Welcome back Grazr

Welcome back to Grazr. That’s the dinky display panel about me in the left sidebar. (Needs JavaScript on, otherwise you just see a Grazr logo. It contains much of the same information as the About link further up the sidebar.)

The content was created in BrainStorm (a 25-year hobby) and passed through OPML Editor (with some tiny custom tweaks) to create an OPML file which Grazr can display. (My other tweak converts an OPML file into a tabbed outline which can be imported by many programs, including BrainStorm.)

Podcasting preparation tools

Professor Robert Angel, of the University of South Carolina, creates a weekly podcast of analysis and commentary on Japan's domestic politics and foreign relations. Quite a commitment and, I believe, much valued by its listeners. It goes under the project name Japan Considered.

He’s often mentioned to me how he uses BrainStorm (something I invented years ago and which is programmed by Marck D Pearlstone these days) during the preparation for his podcasts.

Recently, he blogged and recorded how he uses BrainStorm and other programs. If you’re an aspiring podcaster (or communicator generally), I thought you might find his insights interesting.

Here’s the bit about preparation software (and it’s not just BrainStorm, by the way):

Some of you have asked about the software and hardware required to
create the program. The combination of cost and limited technical
expertise keeps my setup here barebones simple. I use a regular desktop
IBM-PC linked to the University network for all information collection
and production.

In addition to regular English and Japanese
language-capable web browsers, two software programs work together to
simplify the process of categorizing and sorting the information
collected. The first is "Brainstorm."
I'll put a link to their site in the transcript and in the show notes.
Brainstorm is hard to describe. It's deceptively simple — by design.
Sort of an electronic outliner on steroids. It allows me to make lists
of promising topics, and then to put notes to sources of information
about the topics under the headings created. The program is very
efficient. So it's easy to keep many notes for dozens of topics on the
same page, so to speak. And to keep them available for future
reference.

The second program is somewhat more  complex. Not better or worse. Just more complex. It is MindManager 6 Pro,
produced by the Mindjet Corporation of California. MindManager is a
graphical "mapper" I use to map out themes for each program. Hyperlinks
to accompanying files, and text notes right on the page make it easy to
use. This program too is hard to explain without pictures, so I'll add
a link to their website in the show notes and the transcript. Text
files downloaded through the week are just noted and added to the
electronic archive for indexing and retrieval when needed.

The final recording process is quite  simple. I record the audio file directly into Adobe Audition 2.0,
using only an Altec Lansing headset for the microphone. No complex
audio chain with pre-amplifiers, mixers, vocal strips, or the like. The
Adobe Audition program makes it easy to edit out most of the sighs,
grunts, and embarrassing pauses before putting the file up on the
University server for distribution. Finally, Dreamweaver and Photoshop are the programs I use to create the podcast web  pages, and to maintain the whole Japan Considered website.

So, there you have it. Not at all complex  or sophisticated. But it gets the job done.

Thank you, Robert, for giving permission to share this with teblog readers. Appreciated.

How do users learn about their software?

A curious form of communication is the Help file. Hours are poured into creating them, yet most people I talk to say "There’s no point in looking in Help." They’re conditioned not to go there.

As a part-time software publisher, I find this frustrating. At the same time, I need to recognise the behaviour and do something about it.

If this interests you, I bang on about it a bit more over on thinkerlog.

Network Neutrality, BrainStorm praise

If you like the internet the way it is: anyone/anything connecting to anyone/anything, paying for on-ramp and off-ramp according to bandwidth, get ready for a shock. The lawmakers in America are hell-bent on creating a two-tier internet. This will have global repercussions.

I’ve blogged about it for Information World Review and also written a piece which will be published shortly. I’ll link when it’s uploaded/published.

Someone told me if I don’t toot my own horn, no-one else will do it for me. Well, since that’s not really in my nature (should I change it?), there are a couple of blog posts over on thinkerlog which praise my software, BrainStorm. One from a writer, the other from a sales trainer (among other things).

