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Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Presenting Project Timelines

tmp2 Gantt charts are most commonly used by project managers to represent activities and milestones over time.  These work well however there are times when an alternative form of presentation would be nice.  Not everyone new to projects and project management understands or appreciates Gantt charts, for instance.
One alternative is a timeline.  There are many ways of creating these using software but one of the easiest to maintain might be that produced by MindView.  MindView can take a project plan – whether a mind map created in MindView (or MindManager) or in MS Project - and prepare a timeline view with just a few clicks.  Programme - timeline filter
As with most things, too much detail can hide the key messages, so filter the items to show just what you need.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Focus Questions

If you work with facilitators sooner or later you will see “Focus Questions” being used to help guide thinking and discussions.  When presented with an issue, it is easy for a group to approach it from many different directions, not all of which will be immediately useful.  By framing the debate as a response to a “Focus Question”, the group are encouraged to pay attention to particular aspects of the problem or its solution.  As is implied, the question provides focus.
“Focus Questions” are often used in workshops but they may also be used as part of the preparation for a meeting or workshop.  They are issued with the workshop brief under a heading such as d“preparation for the workshop”.  Use in this way, “Focus Questions” can help direct the attendees thinking before the meeting itself.  It helps them understand better what the meeting is about, what answers are sought and what not to waste time on.
image When used as meeting preparation, “Focus Questions” may be listed as part of the brief. 
To provide a little imagemore structure, and to help the attendees visualise their response better, it can be useful to present the questions as part of a template that includes space for responses, thoughts and notes.   This can be prepared as simple table, using Excel or Word, say.
“Focus Question” templates can also be presented as a map with lots of space for notes.  The map can be sent as a PDF for the attendees to print, or if they have the appropriate software, such as MindView, it can be sent as file for the participants to complete.  MindView can do either.
tmp
If it is important to collate the responses to the questions, using mapping software is a great way to do this – bringing together all the responses against the relevant branches or topics on the map.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Biggerplate is Changing

BiggerplateThe premier site for exchanging MindManager maps is Biggerplate.  It is a free resource where you can post maps you wish to share and find others when you need inspiration.  The site is nearing the final stages of a new version and will shortly enter beta test. 

Liam Hughes is the site owner and has provided a list of improvements for the new version.  These are:

  • Bulk Uploads: a fast method to upload up to ten maps at once
  • Auto-Complete: as a map is uploaded it will be scanned automatically to create a title, description (where available) and relevant key word tags, meaning there is very little data entry for contributors to do. They can of course edit everything as they choose.
  • Improved copyright and licensing options (control how your work is used)
  • Embed links to your own web site in the map descriptions
  • Mini-Profiles: Promote yourself and your business, and learn how other people are using mind mapping/Biggerplate
  • Fully integrated MindManager viewer to enable people to view mind maps without having to download anything
  • No more Google Ads!
  • No size limit on mind map uploads (previously maps with lots of pictures may have caused the site to reject them).
  • Vastly improved browse and search functions, making it far easier to find a wider range of mind map content.

screen_shot_1Some of these items caught my eye in particular, here are further details:

Auto-Complete

As a map is uploaded the site will scan it and create a title, description and tags.  To get the best results note the following:

  • The map title will be extracted from the central topic, so having an accurate and descriptive central topic for your map is a good place to start
  • The map description will be extracted from the properties dialogue within MindManager (File>Info>Properties) using any information that is added to the comments section. So if you want the Auto-Complete function to fill out everything, enter the information into this comments section when you save your map
  • The “Tags” for the map are extracted from either the keywords field (again within the properties dialogue) or, if there are no keywords entered in the document properties, the site will extract them from the level 1 subtopics within your map.

You will be able to accept these results or edit them to your liking.

Embed Links

One of the great advantages of Biggerplate is the platform it provides for marketing yourself or your business.  The new site will now create hyperlinks to links included in the map description, allowing other users to visit your site to find out more.

For instance, a map description can include something like:

This map on project managing in enterprise is intended to help senior IT managers plan complex projects from start to finish. For more information, please visit my blog: HYPERLINK "http://www.blog.biggerplate.com" www.blog.biggerplate.com

Biggerplate will recognise this and automatically create a hyperlink to the site indicated. This is a great way for small businesses, blog owners and web sites to promote themselves through the maps they share on Biggerplate.

Mini-Profiles

screen_shot_2 The aim of mini-profiles is to help people see and learn more about how others are using mind mapping and Biggerplate. Once registered on Biggerplate, you will be able to enter a short and information on how you use mind mapping, and/or Biggerplate. This will be displayed along with all the maps you have added to the site. You will also be able to enter information to help other people connect with you on your preferred online networks, by entering your Twitter Username, Web site Address, Facebook URL and so on. 

Say your mind map appears in my search results, I will be able to click your name and view your mini-profile. This may give me some extra information about who you are, and help me to understand better the context in which the map was created, perhaps lending extra credibility to the map contents.

Everything in the mini-profile section is opt-in, and no information (apart from username and mind maps) will be displayed if the user does not add it.

There is no published launch date for the new site however beta testing is due to start soon.  Liam has provided a couple of screen shots of the development site (click the thumbnails in this post), the final version will be different in some areas, and they should whet our appetites for now.