MindJet adds Gantt charting to its mind mapping software

I’ve been an advocate of mind mapping for years, and have recently talked about my preference for using MindJet.com’s mind mapping product, MindManager. I even demonstrated its power, while leading a discussion about rich digital media, at an UnGeeked Conference in May. I find the system a huge time-saver. Now MindJet has upgraded their software to include a valuable way to share project roles, deadlines and milestones: Gantt charting.

Since the 1990s I’ve appreciated the ability of Gantt charts to bring teams to agreement on project roles and deadlines. It’s an equally valuable way to show clients how any delay in supplying crucial content or sign-offs can push web launch dates out. Below is an example:

The detail is intentionally too small to make out, because I’ve used live client details. From left to right, this chart shows the task name, and start date, end date, and duration in days. After that is the chart itself. Milestones are the green bars. Every task within that milestone must be completed before the milestone is reached and the next milestone and task set begins.

My web development team would “own” some of the tasks, and the client would own others. At a glance, everyone knew what they needed to do and when. They also knew the effects on the project as a whole if they missed their deadline. Great stuff.

Now, the just-released MindManager 9 includes this feature. Below shows a simple Gantt chart, from MindJet’s introductory video:

Needless to say I’m eager to give the Gantt charting a test spin. What’s especially exciting is it takes the collaborative strengths of building a mind map as a team and fairly quickly converts that shared map into a full-blown project plan.

The time wasn’t right for Google Wave

One of the first adding machines was created in the mid-1600s. It took another two centuries before they were common in the workplace. Did adding up figures suddenly become more difficult or error-prone after two centuries? What exactly about numbers changed in the late 1800’s to make this new technology so suddenly appealing?

Of course the answer is that it was us who changed, not the fundamentals of math. To say we changed slowly is an understatement — in spite of the major economic improvements and workplace enhancements that came from their adoption.

It’s hard to imaging myself being one of those poor office clerks who added figures in his head all day, back in the so-called Age of Enlightenment. What I can be pretty sure of is this: A machine that does adding for you must have initially seemed far-fetched; even comical. How on earth could a machine do the work of the human brain? There must be some sort of catch.

Of course you know where I’m going with this.

Many writers of obituaries for the soon-to-be-euthanized Google Wave have said it was a slick solution lacking a problem. It therefore died of neglect.

I agree that it lacked a critical mass of users, but I disagree with the “lack of problem” assertion. Google Wave did real work, and it did it in a way that was flawed but thrilling for the vast potential it represented. At least, it thrilled me.

Ever since the mid-1990s, when I read the book of a very young Michael Schrage, No More Teams!: Mastering the Dynamics of Creative Collaboration, I realized that there were many barriers to good workplace collaboration. Chief among them was technology. Especially back then, personal computers were isolating machines. They forced us to relate with a small screen and a single keyword.

One of his observations was that before we could take the next incremental leap in teamwork, we needed a revolution in the technology that supports us. Of course he was right, but his pronouncement overlooked another barrier: We might be handed the technology we need to collaborate in a networked age and its environment so unfamiliar that it is almost universally rejected.

A year ago I predicted that we would be working within something like Google Wave “in two years.” I seem to have missed in that number by a factoring error of 10 — maybe even 100.

That would put adoption of the Wave at 200 years from now. In the meantime, I guess we all continue to add up columns by hand and grouse about our dreary workaday lives.

Twiducate concept is too good to stay in the classroom

Yesterday Naomi Harm give a keynote address at the Lake Geneva Schools Technology Academy, an educational event for elementary, middle school and high school teachers. Although I wasn’t at the event, word reached me about a social media-inspired educational platform called Twiducate. Similar to Yammer (“Twitter for intra-business communication”), Twiducate does not use the already overtaxed Twitter platform, but instead uses many of the principles that make Twitter so useful.

