Tinderbox Forum

On knowledge management, Tinderbox in relation to other apps

I received a comment on the YouTube channel today and would love to open this discussion up to the community.

The Comment:

“An application with different workspaces (files) can work well, but it cannot be an knowledge management program. It’s nice to be programmable but unfortunately obsidian is more useful when it comes to knowledge management. Which I think you are already using. Tinderbox looks like a programmable scrievener at this stage.”


What does “knowledge management” mean to you?


Is it correct to assume that the only way for an application to be a “knowledge management” tool is or all files to be interlinked and connected?" At least, I think that this is what this statement is trying to convey “An application with different workspaces (files) can work well, but it cannot be a knowledge management program.”


I am not an Obsidian user, how is Obsidian “better” and knowledge management in this context?

I hope people are up for a dialog on these and other questions. I’m not looking for answers of what app is better than another. I really want to understand what people think knowledge is, the process of knowledge management is, and what utilities or tools are needed to manage knowledge. We can then circle back and tease all this apart and do comparisons later.

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I’ll kick it off.

For me, I like Tom Davenport’s common on knowledge management “Knowledge Management is the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge" (Davenport, 1994). I’d add to this by saying it is also about “sense” making.

I’ve been recently toying with what I’m calling the 4Cs of knowledge management.

  • Collection, collection is the first step in the knowledge management process. In this step, you collect structured and unstructured insights (aka notes), both your own (original) and those you source form others (primary and secondary sources). For your original ideas you don’t need a citation. But, for notes and ideas source from others, or if you want to remember the inspiration for your ideas, it is very useful in the collection stage to cite your sources, i.e. add a citation, bibliography, and other related metadata, aka attributes).
  • Curation, curation is all about refine each of your notes to their core atomic essence, and then organizing, and gathering them into relevant and meaningful topical areas of interest to help set you up for the creation step. In this step, you refine your notes, crystalize them to the core essence, link them to other those, add metadata (i.e. attributes), etc. You can use different views to get different perspectives on your knowledge.
  • Creation, the creation step is all about creating your own story, producing your own new and unique insight, from all of your notes, from the knowledge you’ve collected and curated. This step may result in your collecting new notes, which in turn may drive more creation. Once this interactive process of creation, collections, and curation runs its course at any given moment in time (which for me is often a deadline) you’ll move to the contribution stage.
  • Contribution, the final stage of the knowledge management process is contribution, in this step you take prepare and contribute (aka publish) your insights.

I don’t think that everything necessarily needs to be in the same file, but this would be useful.

As for the tool comment, there is no tool that does it all, I think it takes a suite of tools to go through the 4Cs.

Davenport, Thomas H. (1994), Saving IT’s Soul: Human Centered Information Management. Harvard Business Review, March-April, 72 (2)pp. 119-131. Duhon, Bryant (1998), It’s All in our Heads. Inform, September, 12 (8).


What is the difference between knowledge management and just collecting knowledge ?

Collector’s fallacy

I think it is not so much the program that you use, but rather the mindset of curation. What ideas are contemplated ? How are they linked ? What are your personal insights. TB, DevonThink, Zettelkasten/Obsidian provide different windows to developing, discovering and discovering personal insight.

Of course what I need for writing differs from what I need to do my job and this differs spiritual/mental development. Different purposes and different tools to gain personal insight and understanding.

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Preamble (with elements of rant :grinning:):

  • app” is not a “class of software tool” is an assertion with a long and (IMO) dishonourable history in forum discussions, going back at least to the operating system “wars” of the 1980s. Windows isn’t a real operating system; the only true PIM (Personal Information Manager) is PackRat; OmniFocus is not a true GTD app; and so on ad nauseam. It’s always been a fundamentally useless discussion, since it’s always build on preconceptions, personal prejudices and, most strongly, a desperate need for personal validation through choice of tool (If my choice fo tool is the only correct one, that shows that I am a correct person). These debates always end up with an unresolved fight among irreconcilable opinions, albeit usually with some threads of intelligent debate in there somewhere.
  • While I recognise that there may be a difference between knowledge and information (although there may not, given that they’re just words and, as that great philosopher Humpty Dumpty said, “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less”), in this case it’s just being used as a stick to beat the competition with. Obsidian’s not a “knowledge management tool” any more than Excel, or index cards or sticky notes or Roam or Tinderbox.

