Capture, explore, gain understanding of ideas

Frequent questions

The install code doesn’t work

All install code problems are down to not typing the code in correctly, although this is usually because it’s not 100% clear whether a character is an ‘I’ or a ‘1’ (‘eye’ or ‘one’), or an ‘0’ or ‘O’ (zero or ‘oh’). The install codes are printed in a font which does differentiate, but unless you have two characters to compare it can be difficult. The ‘Oh’ is generally more rounded than the zero which is more oval. The ‘eye’ character has ‘serifs’ (extra little lines) on both sides at the top of the character, the one has only the left hand serif.

In general, the character will (as the software suggests), be a zero and not a letter ‘oh’. However, the letter ‘oh’ will appear in some codes, so you should try both combinations. Make sure that the user has entered the ‘-‘ characters in the right places too, nothing extra should be entered.

Can I run Decision Explorer® on a Mac?

Yes, if you have a Windows emulator.

We know of many users who are using Decision Explorer® on a Macintosh using a Windows emulator. If you want to see how well it works for you, then download the demonstration program. This is a fully working version of Decision Explorer®, limited only in the number of concepts (ideas) that you can enter. If this program works with your Windows emulator, then the full program will.

At present there are no immediate plans to produce a Mac version of the software. Sorry – we cannot be more specific or give you any more details at this time, but this is a discussion which comes up from time to time. A Mac version has not been ruled out as a possibility.

Q: Pasting concepts all ends up in a pile

I have been trying to copy and paste groups of concepts and their respective links from one map and
paste them into the same view. The result is a pile of overlaid concepts and links randomly placed
within the view. All the concepts are pasted but they are not organised according to the layout I
intended to copy. Could you please tell me if there is any effective way of
doing copy and paste within the same view?


First, consider carefully why you are copying the concepts into the same model. This is unusual, but a lot of people use the software in unusual ways and that’s fine. But you need to be sure you are really wanting to do this as if what you are wanting to do is have another view on the same concepts, then copying the view is a better way as the idea itself does not get duplicated. The View menu Copy item provides the ability to copy a view without duplicating the concepts themselves. Alternatively, the View menu Bring Layout From item allows you to copy a layout from another view to an existing view.

However, if copying the actual concepts is what you want, then there are ways of improving the results. First, the concepts all appear on top of each other if the Model to Model copy options are set to fast mode. (The Control menu Model to Model Copy Options items shows the dialog to control this.) Without fast mode, the concepts are put into free space, but the layout is not expected to be good. Typically you will be pasting a number of concepts from one model to another, and you would then use the FIND and MERGE commands to merge into the existing model, so the layout is not so important at this point. If you are pasting only a few, and want to get them arranged, then the command “MAP ONMAP” will map the concepts currently on the map view. You can then tidy it manually. If you were pasting to a new model and the concepts are not renumbered, you can also copy a layout by saving a view to disk and then loading it into the new model. The disk file stores only concept positions, not content, so edits are safe.

Q: Decision Explorer® model quality

I’ve been asked how people can validate the quality of their Decision Explorer® models. An ideal question for the list! How do you know that a model is “good”. If you base a major decision on the model, how do you know that the linkages that support it are correct?
Is a Decision Explorer® model like a word-processed document, which is static text arranged in concepts/paragraphs, or like a spreadsheet which has links/formulae creating a “programmed” model?
How can you build a model that would pass an audit from something like ISO9000? Do you need to?

A: Answers from the email list

Opinion 1:

This is a question that I am always asked about models: “how do I know that they are right?”

First: such a model is a “programmed model”, because the meaning is contained in both the concepts and the linkages, and because one concept can influence a number of others.

Second: it is a “negotiated” model, because it will usually have been constructed by more than one person inputting concepts and links, and there will have been the opportunity to challenge and change anything that seemed unreasonable or incorrect. A good model will represent some kind of consensus, even if it is about agreeing to disagree!

Even when using Decision Explorer® “off-line”, e.g. to analyse a document, it is wise to seek a second opinion on the reality and accuracy of the model.

I would have thought that the “quality” people are more concerned with the process and its documentation than they are with the outcomes. How, for example, would you audit a strategic planning process? A great advantage of using Decision Explorer® is that a record is kept of the inputs to and the arguments within any debate. The file can be archived along with any other relevant records. TK.

Back to index page

Opinion 2:

I don’t have neat solutions to the validity problem, but your request has echoes of a discussion I was having with a research student yesterday.

