Tinderbox Meetup - Saturday, June 10, 2023: A Discussion with Jerry Michalski on The Brain and Tinderbox

You might be interested to read this article: Why the left-brain right-brain myth will probably never die

It was written by the then editor of the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest. As he says, it has got a bit too simplified in popular use.

Thanks for your thoughts.


Completely agree.

Video to yesterday’s session: Tinderbox Meetup Video - Saturday, June 10, 2023: A Discussion with Jerry Michalski on The Brain and Tinderbox - #3 by satikusala.

If you go on the Brain forum they do use it to analyse and they have videos of how people do it. Jerry’s use was intentionally light on the features to reduce the drag on his brain. But the functionality to use tags, write and link etc are clearly there for analysis.

I do like the possibility of a single brain with the Brain. How well would TBX handle a single file for gathering thoughts and connecting them?

One thing you can do with a Tinderbox map view (and in other applications like Curio and Scapple) is to use positioning and spacing between elements/notes/thoughts to indicate how closely related those items are, or conversely, the “distance” between the ideas or concepts. I don’t think you can do that with TheBrain. I have used such physical spacing as a way of understanding my material from the days when I used to put scraps of paper on the floor of my room. I find it a very useful part of the analytical process.


I think the challenge with any tool is using it in a way that works. Jerry uses colour and whether the item was above or below another item to help give meaning to his analysis.

My only point was that the Brain can be used for analysis albeit differently from TBX.

Agreed, but – at least for me – a problem is that I find myself using several different tools, depending on the needs of the moment. And as this stands, I find I have the same, or similar, material in many different places. This goes back to the point that @j3rry was making in the talk (I think the metaphor involved was mushrooms!) about having a central repository for material that you could use in various ways.

One aspect of the problem of having material in different places is that it can drift apart as you work on it. A mind map can allow you to perceive certain things, and you may make certain changes because of that, but if (like me) you forget that you have done that, you may work on the same material in a different application which doesn’t have those changes. Unless you are massively disciplined (which I am not) you can lose track of it all. It is one reason why I dump just about everything in DEVONthink, but it is not really a solution. It is a holding operation until I can think of something better.


Just in case anybody uses Obsidian and is not aware of it, there is a plugin that imitates some of the features of TheBrain. It is called Excalibrain.


That’s what is quite attractive in The Brain that you can have one brain to rule them all.

I do wonder how TBX would handle one document? Although to be fair I think you could create a network of documents with links, I’m not quite sure how that works. I’m also not sure if one TBX document could list possible notes found in other TBX documents in a search, that would be awesome.

What I did like with the Brain that because everything is in one brain when you search to link it shows everything.

I have tried permutations of combined/separate/networked project files - in my experience and considering my particular working style, this is not practicable - a couple reasons:

  • The concept of incremental formalization is contrary to the idea of adding (and possibly forcing) new knowledge to an existing and perhaps differently formalized/structured data set. For example, I wouldn’t combine my CD collection database (disclaimer, I don’t have one - I’m not THAT much of a nerd) with my deep study of the seasonal mating habits of Madagascar Monarch butterflies (disclaimer, I don’t have one).
  • Projects of a varying nature tend to demand their specific organization; Tinderbox is wonderful in that it allows your projects to discover their specific structure. It’s a MULTI-tool!
  • It’s just not safe to put all one’s data into a single file; particularly when they may contain disparate Prototypes, contextually unrelated Attributes, and Agents that may act inappropriately with unintended consequences.

IMO, the advantage of the Tinderbox universe to the user is not so much combining all data into a God document, as is having the luxury of learning just one God application with which you can can-open a diverse range of project types.


Thank you, that is helpful. How do you then link information in other data sets that may be helpful? ie The discovery that Madagascar Monarch Butterflies may mate better if Mozart is played?

1 Like


Linking between data sets - there are a few ways of doing that:

  1. Linking a Note in a Tbx project to external file - use File Attribute
  2. Linking a Note in a Tbx project to external URL - use URL Attribute
  3. Linking a Note in a Tbx project to another Note in another Tbx project - use “Copy Note URL” and paste the value into the URL Attribute field of your Note. NB this technique seems to be iffy in execution at the moment, it will open or shift focus to a project containing the URL’d Note, but not navigate to the Note itself.
  4. Linking an actual data set between projects - I would keep the data set outside (in CSV or other universally readable form) and port a copy to any project that happens to require the set.
  5. Linking a Note to an external data set - use File Attribute



TBX handles this extremely well. It has several views; you can create your own, the introduction of posters will be game-changing, and action code and templates are foundational.

It does appear that The Brain has a more efficient UI; however, for navigating around linked notes, in TBX lingo, The Brain looks like a Flattened Hyperbolic view. Also, in this view, you can create notes, which you can’t do it TBX’s hyperbolic view. Also, in Hyperbolic view, it does not appear that you can add new link associations. If somehow these three elements could be added to TBX, a flattened cross-container view and the ability to add notes and link associations in this view, then The TBX would be The Brain and sooooo much more.

One of the major limitations, for me, RE The Brain is the lack of action code, templates, and export. You can think it, but you can’t really produce and export any tangible contributions, i.e., processed output, out of The Brain. This is a non-starter for me. I need an open system, like TBX, to work with my data.

Per @eastgate’s note below this comment above was wrong.

Yes you can do both.

Hmmm, can you explain to me how? When I double-click on the map in Hyperbolic I can’t create a note. When I click on the parking lot and try to link a note to another note, they hyperbolic pauses and the link I create does not seem to appear to work. For me, I have to go to another view to create the link. Can you provide the steps for doing this–create a note, link to previously unlinked notes–in hyperbolic.

Drag a link from any note to the background; this creates a note and a link.

Drag a note from a note to another note; this creates a link.

1 Like

Yes, this is how you do it in Map view. HOw do you do it when you are in hyperbolic view? I don’t think you can, or I’m missing something. When in hyperbolic view and you think of a new idea, it is in that context that you want to be able to quick add a note and link it, or if you think of note you already have you want to be able to quickly link it and you’d expect the new linked now to then automagically appear into the hyperbolic map.

Try it in Hyperbolic view!

  • Click on a note.
  • Hold the mouse down
  • Drag to the background
  • Enter the name of the new note

Great! Did not know this; works great.

What about linking to an existing note? When I click a note, select the parking lot and try to assign a link to an existing note, it does not seem to work.