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Cataloguing the Different Ways the Mind Associates Itself with the Outliner Presented Screen

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Posted by Foolness
Sep 10, 2012 at 03:21 AM


Recently the issue of who is an outlining expert came up. Since my request for length worthy erudite posts is going nowhere, I’ve decided to switch courses and challenge any outliner expert to test their competency on this issue.

The objectives are simple: In any area of expertise, the experts are able to know extensive answers that even well informed novices would fail to accomplish/think of. For example, the subject the “origin of species” discussed/displayed by two experts would vastly differ from the common internet discussion on Evolution vs. ID where Evolution is pumped up as the 100% definitive infallible theory because scientists say so plus ad nauseam of facts dressed up as a race between who’s trivia can channel the most mob to shout against their opposition. Surely an outliner expert would be able to expand on the research done on already mentioned items as well as add to their own items and the far superior expert should be the one able to expand upon the subject the most, leaving other experts behind without succumbing to appealing to their own authority as a way of winning the race.

The agenda is equally simple: I did a basic DuckDuckGo search of outliner expert and got nowhere trying to look for a list of well accepted “outliner experts”. Outliner theory too, as I’ve used it, was always more of a slang than an official study for I know of no such thing. The other agenda is to figure out whether readability is truly the issue at hand here. I am a person whom was always accused of having unreadable posts and yet I have rarely if ever channeled such obfuscation as say Proust for Proust or my manners over your manners. My failure to explain have always been related to length and towards posters feeling the natural way I presented my exposition to be unnecessary despite the lengths I would go to edit my lengthy posts (none of which are here if my memory serves me correctly).

Also, due to the lack of edit options after a post has been posted, I may not try to edit this post after I have written it unless it is a major grammatical issue. Based on my experiences with post-edit posts, they serve more to satisfy the insecurity of the writer rather than lead to posters welcoming conversation if a thread of thought comes off as problematic to them.

The final agenda is to see how the community responds. I too have been plagued by the dilemma between the blog and the forum…but not because I have something to offer or was looking to publish anything but simply because I like discussions and have had to balance between the two whenever my opponents used the length of my posts as an ad hominem against my point (of which is often open ended and bears no bias towards me or the repliers). It is because of this that I can empathize with the idea that a blog is not best for discussions but a forum is not best for length. If readability and not length or any other factor is the issue plaguing the modern day community, then I think we will not spot the common tell tale signs of disguised disgust/calls for misunderstanding and panders that we often see in other forums when length appears. However if it does appear, then I believe the issue is not readability here at all but that the forum like most forums have posters who are unwelcoming to any post that have exceeded a certain amount of length.

This is not in any way to absolve or defend any particular poster. Nor is this a topic simply for the sake of a study or a list for the sake of procuring the evidence for the titular results dictated upon the reader in the headline of an article.

It is actually a topic I hold dear to my heart but which I know I never will be able to blog about or post in a forum because of the very nature of my lack of charisma and my lack of knowledge on how to beg such data from people whose mind are different than my own.

I, however, will make this topic now as an attempted credibility test towards those who claim to be experts.

For the non-experts who do not understand why this topic is necessary: It is because you are too good, too smart or maybe even too well skilled and well honed in basic software to understand the plight of those who suck at outliners but may need or slightly improve their lives from them. Of which, I am one. And much as intelligent people can train dumb people, if such sole phenomenon were far spread, there would be no use in attempting to separate and categorize different learning styles such as the basic Big 3 category of visual, kinesthetic and auditory learners.

This isn’t about those learning styles but it could be said as an attempt to try to catalog the different learning styles a user who have finished inputting the data in their outliner software are now partaking in and the difficulties/ease they may now be experiencing from having assembled a screen that presents such words/items in a certain structure.

Disclaimer: If at any point in the above, the sentiment you got was that I never wrote long posts before and this is my first time. I apologize. What I meant to express above is that this particular “specific” topic, I would have never written or posted given most normal circumstances. It’s just an issue I know would not get me the information I needed if I make it, be it a blog or a forum, but it is also a broad issue. An issue that a poster from DonationCoder would call a “salt doll” thread in reference to a long post I made in that forum with a similar scale to this thread.

To get the ball rolling, I will provide my own findings below but know that many of these are not complicated and may sound obviously mundane for those who are not addicted to outliner theory.

Sadly, this is because I’m no expert. These are simply my own word conjurations. Nothing is official. Nothing has been explored in-depth.

