Tinderbox as a QDA app (alternative to or along with Atlas.Ti or Maxqda)


(Desalegn) #1

ragan mentioned using TB in place of Maxqda. I remember a similar issue has come up in the old forum–whether to use NVIVO or TB for data analysis—mostly for getting concepts and conceptual connections in documents. I myself have been wondering about this for a while. You can see the thread in here for example.

My position has been TB requires a lot of processes (like, turning your documents to Doc or other text files) to serve as a qda application. Most academics rely on PDF files. TB not very much friendly with PDF files. We need some means of annotating and exporting text files from PDF sources to use the power of TB. Sense created the best environment as it was able to break annotations into small chunks. Skim also generates fairly good exports. The standard process is we have to export annotations and explode them in TB. It is doable. I personally have been doing it for a long time. Devonthink made the process a bit smoother as it accepts Markdown files (best export format for Skim) and converts them to rtf files (best import format for TB). But, the process could be hard to maintain in the long run. I have struggled. Furthermore, the explode machine is mechanical. It can break paragraphs; but, cannot see concepts. I want to compare the concepts, not necessarily the paragraphs. That is where QDA applications excel. Concepts can get lives. Concepts start to live by themselves in qda applications because I can code them, write a complete story about them; I can develop them fully. The system is built to zoom into (focus, magnify) the pieces of concepts (which could be a mere word, a sentence or paragraph; inside a word document, a text file, or a PDF document; even within a video). The code gives the concepts a full life. Memos develop it to a full being. But, there are things I would miss in a QDA application. The smartness that TB pack is not there (yet).

A better option I have been thinking about is using TB alongside a dedicated QDA applications such as ATLAS TI and Maxqda. These applications can export clean texts; with coded tags. But, the question is why. My impression is if I am going to use Atlast TI, really, I don’t need to export my text (quotations) to TB as the maps in Atlas are almost as good as the one in TB (https://youtu.be/MLwhtzyHa20?t=4719). But, there are good reasons to avoid AtlasTi. Their licensing is dangerous; even out right sinister. Maxqda, on the other hand, is a great qda application. But, it has weaknesses on the mapping side. The maps are nowhere close to the maps of TB. Therefore, for people using Maxqda and TB, it is possible to use the best of both worlds by exporting the coded data from Maxqda to TB. But, again, one can question if the process is maintainable in the long run.

What do you guys think of using TB as or along with a qda application?


(James Regan) #2

I have not used ATLAS, but MAXQDA became very sluggish after loading a few PDFs. I try to minimize using PDFs and annotation software. It seemed to be taking me further away from the actual writing that I needed to do. I started out using them, but my workflow evolved over time especially in the later stages of my dissertation. After I conducted the initial analysis using TBX and text, OmniOutliner became my go to application for PDFs and chunking of text. Although not well documented, OminiOutliner 5 allows linking of PDFs to topics. So I now have a single OmniOutliner document that contains all of the references that I used in my dissertation with the associated chunking for each topic. All searchable. OO 5 also allowed me to create one to many relationships. One PDF linked to many topics. OO 5 also has hoisting capabilities so when I finished a topic I exported it and all its chunks to OPML. From OPML, I could pull the topic into many other tools that produce a readable time stamped document in PDF. And I am ready to write. I used WorkFlowy for this last step, but all the online outliners have this capability. Checkvist and Dynalist do the same. I suppose I could pull them into Tinderbox and create a map, but my main focus at that point was writing.


(Desalegn) #3

Why do you load the pdf directly into the Maxqda database? I haven’t tried Maxqda 11; but, version 12 supports linking (indexing) the pdf (keeping it outside the database) just like Devonthink. That why you can keep the app fast. The database also remains small.

But, it is intersting you are using OO. I find it not very useful; given it lacks graphical presentations of connecting ideas. It might be my own learning style: I like graphical means of relating ideas: not using hyperlinks or outlines. That is why I like TB and these QDA applications.

I also don’t see the point of linking pdf files to topics. how is different or better than simply tagging the pdf files in Finder (Devonthink) and collecting them around the tags (like topics)?

QDA applications permit you to link paragraphs, sentences and words (concepts) across documents and within a document. Your linking is more or less like tagging in Devonthink. You can tag (link) the whole document; but, not the fragment of concept within the document. That is my main reason for trying QDA appliactions. Concept (paragraph, sentence)-based linking (tagging=coding): more fine-grained relatinoships than document based tagging.

I agree with your point of slowing down in the process of writing. It takes a lot of time to inspect, read, tag (code) the documents using Qda application. I also have that worry.

It would be nice to see the experience of other users in this area.


(Mark Anderson) #4

Now I think of it in those terms - I’ve been using Tinderbox for as my primary QDA tool though my Web Science Masters and now PhD study. Amongst other things I’ve used Tinderbox to analyse:

  • the helpfulness and (mis-)behaviour in Openstreetmap’s various fora (mailing lists, phpBB, OSQA).
  • use of and patterns in transclusion in Wikipedia (my paper at Hypertext’17 just recently).
  • analysis of bot use in Wikipedia (ongoing research)

I too have free access to Envivo. We did tutorials with it during my Masters. I found it overly complex and inflexible. However, were I a pure humanities person - and less comfortable with code/scripting - I think it is perhaps a less scary option. However, for me Tinderbox trumps as a tool as it is so supportive of emergent structure and forgiving of the research need to go back and insert new fields/attributes for newly discovered aspects of the research. I would admit that making the most of QDA in Tinderbox requires having - or acquiring - some Tinderbox expertise. The latter is because the reporting/export of the resulting data does take one into use of action/export code. Fear not though, for those less expert the forum is here to help with just such problems.

Postscript: my analysis is less directly foccussed directly on text, so thus I’m an edge case for normal QDA.


(James Regan) #5

I used tagging in the past, and I know it is popular. However, I find that I use it less and less. Partly for the reasons that David Weinberger (2007) outlined in his book titled Everything is Miscellaneous. I use OO because its practical. It allows me to review material, and take notes on every paragraph and code the related source. It also helps me to maintain and quickly reference the context in which the text was used. Using two monitors, I display the linked pdf document I review on one monitor and OO open on the other. I use Devonthink primarily for storing PDFs. Graphical representations are helpful. I use them to a point (early stages of constructing a writing project to get me going), but again at some point, the desire and the need to write is where I want to spend most of my time. At least for me, when the writing process begins, the graphical representations become secondary and less useful. They also become quickly outdated requiring a certain level of maintenance to keep them current.