Fresh Air for Your Mind

“We’ve been contemplating our mechanical, electronic navels for too long. My God, how we need a breath of honest air!”

Ray Bradbury, The Illustrated Man

It’s not so much our dependence on technology that keeps me up at night (although we could all probably use an extra few hours outside), it’s what we’re using technology for. We overshare our mundane daily events, we kill time (and perhaps zombies) playing meaningless games, and possibly worse of all: we’re over-saturated with the news of the world, some of which is uplifting but most of which is downright terrorizing.

It’s not only actual outdoor air we need, we also need to freshen up our minds.

It may seem ironic or counter-intuitive to build software to free us from our software, but that’s actually at the core of why we set out to build Maple. From the start, it was meant to be a tool with which to organize your mind, to enhance your thinking, and to glean insight from and about the things that are most important to you.

It’s that last piece – Insight – that’s key. When Chris first came up with the idea for Maple, she said she wanted one place to put all of her “mind stuff”, and that she wanted the tool to provide her with insight about the things that she didn’t even know she needed insight about. As the tech person who’d be responsible for bringing this vision to life, my first thought was: “Gah, that’s impossible. We’re decades away from building actual AI, and nothing short of that would do the job.”

My second thought: “Challenge accepted.”

So I set to work building the framework for intelligent-seeming algorithms that would gently nudge Maple users towards new ideas by feeding them with other types of relevant mind food. The foundation is in place and the basics of what we’ve envisioned is working and out there for all to use (keep an eye out for the “Seeds – Ideas and Insights” widget on your Maple dashboard), but we’ve still got a long way to go before the full vision for what Maple can do is brought to life.

What I realized along the way, however, is this: Just organizing your thoughts in one place is almost enough by itself to generate insight.

Try it, you’ll see what I mean. Write in your Journal every day (even if it’s just one word to start with), and you’ll start to realize there is more on your mind than just oddly-behaving cats. Grab Maple and record Quotes as you’re watching TV or reading your next favorite novel, and you’ll start to see a thread of commonality between the things that inspire you. Even just creating a list of Tags and using them liberally on everything in Maple will help you start to see trends that you wouldn’t notice otherwise.

The human mind is a wonderful thing, but it’s only able to process a few fleeting ideas at a time before it moves on to the next moment. This is where Maple comes in – it’s a place to capture everything as it happens, so you can go over it later, all at once, and start to see the patterns in your thoughts.

As we get deeper into development of Maple’s Insight Engine (TM) I’ll write more on what we’re working on, how we’ve done it (without giving away the secret sauce), and most importantly I’ll answer the question “How can you provide me with insight if you aren’t looking at all my stuff in Maple??” (because we’re not, and nothing is more important to us than your privacy).

In the meantime, drop me a line and let me know how you’re using Maple. I always love to hear how our users are gaining fresh air and insight from using what we’ve built.

Happy Mapling!

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Scott Waletzko is the managing partner responsible for all things technical at R. Alliance, including the design and development of Maple.

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