Tinderbox Forum

MEETUP Planning

We spoke in the 14 August meetup about planning future topics. This is a post that you can edit: simply click the Edit button below. Feel free to extend the list of possibilities!

The current schedule (including recent meetups with available recordings) is:

Here are a few topics that have been mentioned:

Getting Started with Tinderbox

  • Getting Started With Attribute Browser
  • Containers and Maps
  • Elements and opportunities for automation

Tinderbox Tasks

  • Tagging and Tinderbox (August 7, but this is evergreen)
  • Thinking about aliases
  • AutoFetch and Import processing

Tutorials, Examples, Training Videos
** Tracking mileage in Tinderbox
** Moving references from Zotero to Tinderbox

  • Working With Reference Managers
  • Approaches To Tinderbox Presentations: lots of quick demos!

Advanced TInderbox Tools/Techniques, and Recursive Topics

  • Using Prototypes of Prototypes (referred to on 2021-09-11)

Agents, Actions, Automation
** Agency and links
** Tinderbox and Hook

Import and Export, Inter-App Workflows, External Scripting

  • Working with tabular data (importing, exporting)
  • TaskPaper import scenarios
  • Export Templates for Absolute Beginners
  • WordPress

Storyspace and Hypertext Narrative
** Storyspace
** World building
** Pliny;Casson, Libraries in the Ancient World;Blair, Too Much To Know; Even-Azra, Lines Of Thought; Wilson-Lee, The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Book

  • Fiction
  • Ancient Knowledge Representation
  • Patterns Of Spatial Hypertext: idioms for the map view
  • Information Triage in Tinderbox
  • Alexandra George, Constructing Intellectual Property.
  • Tinderbox/DEVONthink for Historians

Off the Wall, Meta Topics

  • I love your attribute to linked note approach. I would like to see, hear more about the concepts for grouping notes, terms dynamically with action code

  • we focus a lot on action code. Maybe it would be possible to show some examples for the use of different view types like chart, treemap, timeline…

    What interests you? What should we discuss?

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I would like to add one on Using Storyspace. I am a complete newbie here. I think it is especially interesting since it can share/read the same file as Tinderbox.


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I’d enjoy listening you about the history of Tinderbox! Some suggestions: what about aliases in Map View? How to adjust a note whose the name has to appear in different containers? And… how to export notes from Zotero to Tinderbox?

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I can help/participate in a meetup relating to import/export. Also - am making a little Tbx project discussing importation of tags and various options (may take a couple weeks as am in a busy spot)

Am doing a fair bit of world-building for a creative fiction enterprise, and developing little shortcuts and techniques as I go. Open to discussions on ways to enhance and optimize.

Am interested in a closer look at the process and gotchas in exporting a project file to (say) a WordPress site; where CSS, linked media, and hyperlinks within the site as well as to external destinations would be involved.

I would be fascinating to hear you talk about the intellectual roots of Tinderbox, Mark @eastgate! If it is not suitable for a meetup (because it will mainly be a presentation), could you do a video such as the ones you posted on Vimeo from time to time?

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Like Art @archurhh, I’d be interested in a meetup on import / export of tabular data. What I would be esp. interested in / could contribute to is the difficulties one faces with csv data when one operates outside an English language environment, and thus the separating sign is usually the semicolon rather than the comma.

One problem is while there are references/standards for comma-separated-value and tab-separated-values there doesn’t seem a formal description of semicolon delimited. The latter seems to arise from kludges used in early versions of MS Office where tabular export could define one of a range of characters as the delimiter to replace the normal comma or tab. I guess it was assumed MS Office would be used to read back the format. What is easy now, wasn’t so in the late 1980s!

The need is not quite clear either. It doesn’t matter what locale both 1,000.00 and 1.000,00 are compatible with CSV as any value that contains a comma must the enclosed in quotes (and values containing straight double quotes must escape them by doubling. So a value of ‘Test " string "’, is seen encoded as . ...","Test "" string """,".... For the numbers above, both of which use a a comma we would see:


But , I guess the kludged semicolon form looks like:


The problem comes that simply changing the separator character may uncover other unhandled errors. I think the cause is people trying to write un-quoted CSV files, where “10,00” would be a problem, and failing to update their code as locale support and standards improved.

Ideally, use properly formatted CSV, obviating the need to for kludge format (as shown above). If you are sent a semicolon delimited file, using a text editor of choice (I’d use BBEdit)) and in order:

  • replace all single straight-double-quotes with two such characters (this escapes any such character in a table cell value)
  • add a straight-double-quote to the front of the first cell
  • add a straight-double-quote to the end of the last cell
  • replace all semicolons with straight-double-quote+comma+straight-double-quote
  • replace all line breaks (\n) with straight-double-quote+line-break+straight-double-quote

You now have a safe well-formed CSV file useable in Tinderbox as is. A tool like BBEdit will even let you configure the above changes and save them as a transform so you can fix odd formats easily.

If the data is coming out of some organisational report. Likely someone wrote the script back in the 80s and whilst “no one has complained” the constraint of then don’t exist now.

