News and thoughts from CS Odessa, maker of the ConceptDraw product line: ConceptDraw PRO, ConceptDraw PROJECT and ConceptDraw MINDMAP.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Free Upgrades to ConceptDraw PRO

CS Odessa has just announced important free upgrades to the company’s ConceptDraw PRO business graphics and diagramming package.

ConceptDraw PRO 9.4 features an enhanced startup wizard, new connectors technology and ConceptDraw Solution Park additions to help users produce professional results more quickly, easily and cost effectively. The upgraded ConceptDraw PRO package demonstrates CS Odessa’s ongoing commitment to continuously improving its solutions suite.

Improvements include:

  1. A new Start Up Wizard that allows users to set basic formatting features.
  2. Arrows 10 technology to streamline object linking.
  3. New Solution Park enhancements, including new templates and libraries to help users quickly and efficiently produce professional results.

"The new startup wizard can help users begin each new project more efficiently and effectively," says Olin Reams, General Manager, VP of Sales & Marketing Americas at CS Odessa. "Smart Connectors technology enhances the intelligent design of the product since it fits the way people think instead of program operations."

Monday, April 22, 2013

Why companies should care about sustainability.

Last week I blogged about why investors care about sustainability. The other side of the coin is to consider why companies should care about it.

The most obvious reason is that companies (public companies, anyway) should care for the very reason that investors care. And the corollary to that is that companies should care not only because investors do, but because investors care enough that this secondary market in sustainability info is springing up.

Firms that provide investors with financial information think they can make money by supplying investors with this information (and just so we're clear, these are large institutional investors, not mom and pops).

So companies also need to care because they need to have information on their sustainability program easily accessible to these information suppliers. If they don't, they will sooner or later stick out like a sore thumb among companies who do.

But there are other reasons, self-interested reasons, why companies should care:

So... what is your company doing about this latest litmus test for corporate health?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Nodes are Still News: Robert Kosara in Harvard Business Review Blog

I mentioned the other day. This is the braindhild of Robert Kosara who, it turns out, is a very prolific thinker on the subject of data visualization.

I ran across his work again today in a post on the Harvard Business Review Blog. Here's the map I made of his post (and I'll post it to Biggerplate):

What I thought was interesting about his post was that:

  1. He mentions node maps. (I say this as one of the brotherhood/sisterhood of people who don't get why mind mapping, such a powerful approach to information management, struggles so hard to find an audience. So it's always nice to see this approach mentioned, however tangential to the way mind mapping is normally used. And ever nicer to see it mentioned in the HBR by someone of Kosara's stature among data visualization professionals.)
  2. He brings up the issue of the "potential interaction" between visual and linguistic metaphors used in node-link diagrams and treemaps. It's exciting that people are looking at this interaction, something that I think people who mind map at least think they understand and try to leverage.

In another recent paper, Thinking Deeper About Visualization, Kosara wrote something that, I have to admit, made my heart skip a beat:

For example, two separate participants explained that they considered the donut chart less stable because it seemed like it might “roll away.” This kind of analysis also seemed to underly the evaluations of the bubble chart as unstable and uncontrolled, with participants describing this chart as “floating bubbles that were barely contained within the area” and “scattered.” Similarly, charts without joined pieces were often described as “flying apart” or “exploding.”

Is he referring to mind maps when he says bubble charts (I have heard people use these terms interchangeably)? Do people feel that way when they see a mind map? Is all hope lost?

But further communication with Kosara relieved me when he said he was referring to a scatterplot, like this one from Gapminder (

I have asked Kosara whether he plans to pursue research into the potential interaction between visual and linguistic metaphors he mentioned in the HBR blog. I'll let you know if I hear anything from him...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Do Investors Care About Corporate Sustainability?

I ran across a PriceWaterhouseCoopers report on whether investors care about a company's efforts to be more sustainable--and not just in the environmental sense of the word. The conclusion: Boy do they.

The report, Do investors care about sustainability? Seven trends provide clues, provides evidence of an interesting loop: Investor interest in sustainable practices has become so popular that financial reporting companies are now starting to provide easy access to information on these practices. As companies realize how easy it is for investors (and potential investors) to get a hold of this information, they upgrade their own sustainability reporting practices.

Investors are becoming interested in sustainability because recent studies indicate a direct correlation between sustainable practices and profits.

Sustainable practices include such things as:

  1. Better management of natural resources that go into a companies products. (A beverage company must protect long-term sources of potable water.)
  2. More attention to waste products that flow out of factories.
  3. More concern for worker health and safety.
  4. More attention to how the company's operations affect the community in which it's located.
  5. More attention to making sure energy grids are maintained and that energy generation is sustainable.
  6. More attention to climate change and its implications on supply and risk.

