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Tinderbox Users >> Tinderbox applications >> Tinderbox structure for taking course notes

Message started by Ben Worthington on Nov 18th, 2008, 1:39pm

Title: Tinderbox structure for taking course notes
Post by Ben Worthington on Nov 18th, 2008, 1:39pm

I'd be interested to find out how people use Tinderbox for taking course notes.  I'm about to start a new module for a degree course which I hilariously thought I would have time to study, in between getting married and working 12 hours a day.

I have set up a Tinderbox file ready for the start of the next module ("Empires") and have been thinking about, and experimenting with, ways of best using Tinderbox.  

I tend to work in map view, with occasional excursions to outline view.  I have my Tinderbox document set up so each topic in the module (and there are twelve topics over a 9 month period) has its own container i.e. Topic 1 ("What are Empires?") is in its own container, as are Topics 2-12.  

Drill down into any topic container, and I have a page with various adornments holding notes summarising the main themes of that topic, links to external sources and things I need to understand better.  

I then have an adornment which is headed "Topic Notes" and this collects dozens of containers, each one being a collection of notes (and associated adornments, links etc) relating to a chapter(s) in a book, an article, a web discussion with the class and so on. So within Topic 1, I will have containers headed things like "Notes on Chapters 1-3, What are Empires?.", "Notes on Paper by Miller on Why Empires Fail" and so on.  There could be 30 or more of these containers in any given topic.

The way I think is part structure/hierarchy, and part visual; the set-up I've described above has a bit of both and a big benefit of using containers to hold notes on a given chapter or paper is that I can use an outline window for just small collections of notes when I want to.  However, the big problem, it seems to me, of using containers is that they 'hide' notes, making it more difficult to see the bigger picture and the relationships between notes across all the themes in a given topic.  Would it be better to have the whole topic one page, and just use adornments or attributes to collect notes from a given paper or course book?

This is probably all very personal and it may not matter one way or the other, but I'd love to know what others' preferences are for this sort of thing - one big document with adornments, lots of notes and visible links, or lots of containers and therefore smaller amounts of data to handle in one go?  



Title: Re: Tinderbox structure for taking course notes
Post by Mark Anderson on Nov 19th, 2008, 3:18pm

I'm a bit confused by some of the terminology. Map adornments don't 'hold' or 'collect' notes or containers, rather it is the case that in  - Map view only - notes or containers sit on top of adornments.  Only agents collect (aliases to) other notes.  However, adornments can - through their OnAdd action - act as triggers to change the attributes placed on them. For example an adornment might set a note's pattern and color to allow you to recognise particular factors in a note; a pair of adornments might set true and false value for a boolean attribute, etc.

Thus an adornment need not always be a background object simply marking out a section of the map. They could be set small and simply used to set/un-set colors/patterns/shapes that would indicate their topic, for instance.

A way out of dichotomy of 'flat' Maps vs. multi-level Outline hierarchy, where the context of Map adornments is lost, is to turn your structure on it's head.  Put all topic's notes in one container, and mark the topic (number, title, whatever) in a user attribute.  This then enables you to use agents to recreate your per-topic containers of topic notes. Meanwhile, with all topic notes within a single parent container all are 'on' the same map allowing you more scope for seeing link structures and avoiding the problem of seeing down into container - notwithstanding useful v4.5+ changes with respect to container content visualisation on maps.[i]

A fact not mentioned in your description, but worth consideration overall is your screen size as this can have a strong influence on how much room you have for your windows on screen and how much of that space TB can use (if not all). A large complicated map can be harder to use on a 13" display than on a 23" one.

Title: Re: Tinderbox structure for taking course notes
Post by Mark Bernstein on Nov 20th, 2008, 9:49pm

Perhaps not PRECISELY about course notes, but...

... for a Tinderbox Weekend experiment, I pulled together a lot of the 480-odd reading notes I've written for my weblog.  Each note describes one book, and on the weblog they appear in chronological sequence and in some simple lists -- books by author, books by title, recent books.

I wanted to see what the topic distribution was.  So, I gathered aliases to all these notes in a fresh container, drew a line down the middle of the map to divide fiction from nonfiction, and began to cluster related books.

Here's the result:

Much more could be done -- labelling regions with adornments, using color, pattern, border, shape, badge, and shadow to clarify patterns of relationship, tags, Dewey and LC classifications, and so forth.  But just this simple conceptual clustering exercise quickly generates interesting quantitative and qualitative results.

I went into this without much preconceived idea of what the clusters would be, or how large they would grow.  Because you can place things between clusters, representational perplexities don't bring things to a standstill.  For example, Pullman's His Dark Materials goes in fantasy and science fiction. Wicked and Magic for Beginners went into their own subcluster in "mainstream" fiction.  But where does Paradise Lost go?  Answer: put it in between, and see what joins it! (Late arrivals: Frost's North of Boston and Tennyson...)

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