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So, umm..., what is this app actually for? (Read 40131 times)
Jean Goodwin
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Re: So, umm..., what is this app actually for?
Reply #30 - Jul 26th, 2011, 10:02pm
 
Hi, Russ.  You said:  

"everything becomes, ontologically, an evaluated attribute in TbX-world."

In slightly different words, that was THE key insight that gave me the sense of mastery, as opposed to victimhood, with respect to Tinderbox complexities.  Or maybe better:  How I learned to stop worrying and love the technology.

When I started, I thought of Tinderbox as a tool for notes.  A note was a long or short text I wrote.  And then I would attach some pointers or "metadata" as attributes, mostly to classify the note so I could find it again or sort it somehow.  Text = important;  attributes = stuck on.  Plus attributes = a source of worry, since I had to get them right or else the note (text) would get lost!!!

Nope.  A "note" is nothing more than a bundle of attributes.  One of the attributes happens to be the text.  But every other attribute is of equal status.  Within any individual attribute-bundle, the attributes can be shuffled and dealt out in a variety of ways like a deck of cards, and they can each be changed, with the changes flowing out automatically in ways governed by, you guessed it, attributes.

Once I "got" this, then I became confident that I could figure out how to do anything, especially with the help of the forum on the finicky grammatical bits.  The really hard part is figuring out what I want to do, and in the last year or so I haven't had any time to do that.  

P.s. Naka...you know view is text export for people like me too lazy to learn exporting.
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russ lipton
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Re: So, umm..., what is this app actually for?
Reply #31 - Jul 26th, 2011, 11:14pm
 
@Jean ... exactly. You captured my learning process to a 't', which again suggests the possibility of useful generalization re: something common to the TbX learning curve challenge beyond all the domain variances.

Now, I want to recall (if possible) what I most needed to learn about actions so that it became positively fun to watch queries-actions-rules richochet across my TbX document, rather than terrifying. At first, I thought I would probably break my document's content beyond recovery (again, a common fear, I suspect).

Making zillions of backups solved that mainly, though not entirely, irrational fear.

Then, I realized my main problem was that I had become overly anal about the (conceptual) prettiness of my documents, and I am not an anal person psychologically. I am now convinced that my taking advantage of TbX's emergent properties requires doing personal violence to all such anality. 'Emergence' is (or, at least, looks) messy and can't be helped.

I have evolved an informal rhythm of 'messing' with my content, which begins by using actions-rules to help the document (e.g., a project) reach its next level of usefulness. At some hard-to-articulate point, but mainly when I am afraid I may soon fail to understand the effects of my own experiments, I stop, retain (refine) the actions-rules that helped, drop the stuff that led to dead ends and then work hard to prune, clean up and make the document elegant again.

In that phase, elegance is not anal prettifying, but the means for self-documenting (informally) the dynamism of the document's infrastructure. Once this is complete and the document seems 'simple' to me again, I can mess with it all again if-when the project demands it.

I hope these meditations prove modestly useful to others. In turn, I look forward to learning more about the 'internals' of other users, not to be a TbX voyeur, eh, but to keep growing myself.

(BTW, though I was being silly, I was also serious aboout Nakakoji. Probably, I have assumed there was something mystical about it and so avoided it. You are saying it is 'merely' a convenient way to export notes as text without having to bother with export codes. On that basis, I'll spend an hour or two exploring its usage. Who doesn't need to export notes-as-text for various purposes?)
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« Last Edit: Jul 26th, 2011, 11:15pm by russ lipton »  
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Mark Anderson
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Re: So, umm..., what is this app actually for?
Reply #32 - Jul 27th, 2011, 6:18am
 
If it helps, TB is like a large card index.  Every note (or note-based object) has every attribute, even if not currently used or not usable because inappropriate for that object (e.g. $AgentQuery for an ordinary note). All cards (notes) come with some attributes pre-defined; these are the system attributes. You can also add your own 'user' attributes, in which case they get added to all existing and new notes, using the default value specified. Once added these attributes function akin to those pre-efined - they are all part of the TBX document and every note. To repeat, all notes get all attributes - even those created after the note was made. A number of attributes are calculated for you depending on current dynamic criteria and thus these tend to be read-only (r/o examples). Generally, however, all attributes can be edited by the user. A common false assumption by new users is that if they can't see an attribute (as a note's key attribute) then it doesn't exist or "..has been lost". It may not be visible but it's still there.  Learning how to display/ent info is the one area of TB one does need to learn but that's true of any app. for example, typing in the OS' Spotlight input doesn't create new docs, it just searches for existing ones).

