I See What You Mean

January 5, 2009

We have access to so much information that it can be difficult to keep track of it all, to make use of it all, or even to sort through some relatively small segment of it so that the information is relavant, reasonably clear, and useful.  AxisPortals is a fan of the visualization tools that transform data into graphic representations that are accessible to mere mortals.  Here are some current favorites:

  1. XMind‘s concept mapping and brainstorming tool is appealing on several levels.  First, it’s very easy to use, and can be downloaded for free.  This makes it an extremely appealing alternative to Mindjet’s MindManager, which is awesomely powerful and plays beautifully with the MS suite of tools, but is unfortunately quite expensive–even prohibitively so in some settings.  XMind is available in a pro version that offers additional features, but even the pro version only costs a very affordable $50.00 a year or so.  Plus, XMind has a social networking/collaboration element that makes it especially useful and appealing.
  2. IBM’s Many Eyes is quickly capturing imaginations and users, and is already powering The New York Times Visualization Lab.  Many Eyes makes it possible for users either to connect and visualize  data sets that they upload themselves, or to connect and visualize preexisting data sets that others have already uploaded.  Even plain text can be uploaded and examined from several visual angles.  (Many Eyes has  recently incorporated a Wordle generation feature, which makes it possible very quickly to see central ideas and overall patterns in a text based on word frequency.)
  3. AxisPortals has also been experimenting with Personal Brain.  This tool can manage conceptual relationships of great depth and complexity, and is a more creative, less map and flowchart oriented visualization tool.  See the Top Twelve Uses  for potential applications.  The free demo version includes all of the Pro class features for the first thirty days of the trial.  There are also some terrific tutorials available to ease the learning curve.

Visualization tools can help us explore and manage all sorts of complicated information, from the ideas and emerging inventions knocking around in our very own noggins to the facts and statistics stored in databases.  Best of all, these tools can help us formulate new ideas. 

AxisPortals Aphorism:  Seeing plays a crucial role in generating and sharing meaning. 


Seeing makes meaning.