Years ago — we’re talking YEARS ago, like before the PC-ago — I became obsessed with mind mapping, a brainstorming and organizing technique, where you draw non-linear, associative diagrams of your subject. It’s sort of a cross between an organizational chart, a functional relationships diagram, and an acid trip doodle. I have notebooks, deeply embarrassing notebooks, filled with multi-colored Flair-penned efforts to find myself. But it was actually mind mapping that started my career in computers. I bought a copy of the Whole Earth Software Review, and in it, Stewart Brand reviewed a brainstorming tool for the Apple IIe. He raved about the program, and his description of how it could help offload and process your thoughts reminded me of mind mapping. I convinced the org I was working for that we needed a computer (for managing our mailing lists) and went out and bought an Apple IIe the next day. I’ve never looked back. (And strangely, I never got the program that Brand had recommended).
I’ve had nothing to do with mind mapping since the late ’70s/early ’80s, but I still find the idea interesting. There have been dozens of programs over the years for doing it, or similar graphical brainstorming. But this new one, called Mindomo is especially interesting ’cause it’s Web-based, it’s very easy to use, and it’s free (for limited amounts of use). I don’t know if mind mapping is something I will pick up again, but I am working on a complex project now that could use viewing from a different persecpective, so maybe a mind map would do the trick.