The Brain is a windows app that I keep in my head for creating & navigating a networked information structure akin to MindMap
s. Recognized as perhaps having the QualityWithoutaName
, though it is proprietary and aspects of it are patented.
Home page - http://www.thebrain.com
(Version 4 of the 'Personal' Brain was released 2007-07-16).
- after being in beta testing as of 2007-05.
If you have a java-enabled web browser, by all means visit the home page to see the look-alike java demo which runs there. It can be used for navigation and syncs with where you are in the website. This could work extremely well with a WikiWikiWeb
, I think.
See also: ThoughtStream
- Many of the comments in this segment of the page appeared to be quite dated and also to be based on relatively 'early' experiences with this software.
I felt it best to retain everything, but have previously incorporated some responses that I felt reflect the more recent versions of this software and my relatively extensive set of experiences with it. I don't think it's the panacea that early its early marketing literature may have suggested, but it sure has been a great productivity tool for me.
A few examples:
Prior content follows...
- The Brain provides:
- The ability to attach a URL to each Thought as well as a Note. Think of this as the ability to place a Post-it Note on all of the URL's that you collect and place in an associative "N-dimensional array".
- A most simple way of creating thoughts that appear to be linked by conecting lines.
- The ability to simply rename a 'Thought'. This has been a great time saver for me since I freqently change wiki Page and Brain Thought names in response to new insights I gain while subsequently using them.
- The ability to simply drag these thoughts around its 'plex to re-link them.
It is being saved while this page is gradually being updated -- HansWobbe
I tried TheBrain
for a while, but it occurred to me after a while that simply indexing documents in it isn't much use, because I almost never look up documents I have saved. To find TheBrain
useful, I would want it to be a lot smarter, e.g. to read documents and note that they are similar to each other, and suggest links.
Perhaps they should use TheBrain in conjunction with some of Autonomy's stuff (http://www.autonomy.com) -- ChanningWalton
- (It would be a real stretch to say it can 'suggest' links, but it does have a 'spider' capability (that I have only ever used once because I found it of limited value given most web page designs.)
Also, to automatically extract titles. The web integration stuff would not work for me, I couldn't look at brains on the web, and I couldn't automatically add a web page I was visiting to my brain. A few more features like that, and it might take off. -- JohnFarrell
- One of the fundamental capabilities of this software was the ability to create a "Though" node that both stored the URL of a web page and also provided a Note pade for each Thought. During the early years and release, I used this combination of capabilities much like a 'stick it' for the web pages I worked with.
A triumph of cool design over usability, I think. It looks cool, but is tricky to use in practice, I found. Some dogmatic decisions make doing simple things difficult (like moving items between categories). The GUI is superficially attractive, but doesn't actually do that much when you look more closely. So I don't think it has the QualityWithoutaName
, but something related might. -- PaulHudson
- I also found its capabilities to be very "tricky to use in practice" at the start. Since it did, however, provide more value to me (even in the early days) than anything else I could get at, I persisted, with the result that I am a real fan, in spite of periodically reviewing alternative technologies. As for the specific point of the functionality of the GUI; the ability to use the GUI to quickly link Thoughts and Drag them to change their associations provides amazingly productive flexibility (all be it only after gaining a relatively sophisticated understanding fo how this software actually works).
My experience was similar. I often draw brain diagrams on paper ... less often than before KB pushed me into cards, but still often. I can get so much more on paper, and with even the occasional little sketch. The Brain, with its fixed couple of levels around the focus just doesn't do it for me. It's close to good, but not quite there. -- RonJeffries
- I know that may people shared this opinion from watching the critical comments posted on their BBS in the early days. In my current perspective, I have some 14,000 Thoughts in this this software and very seldom need more than three mouse clicks at the most. I believe this may only be possible because I learned to cluster thoughts in a manner that works for me. In fact, I suspect that I have come to think differently, since I frequently get such comments from various audiences I address while using this tool. Its worth noting that my understanding of how to "focus" my thinking has definetly been altered by using this software, in ways that I can demonstrate and document.
Despite the limitations there are a lot of different ways to use it.. I used it most for storing web bookmarks, along with notes and documents. I kept it open in a narrow window on the left, or auto-hidden at the top. It was very easy to drag links to & from the web browser. I used the quick find often, to jump directly to a node. I couldn't bear using large cascading Favorites & Program Files menus thereafter.
I found it simplified my data navigation/finding/organizing tasks, reducing mental effort and clutter. I've been looking for something half as useful since giving up windows. Wiki is doing the business! -- SimonMichael
I've just started using TheBrain
to map a RequirementsDocument
(that passes the WeightTest?
) into a more accessible form. I've only been using it for a couple of days but I'm finding it so much more pleasant to navigate through than a large flat document. I'm writing important details into the notes section for each heading that is used to navigate. Some of my current ContextFree?
headings include such things as Actors, Supportability, UserStories
, Architecture, Design, Stakeholders. No external documents are being referenced yet but I will likely add pointers to web pages (it's a WebApplication
) as they are developed, UmlModels?
, etc. as the project progresses. My hope is to have understandability and traceability from requirements through design through testing (avoiding TooMuchDocumentation
). To achieve such a goal I will probably need to use TheBrain
as the central repository of information for the entire team (~10 GreenDevelopers?
). -- DanGreen
I've noticed it has also helped me to add rigour to the RequirementsGathering
process. I am prone to gloss over ambiguity or ConceptualMismatch?
in a large document but when items are spatially related, I appear to more readily notice ThingsThatSmell?
