In the past, when people were signing up to use Kumu, we asked each individual Kumu user to create their own “personal account”, and then create an “organization” if they needed a separate space to share projects with their collaborators.

Over time, we realized that the relationship between personal accounts and organizations tended to be confusing. Also, the “personal” and “organization” terminology led people astray — “personal” accounts were sometimes the right choice for work-related things, and “organizations” were the right choice for any highly collaborative work, even if that work didn’t formally belong to a literal organization.

Because of that, we decided to simplify the way all these pieces fit together and how they’re named. We’re happy to announce that we figured out a way to change our terminology and account behavior to make things more streamlined! …

If you’ve been using Kumu for a while, you might have noticed that the workflow for creating new maps looks a little different!

We recently gave a new look to our template picker, a tool that helps people start their new map with sensible presets, including field values, legend entries, base element sizes, and more.

The old template picker looked like this:

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And the new one features an expanded list of templates, tags and paragraphs describing each one, and big, high-resolution screenshots of each one.

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How and when to use direct decorations and data-driven decorations in your next project

Decorations in Kumu allow you to change color, size, and other visual properties of elements, connections, and loops in your map. They are a powerful way to guide your map readers toward valuable insights about your system or network.

We recently released a new feature called “direct decorations,” and wrote this post to help you stay productive and efficient while using it!

One thing that sets Kumu apart from many other mapping tools is its ability to create data-driven decorations.

Data-driven decorations are rules that tell Kumu how to style your map. Those rules accomplish two tasks:

  1. Tell Kumu which items (i.e. elements, connections, or loops) the rule should apply to. …

When you’re making a system map in Kumu, it’s important to have skill and familiarity with the tool itself, but it’s equally important to have an understanding of the concepts of systems thinking.

You can learn these concepts and learn Kumu at the same time if you follow the Systems Practice methodology developed by The Omidyar Group. When we’re mapping systems ourselves, teaching systems skills, or simply brushing up on our own skills, this methodology is one of our all-time favorites.

Opening pages of the Systems Practice workbook

Notably, though, the Systems Practice methodology is time-consuming.

When you’re mapping in Kumu, one of the most common steps you’ll take is to sort your elements into separate categories. For example, elements in system maps might fall into one of the following categories:

In a network map, your elements might fall into these categories:

One of the maps I built visualizes all of the articles in the One Acre Fund insights library. That library separates all of its articles into — you guessed it — categories! …

When I joined the Kumu core team, I had already been a Kumu user for about three or four years. During that time, I used a lot of different tools for mapping systems and networks, but I kept returning to Kumu for one main reason: Kumu doesn’t just make it easy for mappers to visualize their systems and networks; it also makes it easy for map readers to interact with and gain insight from the map, even when they’re completely new to the funky circles-and-lines format!

There are a few Kumu features that make this possible, but my personal favorite is controls. …

Recently, we’ve been running “Kumu 101” webinars, designed to teach you everything you need to know to get started with Kumu. To make sure you have a solid foundation of knowledge to build on, we use this list of questions to guide us through all of the core Kumu concepts:

  • What are the main use cases for Kumu?
  • What are the key difference between personal accounts and organizations?
  • Once I have an account, how do I get started with my first project?
  • Where can I go to learn more about Kumu?
  • If I get stuck, where can I go for help? …

A simple activity to improve your mapping skills

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Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Professional system mapping projects can take weeks or even months to complete. Organizations spend time and resources on background research, surveys, in-person interviews, team meetings, brainstorming sessions, first drafts, second drafts…you get the idea. Often, because of all the time spent researching and preparing, the actual visualization work doesn’t even start until the deadline is already looming.

If you’re an expert system mapper, you’ll thrive in that environment. When your team needs you most, you’ll synthesize all of their in-depth research and interviews into a beautiful map, the perfect centerpiece for any report, grant application, annual letter, or presentation.

But system mapping expertise is not so easy to achieve! Just like with any other skill, you’ll need to practice, have patience, and make a lot of mistakes before you can consistently build aesthetically pleasing maps that cut to the core of complex systems. …

Why Renderless Component Libraries will Make Web Dev Easier and More Inclusive

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Vue component libraries are popular.

They have cool names and sweet logos. They have sleek documentation. They’re made with ❤️, MIT-licensed, and open source.

Everybody loves component libraries!

If you’ve been living under a rock, or you’re just not a nerd, here’s a definition of component, paraphrased from the Vue.js documentation:

Components are reusable Vue instances with a name. You can use components as custom elements inside the templates of other Vue components.

In other words, components are shorthand, replacing longer snippets of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, especially snippets that need to be used frequently.

When you create a bunch of components and stick them all in a folder, that’s called a component library. If your library is good, you can publish it on npm, and other people will download it and use it in their apps and websites. …

Part of a series. The other parts talk about design and learning to code in the context of political campaign websites.

Two days before the 2018 Wisconsin primary elections, Reuters published an article citing research findings that one third of all campaign websites, Republican and Democrat alike, had significant security problems. Against a backdrop of election hacking stories in the mainstream media, this was pretty big news.

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This was an alarm bell to me in particular, since I designed and built Wisconsin congressional candidate Dr. Jennifer Hoppe Vipond’s campaign website,, from scratch. I didn’t use website builders like Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace; I didn’t use HTML templates; I didn’t use frameworks like Bootstrap or jQuery.

  • I wrote every line of HTML, CSS, and…


Alex Vipond

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