Tinderbox Forum

Roam Research - interesting approach to note taking

What would you recommend reading for the more recent work?

What would you recommend reading for the more recent work?

Whoo — big question!

On spatial hypertext, everything starts with Cathy Marshall. Tons of papers, all of them unique. Her book,

Marshall, C. C. 2009 Reading and Writing the Electronic Book (Synthesis Lectures on Information Concepts, Retrieval, and Services) . Morgan and Claypool Publishers.

is indispensable.

Marshall, C. C. 1998. “Toward an ecology of hypertext annotation”. Proceedings of the ninth ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia, 40-49.

is outstanding. The early

Shipman, F. and Marshall, C. C. 1999. “Formality Considered Harmful: Experience, emerging themes, and directions on the use of formal representations in interactive systems”. CSCW . 333-352.

is an important corrective to one hazardous strand in our research area. The core papers on VIKI and VKB are really key. Marshall’s frequent collaborator Frank Shipman and his notable students including Francisco Revilla and Haowei Hsieh continue this line of work.

Another important area is computational representation of argumentation. This goes back to Toulmin, and see Conklin, J. and Begeman, M. L. 1988. “gIBIS: A Hypertext Tool for Exploratory Policy Discussion”. ACM Transactions on Office Information Systems . 6, 4, 303-331.

Though it is remembered as a research dead end, Aquanet had lots of influence on Tinderbox and much else: Marshall, C. C. and Rogers, R. A. 1992. “Two Years before the Mist: Experiences with Aquanet”. ECHT’92 . 53-62. Also the work of Streitz et al

Streitz, N., Geißler, J., Haake, J., and Hol, J. 1994. “DOLPHIN: Integrating meeting support across local and remote desktop environments and liveboards”. CSCW 94 . 345-359.

and the Nanards.

Nanard, J. and Nanard, M. 1991. “Using Structured Types to incorporate Knowledge in Hypertext”. Hypertext’91 . 329-343.

I think Heiko Haller’s work fits in this tradition, though he might not agree.

Haller, H. and Abecker, A. 2010. “iMapping: a zooming user interface approach for personal and semantic knowledge management”. Proceedings of the 21st ACM conference on Hypertext and hypermedia, HT ‘10 . 119-128.

So does Simon Buckingham-Shum

Kirschner, P. A. et al eds., 2003 Visualizing argumentation : software tools for collaborative and educational sense-making . Springer.

Okada, A., Buckingham Shum, S. J., and Sherborne, T. 2008 Knowledge cartography : software tools and mapping techniques . Springer.

On trails, visualization, and engagement, see Polle Zellweger. Andy van Dam at Brown has just started doing some terrific new stuff. Also:

Roundefinedner, Rossner, D., Atzenbeck, C., and Gross, T. 2019. “Visualization of the Relevance: Using Physics Simulations for Encoding Context Proceedings of the 30th ACM Conference on Hypertext and Social Media”. HT 19 . pp 67-76.

David Kolb’s philosophical work is pertinent:

  • Kolb, D. 2012. “Story/Story”. Hypertext 2012 .
  • Kolb, D. 2009 Hypertext Structure Under Pressure . In Reading Hypertext, D. G. Mark Bernstein, ed. Eastgate Systems, Inc.,
  • Kolb, D. 1994. “Socrates in the Labyrinth: Hypertext, Argument, Philosophy”.

Possibly useful for Tinderbox and Storyspace are

Bernstein, M. 2003. “Collage, composites, construction”. Proceedings of the fourteenth ACM conference on Hypertext and hypermedia . 122-123.

Bernstein, M. 2002. “Storyspace 1”. Proceedings of the 13th ACM Hypertext Conference . 172-181.

Bernstein, M. 2011. “Can We Talk About Spatial Hypertext?”. Proceedings of the 22nd ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia . 103-112.

There remains a ton of good work in the knowledge representation milieu before AI Winter: see for example Lenat, D. B., Borning, A., McDonald, D., Taylor, C., and Weyer, S. 1983. “Knoesphere: Building Expert Systems with Encyclopedic Knowledge Proceedings of the Eighth International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence - Volume 1”. IJCAI’83 . 167-169.

