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Tinderbox for Academic and Nonfiction Writers (Read 41308 times)
Lew Friedland
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Tinderbox for Academic and Nonfiction Writers
Jun 30th, 2012, 10:29am
 
Hello all. Am launching a topic here for those of us who (mostly) write in an academic mode, use Tinderbox, Scrivener, some other bibliography manager (Endnote, Bookends, Zotero, Sente, etc.) and often/sometimes a database like Devonthink.  There have been a number of great threads here on academic note taking, organizing/writing a Ph.D., with great contributors like Derek, Jean, Russ, and of course Marks A and B.  

I anticipate three kinds of discussions here that have floated through academic writers' questions on the forum.

First, the basic issues about tools and organizations: which ones, how do they work together.  The new Scrivener integration is a huge advance for many of us, but, for example, those of us who use Zotero because of its openness to the web and groups might want to figure out how to get the same or similar drag and drop capabilities that are now built into Bookends (at least I would).

A similar question, one that's been scattered through bits of the forum: how do people manage PDFs, other files, and how to link them in a TBX document?  For example,  I add new PDFs to Devonthink, use this for storage and exploration, but when I actually start to write notes and use them, these go in TBX. What is the simplest way to link notes in TBX to a document elsewhere?

The second kinds of questions have to do with the kinds of code use issues that crop up among many of us.  What are the most important bits of code to learn to unlock Tinderbox's full capabilities?  This is, of course, as much a question of how to organize academic files in TBX and take notes as it is one of the "right" codes. But that's the point: these issues get tangled up and sometimes it takes someone writing in a similar vein to help untangle them.  

Finally, there are other basic questions of note taking and writing craft. For example, how to other users take notes on books and longer documents?  Do you use a single container for a book and then go "vertical" with containers within containers for chapters?  How to avoid losing one's place if notes on books become buried (note to Marks, I do know that agents search deeply, etc. But I use a lot of maps so having first level display is part of how I use TBX which is an ongoing paradox).
Or, I have at least 75 Tinderbox files.  Does it make sense to consolidate those that are substantively related for a larger project? If so, what's the best way to do this?

So, fellow academics and non-fiction writer, let me know if this is a thread that seems useful or not and we'll see if it's worth continuing.

I'll throw out two starting questions: how do you link Zotero or other bibliographic DBs entries in TBX files?

How do you use TBX with PDFs?
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Mark Bernstein
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Re: Tinderbox for Academic and Nonfiction Writers
Reply #1 - Jun 30th, 2012, 11:19am
 
An excellent topic!

On reference managers: Under the hood, the Bookends/Tinderbox connection understands RIS, one of the major bibliographic interchange formats.  This support could probably be used for other reference managers; people interested in this could contact us. But Bookends is terrific and not very costly, and it imports data from all sorts of places.

I'm VERY interested in the role of Tinderbox for structural edits, especially of larger work or complex narratives.

Edited:
admin: Mark A added link to RIS format to RIS reference
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« Last Edit: Jun 30th, 2012, 1:25pm by Mark Anderson »  
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Lew Friedland
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Re: Tinderbox for Academic and Nonfiction Writers
Reply #2 - Jun 30th, 2012, 11:46am
 
Mark, thank you. Already very useful.  I have used Bookends and like it. But Zotero has a large open source community, is very flexible at downloading data from web, etc. Mostly good for collaboration.
Main point is that if there is a way to adapt an RIS solution more generally, I would be interested in helping out (although not sure what I could do).

But yes, one focus of this group should be relatively large projects over time.  So hopefully a discussion of emergent note taking strategies from multiple sources.
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Lew Friedland
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Re: Tinderbox for Academic and Nonfiction Writers
Reply #3 - Jun 30th, 2012, 11:49am
 
For those interested here's a link to an RIS thread on the Zotero forum:
http://forums.zotero.org/discussion/23414/ris-export/
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Mark Anderson
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Re: Tinderbox for Academic and Nonfiction Writers
Reply #4 - Jun 30th, 2012, 1:59pm
 
So as not to derail the thread, I've branched to a new thread some issues on the simple mechanics of inter-app linking.

