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Tinderbox Users >> Tinderbox applications >> On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
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Message started by Akiva R. Schoen on Aug 31st, 2011, 11:24pm

Title: On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
Post by Akiva R. Schoen on Aug 31st, 2011, 11:24pm

I'm re-reading The Tinderbox Way and I'm suddenly curious about having a Daybook. I currently have a TBX called Note Hoard that I've been putting notes into based on category. It's essentially a replacement for the notes I used to put into Evernote but having to think about category isn't always conducive to quickly taking down whatever pops in my head at the time.

So, I've created a new TBX called—shocker!—Daybook. Mark B. mentions that each day is represented by a note in which I'm supposing he's putting notes inside $Text. That somehow doesn't seem like the best solution for me so I've created a container for the year and one for the current month set to sort based on $Created and I create individual notes inside. But I'm not sure what's the best way either. Having a date hierarchy seems redundant since each note has a $Created anyway. Yet, having just one level of notes sorted by $Created seems even less ideal.

Thus, my question is this: how are other people handling a Daybook-style TBX?

Title: Re: On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
Post by Lucas D on Sep 1st, 2011, 12:12am

I confess I have not read 'A Tinderbox Way', so I'm not sure if I have the right idea of what a 'Daybook' would be, but here's the set-up I use:

I have a container note called "JOURNAL".

I have an attribute called $NoteDateCreated.

I have an agent running as follows:

Query: $Name(parent)=="JOURNAL"
Action: if(!$NoteDateCreated){$NoteDateCreated=$Created}

This means that in most cases, $NoteDateCreated will have the same value as $Created, but I also have the option of manually changing $NoteDateCreated.

Every day, I add a new note as a child of "JOURNAL", and then use the new note as a container note for all the day's notes. The container note for the day automatically gets a prototype that includes the following display expression:

if($NoteDateCreated.year>2000){format($NoteDateCreated,"W, MM d, y")} else {format($Created,"W, MM d, y")}

(I don't remember why I originally added the if clause, but it's probably extraneous at this point.)

Then I have another agent running on each day's top-level note with the action:

$Name=$DisplayName

In a roundabout way (I started creating the system when I was very much a beginner and it shows), this set-up leads to a situation where each day's container note automatically gets it's $Name changed to the name of the day on which it is created. So today's top-level note is "Wednesday, August 31, 2011"

The last step is that roughly every month I just select the daily container notes of the previous month and drag them into a note named, e.g., "July".

Anyway, that's my rather rudimentary but for me quite useful approach. I hope that explanation was somewhat intelligible. Perhaps I can post a screenshot later on.

Title: Re: On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
Post by Stacey Mason on Sep 2nd, 2011, 4:35pm

I have a kind of daybook file that includes a journal for travel experiences, random thoughts and ideas.

I tend to keep my documents structurally light (not a lot of automation, etc), but I do have different categories split up into different containers, one for travel, one for local restaurants and music venues, one for a general diary. I use the containers' OnAdd actions to set prototypes for the different types of information, and I use the containers' sort to keep them chronological (by $Created)

At first I just dumped everything into a map, but as I added more and more types of notes, I realized I wanted certain ones separated. They may eventually end up in separate documents, but for now I find that a local restaurant, for example, often triggers a memory about a restaurant I ate at while traveling.  The good thing about Tinderbox is that you can always refactor and change the structure.

I think a daybook is a great case for incremental formalization. This point is actually pretty heavily emphasized in Tinderbox Way as well. I find that not having too much structure is freeing for actually just getting the writing out without worrying too much about the "right" place to put the notes.

That said, I would love to see what others are doing with their daybooks!

Title: Re: On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
Post by Rich Shields on Sep 2nd, 2011, 5:56pm

I am probably the least experienced of anyone here on TB, but I’ll offer what I have begun using.

I had been using Notebook (Circus Ponies) for a daily journal for two years, but the file size increased more than I expected (no photos or anything else, just text), to 2.7 MB.