To propose answers to your questions:

  • To me, knowledge management means another buzzphrase to label the process of collecting & organising what I need to live my life/do my job. I don’t care what it’s called. It also means yet another attempt to impose rules and structure on a human exercise that is often (and IMO necessarily) messy and disorganised… Our minds are not wired like computers and shouldn’t be expected to work the same way. And the messiness creates serendipitous outcomes of the type we call “creativity”, which is why I think the messiness is necessary. Tools that can surface emergent structure can be an asset but that doesn’t make them “knowledge managers”

  • I think the assertion that separate workspaces can’t be part of a “knowledge management” tool is bllcks *'scuse my crudeness). It’s a typical example of the kind of narrow thinking that prevents new ideas and methods from emerging. It closes of any line of development that doesn’t conform to specific orthodoxy and is the exact opposite of what knowledge management is supposed to entail. Especially since one can spend invite time parsing the term “workspace”. It’s no more than semantic masturbation.

  • Obsidian isn’t better - it’s just different. It’s built on linked pages, it’s lightweight and multi-platform and has a mobile app. These are all useful characteristics. It does not have the years of thought about how to do this stuff that @eastgate has put into TB (although it might well have used that work to inform some of its development). Obsidian emerged in the shadow of Roam Research which has its own significant issues (expensive, online only, not properly supported) but is IMO a better example of an approach to “knowledge management” because it works at block level, not page level.

That was long - sorry


Love it! Thank you.

Great quote from the article you referenced:
“Until we merge the contents, the information, ideas, and thoughts of other people into our own knowledge, we haven’t really learned a thing.”

@ThatGuy Nick, wonderful response! Thanks. A lot of foot for thought.

IMO, this is the heart of the issue.

Thanks @ThatGuy for putting words to many of my experiences and frustrations. Messiness and apps that tolerate and/or embrace it are all I’m interested in these days.

Tinderbox remains an exemplar.


I guess the best knowledge manager is the one between your ears. Much underrated and not much discussed on forums. But a rather important part of the system. (And I do think of it as a system, with perhaps three main components: person-software-work.)


I think most people(myself included) look for an app which can be their saviour , which can automagically DO the thinking for them without having systems in place.

Knowledge Management for me would be having a system which I can run through on what I’ve collected and decide what I can do with it . In fact last week , I was moving my notes away from Devonthink and into TB , so I can link them and try to get AHA moment (sadly I didn’t get) but I did manage to write down my thoughts on the notes I collected.

Making sense? (I’m doubtful I’m)

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To me, personal knowledge management means the act of collecting, processing, reviewing, and referencing material in order to personally retain and expand useful concepts and information. Knowledge management is an academic discipline and a US military concept. The term is overloaded and confusing.

I do not believe there is any hard definition as to what is a personal knowledge management tool (as an application). It’s a loose concept that people are trying to define, to discover.

I’ll refrain from commenting on people’s motives or emotional state regarding contentious issues as I simply have no reliable way to know either through a comment they make on the internet.

I don’t understand how having different workspaces degrades a tool’s fitness to support a personal knowledge management system. I do think that linking is most likely essential in any knowledge management system.

I currently use Obsidian and Devonthink. Devonthink is where I collect artifacts like files, graphics, etc. Obsidian is where I capture notes and think. I can reference artifacts stored in Devonthink via the item link pasted into Obsidian as a URL. I can link concepts within Obsidian at the page and block level (yes, it fully supports block linking now).

I value and like Tinderbox, but it’s not in my workflow at the moment.

I use Devonthink because it’s an easy and secure mechanism to archive bulky artifacts that offers high availability and search.

I use Obsidian because it doesn’t get in my way. It allows me to collect notes without thinking about where they go. It allows me to link them on the fly and easily formulate emerging concepts as more notes that I also don’t have to think about housekeeping with. I spend a great deal of time writing more formalized notes on material I read, I spend a little time jotting down things and highlighting concepts to be sussed out or linked later while in the middle of work, I spend no time worrying about structure or awkwardly navigating between notes or other structures using a mouse.

I think the greatest concept, to me, that Roam popularized is that of frictionless. The art of keeping things simple is notoriously difficult. But, it is often the keystone of what works for people in real world application.


Really quickly -
Data > Information > Knowledge >>>(hopefully) Wisdom

Data == raw #s/text
Information == data purposefully organized
Knowledge == conclusions, praxis, experience gained and tested using information, research, and discussion

And any of the above steps can feedback and recycle to strengthen the knowledge loop.

To me, knowledge management - the practice, not the definition - involves 5 aspects:

  1. How efficiently can I store new information in a knowledgebase
  2. How rapidly can I retrieve/purpose said information
  3. Can I visualize the knowledgebase (general structure) in my head, or relatively rapidly when I peruse the system
  4. How rapidly can I manipulate and output the data structure for specific needs (charts, pivot tables, pdfs, powerpoints etc)
  5. How cheaply can I archive/store/manage the data once it is no longer of high-utility value.

Honestly, based on the above, I would say that different apps do different things for me. Quickbooks manages my accounting knowledge, Excel/Numbers my hard data needs, and Tinderbox my brain/thinking. I don’t believe that ANY app can lay claim to some mythical ‘throne of knowledge management’.


