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Tinderbox: book notes (Read 42725 times)
Mark Bernstein
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Tinderbox: book notes
Dec 27th, 2010, 11:03am
 
I'd like to invite Tinderboxers to discuss the following question:

Quote:
When you use Tinderbox whilst carefully reading a book -- perhaps when embarking on a review, or in the course of research -- what apparatus do you use?  How do you prepare?  How do you organize your notes?


For example, I myself find it handy to have several distinctive prototypes ready to use:
  • Quotation: to hold notable passages I might wish to quote verbatim, and to record their location. (This can save enormous trouble later!)
  • Query: notes about typographic errors and infelicities you might want to bring to the attention of the author, but which are unlikely to figure in your review
  • ToDo: additional reading, research, and other tasks that your reading suggests.  I find it helpful to note down the task and return immediately to my reading; this reduces the temptation to wander off into the library stacks pursuing other books, or to spend lots of time with Google and Wikipedia in pursuit of wild hares.
  • Objection: notes on topics where I believe the author to be mistaken, or the premises questionable. These might figure in the review, but they might not: a reviewer ought to write about what the author did, not the book the reviewer thinks he or she ought to have written.


Of course, most of my notes will use none of these prototypes.  But I find it useful to mark some of these items with a distinctive appearance.

I keep these notes chiefly in map view, though I might use outline view to select and arrange notes at a later stage of composition.

How do you read with Tinderbox?
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« Last Edit: Dec 27th, 2010, 11:03am by Mark Bernstein »  
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mrkwr
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Re: Tinderbox: book notes
Reply #1 - Dec 28th, 2010, 2:02pm
 
In my work I tend to use Tinderbox for taking/organising notes on sets of articles rather than books. This might be 30-150 articles of 4–16 pages, so the overall volume can be comparable to a (large) book.

I use two key top-level containers, Sources and MyNotes. (Actually there is another to contain my writing on the topic being reviewed, but that's not essential to the note-taking part) There are prototypes set up for *Sources (including key attributes for bibliographic details, plus boolean attributes for Used (so I can check if I've not used any of the sources reviewed) and for DoNotCite, so I can exclude sources from the bibliography section of my writing), for *Notes (which has a comparable Used_Note boolean attribute. (There's also a rule to change the colour of used sources/notes so I can easily see which haven't been used.)

Because the articles tend to be fairly short I usually make the initial notes on each article within the Text for each source (i.e. there's one tbx note per source). After a while, maybe when I've got a better idea of the overall subject, I make shorter topic-specific notes (using the *Notes prototype), either putting in links back to the Source they come from or just recording and Author/Date reference to the Source. I keep all the *Notes at a single level so I can review them in the Map view, where I organise them spatially, using adornments and links. I think this is critical to getting the real value out of Tinderbox in this type of work.

The *Sources prototype includes key attributes for Theme and Topic (both sets) to help with organising and understanding. One way I've found very helpful for this is to make an agent that selects a particular Theme; set its CleanupAction attribute to "none", and then open it in Map view. Turning off the auto cleanup allows you to move the notes around at will and group, use adornments etc.

Having used keywords for themes & topics on the *Sources, I often find that when I come to write up or just to think about how new notes fit in, that the Find window is very helpful - you can set the drop-down to Theme or Topic as appropriate, type in the keyword and get just the notes matching those keywords (though it took a while to appreciate how picky the Find is for keywords within sets - you have to type the whole keyword, not just part of it, and it is case-sensitive even if you untick the box for this).

I also have a prototype *Questions in which I log things I need to find out or to do.

There are also agents set up in advance to collect *Sources added recently (i.e. in last 2 days), *Notes added recently (and also stuff I've written for output recently), which I find helpful for picking up things the next day or so.

I don't use a *Quotations prototype but achieve something similar with the "quote" badge.

Hope this isn't too far off-topic to be of interest.
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Ben Worthington
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Re: Tinderbox: book notes
Reply #2 - Dec 28th, 2010, 3:40pm
 
I have found that the ipad has made a terrific difference to my process of reading books.  Wherever possible I buy books through the Amazon Kindle app and take notes on the ipad (I have just finished Tony Blair's tribute to himself, A Journey, and made 200 highlights and notes.).  These notes and highlights are then available on the Kindle website - I copy/paste all of these into a single Tinderbox note and then explode the note.  