So as I have been experimenting with TB, and had begun developing the complete curriculum for a seminary, with notes, readings, etc. Even with all that and some automation, it is only 0.4 MB. So about two months ago I decided to start my journal in TB. Nothing fancy, no automation. Just a monthly container, then one note per day. But if there is a conference, like the past three days, then I make separate notes within that day note. So far, it has more than met my needs, even though it is simplistic. I have discovered that I can find things in TB at least as fast as Notebook (with its automated name/word indexes). And I look forward to further development of this tool.  :)

Title: Re: On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
Post by Akiva R. Schoen on Sep 2nd, 2011, 8:55pm

Excellent feedback, everyone! Keep 'em coming.

At this stage, I'm still sticking to my hierarchal format with a single note for each thought. For some reason, I just can't wrap my head around stuffing what are essentially multiple notes into a single note. For me, $Text is for further detail. Thus, my note titles tend to be sentences.

Title: Re: On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
Post by Tim S on Sep 2nd, 2011, 10:01pm

I have a sort of "daybook" for relatively unstructured note-dumping but that is geared toward developing larger ideas. (Even if at the time the notes have little in common.) I do not use a date-based outline to keep them separated, generally just using a big map with a few splits similar to what Stacey mentions. The date convention seems to me a little artificial when you are working on ideas rather than recording a diary. Freeing yourself from dates also allows for easier "incremental formalisation", I think.

But you still do want some sort of structure, and one problem I have with these "general notebooks" is how to name your notes when  you create them. When I create a new note, I usually only have a rough intuition of what I want to write. By the time I have written a few sentences in $Text, the note ends up different or more complex than what the original name implies. Relatedly, it sometimes feels that your note names start to lose meaning—instead becoming "key-word combinations" that are far too similar to each other for the variation across the actual $Text content. I suppose the problem is that the $Text notes are different enough to get their own note containers, but similar enough to have practically generic names.

Sometimes this naming dilhemma actually makes me hesitate to write (where I will "escape" by opening a TextEdit window instead). I would be interested in hearing how others here have approached this 'naming' issue. Has anyone encountered this trouble as well?

Title: Re: On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
Post by Rich Shields on Sep 2nd, 2011, 10:40pm

Howdy. When I first started I noticed how difficult that would be for me, if I used TB and naming conventions. So I use the general daily journal approach for my daily activities, phone calls, visits, activities, etc. (as pastor and president of seminary). I need to store and find information based on people, dates, and places. So the date approach works for me.

For my project on seminary classes, it is entirely project focused. Hence I have to come up with names that are unique but easily recognizable. My solution was to identify everything with a course number/letter combination and then add whatever is unique. So for instance I use E104 OT Reading. E refers to Exegetical Department, 104 refers to the Introductory course and OT refers to Old Testament, Reading gives a reading list. So E102 Hermeneutics >>> Exegetical > Hermeneutics, etc.

In that sense I guess it is easier to assign names with this project. Perhaps that is why the daily journal seemed like the best fit for my overall work. Hope this makes sense.

Title: Re: On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
Post by AGHorne on Sep 3rd, 2011, 7:15am

Mine is pretty simple.  I make a container for the Year and Month.

I made a $Date, $Flag (boolean), and Keywords (list) attributes.  

I'll flag entries for days that I find memorable (my niece being born, starting a new job, etc.).  I'll just throw in a few words (Life, Relationship, Work, etc), so if I want to pull up all entries where I complain about woman ;) , I'll just use an agent and search relationships.

Title: Re: On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
Post by Akiva R. Schoen on Sep 4th, 2011, 6:53pm

Lucas, I'm pretty sure you can replace your Agent's Action with

Code:
$NoteDateCreated |= $Created

Doesn't make much of a difference really but I thought I'd throw that out there. It's a nice little TBX trick.

When it comes to note naming schemes, as I pointed out briefly above, I tend to write the note's content in the $Name if it's terse. This way, I can look at an Outline or a Map and immediately know what each note's about. The icon will tell me if I have further detail in the $Text. But now I'm beginning to reconsider. My original thought was that I'd like to be able to quickly glance at a Map or Outline and see what the note is without having to click on it. However, isn't that what Agents and ⌘F are for?

So far, my system is mostly like AGHorne's although I can see adopting some of Stacey's ideas of compartmentalization. I was initially concerned about $Name duplication but with a broad filing system and keywords, it shouldn't really be an issue. My thing is that I don't like duplicating data so differentiating notes by $Name + $Created for example doesn't sit right with me. On the other hand, having a dozen or so notes with the same $Name differentiated only by attributes also seems inefficient.

