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A meta-map? (Read 24798 times)
Mark Anderson
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A meta-map?
Jun 19th, 2009, 4:17am
 
I've been pondering for a while about the map-vs.-outline struggle.  Maps are great for discovery without forcing hierarchy. Most other tasks, such as review, textual structure and export normally need an outline, breaking the purview of the map as it shows only one level (well 2 if you include container viewports). Indeed one child level of a parent note - i.e. only siblings with the same parent.

I'm positing the idea of a 'meta-map' that shows every note in the TBX - effectively the outline flattened onto a single map. The idea is to allow a global view of the TBX without upsetting the outline - or in early stages without needing to worrying about the outline.

Practical issues:
  • Scale. It might be that TB might have to cap the numbers of notes allowed in this system to avoid overload.
  • Exclusions. Do we want prototypes, templates, utility agent and other behind-the-scenes stuff on deck? Probably not, so maybe we'd need a note level exclusion flag and possibly the option to exclude all templates and/or prototypes via a set of preferences.
  • Initial placement. We can't just use the normal Xpos/Ypos as everything would be in a heap in the middle of the map. Perhaps separate co-ords for the meta-map. If drawing the map for an existing TBX draw down the outline in a left->right top->bottom manner?
  • Where do new notes get added if created outside the meta-map?
  • Adornments from normal maps - do we want to see these?
  • Show container (viewports)? The problem here is that if the meta-map is everything flattened onto one map then seeing child maps that are actually different is potentially confusing both for the map and the application('s design).
  • Agents. If viewports aren't shown, how to deal with agents? Perhaps in the meta-map they'd function like smart adornments (with a visualisation difference to differentiate them from actual adornments).
  • Querying the meta-map. Using hierarchical queries (inside(), etc.) in a meta-map won't work as it's flat plus we need to consider existing map vs. the meta-map. An isCloseTo(item,mapUnits,[mapName]) query might be useful for the meta-map; the 'mapName' optional argument being used if wishing to specify a map other than the meta-map. However, this idea might be computationally expensive, so slow, so not a good thing.
  • Container plots/tables. We lose these in this view but for obvious hierarchical reasons.
  • Feedback to Outline. Use adornments to set $Container. The meta-map location is unaffected but the note's outline location is changed. In a context like a book design, chapters 1 through N can all be seen together on one big map, while the outline can begin to capture the output structure as it becomes available.


My term meta-map is a poor one but it's just a placeholder name. In the spirit of Tinderbox I don't want premature commitment to a name that might drive development of the idea.

There are some necessary constraints vs. existing maps for the reasons laid out above (and those others may yet add), so at best there's a bit of learning for for users - especially long-term users. But if possible it might add another useful analytical layer and break out of the current issue of starting in a map then losing sight things the moment they are assigned some hierarchy that moves them off the current container's map.

I'm not even sure if this can practically) be done but I do wonder if it might address some of the flat-vs.-hierarchy issues I see fellow users having. I don't have a strong personal use as (outside aTbRef) my TBXs are normally small and light - 'use & throw' - for early stage discovery. So, my experience of the above issues is thus somewhat second-hand but it does help one to take a detached view of things.

What say you?
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Charles Turner
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Re: A meta-map?
Reply #1 - Jun 19th, 2009, 6:48am
 
Hi Mark A.-

I'm responding to this after a quick first read and not yet through my morning cup of tea. But I wonder if Tbox couldn't have an attribute that would assign a note to a map view. That way the control over a note's presence in a map view would behave like much else in Tbox: you could "QuickStamp" to create a view of your notes, or write an agent that would select a set for display in map view.

This would require a change to the ways views currently display, or less successfully, perhaps a distinction between flat and outline maps, but an attribute-based approached would resolve most of the issues you pose above.