I have prototypes for quotes (most of the notes will be quotes since the majority of my notes are highlights of the text) and for my own notes.  I go through the exploded notes in outline view, assigning prototypes and tagging key notes - these can be later picked up by agents if I need them.  Then to map view to look for themes, connections etc.

I rarely do anything particularly complicated and find it's best to avoid imposing too much structure up front; most of the real work is in map view, reviewing and considering the material, making links, clustering notes and so on.
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Paul Walters
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Re: Tinderbox: book notes
Reply #3 - Dec 29th, 2010, 4:07am
 
I also use the Kindle reader on iPad and the techniques Ben Worthington described.

Most of what I read is not books.  PDFs from many sources.  For work and for research I do a lot of annotating, highlighting, and clipping.  "How do I get this into Tinderbox" is always in the back of my mind.  I store most of my source material in DEVONthink, and lately have synced this to the iPad, where I do my annotating and clipping in GoodReader or its relatives.  Now that iOS 4.2 is out, I'm enjoying the ability to toggle between apps, so I'm developing outlines and clippings in Carbon Fin, toggling back and forth to the PDF reader.  It's easy then to grab that notation file from Carbon Fin and import the OPML into Tinderbox.

Then the fun begins, because as I read I'm thinking of "how does this relate to that" and Tinderbox is the only place where I can fully work through the questions that the reading raises.

My answer to Mark's "how do you prepare" question is: I get a lot of funnels - on the desktop, on the iPad, on the Kindle - so that I can cull and direct the material I need for my research into Tinderbox, which is at the top level of a value pyramid.
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Jean Goodwin
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Re: Tinderbox: book notes
Reply #4 - Dec 29th, 2010, 11:08am
 
It's always cool to read about people's workflows.

For me:  working largely with articles, I do a detailed outline, interspersed with quotes and comments (bolded) in whatever I'm using to organize the pdfs--at the moment, Papers as an inbox and Endnote for long-term storage and Word integration.  That way when I come back to the article, I can read my abstract instead of the whole thing.  I've never made the transition to putting this info into Tinderbox, since I've never put in the time to have Tinderbox emulate the pdf-management facilties of these more specialized programs.

Tinderbox holds my workproduct--basically, anything with value added by my brain.  These notes are about what happens when the article I'm reading rubs up against one of my large/sprawling/ongoing or proto-article/focused/due-dated projects.  Depending on what I'm doing in the particular Tinderbox document, these notes might get a specific prototype (like "to do" or "top priority" or "source"), but generally, they're just notes, stuck into the document or container for the project.

I know I'm missing out this way on the  discovery of "related notes," but for some reason those serendipitous connections just don't do much for me.  In fact, even with my own notes probably 80% end up in the archive, never really re-used!  But the act of making the note--that really makes a difference.

Awaiting Tinderbox on the iPad Wink at the moment I'm pasting quotes and making notes in a Dropbox-synced set of plain text files, using Notational Velocity on the desktop and Plaintext on the iPad, and uploading relevant ones every so often into Tinderbox.  Having multiple syncing services (Simplenote, Kindle, Carbonfin) was messing with my mind.
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JeffAbbott
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Re: Tinderbox: book notes
Reply #5 - Dec 30th, 2010, 10:16am
 
I'm going to try and use Tinderbox as a book journal this year, as my blog will feature more mentions of books that I've read (not full blown reviews, though). I will probably organize it as follows, with values for each note:

Chronological (books read in January, February, etc.)
Genre of book (nonfiction, historical, suspense, mainstream, etc.)

I want to keep it very simple to start. Before I've kept this sort of information in notebooks. But it would be nice to have it in a digital form more easily shared.
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Mark Bernstein
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Re: Tinderbox: book notes
Reply #6 - Dec 30th, 2010, 12:14pm
 
I've found it handy to keep a list of books bought, and books read, in a big archive.

Then, it's easy to use agents to pull out and present useful sets:
  • books read in 2010, 2009, 2008...
  • books, sorted by author
  • the most recently-read dozen books


What metadata do you include with your book prototype?  I keep track of ISBN (mostly because it helps me link to the books in online stores), cover thumbnail jpeg (eye candy for the Web site), author name, and title.