#1 The Time Honored Paper to Software Outliner Mindset (The Boss)

This is arguably the most common form of boost when one is using an outliner. Either that or it is simply the most pandered to.

In fact, it may even be said, that the boost here is not really by design but by the coders appealing to the idea that such simple model would be enough so that when they set on their path to creating an outliner software - they don’t have to think about the fundamental aesthetic of the software.

Most people probably benefit from this because to them an outliner is an output of an outline and an outline is this shape they either have been experiencing from time memorial on paper or they have been experiencing in the charting form afforded by bullets, summations and other things they excel in on the real world.

The core importance to people of this mindset is information scaling and information input. That is to say: software to these people are merely databases and if the database can slim down more data then the only other issue is what data that software can absorb.

A good example of this are popular Tablet outlining apps and MS OneNote. What people using this most like is the ability to also drop and semi-outline images/special files like music and basically it’s just a bag with a bullet point and at times, something more advanced, like a self contained spreadsheet looking file.

Because of this nature, while people with this mindset would not push away prettier presentations, at the heart of it these people are simply using outliners as a WYGIWYS booster. They don’t really need their outlines to fix their lives. They don’t really need their outlines to reform their minds. They just need an outliner like they need e-mail. If they ever choose between outliners, it is simply for convenient options such as tagging and not whether they are actually getting more work done thanks to such software. (Collaborative features being the exception)

#2 The Pullers (The Secretary)

The Pullers can be said as the savvy subset of the previous mindset. Not because they are unanimously savvy but because pullers are those most often having learned a new fancy feature afforded by the boom in cloud services.

This doesn’t mean they are all web users but they have found concepts like search engines and they now work on the mental process of search, that being one example.

A researcher might instead be boosted by the pull of a page. That doesn’t need online. You can have a PIM with a basic tree feature but when clicked would give the pullers a web page looking entry filled with headlines, titles, pictures and just actual things they want even if the actual thing is still squished by other unnecessary entries.

The most common software pullers want are rtf style outliners (for freeware), unlimited tissue papers (like Evernote) or even a software built on badge notifications for to-do lists.

This is not to say other learners don’t “pull” something from an outline. We, after all, are all reading from the same finished screen if we all use the same software. Most times only the data inserted are different.

Pullers are just that special kind of WYSIWYG user that happen to not care so much about broken boundaries.

Take RSS readers. A puller wouldn’t really care so much that they are seeing two duplicate headlines together. They don’t care that maybe an entry is disorganized or a set of bullets are in the wrong order. Their goal is to simply get that info that they normally would be hard pressed to get when their outlining software data scales up.

If they can have that, they are made more productive by the software.

The easiest way to stimulate the mindset is to lose an urgent item and frantically search for it and be notified that it is in one of these boxes full of similar items. Pullers work on that emotional setting on a regular basis even if the output is not that convenient for the rest of the people. Like Google spends so many time working on helping suggest mistyped words or easier ways to cut down and filter search results but pullers don’t really have that as a need. It’s a convenience factor but all a puller really wants is an outliner that eats. They don’t care how easy or seamless the net for capturing an item is. They don’t care how tacky the pre-insertion of data is so long as it’s still basic. They don’t even care how cutting edge or old school a software design is at getting them that item. They are smart enough to ignore tag hell, they are smart enough to retype a word if nothing pops out, just give them the info they put in the software. That is all the feature they need:

Presentation = Find + Present
Breakfast = Cook + Food
Outliner = Storage w/ Attempted Imperfect Filtering Feature + WYGIWYM search result

#3 The Square Jigsaw Mindset (The Consultant)

This mindset completes the big 3. If pullers learned the innovation of pulling, jigsaws learned you can play solitaire with your outline so long as they can tile the data into the software “their style”.

These users are most often coders and writers but more than that they are often professionals that have creative tasks.

Jigsaws are people who learned that sometimes in life, software can help improve your life…so long as you know how to play the game.

We often hear that the key to creativity is thinking out of the box. Well Jigsaws found out that if you just jiggle the box, sometimes it’s not what’s inside the box that pops out but what’s outside the box that edges in.

It is for this reason that they are the best with diagrams and flowcharts. Sometimes to the point where it’s best when the diagrams and flowcharts are in their head and the actual outliner output is merely a motivational mirror to their superiority.

A good example of these are mindmapping software and novel writing software such as ywriter and Scrivener. You’ll find that the best users of these programs rarely value the data they insert in those programs with the exception of things they might forget such as the metadata of what they jotted down.