I think. ;-)

Best, Charles
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Re: A meta-map?
Reply #2 - Jun 19th, 2009, 8:53am
 
Interestingly, that's effectively extending my concept of having more than one 'global' map. Maps at present are of the contents of a single container (or just the root). Optional display of items in that context is probably more complexity than gain, whereas on a global scope it's probably as distinct need. To have more than one map is conceptually possible but I'm wondering at what point it all gets too complex and/or too slow. Currently TB is the right side of app needs vs. available horsepower on a desktop OS but as complexity gets added (or rather much additional back-of-house calculation) then performance may suffer unduly.

One benefit of the global map that I omitted to mention is that source/sink of all internal notes will be visible on the map.
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Re: A meta-map?
Reply #3 - Jun 19th, 2009, 11:15am
 
Or you could think of a map view as a container itself, and attribute notes to its view. Agents would work on view attributes as well as note attributes.

As far as efficiency is concerned, right now you can muck Tbox, or any other app, with a rat's nest of interrelationships. Read the DTPO forum, for example, where users have out-of-control numbers of "Replicants" and just want to get back to their original data. You can't save people from themselves. ;-)

Tbox will pick up a lot of speed when it doesn't have to deal with the Rosetta context switch anymore...

Happy dreaming! Charles
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Re: A meta-map?
Reply #4 - Jun 19th, 2009, 12:46pm
 
Quote:
Or you could think of a map view as a container itself

Actually, that's easily done now.  Make a note and put aliases of other notes into it. What I'm thinking of is a map that - in simplest terms - the TBX outline display in map form. In other words as if you'd taken your outline and promoted all notes to the root level.  I say 'as if' because the whole idea is this exists as an alternate view so the real outline and normal maps, etc., are preserved.

Writing is a popular topic so lets assume each chapter of your book or thesis is a container.  This means notes in Chapter 1 can't be viewed in the same map as Chapter 2 - something it seems people want to do.  My idea (if technically feasible) would allow this. We'd even be able to see link lines from notes in Chapter 1 going to their target in Chapters 2/3/4/etc. I hope that makes it a bit clearer...
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Re: A meta-map?
Reply #5 - Jun 19th, 2009, 3:00pm
 
Right. Silly me. I guess the tea wore off, and my IQ dropped about 40 points...

C
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Re: A meta-map?
Reply #6 - Jun 25th, 2009, 11:38am
 
Hi Mark A.-

I re-read your post and have thought about it some. Here's a little take:

Right now, the Map View provides a different graphic rendition of the Outline view, or perhaps vice versa. A note is placed in a container: a single location. Aliases might be considered the paradigmatic manipulation of note organization in this context. It represents the possibility to have a note be in more than one place, or everywhere, if for some reason you have that need. So, singularity moving toward ubiquity.

Your post considers that a property of the Map view be that it's a flat view into the entire Tinderbox notespace. A perfectly reasonable idea. I won't consider whether this should be an additional view in Tbox, I'll simply assume it would replace the current Map view.

This flat view represents a different way of modeling data in Tinderbox. We might ask then, what is the paradigmatic manipulation of notes with a view of this type? I would suggest that it's different than aliasing, essentially moving in the opposite direction of hiding detail, rather than replicating detail. In view of this type, say in Omnigraffle (or the wonderful, but now long-gone MetaDesign) you have the ability to aggregate and reduce detail (subgraph in Graffle-speak). Essentially, the ability to put things into containers to reduce surface complexity. So, ubiquity moving towards singularity.

So how would this be expressed in terms of Agent behavior in Tinderbox? My guess would be that Map Agents would have to behave differently than Outline Agents. They'd move notes into containers instead of creating aliases.

My guess is this could be accomplished practically by having the current path for a note become two paths, and move from a "general" property of the note, to a (separate) property of both the Outline and Map view. Then note organization, the data model, could be different for each of the two views. In Outline view, agent queries would create aliases, in Map view agent queries would move notes.

