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Mind Maps: the Poor Man's Design Tool 97

Posted by Soulskill
from the asking-for-directions-is-taboo dept.
CowboyRobot writes "'UML too complex? Flowcharts too old school? Mind maps offer a simple way to capture designs and weave them together elegantly.' The quickest way to begin designing a program is to simply write down the steps in normal text, but this method breaks down with more complex projects. UML can be a useful format for larger projects but can be difficult to get right, especially when trying to use it with a less conventional project. The middle ground are 'Mind Maps,' 'a diagrammatic representation of loosely connected ideas. They are a central tool in brainstorming sessions. Mind map tools help capture ideas and then mush them around until you have the structure you want.'"
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Mind Maps: the Poor Man's Design Tool

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  • Re:Oh boy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stephanruby (542433) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @04:03AM (#41535355)

    Slashdot discovers mind maps. News at 11.

    Wait until you guys discover doodling... Doodling is my secret competitive advantage.

    And unlike mind mapping, you don't need some fancy software to do it with, I doodle my ideas on paper napkins, pizza boxes, and unopened envelopes all the time.

  • I like FreeMind (Score:5, Insightful)

    by I cant believe its n (1103137) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @04:42AM (#41535515) Journal
    I like FreeMind [sourceforge.net] (mentioned in the DrDobbs article). Of course I knew about mind maps before, but the ability to export a perfectly formated map as Pdf, HTML and in various image formats is great. I think I'll be using this instead of paper in the future. I've tried various UML design tools in the past, but they all require that you have already made some of the decisions beforehand.

    I think UML is a great way of describing a system once you have made all major decisions, but whenever I need to think about a new project, I have always prefered pen and paper. I'll seriously give FreeMind a go now.
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @04:50AM (#41535549) Homepage

    You can spend a week in a tiger team lock-in session, mind mapping the shizzle out of your next project. Eventually, a desperate delirium sets in, and you'll agree to anything just to get out of there. Thus the design is "finalised".

    Then by the time you get back to your keyboard, some executive vice president of marketing is accidentally exposed to a copy of Wired, and decides that instead of writing an app to keep recipes on, what you really need is to ride the frontsurge to a collaboratively cloudsourced web 3.0 win-win solution, and the charade starts all over again.

    Experience starts to look a lot like cynicism after a while.

  • Re:I suspect (Score:4, Insightful)

    by war4peace (1628283) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @04:57AM (#41535577)

    That's exactly what I disliked about mind maps. They're too damn limited. You have a central point and stem all your directions from there. But cyclic relations don't exist, also you can't make any many-to-one or one-to-many references. If point X refers to more than one branch, you'd have to hack the mind map to display it.

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @06:39AM (#41536105) Homepage

    Brainstorming exists to give dumb people a false sense of ownership over the smart guy's ideas.

  • Re:UML (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LourensV (856614) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @07:58AM (#41536533)

    I suspect that for most people, the reason to use a mind map rather than UML would not be UML's complexity. UML scales pretty well: a bunch of boxes with names in them and lines between them to signal what is related to what is a valid UML class diagram already. Instead, I think the problem with UML is that it forces you to think very carefully about what exactly it is that you're going to create. Back in the 1960's and 1970's, people like Donald Knuth and Edsger Dijkstra advocated careful thinking about software, rigid specification, and proving correct any important algorithms. They saw software as a mathematical construct, and the exercise of building software as akin to proving theorems.

    Fast forward to the Internet age. Software is everywhere, and rare is the project where the customer can tell you clearly what they want. The small cadre of people who are capable of the precise and abstract thought required to do programming the mathematical way is not by far big enough to write all the software that the world needs, so even if customers could make rigid specifications, most programmers would find them written in an alien language. So we have adopted a biological rather than mathematical approach: specifications are never exact, software is always broken, but it's okay because the software has an immune system (we call it vendor support), which fixes up errors continuously. In such a world, maybe a mind map is as formal a description as you need.

    Personally, I used UML to describe a logical data model in my last big project. I was the only one with a formal CS background in the project, but everyone understood the diagrams just fine. I had to explain a few more advanced things to some people, but it was no problem. And we did think everything through very carefully, and so far the whole thing is holding up very well because of that. In my opinion, even in the age of agile development and web technologies, careful thought is still invaluable in software development, and a diagram language that lets you specify a bit more detail when you need it is a very useful tool. I'll stick with UML.

  • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Wednesday October 03, 2012 @08:42AM (#41536941) Journal
    Brainstorm session are a great way to get buy-in from others if you need it... But not all sessions are like that. If you are genuinely interested in the outcome of such a session, be selective about who you invite. Leave the dumb people out of it, and get a diverse group of smart people.

Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed. -- Francis Bacon

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