In fact, the biggest contradiction between these people and other outliner users’ mind are that they inherently understand that everything is a draft and a jot and only the finished or the focused product is important which is weird because are often the ones also most celebrating how these software have changed the way they work.

Especially when it comes to outliners and PIMs, they are the least emotionally attached to a particular pane or a particular sorting feature that would make outliners closer to mindmaps; and a diagram to them could as easily be two separates outlines connected by a single folder, tree, dual view and yet they are the most clinging (and effective) to “the presence” of such corkboards, side note pane or any sub-organizational visual outlining tool working besides their product.

It is almost as if it’s not the data or the formation of the data that’s helping them become productive, it is simply: THE PROCESS of it all.

If “THE PROCESS” exists within their work flow then it doesn’t matter how unproductive or unwieldy the rest of the set up is. If a table solely has chopsticks, so long as they could use the chopsticks to start a bonfire and be able to cook on the table and eat on the table afterwards, they could love any food that are cooked in it and they would cook even in the most cruel of environments.

Outliners might as well be a programming language to them. It doesn’t matter what’s written. It doesn’t matter how the outlined data looks. In fact, the outliner doesn’t matter at all. It’s their work that matters above all regardless of how the outliner functions and so long as the software functions enough that the things they want to insert are being inserted, it helps their work. The system-wide consistency in the outliner software is irrelevant, the mechanics similarity between two diff. outliners is irrelevant, even the empirical differences are irrelevant. There is “THE PROCESS” that their preferred software design can give to them that simply can’t be duplicated or cloned.

Note that this is different from users who simply like how an outliner looks or feels or runs. The difference is similar to a gym rat preferring a specific machine to that of a person improving their gym performance thanks to beginning a particular exercise set and never getting tired of that habit regardless of how their schedule/workout needs change.

#4 The Peekers (aka the Drivers)

The discussion of panes are what I find to be the most common software element discussed here but the reason I don’t consider it to be a common phenomenon are due to the fact that many discussions on panes that I have read do not really deal with panes at all and are often highly deceptive.

Take the quadrant themed 4 pane software which you might think is dealing with panes but in actuality most praises of it are dealing in windows, multi-screen convenience and sticky notes.

In fact, limiting only to outliners, there are more sticky notes and multi-pane outliners than 4 pane outliners for this reason: most of them are dealing in a different mindset but the technical aesthetic sounds and looks the same to a software designer.

But even more elusive is that what you think peeking is all about, really isn’t.

Take the 2 pane outliner or the one pane + sidebar outliners. Aesthetically they are the most similar in mechanics to what a driver may experience: wing mirrors and the big window in front.

It would be easy to mistake most users then as peekers…but they are not.

Now take the newer but not so recent Autofocus software and other pomodoro style task managers. Do most of them have panes or not? Yet their functionality is very peek-ish.

The only real mindset difference here is that these users are peeking at different things.

One other thing worth emphasizing before expanding on such behaviours is that there’s a difference between peeks and peeping.

A peeper can just as much be a jigsaw but a peeker functions on a scale where they have to regularly peek at another object for some reason or another. Much like driving.

The peekers most unique attribute is that, depending on their software, the thing boosting their workflow is very case sensitive.

A person who simply uses a traditional to-do list as an outline for example would be peeking not so much at the incoming names but at the shape of what have been crossed out. These people could easily thrive on a software that shows them a bunch of random items crossed out while they are viewing or editing their outline.

The only real requirement is that what they are peeking must be real to them. The list of tasks must still have some real tasks crossed out in order to trick them towards the relevance of peeking.

On the flip side, the quantity or quality of both the outline and the peek view is not relevant so long as the idea is that the peek view is getting more and the un-inputted/un-edited items are getting less thanks to the outline in the main screen.

Despite this, peekers work best in outlines that are not task related.

If they don’t suck, the peeker can get tasks done applying such tricks to their to-do lists but they are most boosted when they are dealing with larger and more interspersed data because in a way: they are the true beneficiaries of the S.M.A.R.T. acronym of thinking.

To these people, a working outliner is built on the process of: Peeking as Specific Activity. Editing multiple panes as Measuring. Being able to manipulate all these dual conflicting presented entries as injecting Attainment to the Data, Relevant = Data Input/Data CRIMPing, finally, Time Bound equals the amount of time they spend working with the outliner. Whether it is peeking at an already organize-completed data and simulating auto-evaluation or whether it is inputting new data and auto-applying the SMART criteria whether they are aware of it or not.

