Unorganized thoughts and ideas are nothing more than raw materials. It is organization that allows us to build success. Thoughtshare Communications Inc. of Vancouver has developed a tool to help organize the endless amounts of data culled from our travels through cyberspace.
The product is called PlanBee and is, for now, a free download from their Web site.
“It is really designed to help people cope with information overload a lot better. There is so much information on the Web and people are overwhelmed by all of the information that they have,” said Fred Fabro, president of Thoughtshare.
The tool acts as an interface to the Web that helps users sort through the information gathered, he added. The essential element of PlanBee is that it uses a different organizational methodology than the traditional bookmark and history strategies used by conventional browsers. It uses a multi-dimensional format as opposed to the hierarchical-type of format typically found, he explained.
“It allows you to look at the detail without losing where you are,” he added.
PlanBee is software used as a companion to a browser while surfing the Internet. Users have the option of having PlanBee automatically track all the sites and pages visited or can be triggered to track a URL when the surfer finds relevant information. PlanBee not only allows you to save a site under any name you want – something that can be done with bookmarks – but also add notes to the virtual map you have created.
“You can look at both the detail and the context and [thus] it gives you a greater ability to [take] the information that you are looking for, and organize it in a way that makes more sense,” Fabro said.
For example, if you are doing research on the latest computers offered by various companies you can create a file, called a buzPAK, that has the all of the relative URLs and when you click on Compaq, for instance, you will see an area at the bottom of the PlanBee page where you can write specific notes. The size of the notes section is adjustable to reflect the amount of additional information you want to include with a particular site. You don’t even have to revisit the page if you choose not to, since all the information you deemed to be important is right in front of you. Thus you could have a list of all pertinent computer vendors, their prices and specifics.
If you click on a name in your computer vendor’s buzPAK you are automatically connected to that specific page via your browser of choice. Since the buzPAK can be e-mailed, you can send it to others to get their comments. Users who don’t have PlanBee can download a reader to view your buzPAK. Additional comments are colour coded so you can see who wrote what.
how much for that buzpak?
“We actually see that this has great potential as a tradable asset…we think this has a lot of promise,” said Barry Donovan, CTO at Knexa.com Enterprises, a digital knowledge exchange company in Vancouver.
He said companies could do market research and analysis on pretty much anything and sell it from their Web site.
“We all do industry analysis on an ongoing basis,” he explained. “We (at Knexa) use if for a very specific purpose, we actually use it to do an in depth industry analysis of market research for competitors,” he added.
Donovan likes the notes area of each buzPAK because it stores greater detail on a given subject.
“So it becomes much, much more than a series of URLs,” he explained.
Iain Begg, director of technology for Seattle-based eCharge Corp., said what distinguishes PlanBee from other programs is that it has an extra dimension that takes the program beyond the indented hierarchy design of a bookmark or history and allows for connections between various hierarchies.
“It groups it in a visual way that is not linear [because] most people don’t think linearly,” he said.
He added that linear lists become unmanageable very quickly. “The Web is so amorphous it is very difficult to create a ‘mind map’ of interesting points and [this product] does that.”
“It creates what one might call a user context within the Web,” he concluded.
Of course adding any software to a user’s set of tools requires that it be easy to learn and use. Both Donovan and Begg liked PlanBee’s design.
“I have to be honest and say that people picked it up very quickly…faster than I had expected,” Donovan said.
Fabro sees knowledge workers in a company as prime candidates for this technology, as well as educators and students.
Users can grab a whole page, a frame of a page, cut and paste text off of the page and even attach a Word file, Fabro said.
“You can drag and drop [an item you have found] and organize it in a way that makes sense to you. And as you organize it, you can add some notes to add some personal meaning to what ever you have collected and what you end up with is a nice little package of knowledge on that topic,” he said.
PlanBee (www.thoughtshare.com) is currently limited to the Windows platform and can be downloaded for free until the end of the year, at which point it will become shareware.
Thoughtshare in Vancouver can be reached at 1-866-752-6233.