We don't generally refer here to TB as a database - it scares less tech users - but in effect it's a flat-file database with data stored in XML. However, it's unlike many databases as it doesn't punish you for not knowing at outset all the fields (attributes) you need. Need an $IsComplete attribute? Just add it. As per the paragraph above, TB will seamlessly add it in to all notes without forcing you to redesign reports, etc. This is one aspect of its good support for incremental formalisation - you don't have to add stuff until you know you need it. A good example is capturing things in $Text into attributes. Instead of always searching the text of every note for "left-handed or "left handed", you might add an $IsLeftHanded. You can then use an agent to search existing notes' $Text for pertinent matches and set the attribute. Isn't this just extra work? That's in the eye of the beholder but whilst the agent's query might be quite complex, its result captured into a simple yes/no attribute is simple - and much easier to re-query.

Going back to 'lost' things, if the problem is you have attribute values but can't 'see' them, then you can set key attributes, display expressions, table expressions or use outline view columns (like a spreadsheet table).

Master Yoda might have said of TB: 'Do' there is not, only 'may'. So, think you must about your goal. TB is no more or less a magic box than any other app but unlike many it has no single or primary goal so it can't lead (force!) you down a certain path to a pre-assumed goal. In TB, person A might want to lay out a book, person B do timelines, person C create HTML documentation, etc. As it says often on a toy box - some assembly required.

Ask yourself what you're trying to achieve with your TB data and consider what things you need to add beyond the raw data to hand. At simplest it might just be arranging the notes differently in outline or map view. Beyond that it might be creating attributes to store metadata either in the basic $Text of notes or observations/deductions about the same. If you need to trawl the data and don't understand queries, try writing them as plain language questions and then check that the building blocks of the question exist. Sometime you may need to use attributes and/or supplementary agents to give you the building blocks for your master question. You might also want data reflected in attributes simply for display purposes. And so on...

As a new user don't try to achieve a whole big workflow in one go; that way tends to lie overload and thus frustration. Your end goal may be to export a synopsis of your novel, but if you don't yet have a handle on the main characters and where they interact, resolve those starting issues before worrying about the later stages. TB's support for incremental formalisation means such an approach is not penalised. Much of the angst I see from new users is through over-reaching at outset and getting lost by attempting too many unknown (undefined) things at once.

[edit: clarification]
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« Last Edit: Jul 29th, 2011, 6:36am by Mark Anderson »  

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Paul Walters
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Re: So, umm..., what is this app actually for?
Reply #33 - Jul 27th, 2011, 7:14am
 
Good points, Jean, Russ and Mark A.
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« Last Edit: Jul 27th, 2011, 12:04pm by Paul Walters »  
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Mark Anderson
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Re: So, umm..., what is this app actually for?
Reply #34 - Jul 27th, 2011, 7:41am
 
I'm beginning to see that some new users can be bit too literal in their understanding of the UI in terms of linking what they see vs. what's available; it's generally more than what you see. These images are all of the same note but with different view settings applied, as configured via ... attributes!

1. Default - with sidebar:




2. With sidebar and with key attributes:




3. With key attributes and without sidebar:




4. Without sidebar and without key attributes:




5. Customised $Text pane:



...and that's not all, e.g. we've not used $ShowTitle, but I hope people get the idea that not everything is always on display. Image#4 is the sort I envisage might trigger a comment like "...then the NeedGrab box disappeared!". The point of the latter observation is definitely not to mock but rather to try any show how such a conclusion, based on the immediate view alone, is simply mistaken. This info is still there, just not currently displayed.

If in doubt, some attributes for the given note are shown in the tabs of the Inspector ([Cmd]+[1]), whilst all can be viewed in the Info view ([Cmd]+[Opt][i]); note that with Info view you'll need to use the pop-up to move from attribute group to group to refresh the attribute listing with each group's attributes (just experiment - it's easier than this description may imply). The images are from aTbRef - worth taking a wander around the site - especially the sections on views, dialogs and menus.

Next step for the learner? Try out the customising view. Then, start experimenting with prototypes as a way of saving/applying customised note views. Prototypes work just as well for this as for setting rules, etc.  That should begin not to come as a surprise the data's all just attributes!
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« Last Edit: Jul 27th, 2011, 7:48am by Mark Anderson »  

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Re: So, umm..., what is this app actually for?
Reply #35 - Oct 18th, 2012, 1:15pm
 
Some users' thoughts on their use of Tinderbox.

