similar added as decorations.

Re:I suspect (2)

Bill Currie (487) | about 2 years ago | (#41535349)

Actually, I'd been working as a programmer for about 15 years before I heard of mind maps, and that was in a TESOL training course, so I suspect that not everyone knows what a mind map is.

Re:I suspect (2)

shaitand (626655) | about 2 years ago | (#41535463)

That doesn't make the submission news. Forget reading TFA, there is no FA.

Re:I suspect (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41535537)

It's pretty well-known in the UK - I think we covered it in school.

Re:I suspect (2)

mikael_j (106439) | about 2 years ago | (#41535645)

That may be but I'm pretty sure a lot of people know about mind maps. Hell, here in Sweden I was "taught" how to use mind maps in school sometime around grade 5, then again for grade 8 and finally a couple of years later in high school. And so were all my classmates.

Re:I suspect (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#41535787)

Actually, I'd been working as a programmer for about 15 years before I heard of mind maps, and that was in a TESOL training course, so I suspect that not everyone knows what a mind map is.

well, judging by your slashdot id it's entirely possible you went to school in the fifties but for the rest of us this is really is a blast from elementary school.

Re:I suspect (1)

somersault (912633) | about 2 years ago | (#41536337)

I'm about to turn 29, and live in the UK. We didn't cover mind maps in school. However I heard of them about 3 years ago when the head of our Engineering dept got me to make a tool for exporting data from one of our web apps into a format that could be viewed using Freemind [sourceforge.net] .

Re:I suspect (1)

jlusk4 (2831) | about 2 years ago | (#41537855)

:) Ok, tiger, good one. Made me laugh (but quietly, since I'm in a cube farm).

I can guarantee you no one on my team (of developers, of varying ages) knows what mind maps are, except our BA, who got handed one by someone on ANOTHER team.

Re:I suspect (1)

rioki (1328185) | about 2 years ago | (#41546867)

Yea but does that make them better developers? Thinking about a problem is the key discipline, what mental crutches you use and how you communicate the results is mostly irrelevant. I for one find mind maps of only little use and use a a structured text document written in markdown...

Re:I suspect (4, Informative)

digitig (1056110) | about 2 years ago | (#41535513)

Vue [tufts.edu] from Tufts university supports cyclic relationships. It also has good tools for plotting routes through a mind map which are good for getting a linear form out of a model. I use it a lot for complex reports and essays, with good results.

Re:I suspect (1)

moodel (614846) | about 2 years ago | (#41535521)

Use Your Head is a book by Tony Buzan (not sure if he had any input in the BBC2 series). I do not think you will find a suitable program since part of the learning process is designing your own map with associated colours and visual triggers.

Re:I suspect (3, Informative)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about 2 years ago | (#41535555)

Use Your Head is a book by Tony Buzan (not sure if he had any input in the BBC2 series). I do not think you will find a suitable program since part of the learning process is designing your own map with associated colours and visual triggers.

Yes, I have his book, and he was behind the BBC2 series in the 1970s. I watched the series, and found the information quite useful in general life and in studies (but not great for lecture notes in math, science, or engineering topics). Unfortunately, his ideas degraded between the TV series and the book and software, so that the mind maps in his book involve branching from a central concept without cycles. I really wish the TV series was still available, but it can't be found on the BBC shop, and it was broadcast in the days before video recorders were common.

Re:I suspect (1)

RDW (41497) | about 2 years ago | (#41536915)

Unfortunately, his ideas degraded between the TV series and the book and software

There also seems to be a bunch of First Earth Battalion style prose in a recent edition of The Mind Map Book ("We dedicate this book to all those Warriors of the Mind fighting in the Century of the Brain and Millenium of the Mind for the expansion and freedom of Human Intelligence"). Apparently this stuff can pretty much turn you into a Jedi:

"The Mentally Literate Human is capable of turning on the radiant synergistic thinking engines, and creating conceptual frameworks and new paradigms of limitless possibility...the 'mental screen...'...of the Radiant Thinking Mind...continues to grow with an infinite possibility for size and dimension."

