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

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Does the NSA Use Mind Mapping?

The scenario I mentioned in yesterday's post about data and the meaning of data relates to recent news surrounding the NSA. This secretive federal agency has been embroiled lately in news about its collection of massive amounts of data American citizens generate through the use of the Internet.

A Double-Edged Sword
The person who leaked news of this collection, a private contractor named Edward Snowden, is being proclaimed a hero and a villain. Clearly, there were other avenues open to him if he wanted this information to become public.

But the idea of the government collecting unimaginable amounts of data on what are considered the private activities of millions of people, without them/us knowing about it... that's plenty troubling too.

How Do You Personally Define Freedom? Freedom from what?
From what I understand, the government's plan is to continually amass data, and then to comb it with ever-more-powerful, intelligent tools. The goal: Discover as soon as possible those sharp needles in the haystack: (Read the new WIRED story about this.)

I get the part about data visualization. We need tools to compress this information into forms we can understand. But then there is the next step: Drawing conclusions and taking actions based on that data.

I personally wonder what tools the NSA uses to take this second step. We know that mind mapping is used for some very key projects at some very large organizations, both public and private.

And I remember those strong rumors that a federal intelligence agency bought a number of mind mapping software licenses the day after 9/11. We will never know the tools being used in the most secretive of secret places.

Is Data Synonymous with Truth?
So many resources are dedicated these days to developing the technology that supports the first part (data viz). But how far have we come to help people draw the right conclusions from the data?

Our belief in -- or at least our reliance on -- Big Data will only grow as we use it to make more and more decisions. Will we get better at developing tools to help us make sense of it all?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Thanks, Marissa Mayer

Long time since last post... oh well. Blogging should be about posting when you have something to say, not because you need to put something up X times per X.

This reminds me of a time when I was hiking in the Enchanted Valley in the Olympics (WA state). We ran into a guy who was sitting in the middle of a soggy depression, staring at a thicket of devil's clubs (nasty plant!!). When we suggested to him that there was a great view just around the bend, he said, "No, I stop to rest every half hour. It doesn't matter where I am." But I digress... Back to Marissa.

It suddenly dawned on me today that mind mapping adherents owe her one for her whole no-more-telecommuting thing. I say that after a couple of hours spent searching with terms like "information visualization," "Idea visualization" and so on. The two results come together in a sentence like:

Use data viz to make sense of the data, and then come together with others and use your new-found insight to make a decision or reach a conclusion.

The thrust of her argument I think is that it is in those serendipitous meetings in the hallways that new ideas are born. I can agree with that--as long as people feel like they have the time and chat for a minute, and as long as they aren't worried about "owning" any idea that might spring forth.

I work from home now and sometimes miss that serendipity. I get it now when I visit my clients and at the organizations I volunteer for. It's one of the most entertaining and affirming parts of the work day.