FreeMind Brain Export
I was previously using a local WordPress install as a Personal Knowledge Management tool to record everything of importance to my post-graduate research studies. The advantages of WordPress for this purpose is the non-hierarchical linkage of ideas and knowledge via tags, mimicking the way a human-brain works more closely than other flat logging structures (word documents, etc). This works quite well, especially due to the ease of inserting images, diagrams, links and formatting in WordPress posts.
However, the linkage of ideas via tags is not well represented, you still need to remember or know what tags are meaningful, and how to get to a particular post you had.
This is where FreeMind comes in, an open-source visual mind-mapper. Taking a look at the screenshots convinved me to download and try out this tool. Being presented with an empty map and a single node at first seems quite boring and useless. However, investing some time in learning how to use the tool, and especially the keyboard shortcuts, I'm beginning to really see the value in this. It's possible to model your whole life in a single diagram!
The benefits of this tool is the flexibility in being able to represent your throughts in a logically structured form. The possibilities are endless, you can build infinitely nested categorizations and add visual arrow links from any node to any other node, closely representing the multi-directional linkage of ideas inside our brains.
Additionally, you're able to add hyperlinks and various other annotations to each node as you go along, thus strongly connecting you to online media and helping you direct your attention and gain your bearings when you come back to a seemingly foreign section of your ever expanding graph. You can also collapse any section of your graph to reduce the overall size, which is great for closing off chapters in your life, however small or large.
I'd be very interested in seeing how such a graph could expand over many years of a person's life if it were to be used daily to record all significant thoughts and actions. Or what benefits such a tool could have for people with memory disorders...
Update: I just noticed the tool also provides the option of creating encrypted nodes, which is great as you'd probably want to protect a lot of sensitive information, if not the whole mind-map. This way you can be sure your data is safe if your FreeMind file is unintentionally compromised. It also means you can store it in DropBox with peace of mind ;-)
The encryption algorithm used in the current version is quite weak however (single DES). Additionally, it seems as though the tool encrypts a known token to check if you've entered a correct key when trying to decrypt making a brute-force attack on your private data very easy for anyone keen enough.
The algorithm needs to be upgraded to AES-256 or stronger, otherwise the encryption feature has little real-value.