I took a test-drive of Twiducate last night, and two things struck me. The first revelation I had became the title for this post; The developers of Twiducate will be hard-pressed to stop work groups other than classrooms from using the tool. The other revelation is about education reform. Yes, reform won’t happen on its own. But certain facets of it will happen naturally, “seeping in” from the emerging social media zeitgeist. Avoiding new teaching environments like Twiducate will be like holding back a rising tide.

Here’s a video:

So: Will the subversion of this tool be harmful?

I think asking the question is moot. This type of thing will happen regardless. I’m thinking of at least two other examples of where a social network is forced to morph because of the unintended uses those pesky members decide to put it to.

  1. Fotolog.com started as a primarily photo-sharing site, similar to Flickr.com. But its meteoric growth in the last decade — especially in Chile, Argentina and Brazil — was due to users hopping on to connect and generally socialize. Sharing favorite pics became secondary.
  2. If the above sounds like dumb luck — like simply being in the right place with the right product (read: social toolset) — you’re right. And you’re also probably thinking of my second example. Although Mark Zuckerburg might posit that Facebook’s growth was all part of some master plan, we shouldn’t forget that he built it in his dorm, six years ago, as merely a “Harvard-thing” — primarily an easy way for him and others to organize study groups.

Check out Twitucate. Do you agree that it’s more than education’s new “Moodle-killer?” Does it have “legs” beyond academia, and is that a good thing?

Dashboard liberation: Excellent Analytics moves Google application to Excel

Although it’s easy to bash Microsoft, over the years a handful to tricks have made me an avid fan of Excel. Pivot tables and relational look-ups (all hail VLOOKUP!) are two arrows in my web analytics quiver. I’ve just added another. If you work in Google Analytics a lot, you should too.

Excellent Analytics is a free Excel add-in that truly lives up to its name. It allows you to run queries to Google Analytics’ API right from Excel, and publish its results there.

Say goodbye to many of the “Save to Excel” hassles that used to come with wishing to share and chart Google Analytics results beyond its powerful-yet-limited dashboard.

Go to Excellent Analytics now and give it a try. You’ll need Windows Vista or greater, Microsoft Office 7, and Windows .NET Framework 4. Give yourself a couple of hours to install and learn the system. Then start publishing, charting and sharing. You’ll fall in love the way I did!

Voice recognition was done first and best by humans

Back in 2008 I theorized that it would be just a few years before voice commands revolutionized marketing and commerce. Not necessarily for everyone, mind you, but most significantly for people who wouldn’t dream of using a keyboard, or even a smartphone!

My post, Leaping the chasm to a plugged-in construction site, predicted that voice recognition isn’t that far away, and is the only way that many professionals would benefit from the utility of digital networking and cloud computing — ranging from the “safety glasses and hard hats set,” to offshore oil technicians (were you listening BP?), and even to surgeons.

One Million Years BC was a very cheesy movie about life before history. Original voice was mostly simple words and grunts. Heavy breathing was also involved -- at least, I'm imagining, by certain audience members.
In the beginning, even before we had a written language with which to record history, our original form of communication was voice. The problem with voice, however, was that once the words were spoken, they were gone forever. HarQen was launched at a time of technology convergence, when original voice can be turned into an asset.

That was as an outsider in the digital voice space. After spending time “inside,” with my friends and co-workers at HarQen, I’m realizing that voice recognition isn’t the only way to make a big difference with these types of phone users. I’ve discovered that you can derive value simply from people talking into their phones and having these snippets turned into sharable assets.

In other words, I hadn’t considered original voice. Original voice can be thought of as voice “captured, stored and shared,” pretty much as-is.

HarQen believes The Original Voice Matters. I recently talked about their view, of how voice is the “original rich media,” at Ungeeked Elite. Here’s a post from last week, on the VoiceScreener blog, that helps to explain why the best voice recognition software still resides between our ears — and how HarQen is using voice asset management to give clients an impressive competitive advantage.

So I was wrong. But I’m even more excited now than I was then. I cannot wait to see what happens when voice asset management is commonly adopted. Although it might not be powered directly by voice recognition, there may be a plugged-in construction site after all, using speech in the way it was used in the days when the only construction sites were in barely habitable caves!