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Crowdsourcing Mornings: Flowchart Recipes: An Engineer’s Cookbook


This is Crowdsourcing Mornings! This post takes place every weekday morning and highlights one crowdsourcing project I liked from Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or other crowdsourcing websites.

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This is a cookbook with solid everyday recipes visualized using flowcharts for better readability/understanding and usability than what you get from a traditionally formatted cookbook.

Do you ever find yourself frustrated or confused when trying to follow along with a traditional cooking recipe?

The more you cook the more you realize that cooking is often not as straight forward as a linear step by step instruction make it out to be. There is a fair share of decision making, probing, and parallel processing, which is not easily communicated in a linear text recipe.

And why are recipes online always buried under a wall of text blog post?

The traditional cooking recipe describes a step by step workflow as essentially a numbered list of actions to take in one long sequence. What you are unable to glance from a traditional recipe is what parts of the workflow can be prepared in advance or in parallel with other tasks. You can try to solve this problem by reading the whole recipe in advance before you start cooking and then keep your knowledge of what actions will come next in memory as you cook the dish. This of course put a heavy toll on your cognition, and the longer the recipe the harder it gets.

How can we improve the recipe format?  There are of course many ways to make recipes easier to read, and I have seen many well written recipes which get creative with the formatting using color coding, margin notes, etc. but ultimately it still follows the same numbered list format.

Personally, working as an engineer in software development, I read and review hundreds of pages of technical documentation every year, and one of the things I often request for is for more visualizations of the often very verbose descriptions for better readability. A generally accepted assumption in the field of cognitive psychology is that people learn better if they are taught using more than one sense (or modality) (The New Handbook of Multi-sensory Processing, Barry E. Stein, 2012).

When you visualize processes, designs, time plans, etc. your teams mental image become more aligned. With a new angle, or view point to the topic you understand the problem domain in a new and deeper way and sometimes a good visualization reveals issues which you were completely blind to before.

This is where flowcharts commonly used in engineering comes into play. Flowcharts are a type of diagram which describe a process, workflow or algorithm which solves a task in a step by step manner. The beauty of a flowchart is that you can glance the “big picture” at any time and easily keep track of your progress. A flowchart simplifies decision making and visualize loops and forks (parallel execution). Something which is hard to convey in a purely text formatted recipe.

In this cookbook, every recipe is presented in two ways, with the traditional text format, and with a flowchart – so you can compare the two, and utilize the strengths of both ways.

As of November 4th, this project has raised $3,500 of their $1,125 goal.  This project has 28 days left to raise as much as it can.  For a pledge of $5, you will get a digital poster.  For a pledge of $29, you will get one book.  To learn more and to pledge money, go to:

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