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=HqEzXjVQjsYC&pg=PA244 [google.co.uk]

Re:I suspect (3, Insightful)

war4peace (1628283) | about 2 years ago | (#41535577)

That's exactly what I disliked about mind maps. They're too damn limited. You have a central point and stem all your directions from there. But cyclic relations don't exist, also you can't make any many-to-one or one-to-many references. If point X refers to more than one branch, you'd have to hack the mind map to display it.

Re:I suspect (4, Funny)

3dr (169908) | about 2 years ago | (#41540073)

Back in my youth, I had the thought that, since I'm drawing it on paper, I should be able to connect *this blob* with *that* blob by drawing a line...

It was a risky thought, since mind maps were always taught to be acyclic, but as was common, no one else was around when I created these diagrams. I contemplated what path it would lead me down if I decided to try this. It may lead to such infractions as tearing the consumer information tags off all my mattresses, but that was a moral risk to my very core that I decided to take.

The fateful day came. Well, it was actually the same day as when I got the thought of taking such drastic action in one of my graphical creations, and in fact it was just mere seconds later, but whatever, there I was facing my destiny. After a feverish last glance around, I tried it, using my Berol Prismacolor Copenhagen Blue PC 906, and it worked! I connected two already-connected orange blobs with a blue arrow! I wiped the sweat from my hands on my pants, and continued to decorate the new incestuous interloper with a halo of bright green dots.

In the years since that discovery, I have wisened a bit, lost a little of that rebellion hellion, and promised myself, my family, and my country that I would never attempt such a risky diagrammatic insurgency as that! I should be following the rules!

(I don't remember ever learning about "mind maps" in elementary school (in the 70's), and while looking for diagramming tools I stumbled upon a "Mind Maps" book in 2004 or so. For software developers such as myself, much of what a mind map attempts to do is what we already do (mentally or on a whiteboard) when gathering requirements, or brainstorming app structure, or even user experience. But what struck me as so silly about mind maps was the emphasis on coloring/doodling within very structured organizational rules. It is a real dichotomy. BTW, I do not actually own a Berol Prismacolor Copenhagen Blue PC 906, although it is real. Very real.)

Re:I suspect (1)

evil_aaronm (671521) | about 2 years ago | (#41542745)

Well done, sir. Unfortunately, I can't mod you up as you rightly deserve.

Re:I suspect (1)

gottabeme (590848) | about 2 years ago | (#41571731)

Ditto.

Re:I suspect (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 2 years ago | (#41536055)

I never "got" what's so special about mindmaps. It seems just like how used to flesh out ideas on paper for as long as I can remember (well before my first computer at the very least), but using a specific notation style. In practice I found being forced to use mindmap-style distracts from the actual thought processes it's supposed to help.

Re:I suspect (1)

rioki (1328185) | about 2 years ago | (#41546899)

Same here; but also do that with UML. I do most of my diagrams on paper and they are not "pure" UML. It is a tool and you adapt the tool to the problem, not the problem to the tool. And that is why pen and paper or a whiteboard are so much more powerful than any CAD/Graph tool.

Re:I suspect (4, Informative)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 2 years ago | (#41536495)

Most mindmaps boil down to a visual representation of a hierarchical list, with some comments and maybe a few extra relationships added. As a visual representation they are great for individual ideation, brainstorming, or even scoping functional designs. In those cases you're working with concepts that fit a taxonomy but are otherwise only loosely interrelated (as far as matters for the mapping exercise). A lot of what you're doing there is fitting items into the taxonomy, checking whether every (sub)category is complete, and tweaking the taxonomy itself. Mind maps are a very useful visualisation for such tasks, and even for people new to the concept they are simple enough to understand and work with.

But design work? Things like ordering and complex flows are not naturally captured very well in a mindmap. The mindmaps in the Dr. Dobbs article appear to me as rather awkward flow diagrams. There are better representations; even a simple indented list might work better for the examples given. I have used mindmaps when designing software, but in those cases I used them to map out functional areas of the software, break down each area in distinct tasks and perhaps subtasks, but I stopped at the level where timing, order and interdependencies become important.