Here's the map. I'll post it on Biggerplate too:

Friday, April 12, 2013

Have you laid eyes on eagereyes?

Making the seredipitous choices that constitute the average Internet experience, I found a site today called If you're interested in the visualization of information (and if you mind map, how could you not be?), then you might like this site.

The site is run by Robert Kosara, a Visual Analysis Researcher at Tableau Software, and formerly Associate Professor of Computer Science at UNC Charlotte. He says on the site that "He has created visualization techniques like Parallel Sets and performed research into the perceptual and cognitive basics of visualization."

A recent post is called The Revolution Will Be Visualized. Here's an example of one of the data visualizations, this one on the number of gun deaths in the U.S. in 2013:

Here's another way to look at the data:

Not the cheeriest subject matter, I admit. But it does give you a aense of the power of information graphics. Where is the cross-over between mind mapping and information visualization? What does that Venn diagram look like?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My Views on Biggerplate Event

Great image from Paula J. Becker Illustrations at

Have we all been here before?
After going through every one of the Biggerplate presentations, I took some time to sit back and reflect on what I thought was the overall message of the event.

There was some good thinking done about what is keeping mind mapping from the mainstream, along with some possible ideas of how we might get there.

But I have to say that none of the ideas were particularly gripping. Having been active in the mind mapping community for more than a decade, I can say with all honesty and candor that it gave me a bit of a sense of deja view.

Image from

Time for an all-inclusive social media desktop?
I had a conversation the other day with another mind mapping gray beard. We agreed that one of the strengths of mind mapping software is its ability to bring together in one screen information from many sources.

But as the number of information sources has mushroomed, mind mapping seems to be getting left behind.

When is one of the market leaders going to create maps that aggregate in real time the information that's coming in from Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr? My friend wanted to know when he'd be able to drag someone's Linkedin profile into a map he's building to strategize on customer acquisition.

More mixing. More mingling.
It is great that Liam Holmes brought everyone together for this event. It's exactly what the mind mapping community needs to collaborate its way to the future.

It would be cool if, next time, there's a mix of mind mappers and people engaged in developing new social information sources. Let's see how we can all play nice together.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Final Biggerplate Speaker: Thomas Thornton of MindMeister

This is the ninth and final recap of the presentation at the January Biggerplate event in London. To see each presentatioin in its entirety, please refer to The Mindmap Blog's "Mindmapping Thought Leaders Share Best Practices in London" for each speaker's video.

Teach your children
The final speaker was Thomas Thornton of MindMeister. Given that the theme of the Biggerplate event was getting mind mapping into the mainstream, Thomas began by suggesting that one good way to get there was by focusing on encouraging the use on mind mapping within education. He said that students are a good target because they are open to new ideas and usually willing to embrace new technology.

(Other companies have taken this approach in the past, with greater or lesser success. Many companies also include education pricing in their sales structure. But I personally think it is fair to say that Inspiration is the only company that deals with mind mapping that has made bringing mapping to the young the key focus of its business model. It's actually kind of odd that Inspiration is never mentioned when mind mappers talk about mind mapping. Why is that?)

What's the problem?
Thomas noted that some of the main barriers to acceptance among educators are:

  1. Political forces inside a school system (small "p": the social forces inside a school)
  2. The fact that creating mind maps can be time consuming.
  3. The need to train teachers in how to mind map.
  4. The need to train students themselves in how to mind map.

But there is nothing unique about any of these barriers. They are the same ones mind mapping companies face in pushing their technology into businesses. The one difference may be what he mentions first--that younger people are just more open to trying new things. Another advantage may be that professional educators are always on the lookout for new ways to help kids learn.

Thomas described how he taught mind mapping at one elementary school, first having the kids create a mind map of themselves, then having them build one together. The principal was sufficiently impressed to ask him to come back and teach more classes.

Can Ubiquitous Connectivity Help the Spread of Mapping?
Thomas referred to Seth Godin's "pre-connected" and "connected" worlds. The first refers to the time when information was scarce and processed by people in isolation (think someone at a library digging through the stacks alone).

In the connected world, information is not just plentiful, but offered up in a world of tremendous, 24/7 connectivity and at least the opportunity for relatively accessible ways to collaborate. And that may give mind mapping companies new routes to the mainstream.

Provide the technology and the context

Thomas offered up as a case in point--a recent article in a German newspaper about organ donations. The newspaper wanted to create a lot of conversation around the topic. So in addition to listing comments in the standard text format, they also gave readers the ability to add comments to a mind map.

First the paper give readers instructions on how to read a mind map. Then the showed how to enter comments into the map. (There was a very simple color-coded format for comments.) So this experiment on the part of the newspaper.

