Upon much further analysis, I have revised my conclusions, April 18, 2016. For my current views click here.
Let’s look at a simple set of perceptual changes and how these may be related to whether people are comfortable with Buzan’s rules of mind mapping.
Please click on the images to increase their size.
All mind maps are generated automatically from ThinkBuzan’s iMindMap program. Consider first Figures 1 and 2. The only difference between the two maps is that the first contains 1 word per branch while the second contains 2 or 3 words per branch. Because the program is parameterized to decrease font size at each new branch, the fonts in the second “incorrect” one seem more important.
This second set of figures has font size changes only, Note that the starting font sizes in Figures 1-4 are identical but that those in Figures 3 and 4 decrease less rapidly.
In the top mind map variants (Figures 1 and 2), I used the full default style for iMindMap as it is delivered. The first mind map follows the 1 word rule, while the second uses a 2 word rule.
For Figures 3 and 4, I again used the default style but simply changed the font sizes in the style so that they would not go from large sizes to smaller font sizes quite as rapidly.
Comparing Figures 1 and 2, I want to put more than one word on a branch so it does not seem that the subtopics are dropping in importance so rapidly.
Comparing Figures 3 and 4, I am quite satisfied with having one word on a branch. I note in passing as I look out the window at hundreds of trees in our woods that nature seems to agree with me.
This little experiment came about after a Tweet from Tony Buzan (@Tony_Buzan) about changing one of my mind maps he liked from several words per branch to a single word per branch. I went back over the set of 100+ mind maps I had posted in this blog and realized that my shift from a few to one word per branch in the past few months coincided with starting to manually adjust the ThinkBuzan font size arrays in the styles supplied with the program. It strikes me that something that was not a problem in the era of hand drawn maps because artists would individually adjust font sizes and branch widths for importance now gets handled through a purely mathematically algorithm in all of the automated programs we (almost) all use for mind maps.
Once I started to tweak iMindMap a little in this way (and some other ways, see future blog posts), I came to agree with rules much than I had by taking the program implementation as the gold standard. My inference is that my belief that iMindMap is greatly improved by a little simple tweaking is shared with Hans Buskes (@HansBuskes) as his excellent blog “mastermindmaps” shows such enhancements on a regular basis.
I believe that the Buzan one-word per branch rule is correct but the implementations may need to be tweaked slightly in many of the programs including that of ThinkBuzan. Thanks to Tony and Hans for pushing me to formalize what I had concluded about decreasing font sizes (specifically, if they decrease too fast you want to put more than one word on the branch).
While it is possible to make up more extreme examples, this simple one seems to make the point.