Finally, I think also you'd want to consider what are the paradigmatic mouse/manual manipulations of notes for each view. Currently, Outline view supports dragging notes around in the hierarchy. I think a Map view should allow one to lasso/select a bunch of notes and create a container/sub-map. Map view should also support the dragging of notes into and out of containers.

So that's my thought. Probably stuff I haven't considered. What say you?

Best, Charles
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Re: A meta-map?
Reply #7 - Jun 25th, 2009, 1:38pm
 
Interesting. although the meta-map is a much simpler proposal it could be a step on the road to the more complex concept you describe. I'm deliberately proposing something more simple as even in just flattening the outline there's still plenty of challenge in deciding where things could go - in advance of any user manipulation giving things a specific Xpos/Ypos. I think there's a danger in getting too ornate with the map metaphor lest the UI become a work in itself and we lose sight of the task of analysis.
Still, my view is perhaps a bit utilitarian as I'm not from a hypertext/academic background and some of the more formal terminology goes over my head - so I'm sorry if my analysis lacks insight!
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« Last Edit: Jun 25th, 2009, 1:43pm by Mark Anderson »  

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Mark Anderson
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Re: A meta-map?
Reply #8 - Jun 25th, 2009, 1:54pm
 
I'm hardly a hypertext/academic type as you can see from my previous lack of insight in this thread. :-)

If all you want is a current Map view with "everything" in it, couldn't you do that now with an agent that made aliases of everything? One of your containers would be an everything container...

Thanks for the dialogue, Charles
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Re: A meta-map?
Reply #9 - Jun 25th, 2009, 3:33pm
 
Yes you could, though all the contents would be (a) be aliases and (b) not be arranged in any order close o=to that of the outline.  Actually, sorting the agent on OutlineOrder before turning it off would at least give some semblance of current organisation.  However, without re-starting my original post, I'm suggesting a bit more than that.


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Re: A meta-map?
Reply #10 - Jun 25th, 2009, 4:50pm
 
No need. I haven't stared at what aliases do with Map View coordinates, so I'll put that on my list.

While we're on the subject, have you seen this example of CSS?

http://nedbatchelder.com/blog/200805/css_homer_animated.html
Best, Charles
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Re: A meta-map?
Reply #11 - Jun 25th, 2009, 5:16pm
 
Re the link - wow, I've never got that bored at work! Pretty amazing stuff considered how it's done.

Re Agent maps and moving things, you need to turn an agent 'off' (see here) to be able to move items but wait until v4.7.0 (imminent) before trying it as it likely won't work in v4.6.2. - so leave off trying this for a day or so. Then, once an agent is 'off' you should (will!) be able to move aliases around like on a normal map; turning the agent back on will re-order your map - so bear that in mind. Note too that aliases of container notes show as notes (i.e. no sub-map viewport).
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Re: A meta-map?
Reply #12 - Jul 29th, 2009, 5:53pm
 
I think of maps as they exist today as layered - each layer corresponds to an OutlineDepth, as does each level in Outline View.  I compose my map layers with adornments, note layouts, aliases, etc., to suit the purpose of that layer.  My own take on the thread, above, is that I'd like to see a quick way to toggle through layers.  For example, at the bottom of a map, between the selector for changing zoom level and the selector for performing a cleanup, there might be a "layer selector".  So, if a document had notes at OutlineDepth 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5, then when we clicked on the "layer selector" we would see 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5 and clicking on any one of them would display the map for that depth.


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Re: A meta-map?
Reply #13 - Jul 30th, 2009, 6:35am
 
But, what is there is more than one container on the present map? When you go down a level which (container's contents') map will be shown? Or are you proposing to all level X notes on one (meta-)map?
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Re: A meta-map?
Reply #14 - Jul 30th, 2009, 6:56pm
 
On second thought, though it seems there is a "layers" metaphor implicit in the Tinderbox outline order that would be interesting to exploit in some sort of map browser, as Mark A pointed out what I proposed is too confusing to be useful.  
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