This ends the most orthodox mindsets I’m aware of when people claim they benefit from an outliner. The Big 3 are the most common and the peekers are a mindset I would associate with most of the newer/lesser known concepts of information/list outlining such as pomodoro, time estimated tasks, task life sims, timeboxing, kloking… pretty much every new concept I’ve heard except…
#5 The Pacer (The Foot Soldier)

I don’t know if I’m separating this mindset because I’m biased towards the Kanban but while it is a subset of the other 4 especially if one were to simply view it as a process or an aesthetic column based type of outlined corkboard…I think it’s notable enough in it’s distinction that it’s even possible to use it as a stereotype for nationalities.

Before I go on, it is important to emphasize that I’m not an expert and I’m not a Kanban user.

I only know of the unique attributes of Kanban in theory due to the similarity of it’s concepts to the stereotypical Asian treatment of their children when it comes to schools.

In group settings where Kanban is most well known, the distinction is much subtler but personal Kanban reveals all the hidden layers of Kanban as it should be applied.

If general work theory can be said to be bossed around by time, goals, accessibility and if these elements were said to be the reason why such simple things as sub-tasking or such things as calendars or even such things as which data shows which info should be on which window then the idea of the Pacer could be said to be bossed around by the individual person’s cultural loyalty to his culture.

It could even be said that this is the reason why many personal Kanbans are rarely used and most sites that allow for them tend to not have them and when they do try to show examples of having them…it fails as if the billboard signs are wrong.

I think it is because the Kanban is the most radical departure of structure when it moves from group to individual.

Where the traditional bulleted points or numbered list can act like checker chips all lining up waiting to be pods for text or images or anything that it can accept within it, the billboard of the Kanban is so married to the signs on top of it that it can’t just be things like Date/Doing/Done or else it ends up becoming a spreadsheet.

Going back to the Asian parent analogy, education as it is stereotyped for Asians, deals with the child constantly needing to prove more to their parents because of the constant return feedback that A is not the same as A+ or job is not the same as culturally proud of job or even the proverbial “you’re not worthy of being human unless you reach a certain job that puts you at a certain class of people you can mingle with”.

The Pacer must deal with this even if they are not utilizing a Kanban.

For example, the basic (or primitive for those unsatisfied with it’s simplicity) concept of Behance Action Method of Action Steps - References then Backburners utilizes a Pacing concept much closer to a camping or a mountain climbing project and it is this philosophy that allows it to be a different task outliner than a task outliner with similar if not superior features. It’s not as universal as a Kanban though.

It’s almost like the upper billboard signs must have a story but one where the principle of the concept must allow for any type of personality rather than one concepts’ name. A story that is closer to having a strict tutor as your companion outliner than it is to have the software itself. The resulting mindset resulting into a more war torn impermanence of the mind when it comes to outlining, releasing and absorbing outlines.

That is to say, if the orthodox outliner user must work towards his own personal enlightenment, the Pacing outliner user must work towards his cultural identity.

It’s such a nuanced mindset though. You’d get farther realizing the subtlety by having an atheist use a Kanban style column as a to-do list with the words “What would Jesus do?” on one column, “What would Satan do?” on the other column and “What would you do?” in the third column and understand the dynamic of the Pacer’s mindset more than any specific outlining software can really achieve. Of course this assumes the atheist would agree to such an experiment and would be honest in the data they are inputting.

Note also that just because the words “What would x do” is on the signboard, does not mean it is meant to be a to-do list as opposed to an outline. It is still as much the concept of outlining albeit splicing information much closer to an Agile approach with the exception that it is Lean but not Agile and it is it’s leanness that allows it to be an outlining mindset rather than a list-executing mindset. Bucket dumping also works but it lacks the complexity of the mindset and it is too similar to the principle of drag and dropping.

#6 The Hamburger Crab Mindset (aka The Editor)

The Hamburger Crab Mindset is not really a mindset at all as much as it is a consequence of dealing with the web too often.

It is in it’s most technical sense: the desire to have a Boss mindset mixed with the desire to have a Headline on top of the outline and for the bulk of the data to be on top and on the bottom: almost like a formatting principle than an outlining theory.

This set up allows the middle to be regularly tweaked without destroying the structure of the meta-outline.

The tough thing about this model is that it is rare to be a part of software. It is much more easily experienced using software utilizing typewriting scrolling like WriteMonkey than it is on an outliner but even the data must be structured like an outline.

I personally use a half-variant of this principle which I call retrospective outcurve.