One attribute I think I might add in 2011 is, who told me about this book?  Several times in the past year, I've finished a lovely book put, though I recall someone suggested I read it, I can't remember who!  With the size of my book queue growing intolerable (I've still got a book I borrowed from the truffle farmer in 2006 that I'm definitely planning to read and return very soon!), remembering why I'm reading a book might be helpful or, at least, sociable!

In addition to sharing, I'm hoping that collecting these notes might lead to a more reflective and intelligent selection of reading.  That hope seems distant, I confess, and few people in the book trade seem to think it's a sensible concern.  Yet when there's so much to read, and I can find time for so few books, it seems worthwhile to consider the ideal selection with at least some passing attention.
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« Last Edit: Dec 30th, 2010, 12:17pm by Mark Bernstein »  
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JeffAbbott
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Re: Tinderbox: book notes
Reply #7 - Dec 30th, 2010, 12:33pm
 
I think those are excellent ideas, Mark. Thank you!
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Christopher Menice
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Re: Tinderbox: book notes
Reply #8 - Jan 7th, 2011, 1:25pm
 
Being incredibly new to Tinderbox it can all be very confusing.  I'm intrigued to track books along with notes etc.  I looked through the Tinderbox file exchange for a template, but didn't find one.  

Could anyone post a template for me to play with?  I'm particularly intrigued about how to do what Mark B describes as
Quote:
I've found it handy to keep a list of books bought, and books read, in a big archive.

Then, it's easy to use agents to pull out and present useful sets:
books read in 2010, 2009, 2008...
books, sorted by author
the most recently-read dozen books


Thanks so much.
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Rich Shields
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Re: Tinderbox: book notes
Reply #9 - Jan 7th, 2011, 1:51pm
 
Thanks for all the comments.

One question: How do you coordinate the bibliographic data in Tinderbox with your bibliographic program? I use Bookends for that latter purpose. Specifically, it seems like there is a duplication of typing to enter into two programs.
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« Last Edit: Jan 7th, 2011, 1:52pm by Rich Shields »  
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Mark Bernstein
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Re: Tinderbox: book notes
Reply #10 - Jan 7th, 2011, 2:23pm
 
You can option-drag references from Bookends to Tinderbox.

When using Bookends, I also copy a formatted reference (cmd-K) and paste that into a Tinderbox note.
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Ben Worthington
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Re: Tinderbox: book notes
Reply #11 - Jan 8th, 2011, 5:03am
 
Christopher,

I've done a very quick example file for you, you can hopefully find it here:  https://public.me.com/ben_worthington

I cannot post my actual reading notes as they're mixed in a file with lots of confidential stuff.  Hope this helps.

I dont think I did this in the example posted but for sorting just go into the rename dialogue box of any container and adjust the sort order at the bottom.

Ben
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« Last Edit: Jan 8th, 2011, 5:17am by Ben Worthington »  
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Christopher Menice
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Re: Tinderbox: book notes
Reply #12 - Jan 8th, 2011, 9:41am
 
Hi Ben,

Thank you so much for the document.  I was able to download it no problem.  I understand about confidential information as well.

The document opened in outline view and I can see one Prototype, 2 books and 2 agents.  

This is probably a simply question, but how to I see how the agent is made?  Or even the results of what the agents do?

I know I need a lot more practice with Tinderbox.  I've been trying to use it, but I don't have a ton of time to figure out how it works.  I think I might just have to make the time and having lots of examples will surely help me along.
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Mark Bernstein
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Re: Tinderbox: book notes
Reply #13 - Jan 8th, 2011, 2:44pm
 
To inspect an agent, select the agent and choose RENAME the note menu.  Shortcut:  press Enter (fn-Return).

For example, Ben Worthington's agent for 2011 Books has the query
Code:
CompletedOn(2011) 



which means, "The attribute "CompletedOn" contains the substring 2011. This will work nicely in the UK but might not work in the US, where default settings give you two-digit years like "1/8/11".

Another way to write this might be

Code:
$CompletedOn>date("1/1/2011") & $Compeleted<date("11/2012") 




Yes another way to write this:

Code:
$CompletedOn.year=2011 



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Jean Goodwin
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Re: Tinderbox: book notes
Reply #14 - Jan 8th, 2011, 3:31pm
 
Wow, this shows why it is so great to have new people asking new questions.  I didn't even know that I didn't know about adding the ".year" to a query for a date attribute.  I had figured out a workaround to do the same thing, but it was pretty involved.  Thanks, Christopher!
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