Tinderbox Forum

Tinderbox mentioned in this article

Tinderbox is mentioned in this article that is about Roam Research: https://roamingwriting.substack.com/p/roam-research-as-the-tesla-of-note

It correctly mentions that Tinderbox already had the ability to link notes from its inception.

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Thanks. In reading the linked article I hit irony overload at this plient:

Backlinks or bidirectional links, for example, are not features added to Roam. They are at the core of Roam because it’s an app built on relationships. For that, Roam Research uses a graph database. That is the real game-changer.

It … like … Roam’s … authors … have … never … heard … of … hypertext. :roll_eyes:

Yes, the irony was not lost on me…

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@mwra, but wasn’t the internet invented yesterday, email this morning, and Roam five minutes ago? :slight_smile:

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I think that’s part of the dissonance. This isn’t like someone’s found a long abandoned thing and brought it back to life, but more like seeing the kid the next yard over is selling a drink made from lemons and them putting up a big LEMONADE sign and thinking you’ve invented a new beverage. Lest it appear otherwise, I’m not imputing bad behaviour: most of human error boils down to stupidity or ignorance (perhaps the latter case here).

The ‘sell’ would be more convincing if better tied to prior art, as that a stronger sell for those looking for substance rather than bling.

There are two parallel issues here. If app X works for someone, use app X. The more contentious thread is “I really like X, everyone should use X”, especially if the ‘sell’ is all emotion and no substance. That doesn’t invalidate the first case, it just makes considered folk cautious.

Google returns no info on Roam’s linkbase. How do you view this? Can you have multiple link bases (yes, back pre-Web this was a thing), etc. This ‘clever’ linking reminds me more of those link-spamming app of the late-90s web that looked for possible link (anchors). Links are best if meaningful.

But, I know i’m in a minority on that. Is the computer always so much smarter. the more i look, the less of that I see outside very narrow domain application. Otherwise, with a nod to the Pythons, it’s all just word-association-football.


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Aaah! Evidence of yet another cognitive bias, methinks: Availability heuristic :slight_smile:

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Good point. I think this is another strand of info to pull together for (new) Tinderbox users—or those stuck spinning their wheels in low gear—under the guise of misconceptions and false assumptions. We’re all prone to these and they sometimes sit there hiding comfortably in plain sight until someone gently illuminates them. There have been a couple of lovely instances recently where people pushed through to to more productive use and I happy to anything to help there be more.

Yes, I like this point about the availability heuristic. I am so surprised that while everyone knows that Web 3.0 is all about going p2p, local, that people pay hundreds of dollars for hosted notes. Do people gladly lock themselves in, making their notes hostage to cloud servers? It seems magic or hypnotism is at play here. Apparently they also got millions of dollars in seed money. Because of linking notes? I remember the days I played with Hypercard. Now in those days, that was amazing.

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How does everyone know that? Or agree with it? Or even care about it?

There seems to have be a rapid expansion of SaaS in the past decade in all domains, corporate to personal. Partly, I suspect, because it makes collaboration simpler in corporate or academic environments and that sloshes over to personal work. Aren’t we all typing our opinions into this Discourse SaaS that Eastgate sponsors?

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Well, who wants to turn their private notes on a hosted service which has outages, and who may sell you notes to be read by machines etc. So I make choices about what I put on hosted websites and what I keep to myself. Just type in web 3.0 in google etc.

Not understood, what is the point here?. There is no character limit here (I appreciate you may be posting from a phone). Could you explain what this means for Tinderbox users working on a (desktop) computer?

I’m also confused by the reference to ‘Web 3.0’. Aren’t we already on Web 4.x or even Web N? People were describing Web 3.0 as done some years ago. What is the canonical source for these memes? I only ask as I presume he term has some underlying meaning rather than being a textual GIF. (not snark, I write this having lived through and survived Web 1.0, etc.)


