Version 1.2 of Rationale will be appearing by mid-February.  One change is that sticky notes are now “stickier” than they were before. Previously you could stick a note to the workspace, and it would (as you’d expect) stay exactly where you put it. Now, you can attach a note to a box (e.g. a claim box, or a reason). A dotted line with arrow head indicates that a note is attached to a given box rather than to the workspace. For example,


If the box to which a note is attached moves, the note will move with it instead of staying stuck to the workspace.  However you can move the sticky without moving the box to which it is attached.

Stickier stickies may not seem like a big deal, but we’re quietly excited about it.

First, because this is a remarkably useful feature.  Using attached sticky notes, you can rapidly assemble diagrams which are much more informative than just having the bare-bones argument structure.  Uses include:

  • creating instructional graphics where people can see the point at a glance.  (The graphic above is taken from a page in online argument mapping tutorials, the first place we’ve publicly made use of the new feature.)
  • making comments on somebody else’s map (e.g., giving feedback to a student)

Second, because the feature is implemented in a simple, intuitive way.  It took quite a bit of time exploring various possibilities until we had something which worked pretty much as you’d expect and in such a simple way that just about any user could use the feature straight away without any instruction.

Along the way, I was reminded of some basic truths of software development:

  • A seemingly trivial, isolated idea (“Why can’t I just attach a sticky note to a box?”) can give rise to so many unforeseen issues that implementing the idea can turn out to be a major task.
  • More generally, it can take a lot of effort to produce something really simple and intuitive.
  • However, small generic features can turn out to be very powerful and useful.