New cKM, NodeXL and Twiddla

Three new items at this week: cKM, NodeXL and Twiddla

Collaborative Knowledge Management (cKM)

cKM is a concept mapper that works in Second Life.  It is aimed at enterprises engaged in collaborative knowledge creation.  Its price places it well out of the reach of the casual user, but it is not hard to see that it could be valuable in the hands of a creative far-flung team.


NodeXL is a freebie from Microsoft Research that allows datapoints in an Excel spreadsheet to be displayed as a network.

(Click the image to see it full size – it’s worth a look)


Twiddla is a whiteboard collaborative platform – web based and graphical with support for uploading documents, shape drawing, email and, of course, chat.

Vic Gee  (@VicGee on Twitter)
The master list of mind mapping &
information management software


A couple of significant updates for 2010

Happy New Year!  Gradually catching up – more to go though.

Topicscape Pro

The beta version of Topicscape I wrote about last month has now passed out of beta and been formally released as a live version.  2D and 3D views below.  I’m using this and liking it a lot.  Give it a try.


The alpha version I wrote about last June is now into a more stable release – it’s in beta.  I tried it and had one problem, but that turned out to be an out-of-date graphics driver, so it’s fixed.  Try this one as well and report any bugs to the Freeplane team.  The appearance of the map owes a lot to FreeMind, naturally, and it has a pleasant uncluttered interface.

Vic Gee  (@VicGee on Twitter)
The master list of mind mapping &
information management software


Diagramic – text to diagram

Up till now, I’ve known of three text-to-diagram applications: Mappio, Text2mindmap and Diagrammr.  Now I’ve come across another: Diagramic.  I just added it to

It’s a little web-based application, and as it stands it is fun but only useful for very simple cases.   Here’s an image with data I took from a paper by Scavarda, Bouzdine-Chameeva and others, about causal maps:


I made this with simple text like this:
“Cognitive maps” -> “Undirected graphs”
“Cognitive maps” -> “Directed graphs”
“Undirected graphs” -> “Knowledge maps”
“Undirected graphs” -> “Concept maps”
“Undirected graphs” -> “Mind maps”   …. …. and so on.

When Diagramic makes graphs from plain text like that above, it will use one color and one shape.  The automatic layout is fine with simple, regular graphs, but it needs manual adjustment for even the modest one above.   As you can drag nodes wherever you want them and adjust the zoom to make best use of the fixed-sized box, it is easy to achieve a presentable result.

The biggest weakness is that to preserve the result, you must use the PrintScreen key on your keyboard and Word or some graphic-editing software to preserve and perhaps crop the image.  There is no other obvious way to make a chart and embed it on your own site.

Diagramic can also accept data from spreadsheets, so as a component in a mash-up, it has more promise. have made a web component that feeds data to it, selected from its own database, to allow users to generate relationship diagrams dynamically.  Here’s an example image taken from the Diagramic web site:


The web gadget is at the Forbes site.  Tip: Start by selecting a network from the little combo box at the top centre.

Diagrams generated from Google spreadsheets will have 2 colours and 2 shapes – the first column in table is considered to contain the prime data.  There’s no detail on the site about how the many colours in the Forbes diagram were achieved.

See you on Twitter or back here soon.

Vic Gee  (@VicGee on Twitter)
The master list of mind mapping &
information management software


What do we call our activity?

In my previous post about the mind mapping wiki, I promised to write about the phrase “information maps”:  It’s used in that wiki as a term to cover the whole domain. 

The nature of is that I need some general term. I don’t limit the content to mind map software in a strict or even a loose sense.  I toyed with “visual maps” but quickly realised that’s a tautology  —  maps are visual by their very nature. 

“Mind maps” and “concept maps” are such widely used terms, they will roll on for a long time yet, I think, but their problem is that some use them to mean something very specific, while others apply them broadly.  You may have seen minor skirmishes in newsgroups, forums and Wikipedia discussion pages over this.

‘Cognitive map’ is another, but it sounds academic and I doubt it would appeal to those outside educational circles.  In some ways it’s a pity that ‘concept maps’ has taken on a specific meaning because it would otherwise be suitable as a general term.   Information, thoughts, ideas, arguments – all fit well under ‘concept’

I like WikIT’s suggestion – it’s useful.  It’s not perfect, though.  After all such maps are often used to generate ideas.  Is a half-formed idea ‘information’, would you say?  Not really.  But as I can find nothing better for now, I may well start using this. 

The master list of mind mapping &
information management software


The Mind-Mapping Wiki

In a post some months ago, I promised to tell you more about WikIT, the mind mapping wiki but kept getting distracted.  Now I have found a few minutes to keep my word.

WikIT is a facinating resource.  It takes the line that different uses of ‘information maps’ (I’m planning a post about that phrase!) are best served by different map types and different rules.  And it goes right ahead and supports this line with examples and advice.

This wiki covers the many types of maps – mind maps, concept maps, argument maps and others.  It explains the variations and how you might choose one type if you’re learning something, another type if you’re planning a new project, and something else again if you’re doing some deep analysis.  The main map types are introduced in a summary article here that branches out to many other pages.