. But it is still early days. -- DanGreen
Well (2 days later), I've now stopped using TheBrain
. I didn't like having to judge whether a link was a child, parent or peer when associating two concepts. (...perhaps that's just a deficiency in the way I classify things.)
Shifted to using ZwiKi
What would be nice is to have a graphical representation of the relationships between the pages, the ability to see the last change highlighted and fan-in/out author names for content.
I am a great fan of mindmapping and The Brain provides a good way to develop ideas and make them public. Originally The Brain was capable of making it's maps public. I was very disappointed however, since I had bought the product, when the upload facility was withdrawn so that it could be sold as part of a new product. -- MartinStewart
- I am also disappointed that this feature is absent. When I discovered The Brain one of my first impressions was that it could become a MemexVision tool through which users could share their "trails" (to use VannevarBush's term). -- KeithMann
Moved from WwwMemesNet
There's a PHP/MySQL application on http://www.memes.net
which resembles The Brain, http://www.thebrain.com
, only it's collaborative, like Wiki.
Fans of mindmapping can also try TedNelson
space. (connecting concepts via user-defined "dimensions") There is a reasonably mature java implementation of it at http://www.nongnu.org/gzz/
It emphasizes having many different representations of the same ZigZag
space, and switching between them as needed.
For those who like a really simple linear way of organizing tasks, try To-do List. http://www.htpshareware.com/todolist/
I have found theBrain to be a worthy productivity tool.
- In many ways its an instance of TheRightTool (a page that seems to relate specifically to Word, but that it might be interesting to generalize a bit more).
Having used theBrain heavily, I ended up with one containing some 16,000 pages. During the four years I did this, the way I used it changed radically from an initial tendency to use its 'plex' (the GUI in which the 'joins' appear) to become more of a personal-use-only hyperlinked note pad, since I could 'activate' 'thoughts' by clicking on them. Gaining a wiki in 2003-03, I stopped using theBrain and focused virtually exclusively on wikis since camelCase is the most efficient way I have found of creating hyperlinks. The addition of a second wiki in the fall of 2003, operating as an intranet, allowed me to share posts within one of my work groups, but so far I am virtually the sole contributor. It also allowed me to learn how to use a wiki in localhost mode as a personal note pad, which became a solution to the problem of protecting the 'privacy' of theBrain I had built.
At this time, I am exploring how to synthesize new methods of using theBrain, the four diffent wikis I actively use (each having a different 'dialect' that provides worthy benefits, or I would reduce the set), and an elaborate set of raw html files I publish, to create 'best of breed' solutions that improve my personal productivity.
If there is any interest, I can post some screen shots illustrating how I have found theBrain useful. I think this would fit into this site's Patterns theme if only because I have noticed that, as a 'CarbonBasedProcessor?
', I can recognize patterns of thoughts more quickly than I can read and that this improves the way I think.
I've been FuSe?
-ing my copy of theBrain with WardsWiki
for the last few days and I must say that I'm more than pleased with the results.
- After discovering wikis and their abilitiy to dramatically improve my productivity by generating HTML, I assumed that I would make less use of theBrain. Interestingly, since I am now using Wikis as my prinary Publication tool, I am making more use of theBrain pre-wiki publication.
- It is becomming apparent that these tools can be used in very specialized ways, bringing out their best features. In retrospect, Its not too surprising that I now use these tools as instruments for specific tasks, rather than trying to use them as general purpose 'swiss army knives'.
I've been using TheBrain
for sevaral years now; mainly as a repository for all the technical information I need in my job as a n analyst. I also MindMap
s extensively (I was lucky enough to be exposed to it at secondary school: we had a talk from the man himself TonyBuzan
) and have always been intrigued by the similarities and differences between the two. Over time, my Brain has become an extensive network of thoughts; many of which have a MindMap
as an attachment.
Unfortunately (for the purposes of this page rather than in general I hasten to add
) I have now switched to using an Apple PowerBook
and have had to consider different ways of working.
As an interim step I continue to use TheBrain
in a VirtualPC on the Mac. However, I would far prefer to use native applications. Whilst there are several worthy mind mapping programmes for the Mac; though none as good as MindManager
(IMHO), I have found nothing quite like TheBrain
- Update: As of June, 2008, both MindManager and TheBrain are available for OS X. However, the Mac versions of both programs are somewhat less feature-rich than their Windows counterparts.
I have experimented with Wikis for quite a while and started to see if I could use a Wiki to replace TheBrain
. Being a SmallTalk
fan I experimented with ComSwiki
; partly because it stores its pages as XML. This was useful, but the fact that I have stopped using it seems to imply that it wasn't successful enough to supplant TheBrain
What I am really looking for is a grahical front end to a Wiki that can display the hyperlinks in the way that TheBrain
- Doh! I've just seen the VisualTour stuff.
- Update Jan 2013. I've now been using TheBrain for close on 10 years and I have to say that it is the single most important tool in my information system. TheBrain version 7 runs perfectly on Mac OS X Lion (which is what I run on my MacBook Air).
It's been fascinating to use the Wander feature to randomly trawl through 10 years of thoughts.
Technologies (nee Natrificial) is now (2001 MAR 19) taking applicants for the PersonalBrain
2.0 alpha. Despite the proprietary engine and what not, perhaps us WikiUsers?
can try to get some of the things mentioned in TheBrainWishList
put in the next version? -- DanMoniz
See also: TheBrainWishList