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November 22, 2005
Research Techniques: Mapping a blog with RSS and MindManager
MindManager is the leading concept mapping tool. I have recently described it as the best piece of academic software I have ever used. In fact it is so good that we (as in the elab E-learning Advisor Team) are buying a site licence, and will soon make it available to everyone. I'll explain more in another entry soon. For now, here's a note on one particularly impressive feature.
As part of the process of creating a map of my research, I am trying to extract some order out of the 85 entries that I have written in my blog as part of my research process, all of which are tagged as philosophy_research . My starting point has been to list all of the books that I have read (or am currently reading), and which have contributed to those entries.
My next step is, for each of those books, to create a list of concepts, questions and issues covered. Fortunately, I have tagged my blog entries so that it is easy for me to get a list of entries relevant to each author. For example, there is a Deleuze list of entries. By looking at the titles of the entries in these lists, I can extract a list of key concepts. In some cases the title itself is insufficient, so I have to go and read the entries themselves.
MindManager has a really useful feature that can help with this: News Feed import. This can read an RSS description of a set of news entries in a news feed. A blog can be treated as such a news feed, and in fact Warwick Blogs provides such RSS descriptions. For example, see the url http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/rbotoole?rss=rss_2_0 which gives an RSS description of my latest blog entries. More usefully, you can get an RSS description of a page listing all of your entries that are tagged with a specified keyword. For example, http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/rbotoole/tag/guattari/?rss=rss_2_0&num=100&start=0 lists the latest 100 entries, starting with the most recent (0), that are tagged with the keyword "Guattari".
When one of these RSS feeds is imported into a MindManager map, you get an auto-generated list of the selected blog entry titles. For example:
From this I can see what aspects of the work of each writer I have taken an interest in.
This is just one of the features of MindManager that I use for my research, e-learning and personal life. Once we have the site licence in place and the software accessible to people, I will be running some seminars and workshops on it, similar to the popular introduction to concept mapping session that I recently ran for the IT Services Training Programme.
If you are interested in this, then please contact me and I will add you to my mailing list.