Re:I suspect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41536735)

If you're on teh linux, check out "Labyrinth" -- I've used that gainfully in the past. It's very freeform and allows mapping/graphing without imposing any kind of hierarchy, other than the "root node" dictating the title of the map.

Re:I suspect (2)

lee1 (219161) | about 2 years ago | (#41538201)

A prominent one would be graphviz [graphviz.org] , of course. But most other software that describes itself as dealing with "mind maps" can only handle a basic tree structure, you're right. Another exception would be Tinderbox [lee-phillips.org] , but that's closed source.

Re:I suspect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41539099)

Hi,

Instead of a mind mapping tool you should use a concept mapping tools such as IHMC CmapTools (http://cmap.ihmc.us/download/) that it is also free. Concept Maps requires a connection label (aka Linking Phrase), which provides a meaning to the two nodes connected. I had used CmapTools for system specifications and project management, among other uses.

R.

Re:I suspect (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41539839)

CMaps [cmap.ihmc.us] are great concept maps, which don't impose all that hierarchy on you. Any flow or cycle you want. Cross-platform and network enabled too!

and the earth shattering, geek relevant news is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41535289)

Loop
Waiting for the editors to wake up.
End Loop

Brainstorming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41535471)

Mind Maps are basically digitized "brainstorms" that we were all (some?) taught in school. Digitizing anything comes at a cost: Using the UI. Usually pencil and paper is way more freeform and faster, but having your ideas digitized has some intense nerd value!

Re:Brainstorming (2)

moodel (614846) | about 2 years ago | (#41535507)

Mind Maps are basically digitized "brainstorms" that we were all (some?) taught in school. Digitizing anything comes at a cost: Using the UI. Usually pencil and paper is way more freeform and faster, but having your ideas digitized has some intense nerd value!

No not all of us were taught this in school. Also there are mind maps and mind maps. Tony Buzan is the man for the classic mind mapping techniques but people should try to evolve their own and like myself will often develop their own shorthand in the process which makes note taking and mind map design so much easier.

Re:Brainstorming (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#41535533)

Mind Maps are basically digitized "brainstorms"

No they aren't.

Re:Brainstorming (4, Funny)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 2 years ago | (#41536095)

You make a very poignant argument, but it fails to address that fact that yes, they are.

Re:Brainstorming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41537337)

My last job used Mind Maps to "organize" their training program and documentation library, and half way into a six week slog through that morass, I realized that Mind Maps are garbage. They're just a different way of doing something computer scientists already know how to do perfectly well - draw a tree diagram. The only difference is that now the tree surrounds the root , rather than branching downward. The result is that the reader doesn't know in which direction to look, to find what he wants, which increases confusion, not decreases it. Sub-trees are distributed so as to eliminate all whitespace from the picture, making the text disappear more easily into a jumble of identical branches.

Mind Maps are worse than useless: they take the hard problem of finding what you want in a list of identical looking folders, and make it even harder - finding what you want in a messy scattering of your entire directory onto a disorganized 2D surface. I'd like to find the guy who invented these disorganized pieces of crap, tie him to a post and repeatedly kick him in the balls!

Re:Brainstorming (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#41550971)

Let's take the computerized part first. You can draw them on paper - indeed, when they originated computers capable of running mind mapping software would have been very rare. So you're already 50% full of shit.

Brainstorming is an unstructured way of generating ideas. Mind mapping involves taking a central idea and building on it, refining it and/or adding detail.

Truly, your crap runneth over.

Re:Brainstorming (1)

icebraining (1313345) | about 2 years ago | (#41536045)

You could also use a scanner or "digital pen" and get most of the benefits of both.

