Video: 2 minute intro; Tutorial: Worked examples; Help: Contents

Nov 25, 2009

Is it possible to self-host bCisive Online?

At present bCisive Online requires connection to the internet.

We are aware that some organizations may prefer or require an intranet / WAN hosting option for reasons of security, etc., and we expect to offer such an option, for sizable installations (probably 25 users+).

Please contact us if you are interested in exploring a self-hosted bCisive Online solution.

Nov 17, 2009

Controlling access to Spaces, plus renaming and deleting

To control who has access to a space that you own, or rename it, or delete it, click Manage from the Spaces area of the home page:

Only the spaces that you own will have a Manage link.

In an organizational setting, not everyone should have access to every Space. To this end we have introduced a new set of roles to bCisive Online. In any given space you will be exactly one of the following, in increasing order of power:
  1. Denied: The Space will not appear on your Spaces page, and you cannot access it
  2. Viewer (coming soon): You can view the space, but cannot edit it
  3. Member: You can edit the space, request control, and pass on control
  4. Moderator (coming soon): Like a member, plus you can grab control, and you can invite guests (non-site-members) temporarily into the space
  5. Owner: Like a moderator, plus you can set the level of access of other site members
When you create a space you will automatically be appointed its Owner.

From a space's "Manage" page

you can:
  • restrict and limit access of site-members to the space, 
  • control guest access to the space
  • rename* the space, and 
  • delete the space (not shown)
  • set a default level of access for new users (members) of the site

Notes and tips:
  • Appointing someone else a co-owner of the space facilitates hand-off.
  • Owners can demote other owners
  • Making everyone except the owner of the space a Viewer effectively freezes the space.
  • Renaming the space does not kill hyperlinks to the space, but deleting it does

Ideas for better snapshots

With bCisive Online you can save snapshots of a Space (and get them back). This facility could be even better:
  1. The date-stamp on each saved version should show local time, not server time
  2. The user should be prompted to add a short comment when (s)he saves
  3. Space owners and moderators should be allowed to delete a snapshot
  4. It would be handy to be able to preview a snapshot before loading it
Presently anyone who can edit a space can save and restore snapshots. An alternative arrangement would restrict saving and uploading to space owners and moderators. A logical consequence of this would be that space members would only be allowed to edit a space in the presence of an owner (or moderator), since otherwise a member could use auto-save to obtain unsupervised save rights.

Any backing for this refinement?

Save snapshots of the workspace

Although bCisive Online has periodic auto-save there are times when you want to go back to an earlier version of the workspace. Saving allows you to do just that:
  • Before exiting a Space while in control, to keep any changes
  • In case you lose work by accident, error, or technology failure
  • To replay the history of a discussion

When you click the "Save" button the current state of the workspace is saved and stamped with current date-time (for now the time at the central server).

To go back to an earlier saved version of the workspace, click on the "History" tab and click on the "Revert To" button to call up the old version.  Tip: Consider Saving the current version first!

Wishlist functionality:
  • Text comments when saving, for a more informative history
  • Graphic preview before reverting 

Nov 10, 2009

Presenting a map in bite-sized chunks

bCisive Online (and bCisive desktop) are great tools for capturing team planning and problem-solving sessions. They encourage buy-in and help participants to work together both thoroughly and constructively.

But a great session does not automatically make for a great presentation to others. bCisive contains a powerful tool -- PowerPoint export -- to help construct visually compelling presentations, but to get the most out of it, you need to know how to break a big map into a well-organized story.

The problem: You had to be there!
The result of a good session typically yields a big map, and if this is presented as it stands to someone who wasn't part of the original session, rather than getting buy-in more typical responses are incomprehension or distancing.

The solution: Tell a story
The basic idea is to break down the map, which in its original form shows everything all at once, into a linear narrative: a story.

Using the output-to-PowerPoint feature, you can export your map straight to PowerPoint where you can add logos and text for a great visual summary. To create your story, break your map into bite-size chunks, and organize them in a way that will make it easy for your audience to follow. Here's how we do it:
  1. Start with an overview
  2. Drill down into the good bits (discard the bits you don't need)
  3. Show the links

An example of a big map (click for full size)

Breaking a map into several slides

First, we create an overview slide by hiding the branches below the top couple of levels, and taking a slide.

Next, we show the branches again and take slides of each one separately. Export to PowerPoint for (in this case) a four-slide presentation:

Now, we simply add joiners in PowerPoint to indicate how the parts of the map connect.

The result is a clear and easy-to-follow presentation of the separate parts of the argument, resolution or proposal.

Expert tips:
  • For deep maps, the drill-down may need to be broken across multiple slides, repeating the same trick
  • In bCisive desktop you can add headers and footers from within bCisive, and also choose to export some slides in a dot point format; these features can be expected to arrive in due course in bCisive Online
  • A conclusion slide at the end can remind the audience of the original overview, ideally with a little visual variation
Going further
We've found that this process works very well for us, but it may not be suitable for some styles of presentation. We'd love to hear about other ways that also work well, especially with an instructive example. Please let us know!

We think it would be great if a map sliced up into slides and exported from bCisive Online had any necessary joiners added automatically. Something to look forward to.

Nov 5, 2009

Keyboard shortcuts

Undo and redo

* Apple users: Use "Command" instead of "Ctrl" for these shortcuts.

Delete a box or a branch
Add a new box to a map
  • Add sibling (Enter or Shift+Right Arrow): Add a new box of the same type to the right of the selected box
  • Add child (Insert or Shift+Down Arrow): Add a new plain box below the selected box
Text editing

From maps to text

Sometimes you just want the text, and nothing but the text. You've planned a report visually in bCisive Online, but now it's time to write the report in your word-processor of choice.

For example, automatically turn this

Overview of the proposed text output feature

into something like this:
Proposed feature: Text output

1. What is it for?
1.1. Example: Writing reports
1.2. Example: Writing executive summaries
1.3. Example: Extracting lists of tasks

2. What is a good starting feature set?
This what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach allows the user (or team!) to fully explore ideas by creating a really large map, but when producing the text output to be selective, and break the worthwhile parts of the map into smaller, more digestible chunks. In this example I have hidden the details of the starting feature set, which we can now reveal:

Suggestions for the initial feature set

and generate the text for these too:
2. What is a good starting feature set?
2.1. Idea: Similar to the PowerPoint output feature: Take "snapshots" of branches
2.2. Idea: Respect hide-show, so that What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get
2.2.1. Example: Only show the top two or three levels to get the draft for an exec. summary.
2.3. Idea: Filter option to get a flat list of all the boxes of a particular type
2.3.1. Example: Extract all the Tasks (probably a good default) into a list
2.4. Idea: Settings to allow or disallow automatic numbering, indentation, color, etc. (similar to bCisive desktop)
From there the idea would be to polish up the text in your word-processor (or email software, etc.) and either maintain outline form; edit it into a traditional text of headings, paragraphs, and sentences; or, perhaps most likely, create a mix of both.