Had a spare half-day in New York today before heading out to the airport for the long trip home. Spent part of it meeting folks at a firm of private investigators. They showed me a complex box-and-arrow diagram they’d produced about relationships between people and companies in a case they’d worked on. (They’d previously had this diagram available on their website.) It was essentially a “link analysis” diagram. They’d done it “by hand” using Visio. Surprisingly, they weren’t aware that there are good dedicated tools such as Analyst’s Notebook which make this kind of task much easier.

The diagram was fine as far as it went, but like all link analysis diagrams, it didn’t do the main thing which all people who produce link diagrams ultimately have to do, which is present conclusions backed up by evidence to their clients. All the evidence was there, but the conclusions weren’t, and therefore the connections between the evidence and the conclusions weren’t there either. This stuff they do in their heads. And, as my contact there pointed out, what is in the head on one day is no longer there a few days later, when you’re dealing with lots of complex cases. Forgetting how the details stacked up to support your conclusions is a serious problem – one that can be addressed by having a permanent, easily-surveyable record of those relationships.

So here was a classic case of where argument mapping software such as Rationale complements link analysis diagrams such as are widely used in intelligence, police work, and (now I realise) in private investigation work. Argument mapping is the “missing link” between the detailed evidence-marshalling work they do and the endpoint of their assignment.

So it looks like private investigation is another important potential market for Rationale.

[Gate 46 lounge, JFK]