Click here to read part 1, an introduction to digital mind mapping.

MindMeister works a lot like MindManager, with the features I’ve come to see as essential for a good mind-mapping experience:

  • rapid creation of new nodes and node “children”. (Hitting return creates a node; tab creates children of the node you’re on.)
  • automatic linking of nodes. When you create a node, it’s automatically linked to what’s already on the map (as opposed to a tool like OmniGraffle, in which you manually link nodes.)
  • support for visual elements to illustrate/highlight
  • Text formatting in MindMeister

  • control over color and font of elements
  • attach files or hyperlinks to any node
  • intuitive and visually pleasing interface
  • drag-and-drop editing so you can quickly reorganize your thoughts

In addition, MindMeister has a bunch of great web-specific features:

  • share maps with colleagues
  • track edits to your mind map via e-mail or Twitter
  • publish maps to your blog or elsewhere online
  • use offline (via Google Gears)
  • Skype integration to chat with your collaborators
  • change tracking to see who added what
See who added what in MindMeister

See who added what when viewing a shared map.

  • optional automatic link maker (links the selected node to the most relevant web page for that term)
  • enterprise version to brand MindMeister for use with clients
  • browser extensions and widgets that make it easy to add to your default mind map
  • and of  course, an a.p.i. (developers, start your engines.)
  • export to FreeMind, Mindjet and other formats (premium only)
  • prompt, non-bureaucratic customer service (i.e. when i asked them for my free upgrade after Rob paid for his premium service, they didn’t hassle me about the process whereby I’d referred him)

But what makes MindMeister rock my world is the fact that it lets two or more people work on a mind map at the same time. No locking and unlocking the document; no waiting a minute while your collaborator’s changes show up. If you and a colleague are editing the same map concurrently, you’ll see each other’s changes in about five or ten seconds.  This makes the experience of collaboration a lot less like Google Docs (which we use regularly, in exchanging drafts of a document) and a lot more like SubEthaEdit (which we use constantly, to collaboratively write or note-take in real time).

MindMeister goes to work for Social Signal

As an almost real-time collaboration tool, MindMeister unlocks a whole new way of working together. You’re not limited to linear structures (like task lists, documents and even wikis). You can take notes, jot down ideas or capture information — then dynamically and collaboratively reorganize it. Where document sharing (at its best, i.e. real time in SubEthaEdit) can feel like writing together, with MindMeister you can actually do your thinking together.

We’ve been using MindMeister for a little over a month, and already we’ve used it to:

  • plan and outline writing projects
  • wireframe the navigation structure for a website
  • outline a community engagement plan
  • diagram an organization chart and decision tree
  • map out deliverables for a complex project
  • figure out the relationship among multiple overlapping technical terms
  • map out responsibilities on a complex project

But if you really want to understand what MindMeister can do for you, you’ve got to see it in action. So here is the very latest mind map we’ve created — a map of where mind mapping fits into the big picture of collaboration tools that we use here at Social Signal.

(Click and drag on the map to move it around so that you can see the whole thing. The tools with the hearts are the ones I personally use every week, if not every day. Click here to see the map in all its glory on the MindMeister site.)

Share your thoughts for a chance to win a free year of MindMeister premium

Are you using MindMeister yourself? Curious about — or experienced with — some of the other tools on the Social Signal map of online collaboration tools? Have another approach to collaboration that you prefer? Tell us your ideas about mind mapping and online collaboration, and you could win a free year of premium MindMeister service, which lets you maintain more than 6 maps, download your maps to your local machine, attach files to your topics, and is 100% ad-free.

Share your thoughts by:

  • leaving a comment on this blog post
  • responding on your own blog or site, linking back to this post
  • creating your own MindMeister map  (please link to it by leaving a comment below)
  • any other nifty collaborative online way that you want (just let us know what it is!)

Post your thoughts by August 5, 2008. Social Signal will treat the author of the most intriguing or helpful idea to a free year of premium MindMeister service.