Monthly Archives: January 2011

Mind maps

While mind maps have been around a while, I’ve really not used them. It’s a concept that works really well in software and less so on a whiteboard, I think, as changes are easier when you are using bits.

I spent the day at Boy Scout Leader training (I’m District Chairman for Orange District, NC). We had a goal-setting exercise at the end. I tried the mindmap software MindNode on my iPad ($5.99 iPad, free from the MacOS app store). It’s a simple piece of software, but I think that this might be pretty useful for this sort of brainstorming activity. One thing is that this is just the sort of exercise at which a tablet computer excels. Orange District committee members spent about 20 minutes brainstorming about what we can do to improve the program in our district and meet the requirements set for us by Council and National; we came up with this. The point of this post is not to talk about Boy Scout district planning, but to really use that to talk about mind maps and the MindNode tool. Its simplicity is a virtue, I think. It does say that it supports VGA output from the iPad, which should be very useful, though I’ve not tried it yet.

I’m intrigued by the software, and now that I’ve got this tool, I think I’ll try this concept in some other settings.

Impressed with Texterity…

I am seriously impressed with Texterity. I just converted my subscription to the Chronicle of Higher Education from print to digital. It only saved me about $10/yr, but I kept throwing out a lot of paper. I was concerned that I’d miss browsing through the hard copy, but having sat down today and read through the digital version on my iPad, I’m wondering why I didn’t switch earlier! Texterity is the vendor that the Chronicle selected to deliver their content, and the HTML5 content is fantastic. Fast, legible and intuitive. I was floored when I absent-mindedly used a “page flick” gesture and the page turned. Doh! The way it should work! Apparently there are a lot of magazines that use this technology but today was my first experience. I’ll be looking for other magazines in this format. Check out this Wikipedia article for more on Texterity.

Touch screens and keyboards…

A physical keyboard or a virtual one? That’s a chioice which is playing out on many mobile devices these days. I’m prompted to muse about this topic by an excellent article in Network World on the evolution of the virtual keyboard and the explosive growth of the tablet and smartphone market. Use of a virtual keyboard is not a Hobson’s Choice to take it or leave it, as there are a continuum of options offered for device interfaces. Bluetooth connectivity on tablets and smartphones gives the flexibility of matching input need with the tool. I use the virtual keyboard extensively on my iPad, but also carry a Bluetooth keyboard in my backpack for text-intensive operations. I’m intrigued by the power of multitouch gestures and alternatives such as Swype (though I have not tried Swype). I’m a good touch typist, and that is as much a curse as a blessing when one considers changing input techniques. I think that the point made in the NW article about generational preferences is intriguing and likely will be a big factor in future user interface (UI) designs. We are strongly tied to the past. The Qwerty keyboard itself was intentionally designed for inefficiency, to keep the complex mechanical systems of early typewriters from jamming. I’m optimistic that the capabilities of multitouch display in our mobile devices will encourage the innovation necessary to move us beyond the typewriter that’s the anchor keeping us from flowing down the river of progress.