Dataviz of the Week: bubbl.us
I’ve often yammered about how the rapid development of datavisualization–things as simple as timelines, as nutty-cool as you see in Digg Labs or as brain-stretching as in the gallery at Visual Complexity–will be culturally transforming.
By allowing people to see relationships dynamically, over time and in multiple dimensions, dataviz tools surface new understandings and ideas invisible via words and images alone. It will help us see obvious stuff that’s been hiding right under our cerebral cortexes for centuries. The rise of dataviz technology will unloose the vast intellectual capacity of people who think visually and spatially but maybe aren’t so good with words or numbers.
But there I go, yammering again. I came across a new dataviz tool that lets you brainstorm visually. It’s fun, it’s functional, it permits easy collaboration. It may change the way I handle projects and problems.
bubbl.us is a tool that lets you plank out ideas and chunks of information in “bubbles” and show how they relate to each other. It’s essentially a dynamic, flexible whiteboard.
It’s a freeware version of something called “brain-mapping” software, the expensive forms of which are used by businesses, universities, consulting groups and other serious thinky outfits with big budgets and high-stakes projects.
By allowing you to “see” ideas and how they relate to each other, it supercharges the brainstorming process.
Here’s the result of about 15 minutes of cogitation about the launch of a new product I’ve been working on. [I’ve left it tiny since it involves a real company.]
This is nothing exotic to look at. But I’ve done hundreds, maybe thousands of these brainstorming things on paper or whiteboards, and this is better. bubbl.us captures ideas quickly, lets you move stuff around endlessly and accommodates those “oh, yeah, I almost forgot!” and “hey, what if we just. . .” brainstorming moments.
Stick something in the wrong place and then move it. Kill a bubble and a cool little puff of smoke pops up.
When you suddenly see connections, you can draw lines or simply re-position a group of bubbles.
Bubbl.us is a work-in-progress, still funded with PayPal donations with a new beta expected soon.
There are certainly competitors. Exploratree invites you to use thinking templates, but they strike me as PowerPointlike braintraps. Mindmeister makes me work too hard and is very word-heavy, but has lots of features (and a 2.0 version imminent).
Meantime, I like bubbl.us. I’m hoping it liberates my own vast, undiscovered intelligence and unlooses it upon the world. But I’m guessing it’ll maybe help me brainstorm more efficiently. That’ll do.
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