Mind42 is a web-based mind mapping app that I used about six months ago and forgot about. They just recently ended their so-called beta stage, which reminded me that they existed. After giving them another spin, I think I’m going to start using mind maps more often. I also used FreeMind for a while, but the collaborative features of mind42 are more appealing to me right now.
A mind map is a graphical representation of the relationship between concepts. You start with a central concept and build outwards. The way you organize the concepts is up to you and good mind mapping software will let you completely restructure the graph easily. For example, I created a mind map to keep track of all the places I had applied for jobs. First, I organized it by city and state. This is good for keeping track of where we might be moving, but it doesn’t really capture what I think about the jobs I’m looking at. Some jobs I’m looking at deal with summarization, some are for government contractors, some are linguistics-oriented, etc. By arranging them by some other sort of topic, I can visualize the options available to me. Also, the act of organization helps me think through the choices I am facing. The more you think about the issues, the better equipped you will be to make a decision. That doesn’t necessarily mean you will make the best decision..
I contend that mind maps are also good for paper writing. They offer ways of teasing out information and the relationship between the ideas you are trying to convey. Of course, your mileage may vary. Not everyone is helped by mind maps. But if you are, try using them the next time you have a paper to write.
One drawback to mind maps are the time involved. You can spend a lot of time constructing a mind map and reorganizing the ideas. There is a trade off between the time spent organizing your thoughts and the value or length of the task. If it is very important for you to have thought through something in detail, a mind map is probably the right choice. If you are just jotting down thoughts in the form of a blog post, they may be too time-consuming. I doubt your readers will mind if you spend that kind of time, though.
And no, I did not take my own advice in using them for this blog post. Maybe next time.
Here’s an exciting potential computational linguistics task: construct a mind map automatically from text. I can think of a few ways to get started…