The idea is that instead of a header as a category, the category is part of a branch. In that way, it’s much closer to a dictionary entry with synonyms found underneath it.


Windows XP
-Operating System
-Mint Linux
—Linux Distro
—Tablet PC

Note that this structure is best with collapsible lists.

#7 The Deletionist (The Marketer)

Although everyone can delete their data and almost any CRIMPer must get used to it by now, a Deletionist works on the principle that their outliner software is constantly “off”. Only turning “on” on a case by case basis.

While this may seem semantic to anyone who uses any software, the deletionist mindset takes this process beyond the normal closing and opening of the software.

That is to say, because the deletionist believes in the regularity of such occurences, the deletionist outlining pattern switches in it’s methodology much as a marketer would take the same case files and apply it in a different project in a different way but guided with whatever principal method they adhere to.

It may actually be closer to compare this to software data distillation than deletion due to the much clearer image of items swirling around randomly every time it is being edited. Unfortunately, as any regular outliner user can attest, are we not all constantly editing the data inside our preferred software?

I primarily call this a deletionist mindset because the sub-items are in fact not important. Nor is the default process in which to create an outline.

In fact a deletionist may be more boosted by utilizing more than 1 software if only so that they don’t have to prioritize and worry on one specific outlining software and the data inserted within it.

Still, the way a deletionist best solves the dilemma is to abuse the outliner itself.

Take for example the humble bullet point. Most people don’t leave a bullet point unfilled but a deleter might structure an outline like this:



This itself may seem like a simple outlinemarking hack. In fact technical users may simply see this as a way to simulate a separator.

A deleter however would see this differently. Take for example a situation in which they forget someone’s birthday once.

A deleter would open this file, see the same thing and instead of “reading” the outline, the deleter would do this:



It’s sort of close to playing around with an outline but what is actually happening is that the deleter must move the information around to actually utilize the outline. It is kinda a read by feel mindset only technically the deleter is moving and reading the items. They just need an “on” switch as a way of warming up their minds toward the outline.

#8 The Rowers (The Sales People)

Rowers are either the most common or the most uncommon mindset. I’m not really sure.

Empirically, they are merely absorbing the same outline most people absorb the outline do: line-by-line, maybe word-by-word, maybe skipping some.

Rowers’ most unique difference are that their minds are already working ahead of the outline.

This is their most important skill: any person trying to get something from their outline, even skimmers, are most certainly keeping up in pace with the outline even if it’s just so they can brainstorm something else.

Rowers are doing math around the outliner as if the outliner was an unsolved formula only not all rowers need to be intelligent. (It would be hard for a mathematically dumb person like I to describe them then.)

I’d like to think the secret to being a Rower is simply to be have a well developed critical thinking mind…but I really don’t know.

Another guess I have is that Rowers see outlines like people who are great at Body language or Item observation see people.

Either way it’s a very hard concept to narrow down. It could just be that rowers are skilled people who have managed to utilize their outliners or it could be something that experts have already deciphered but I haven’t.

In terms of specific example, I would look at how the creators of Goalscape managed to utilize the original concept of Goal Scape.

If you look at the boat handling map here and compare it to any other example goalscape map across the web, you’ll see how different it is: http://www.goalscape.com/blog/why-visual-overview-vital-success-sport-business-and-life-marcus-baur

They are not the only one. If you look at how many classic genius’ outline are often touted, you’ll read statements about how free flowing their outlines can be. Many even give up on such outlines having a structure. Statemets like these are common across the web:

“Although valuable as a tool for presenting ideas and a formal, orderly fashion, outlining is useful only after the real thinking has been done. If you try to generate your ideas by outlining, you’ll find that it slows you down and stifles your freedom of thought. It is just plain illogical to try to organize your ideas before you generate them.

Moreover, outlining and other linear notetaking systems exclude your brain’s capacity for color, dimension, synthesis, rhythm and image. By imposing one color and one form, outlining guarantees monotony. Outlining uses only half your mind, and a half a mind is a terrible thing to waste.”


Yet compare the average mindmap produced by either software or drawings and you’ll spot a clear difference between the outlines/notes of the greats vs. the outlines of the average person. Even smart people to smart people, it is very rare to hear people say these outlines are cold, calculating and incomprehensible. They are almost always described as organic or free flowing as if the elements themselves are working towards the production of the outline such as the outlining of the windy state of the boat as a goal. It would be like asking someone to outline the components of meditation and the outline having words such as moderately perspiring and cheery anxiety naturally extending out of the item.