the next step to higher productivity

Pieter v. shared this question 36 days ago
Discussion Open

For more than 20 years Mindmanager has been my productivity booster. It helps to orden my thoughts, to play on different fields, to plan and to produce. Now I feel it is time for a next round.

Spending time with mindmanager as part of a creative process, planning or writing is OK. But spending time to visualize my information is becoming more and more a load. That should change.

BTW look at the attached mindmap. Very simple in structure. But be honest, how many minutes will it take to produce such a map? And this map is about UN Sustainable Development Goal #09. There are 17 such goals, so producing 17 maps will cost you 17 times that amount of time.

All this time you can not spend to creative mindmapping!

My question / proposal: we have to distinguish creative work from creating graphics. The latter should become more and more data driven. There exist some connections between data and mindmanager (databases, Excel mapping). These are nice if they exactly fit your need. I am afraid that my simple example map does not fit. So there is a Missing Link.

What do you think about it?

Replies (2)

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One of the great strengths of mind mapping software and in particular MindManager is its versatility. The software has grown from fairly simple beginnings as a simple tool for brainstorming and presenting hierarchically-organised information to something with a thousand different uses. MindManager for example has been described as a "Swiss army knife", a tool which can be used for just about anything.

The trade-off for this versatility is that any mind mapping program is not necessarily the best option if you really want to specialise in each of these application areas. MindManager for example is great for managing projects, but it obviously isn't as dedicated to this task as say Microsoft Project. On the other hand, Project can't do any of the other things that MM can do.

Also each mind mapping application strikes a different balance in terms of the included features. MindManager for example is better at project management and analytics than just about any of its competitors, but perhaps isn't as strong in terms of presentation options as some other applications. This is improving, but I think that MindManager/Corel still have a bit more work to do here; I'm surprised for example that there hasn't been any integration with CorelDRAW.

The upshot is that you may be better off completing the maps directly in a dedicated graphics application. If you can find one that will import from Word you could always start work on the maps in MM then export the outlines to Word. Having said that there is a lot you can do within MM, especially through tools such as SmartRules which can used to partially automate aspects of formatting.

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Thank you very much, Alex, for your extensive response to my heartfelt cry about The Missing Link in Mindmanager. I agree with much of your argument. Mindmanager is a Swiss Army Knife for me as well that I cannot miss a day.

Where that knife falls short, you recommend a specialist drawing program. I think very differently about that.

Of course, a Swiss Army Knife is a fantastic tool in all kinds of situations, but because you always need a person who knows how to handle it, there is an upper limit to the fun you can have with it. In very complex applications, using the tool is too laborious and in series production too boring. I fear that a specialist drawing program is comparable on these points.

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I am sending you again an image of a mind map. To do it once with Mindmanager: fine. To do a similar job every day: boring. To check whether the detailed information contained in it is still up to date: killing.

Earlier I spoke of The Missing Link, which should close the gap between data and mind maps. Perhaps it is more appropriate to speak of a MIND-SHIFT: Don't just see Mindmanager as a Swiss Army Knife in the hands of the user. Also see it as a kind of plotter/drawing machine where (hardly) a user needs to be involved.

Just as we can control 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines by sending a series of assignments to them at a fairly low level, we could also do the same with Mindmanager.

Procedure:

  1. I continue to make my prototype mind map with Mindmanager as a Swiss Army Knife.
  2. If I'm satisfied with that, I'll make a program that generates the right codes with which Mindmanager can generate the same mind map as a drawing machine.
  3. If I want to produce a comparable mind map based on other data, I re-run my program with these new data and Mindmanager as a plotter creates my new mindmap automatically.
  4. If I want to check if a data-rich mind map is still current, I simply regenerate it, but with the current data.

What do you think of that?

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That's the domain of AI and machine learning and requires deep specialist knowledge within companies focussed exclusively on that or with very deep pockets.

I would be surprised if MM are playing in that space or seeking to do so.

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One of MindManager’s great strengths is that, unlike most of its competitors, it has an accessible API. I am not a programmer, but looking at your map I would think it might be possible to program MM to do something like this, ie, changing the map’s appearance based on variations in data inputs, depending of course on what these data inputs are.

I agree with James though that producing automated maps to do this at scale isn’t the program’s current raison d'etre.

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Just to clarify, Mindmanager perfectly enables me to make the visualizations I would like to make. My point is: "To do it once with Mindmanager: fine. To do a similar job every day: boring. To check whether the detailed information contained in it is still up to date: killing." So, I want to avoid the boring and killing experiences.

