Monday, July 29, 2013

Create a MindMap: 99 Ways Workshop #18

The Software Testing Club recently put out an eBook called "99 Things You Can Do to Become a Better Tester". Some of them are really general and vague. Some of them are remarkably specific.

My goal for the next few weeks is to take the "99 Things" book and see if I can put my own personal spin on each of them, and make a personal workshop out of each of the suggestions.

Suggestion #18: Create a MindMap - Rosie Sherry

Here's a specific skill that can be worked on and achieved through a number of different means. A Mind Map (or mind mapping) is a physical way to capture a mental model and help organize thoughts and ideas.

Image courtesy the Wikipedia article on Mind Mapping

The idea behind a mind map is that you start from a central word or concept, and you branch out into words or concepts that associate with that initial element. Each of these nodes can, additionally, have sub-nodes that you can associate additional ideas and words with (and so on, and so on and so on).

Mind maps can be done on paper, on a white board, or with any drawing application on a computer or a mobile device. There are also dedicated mind mapping applications available. A benefit of these dedicated tools is that the user can expand or collapse branches and sub branches,focusing on the areas that are most important at the given moment. One example of a free tool that is available for mind mapping (and the one that I use) is Xmind. I'm referencing it for convenience sake. There's plenty of others out ther. Do a search for "Mind Mapping tools" and you will see what I mean.

Workshop #18: Practice using Mind Maps when approaching concepts or challenges

To get in the habit of using mind maps, the best way to do it is to start small. Think of something you would like to organize information around.

Start with a central idea or topic.

Example: create a central node around the term HICCUPPS

Then consider the various areas that you can branch off that idea. 

Comparable products
User expectations

From there, look at each node/branch. 

Could you add details for each of the terms?

What sub-branches could you create based on those terms?

Do some of the sub-branches relate to others? If so, make a representation that shows that they can be inter-related (usually by drawing a dotted line from one to another).

By the time you finish, you will have a relatively compact model with some key ideas in a small space. Yes, I'm deliberately not drawing an example map here, because I want each of you reading this to try it out for yourself, and try out ways that work best for you.

One benefit of using a software tool that is designed for making mind maps is  that you can make truly large maps that, can capture a lot of information in a single place. Having the ability to collapse or expand nodes makes even large concepts manageable. As an example of a "Big Map", I took James Bach's Heuristic Testing Strategy Model and made it into a single mind map, so that I could use it with a variety of testing situations. For those interested in playing around with it, it's at

Bottom Line:

Mind maps can be effective ways of organizing thoughts and making connections between ideas and putting ideas down quickly. It allows for a way to communicate a lot of information without taking a lot of space or words to do it. They can be as simple or as complex as you want to make them. The key is to get in the habit of working with them and using them to capture and convey your ideas.
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