A) In the classic “soda”-type situation, where the model relates to a specific problem mess with a specific problem owner(s) and a defined time scale, then the bottom line surely has to be “a satisfied customer”. I.E. does the customer who generated the map feel that the mapping process has given them a clearer mental model of what is going on, and considers that the map resonates with their own intuitive understanding of the situation. We are assuming that perhaps 90% of the “knowledge” of the situation is **implicit** knowledge (hard to externalise) held by those in the situation who generated the map and who will take the resulting actions. Therefore the consultant has no access to most of the information that would be needed to validate the “truth” of the map in any objective sense and is merely the cook stirring the pot. Hence the clients’ sense of “aha” must be the litmus test used to see whether the 5% added by the model is useful or not (note: “useful” not “true”) and the consultant has to accept that objective tests of “truth” are not an option. In ethical terms, the clients remain the responsible agents. They are the ones who felt they needed help, they are the ones who felt that the SODA process might help them, and they are the ones who retain full responsibility for deciding what to do in the end. If I decide that I want to eat a cream bun and am sick afterwards because it is too rich, that is my fault, not the fault of the person who sold it to me (assuming it was of merchantable quality!).

B) But the student I was talking to was thinking about producing maps of people’s perceptions of rural hedgerows as part of a programme that might end up with some kind of metric or descriptive framework that would help discussions about hedgerows by people like farmers, environmentalists, ramblers, etc. I.E. the particular users on a particular occasion are **not** likely to be the particular people whose maps were captured. The original map generator may have said “aha” but the eventual user might just say “rubbish” so the subjective litmus test becomes irrelevant, unless, perhaps, the map has been tried out on large populations of people, and they have all tended to say “aha!” – but even that doesn’t strictly speaking prevent someone else saying legitimately: “You lemmings can jump over the cliff if you want to, but the other direction seems better to me!”. What has changed from the SODA case is the pattern of responsibility. The map maker is no longer just a cream-bun salesperson serving the clients’ responsibility, but is trying to take over responsibility. Instead of saying: “If you are confused about these hedgerow issues, you might find this process helps your thinking” the consultant is taking responsibility for defining the nature of how people think about hedgerows (and hence the parameters of debate) for other people.

I guess that logically what you ought to do in situation (B) is simply to offer a range of models: “This example shows how Farmer X saw his hedgerow”, “This is example shows how Rambler Y saw her hedgerow”. In that way, there would be no claim to general validity – merely a claim to the subjective validity for the originator, and a suggestion that seeing how others have thought about it might enrich your own thinking. JM.

Opinion 3:

As I am building large maps from data gathered from individuals about their perceptions of a complex area of management, the question of validation of the resultant cog. map is crucial. I have attempted a number of ways, ranging from the production of hard copy maps which take up a whole table, through to the attempted explanation of how the map was built. The size of the task makes it impossible to build the map in conjunction with the interviewee and hence there is a state of confusion and bewilderment when faced with the final product! My research is currently based on the multi stage analysis of the maps, using clusters as the core tool. The results are filtered through two stages with the result being a summary map contained easily on one A4 page. This map represents the ‘process flow’ of the subject. It is then discussed with the interviewee. This has proved to be enlightening and provides the validation. My results of this approach at the moment (which are still being carried out) suggest that this is a useful approach which provide the necessary surety and confidence in the mapping methodology. AE.

Why don’t maps paste properly?

Decision Explorer® outputs pictures on the clipboard using a standard “drawing mode”, but not all applications support it properly. We obviously can’t control how third-party applications handle the clipboard formats. We are working on how to make our output more compatible (3.0.5 had some alterations to improve it), so if you find an application that has problems, please let us know. In the meantime you may find that an alternative application allows you to paste the picture properly. For instance, different versions of Microsoft Word handle the pictures differently. Some have no problem at all, some create a box over the front (which can be removed by just double-clicking to edit, and then clicking close), and some don’t handle all the picture.

The answer for Microsoft® Office users with a version that fails is to paste it into PowerPoint® first. Then select it in PowerPoint®, and copy it again, and then paste into Word. PowerPoint® seems to handle clipboard pictures much better than Word, and can be used as an intermediary.

A file doesn’t load any more – Decision Explorer® reports an error

Decision Explorer® verifies the model files as they are loaded, and if it detects a problem it will not load the model. Decision Explorer® has never been known in over nine years to save a faulty model, so model file corruption is usually physical disk corruption.

