Mind Mapping

Since I wasn’t able to make it to this month’s TASSQ meeting, I decided to post this in lieu of a monthly meeting update.

Something I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks is using mind maps for doing session-based testing.

Umm, what’s a mind map?

Glad you asked! A mind map is a diagram that shows your thought process. It’s something that you kind of have to get used to doing, since there’s no fantastic machine to read your thoughts, but personally I found it works well with my seemingly-contradictory preference for both abstract and procedural thought.

So, what do I use to “map” my thought process?

There are plenty of applications that let you do this, but I’ve mostly been using Mindjet MindManager 6. The example maps I’m going to use here are posted on Mindomo – it’s a handy tool if you don’t have a laptop and are working on several different computers, but it lacks a lot of the features and finesse of MindManager.

Session-based Testing Mind Map

A downloadable copy of the Session-based Testing Mind Map (Mindjet MindManager 6 or better required)

Using a mind map for session-based testing has worked really well for me so far – by completing the “known” information (like the configuration details of the environment, build numbers of software, etc.) before the session, it provides a very basic mental framework, which I’ve found leads to some interesting ideas. For example, while testing an application in Windows 2003, it occured to me that I had seen significant differences between R1 and R2 in the past, and while that might have come to me without the mind map, I suspect that the exercise of going over the environment details forced me to be more mindful of the “world” around me.

There are several excellent tools out there, and I’ve played around with a few, but my favourite thus far has been Mindjet MindManager 6. I haven’t had a chance to do too much with the demo of 7 yet, but I’ll be testing it out in sessions over the next couple of weeks. FreeMind is popular with some of my co-workers, and while I’m definitely behind the fact that it’s free and Open Source, I find the interface a bit clunky. If you’re used to Mindjet, or if you’re new to mind mapping, you may not enjoy this tool as much, but if you’ve got the skills to add features to the tool, I have little doubt that it could be extended in all sorts of interesting ways. Mindomo is somewhat like FreeMind, in that it’s free and a bit lacking in features, but is like MindManager in that it has a much more polished appearance. I can think of a couple scenarios where it would beat out both MindManager and FreeMind:

  • A distributed team contributing to a single map
  • Working at several distributed sites, with no laptop or common desktop profile
  • Creating a map to be shared
  • The last scenario can be handled by a site that my manager recently introduced me to, biggerplate.com. While they’re obviously MindManager fans (you can currently only upload MindManager 6 & 7 files), the search feature and general sense of community development appeals to me, and I think will appeal to a lot of others looking to avoid re-invention of the wheel. It doesn’t offer any sort of editing options, but then it doesn’t really seem like that’s their thrust.

    What I’d like to see is some way to easily convert MindManager files to FreeMind, and vice versa. Since some of my colleagues work in FreeMind, I’d like an easy way to convert the maps I do for them, rather than having to completely re-write the map. Maybe even an importer in Mindomo for existing maps!

    So go out there, and try out mind mapping!

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