MindJet has just announced the fourth generation of mind-mapping technology. Each generation has added new functionality and widen the scope of use; as a by-product each generation has included extra support for people with disabilities.
The first generation was pen on paper with linear notes being replaced by ovals with text connected by lines with text. They were an excellent way for an individual to organise information and as a visual aide-memoire.
The second generation provided an editing tool for creating mind-maps on a PC. This solved the problem that first generation maps got very messy very quickly as more information was added or new links created. It also enabled the handling of bigger maps as whole branches could be closed down or opened up, or the viewer could zoom in or out. The improvement in the overall quality of the presentation, the ease of navigation and the ability to send electronically, meant that maps could be effectively shared. The mind-map moved from an aide-memoire to a communication media.
People with a variety of disabilities began to use mind-maps. People with limited or no use of their hands, who could not draw generation one maps, could now use the technique. People with dyslexia found mind-maps easier to understand and create than linear text, especially when they could include colours and images, so they began to use the technique as a communication media. People with limited vision who could see the overall structure of the map, found the electronic mind-map easier to navigate than linear text as they could pick up on the visual clues of colour, image and structure.
The third generation extended the electronic functionality by enabling connections between the map and other artefacts. For example a node on the map could be connected to all the documents, presentations, project plans, etc. related to the node. Any of the artefacts could then be opened from within the map. This moved maps from a communication media to an organisation method. Mind-maps became the first thing people opened in the morning as they could now organise their work around it. The better integration with other tools on the PC meant that speech recognition and text-to-speech technologies could be used with mind-maps hence increasing their usability by people disabilities.
The fourth generation moves mind-maps from an organisation method to a collaboration tool. With Mindjet Connect multiple users in multiple locations can work on the same map at the same time. The package includes instant messaging (IM) and voice over IP (VoIP) so participants can discuss and modify the map interactively. Users can also work on their own part of the map and the changes are immediately available to all the users. Users can view the map either by having Mindjet installed on their own machine or through a zero footprint browser solution. The browser solution makes it possible for ad-hoc users to be invited in to collaborate on the map.
Collaboration brings great benefits to users who find it difficult to travel. Many people with disabilities find travel difficult either because the travelling itself is a challenge or because specialised technologies such as large screens or speech recognition are not available at the destination. Collaboration systems make it easy for them to work from their own location and fully participate in the interactive collaboration. Mindjet Connect allows multiple users to work off the same map whilst each having their own view open; this means that a blind user can open up a text hierarchy view of the map whilst other users will have a pictorial view.
Mindjet has always been useful to people with disabilities but with this jump to interactive collaboration it is opening up opportunities for them to exploit their full potential in projects and the workplace.