The other think I learned from 10 years doing data-transform/workflow work is that friends don’t let friends trust Excel tabular output. It has so many years of accreted hacks to make it backwards compatible, it is anybody’s guess what comes out. It’s fine if you are the lucky few all use MS Excel with the same settings in the same locale. For the test of us, it’s a lottery.

Separately if you want to make a simple semicolon-instead-of-comma delimited file from Tinderbox, just take a CSV export template and put a semicolon where the commas were.

HTH :slight_smile:

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I will support @mwra’s claim that Excel is capable of spitting out dirty csv’s; so is Numbers btw, and I’ve also come across issues with some of the cheap ($3-$10) CSV editors available on the app store - they’re not all like that but YMMV depending on your project, the app, the current version and so on.

And yes, chances are that most CSV files in the wild have all kinds of issues with them that an app like Tbx WILL locate while parsing! Kids, a well-cleaned CSV goes a long way.

I didn’t know that BBEdit transforms were capable of these type of macro processes, thanks Mark! WIll dig into for future data set cleaning.

I’d be interested in examples of bad CSV from Excel, from Numbers, or elsewhere.

But I think that’s a separate topic!

OK I’ll shore up a few, and send your way when I have them.

Would be great to have another APAC-friendly session too. I know there’s not a lot of us out here, but the existing timing is just when my eyes and brain are closing down.

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“Information Triage in Tinderbox” is a wide ranging topic but one that appeals to me. There are many tools already including the different views (AB, Hyperbolic, Map etc…) and ways of searching and filtering.

Still missing or underdeveloped in my view are ways of testing for equality of notes or sets of note attributes (as discussed here A way of collecting notes searching all attributes - #17 by eastgate) and more ways of clustering notes into similar groups according to user defined similarity metrics which extend beyond the current “Similar” in the get info pop-up window and related action code. For larger TB files with many notes, clustering idioms are useful to retrieve and categorise notes as well as draw conclusions on similarities or thinking of new questions to ask.

APAC time: definitely! What might work best? (I meant to say hello when you dropped in the other week — above and beyond the call of duty!)

The issue with Excel is not that is is always wrong, but rather that I’ve generally found it unsafe to rely on for ad hoc use without a fair amount of checking. Once a workflow is defined, standards variation foibles identified and mitigated, all will work well.

We wider problem is getting given data by a person app where it is assumed—without verification—the ‘just’ clicking ‘export to CSV’ produces export data that ‘just works’. Experience proves otherwise.

For instance, ISTM semicolon delimiter choice is a pragmatic choice from the very early days of computing where quote enclosing fields wasn’t offered or its use might have been the difference between everything fitting on a floppy disk or not. Such kludges aren’t now needed and are better mitigated by using actual standards even if that as stretch when referring to CSV! I’ve not found the original story for Tab-delim but I’d wager it too was a kludge used in locales where a full-stop decimal was used—so CSV was OK for number only data) but some cells had text that might use commas and or double-quotes (and this back before anyone used ‘curly’ quotes).

In looking at a number of data interchange threads it strikes me that in the meet-ups we need to discus the issues of moving data inter-app and some of the completely false assumptions we tend to have about that task. In turn, that might help seed some articles giving guidance of this

  • Export from app A and import to app B fails.
    • False assumption: App B must be at fault. Wrong because…
  • App A has an ‘Export to format X’ option.
    • False assumption: exported data is correctly in format X (especially if it doesn’t export)
    • False assumption: the export includes all the source field values I want and in a sensible format (e.g dates)
  • What happens when App B imports data.
    • False assumption: somehow data ‘just knows’ how to go to the right location and change format to the one we want.
  • App A only cost 99¢.
    • False assumption: it is acceptable for it to do really bad export as it unfair to expect the dev to fix things like this and any decent app should ‘just’ be able to figure out the errors in the data.
  • I really like App A, it has such cool features.
    • Any data interchange issues with data exported from App A must be the fault of the receiving app because App A is really cool.
  • … etc.

We’ve all done it: it is so easy to blame ‘someone else’, or rather ‘some other app’. But I think most of use have had one or more of those false assumptions at some time. I don’t think the above argues everyone becoming expert in data formats. But, we could help ourselves at figuring out what to do, and getting appropriate help in the right place when going A → B doesn’t ‘just’ work. There might be a useful flow-chart/process to surface here.

Yes, I’m sorry I couldn’t stay, it looked like it was going to be a very interesting session but I wasn’t really awake enough to enjoy it. I think if it’s possible to have something around 9 pm Singapore time (9 am NYT) or even a bit earlier if there are folks in AU/NZ who would like to join? That would work great for me.

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May I add a vote for an extended discussion of the attribute browser?

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@abusch rather than just suggest a method to get to regular CSV and leave you to figure the deails, I have made a demo for you—and everyone: Fixing a semicolon-delimited file for CSV import (worked demo with files)

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And that’s so kind of you, Mark! Many thanks indeed. I look forward to trying it.

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I re-organized the pinned topics list according to the Forum headings, think it makes more sense this way and will help reduce potential duplication. Feel free to chastise me lol