Compendium (1)

Ostracus (1354233) | about 2 years ago | (#41535481)

Compendium [open.ac.uk]

Compendium is terrific (2)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about 2 years ago | (#41545267)

Video of me using Compendium in real time to create a concept map of a discussion: http://barcamp.org/w/page/47221410/Desktop%20or%20Mobile%20or%20Web [barcamp.org]

No video, but here is the concept map made in real-time with Compendium in another workshop at the 2011 Capitol Camp:
http://barcamp.org/w/page/47222818/Tools%20for%20Collective%20Sensemaking%20and%20Civic%20Engagement [barcamp.org]

I like FreeMind (4, Insightful)

I cant believe its n (1103137) | about 2 years ago | (#41535515)

I like FreeMind [sourceforge.net] (mentioned in the DrDobbs article). Of course I knew about mind maps before, but the ability to export a perfectly formated map as Pdf, HTML and in various image formats is great. I think I'll be using this instead of paper in the future. I've tried various UML design tools in the past, but they all require that you have already made some of the decisions beforehand.

I think UML is a great way of describing a system once you have made all major decisions, but whenever I need to think about a new project, I have always prefered pen and paper. I'll seriously give FreeMind a go now.

Re:I like FreeMind (1)

war4peace (1628283) | about 2 years ago | (#41535593)

Too linear. No cyclic stuff in it. Apart from that, it looks pretty cool, and the exports are pretty awesome.

Re:I like FreeMind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41536019)

Which is exactly why I abandoned it in favor of my interactive dotfile renderer.

And UML is just epic fail, since it's incredibly cumbersome and slow to use, and severely limited in what you can do. Especially if you use some stupid point-and-click tool.

You'll be better off with the fork, Freeplane (4, Informative)

sgtrock (191182) | about 2 years ago | (#41537135)

Undoing mod points to post this. If you like FreeMind, you really need to try out Freeplane. [sourceforge.net] Much more functional than FreeMind on so many levels. :-)

Re:I like FreeMind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41540523)

I use Freemind to take notes. My Freemind conference notes are often the "notes of record". One of the advantages of using Freemind is the ability to export the hierarchy of the mind map to a very useful outline in either HTML or WORD compatible format.

I'm currently exploring using another mapping tool, Docear (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Docear), to use as a reference/note taking toolset for a project. Seems like it would be useful for organizing design notes, references, external documentation (PDF/HTML/BibTEX etc.). Said another way, the experiment is to see if I can replace 300 post-its scattered amongst 10 books and the design documentation.

I think FreeMind is harmful (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41550239)

I counseled one thesis where the student was awestruck by FreeMind. His highest level of achievement was to cram the whole topic into one gargantuan mind map. That didn't help him write one line, and seemed more to hinder his ability to start working from any particular point.

Instead, when he was sinking into desperation, I sat down with him and we basically brainstormed [wikipedia.org] the whole topic all over again and put it down to a bullet list [wikipedia.org] , which turned into a preliminary index [wikipedia.org] , and each top level bullet was sub-planted with more in-depth bullet list, which was then converted to text. Text, just like code, flows naturally better as a list than a graph.

Put short, it's nice that you found a tool. It's a hammer and not every problem is a nail.

Re:I think FreeMind is harmful (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#41551103)

Basically, write the headings first then the sub-headings. Depending on the end product there may be several more levels of 'sub'.

When you reach the desired level, you fill them in with text.

Of course there's no way you can sell training courses, seminars & software based on common sense...

Not too bad..but limited logic (1)

meburke (736645) | about 2 years ago | (#41535539)

Beyond mind maps, there are Warnier-Orr digrams. One of the bigest disappointments in software is that Varatek hasn't upgraded B-Liner so it runs well on Windows 7. For small systems design, it was great.
http://varatek.com/ [varatek.com]

Re:Not too bad..but limited logic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41535709)

Seems much more like a proj mgmt / programming tool than a mind map tool.

Post-It notes and watercooler gossip (5, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 2 years ago | (#41535549)

You can spend a week in a tiger team lock-in session, mind mapping the shizzle out of your next project. Eventually, a desperate delirium sets in, and you'll agree to anything just to get out of there. Thus the design is "finalised".

Then by the time you get back to your keyboard, some executive vice president of marketing is accidentally exposed to a copy of Wired, and decides that instead of writing an app to keep recipes on, what you really need is to ride the frontsurge to a collaboratively cloudsourced web 3.0 win-win solution, and the charade starts all over again.

