If you think carefully about Word and Powerpoint, you would realise that they are output presentation tools either on paper or projection on screen. Writing an article requires you to search for information, organise them, analyse them, generating better ideas, reorganise them and only finally put them down is a nicely logically organised and formatted printout or slides. Word offer little help in the earlier and more critical part of writting – search, generating and organizing your thoughts. The ideal software to help us think and write should look something like the mindmap shown below. I call it Mind-Extender.
You don’t find this software now,but you can build it using freely available software.
1. Capture. The first piece of the software is the information capture or data collection. If we have in mind certain types of information that we are interested in, we can use the subscription service software to collect those information. We have the Feedreaders, eMail subscriptions, etc. Sometimes we attend Seminars and learn new things. Those new information should be captured and stored as well for future writing need.
2. Classification. The next thing to do is classification. The easiest is not to classify as all and rely on index search engine like Google Desktop (or yahoo or microsoft equivalent) to retrieve them when needed. But more effective search can be made in future is you spend some time classifying your captured information. Some use key words, tags, or even a mindmap software or a Zoot folder software. Categorizing information is learning as well.
3. Storage. Where do you want to store your captured information. In the past, we have to put them in our PC or laptop. With the high speed network availablilty and large free storage available, we can put them on the network so that we can access them anyway we want. Google 2GB mail storage is a good option to stored them. You can put them in your thumb drive (1-4G) or pocket drive (80G). The choice is the convenience of access and retrieval ease.
4. Retrieval. The methods of indexing and classification affect retrieval. There are many ways to it… free text search, key word search, theasarus supported search, mindmap/directory type, and semi-structured attribute or dimension search etc.
5. Application. We make presentation or write report. We can also used the stored information as templates to help us make decisions or solve problems. When we learn new things or new methods, we can put them back into the knowledge base for future reuse.
6. Collaboration. We can works with others to share information, create new ones and jointly solve problems or brain storm. What is the best way to collaborate ? At present, the Mind Mapping methods seem to be most effective to me. We also need to implement our ideas, track progress, and made changes if needed.
By taking an overview of how knowledge worker work – collecting, making sense, generating ideas, making plan, tracking progress, making decisions, solve problem and persuade others, we realise that we don’t have an integrated tools to help us. We will have to make do with what we have and perhaps workon creating a more effective and integrated suite for extending our mind.