The best and most thoughtful study of digital aesthetics — an area this line of work cannot ignore — is

Spuybroek, L. 2011 The Sympathy of things : Ruskin and the ecology of design

Never properly published, Ted Goranson wrote About This Particular Outliner, perhaps the most thorough study of any software genre to date


Dave Winer wrote extensively on outliners and on the borderland between writing and code in knowledge management tools. https://scripting.com.

I’ve got a huge volume of a History Of Information Graphics. (Rengen and Wiedmann) next to my desk and I have great hopes for it.

Stian Håklev has an interesting and pertinent thread this morning on Twitter: https://twitter.com/houshuang/status/1217367073157812224

I’m omitting tons of stuff here: the entire canon of the Southampton crew (Wendy Hall, Hugh Davis, Les Carr, David Millard, Dave DeRoure), the important work of Adaptive Hypertext (Peter Brusilovsky, Paul De Bra), Intermedia (Norm Meyrowitz, Andy van Dam, George P. Landow). But I’m out of time. Apologies to all I missed in this fast and slovenly pass.


It seems the ACM digital library’s citation info has a typo here as the lead author of the paper is Daniel Roßner. Clearly the OCR chocked on the ß, thus Ros+undefined+ner.


Thanks for such a comprehensive list. Lots to explore there!

Not comprehensive by any means!

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As someone immersed in this topic, are you disappointed about “where we are” when it comes to the way information is presented in the year 2020? Is there a “Jetsons effect”, as in – where are the jetpacks, flying taxis and so on? Or has the internet basically become the hypertext vision that people like yourself were envisaging back in the early days of the concept? I imagine it’s somewhere in between, but interested in your thoughts.


I’m still missing my hover car…

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I tend to agree.

We aren’t where I’d like to be, that’s for sure. Intertwingled, is an angry book.

Then again, the Web as universal library has actually turned out to be far easier and cheaper to build than anyone anticipated.

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I think that’s due to the reverse of the tragedy of the commons. Without anyone steering it other than the zeitgeist, it became obvious that disseminating info and content for free (or something approaching it) made it actually more valuable as more of it accumulated. The network effect.

Of course there have been major downsides along the way – e.g. privacy and credibility issues, parasitical commercialisation and exploitation, and a magnification of very nasty tribalism and all that entails politically. But I think it’s very hard not to call it a net positive.

I would like to return this thread to its original focus. Is it possible to implement in TB seamless bidirectional links that can be viewed within a note? I find this to be a very powerful feature in Roam.


FWIW, the original posting was musing about Roam.

Other than manual creation of text links? Or linking two notes on a map? How would you envision the changed and/or new behavior working specifically?

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  • Allow bidirectional links
  • Display inbound and outbound links in $Text

I’ve discussed bidirectional links a lot, here and elsewhere. I’m still unconvinced that they express more than two directional links — especially given tools like Roadmap that let you follow links backward.

I’m happy to be convinced, preferably with real-world work that cannot easily be accomplished without them.

We do display outbound text links in text, using the usual convention of colored/underlined text. I’ve written elsewhere why this was a bad convention, but it is what it is. Using the same convention for inbound links would be even noisier.

There’s a good deal of discussion of link representation in text in the literature. Intermedia used interlinear icons, which (in my opinion) a typographically intractable. Liquid (Zellweger et al) used animated marginal notations, which are better but still intrusive — and margins have other uses, many of which Liquid pioneered.

It’s not trivial.

That said,

  • I don’t know what Roam does: perhaps they’ve solved this old problem?
  • I’ve just learned that I’m going to be tied up for a few days. So forgive any delays and don’t take them as a sign of disinterest. Thanks.

While not displayed in $Text per se, you can create an export template (even if you’re not planning to export) that will display these and then navigate through your document with the “Preview” window for notes open rather than the “Text”. I’ve found this to be useful.

Not significantly different than other approaches (e.g., ConnectedText; VooDooPad). Looks like a table of related pages.

Their discussion:

Roam documentation here.


Excellent idea; thanks. In a test file, the ^inboundLinks^ are formatted as a link (blue, unlined) in the Preview pane, but clicking on them does nothing. I assume I am doing this incorrectly?

Oh! That’s unexpected. I’ve been so focused on the export of these notes to DevonThink and elsewhere, that I hadn’t been using them in Tinderbox much. Sorry for steering you wrong here @AsafKeller.

