As I explore new fields of interest I realized that without a guiding map I might as well get lost. Moreover it is good to be able to check what are the common points between the area that you have already been working on and the area that you are about to explore. This includes same concepts mostly as they are in a meta-level that can be reused across multiple fields. But apart from the concepts in a field there might be more specific (less abstract) things in common like structures and algorithms and generally formalized ways of dealing with certain problems.
In order to start building something that would resemble with a personal knowledge base I started wondering on the web for such organizing tools. My problem is that I cannot be constantly aware of what I know and what I don’t and that a tool helping me quickly access such information would come in handy.
So I came across mind mapping. Mind mapping it self could consist a filed of interest on its own. However in this case I’ll be quite shallow and not get into much detail. In general mind mapping is the idea of expressing your self on a specific subject on a single piece of paper. Starting from a main idea we branch outwards to more specific elements of the idea. Overall we end up with a scheme that helps to get information in and out of our mind.
The five essential characteristics of Mind Mapping:
- The main idea, subject or focus is crystallized in a central image.
- The main themes radiate from the central image as ‘branches’.
- The branches comprise a key image or key word drawn or printed on its associated line.
- Topics of lesser importance are represented as ‘twigs’ of the relevant branch.
- The branches form a connected nodal structure.
In the above image a mind map about time management is depicted. It is hand made and gives an idea of how a mind map can be made. However I am no artist so I decided to look for mind mapping software. In my case I found two programs that are quite interesting to use: One propriety called Xmind and one open source alternative called Freemind.For the using of the first one an account is needed to be created the other one is free.
Both application are developed in Java so Java JRE is needed. However I encountered similar problems to that with the eclipse. After installing eclipse (x64) the application couldn’t start as it could not find the JRE. The solution was to copy the JRE files in the eclipse folder, inside a folder called jre. It worked like a charm but only because the JRE I used was for 64-bit. I did the same with Xmind and there was no reaction there. I needed to install the x86 JRE to make it work. Finally the Freemind did not get me any errors at all. IN order to make it work I needed to se t some environment variables. So I got the
JAVA_HOME variable to the x86 JRE path and the
PATH variable to the x86 JRE bin folder part, \i.e.
<x86 JRE>/bin path.
A note here, the
PATH variable was previously being used by modelsim but as I don’t currently use it I had not problem changing the variable to the Java JRE path as needed.
So far with the mind mapping software. I plan to use both of them and find the one that suits me better. I believe that mind maps can help organize the information that I come upon on a daily basis as it is overwhelming to digest it in my mind at once. Finally a mind map as an image is much easier thing to remember than text.
The risk of the above though is that the easier the information becomes to the brain the less the brain does process it. Consequently we misconceive and misunderstand things. Moreover for the same reason the information is temporary. As the brain has not struggled to acquire the knowledge it is easily faded away. This is the reason why mind maps should not be used for educational cases. They should be use as a supplement for storing already processed information than as a means to pass information to other people.