The Proof Is In The Pudding

They say the proof is in the pudding so I decided to try to make sense of the mass of documents in my folder for the 9 month report by taking it from this:



To this, using Scapple:


I’m sitting in the Groucho’s lobby working for a few minutes before the Big Guys Gather for the Little Guy dinner (me and my male friends having a boy’s baby shower since Emily decided to wait for a gathering until after Kazu is born), so I will be working on the logic and layout for this tomorrow. Already some patterns are beginning to show, but I have to close my laptop soon. Here is what I have the following Tuesday:


What became clear when working on this is that it does not really reflect a logic of a word processing document – the bold headings on the left hand side are the categories/sections I should be using for this document, but here they are just indications. I therefore decided to make the bold level one headings and have the ‘document’ presented as columns, each for a level one heading, 4 headings wide and this made much more sense:

The lines are still just reminder lines for me and there are a few headings/nodes which are not under a level one heading (for example; ‘A Personal Note on the Process’) which would be at the very end of the document in word processor view.

This leads to a couple of insights/ideas

The default layout of liquid view should not be the same as Table of Contents view.

The user should be able to specify automatic layouts for the level one view, such as the grid shown here (by keyboard 1,2,3,4 to indicate the number of columns), in the same way the user should able to choose to ‘Align vertical’ and so on.


From Post-It® Notes to Virtual Notes/Nodes

David Straker’s book on Rapid Problem Solving with Post-It® Notes (Straker, 1997) provides an analog experience of moving piece of information around in order to solve problems. Note that his use case is problems solving, which is close to writing an academic paper, but not exactly the same. 

Key Principles

His key principles are Chunking, Problem Patterns which I have transcribed below. He also discussed  Guiding Decisions and The FOG Factor, which are not as relevant to liquid views. The Guiding Decisions set of principles is very much focused on problem solving, with categories of Objectives, Criteria, Questions and Constraints. I think this points to using templates for the academic papers but it’s not completely relevant for liquid views. The FOG Factor is a notion of putting an F on Notes which are Factual, O on Notes which are Opinions and G on Notes which are Guesses. The idea seems to be that the act of determined what is what is useful. 


• Your mind works by taking in information one individual piece, or chunk, at a time. The chunk may be simple, like “a brick,” or more complex, such as “my house”. 

•  Information about problems also comes in chunks. It can usually be written in a short phrase or sentence. For example, “The roof is leaking”. 

•  You can capture problem chunks by writing them on Notes. 

•  You can solve problem chunks by:

– finding all the chunks

– arranging them into meaningful patterns

– focusing on the important parts

Problem Patterns 

There are three basic ways of arranging chunks: 

•  Lists are simple collections of chunks that may or may not be sorted in order of importance.

•  Trees have simple hierarchical “parent-and-child” relationships. They can be built top-down or bottom-up.

•  Maps have more complex relationships. Any chunk is related to any other chunk. They can be used to relate specific actions or general information chunks.

The Swap Sort / Overlays

This is what he calls a ‘tool’ and it is simply a way of laying out Notes where there is a divider (horizontal or vertical) and labels for what it means for a Note to be above or below the divider, such as ‘Do these’ and ‘Don’t do these’. This could be an inspiration to have overlays or backgrounds in liquid view which are only visible and useful in that view but which also only provides value to highlight the layout in that view. 

Beyond Paper

The Post-It® Notes environment provides rich interaction spatially in 2D when there are no visible lines connecting any Notes (drawing a line freezes the layout); the user can move the Notes around at will, with a work space as large as an A1 pad or even a wall. 

What a computer screen adds is:


•  The ability to keep lines connected to Notes even when they move.

•  3D, the notes can be sized and presented in 2 ½ D as well as possibly in 3D.

•  The opportunity to Save layouts and quickly switch between them.

•  The means through which to do automatic layouts, based on keywords, spacing and more. 

•  A way to embed further information which is not always visible.

•  Links to open up further liquid views.

•  Links to open up external information.

•  Opportunity to share the layout and work on it with many people remotely. 

Spatial Hypertext

Visualisation of text elements where meaning is shown through the layout. No connecting lines in the pure form but they can be used. An analog equivalent could be a pin-board or lots of paper on a table.

“To fuzzily relate two items, they are simply placed near to each other, but maybe not quite as near as to a third object. This allows for so-called “constructive ambiguity” (Shipman and Marshall, 1999b) and is an intuitive way to deal with vague relations and orders.”

Heiko Haller. 2011