If you use Windows and need to keep on top of things, you might find BrainStorm useful. I do. After all, I wrote it originally to help me cope with being an editor, software publisher, trainer and writer. You won’t be surprised to learn that I still use it habitually. Marck D Pearlstone is the programming genius behind the Windows version.

Right now, I have four ‘models’ open (out of the 2169 on this computer):

– One contains the entire website of a potential business partner –  I ‘screen scraped’ it quickly, BrainStorm picked up the text automatically and I printed it out, to read en route to a meeting with her.

– One contains (oops, sounds repetitive) the entire website of a charity. The idea is to review the content and structure to make it snappier, more usable and more interesting. I actually pasted it into Word for a spelling and grammar check.

– Another contains most of my network neutrality background reading – all 86,333 words of it. I must be mad. I discovered (don’t know why it took so long) that a lot of my life involves distilling masses of often complex stuff to save other people time.

-The last one contains stuff about integrating BrainStorm and ToDoList – a free project management tool from AbstractSpoon Software. The two are pretty harmonious already and will become more so.

The price of BrainStorm is an absurdly low £20. Plus VAT if you’re in Europe. You can see why it sits in the ‘hobby’ part of my brain. But it’s good fun, it keeps me involved in the real world and I get to know some really interesting (and passionate) users.

Gosh. I didn’t set out to write all that.

Compact display of deep information with Grazr

This is an update to the earlier Grazr posting. Grazr allows the presentation of a lot of information in a very compact form. It comes close to BrainStorm‘s presentation, which made a lot of sense to me when I took a similar approach in 1981. Maybe that’s why I’m so supportive of Grazr.

Take a look for yourself. Grazr’s displaying a simple BrainStorm model in the left sidebar. Just click on an entry and it shows the next level. If the background is coloured, then there is deeper level stuff. Hyperlinks on a white background open with a left mouse click. On a coloured background, you need to right click and select the appropriate option from the context menu.

If you click on the ‘blogger’ entry, you will see ‘thinkerlog’. Click on that and you will see a live RSS feed. Click on that and the thinkerlog RSS feed flows into Grazr. The tiny window in the sidebar is not a good way to display the body of a blog post, but at the foot of each post you’ll find a hotlink to the original. I included the RSS feed to give you a feeling for the usefulness of Grazr. You, of course, can choose a more appropriate panel size for Grazr on a web page, for example.

If you’re going to experiment with Grazr, be careful to test your  work in different browsers. In general, Internet Explorer needs more space  than Firefox. And the pre-release version can only display one Grazr model per web page. This will change.

Because Grazr uses OPML, other OPML models can be sucked in in a similar way to an RSS feed. I haven’t got round to doing that yet. But the potential exists for Grazr to become a kind of "life aggregator".

Footnote: The previous blog post explains how we get BrainStorm models into OPML. We are working (right now) on adding a direct OPML output option to BrainStorm. We’ve been thinking about XML output for years. And OPML is XML compliant, so the time has come…

Perspective: when you’re too close to a product

I wrote some software many years ago and whenever people ask me if it’s "like an outliner" or "like a mind-mapper" I say, somewhat unhelpfully, "it predates both, so it’s different".

Now Davey Winder has published a review, in Information World Review, which is a model of clarity. It also shows how flawed my thinking is. He doesn’t have my historical baggage, so he simply said:

BrainStorm takes a less
visual and more cerebral approach than most mind mapping software. By being
neither pure mind mapper nor simple outliner, it manages to combine the best of
both.

Now why couldn’t I have thought of that?

BrainStorm bombs price

After watching the aftermath of the MSM mention (New York Times) of BrainStorm (my software) and the mad enthusiasm with which people scooped up the program at half price, we decided that maybe that is what we should be charging. So, as of half an hour ago, we bombed the price.

And we refunded all February’s full price purchasers.

Instead of 40 it’s now 20. That’s about $35 US.
(Plus VAT if applicable)

If you’re creative with words and you use a PC, you’ll find much to like about it.

Especially now.

Read the full blurb on thinkerlog (my other blog).