Experience starts to look a lot like cynicism after a while.

Re:Post-It notes and watercooler gossip (4, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 2 years ago | (#41536105)

Brainstorming exists to give dumb people a false sense of ownership over the smart guy's ideas.

Re:Post-It notes and watercooler gossip (4, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 2 years ago | (#41536941)

Brainstorm session are a great way to get buy-in from others if you need it... But not all sessions are like that. If you are genuinely interested in the outcome of such a session, be selective about who you invite. Leave the dumb people out of it, and get a diverse group of smart people.

Re:Post-It notes and watercooler gossip (1)

HeadlessNotAHorseman (823040) | about 2 years ago | (#41546605)

A properly managed brainstorming session is a great tool for generating ideas. Some minds (such as mine) work really well in a brainstorming environment. One person says one thing, it leads to another, and through an associative process a whole bunch of ideas will come out. Lots of them will suck, but that's ok because sometimes a sucky idea will trigger someone to have a great idea. Only when the session is finished to you start evaluating them.

You ought to be careful using brainstorming to get a person to buy in to a project, because if they have bad ideas and you don't include them it will have the opposite effect.

Re:Post-It notes and watercooler gossip (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41538477)

Quoted from The Devil's Dictionary [wikipedia.org]

Re:Post-It notes and watercooler gossip (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 2 years ago | (#41538619)

Brainstorming exists to give dumb people a false sense of ownership over the smart guy's ideas.

Clearly, you've never seen smart people brainstorming.

Years ago, the dev team I worked on white boarded everything, and usually did our design by locking ourselves in a room until we'd fleshed out what we were doing. We called it the Screeching Howler Monkey method.

Everybody contributed, we listened to the various ideas and weighed them. Looked at what worked and what didn't work, and decided on what we could do.

If you really believe brainstorming is for the benefit of the dumb people, you're doing it with the wrong people.

In my experience, any working team needs to be able to do this.

How vs what (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41536583)

Funny, why do we even talk about 'how'. Surely every professional programmer knows the 'how', that's why they're a professional programmer.

I just expect to be able to give a programmer a spec and he'll deliver a product that matches the spec. I don't expect to tell him how he should do his job.

You're not in university anymore, nobody should have to hold you're hand and tell you how to the the 'HOW' part of your job, only the 'WHAT' part.

Re:Post-It notes and watercooler gossip (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41536595)

Your jest reminds me of why programmers are not held to engineer's standards of liability. As an engineering analogy a computer programmer is often asked to build a new car. In the middle of construction the customer decides that instead of a car we must have a moon base. Then, just as you're about three quarters of the way through the budget is cut and now your project is to be sold as an above ground pool.

Re:Post-It notes and watercooler gossip (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41538127)

Your jest reminds me of why programmers are not held to engineer's standards of liability. As an engineering analogy a computer programmer is often asked to build a new car. In the middle of construction the customer decides that instead of a car we must have a moon base. Then, just as you're about three quarters of the way through the budget is cut and now your project is to be sold as an above ground pool.

There are plenty of construction that ends up like that. Just look at North Koreas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryugyong_Hotel

Re:Post-It notes and watercooler gossip (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41536887)

"Experience starts to look a lot like cynicism after a while."

I think I'll put that in my .signature for corporate email from now on.

Re:Post-It notes and watercooler gossip (1)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | about 2 years ago | (#41537823)

You can spend a week in a tiger team lock-in session, mind mapping the shizzle out of your next project. Eventually, a desperate delirium sets in, and you'll agree to anything just to get out of there. Thus the design is "finalised".

You're brutally right here. Brainstorming is fine for coming up with ideas. Design by comity is almost always a guarantee that a system will perform the bare minimum without ever being able to achieve the perceived full potential and more.

Re:Post-It notes and watercooler gossip (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#41551203)

Design by comity

Never heard of it. Sounds quite friendly [merriam-webster.com] though.

