Shows: 07.21.08

Monday mornings I'm on the air sharing more stories about how people are living better through computers. I'll tuck field notes from those shows right here. You'll also be able to dig into the archives to explore previous shows as I determine how best to share some of the highlights of the past 9 year's worth of adventures.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"Mindomo": Collaborative Mind Mapping and Project Planning for Free


On today's show I shared a really handy new tool that I have been using for both business and personal reasons. In addition to being reasonably easy to use and having a broad range of applications, it's also free of charge. Earlier this year I shared tools that were helpful for people starting home-based businesses, with an emphasis on tools that were affordable and in many cases free. This is another tool that not only helps in a home office, but can actually be a fun way to connect with family members and friends across a variety of personal projects.

How it Works …

"Mindomo" is "mind mapping" tool. These tools are designed to allow you to do a brain dump of ideas and related pictures, spreadsheets and word files, web sites, videos, music and other media and so on. Mind maps are terrific collaborative research tools, allowing people to come together around a shared goal or project and create very powerful knowledge bases and resources. These have been used to fuel everything from customer service applications in business, to rich media curricula in education and medical databases in healthcare, and even movie and music databases.

Mind mapping tools allow you to see relationships between data, media and people that may not be apparent in traditional storage environments, such as text books and web pages. They offer a way of organizing information visually and drilling down at a glance, and can be very powerful tools for research and collaboration.

Mind maps can also be a fun way of managing simple, personal resources such as hockey pools, soccer drills or even your receipes or Christmas card list. I use my own to plan trips, storing pictures, videos, accommodation and event web sites, maps, venue coupons and so on. I also use a map to manage information relevant to my health. I have Graves Disease and use a map to track new and emerging information about my condition, treatments, diet and exercise regimens to restore my metabolism, and forums where I connect with other people who share this challenge and have some terrific ideas about restoring quality of life. Another way I've enjoyed the collaborative side of using mind maps is through my family tree, sharing pictures, videos, stories, family recipes, maps of homesteads, music and links to web sites that cultivate a better understanding of our history, where we came from and the things that made us who we are.

Mind maps are powerful tools for brainstorming and gathering together the best resources around almost anything that you are interested in, while making it easier to share these with others if you choose.

Other Mind Mapping Tools …


One of the more powerful mind mapping tools is a software application called "The Brain". The downside is it's fairly significant price tag. While "Personal Brain" continues to offer a free version with limited functionality for a single person, the fully functional version costs $250, and the collaborative version comes with a price tag of thousands of dollars for people who wanted the ability to share and edit jointly. This is a tool that I've happily used myself for several years for things like writing projects and project management, with my only real complaints being the way it restricted my ability to collaborate based on cost. It's kept me looking for an alternative that would allow me to more easily connect and share with colleagues on joint projects.

While in past shows I've talked about a few other mind mapping tools besides the brain, "Mindomo" has arrived as a "free" competitor offering most of the standard features found on similar tools, along with the collaborative functions that generally make this kind of tool impractical for anyone other than big businesses.

How I'm Using it Here …

During the 8 years that I've shared the computer column with listeners I've amassed a significant "tool shed" of useful software, web sites and gadgets. It occurred to me that one of the ways that I could put "Mindomo" to work right away was as an easy launch pad into categories of things, allowing people to pick an area or interest and dig down into the related resources that I've shared. Here is an example of how I've started to do this:

At first glance it doesn't look much different than an organization chart or a web site map, but there's a lot more than meets the eye. This tool actually offers a task manager function, linking project resources and people together in a way that is more intuitive than simple project managers. The free version of mindomo allows you to create an unlimited number of public maps, and up to 7 private maps. You can export your maps to RTF and other standard document formats, and publish them to blogs and web sites.

Want More Power?

For people who want a bit more power, there is a "paid" version for $6 per month, allowing you to create folders and tabs to organize your maps, and to export your maps to other mind mapping tools and to a variety of standard software such as Excel spreadsheets and Microsoft Project documents. This version also removes the small advertising pane that appears alongside the free version, and offers a spellchecker and secure server too.

How You'll Be Able to Contribute Tools …

Listeners will be able to see this in use as I continue to apply it to the resources shared here at the Edible Computer web site. Click on the Tool Shed link at the top of any page for a peek. You will also be able to begin sharing resources of your own as I release a collaborative version shortly.

What's on Deck?

Stay tuned for more ways to plug in …


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