Southbeach Modeller is a professional .NET application. The native Microsoft Windows software implements Southbeach Notation. Models are held in .sbm files, an XML format.
The application has been tested on touch screens, including interactive white boards. Future versions will increase support for touch gestures on Windows tablets.
Some users run the software on Apple Mac OSX, using Parallels Desktop for Mac or VMWare Fusion.
Each .sbm file can store multiple models, multiple creativity rules, and multiple report templates, displayed in tabs when open in Southbeach Modeller. Each contained sub-model, and each element in each model, can store its own text notes and links to related information, including web links and web search.
At run time, selecting a model tab and a creativity or notes tab, creates an association. The output generated is stored in the file, for every combination. A file containing three model tabs, two creativity tabs and four reports, therefore requires eighteen output panels. Generated ideas are never overwritten. Users can move freely between editing models, rules and reports, and viewing the associated output.
The software provides a model (.sbm file) explorer, which understands the .sbm XML format, and is able to 'drill down' into a model to view the contained sub-models and individual elements. These can be reused by dragging them to the canvas, merging them into the current model, with no need to open the file in which the reusable content is stored.
The software is built on a 3rd party high performance, extensible, graphics engine. It provides sophisticated auto layout functions. In addition, the software contains a built-in creativity engine, similar to a rules engine or macro processor. The engine is tightly bound to the graphics via the attributes of Southbeach Notational elements. Visual and semantic patterns in Southbeach Notation can be efficiently matched against hundreds or even thousands of creativity rules. Rule sets implement creativity and problem solving methods.
The creativity can also efficiently match rules against user-defined tags in the model content. This allows the engine to be extended, by the user, for applications that lie beyond the semantics of Southbeach Notation.
A creativity rule consists of a visual pattern, and an output string. The string contains macros, expanded at run time. When the user clicks on objects in the model, the matching engine looks for rules that match the visual pattern (and user tags) near to the 'clicked on' or selected object. The search occurs within an 'extent' set by the user, i.e. a certain number of 'hops' from the selected element in the model. Thus, the user can control the number of generated sentences in response to any mouse click.
When a match is found, the corresponding sentences or 'creativity' are generated. Macros in the sentences are replaced by content from the model dynamically. Thus, abstract sentences become concrete ideas.
There are no hard-coded creativity strategies or sentences built into the software. Users supply the rules in every case, although libraries of such rules are expected to become available, and examples are given with the software.
The rules language has been designed to be very easy to write. It is not a 'programming' language. Despite this, it is surprisingly powerful. For example, it is possible chain rules through the model, looking for indirect effects.
The hard work in developing rules and rule sets is not learning the rules language, but being creative. Fortunately, there is a sea of books and online information on the Internet covering every conceivable creativity and problem solving method. Many of these are easily emulated in Southbeach.
The software provides two ways to enter rules.
The first is as a set of .txt files which are loaded at start up. Groups of rules can be defined, given names, and organized as a hierarchy. The names are displayed to the user in a side panel, and can be checked on or off at run time. Thus, simple mouse clicks can invoke a specific method, or combination of methods, during modelling.
In addition, rules can be directly typed into an editable 'creativity' panel in the model itself. Thus, when you send the .sbm model to a colleague, they can enjoy the benefits of your creativity even if they do not have access to your rules library. If you generated content while modelling, that will be there also for them to browse.
The creativity engine automatically filters out repetitious generated content, and will only produce unique sentences.
The software also implements a reporting engine. This is built on top of the creativity engine and is a convenient way to generate consulting reports from any model.
The role of the reporting engine is to process written reports, looking for creativity rules embedded in the body of the report. When it finds them, it expands the report content accordingly. Thus, a written report can include generated inline ideas, creativity and analysis, directly from the model. When the model is changed, it is only a matter of pressing a single function key to refresh the output.
Many consultants are developing reports, and rules, and applying them across models specific to the projects on which they are working with different clients. This is a powerful form of reuse, which complements the 'drill down and merge' described above.
The rules engine is capable of generating hundreds of ideas in less than a second. It's performance greatly exceeds the practical applications.
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