|Here are three short reviews of books that I have recently read:
Regular readers know I’m a fan of mind mapping software, especially for improving the effectiveness of meetings: The mind map can be projected live up on the screen where attendees can quibble in real time about what was said and what was agreed, and walk out of the meeting with a printed map in their hands of what was learned and what’s to be done. Powerful stuff, and it really works.
No one knows more about mind mapping applications than Chuck Frey, who has a whole resource centre on the subject on his excellent Innovation Tools site. His concise (42 page) new e-book is focused on how to use mind mapping software effectively, and when to use it. The first chapter describes 16 major applications for mind mapping, illustrated by the mind-map above. Chuck offers short point-form instructions for each of these applications, drawing from several established methodologies. He provides suggestions on how to organize the branches of the map for each application, and where to use notation, links and symbols on the maps, and links to white papers available on the Internet that contain more detail and cases on using mind maps for these applications.
Chapter two reviews the use of mind mapping’s features like symbols, links to documents, URLs and messages, presentation mode, colour, images, exporting, collapsing, and outlining. The third chapter suggests strategies for more useful and visually appealing mind maps, and unique ideas like creating a mind map as your active desktop to organize and navigate your whole hard drive. And the final chapter contains a list of mind mapping software with links to the tools’ web pages, Chuck’s reviews of them, and newsletters and forums discussing them.
At last week’s conference I spoke briefly with Ross Mayfield about the exciting possibility of using mind maps as dynamic organizing and navigating tools for wikis and blogs. I have used a mind map to illustrate my blog’s taxonomy, but there is as yet no simple way to post a mind map in ‘outline’ view in your sidebar in such a way that it can be used dynamically as a table of contents and navigator for your blog. This need is even greater for wikis, where pages can be added arbitrarily by multiple users and navigating the wiki can be bewildering, especially when ‘orphan’ pages are created. It could be a great match of tools.
So I think we’re just starting to see the applications of mind maps as a means of organizing and focusing our thoughts and our information resources. And when their functionality is increased to allow feedback loops (so they can be used to capture systems thinking and concept diagramming) they will become even more powerful, essential tools.
Imperial Ambitions, by Noam Chomsky interviewed by David Barsamian
Few people are neutral when it comes to Noam Chomsky, whose arrogance drives some critics at both ends of the political spectrum to distraction, but whose lifelong commitment to social justice has been more than mere words. Chomsky, in addition to sustaining his reputation as a global authority on linguistics, has also criss-crossed the globe to speak and demonstrate in support of the oppressed, sometimes at considerable personal risk. What galls many progressives in affluent nations is Chomsky’s unrepentant and across-the-board criticism of their countries’ regimes for racism, genocide, and other atrocities. He makes little distinction between regimes of right or left, nominally democratic or totalitarian, ‘well-intended’ or overtly belligerent, and as a result has been accused of being anti-American and even anti-democratic.
Imperial Ambitions is structured more like a FAQ than a treatise, and that is what makes it so enjoyable to read. You need not read even a whole chapter to gain some of Chomsky’s insights, provocative perceptions and history lessons. Look up a topic in the index, turn to that page, and read Barsamian’s question and Chomsky’s answer on the subject. Each question and answer stands on its own, so the book is a veritable Chomsky-pedia. I already knew Chomsky’s view on 9/11 and the Iraq War, on US covert actions in Latin America, and on the brutal imperialistic history of most Western nations. But here are Chomsky’s comments on four other issues that I hadn’t heard his views on:
Q: At talks with American audiences, you are often asked the question “What should I do?”
Q: Why do you put so much onus on the educated class?
Q: Why do you not favor an all-volunteer army?
Q: How do you respond to people who say “People in the US are too comfortable. Things will have to get much worse before there is protest?”
Buzzmarketing, by Mark Hughes
If you believe, as I do, that customer-driven, peer-to-peer, viral marketing will soon replace coercive, broadcast, top-down advertising as the means of persuading people what to buy, then you’re probably going to be interested in a book that promises to tell you how to create buzz, how to get customers’ attention so they’ll talk to each other about your product or service. This book does exactly that.
Hughes provides many stories of companies that have employed six ‘secrets’ to get and sustain buzz:
Some of the examples in the book left me flat (Britney Spears and American Idol — ugh!) but the techniques do make sense. You don’t have to compromise your principles and pander to your audience to create buzz. Viral marketing will often happen even without your encouragement, or not happen despite your encouragement. But most of the ideas in this book don’t cost a lot, and they do recognize facts about human nature we may tend to forget. Your customers may get your product to catch fire by simply rubbing two sticks together, but there’s no harm in helping out by blowing gently on the spark.
November 24, 2005