So, yeah, I'm still figuring it out.

Title: Re: On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
Post by Akiva R. Schoen on Sep 4th, 2011, 6:57pm

Oh, and while I'm thinking about it, the primary reason why I either prefer to have no containers and use a map or have containers and use an outline is that links are practically useless on a map with containers and are virtually invisible on an outline. I wish—and will one day officially suggest—that the graphical display of links leading out of or into a container were made somehow more useful in the map mode. It'd be neat, for instance, to be able to merely point at note's a link tail and have the linked-to note or notes appear as a clickable hover near the mouse so I can easily jump between linked notes. Bonus points if I can hold down ⌘ or ⌥ to have it open in a new window. In an outline window, just having the little down-pointing arrow that appears when pointing at a note change color to reflect whether it has one or many links would be nice.

And I'd also like to suggest the ability to make two-way links rather than having to do each direction independently.

Just typing out loud over here.

Title: Re: On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
Post by Greg Korgeski on Oct 13th, 2011, 10:58pm

Late joining the discussion, but what I ended up with after maybe a year of trial and error is a simple solution that seems, for me, to make the best use of Tinderbox's flexibility.  I keep a kind of combination master Tinderbox doc open pretty much all the time. I have several major divisions in the outline view using a few separators entitled "Tinderbox" (a kind of meta-file, with stuff like lists of agents or protocols and stuff I learn and collect on using Tinderbox), a second separator for "sorted notes" which includes important topics in my work or life (which can include duplicate notes or just the originals), and a "Dashboard" section, where I store various map/dashboard views including task lists and so on (though I generally don't bother doing tasks in Tinderbox, since I keep that stuff in Daylite.)

But the thing you're asking about is the most used division, the journal.  I have a section in the outline divided by year and month but then add a new note for each day; these are true journal notes, but they also function as nested container notes.  I use the day notes as a journal, but I also use THEM as containers as well: if I want to make a special note on something, or else to drag a link to something I read that day, an article or whatever, I stick those INSIDE the day note/journal container. (Rarely, I might also duplicate that note to insert in the "sorted notes" section.)  I also insert notes within the journal entries which have protocols, such as notes on books (I have protocols, for instance, for "book notes," where I may take notes on a book as I read it on my Mac Kindle or just from memory/reviewing it, but also listing key attributes such as title, author, location of a copy (e.g., "In Kindle" or my town library's call no for the book), and I have a date begun/finished and boolean attributes for "get this" and "finished" for book notes... similar for movies, etc.  So a book note might have detailed notes on the book with quotes pasted from the Mac Kindle app, along with data on the book, urls for reviews of it, its location in the town library, or whatever else my little obsessive compulsive heart desires.

The key here is that in Tinderbox you can easily set up systems for locating and using the data in notes in various ways.  I have a timeline view /agent that selects all my books that are clicked "completed," showing dates begun and finished, so I can traipse through the past few years' reading timeline and see what I was reading at any given time, the progress on some books and so on.  I use an agent to create lists of books I might want to get, based on the attribute "get this book" (checked/not).  But all these things being slotted inside my day journal notes means I can look back  a year ago and just see what kinds of things I was noticing, reading, watching, blog post ideas and so on, on a given date, and how things perhaps hung together with my own journal comments and with my individual notes on things like writing projects, visits to the state fair or whatever.

This seems to combine a journal with a sort of "commonplace book" with a complex self-organizing set of notebooks, eg., my library, books to buy list, experiences, and of course, notes on all sorts of easily collected and inspected and explored topics.  I can do a "find" search in this database (now approaching 8000 notes) or make an agent on the fly to hunt down and organize things; I have numerous map views I've built about projects or questions or topics, everything from career planning to a map depicting my yard and garden where I just show where I'm planning to do something.  (I put the word "map" in the title of any map container note and have a "find all maps" agent in my dashboard as well that selects anything with "map" in the title of the note.)

I have a few other project documents in Tinderbox, such as a notebook on my psychology practice and on several book projects, but as a kind of easy to maintain main dumping place, this seems to work pretty well.  Two years and 8000 notes in, it is simple and very efficient to use.