Re:Post-It notes and watercooler gossip (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41537997)

what is cynical to monkeys in a box is, in fact, old school loving kindness for weasels :

Re:Post-It notes and watercooler gossip (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41539697)

You can spend a week in a tiger team lock-in session, mind mapping the shizzle out of your next project. Eventually, a desperate delirium sets in, and you'll agree to anything just to get out of there. Thus the design is "finalised".

Yeah, I couldn't get out of jury duty either.

Mind maps are limited (2)

Peter (Professor) Fo (956906) | about 2 years ago | (#41535825)

If you have a group of people unused to thinking then you can draw pretty lines and boxes together in a friendly sort of way. It is a social thing like ten people going to the kitchen to cook a meal.

If you are an experienced thinker then you probably need time (in ways you have got used to eg On waking-up or hiking or "Shut up! I've just had an idea!") to note your thoughts and see where they lead. You're quite likely to have ways of grouping and ordering notes on [bits of] paper which just happen. The only software you need is a pencil and scrap paper.

If you are one of the 90% of people who don't use analysis and imagination then you need prompts and buckets. Prompts to ask say 'what are the sub-tasks' and buckets to keep similar things together. MM don't have prompts and the buckets are very generic. For a particular task such people need particular headings to put 'first answers' into.

Dr Dobbs (1)

Psychotria (953670) | about 2 years ago | (#41535887)

This is not the same as the Dr Dobbs of 1994, 1995 and prior :-(

WTF is going to happen next? A description of using a text file to write down high level concepts then inserting indented lines that break the concepts into even more pieces? Then, indent again and break down even further! You could even call the non-indented lines functions, the lines with one indent a function as well, and the lines with 3 or more indents pseudocode for the functions! Maybe you could even use this text file to produce comments for the code. I think I am onto something.

Re:Dr Dobb's (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41551733)

This article is an editorial in which the editor is discussing a tip that works for him.It's pretty obviously not a technical article.

Dobb's has good content. The home page has a long meaty article by Walter Bright on Composability in D. Their five-part tutorial on Go last month was a good intro to the language. That being said, I do miss the hard copy versions (as I do for many other pubs).

HyperList (1)

FalMunir (2744313) | about 2 years ago | (#41535897)

HyperList [isene.me] may be an alternative as a straight text solution (even with a VIM plugin doing all kinds of tricks).

Re:HyperList (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | about 2 years ago | (#41536419)

I had a program on my TI-86 calculator years ago that did that, essentially a text file but each line could have more lines inside it, and it wasn't limited to 15 layers. It was very useful

Re:HyperList (1)

FalMunir (2744313) | about 2 years ago | (#41536525)

Neat :) Similar to a program I have on my HP-41CX. HyperList is not limited to any number of layers. though. But the VIM plugin is.

Re:HyperList (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 2 years ago | (#41619283)

It's basically lisp without any power.

The big problem with mind maps is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41536001)

...that they are supposed to be trees.
But the human mind thinks in graphs.
(No, cross-links don't cut it.)

That's why I had to abandon them a long time ago,
why I also abandoned class hierarchies,
and why I work on abandoning directory trees and XML right now.

Instead I use a self-written interactive dotfile-renderer (or just paper, a scanner, vectorizer and to-dotfile transformer, like I did before),
Haskell (which is much more flexible with its typeclasses),
and soon my own data graph system (with Fuse interface for backwards compatibility) (which will also probably replace the dotfiles.

UML (0)

lkcl (517947) | about 2 years ago | (#41536059)

yep. User Mode Linux is definitely too complicated to use for any real serious business work, as any slashdotter knows. we should all be using the latest and greatest version of windows with a large coloured tile of applications full-screen, just like a mind-map except regular and safe and already laid out with the paths predefined, so that we don't have to think or use any creativity at all. yes! that's it! we should all get lobotomies, stare at pretty squares and be happy to live in our brainwashed state. no need for User Mode Linux at all.