WikIT's mind mapping wiki

Although it looks a lot like Wikipedia, and has the same types of search facilities, WikIT often uses mind maps for navigation – that must be a boon – and takes advantage of MindManager 8’s ability to deliver Flash and PDF mind maps that work, as well as looking pretty.  You can click a link that will open a map from WikIT in your browser and start exploring.

The best place to start is the list of all the subjects covered by the wiki.  Visit that and, if you’re like me, it will set you off on clicking trail from subject to subject.  Not all articles are complete, but the planning has been pretty comprehensive (I detect planning by mind map!)

Information Tamers, who put this wiki together, have also remedied a hole in my site by adding a list of free mapping software on one of its pages.  Price is a selection criterion that I didn’t think to include when I was deciding on the controls in the ‘Refine software list’ tab, and when I was approached for permission to use all the information I was happy to see it drawn on and filtered in this way.  I always am, provided the source is acknowledged and linked to with a “follow” link.  “Free” is the price that people are most often seeking for software, as well!

The master list of mind mapping &
information management software


Normalizing mind mapping

A few days ago, I blogged about my competition for suggestions to expand the population of mind mappers exponentially.  It’s time to give my thoughts, though I’m not an entrant in the competition.

We have to ‘normalize’ mind mapping; make it seem like something that people do as a matter of course.

When Tom Cruise controlled a computer screen by waving his hands in front of a computer-generated image in Minority Report it made a strong impact.  Many people remember that.  There was no such technology at the time, but with the iPhone, iPod Touch and MS Surface, the capability is coming closer.  I’ve seen news very recently of a working gesture-in-the-air interface though the display is not the floating-in-air style to match.  That movie scene changed how people thought about interacting with a computer.  But I mention that, not because I think we need spectacular technology, but because it stuck in the mind and has really changed things.

mdalves, in a comment on my original post wrote “What about Dr. Gregory House mind-mapping their brainstorms instead of writing boring lines of text?”.  This is an example of the approach that may give a way forward, in my view.  The TV program makers have to see something in it for them though – something to attract viewers’ attention, make them remember their show and watch again next week.  But first we would have to get the message out to them.  Ideas for that welcome!

The leverage will come from mind mapping being seen as a part of popular culture.  Oprah (well, the O magazine) had something about this, I saw here

Mindmap analyses of the Presidential Candidate debates may have some effect.  I wish I knew how many people watch at those.  Not mind mappers, people who have never seen mind mapping before.  What did they make of it?  Did you watch any?

Having mindmapping and concept mapping in an educational setting seems good at first sight.  It can’t do any harm, because we would expect students to appreciate it (if it fits their thinking style) and go on to use it in the adult world.  But that that’s where mind mapping (and concept mapping) were first introduced more than 30 years ago and it hasn’t proved to be enough.  Some students don’t like it, but are forced to hand in concept maps or mind maps as homework.  Others think it’s OK but see it as something to be left behind when they leave school or college.  Some take it on into adult life and never stop.

Let’s have your ideas – comment here, or on the original post, both count towards the competition for that free iMindMap Ultimate license. 

Vic Gee
The master list of mind mapping &
information management software


Knowledge mapping for communities

I really liked a slideshow that comes from a group at the Open University, UK, so I did a write-up to alert like-minded thinkers.  It’s about different forms of visualizing information, knowledge, argument, debate and evidence.  I’ve done a quick write up in my Seminal papers in information mapping section of mind mapping articles.

Favourite moment? This provocative (but I maybe not-too-serious) idea for the search engines:


 It’s called Knowledge Mapping for Open Sensemaking Communities



MindApp, Flying Logic and Prefuse

I usually get these update reports out at the weekend – very late this time.  Family obligations.

MindApp – A feature-rich mindmapper that is sold only in the U.S.A. and Canada at present.  I suppose there must be a reason…


Flying Logic – You’ve gotta love the name.  This is a tool to support various kinds of thinking diagrams.  Not mind maps, but concept maps, tree diagrams and influence diagrams.


Prefuse – An extensible software framework that helps software developers make interactive information visualization software using Java.  Technical, but oh! so flexible and capable.  Just take a look at that gallery.  Key point: These diagrams are interactive.  Click on a node and it can reorganise and reveal new information.



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New mind mapping search engine

There are now two specialized search engines on concept mapping and mind mapping that draw on well-known sites with information about mind and concept mapping.  I’ve set this up with Google Co-op.

I’m focusing on sites with genuinely useful mind mapping and concept mapping content (avoiding the ad-laden gateway pages that some people have set up, just to draw clicks).

Tell me about sites you think should be added (vic at this domain).

Google puts ads on the web result, I don’t, but I shall contact them to see if counts as a non-profit, so I can get them to take the ads off.  I expect “non-profit” only applies to the Red Cross, Oxfam and the like though.



two specialized search engines on concept mapping and mind mapping


“Seminal articles” section added

There is a new division in the “Articles” section: Seminal papers in information mapping

This presents links to articles on concept mapping and other forms of information map by some of the leading authorities in the area: Joseph D. Novak, Alberto J. Cañas, John F. Sowa, Sigmar-Olaf Tergan and others. There is also the full text of one article.

Topics covered are:

  1. Underlying theory of Concept Maps
  2. Semantic networks
  3. Visual representation of knowledge
  4. An overview of concept mapping
  5. Concept maps and web research

I have more and will add them as time permits, because they contain a lot of very useful ideas, research and analysis.