[admin is dusting off a few old threads as I understand we're expecting some new blood here]
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Martin Boycott-Brown
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Re: So, umm..., what is this app actually for?
Reply #36 - Oct 19th, 2012, 2:59am
 
I think I might actually have found a use for Tinderbox. This has been puzzling me for a long time. I have had a licence for almost two years, and for the life of me I couldn't work out what to use it for. As I wrote to someone a few months ago, I have always had the impression that Tinderbox was powerful and interesting, but I have felt like the the owner of a Ferrari who lives in a place where there are no roads.

Now I am beginning to look at a new project that will be examining how the British army adapted to the challenges posed by the revolution in warfare that occurred between 1914 and 1918. I realised that I could set up a Tinderbox file that has a "note" (read "entry") for each relevant event. I could make battles one colour (blood red?) diplomatic initiatives another, training manuals could be "paper colour", tactical innovations something like sky blue -- you get the picture. These entries could then be displayed on a map so that (for example) one can see that training manuals tend to be published in clusters at certain times of the year, or at a certain time after a major offensive. And of course, one can link events in various ways.

There are still lots of kinks to be ironed out -- apart from anything else, I'm still a complete novice in using Tinderbox. But I'm rather pleased that I finally seem to have discovered something I can use it for. It has only taken eighteen months to a couple of years ...

I may be coming back to ask for help. I've only got a hazy idea of how to work this thing.

Best, Martin.
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Mark Anderson
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Re: So, umm..., what is this app actually for?
Reply #37 - Oct 19th, 2012, 4:03am
 
Your ideas all sound good. something else, new during the time since you first got Tinderbox is Timeline view. So, just by giving something such a note on a pamphlet a $StartDate (e.g. date of first publication) it will show up on a Timeline view. Colours and badges work well in all views, whilst the map additionally offers shapes, borders, shadows and more.

It's easy to dismiss these visual annotations as eye candy but, used with thought, they can be very useful in finding emergent structure and show associations hitherto unseen.

If planning categories of 'event' in advance, don't overlook use of prototypes as they will be big time savers, even if only for data entry/note configuration. Thus the e 'battle' prototype can set a colour, badge, shape, key attributes, etc. Add a new note about a battle, apply the desired prototype and the customisation of a number of attributes is immediate - each of which you'd otherwise need to do by hand for each battle note. Plus, to find all battles you then simply need an agent to look for all notes whose prototype is 'battle'.

You can lay out your map on a time basis. some people use agents or rules to set $Xpos to a figure based on $StartDate (or some other date attribute), but don't overlook Timeline view. The latter can show the time progression of your events and, via timeline bands, show the data in different thematic layers. The latter is possible without affecting the layout of the map allowing you to use position for other associative methods.
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Martin Boycott-Brown
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Re: So, umm..., what is this app actually for?
Reply #38 - Oct 19th, 2012, 4:32am
 
Thanks for those ideas -- particularly the prototype idea for different kinds of event. I hadn't thought of that.

I'm not sure if I will use Timeline, though it seems an obvious thing to do. The way I have things set up is that the title of each "note" begins with the date in YYYY/MM/DD format, then comes the name of the "event". So a typical entry is "1916/07/01 - Battle of the Somme begins". That means that I have all the information available right in front of me in any view, and it will sort alphabetically. (In fact, there is no "content" for any of the notes, though I might add explanatory text if it is needed.) In part, I have done this because I may want to use the same data in other programs (specifically Devonthink Pro Office, as in this example -- http://tinyurl.com/9n6akrm ).

As usual with historical data, some of it has no precise date -- the month and year is the closest you can get -- so one is reduced to putting in a "false" day (typically 00). Obviously that doesn't help with stuff like "mid January". You can't put in 15 January because that gives the impression that you have the precise date (I know from experience that it is easy to forget that you have "forged" the date and it creates all kinds of trouble). So the date field is of limited use -- one has to think of ways around it.

On a technical note: is there a way of extracting a date in YYYY/MM/DD format, and turning it into a format that Tinderbox will accept in the date field? I'm thinking that I might in some cases need to extract the first part of the title of my notes and place it in the date field. Or even do things the other way round! (date field to title)

Thanks for all your help,
Martin.
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Mark Anderson
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Re: So, umm..., what is this app actually for?
Reply #39 - Oct 19th, 2012, 6:49am
 
Off-Topic replies have been moved to this Topic.

No censure implied by 'off topic'. It's just to stop thread drift and let individual topics get more focused discussion.  Smiley
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« Last Edit: Oct 19th, 2012, 6:52am by Mark Anderson »  

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