Alex points at the API. IMHO that is indeed the place where we as users can try to create our own extras. These are my considerations:

  • avoid creating a lot of macro's; of course they could be convenient, but in fact they are adding extra's to your Swiss Army Knife, not replacing it with a machine when appropriate;
  • define a simple plain text 'language' to describe commands for mindmanager; you can write texts in this language yourself and/or have some dataprocessing program do it for you; for the moment I need only five commands: 1) create a topic, 2) add a picture, 3) add hyperlinks, 4) add markers, 5) add properties;
  • write one and only macro that creates your "MM-machine": a) it starts with asking the user the location of the command file (I used the md - markdown extension), then b) it reads lines from the command file and translates them into the required mindmanager actions, and c) at the end it shows the filename that was processed and the number of lines.

That's all.

Now let's see what this implies:

Today I want to create the same mindmap as yesterday (Amazonia countries), but now for the BeNeLux countries (Belgium, Luxemburg, Netherlands). Here it is:

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For me the mindmap is OK, but I hope you agree that creating this from scratch (again) is boring.

The good news is: this one (and in fact yesterday's one also) is generated from a command file (I attach the Benelux file).

If you open the command file in Notepad, you can see that it is quit simple and straightforward. This one was created automatically from my dataprocessing environment (Jupyter Notebook), but you could do that also manually with some Notepad (or Word) gymnastics.

And in the dataprocessing program, I only had to change the title of the map and the countrycodes to include. That is all.

What do you think about it?

Bonus: with this same approach you can create very complex mindmaps, not easy to show in a single picture, but great when converted to a HTML5 file. See: https://bit.ly/fablist-state

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Pieter

You've given us the data (text) file: 2021-08-20_09_48_22.221806_benelux_countries_fablab_profiles_(225,_11).md

and you've given us the final BeNeLux map: https://bit.ly/fablist-state

Without the macro that's doing the processing you describe, it is difficult to assess what is going on. Also, are you able to expose how the data file is generated?

Regards

James.

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Unfortunately for data processing I do not have a "Swiss Army Knife" like MM is for mindmapping; instead I build my personal data studio or data lab. The kernel is Jupyter Notebook (free) including interactive Python. I use the Python Pandas library mainly.

The data I used for the mindmaps originates from various sources: official list of fablabs (JSON), submitted Google forms with SDG profiles (XLSX), country names and data (HTML). I convert them to Pandas dataframes (say rows and columns) and merge, filter and sort them as appropriate.

My command file generator program as applied in my "data lab":

  • opens a new file for writing
  • writes the commands to create and decorate* a new centraltopic (i.e. create a new mindmap)
  • walks through all the relevant rows of the dataframe; if a new country is encountered it writes the commands to create and decorate a maintopic (country); in any case it writes the commands to create and decorate a subtopic (fablab)
  • closes the file

* Decorate = add image, hyperlink, markers and properties to the topic

My command file interpreter as applied as macro within MM:

  • Lets user select input file (plain text file with .md extension)
  • Opens selected input file for reading
  • For all lines in input file: if a line is a command line, interprets the command, makes it happen; any other cases or lines simply are skipped
  • At the end of file: shows the name of the command file and the number of lines
  • Closes the input file
  • Ends the macro

There is an issue with the images: A macro only can add local files as images to a topic. So I cannot use web images directly. Therefore I constructed (automatically, of course) a local image bank with a.o. flags of all countries, logo's of fablabs etc. The disadvantage is an extra effort to construct this imagebank. The advantage is that I can further forget all kinds of 'obscure' links to whatever pictures and have my favourite collections easy at hand for all my applications.

Don't you think it makes a mindmap more attractive to add country flags to country topics? Try it manually, you will experience how clumsy that is. As part of the macro it is almost 'gratuite'.

Another issue is the special set of markers I used: I created a group of markers called SDG; it contains the coloured number icons 1-17. That happened earlier. The macro simply can use these markers.

I am now ready to collect more feedback on my efforts and to finetune and document the software.

Nice weekend

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Afternoon Pieter

To me it reads like your asking why can't you execute the entire creative process from conceiving to presenting within MindManager. If I'm wrong then pay me no more heed.

I've been spending quite a lot of time thinking about productivity of late. In taking ideas from initial thought to implementation, I use MindManager in the classic GTD way: Capture, Clarify, and Organise. GTD is a very good methodology for those 3 things. However, when I have to manage a large set of tasks, I find it less good for the final part of that method (Do). It took me longer than it ought to accept that. Now, for me "Do" is all about task management - and I have a good process that works for me outside of GTD.

MindManager is the right tool for some things but not all. If you find you're spending too much time trying to force MindManager to work in a particular way perhaps it's not meant to be, at least, not yet. Is there a better tool or person with a skill that can achieve what you want?

It is fine to request the MM team to enhance the product but the subject of data visualisation covers all manner of use cases, so you might need to be more precise.


Regards


James.

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