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Things April 30, 2008

Posted by CK in Design, Productivity, Software.
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Every time I read a new post in the Things blog, i.e. the blog about the development of the Things application, it makes me think that I really can’t wait for the first stable release (1.0) of this little gem. The people at CulturedCode seem to consider exhaustively all different options about the interface and the logic of Things. Looking at how it’s developing, the final result will probably be very exciting. If the current pre-release had iCal syncing implemented, I would have converted already. Thankfully this feature is next in the pipeline.

Science 2.0 April 24, 2008

Posted by CK in Research.
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Scientific American has published an article about what is now called Science 2.0. The concept is similar to the leap from the WWW to Web 2.0: Publishing of scientific data in ways possible to share and aggregate it. Essentially, we’re talking about an application of social networking concepts to scientific research, thus bringing the latter back to its roots of openly sharing and reviewing scientific developments before their final form. According to the article, it has worked very well so far, for the OpenWetWare project.

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On writing use cases April 18, 2008

Posted by CK in Design, IT.
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I recently had to design a use case template for a project I’m working on. This should be filled in by non-IT people, though eventually the consolidated results would be provided to IT people. I run back to Alistair Cockburn‘s “Writing Effective Use Cases“, which I had bought during a recent trip to the US but never got around actually reading it.

The author has done a great job with this book. In a very short period of time, using eventually a slightly modified example from the first pages of the book, I managed to have this template very quickly (I practically only skimmed through the book). It turns out that it was very easy for the audience to understand its structure and fill it in. Apart from making this specific task far too easy for me, Alistair Cockburn has managed in this book to set apart the various concepts and ideas which must be materialized before implementing or customizing an application: Use cases, Requirements, Test cases, etc. There’s a fine level of formality and granularity that a use case description needs to have, and there are no patterns for that other than the author’s intuition about what the audience can provide solid replies to. One doesn’t fit all, and the author makes a good job pointing this out and offering advice on coming up with what is the fittest under specific circumstances.

A highly-recommended book.

Mind-mapping on the mac April 14, 2008

Posted by CK in Productivity, Software.
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Mind-maps are a great way to keep information about a project organized visually, just like it’s organized in your head. I love their functionality, especially when it comes to brainstorming sessions; I have realized they speed up design (and consensus) significantly. But even for one’s use, as long as you can attach arbitrary files to branches (nodes), they become an excellent note-taking tool. Just as a side-note here, I am using mind maps together with Journler and iGTD for some time now, and this combo really works. Although I’m eagerly waiting for the stable release of Things.

I have been a Novamind user for some time now. Novamind is a great tool in many respects: It’s feature-complete, flexible, stable. Version 3 was ugly and the interface was painful, but v4 fixed that. However, some problems persisted. Chris Heard has written about some of them last year, in a comparison with Mindjet’s MindManager. I had tried MindManager for Mac in the past and I was far from satisfied, but this latest version (v7) seems to actually work pretty well. I downloaded and gave the trial version another shot, and it includes all the functionality which I seem to need (except for multi-page maps, which is a fantastic feature of Novamind). I also prefer the looks of the maps that it creates, but this is only a matter of taste.

I am planning to re-try Freemind, which is free but had a few problems last time I checked. If it doesn’t work out for me, I’ll probably move to MindManager.