Upgrading from Mind Mapping to Concept Mapping


(Andy Wootton) #1

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a log time user of FreeMind for mind mapping but of late I’ve found that the hierarchical nature of mind maps doesn’t always work for me. I’m becoming increasingly interested in the ‘network’ equivalent, Concept Mapping. It also uses nodes connected by arcs but the arcs can be labelled and optionally have a direction (Freemind has a ‘pseudo networked mode’, roughly equivalent to symlinks in file structure trees.)

I’ve been looking for software that doesn’t get in the way of thinking and in the last couple of days have discovered http://vue.tufts.edu/ and http://cmap.ihmc.us/cmaptools/. They both seem to be Free(ish) and aimed predominantly at education. Does anyone have any experience with these tools, know any reason to avoid either or know of anything better?

I’ve realised after typing this question that my old friend Sparx Enterprise Architect could probably be horribly misused to do this, with completely illegal UML but I don’t currently have access to a licence and I’d rather I was using a FOSS tool. AND https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DOT_(graph_description_language) could be a tool-chain style solution

And http://www2.research.att.com/~john/Grappa/


(Andy Wootton) #2

You know I said I didn’t have a UML tool?

I started UML using a FOSS tool called Umbrello from KDE, used via an X server on Windows boxes. What fun!

Last time I looked at Umbrello, it seemed to be broken and have been abandoned. Today I checked again and there are updates from 2015. I’ve installed it from the Ubuntu repo and it seems to be working again. [Update: it’s still a bit flakey]

I’m now available for process mapping work :slight_smile: More importantly, I don’t have to use Windows so I can buy Sparx Enterprise Architect. The £150 Atomic PC in ALDI had been tempting me to the Dark Side.


(Gav) #3

For many, including myself, nothing beats Workflowy.com for not getting in the way of list marking and more importantly re-ordering. Everything is #tagable and @`able for cross over between lists / bullet points too.

I’ve never found a need to buy the pro version, the 100% free version is totally awesome enough:
If you want to check it out, here’s an invite link that gets you 2x more free space:

Still this is not “Concept Mapping”, thank you for putting a term to what I’d dubbed “3D bullet points”. This is an app/web app I wished existed / I could find so I’ll check out your links :smile:


(Andy Wootton) #4

Thanks @ukgav but I’m trying to get away from lists. I’m writing about moving from hierarchy to networks so I’m trying to ‘walk the talk’.

What Trello calls lists-of-list are just a tree too. I’ve been a bit
put off ‘concept mapping’ as a term by some of the advice on one of the links above. http://cmap.ihmc.us/docs/conceptmap.php

What I’m trying to do is attach chunks of text that represent an idea that links ‘concept/theme’ nodes, to form a network, potentially in more than 3 dimensions. My theory is that this is like a conceptual database. Later I can identify which parts to serialise (i.e. tech-style, not weekly episodes) into a ‘book’


(Gav) #5

This is a really good blog post about the 5 major kinds of databases (4 of them ‘nosql’) : http://www.monitis.com/blog/2011/05/22/picking-the-right-nosql-database-tool/

How would your ‘Concept Mapping’ conceptual database be different to those? (particulary Graph DB)


(Gav) #6

The good thing about Workflowy.com is although it does excellent lists, there are features which enable those lists to be a bit network like using a combo of the Search, #tags & @`tags.
Granted, it’s not all the way there, and their tag line is “Make lists not war” after all.

Lists are great for getting stuff out of your head, so you dont forget [Thing1,2,3] but those lists never tell you what number 1 really should be, that takes organisational thoughts.
What we need is to out-source our brains organisational thoughts, so that we’re only left with action-processing, creative-brainstorming or emotional based thoughts.


(Andy Wootton) #7

Sorry, that was intended to be an analogy. I’m not writing software, I’m trying to find software to improve my writing process. I may HAVE to write it but that wasn’t the plan. The book may be about writing the book. I totally haven’t stolen this idea from Robert Persig’s ‘Lila’ though. Oh hell, I have, haven’t I?
No! My daughter told me to steal it, from a book I haven’t read yet. This is starting to sound like a not very original idea.

Did I say that my original working title was ‘The Metaphysics of Information’? Maybe it should just be ‘Meta-Information’.


(Gav) #8

I like your original title, Meta-Infomation sounds more like a database book.

