Tinderbox Forum

Growth of zettelkasten and note taking

Amen. Beck Tench’s videos basically led me to purchasing Tinderbox. Without them, I probably wouldn’t have made the leap because my exposure to the app was extremely limited. Seeing the interplay between DEVONthink and Tinderbox through her videos was exciting.

Videos are crucial in simultaneously exposing hard to explain concepts and flows and showcasing the overall experience of an app. Text and screenshots don’t do a good job of this. Roam suffered this problem a great deal when it first was gaining traction. The tutorials were weak and the users who did video walkthroughs ended up selling it better than the creators.


Are either expert in the depths of Roam? Would you really buy a deep tool based on a Youtube or Tiktok video?

Watching over the years, I see people get ecstatic over videos or blogs that mirror their own use normally causing a rush of calls of “This is like X. X does [one thing] well. If only Tinderbox had [one thing], I’d use it”. Sadly [one thing] is normally quite niche and not central to Tinderbox. Meanwhile, a quieter majority just get on with getting value out of the app in a range of ways that continue to mystify it.

As a long time community assist for Tinderbox—who clears up the mess of all these folks who bought an app because some one on [brand of social media] says it is cool? A thing I like about the Tinderbox community is its breadth, which is perhaps what stops it being a cult as peoples’ uses are broad and different (and they won’t be on this thread as being like [some app] won’t be their reason for using the app).

So what do people want to see demonstrated. Or is this a cult of personality. I’ve offered to help make good demos and in c.14 years I can’t recall a single person taking me up on that; instead people want help with their own homework.

I think people over-play the video aspect. Unless it rests on good data pertinent to the depth being demonstrated it’s not engaging (<cough> Roam videos on Youtube - yes, I’ve tried a lot).

Before courting likes, I think it more pertinent to ask what are the compelling elements, then make sure there are good TBXs that allow that to be shown, and only then find a video-friendly face to present a story they’d struggle to make themselves.

As ever, I’m ready to help. Hopefully this time around, I’ll hear more than just crickets, but not holding my breath. (Before anyone complains that’s not snark, just real-world experience).

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Absolutely. And I have. I bought Tinderbox, as I said above, because of Beck Tench’s videos. Is she an expert? I’m not sure. Does that matter? I don’t think so. What matters is that she showcased a way of doing something that made me think Tinderbox was a product worthy of exploring and purchasing.

I’ll be honest, aversion to video walkthroughs is not what I would expect in a forum for a piece of software with the depth and complexity of Tinderbox.

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Well, I certainly didn’t want that Paul! I was enjoying your opinions very much, just wanted to point out that maybe they were more dismissive than you were thinking. If I could, I would un-cancel your self-cancel.

I hear you on this. Also, so many of these videos are just SEO bait… certainly not what I’m looking for.

No indeed, and my last was couched to draw response. I too find a good video compelling. I’m just trying to move things forward in a practical fashion. Otherwise we end up with poor “somebody else” being expected to do some (quite large) task which they will only know is OK if someone likes this. There is a lot of wasted labour in that. The repeating problem here is getting those who want video to define its content more precisely than “good” or “compelling”. Again, I don’t mean that with any snark, but it’s hard to build good content when the audience is reticent about what it is looking for.

Which is great. I love Beck’s videos too. Pertinently for this thread through, for me ,they illustrate a type of work(flow) I don’t do. That doesn’t make it wrong, but merely speaks to the problem of what it is people want to see. Mapping a book plot != thesis research != personal day book != syllabus planning, etc., etc. As the ‘etc.’ implies there isn’t a ‘normal’ use.

I remain happy to help—I’m not here for kudos—but we need a brief and (some) material with which to work.

A trailing thought. Most Tinderbox maps I’ve seen are messy—which is good, as mapping emergent structure tends to be that way. Yet, most visualisations are a ‘pretty’ maps. There’s a disconnect there. Perhaps part of the challenge is to wean people off a learned habit that tidy == good. The latter helps if explaining to a mass audience (here, I don’t mean Youtube), but offers little, beyond lost time, to the user who is generally writing/linking for themselves.


Interesting! For me, the perfect video would be some workflow that matches exactly what I’m trying to do, like you say above. In reality, I never find this, however, I usually always learn something really interesting about the product or find some new way of doing something that would have been hard for me to learn serendipitously. I watched a few of the screencasts for Tinderbox and gained a lot from those experiences, even though I wasn’t planning an event, etc.

Amen. One way round it, might be to get people to ask about tasks, allow time for those videoing to find/make suitable material and then do something like a zoom recorded as a video for later consumption. Part of the framing to to strip out the need to make is look corporate/pretty, but rather to drill down scratch real user itches.

Certainly some of the neatest things I’ve learned have come in discussions of topics far from my own work. I do agree video makes it easier to abstract to a “Hey, I could re-use that in my workflow” moment than is the case reading text, as here, or working though a demo document/article.

It’s a pain I’m so busy right now as this throws up some interesting ideas. :slight_smile:

Hmm… this is something I never thought of… and now I’m re-thinking my approach to mapping.

The video linked below is an excellent demonstration of how to use Tinderbox in my view - and how it creates added value for intellectual work:

Perhaps someone could assist Jamie in extending her video? This would certainly be highly welcome in the graduate student market and produce an extended example for Tinderbox…

Agree. The first thing I spotted in the video was likely use of a prototype (either customised from Reference or done from scratch) which seems pretty central to the the process. There are two DEVONthink URLs per reference note; one clearly references the PDF - though this could as easily be done directly from Tinderbox (via $File or using a URL-type if the PDFs are ‘in’ DEVONthink rather than stored natively in Finder).

