1. Advertising
    y u no do it?

    Advertising (learn more)

    Advertise virtually anything here, with CPM banner ads, CPM email ads and CPC contextual links. You can target relevant areas of the site and show ads based on geographical location of the user if you wish.

    Starts at just $1 per CPM or $0.10 per CPC.

How Do You Visualize Complex Ideas and Structures?

Discussion in 'Programming' started by T0PS3O, Jan 19, 2006.

  1. #1
    I'm doing a bit of database migration and other software tweaks. But things are getting so complex, it's such a headf*ck to keep it organised in your mind. Scrap paper is useless as well since things change so often. Spreadsheets etc. don't cut it either.

    How do you visualize your ideas? Does any of you use software like MindJet or wahtever?

    http://www.mindjet.com/uk/products/mindmanager_basic6/index.php?s=2

    I was once 15th in the Dutch Nationals with Draughts so I'd consider myself pretty good at thinking up multiple combinations and iterations but when you are re-jigging 92 interlinked MySQL tables it just gets too much. Especially when you need ot make conceptual changes like "When does stock get subtracted? When the order is placed or when you send it?".
    SEMrush
    My mind is going mad; what can you recommend?
     
    T0PS3O, Jan 19, 2006 IP
    SEMrush
  2. dct

    dct Finder of cool gadgets

    Messages:
    3,134
    Likes Received:
    328
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    230
    #2
    I still use pen and paper by means of a flip chart. I find splitting the application and database into smaller parts makes it easier to maintain, just follow OO principles really. My largest project is 2+ million lines of C++ and at least 200 tables. A big problem with this approach is lack of electronic documention.
     
    dct, Jan 19, 2006 IP
  3. T0PS3O

    T0PS3O Feel Good PLC

    Messages:
    13,220
    Likes Received:
    778
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #3
    I write so little, I can hardy ready my own writing so I'd like it to be electronic (and searchable).

    Besides prgramming I also need to visualize loads of events and probable outcomes. Like "if this happens, there's these 3 possible results, then if this happens" etc. etc. more in a verbal sense.

    I found a free Mind Mapping deal called FreeMind now here which I might check out. Anyone have experience with such packages?
     
    T0PS3O, Jan 19, 2006 IP
  4. ServerUnion

    ServerUnion Peon

    Messages:
    3,615
    Likes Received:
    297
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #4
    As my specialty is working on practice management system, I am no stranger to large datasets. On my largest project there are well over 200+ tables, 500+ stored procedures, 300+ views, 100+ crystal reports and 30+ ASP.NET applications. Although we do have a staff of 4, 99% of the development work is done by 2 of us. Not to mention all the applications are mirrored 4 times to allow for development, testing, training and production.

    So what happens when we get a call there is a merger and we have 1 week to import all info?

    Planning, really just that:

    • DOCUMENT EVERYTHING, INLINE AND IN HELP DOCS
    • Diagram your database, a large tag board or whiteboard can be helpful with this.
    • Diagram your system and how it works; this can be a great way to root out inefficiencies
    • Logically organize your database into functional groups: i.e. client info, contact info, order info, shipping info.
    • Look at the big picture, then cut project into manageable tasks
    • Complete your planning phase before you start development
    • Delegate tasks if possible
    • Tackle one task at a time
    • Group tasks and functions. Database schema, application, interface, functionality, business level directives. If am issue comes up, or you think of a way that the application should work better, you can pinpoint which section will be affected.

    There isn’t a real good answer I can give you on this, I know your pain. It’s a never ending cycle of improvements. Just like the painters of the Golden Gate Bridge, once you get done with one side, you just have to turn around and start over on the other.

    As far as your order questions, this would really be a business decision. The safest is to adjust the value when the order is placed and approved. Better to have a few to many in inventory, than a backorder.
     
    ServerUnion, Jan 19, 2006 IP
    jimrthy likes this.
  5. T0PS3O

    T0PS3O Feel Good PLC

    Messages:
    13,220
    Likes Received:
    778
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #5
    Thanks, some good point. Only thing is, I'm nearing the end of the whole project :) These 'final tweaks' span so many parts it becomes quite difficult.

    I am confident I can answer all remaining questions (not really looking for the answers now, just the means to get there) and solve all remaining 'problems' but it's just too slow to think up in my mind. One distraction and you need to start over again. Or you change one thing and that affects what you previously 'finished'; that can be finished in code, a finished decision or a finished 'trunk' of your thought process.

    All of this is no big deal if I can just write ir down in an organized manner.

    Playing with this FreeMind, seems pretty good...

    A colleague of mine used UML but that seems to be sort of restricted to flows and processes rather than being able to handle just odd ideas etc.
     
    T0PS3O, Jan 19, 2006 IP
  6. ServerUnion

    ServerUnion Peon

    Messages:
    3,615
    Likes Received:
    297
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #6
    I will have to look into this app you suggested.

    As far as your completion issues, I am under the firm belief that even in the maintenance phase a large application is never done.

    One important thing I have done is cutting development in into smaller tasks. This allows you to have a set goal and a finite amount of other tasks that are affected by the outcome.

    The only thing worse than knowing you will never complete is knowing that everything you do will create more work. Set milestones and celebrate the completion.
     
    ServerUnion, Jan 19, 2006 IP
  7. T0PS3O

    T0PS3O Feel Good PLC

    Messages:
    13,220
    Likes Received:
    778
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #7
    Mind Mapping software doesn't seem suitable actually since it's all gathered around a central idea. Everything is in a Parent - Child - Sibling type of relationship but it doesn't always work that way in software and business development.

