There has been some chat on Twitter recently about Mind Maps as well as some blog posts such as this one from Albert Gareev , this excellent Mind Mapping 101 from Darren McMillan and this one from Lisa Crispin
so I thought I'd get the views of the STC membership on them.
How many people out there make use of them - and if you are doing, what do you use them for ?
Any recommended resources for learning more about them ?
Any negatives in using them ?
( apologies for the title of the discussion - too much time watching Dora the Explorer recently)
Phil, I've used mind Maps here and there.
I used mind maps for smaller models with few people, but also have used a mind map to model the whole application and generate our functional coverage model. The application had no other spec, so it was welcomed by testers, programmers and managers as a clear way to see and discuss the product.
Of course resources like wikipedia are great to start learning about them, but then you'll find things like "make the lines the same length as the word/image they support" or other nonsensical guidelines :) (I make the lines as long as I feel they should be and the software lets me :) ).
What I have found about mind mapping, is that it should be a picture of your own personal (hierarchical) view of the product and our relations, and once armed with pen and paper (or software) we can just depict what we think of the software -- and other people will be able to understand and/or correct us, as the visuals are great for conveying this info. And if the mind map is not understood at first, then we've got a great starting point to talk about how the specifc system is perceived by different people. Collectively drawn maps, with a bunch of people, were easy to perform when I tried.
As for negatives, keep in mind that mind maps are not a perfect model. As any other model, they lie and/or hide parts of the information.
In my work I notice that they are not always the best way to draw information. If the way we think about a system isn't hierarchical, but relational, then a table may do the work better. Or a state-diagram in other cases etc.
I have used it a few times to visualize what I know about a feature or product I'm about to test. I might have tested some feature on an earlier product, and then maybe I know a lot about the feature itself but lack knowledge about how it is implemented in the current product. In other cases it might be the other way around. If the map (or some branch) never grow beyond a small island, then obviously I have run into some sort of dead end. Do I lack knowledge about this branch altogether, or do I just not know how to tie it in with the rest.
After some doodling I can recognise major areas to test, some to research, and some that might be covered by other testing.
I haven´t used it much yet but I feel it can be a good exercise at the start of a test phase and will certainly try it more.
My first serious attempts to use mind maps in a constructive way was some time after reading the excellent Pragmatic Thinking And Learning by Andy Hunt.
When other things fail, I try to dump my mind on a map, but this hasn't been too often in the past. My suggestion is to try it out, see how it works for you, and decide upon it. And Pragmatic Thinking and Learning was the first encounter of mindmaps as a tool for testing for me as well. Before that I just ran into it for making meeting minutes during the meeting (which becomes cumbersome after some time - for the notetaker, and the participants who have to watch this mess).
I use mind maps to organize everything I have in mind about the projects I'm involved in. Never used them to write test plans nor test reports. I use PersonalBrain.
You mean you've never used them to write test plan nor test report documents. If you use mind maps to organize everything you have in mind about the projects you're involved them, you used them for test planning, since that goes on in your head.
You're right. In fact, most of the things I write are test planning although not written in a formal way.
I’ve only just started using them and already found them to be incredibly valuable. I’m definitely a visual person and it helps me to understand data moving around integrated systems that I can’t physically see. Having something that lets me put something not very visual into something visual helps me understand it a heck of a lot better.
A couple of tips:
If you're using them to understand a product, work flow or procedure etc, do whatever feels comfortable for you. Don’t try to be too clever straight away as you’ll just end up confusing yourself even more (talking from experience here).
I would recommend just having a play with something like Xmind for a little while so that you have a basic grasp of the application before you start using it in anger.
Keep it simple. It doesn’t matter how complex or detailed it is as long as it makes to you and you can follow it.
I have used Xmind a lot lately to get an initial take on the test effort in various projects. Breaking down the project high level areas helps me to estimate a rough number of testcases. Until now I have used bullet lists or gone into the testcase tool directly,occasionally done some excel magic on the requirements matrix. With Xmind it's tab for new "child", enter for new "sibling" fast & easily keyboard operated :).
Here are some additional refferences:
Mindmaps for brainstorming: don't care about fancy look. Throw in everything comes to your mind. If it's just ideas, probably, paper-pencil is even better, but if you grab some text or code snippets, files, links, etc. - mindmapping with a tool works great.
Example: http://automation-beyond.com/2010/09/16/dirty-mapping/ (it's just a fragment of rather big map, with the main details coming in notes attached to nodes)
Mindmaps for analysis: again, during initial design phase, the look is not so important. When the main branches are stabilized, adding some decoration helps in further analysis.
Mindmaps for presentation. Decoration matters as it helps readers to understand and remember.
Here's the example I like best: http://techknowtools.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/mindmap_2.jpg
My example with XMind: http://automation-beyond.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/XMind-7+...