Struggling with Tinderbox and a suggestion

(Barry Weinstein) #42

Perhaps there are technologies now that can defend against spam. One modern tool is Google’s CAPTCHA. I was getting a lot of Russian spam on a site I managed for a group. It stopped after I rolled out that tool.

A small, moderated wiki might not present too much of a danger. It doesn’t have to be open to the general public for posting (or even comments). It’s value would outweigh that risk.

It’s really no different from a user forum except that it tracks an evolving consensus rather then the individual discussions that lead there. The same careful moderation would apply.

(Lali Singh) #43

Wow what a great discussion. Thanks.

I started by using Tinderbox as a note taking tool for a specific software project. Yes I develop software (for a living) and after 20 years still do not conisder myself to be a proficient ‘programmer’.

I understood early on the concept of note taking and outlines in Tinderbox . I chose Tinderbox to allow me the ability to query the metadata in the future. Yes this was vague goal but that how I think.

For two years I accumulated over a 1000 notes (each note being a functional description of the software module, the implementation notes and possible areas of improvements in the future) and was fairly happy with the outline view. Frankly if I had stopped at this there would be other programs that could easily fit the bill. Devon Think comes to mind here.

Now it was time to really see what Tinderbox could do.
As the project drew to a close I created a query of all the improvements I had noted in the individual notes. Voila I had a list of all possible improvements. I used this to get some followon business - impressive.

Next I wanted to study if the commonality between the notes could create a different way to think about the structure of the project. Ths was the real payback. The structure that emerged was nothing like I had in mind at the start of the project. Completely changed my outlook and my business.

The features I used were 1) notes taking, 2) outline vview and 3) a simple agent query

Tinderbox has a rich set off features. I look forward to using them as time permits. Just with the three features listed above I was able to extract significant value.

(Mark Anderson) #44

As an ex Tinderbox wiki moderator, I’d ask very politely “please, NO” to another wiki. I think they work well for small teams of (good faith actors) who both know one another and are quite tech-literate. Otherwise, ‘somebody else’ (the mods) spend most of their time fixing markup and just trying to keep the pages readable and that’s before people get antsy about other folk editing their text. Forums at least remove the latter possibility. I certainly think this ‘Discourse’ based forum is a big step up from the phpBB era forums (like our old YaBB-based one).

Wikis might better be used to curate good examples and patterns arising from forum activity. But, unless more volunteer curators step forward it’s another un-resourced task.

Wikis are a great concept, I’m just not sure they work well with humans in the mix (Wikipedia notwithstanding!).

[edit: typo]

(Richard Broom) #45

Sorry for the delay in replying. I author a number of courses all based around security (tech and physical security, counter terrorism, security management and so on). Not all of my students are technical; some are, some aren’t. So, occasionally, I have to explain complex technical subjects (i.e. how a CCD sensor works in a CCTV camera) but in non-technical terms. Not always easy. This involves talking about photons, electrons, electricity and more. Years ago there was a BBC television programme by a chap called James Burke called connections:
in that programme (sorry for the English spelling!) Burke talked about connections. For example, the punch card system invented by a French chap called Jacquard for his weaving looms was later used in computer technology. If you look at the great men of science, they were always influenced to a greater or lesser extent by the findings of other people. So, here’s what I want to do with Tinderbox. I would like to build a Tinderbox ‘matrix’ so that I can organise my training notes in such a way I can pluck out the topics I need (Michael Faraday for example) and then, have connections between the Faraday note and all the people/things that he could be connected with. Overall, and after I’ve built up my matrix, I can pull in the information I need when I need it. So notes for people, notes for the science and technology, notes with images, notes with links and so on. That’s my project at the moment. Hope it all makes sense. Best wishes

(James Fallows) #46

I have a sort-of similar goal with my research data bases in Tinderbox. I accumulate notes over time on subjects I’m looking into. Then, when it comes time to put together an article or book or speech, I want to be able to dig back into this stew of notes and find connections–both connections I saw and intentionally built in as the project was underway, and ones that emerged.