Re:UML (4, Insightful)

LourensV (856614) | about 2 years ago | (#41536533)

I suspect that for most people, the reason to use a mind map rather than UML would not be UML's complexity. UML scales pretty well: a bunch of boxes with names in them and lines between them to signal what is related to what is a valid UML class diagram already. Instead, I think the problem with UML is that it forces you to think very carefully about what exactly it is that you're going to create. Back in the 1960's and 1970's, people like Donald Knuth and Edsger Dijkstra advocated careful thinking about software, rigid specification, and proving correct any important algorithms. They saw software as a mathematical construct, and the exercise of building software as akin to proving theorems.

Fast forward to the Internet age. Software is everywhere, and rare is the project where the customer can tell you clearly what they want. The small cadre of people who are capable of the precise and abstract thought required to do programming the mathematical way is not by far big enough to write all the software that the world needs, so even if customers could make rigid specifications, most programmers would find them written in an alien language. So we have adopted a biological rather than mathematical approach: specifications are never exact, software is always broken, but it's okay because the software has an immune system (we call it vendor support), which fixes up errors continuously. In such a world, maybe a mind map is as formal a description as you need.

Personally, I used UML to describe a logical data model in my last big project. I was the only one with a formal CS background in the project, but everyone understood the diagrams just fine. I had to explain a few more advanced things to some people, but it was no problem. And we did think everything through very carefully, and so far the whole thing is holding up very well because of that. In my opinion, even in the age of agile development and web technologies, careful thought is still invaluable in software development, and a diagram language that lets you specify a bit more detail when you need it is a very useful tool. I'll stick with UML.

Re:UML (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | about 2 years ago | (#41543409)

In my opinion, even in the age of agile development and web technologies, careful thought is still invaluable in software development

It is extremely valuable, you just have to be carefull about what you want to spend time carefully thinking about.

Re:UML (1)

anomalous cohort (704239) | about 2 years ago | (#41545977)

Don't get me wrong. I'm a big advocate for mind maps. See http://ploneglenn.blogspot.com/2010/10/mind-mapping-in-modern-age.html [blogspot.com] for a list of map mapping software that I have used over the years. I just don't see why you would use a mind map as a replacement for UML. Outside of them bothing being a type of diagram, I don't see much similariity or purpose. You use UML to model object oriented systems. Mind maps are a diagrammatic way to organize just about any cognitive activity. Using a mind map as a replacement for UML would be like attempting to drive to the super market with a pencil. http://stackoverflow.com/questions/423218/best-tool-to-create-architecture-diagrams-for-software/423288#423288 [stackoverflow.com] is what I recommend for diagramming in UML.

Re:UML (1)

HeadlessNotAHorseman (823040) | about 2 years ago | (#41546637)

I'm a business analyst, and when I did my degree they taught me UML and DFDs and various other types of diagrams. In the real world I never follow the rules though - I pick and choose the bits and pieces that I need. Ultimately my goal is to express information; having rules and a structure helps, but it's just as important to know when to break the rules.

Re:UML (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41551383)

You reckon? I've come across plenty of people who can't understand or express themselves in a language they've been speaking for forty years, so why would they understand a brand-new (to them) communication tool? They just don't want to admit they don't understand.

And when "nothing works how we want", guess whose fault it'll be?

Re:UML (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41536545)

I guess Unified Modelling Language Tools are not as complicated as User Mode Linux for the said purpose;-)

Forget Mind Maps (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41536657)

As mentioned above they can't handle complex data structures (or much data at all). Wiki-based software is better.

http://zim-wiki.org/
http://wikidpad.sourceforge.net/

Re:Forget Mind Maps (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 2 years ago | (#41537587)

As mentioned above they can't handle complex data structures (or much data at all). Wiki-based software is better.

http://zim-wiki.org/
http://wikidpad.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

There's a lot of things they don't do well.

I like FreeMind as an idea organizer. Especially since, although it has a very nice GUI, you can rapidly outline stuff using only the keyboard. But FreeMind is just the overview where I do my brainstorming. Once I start adding diagrams and tables and schemas, I either hyperlink it to something more suitable (like pages in a wiki) or I run an XSLT on the freemind file to produce a prototype ODF ("Word") outline document.

