How to Create Engaging Brains for Quick Online Publishing

November 17, 2010
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Topic focused Brains are ideal for sharing and publishing. They are a great way to enter into the publishing arena on and are a ton of fun to create.  Here’s how to create a compelling Brain in 6 simple steps.

1. Select the Right Topic: Breadth or Depth?

If you want to attract attention on your blog or choosing a topic that’s engaging is a must. If you are pressed for time and want to publish, keep your topic focused. For instance, instead of mind mapping out the entire history of the United States you could choose a more specific topic  like “the Effect of the Industrial Revolution” or American Entrepreneurs.  Narrowing down your topic will help you avoid any gaping holes in your content and ensure that your Brain covers all key ideas on your subject.


Conversely, if you start on a very narrow topic and find you are running out of ideas quickly you may need to broaden your theme. For instance, a Brain on yoga might need to be broadened out to one on healthy living.  If this happens, remember there is really no beginning or end to a Brain. Simply add a new Parent Thought above your main topic and branch out other themes from there.

Publishing more of a general overview or visual outline of key ideas from a meeting, conference or subject is also a quick publishing project. Creating a Brain on a broad topic that highlights all the key areas of its subject can be a very effective communication of your point of view.

2010 ExecMeeting
Agendas and overviews are easy to create and a popular published Brain for teams

The general rule here is to be consistent. If you have one area in your Brain that has 20 child Thoughts and goes 5 levels deep and another area that’s sparely populated will leave visitors to wonder what happened. Define your topic and parameters in advance and be realistic about what you can map out.

Pick a topic that you love or want to learn more about. Then your experience of creating the Brain becomes very rewarding. For more ideas on topic selection browse some of the most popular Brains on

There are many approaches to creating a Brain. You can create one Brain for all projects in your life or get focused on a single topic. (For more information on which approach to Brain development is right for you see my blog entry on: “One Brain or Many”)
2. Pay Attention to Fundamental Thought Architecture
Start with the name of your topic then create child Thoughts for key areas. Phase one of topic expansion is idea capture and category creation. Create Thoughts under your topic in a free flowing manner. At this point don’t worry about Thoughts that may not belong just capture all your ideas. You can always delete a Thought or move things around later. To create multiple Thoughts at once: separate them with a semicolon in the create child box.

Add in multiple Thoughts at once.

Then under each of these header Thoughts start to build a supporting Thought structure. Though you can create your Thoughts from any direction I recommend creating subcategories AKA “child Thoughts” down from your main Branch, moving from general to more specific Thoughts.

For more information on Thought relationships see Parent, Child, or Jump…Which Relationship Should I Choose?

Once you have your basic Thought structure down you will probably find that an idea or two fits under a couple different categories. This is where the fun comes in. Just type in the first couple letters and select it from the existing Thoughts list to make a connection. These connections will serve as paths of discovery for people browsing your Brain.

Connect Your Thoughts to anything else. No Limits

3. Attach Content and Create Web Guides

To build and grow areas of my Brain, I like to use TheBrain’s Search Web Feature (in the Options menu or F5). This takes your active Thought and initiates a Web search. Now you can drag and drop the best web sites below your Thought for even more resources on your topic. You can drag and drop any URL or file into your TheBrain.

One of my favorite sites to map out and add into my published Brain is the Wikipedia. One entry on a topic always has a dozen links to something else but they are all embedded in the text and it is difficult to see the connections. This is perfect for your online Brain. You can attach various Wikipedia pages to your Thoughts and their connected concepts.

You can also copy images onto your Thoughts as icons. Copy any web image and then right click on your Thought and select “Paste Thought Icon”.

You can also drag and drop files. When you publish your Brain your viewers will be able to download that file or open it in their web browser. If you are dragging and dropping files from your desktop into your TheBrain be sure to move those files internally into your Brain. Right click on the file in the Thought menu and select “Move File into Brain”. Otherwise you might end up with a shortcut to something that is pointing to a folder on your desktop instead of being online. (If you are adding a lot of files to be viewed online I recommend you change the preferences in TheBrain from drag and drop to Move rather than Link.)

If you don’t have any content attached to your Thought you can add notes. Your notes on your Thoughts will appear below the visual interface in the content frame. So spend some time developing a nice style and make sure your formatting of notes is constituent for a more professional finish in your published Brain. This is a great place to include a brief introduction on what your Brain is about. Right under your first Thought.

When published, the content frame below your Thoughts
will display your notes or any attached files.

4. Edit and Fine Tune

Now that you have a basic structure for your Brain with most of your content, you will want to do a basic review of your Thought structure. Pay attention to the number of Thoughts you have right below your root Thought. If there are there too many you might want to subcategorize further. Additionally, are the Thoughts engaging? Review your top level Thought names. Keep them short and to the point so they don’t get truncated if made bigger. Shorter Thought names also make it easier to browse through large Brains. To rename a Thought right click and select Rename.

To learn more about fine tuning and auditing your Brain read 6 Ways You Can Improve Your Brain.

Most likely, in this phase you’ll have some Thought relationships you want to change. You can change relationships by moving Thoughts around your Active Thought or linking and unlinking. You can check out our quick online tutorial movies on Editing Thought Relationships to learn more.

5. Optimize for Your Target  Audience

Once you’re satisfied with your structure and content, add some finishing touches. Set your home Thought. In most cases it will be the first Thought you started with, but sometimes, if you are publishing a large Brain, you may want visitors to start on a different Thought. In the heart of your Brain, for instance.

You should also create pins. Pins are like bookmarks to your Thoughts. They appear at the top of your Brain and serve as hot links into key areas of your content. The nice thing about pins is each Thought that is pinned can be in a completely different area of your Brain. This will encourage visitors to activate key Thoughts you want them to see and go to areas that might otherwise be overlooked.

Finally add a background to your Brain that conveys the theme of your content and makes your Brain standout. For instance in my Writer’s Brain I selected a mysterious stair case to convey conflict and intrigue for storytelling.

Wallpaper and Thought icons are uploaded when published.
The Pins you set appear at the top of your Brain.

Be careful not to select something too busy or high contrast so that your Thoughts are still very readable.

6. Publishing and Sharing Your Brain

Now you are ready to publish. Publishing is done through Simply create an account at then enter your account information in the synchronize options in TheBrain.


Watch our Quick Publishing Tour for more details on how to publish online or sync your Brain across computers.

Note: when you first publish your Brain the default setting will be private. You can then go in and modify your settings for public listing or unlisted web access to share your Brain online.

To share specific Thoughts with colleagues and friends, click on the share button in the corner of your published Brain. You can tweet or copy and paste the URL of specific Thoughts in an email. Now you can share your perspective and idea with the world in a whole new way. People can see your ideas and how everything is connected.  Your online Brain will make it easy to share vast amounts of information and provide an engaging medium that guides people through your content for enhanced understanding on any subject.

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Filed under: Applications. How You Can Use TheBrain!, Improving Your Brain, WebBrain | Posted on November 17th, 2010 by Shelley Hayduk

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