Mind map freeze-dried web searches with Eyedact

I seri­ous­ly love mindmaps. If you’ve nev­er used them before, a mind map dia­grams a knowl­edge domain. They’re awe­some because you can make one in no time at all, and if they are well-made you can infer what you have to under­stand about any top­ic.

Mind maps are easy to write on paper, and there are many apps out there for mak­ing them fan­cy for pre­sen­ta­tions. Yet, if you must use mindmap­ping soft­ware for per­son­al use, you only need a text edi­tor and Google. You can write a mindmap as an indent­ed text file. Since I typ­i­cal­ly draw mind maps by hand, writ­ing a text file is the most I would do when mak­ing one on a com­put­er.

American Football
    Rules
        Downs
        Penalties
            Leverage
            Clipping
        Positions
            Linebacker
            Defense
            Offense
            Quarterback
    Teams
        Patriots
        Giants
        Cowboys
        Packers

This exam­ple seems like it is offen­sive­ly incom­plete, but it works because we still see a knowl­edge domain’s shape. For most pur­pos­es this is enough. You prob­a­bly don’t need mind map apps that allow detailed notes or file attach­ments due to their pro­pri­etary file for­mats and lock-in. Mind maps are not for hold­ing small details any­way; they are for note-tak­ing. Fur­ther­more, we already can search the web any­thing, so mind maps should facil­i­tate access to exist­ing knowl­edge.

Using a mind map to freeze-dry web searches

Eye­dact helps mind map­pers search the web. Much like with Aloe, it’s com­plete­ly non-inva­sive. Unin­stall it, and you can still do what it does, just a lit­tle slow­er.

Obvi­ous­ly you could skip Eye­dact and Google what you want to know direct­ly, but there’s rea­son to think about doing bet­ter: Those new to a sub­ject might deal with vague tech­ni­cal terms. How many def­i­n­i­tions of “com­po­nent”, “remove” and “link” do you think are out there? What if you need to search for that word and you don’t remem­ber where it was rel­e­vant to you?  Eye­dact lets you write search­es that are too vague for Google and still get spe­cif­ic results using pre­served con­text. Hence “freeze-dried” web search­es.

Mind maps shape upcom­ing research for note-tak­ers, and pro­vide implic­it doc­u­men­ta­tion for main­tain­ers. Let’s talk more about that bold­ed point. If I’m writ­ing a frame­work with a big stack, I could write a para­graph explain­ing what we use and why, or I can just splat con­tent in front of peo­ple and tell them to read. Assume I have an NPM pack­age with the fol­low­ing con­tent in what-you-should-know.

GraphQL
    best practices
    caching
    tutorial
Docker
    best practices
    build
    container
    image
    tutorial
Webpack
    plugins
    tutorial
Restify
    caching
    plugins
    tutorial
Redux
    actions
    async
    tutorial
    best practices
React
    component
    async
    tutorial
    best practices

In package.json, I can do some­thing like this:

{
    ...
    "scripts": {
        "doc": "eyedact what-you-should-know,"
        "doc:beginner": "npm run doc tutorial -al",
        "doc:journeyman": "npm run doc practices -al",
        "doc:advanced": "npm run doc caching async plugins -a",
        "doc:local": "less README.md",
    }
}

in this hypo­thet­i­cal, if you fin­ish review­ing the con­tent all the way down the list, you are ready to work on the project.

Recap

We briefly cov­ered the text rep­re­sen­ta­tion a of mind map and how you can use one to give con­text to many web search­es. Doing this guides peo­ple in search­ing with­in a new knowl­edge domain, and auto­mat­i­cal­ly gives peo­ple direc­tion in learn­ing lots of rel­e­vant mate­r­i­al from a sin­gle com­mand.

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