Solution: First, ensure that the disk is not in trouble using SCANDISK or CHKDSK (or similar). Next, look for the .MDK file that matches the .MDL file. This file is the backup made at the last model save. Rename it to have a new name and the .MDL extension, and it will probably load. Also check to see if there is a .MSV file – this is an auto-saved file which you can again rename and give a .MDL extension.

If the file has been transferred using the internet, either FTP or HTTP, you should check that a “binary” mode has been used. If text mode is used, then the load error with a number 11 is likely to occur because the file has been modified. For FTP, either select binary mode, or add a .bin extension (see your FTP client help for selecting binary mode). For HTTP (web) downloads, the mode is controlled by the server (consult your server documentation), but you will find that zipping the file will generally solve this.

If it’s really important (the model file is really critical to you), Banxia could have a look at it, but at a cost. If no backup is available, and the user wants an instant answer, then loading the file into NotePad will allow the extraction of the concept texts. To many people the concept text is the most important aspect – putting links back in can be done relatively easily.

We are sometimes asked what the number in the error message means. It is simply an indicator as to where in the process of loading the error occurred, and doesn’t really help anyone much, but for interest the following table is provided:

0 no specific reason found
1 unable to create a window
2 printer change cancelled
3 unable to create & open temporary files
4 failed to read a concept into cache
5 failed to read a concept (no cache)
6 failed to read concept’s memory info
7 unable to allocate memory for file extraction
8 write failure extracting file
9 unable to open temporary file for output
10 unable to open the model file for read
11 invalid model header (see notes above)
12 old version not supported
13 Error reading concept structure
14 unable to allocate memory for concepts
15 Link header invalid
16 Link memory allocate fails
17 Link read failure
18 model header invalid
19 model header read error
20 unable to allocate memory for set control
21 set header is invalid
22 set detail header is invalid
23 unable to allocate memory for set itself
24 unable to allocate memory for model etc
25 no allocated memory for model etc
26 Error reading concept general
27 dynamic array header failure
28 error allocating dynamic memory
29 error reading dynamic info
30 gcs header failure
31 error allocating gcs memory
32 error reading gcs info
33 error reading smart segment start
34 error reading smart segment end
35 error reading smart segment itself
36 unable to allocate model attribute memory
37 error reading model attribs into memory
38 error interpreting model attribs
39 unable to allocate view attribute memory
40 error reading view attribs into memory
41 error interpreting view attribs
42 user cancelled after unknown smart seg
43 unable to allocate memory for file move
44 unable to open a file for moving
45 file write failed during move

Closing Decision Explorer® produces a grey window

For added flexibility, Decision Explorer® doesn’t use the Multi-Document Interface (MDI) method of handling multiple windows. The grey window that appears when you close a model allows you to open another model, or close Decision Explorer®. If you want to avoid it, simply use the File menu Exit item (Alt-Q) instead of Closing.

The map “goes mad”, with lines shooting top to bottom, left to right.

This is very rare, but it does unfortunately happen sometimes. The problem is that Windows runs out of resources, usually because of a resource leak in printer drivers (Hewlett-Packard in particular). Decision Explorer® asks Windows how big a concept text is on screen, and Windows returns “zero”, so Decision Explorer® bases its calculations on that value. Unfortunately, that sends things “mad” with arrow lines going vertically up or horizontally across to nowhere.

Solution: Close Windows down – you have to restart to get the resources back to normal size. Then, load the model. It may still be shown wrongly, but now press Shift-Alt-F5 (or hold Shift while selecting the View menu Redraw item). This tells Decision Explorer® to recalculate the concept sizes again. Most of the time it will instantly be corrected and displayed normally. If it doesn’t correct the map, the command “MAP ONMAP” will restore order, but unfortunately the previous map layout is lost.

A final note – Decision Explorer® has a finite map size, which is much bigger than any normal map is ever going to reach. However, if you create a really really wide map, hundreds of concepts wide, then it is possible that the map area will overflow and give similar problems (lines apparently going horizontally or vertically). Spotting this situation is easy though – the map is massive! In this case, you should reconsider your methodology, the tool isn’t designed for building a single massive map display (though we’d be interested in knowing your reasoning in case we should add such facilities).

Toolbar changes don’t get saved

Decision Explorer® remembers the toolbar settings when you close a model. If you wish to save a particular configuration, make sure that you close other models before closing that one. The easiest way to ensure this is to have only one model open, reconfigure the toolbars, and then close it. Those settings with then be remembered.