A Brief Introduction to Vulcan
Vulcan is our latest and greatest invention — and I’m so delighted to share it with you.
As we start a new decade, what could be better than sharing news of something we’ve been working quietly and steadily working on this year.
Vulcan represents a paradigm shift in information management. It gives regular folk like you (and me) access to the information superpowers that were originally reserved for hardcore hackers, script monkeys, automators, military and law enforcement analysts, fraud agents, FBI agents and police.
Have you ever seen a hacker fingerprint and recon an entire network, using Maltego? It’s a sight to behold.
Have you seen a forensic analyst investigate a health care fraud case using IBM i2?
Have you seen analysts investigate a crash for cash fraud case?
I’ve linked to some Youtube videos (which personally I find fascinating) but honestly, I don’t expect you to watch them.
My point here is simply this: you and I were in the dark.
There are technologies and techniques that some people have access to, in order to analyse and visualise complex information, collaborate with colleagues and achieve successful results for complex, non-linear, often chaotic problems.
Sound familiar? It should, if you’re working in a modern and innovative company, then I’m 100% sure you would find significant parallels.
So why don’t we have such tools at our disposal?
I asked myself this very same question.
It’s all the more powerful when the market was asked about how they tackle solving problems and responded with answers that completely contradict most of the ways we tool ourselves in companies today.
“Colors, diagrams, patterns…”
“Abstract models and patterns…”
“Using the air around me as 3D space…”
“Data visualisation is key…”
“I see things in diagrams and flows…”
This story started more than 10 years ago when I started looking at better ways to manage all the information resources I had gathered in pursuit of learning to code and being a naive tech entrepreneur.
🧠 In 2011, I started working on a first version of the concept, called Mysparebrain. It didn’t work out with my co-founder, who was formerly an engineer for i2 (which I mentioned above). I walked away from the project with nothing but experience.
🧠 After leaving MSB I started building a v2, called Braindu, which I launched via Betalist in 2012. I closed it down after 2 years of bootstrapping.
I used Mural heavily in the interim as an integral part of my personal workflow. I got to know the Mural team well and, anecdotally at least, even inspired some of Mural’s feature developments with my work on Braindu.
There’s an open topic on our community forum talking about the history here. Feel free to drop by and ask me about it.
Fast forward to 2017 and Blockchain fever struck. The information worm-hole opened and I was drowning in browser tabs, notes, realtime information, ICO news, community news, crypto prices and network hash-rates — not to mention, all the new and deeply technical concepts to research and unpack. I was part cryptographer, decentralised network architect, miner, token economist, investor, trader.
I needed a solution, nothing in my current toolbox was working. Mural is awesome for visual collaboration. I’ve been a huge advocate and written about it. I still am a big fan. But what I needed was nuanced. Similar, but ultimately different. I looked across the obvious landscape of options…
Mural: Visual collaboration, shallow information depth. Limited programmability.
Miro: Visual collaboration, shallow information depth. Limited programmability, has improved considerably in this regard recently.
Notion: Document based collaboration, awesome editor with rich components, depth but constrained to file / folder structures, limited programmability
Docs / Sheets / Slides: Great for focussed tasks and outputs in the respective products, not good for organising information.
Confluence : Document based, constrained by file / folder structures. Bit of a black hole when it comes to building custom components and plugins.
LucidChart (and other diagramming / flow chart tools): Great for visuals, even data driven visuals, but not great as a knowledge base.
I could go on… but whilst all of these tools had a place in my workflow, they just couldn’t be central to it.
No choice, but to build it.
v0.1 Vulcan MVP
The first version of Vulcan was solely for my own needs, scratching my own itch. It was developed specifically as a visual canvas tool, but with one main difference — enabling me to work on both long-form editorial content attached to each object on the canvas and the ability to add dynamic integrated data from various web services that I was tracking at the time — sources such as Twitter feeds, Youtube videos, Reddit topics, RSS news feeds.
I needed to be able to quickly added information to contextually relevant canvases, which we call Charts. To do this, a simple drag-and-drop of links, text or images would trigger the creation of a new object and fire off a crawler which would fetch further data related to the source URL and populate metadata.
It worked well. Really well, in fact. So I decided to rebuild it a couple of months later, obviously.
v0.2 Vulcan Alpha
It was game on now.
My vision, the same vision that inspired me all those years before, was that we could enable everyday people to harness technology to solve their complex problems.
Up until now, technologies reserved for the crime fighters and the might military, network hackers and forensic investigators could be used by sales teams, marketers, accountants, lawyers, investors, designers, developers, enterprise architects, product owners, project managers, entrepreneurs… anyone.
We can work with new information management techniques. We can leverage machine intelligence. We shouldn’t need to be elite data scientists and engineers to do it.