I have three main ways of doing this, all relatively simple in tech/coding terms:

  • Tags and themes. My main research data-bases have a very simple structure. After every interview or research trip or whatever, I put the substance of the data in the text of the note – and then fill in a few attributes. $Source (who I am interviewing, or what I am reading); $Date of course; $Location (Washington, Shanghai, phone interview); and $Tags. These tags range from general – China, military, politics – to specific (carbon capture, F-35). Then when I’m beginning to write or plan an article, I almost always use the attribute browser to see all the research I’ve collected on carbon capture, or all the interviews I did in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This thread has lots of illustrations of using the attribute browser – for my money, the most powerful single tool in TB.

  • Maps and links. Some people use these very extensively, as a way of making, revising, and envisioning connections among items. For my style of thinking, I use them somewhat less – but still find them valuable when doing large-scale planning for a project. Eg my wife and I have been finishing a book recently, and we used several big-scale TB maps as a way of figuring out (and revising) the sequence of our respective, alternating chapters.

  • Detailed article-planning tools. Usually when getting ready for actual writing of a chapter or article, I’ll go back through my main research notes to see, in a much more precise way, the quotes and points and citations I want to use. Then I have a working-draft data base where the main unit of info is the specific point, quote, or reference I want to use – these range in size from just one fact, phrase, or sentence to a paragraph or two.

Then I tag these in a more complicated way: which chapter or section of the article I want to use them in (so I can see, in the attribute browser, the relevant info as I’m doing the writing); a checkbox for when I actually use them, so i don’t use them twice; whether they’re “Hot,” so I have to be sure to include them; what the source was, so I can see all quotes from Mr. X when I call him for fact checking; and what theme the item supports. On this last point I have an attribute called $Themes, set-style, where I can give each item one, two, or very many descriptions for the points it might make. “New role of downtowns”; “paralysis of national politics”; “evolution of career-tech education”; and on and on. My conception of what will be the appropriate thematic tags emerges as I’m going through the material, and as I tag a bunch of items I can see in an attribute browser view what themes and connections are developing that I hadn’t fully anticipated, how to connect them, etc.

In practical terms, when using these detailed notes for writing, I usually have one main TB window (in previous versions of TB had several windows), with a large number of standing Tabs, each of which has a relevant view of the data. One will have an attrib-browser view of the notes arranged by chapter or section of the article. (It will include columns, so I can see the source and theme – and checkboxes for when I’ve used the material.) Another will be attrib-browser view by theme; another by source; etc.

Typing this in haste, so forgive typos – but it’s an illustration of the way the tool can evolve to reflect your interests and needs.

(Brian Crane) #47

A few years ago, I wanted to do something very similar for classes I was teaching. Initially in my case, I actually relied on only the outline view and in-text links to get things going: I entered my notes and then manually drew links between materials that were related. What I wound up with looked like an offline web site that I could navigate through based on the connections I’d identified. (I also used link types (visible in the link creation pop-up) to distinguish kinds of connections but usually don’t anymore.)

The important next step for me was to then to go to map view. All the links I’d drawn showed up between the notes and gave me a clear picture of what my “hubs” were. From there I started playing with other tools (prototypes, agents etc) using the visual info from my map links to guide me. (The hubs I saw weren’t always how I’d been thinking about things.) I also started moving some of my note text into user attributes that I created based on what I’d realized I’d actually use in queries.

All of which is to say that I found many of the basic tools useful for discovering, revising, and in some case confirming what connections I was dealing with and got a long way using only these tools. Because TBX is flexible—e.g. you can create and delete links, user attributes etc. whenever you want—I didn’t have to worry about doing everything at once, and could wait to test out and use other tools when I realized I needed them.

(Paul Walters) #48

It would be nice if this recent sub-thread from @villageworker, @Richard_Broom, @JFallows, @bcrane and others were split off as a thread of their own into the “Tutorials and Examples” section of the forum. These individuals are making excellent points – related but I think tangential to the OP – that deserve the focus of a well-titled thread of their own.


(Sumner Gerard) #49

FWIW I find it helpful to read contributions to a conversation in their original context, and find it confusing to have things split this way and that. Perhaps a curated copy of a thread could be posted once a conversation has run its course?

(Barry Weinstein) #50

I am in full support of Paul’s suggestion. I read each of the great posts on interesting usage and thought they deserved their own thread. I got lost looking for a connection to the opening question, though.

