A personal journey in information management (contd.)

Minimize abstraction

A key driver in the search for a better information organizer is that abstraction is the enemy of quick comprehension. We must make things concrete to remember them. (See my article here.)

At this point we signed an agreement with 3D-Scape Limited to develop an information organizer, so the thinking I'd been doing for years, on and off, crystallized.

We needed a concrete way of presenting information

Use visual methods

The visual approach has great potential, but using 2D mindmapping results in the problems touched on already, like impractical map size for significant (but not huge) projects and the poor visibility that results.

The magic sauce — 3D

This was where the magic sauce - 3D - came into the information management picture.

The 4 early design rules for Topicscape were these:

1. Present information visually, and in 3D to open up the space on the screen

2. Use a mindmapping or concept mapping way of thinking

3. Allow multiple parents for any node (we call nodes Topics)

4. Allow multiple attachments per node (we call attachments Occurrences).

We set aside a day a week for ideas, experiment and discussion

We had daily design discussion meetings.

We had two artists coming up with ideas.

And on more than one occasion we had the unusual task, maybe unique for software designers, of working in clay, photographing the results, adjusting, making more models.  Very concrete!

We would put the models on one side, work on the computer, come back to them, and then get the clay out again so that we could see and touch what we were visualizing.

Here is one of the experimental images produced on a computer after some of our clay modeling sessions.

We moved on from these fanciful, mountainous ideas, but this did help me to settle on 3D landscapes, where concrete objects hold computer files.

Then what we found was:

In a concrete 3D space, you're not feeling around in your head for where you stored something.

You can find what you're looking for more quickly.

You feel much more confident that what you need can be found.

You can show others that you're better organized.

3D mindmapping takes shape ⇒