Preview does have live links, but those links are directed to exported HTML pages for the destination.

Sorry, yes, some web links in Preview work.

Long tine lurker and beginner on TBX and LaTeX. To reintroduce myself I am a psychiatrist/psychoanlayst/medical educator retired at 85. Long tine mac user and writer of unpublished and unpublishable evaluations, consultations, teaching materials, and cold war/ deep state person. Have Parkinson’s disease and hearing loss, the latter leading to early adoption of Mac’s and long time interest in disability, worked in MR, consult to DOD, Indian Health Service. Trying to stay current to new Mac, WWW, LaTex, etc. Expecting to have to use SIRI, dictation other helpers in future. However still trying to be useful. Last year spent as caretaker of wife who has made amazing recovery from heart failure after humungous operation at Cleveland Clinic. Open Heart, plastic revision of aortic valve base, replace mechanical with aortic cow valve and replace ascending aorta with prothesis. Great anatomic result but complicated dangerous frightening recovery with many adverse drug reactions in dealing with medical complications. So suddenly she is better now than for three years and I can try to resume my “big project”. Since 1997 i have worked on course materials, had a study group, and done small group teaching on Patient Safety and Medical Error. A major source of death and disability. This is interdisciplinary medicine, psychiatry, neuroscience, anthropology, human error, administrative science all of whom are overspecialized and can barely talk to each other on a good day and don’t want to talk to anyone on a bad day. Tinderbox and maps in particular have been useful to organizing my own experience and a over 600 item Bookends bibliography. I have learned a lot from the forum lurking and the generous contributions. Why am I writing about Roam? I have been working in it for about a month. I find it and Notion as well more attuned to how the mind/brain actually works in practice. A central issue in all my work is how to bridge the gulf between theory and practice. In medical error there is poor correlation between the severity of error and the the consequence. Simple forgetting of a patient may result in their death. Or mislabelling. Or mishearing. Or a professional with an accent. Serious mistakes may have no consequence. Nobody wants to talk about this anyway. Roam in part of its “guts” simply remembers all labels and allows multiple “irrational” groupings. Like our minds. It tolerates but associates and reminds. It is definitely a work in progress, to me just a dumb user, it seems alpha rather than beta and intentionally so if one reads their “white paper”. They want users to struggle, ask questions so they can adapt, refine, create. In using it clumsily, sporadically, creatively, and inconsistently I think I kind of get it. And I love it, sort of.
Reminds of my first car an old flat head Ford, I could work on it, see the result, and learn and the more we got together about getting going the better I liked it. I can imagine if Roam survives that it would be a great software to link to Tinderbox as Devon Think has turned out to be. Or like linking to Bookends which seems to be a necessity for anyone Medicine/Biology. One task I tried in Roam was to take the basic unit of my Incidental Findings medical NoteCard system and apply it to an emergency dental extraction for a patient (me). Just the design translation into Roam which was incomplete, reflection (encouraged by the linking) and sleep led to a significant change (outside conscious awareness), that is Insight, in multiple meanings that increased my comfort, reduced my anxiety, improved the dental experience and my ability to cooperate in treatment. I would value that at least $300. I wrote a description of both the small project and the result in Roam using the daily writing model .They are just discussing with their future customers what they might do in terms of pricing. In summary just as I have learned a lot from Tinderbox I have already learned a lot from Roam and some complementary things from Notion. I recommend experimenting with Roam and those who are experienced with programming, hypertext, etc should have a much easier time than However for the clumsy, elderly, disorganized, or those who are not natural English speakers/readers I think there will be a lot of help found in the associative mind/brain model. Likewise I found a great deal of strength in Tinderbox in the hypertext model that to me makes it easier to assume and specify multiple points of view that are essential in understanding, studying, changing complex systems like medicine. Happy to see Eastgate’s call out of Ted Goranson. My self generated organizational
model is Perikles Informatics IVO, an Imagined Virtual Organization. No lawyers, accountants, or confining structure like Roam and Tinderbox, so allows thinking outside the box. Roam and Tinderbox both, at least for me, are very useful in producing Emerging Data from practical on the ground in the trenches experience that then can be linked to sources, references, and the areas of theory.
Thank you if you read this far, it makes up for years of lurking.