Episode 2


What Happened

Hosmer got to the office, unpacked, made coffee. It was shaping up to be a long Saturday. He'd expected to have a quiet day, free from interruptions, to work on his writing and catch up on some case notes; now he found himself jotting down the facts and timeline of this new case.

Was it even a case?

While waiting for Joe Romero to call back with a conference time, he called the Bellvale Police. Woodson was out — he’d been working most of the night — but the basic outline they were willing to give him fit with what Joe Romero has said.

  • Julie Chandler was involved in a second accident last night, a single-car collision, to which the Grant Woodson had responded.
  • She was taken to Bellvale Hospital, treated there for injuries that appeared minor, should was expected to be released shortly.
  • At the scene, Ms. Chandler appeared dazed and confused, either because she was intoxicated or as a consequence of the accident. Some pills, found on the front seat, were being tested. Chandler did mention a previous incident involving Mr. Romero, her boyfriend.
  • The Chandler BMW has been towed to Jackson Garage. The car was owned by Ms. Chandler’s mother, Birgitta Cline. “One of her mothers,” the desk guy reminded him.

“Julie Chandler” hadn’t rung a bell for Hosmer, but Birgitta Cline certainly did. She ran Cline Imaging, a Bellvale software house that made image analysis tools for Hollywood, and she was deeply involved in the School Board, the Immigrant Shelter Program, Bellvale Recycling, and the Community Gay Coalition. Her wedding, to Lauren Chandler Cline, had created a ruckus the First Parish back in 2004.

Hosmer reminded himself Romero’s car also need to be inspected by Romero’s insurance adjuster. And he made a note to himself about those conveniently conspicuous pills.

Then, Joe Romero called to say that Grant Woodson was at his doorstep. Hosmer saved his notes and grabbed his car keys.

How We Map It

As our collection of notes grows, it’s useful to assign distinctive appearances to related things. We don’t do this because it looks good; we adjust the appearance so we can see our information more clearly.

For example, many of our notes describe people involved in the case. We have our client and his family. We have his girlfriend, and her family, and her physician. We have the girl who was the host of the party they both attended. We have the officer investigating the accident, and the Romero’s insurance adjuster.

At this point, we still don’t know if there is a legal issue here; by tomorrow, our involvement may be wrapped up. We don’t want to spend a lot of time writing up information we might not need. But it’s easy to see give all the notes about people a distinct appearance. We simply select them and apply some styles, setting the color, the shape, and the Badge. Similarly, we have some notes about questions we’d like to follow up; we can give these a distinct appearance as well.


This helps set separate notes about people from notes about events, or tasks we might want to pursue, or questions we might want to ask them.

Notice, too, that we’re putting things on the map where we want them to go. Some tools automatically try to organize your maps automatically; this can be convenient for small maps but it often fails dramatically when working with more complex problems. At this point, we don’t know if this will be a complicated case; we don’t know whether it’s a case at all.

Organize your map as seems sensible for your immediate understanding; you can always reorganize later as your understanding changes.


Edward Tufte’s study of The Visual Display Of Quantitative Information was a landmark in software design, highlighting for the first time the distinction between effective and informative displays and those that merely seem to look nice or that might impress naive readers. All Tufte’s major books are exceptionally crafted; his Visual Explanations, Images, Quantities, Evidence, and Narrative is perhaps the book most pertinent to the topics discussed here.

Planning a conference. BlogWalk Chicago, January 2005.