Also, not explicitly mentioned, Outline is used as this document is designed to work towards a log-from text in MS Word (but as easily another word Processor).

There is engagement in the voice-over as someone is describing a process they already understand. Yet missing, for me, is a different/second pass—perhaps with the same video—discussing the process in UI terms: why drag this, what is that for, etc. Extension, understanding and learning comes from looking about how other views might help, or bridge to other processes. the initial overview draws one in but if emergent questions aren’t answered the engagement often falls away.

So, this video, like Beck’s great videos are great for what they are but also open up so many questions worth following up, which is where expertise from others might help an individual video creator enrich output.


With respect to the fashion for zettelkasten, my thoughts are that as a system it represents how just one man successfully took notes in a time before digital note taking existed. He was arguably much more successful than the average note taker, but as a system it represents what worked for his particular brain. There seems to be an almost cultish desire to replicate it exactly - one of the guys who runs the forum mentioned above quite openly (and, for my taste, bluntly) tells people they are wrong if they talk about modifications of the approach. If note taking can be seen as an extension of the brain, and since people’s brains differ in how they think, I’m not yet convinced (either way, for clarity) that there is just one approach that is ‘right’ for all modern note takers, as opposed to ‘true to the original method’.

As for real world examples on that forum, it’s actually a great forum, (on the most part) extremely helpful, but there does seem to be a type of person that it appeals to and I suspect that flavours the kinds of projects (or at least the approach to them) being discussed.


In the spirit of fairness, I’ve just revisited the forum for the first time in a while (I was put off of it for quite a while) and I think this may not be so much the case now - there seems to be a wider range of subject types being discussed.

I’ve often said that I look at person+program+method+work-to-be-done as a system, and each system is unique, with elements that interact in ways that are peculiar to that system. My leanings in psychology are more towards social than cognitive, and I can’t point to a body of research that says this, but it seems to me to be a reasonable way to look at the question. It also seems to me that working out one’s own method is actually a crucial part of the process of engaging with the material one wishes to study. Other people’s methods can spark useful ideas, but if you just take on someone else’s method wholesale, you may be missing out on an important phase of study. With my social constructionist leanings, I would say that this early phase of the work is one in which the material changes the person studying it, which may then change what they want to do with it. The material that I study is not inert, and there is an interaction between me and it. This is why I rather like C Wright Mills on Intellectual Craftsmanship:


He has a few things to say about discussions of methodology that we probably ought to heed!

Oh, and on this subject:

since people’s brains differ in how they think

the difference might appear in ways that many of us might not expect:



Really interesting, thank you. I’ll have a closer read when I get a chance.

That’s precisely my instinct.

So happy to see my video was helpful and encouraging of new questions about how to use Tinderbox. Honestly, I didn’t get much into the UI because I hardly understand it myself. I know little to anything about coding or markdown so learning Tinderbox has been a rather steep uphill climb for me. I made the video as part of a grad class assignment to show how I was doing my senior project.

I can respond to a few things you mention though.

The second link to DevonThink is from a Publish to DevonThink stamp that I found here in the forum so I could push all my notes and outline to DevonThink. I could then search across all DT - my journals and Tinderbox notes - for something I was looking for.

Yes, the outline view was for the purpose of helping me write the final paper but I didn’t write the actual paper in it. I used them more like items I was going to use in that section. One thing I wish I had done better was making more concept oriented notes that I could more easily manipulate and shift around. Changing note titles don’t change the respective links I’ve already made so that caused a lot of confusion.

I’m not sure what you’re asking "why drag this, what is that for. Happy to answer more questions! I don’t plan on doing another video on how I did this but I did make a separate video on all my processes I use for grad school.

My purpose hasn’t been so much to give a step by step explanation but rather to give other people ideas, especially since I generally stumbled into my workflow than specifically designed it and can rarely explain the UI behind the scenes. Anyway, hope this helps!

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Regarding the issue of videos on TBX, I honestly find the dearth of visual examples a concern. Other applications have put a lot of effort into having media outreach to show off how people are using it and their workflows and they get a lot of views. That indicates there is value there.

Beck Tench’s videos were instrumental for me to realize that TBX could be a tool that could address the problem I was having. Not because I liked her system but because it illustrated what it was capable of. I’ve watched a lot of videos about Roam, Obsidian, and Notion as well as on Zettle, Evergreen Notes, and Building a Second Brain. I haven’t replicated any of them but they offer great ideas I can incorporate. As someone that doesn’t know coding/markdown language, reading instructions is like reading a different language. Watching Beck’s videos had the effect of introducing me to TBX’s unique terminology.

Watching other people’s workflows is also tremendously helpful in understanding inter-app capabilities. I found TBX because I had DevonThink.

I could keep going on the value that videos offer but I’ll get off my soap box now. :wink:


Not sure how that relates to what I wrote, but I liked your video very much :slight_smile: – and I agree that videos can be worth a ton of prose in a manual. I have had similar learning experiences.

lol I suppose I didn’t make that very clear. Sorry! The idea that watching other’s methods can spark useful ideas but you shouldn’t really try to take someone’s method on completely without making it your own. Well said! Thus why I think videos are so helpful.

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