I have tried Roam and I’m trying to get into Tinderbox already for years… (really stuck in spinning in low gear). The main advantage of Roam is their simplicity and simple, non-threathening user interface. For me Tinderbox is still (after years of trying and subscription) very scary… In stead of looking and criticizing them (and I agree with most), use their model and see how Tinderbox can be made more “accessible” (both user interface and a LOT of tutorials and use cases/short videos/documentation)



What is the ‘model’? Roam appears to have no documentation, apart from a Roam database (and I’ve spend many hours wading though it to try and find things of use). In truth, I found hard to follow [sic] because UI—or page CSS—makes reading hard. So, Roam users, what are the good parts to pick?

I think, to be fair to this community, that regardless of style/layout, Tinderbox’s documentation is deeper and more complete. So it is style we are talking about?

But tutorials on what? There never seems a clear consensus as to what this means. Those who know the app understand that leveraging it comes from understanding its features rather than trying to start at the end (use cases) and work backwards. That isn’t laziness, but because they understand that to implement the latter you still need to understand the processes beneath. Community members have done plenty of tutorials over the years on both basics and particular use cases but it’s not clear they get used. The only message is “more and better”. The 'what" is left unanswered, for reasons I don’t get.

As to use cases, these are better show-cased by individuals with ‘finished’ documents to share, as they mean little without info. Use cases don’t using minimal made-for-the-demo data are thin gruel (I know from both making and using).

Finding value and purpose in your data will come from exploring its structure—or lack of it—and figuring out how it tries together. Models like Roam or a zettelkasten are simply a method for holding data with limited means of investigation. I think such fixed methods make sense when you know what you are putting in and why. Just putting in data doesn’t, of itself, promise reward.

It’s often confusing (“scary”?) to start learning something complex. In reality, Tinderbox is not complex if you take it slow. I like this recent thought on a different, far more complex subject (biology):

Enormous subjects are best approached in thin, deep slices. I discovered this when first learning how to program. The textbooks never worked; it all only started to click when I started to do little projects for myself. The project wasn’t just motivation but an organizing principle, a magnet to arrange the random iron filings I picked up along the way. I’d care to learn about some abstract concept, like “memoization,” because I needed it to solve my problem; and these concepts would lose their abstractness in the light of my example. jsomers.net | I should have loved biology

The common - and I think best - advice is to invent a note making project for yourself, ask yourself (and/or here) “how best to start this?” Then start. And continue.


@mwra It was never my goal to criticize anybody. I just know that it’s always interesting and learn from competition. According to their website, their software is used at Dropbox, Google, Facebook, several very distinguished universities so they probably do something right for a lot of people at a much higher price than TB…
I just know that I have tried TB quite significantly on different occasions yearly since 2008-2009 and that I have bought and read every version of “The Tinderbox Way” and regularly this forum. I’m not responsible for Eastgate but I can easily see why market access is difficult and why Roam is taking off… If it is the goal for Eastgate to stay small, pls continue, I will support you with a few USD yearly out of sympathy. If you want to understand the “average stupid market” look around and use the Zettelkasten hype to be on the menu of much more people


One detail: Roam Research is not really sold at a much higher price than Tinderbox.

First, Roam was free for much of its life. Then, it became $150/year. We’re $249 initially, and $98 in subsequent years. These are surely comparable price points.

The goal of Eastgate is not to “stay small”, though I admit that the goal is also not only to make lots of money. Our market valuation is far less than Roam’s $22M, but I believe that we are among the more prosperous independent software developers on the desktop.

I’d also assert that our adoption of zettel-style [[links]] has been remarkably agile, and that their implementation in Tinderbox is really quite good. We move fast, even under adverse conditions — including last week’s release of Tinderbox running on Apple Silicon.

A series of volunteer-created introductory videos is in development, too.