Didn't we talk about these a few years ago? (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about 2 years ago | (#41537311)

I seem to recall having this discussion before. Everyone got all excited and said they were going to change everything, and then nothing happened. One of the trendy developers at work jumped on that bandwagon for I think all of ONE attempt at design. I think that's the shortest amount of time I've seen one of those guys jump on any bandwagon.

I spent an hour and a half yesterday jotting down the design for a fairly small supporting application I'm planning to write, pushing some objects around on paper until things felt fairly good, trying out different patterns to see what seemed to fit the design best and figuring out what the config files looked like. I'm pretty comfortable that I got everything that it needs to do, and foresee no problems getting it coded.

I still haven't found a tool that works as well as pen and paper for this process. It really isn't that hard to just sit down and organize what your program is going to look like, as long as you're not actively avoiding having to do that. Mindmaps (nor anything else) will magically fix poor design skills.

Not a new idea - (1)

Darth Snowshoe (1434515) | about 2 years ago | (#41537551)

When I was very young, I used to swear by a book by Tony Buzan that was very much along these lines. The title was "Using Both Sides of Your Brain" or something like that. It was helpful to me though it made my class notes unreadable to anyone else. (This was before it occured to me to use computers for these things.)

 

Systemigrams - step beyond mindmaps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41538099)

System engineers use Systemigrams which can be more powerful since you have to think through the context, and in turn flow, of the space you are looking at. This is not a process flow diagram but contextual integrity. Maybe not as complex as UML but will require more thoughts on the stakeholders of what is being captured.

Mindjet Mindmanager rocks (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about 2 years ago | (#41539067)

Mindjet Mindmanager rocks. I have shown that tool to at least 20 people and I don't think a single one adopted it; fools. For brainstorming I can't imagine a better tool. You just keep throwing information into the tree and there is always a perfect place for it. My favorite is when a long term project has a new idea for some future feature and I go to put it in and it is already there in the exact place where I wanted to put the "new" idea. Then as the project moves along the tree becomes a source of great ideas that had popped into people's heads long before.

Even for putting together a report or whatnot. You just keep gathering facts and ideas then then export to word; a bit of trimming and editing and you have a report.

But as I said, I have shown that product to at least 20 people with none adopting it. I can't imagine how hard it is for the MindJet people to sell it. Easily one of the first products I install on a new computer, well before an office suite, but after my IDE.

I accidentallly did this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41540283)

I accidentally created a mind map years ago when I was given an assignment in college (before university), to create a round robin task scheduler (basic time slicing) with more jobs on the ready queue over time. I wrote one that worked really well. You could uncomment one line, and see everything running beautifully. Before I wrote the program I was in the library, dog tired. I just started writing down what needed to be done in boxes on a sheet of paper. As I added more stuff, I would draw lines between the boxes showing what needed to be done next, and then would scratch them out when I added more boxes about what should happen in between or before or after. At the end, I went over it. A whole bunch of labelled boxes with lines running here and there. I showed it to the prof., who looked unimpressed. I coded it without any problems, and it worked perfectly right away. He needed the help of another prof. to do it the way I did it. Nearly everyone else in the class did it another way. The other way was what was on the test.

Poor Man's Design Tool? (1)

Azure Flash (2440904) | about 2 years ago | (#41541065)

How is drawing UML-compliant boxes more expensive than drawing regular boxes for mind maps? Is there somewhere in the UML specification that says you can only use Faber-Castell pencils or commercial software?

poor man's? (1)

simonckenyon (791521) | about 2 years ago | (#41543703)

i used to watch tony buzan on the television when i was about 12. i have been using mind maps ever since. to the people who "just don't get it". that is your loss i'm afraid.

"Fuzzy" Mind Maps: Ketso (1)

echo-e (47269) | about 2 years ago | (#41546729)

I've used Ketso [ketso.com] for mind mapping in a group product design brainstorm session. It worked really well for capturing everybody's ideas and grouping them to come up with common themes and shared ideas. I know its a bit low-tech, but its nice to get away from the computer sometimes.

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