It also get mapping in front of millions--and in a context that helps make it clear how mind mapping can help the process of knowledge sharing.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Biggerplate Continued: John Barber on Expanding the Mind Mapping User Base

(Please refer to The Mindmap Blog's "Mindmapping Thought Leaders Share Best Practices in London" for each speaker's video.)

John Barber brings to the table the freshness and enthusiasm of someone new to mind mapping--"new" being relative to the decades many in the audience have been mapping. He explained how he, like so many mind mapping practitioners, began using this approach when he saw one of his coworkers in a previous job using mapping to take notes.

Image from Betterment.

Gently passed from one individual to another
When John asked the guy why he'd never shared the methodology with others, the coworkers said that it was his own little way of doing things. Once John understood how his colleague was using mapping to organize work, John quickly saw how much mapping helped not only his coworker but the entire team--and began using it himself.

Image from The Telegraph.

A Compleate Historie of the Moderne Worlde
Just to put mapping technology into context, John then embarked on an annotated history of information technology, spanning the distances between ARPANET, Apple, email, instant messaging, and micro-blogging. He then made a very nice transition into how these tools supported or failed what then became the thrust of the rest of his presentaion: Collaboration.

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing?
Has enterprise collaboration lived up to its hype, he asked. Then he offered two data points: People on average spend about 70% of the work week in some kind of collaboration, and only 3% of companies derive any benefit from social technology.

That leads to the obvious conclusion that there is something missing in how we are all collaborating. And that something, he posits, may well be the lack of visualization in how we collaborate.

Image from PPC for Hire.

The search for mind mapping's sweet spot
But what or where is the need, and how do we know it's there? John described how Mindjet has commissioned research to figure out what C-level business people are interested in these days. The hot trend is, according to Mindjet's experts, is "organizational efficiency."

Okay, that seems like something mapping could help with. But how. John notes that more research reveals that half of all employees "care passionately about their company's goal" but lack either the knowledge or the will to actually do things differently to help reach those goals.

Image from HubPages.

Tick Tock
Perhaps, John concludes, visualization is the "secret sauce" that, when added to collaboration and messaging/social technology, can turn the Stone Soup of good intentions into something savory. Is it just a matter of time, he asks, until this trend takes hold? He laments that mind mapping has been around for more than 40 years and we aren't there yet.

But with additional education and increased awareness (thanks to sites such as Biggerplate), John is confident that mind mapping may yet be swept into the mainstream.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Biggerplate Continued: Andrew Wilcox on Finding Maps Online

(And once again, please refer to The Mindmap Blog's "Mindmapping Thought Leaders Share Best Practices in London" for each speaker's video.)

Andrew Wilcox from Cabre had a short but interesting presentation. He was curious about how easy it was for people to find mind maps online. So he did a little test. The test was a good example of how one can occasionally step outside of one's own point of reference to see what the world looks like to others.

Image from

Why do bank robbers rob banks?
Andrew's unstated assumption was that it's pretty easy for people immersed in mind mapping to find all the maps they want by searching online. Like the bank robber, we know where to look (such as Biggerplate). We know common file extensions. We know specific terminology that might increase our chances of success. So it's not surprising that we may think that it's fairly easy for anyone to find maps online. Alas, not so. And therein lays the rub.

Andrew's Empirical Examination
Andrew described his test: First, he mapped a local meeting. Then he posted the map on Biggerplate, on Mindjet's "Maps for That" site, and to his own Conference Reaction site. He downloaded some tool that let's people see what their sites look like to Google. And then he did a Google search for the map. Here's what he found:

  1. Google itself sees the file name. That's it.
  2. When it searches "Maps for That," it sees pretty much nothing too because of the content management system Mindjet uses (according to Andrew).
  3. Biggerplate was slightly better, showing an outline of the map contents.
  4. And when Google it searched Conference Reaction, it looked pretty much like the page he had uploaded, complete with text and the map image.

Image from Warrior Fitness

Curious Results Indeed!.
His conclusion wasn't "See what a great site I have," but "How could the results be so different? Why are they so different." He tried to correlate the search results with each site's page rank. But there didn't seem to be any clear correlation.

He then did another search using terms he thought an average person looking for a map might use: visual project management." The highest result an actual map got was the #12 result for Mindjet, but the link was to a page that wasn't exactly educational--more like a landing page for shopping. None of the mind mapping software companies in the room--and no other such vendors he could think of--were in the top 100 results.

The Challenge
The point of his presentation, as borne out by his little test, was that it seems to be very hard for the average person to stumble across an actual mind map of anything--unless they know exactly what they're looking for and probably where to find it.

And he left that as a bit of unfinished business for the companies represented at the Biggerplate conference: How can we as mind mapping experts make it easier for people to find maps online?