There are a number of older forum entries and more recent feature suggestions regarding thought and link visualization/visibility as a function of priority/importance/relevance/value. Some have suggested improved visualization (bigger size, bolder color thoughts) by use, by connectivity, or by customized scales. TheBrain should implement all of these, especially customized scales, allowing the user to determine various levels of priority for various goals (e.g. a 1-7 scale of “priority for daily health” or “priority for ________ research project,” or whatever priority scale you want). With scales, visualization could be more subtle than filter on/off (show/hide). Users could decide in each moment whether they want to cut to the chase (only direct their gaze at bigger, bolder, higher priority thoughts (for a certain goal) in the plex) or explore more (look at the lower priority thoughts in the plex) to get more perspective. Users could of course re-prioritize older thoughts.

Meanwhile, users should also be able to scale the “breadth” and “depth” of the plex display while maintaining mobility within the Brain. TheBrain’s current “Normal” view shows thoughts that are closely linked to (1 or 2 links from) the active thought. For a broader perspective, the Expanded View is helpful. However, in the Expanded View, users must always be expanding and contracting thoughts based on their current broader focus (making it hard to traverse the larger Brain with a view that’s large, but still negotiable). This task is a drain on users’ working memory. The program could do this for users in a kind of intermediate plex view, more broad than Normal View, but more mobile than Expanded View: perhaps called “Prioritized View.” In PV, thoughts/links connected to the “main” thought (in it’s 1st “orbit,” we could say) would be visualized in terms of relative priority/importance (on a scale of the type discussed above), the most important being biggest, boldest, and closest to the active thought, others being smaller, less bold, and farther away. Thoughts that are two links away from the main thought (i.e. in its 2nd orbit) would follow the same scaled visualization criteria (most important being closest and easiest to see, etc.) except that their priority/importance would be lowered by being two links away from the active thought rather than one.* This process could be repeated for thoughts that are 3, 4, 5... links away (in the 3rd, 4th, 5th... orbits), each successive orbit having a more negative priority modifier. Users could alter the “Depth” of their Prioritized View (PV) on a scale that changes this priority modifier. (A PV with a high value on the Depth scale would link to more thoughts that are further away – in higher orbits.) They could also alter the amount of thoughts at each orbit (and thus of each size/boldness/relative distance) with a “Breadth” scale. At higher Breadth values, more thoughts/links at each orbit would be more visible. As a user decreased the Breadth value, thoughts and links at every orbit would become less visible (the least visible disappearing altogether), but Depth could simultaneously be maintained. Also, links to high priority thoughts through low priority thoughts could be visible while the low priority intermediary is invisible.

*Some thoughts in higher orbitals could be higher overall priority (bigger, bolder, closer to the main thought) than those in the 1st orbital, even though they’re more links away from the main thought.

Reasons for my proposal of a Prioritized View upgrade to The Brain: In my neuroscience research, my productivity depends a good deal on how smoothly I can shift gears between levels of abstraction (e.g. one moment studying the details of a particular experimental paradigm, the next moment trying to see how those details fit with broad anatomical and functional brain systems). It seems to me that creative thinking in general (not just for my work) depends highly on thinkers’ abilities to move flexibly not only between material subjects and their components, but also between levels of abstraction – like zooming in and out of a picture rather than just panning. The Prioritized View upgrade would allow this without turning TheBrain into a Zoomable User Interface, which I’m guessing would require way more software development. And I don’t think infinite zooming is necessary for this kind of thing.

More support for the Prioritized View upgrade: It’s now an accepted neuroscientific fact that humans have very limited working memory capacity (something like 7 + 2 “thoughts” at any given time); all TheBrain users have experienced this – which is why we turned to the software in the first place. (It’s great at helping us remember and store not only individual thoughts in our working memories, but also the relevant links between these thoughts.) The next step, however, is for the software to help us direct our attention efficiently to the old thoughts that are most relevant to our current goal (specific research, specific project planning, more general GTD, or whatever) while we spend our limited working memory on more important matters: e.g. (1) finding and integrating new thoughts related to this goal, (2) re-prioritizing old thoughts related to this goal, or, perhaps most importantly, (3) imagining and abstracting deductively from old thoughts to generate new thoughts and (higher-order) concepts related to this goal. Imagining and abstracting would be greatly facilitated by a wider, mobile, prioritized view, especially if it made visible potentially important connections through low priority intermediaries (helping users spend more time considering important connections that they probably wouldn’t without a prioritized view).

Please contact me and vote for the "feature" if you’re interested in implementing or improving upon my ideas here. I have a strong personal interest in using a prioritized view (of some kind) and making it available to others who have similar needs. (And I imagine many do.) This is simply too good an opportunity to pass up :-)

Tom Adams


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