(James Fallows) #51

I am similarly in a both/and camp: If useful, fine to use a post here as the seed for a new one. But to me there is value in seeing things in original context.

From my POV all of the discussions here grew organically from the “why does this seem so hard to learn?” query. First round answer: because you learn through specifics. Next round retort: specifics, like what? Third round: specifics like these!

(Paul Walters) #52

Doesn’t matter when this happens – the problem I’m thinking of is the future reader who is asking “I want to do research – I wonder if there are good examples in this forum”. For myself, if that’s my question I would bypass a thread called “Struggling”.

No sweat – I just find it difficult to read threads where half the posts stray far from the OP.

(Mark Anderson) #53

Hmm. What i I add a new thread, as @PaulWalters suggests and link to relevant posts here. This covers discoverability (via the new thread) and still allows reading in situ. Plus the new thread can link to relevant post in othyer threads. Duplicating the content would, I think, just lead to confusion as the same thread evolved in two different locations.

Does this idea hold water?

(James Fallows) #54

Yes, good point, and the Mark A suggestion below makes sense I think.

(Sumner Gerard) #55

Yes, adding a new thread with links back to here, with here staying live for a while if people are so inclined, would be ideal for me. I think “Struggling” was what caught my attention in the first place.:grin: Now I can easily remember that’s that thread with lots of good examples and discussion all in one place.

(Barry Weinstein) #56

This is close to what I meant. A wiki would help things stay on topic. This particular thread demonstrates how a forum can fail in that. A forum thread is linear (or almost so). The comments in this thread that are tangentially related to the opening topic would be linked from the real issue, not included in it.

But, I didn’t really think through how much effort it would take and who would make it. I use a lot of software (all technical) which have wikis. I wonder how they manage it. Perhaps their communities are larger and full of energized young developers. Maybe they even have support of the companies they work for to contribute. I know my company had one of our employees participating in this way as part of their job.

I retract the suggestion of a wiki.

So, back to the opening post’s suggestion and question. The opening post fell into a trap which I’ve seen so many posts do. They bring up an issue or question and then conclude with an example. The threads almost always spend a lot of time (helpfully) focused on the example. The actual question gets lost.

Is this a good idea? I think it’s a fabulous idea. But, it might be even harder than a wiki. Eastgate might not have the resources for that. What do other people think about the value of such tutorials and the challenges in making them?

I agree with the first part of that and sympathize with the second part. As a programmer, I don’t find the information hard to follow, but I’d imagine many non-programmers would. I’ve read enough threads now to formulate a response. This won’t be addressed. The available energy from the volunteer community is expended in the forum. Also, I believe Eastgate doesn’t see this as a problem or, at least, a priority. So, I wouldn’t expect a solution from there. Every post which asks for more becomes a more general discussion mixed with complaints. Tinderbox is really not for everyone. In fact, it is really not for most.

(Pat Maddox) #57

Do you write in Tinderbox, or a different app?

(James Fallows) #58

Scrivener, best writing software ever devised.

(eastgate) #59

I’m following this discussion with interest.

With regard to the speculation that

I believe Eastgate doesn’t see this as a problem or, at least, a priority.

I’d appreciate the courtesy of being permitted to speak for myself, or at the very least some acknowledgment of the work we’ve done.

(Pat Maddox) #60

What is the opening question? Is it…

  • I am struggling, how can I not struggle so much?
  • Information is scattered and hard to follow, how do I find information that’s more helpful to me?
  • How do I make a list?
  • How much time and effort do I have to put in to get the hang of Tinderbox?
  • Did I waste my money on Tinderbox, and am I wasting more time and energy trying to learn it?
  • Should I have picked a different tool?

Those are all questions which, although not explicitly phrased as questions, I see in the original post. Those lead to a wide range of answers and subsequent discussion.

Interestingly, buried in the middle of the post is the only explicit question:

Well, here is my main question. How much more time can I spend trying to get to grips with Tinderbox and have it do simple things when I can find other ways of achieving my goals?

All the other implied questions relate to it in some way, to varying degrees of specificity.

(Barry Weinstein) #61

I’m ready to listen.

I acknowledge the work you’ve done.