Brain Withdrawal

By | July 19, 2007

I’m really getting into using PersonalBrain, the newly launched version of a decade-old program that should have swept the world by now. But there’s a downside to relying on one piece of software so much: When it goes wrong, you’re adrift.

Luckily the guys at PersonalBrain are looking into it, but I had to stop using mine about 24 hours ago when I noticed weird things happening. My brain is now on their operating table and I’m praying I’ll get it back soon because I just have no appetite to do anything meaningful without it.

PersonalBrain fills that hole I’ve often felt existed between having ideas, finding snippets of information or encountering websites, companies, people and books I encounter in my day. Before I would not know quite where to put them so I could find them when I needed them, and invented dozens of systems to try to solve the problem. None worked very well, because they all relied on me remembering what I’d added and where.

As you may have found, most of what we know doesn’t fit neatly into a structure — that PR guy we met last night? Should we put him under PR, or the companies he handles, or the fact that actually he was much more interesting on credit card fraud, and he could definitely be lured out on a date with one of the legions of single females we seem to know?

And what about that idea you had in the bath this morning, where you wondered aloud whether the plethora of news stories on global warming was evidence of a) a sudden increase in global warming, b) a sudden increase in journalists’ interest in global warming, c) a sudden increase in editorial commitment to educate the public about global warming d) a pathetic hope on the part of editors that global warming stories may sell more papers or e) a sort of new tacit agreement between media and public that now we all agree that climate change is happening, we need to be reminded of how clever we are? If you’re not sure, where are you going to put that in your database? Future media? Future of newspapers? Cynical ploys? Global warming? Great ideas you have in the bath that don’t sound so great when you’re not?

The answer: with PersonalBrain you can put it anywhere, and, more importantly, have a higher chance of finding it again. Quickly PB envelopes your processes and shifts them into a different gear. Which is why it’s sooooo hard to function when your file gets corrupted and needs to go in for surgery. (Yes, it’s worrying that software can do this, but we should have gotten used to it by now. I’d much rather there was software that wasn’t perfect but which reached for the stars than some more basic mush that always worked but never transformed how I worked.)

So. I’m brainless, gormless, mindless, whatever you want to call it until the doctors call. Next time I’m going to back up my brain every hour and hope this doesn’t happen again. But I’m excited, too, that I care enough about a piece of software and how it can help me that I feel so bereft. I haven’t felt like this since Enfish Tracker Pro.

Update: An all nighter by the PersonalBrain people and my brain is back, fixed and missing half a dozen thoughts (out of 7,000). I’ve been assured the problem is being investigated and future versions of the software will include an automatic backup option each time the program is closed.

6 thoughts on “Brain Withdrawal

  1. Hsien Lei

    Yikes. Hope you get they repair it for you ASAP.

    The last time you raved about Personal Brain, I downloaded a copy and messed around with it. I had two limitations:

    1) I don’t have enough going on to really need such detailed organization.

    2) My brain isn’t complex enough to really understand how to use it.

    How helpful do you think Personal Brain is for the average person, rather than for an extremely busy and mentally active WSJ columnist, book authro, and reporter?

  2. Jeremy Wagstaff

    Hsien Lei, fair questions. I think it’s going to be different for everyone — how I use it is going to be a bit different to how someone else might, because my interests/job are different. But I think everyone would get something out of it. Right now I can’t think of a way it wouldn’t be useful, but I can also appreciate this kind of approach doesn’t suit everyone. But what I did find is that the more I threw into it, the more I got out of it. Until it blew up on me…

  3. Nitin Badjatia


    To expand on Hsein Lei’s point, I think that I haven’t seen an adequate set of use cases, or examples, of The Brain to know how to effectively use it.

    I use MindManager quite a bit, and am obsessed with having single, trusted system, to store information, but I’m not clear how to accomplish that with The Brain.

    It seems that every time I try to work with this software, something frustrates me and I give up.

    So, would you expound on how you use it – or maybe point us to a few examples of practical use of The Brain?

  4. Jeremy Wagstaff

    Nitin, thanks for this. Yes, good idea, I’ll try to put together a separate post explaining a bit how I use it, and how I imagine some people in other fields could use it.

  5. Yro

    Very interesting software. I am toying with buying it but $145 is steep. I’d love to see Bung Jeremy give us an example of how he uses Mind Manager (from Mindjet) in the same simple and informative way he gave an example of how to use Personal Brain. Gimana Abang? Dapat? Asyikkkk!

  6. Jeremy Wagstaff

    Yro, frankly I wouldn’t shell out the money until you’ve been using it a week or two. While I believe it’s excellent value, it’s not going to be for everyone and better to either use PB3 (which works fine, for Windows users) or the free version of PB4 until you really feel you’re getting into it, than spend the money and then not feel it’s you.

    On Mindman, I could do that, altho I haven’t used it for a while, I must confess.


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