Interesting how the reverse is also true.


All, thank you for the wonderful dialog. :pray::heart:

Regarding knowledge management. I’m more interested in what people actually do than sequences of phrases.

My own goal is to come up with some insights that no one else has. It happens in my discipline that there are number of things that we know or see that could be better tied together. So I need a process that allows me to take the real things and redescribe them in a new theoretical framework.

A rigid method fails me. Insights from others in the form they made are usually not helpful. If the problem were solved, I would not be working it. I don’t have the theory when I start, only ideas and some situations and dynamics I need to tie together. So any tool that forces a method is a waste. I can get a student to collect and collate extracts from the literature if that is ever needed. Maybe they will like Roam or whatever.

My process has two unrelated threads. One is that I make a lot of diagrams and use those in a lot of talks. I need this because at root it is a matter of building a narrative that is maximally concise. I need many iterations and never in decades have given the same talk twice.

The other thread is where I like Tinderbox. I need to work with notes, nearly all being my own notes. I need to shift among ways to relate them, but one long section is that emerging narrative in a section of outline view. I find typed links to be enormously useful. I have to constantly rewrite and rearrange.

The practice, then, shifts among mental facilities that try to find sense in visual relationships (and form), spoken explanation, and written narrative. I find I need all three to surround a project that has merit. I sometimes wish I could mix the visuals (currently made in Omnigraffle) with a dynamic map view. I am now starting a project where I will attempt that.

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Love all your comments above. I tool find the mixed visuals extremely helpful. Currently, I accomplish this by taking screenshots of my map view an then pull them in to my $Text using export code to link to the image on my hard drive. The path and image name to the file are attributes so that I can change them easily.

One change in recent time is Tinderbox now has AppleScript (as Omni products too) so the hassle of ‘exporting’ a picture may be lessened now.

To address your interest in what people are doing with Tinderbox - I can best recommend browsing threads on this forum, as well as perusing some of the many videos posted by TBX users. A list of such videos is posted elsewhere on this forum.

The excellent weekly zoom Meetups - where all users, irrespective of prowess and comprehension level, are invited to share their specific usage scenarios and obstacles to the community for assistance and advice - are also routinely recorded and posted, in case live attendance is unfeasible.

My current specific usage scenario with regards to note accumulation and assignment is addressed in this interview @satikusala did with me (https://youtu.be/-_H8OUvJw9Y). @satikusala has recently published a flurry of introductory videos that help users grasp and theorize what is possible; they’re highly recommended.

PersonalIy - I utilize Tinderbox for creative writing (as well as for real-world organization/planning). My practice is to generate copious fragmented written ideas on any surface available, which I then pipe into TBX to seek form and “emergent structure” using the extensive manipulative capabilities that @eastgate has so generously made available and continues to develop for us via Tinderbox.

The app permits me to drop hundreds of notes into a container and review/reshuffle/re-assemble in order to comprehend, organize, and purpose the myriad random sparks my gray matter inconsiderately spews. I’m able to tag, locate, prototype, and explore without compromising content integrity or even placement.

I follow no rigid methodology. No two of my project files are the same - yet I’m able to carry notes from one project to the other.

Also - I very recently undertook a complete re-organization of 4-6 project files comprising thousands of notes and links - with no degradation to my original structure and design. That itself, I think, reflects the powerful capability that few other environments can offer.

I’m incredibly grateful to the app and developer for making my life easier, and eagerly await the release of the next version, which promises to ease my ingestion process even further.

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Yes, I’ve tried a number of scripts. There is also the Copy View as Image command under the Edit menu (but I’d love more control over the edges).

I think that’s also one of Roam’s great weaknesses - the ease of creating volumes of interlinked content is extremely seductive. Until, that is, you have to make sense of everything you’ve collected. It’s a reasonably common comment from Roam users that they’re swamped by the sheer volume of items and links they’ve created with little apparent effort.

While I don’t have a definition of knowledge management per se, I do think that one of its core characteristics is purpose (actually, I think that, in line with current fashion, I should be saying intentionality - yet another example of a perfectly respectable word replaced by a different one with precisely the same meaning) and I think that frictionlessness can work against purpose unless there’s a management framework in place. What I mean is that, bacuse it’s so easy to get stuff into [tool], it becomes easy to throw stuff in without considering whether it’s useful/relevant/has value. Conversely, some not-too-high barriers to entry can be helpful in preventing [tool] from turning into a junk room.



I did loads of collecting in both Roam and Obsidian and realised just after 45 days of using it , I had to start applying attributes , learn queries and more to make any meaningful connections. December I finally left everything and turned to TB