    But maybe I don't know enough about this yet.
     
    T0PS3O, Jan 19, 2006 IP
  8. T0PS3O

    T0PS3O Feel Good PLC

    Messages:
    13,220
    Likes Received:
    778
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #8
    I downloaded MindJet and that is a very useful bit of kit. And on my 3 screens it works even better. You can connect anything with anything, comment it, have arrows, icons, whatever you want to plaster on there.

    Too bad it's £149 for the full deal but the 21 day trial should take me through it anyways.
     
    T0PS3O, Jan 19, 2006 IP
  9. mcfox

    mcfox Wind Maker

    Messages:
    7,527
    Likes Received:
    716
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #9
    Call me old fashioned but flowcharts always helped me sort out the logic problems in programming.
     
    mcfox, Jan 19, 2006 IP
  10. T0PS3O

    T0PS3O Feel Good PLC

    Messages:
    13,220
    Likes Received:
    778
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #10
    But what do you use to draw your flowcharts?
     
    T0PS3O, Jan 19, 2006 IP
  11. mcfox

    mcfox Wind Maker

    Messages:
    7,527
    Likes Received:
    716
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #11
    Em, I am old fashioned. I use a plastic template thingy and a pencil. :eek:
     
    mcfox, Jan 19, 2006 IP
  12. T0PS3O

    T0PS3O Feel Good PLC

    Messages:
    13,220
    Likes Received:
    778
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #12
    Right... You are old-fashioned!

    MindJet seems to work well for me, you can also import Excel ranges to neatly display table representations. Besides that you have all your topics, sub topics, call outs, symbols and whatever you imagine. You can import images as well.

    It seems to do the job for me. And everything you type is fully searchable so finding your thoughts back is easy.
     
    T0PS3O, Jan 20, 2006 IP
  13. jimrthy

    jimrthy Guest

    Messages:
    283
    Likes Received:
    13
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #13
    I use FreeMind a lot, but not for anything really complex. Just my basic notes.

    It works well, and is quite intuitive. I don't know how well it would scale for something truly complex.
     
    jimrthy, Jan 21, 2006 IP
  14. jimrthy

    jimrthy Guest

    Messages:
    283
    Likes Received:
    13
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #14
    Heh, you've almost sold me on trying this one out :) Even though it looks as though it's Windows-only, which makes it pretty much useless to me.
     
    jimrthy, Jan 21, 2006 IP
  15. infonote

    infonote Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    4,032
    Likes Received:
    68
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    160
    #15
    If you are programming in object-oriented, use UML.

    Software is avilable to draw UML
     
    infonote, Jan 21, 2006 IP
  16. T0PS3O

    T0PS3O Feel Good PLC

    Messages:
    13,220
    Likes Received:
    778
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #16
    I did consider UML, my colleague showed me some of his project visualization for something he did at uni. But it seems like UML is useless if you want to capture something not programming related. Like a couple of scenarios, or just some ideas. Is that correct?
     
    T0PS3O, Jan 21, 2006 IP
  17. jaymcc

    jaymcc Peon

    Messages:
    139
    Likes Received:
    6
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #17
    Hi

    I bought mindjet about 18 month ago and live by it. I used freemind until i outgrew it (really quickly). Even though it is inhrently hierarchical it also allows for grouping and joining seperate items.

    There is a brain dump mode where you can fire in a stack of words and phrases just to get them down and then sort them out afterwards. There is also a bunch of icons you can apply to different areas to give them more meaning and a notes pain to put in the details.

    Finally there is a presentation view which i use at meetings on a projector to show people around an idea and make sure I don't forget anything.

    Almost every meeting I go to is managed by this software, you should have no problems managing a complex implementation through this as well.

    My suggestion would be to get organised using the product then check things off with the map markers as you complete things. Also get used to the keyboard shortcuts, they save stacks of mouse time.

    Jay
     
    jaymcc, Jan 28, 2006 IP
  18. mcfox

    mcfox Wind Maker

    Messages:
    7,527
    Likes Received:
    716
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #18
    I might just give Mindjet a whirl although I doubt it can ever replace the trusty plastic flowchart template.
     
    mcfox, Jan 28, 2006 IP
  19. T0PS3O

    T0PS3O Feel Good PLC

    Messages:
    13,220
    Likes Received:
    778
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #19
    I've been using it for a week now and I can highly recommend it. I'm pretty sure I'll fork out the £150 to keep it as well; I'll have that back in no time due to improved planning etc.

    The 'maps' become really big so I have it run on two screens, then code the implementation on a 3d. But yeah, it rules. you can import Excel ranges and other Office data. you can search all the text so you can easily jump to sub topics in complex maps. Apparenlty you can make good presentations from it as well but I probably won't use it for that purpose. I've definitely sped up some decision making both on concepts in general as well as coding/database specific. The trial is free for 21 days without any limitations it seems.

    Do I look I sell that software? :) I should blog about it in return for a free license. Might drop them a line...
     
    T0PS3O, Jan 28, 2006 IP
  20. wwm

    wwm Peon

    Messages:
    308
    Likes Received:
    10
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #20
    pen, paper and Borlands TogetherSoft

    as for databases i still havent found any programs that do a better job at E-R diagrams than pen and paper :(
     
    wwm, Jan 28, 2006 IP