Anywho, I think I understand now… You want software to help you write a book about [something], rather than writing a book about a new database/software concept.


(Marc Cooper) #9

I write. Best I’ve found, both for writing and organisation (book-scale), is Scrivener. I use Freemind too, to help me work on thing, but everything eventually ends up in Scrivener.

For short pieces, I often use mou or iawriter or simply OSX’s notes.

In the end, though, it doesn’t much matter what you use, as long as you write :sunny:


(Gav) #10

Freemind looks good but old…
http://www.thebrain.com is another one, it seems you need to download.
I know there is a good drag and drop website in the same vain, but im having trouble finding it in my archive of links right now…


(Marc Cooper) #11

HI Gav

That article is w-a-y out of date.


(Andy Wootton) #12

If I was writing about something I fully understood, lots of tools would do but I’m writing about ideas I’m discovering/inventing, so I can’t yet know what the structure will be. I’m trying to keep the structure loose and flexible by being object-oriented (networked) about a process that is normally top-down (hierarchical) then serialised.

It changed some time ago from writing to philosophy. I’m beginning to understand how Pirsig felt on his other book.

I started lean publishing at LeanPub.com but found that it wasn’t Lean enough. If your text has developed a narrative then it is very difficult to change because it has ‘order’ dependencies. I see the ‘writing’ as the bit you do at the end, like CSS. I probably shouldn’t try to write novels.


(Marc Cooper) #13

Personal foible, but products that hide their cost, I loath :frowning:

Freemind is fine. It does a job. I’m not clear why age should matter. Its last update was 22 June this year. Less than 3 months old. That’s fine by me.


(Marc Cooper) #14

When you write a novel, you don’t know what the structure will be. Philip Pullman stated that structure is a thing he leaves until last – he focusses on story and voice. Tools like Scrivener don’t impose a structure; quite the opposite. They provide you with the tools to create whatever structure you want when you are ready for it.

What they do is help you write. And if you don’t write, you’re never going to publish. But talking about it is fun :wink:


(Gav) #15

I found the one I remembered using before… https://coggle.it (its free)
Give it a go @Woo

Everything else you’ve said sounds like you want your mind to become distributed. I dont think there’s software for that that… Maybe ask the Borg? :smiley:

Is writing a book an objective, or a consequence, of what your thinking about?


(Gav) #16

When all your ideas are down, then maybe you need this to work with it:
http://www.oblong.com/g-speak/
& the demos to Robert Scoble Part 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcMhZ9J0qN8
& Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uW1rAbyjur4 (where I first saw this)
& the 2010 ted talk: https://vimeo.com/44825591

I’m now going to watch Minority Report from 2002, which I’ve oddly never seen! :smiley:


(Andy Wootton) #17

Thanks but no, still trees. I’m perfectly happy with Freemind for trees. I like that it stores in XML in case I ever need to grab the data. I’ve remembered that it credits Persig’s Lila as being its inspiration.

I want ‘networked’ for now. I want to model the way I already think because I don’t remember well. I like to believe that my garbage collector is simply too efficient. ‘DIstributed’ is Phase 2. That does need software.


(Andy Wootton) #18

I’ve done a couple of simple concept maps with GraphViz. I was pleased to discover that Gedit has syntax highlighting for .dot files so I’ve got myself a tool-chain of Gedit, comand-line recall and the .PNG open in Firefox. Edit, save, move to CLI, up-arrow Enter, move to FF, F5 to refresh.

It isn’t always obvious which path the labels are associated with so I’m not sure the output could be the finished article but it’s a great thinking tool. I’m using it to try to get my head around the relationship between information and entropy.

My biggest problem has been expressing ideas as concept maps. There are reasons language grammar is complex, apparently.


(Andy Wootton) #19

I’m writing a ‘lightening-talk’ for Staffordshire Web Meetup about Intertwingularity, a word dreamed up by Ted Nelson. As a result of that, I just found this 1998 video which explains how most of us are trapped in a false ‘hierarchical lump’ paradigm:

It seems relevant to the conversation above.

b.t.w. I THINK this is why I’m interested in Lisp again, or at least in linked-lists.


(Andy Wootton) #20

This one too, which shows the latest version of his Xanadu project that he’s been working on since the 60s.

I don’t like it much.