Tinderbox Forum

aTbRef updated - link comments

Due to v8.2.1 replacing v8.2.1 (i.e. latter was superseded at release) I missed a few things off the v8.2.1 update, most noticeably Link Comments. That note links to the dialogs affected, where link comments can be viewed/edited.

The comment box in Roadmap is shown only when torn-off as a separate dialog; the comments are not shown in the Roadmap pop-over. Conversely, in Browse Links they are shown in the pop-over, though there is no tear-off mode for Browse Links. Otherwise I can’t replicate the issue.

My hunch is this feature is new and lightly tested - it had slid by me until yesterday. Looking at the size of the comment box it seems someone wants to write small essays in there. The comment is plain text To add line breaks (i.e. paragraphs) you can use the Return key in the dialog context but must use Opt+Return in the pop-over context (where the Return key on its own closes the pop-over).

I’ve updated the Link Comments article to reflect some more aspects of use/limitations.

Thank you for doing the experimenting to figure this out. The feature is, frankly, a mess. I don’t understand the use case since discovery without clicking around all over a map to figure out what links on what notes have comments. A comment on a link with type “ABC” on one note does not apply to links with type “ABC” on other notes – confusing. Nor does the comment box have anything to identify it’s purpose.

I suspect this might have been released unintentionally?

Correct. This is a comment on the link, not the link type. A link type comment, were there one, would logically go on the Link Inspector.

I think the feature is entire intended. A small number of users have asked for user-defined metadata of some kind on discrete links for some time. I think the fact it got introduced on the release build (so no release notes for that build at time of release) of a version that was almost immediately replaced within days meant it probably flew under the radar of the core beta testers. Other than the self-evident (?) aspects of the feature there is as yet no clear statement of design intent. When/if that comes I’ll add it to aTbRef.

I’ve not had time to look at the XML source but I’m guessing this is stored as part of a <link> element.

Bottom line - links need to be first class citizens with all that that implies - searchable, nameable objects with attributes, which can be arguments to functions. As it stands now they are simply strange and distorted relationship representations.

For newcomers, Rosemary Simpson is one of the great hypertext pioneers. And link comments were added with Rosemary specifically in mind.

links need to be first class citizens with all that that implies

This was the underlying premise of Aquanet, an early system by Frank Halasz, Randy Trigg, Cathy Marshall et al at PARC. In reaction to the perceived excess formalism of Aquanet, Marshall created the first spatial hypertext system, VIKI.

In the beginning, I saw the system that would eventually become Tinderbox as a simplified VIKI, suitable for personal computers and a broader audience. VIKI didn’t have links — that was part of the point. I did want links, in part because I didn’t want Tinderbox and Storyspace to be arguing with each other.

Over the years, to my surprise, Tinderbox has grown closer to Aquanet. Yet, it retains a simpler link model. In my experience, I’ve found that it’s often reasonably satisfactory to build more complex link models from this simple primitive; for example, though people often ask for bidirectional links, I don’t really mind making a pair of directional links when I need them.

We’ll see if there’s a reasonable path from where we are now to the link model of our dreams…

On a practical note (seeing that @eastgate has covered the background here), I’d just add that Links are stored as an external table, i.e. not within the notes. See here. Not yet shown in my aTbRef docs, but I just tested in v8.2.3 and here is an example (scroll right to see the comment as the last attribute):

<link name="*untitled" sourceid="1537774022" sourcecreator="Mark Anderson" sstart="-1" slen="0" style="0" arrowtype="-1" labelx="0" labely="0" linkWidth="1" destid="1580147803" destcreator="Mark Anderson" color="normal" comment="This is a comment"  />

This also helps underline that the comment is plain text (i.e. no formatting).

Recent improvements to the Roadmap feature mean the Roadmap—as a torn-off’ discrete window—is the best place to review and manage individual links.

As regards searching for links, see action code operators linkedTo() and linkedFrom(). These don’t show the links themselves but do identify where they original allowing judicious use of Roadmap (qv).