It is not so much style, for me, but accessibility, clarity, and not writing from the beginner’s perspective, e.g. taking it step-by-step that makes the onboarding arduous. The community, and that includes you, has been outstanding and I am grateful for that. But it makes things often not easy to find. Some links to videos are broken ( see http://www.eastgate.com/Tinderbox/Screencasts.html at the bottom of the page: Alwin Hawkins R.N. describes how he uses Tinderbox to get control of his blood sugar)

PaulWalters says that Tinderbox is not complex if you take it slow. That is a typical product-out technology-push position with disregard for the users. Whether or not something is easy, difficult, complex, irrespective of speed, is also and always a function of who the user is. Unless it is your specific strategy to exclude users, a major focus of software development should always be to make things simpler for the user. That includes the software itself, and the support infrastructure, manuals, etc. Let’s see reality: Tinderbox has a steep learning curve and we can still make it much more accessible. Your functionality is already far outstripping what Roam is offering. Why not focus on the interface, the onboarding process, and, possible redesign (see below). I think that would make you commercially even more successful and you would be doing a great service to the world.

I fully agree that Tinderbox is much more than Roam and that it is a tool to think. But Roam for me is not the comparison we should look at because it is hosted and not in sync with Web 3.0 principles (I know you said earlier you could not find this on google, so I will offer some links below. I did not reply to that because this thread was not about that topic - yet it is related, but I will reply in this post.)

To some extent, Roam and its counterpart Obsidian with local notes, does offer an approach to think about notes using the Graph view. But Tinderbox goes further than that by offering containers that you can use to think in relationships and building a line of argument. For me, Tinderbox was always ahead of its time and it still is. But its architecture is showing its age.

I do think that Tinderbox can ride the wave of the resurgence and interest in Personal Knowledge Management note-taking and conceptual thinking. And it should do so informed by web 3.0 the notion of a distributed web. For example, all the notes for Roam are on the web. Obsidian makes it possible to share one note or a few notes, but you decide which note, and not all your notes are exposed to webservers. We are moving to a web that is going to be based more and more on peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing so that not Facebook owns your posts, but you do and you only make it available p2p bypassing the servers from FB and the like. Notion.so is hosted on the web, Anytype.io is building the counterpart self-hosted on your local storage based on IPFS which can work P2P.

From that P2P perspective, I think Tinderbox could innovate in its architecture and make it P2P compatible. I advocate using markdown as the default format (so users feel future-proof and not locked-into a software platform - a great argument by Obsidian) and notes should be transparently available for any generic markdown editor (not via export). Tinderbox could research what are the most commonly used features - operators/functions of Tinderbox and make these simpler to approach and perhaps create a two-tiered pricing plan. A starter-intermediate price with annual updates and a professional/power-user version with annual updates. I predict that a lot of people on Roam will see that it is overwhelming and after a few outages will look for alternatives. For those who use the Mac we should be ready to offer a superb onboarding experience. “Offer a way to import roam and Obsidian notes would be a great marketing ploy! Come and join the Tinderbox community, where we not only link notes but also enable you to think better with your notes.”

I hope my views are received with my intention and that is to be a grateful user to the developers and the community and always interested in seeing the program get better.

Info on Web 3.0 and the P2P collaborative web which I think we should be looking at is here:
IPFS Powers the Distributed Web
Home · Solid
How to Change the Way We Share Our Personal Data Online | Time
Tim Berners-Lee

Fleek: Build. Preview. Deploy. Scale.
Anytype - 2020-05-18 IPFS Weekly Call :raised_hands::telephone_receiver: - YouTube
How to Change the Way We Share Our Personal Data Online | Time

Just to point out: Paul Walters is a user. It would be quite strange to criticize users for having disregard for users.

I’m not sure to what you’re referring. Do you know anything about Tinderbox’s architecture? What aspect of Tinderbox’s architecture do you think antiquated, and how old do you think it is?

I said this is a PM to the individual above, and I will say it publicly now: calling out other members of a forum for dismissive derision is despicable.

I volunteer here. I do not come here to be told I have “disregard for the users”. I am a user. I care enough to have spent hundreds of hours in this forum and its predecessor every year for over a decade to try to help fellow users with Tinderbox. I have absolutely nothing to gain by doing so.

If that is “disregard for the users” then I am appalled.

I do not know Mx. Boudewijn. I have never put myself in a position to offend them. But I will never participate in a forum where other members – users or owners – are personally attacked in this manner.

Do not tell me I am “sensitive” or dismiss my reaction.