Greg

Title: Re: On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
Post by Akiva R. Schoen on Feb 19th, 2012, 12:16pm

So I finally got around to getting this going and I think, ultimately, I used a combination of a lot of the above suggestions. The primary one is I've combined my TBX of random notes, ideas, quotes, etc., with the daybook. I originally had them in separate TBXs but I followed someone else's lead (sorry, too lazy to attribute) and combined them, separating my notes from my daybook with separators.

The one thing I don't think I was fully aware of at the time of the original posting is exactly how powerful and flexible $DisplayExpression is. Once I got my head around that (and by adding $HoverExpression) as well, I was able to assuage my guilt over repeated metadata.

My note structure is Year/Month/Note. So each month is just a big bundle of notes. I still use the $Name as the note itself and use the $Text to expand on the $Name if the need is there. The Prototype for these notes sets some $KeyAttributes which has $Date (borrowing the $Date |= $Created idea) and $Tags. The $DisplayAttribute just sets up a proper display of the $Name and, if there is a $Date, formatting it as "(01-Fri)".

Seems to work great and I'm adding notes for anything and everything. Just whatever pops in my head, a note goes into the daybook. What I ate for dinner, if I had an interesting phone conversation, when I installed a piece of software, etc.

One thing I might look into doing, and I'm not even sure it's possible, is to see about dividing up each month into weeks. Thus, it would be Year/Month/Week x/Notes. Dividing it down to an individual day seems like overkill but having a month with 50 notes just floating around seems muddled.

I'm still working it out but I'm really happy with the results so far. The proof? I'm using it.

Thanks, all!

Title: Re: On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
Post by jjvornov on May 8th, 2012, 1:15pm

My Daybook attempts always get blocked when it comes to reviewing what I've written. Once I have 30 or 40 notes in an outline, I've only ever used Explorer View to look back at the chronology. It's one of those problems I have with the modal nature of TBX. Titles are easy to see but hard to edit while notes are easy to edit but hard to see.

Title: Re: On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
Post by Mark Bernstein on May 8th, 2012, 1:41pm

If you don't like Explorer, don't use it!

Try using outline view instead -- perhaps with the hover expression set to display $Text. Then

* titles are easy to see and easy to edit
* texts are easy to see -- just point to them
* texts are fairly easy to edit -- select and press the spacebar


Title: Re: On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
Post by Akiva R. Schoen on May 8th, 2012, 3:58pm

Indeed! When it comes to this sort of context, I live in the Outline view.

For example, I have Prototypes for the months which automatically sort based on the entry date of the contained notes.

Title: Re: On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
Post by jjvornov on May 9th, 2012, 12:39pm

Hover expression is a great addition to the toolbox for this. And of course Tinderbox shows its strength here because I have all of the daily journal notes inheriting from a prototype or two, so I just had to change the hover expression for the prototype and every note in the document now shows its text content on hover. I really like it on map view and I'm working on changing color for map notes that contain text so that I know what's worth hovering over.

Edit in place really does help break down some of the modal nature of TBX, but I've never gotten to love it. My muscle memory tells me to click to edit like most two pane editing system and failing that, double click which of course opens the note itself. clicking and holding seems to take too long. Going way back, I use enter and the dialog box. Or two finger click where the rename is directly under the cursor.  Blame it on a decade of using TBX. Maybe I'd like it better if the rename command opened the edit in place since there's no way to do that other than click and hold and wait.

It's funny, but the other app I use that has this modality is nvAlt. It's set up to edit text and renaming the note requires modal entry into what looks to like a non-editable field. I like the way Scrivener does it where renaming a note is a double click in the left panel.

Title: Re: On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
Post by Mark Bernstein on May 9th, 2012, 3:34pm

There's a menu choice for edit in place (Note menu), and a keyboard shortcut (cmd-shift-return).

Title: Re: On the Road Toward a Sufficient Daybook
Post by jjvornov on May 9th, 2012, 3:51pm

Mark-

Thanks for pointing out the menu choice. I've mapped it using Keyboard Maestro to cmd-return because its close to the fn-return that brings up the dialog box I don't use it in TBX.

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