Reading further into RIS, I can across this, which seems to be a map of the RIS tag list which is big, some 57 tags. Full RIS might mean adding 57 new attributes to you TBX. TB doesn't mind that many attributes, but do you actually want all that info in TB? If not, IMO it's it best to let the full reference reside in your reference manager and use a 'shallow' reference in TB. It's in our nature to just want one tool for everything but it would be a very complex one.
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« Last Edit: Jun 30th, 2012, 1:59pm by Mark Anderson »  

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Lew Friedland
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Re: Tinderbox for Academic and Nonfiction Writers
Reply #5 - Jun 30th, 2012, 2:47pm
 
Thanks Mark. If you drag a zotero reference into TBX it shows up as a note (obviously) with all information (author, title, etc.) but just as a text string. Is there a way to set up a note (e.g. I have bibliographic prototypes) so that it would recognize the RIS fields and create a note in prototype format, rather than as text?
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Mark Anderson
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Re: Tinderbox for Academic and Nonfiction Writers
Reply #6 - Jun 30th, 2012, 7:33pm
 
That drag and drop so often just works tends to make it appear simple.  The problem seems to be (I am not a software engineer!) as to how/if the receiving app can correctly deduce the structure/type of the data being passed.  In other words, it the originating app sends incorrect info, the receiving app can't identify it or has to build costly/fragile workarounds to accommodate the problem.

I'd assume (again I'm not a coder - Mark B's better placed to comment) that now TB can understand RIS data from Bookends, it can likely understand RIS from Zotero. But, does Zotero actually pass RIS-foratted data via drag-drop? If not, the place to fix this is at the Zotero end rather than the TB end.

Looking the other way along the inter-app linking, note the question in my side thread - can you link *into* Zotero? How else does TB open a Zotero reference (as opposed to simply opening the referenced s
document or resource.
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« Last Edit: Jun 30th, 2012, 7:34pm by Mark Anderson »  

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pierfranco
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Re: Tinderbox for Academic and Nonfiction Writers
Reply #7 - Jul 1st, 2012, 8:13am
 
I find it a great discussion thread. I too am interested in making Tindebox interoperable with Zotero.
As to the question whether Zotero can export via drag and drop a bibliographic reference formatted in the RIS format the answer is Yes: the result in Tinderbox is a new note which contains the reference duly formatted as RIS.
As to the use of Bookends: for those who use Zotero it doesn't seem for obvious reasons a good solution to export periodically from Zotero to Bookends so as to exploit the direct linking capabilities of Bookends. Above all, even if we exported periodically bibliographic references from Zotero to Bookends, the file which often accompanies bibliographic references in Zotero and which can be an html file or a PDF etc. would remain in Zotero and no direct link to the file is put in whatever field of a RIS export from Zotero. So Bookends can't be of any help when you need to open the file, which instead is a very easy action in Zotero.
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Lew Friedland
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Re: Tinderbox for Academic and Nonfiction Writers
Reply #8 - Jul 1st, 2012, 11:07am
 
Pierfranco, thanks for joining the thread. I'm afraid I have gotten us off to more of a "tools" based discussion than I had intended. But now we might as well run the issue to ground. Please tell us how you drag and drop from Zotero retaining RIS information. It is not as simple as just dragging a cite. That's what I do, and get a note that is just a text string. Is there some other intermediate step? Must be.

As to your second issue re Zotero, I think that is a big issue for many of us in this area. How to manage PDFs, etc. without absurd duplication (e.g. put PDFs in Zotero, Devon, links in TBX (which I actually don't know how to do if not on web).  So organizing PDF workflows is probably a major topic.  Any more thoughts on how you (or others) do this would be welcome.
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pierfranco
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Re: Tinderbox for Academic and Nonfiction Writers
Reply #9 - Jul 1st, 2012, 12:01pm
 
Dear Lew,

in order to drag a bibliographic reference from Zotero to Tinderbox in the RIS format you should firstly open the Zotero Preferences and select the Export tab: from here select the RIS format in the dropdown menu.
As to the attached files: they are not only PDFs but also HTML files: for example when you use Zotero for saving a screenshot of an electronic article which only exists as a web page.
In these cases Zotero save files in his directory which is part of your file system and only Firefox is able to open a file which receives from Zotero a specific address. So for example, if I use Zotero for storing both the bibliographic data and the screenshot of the article at:
http://www.dlib.org/dlib/september04/vandesompel/09vandesompel.html
then Zotero creates for the screesnhot this address:
zotero://attachment/15899/
But actually, in my file system the right path to the subdirectory contained in the main Zotero directory and which contains the main html file, together with the CSS file, images and so on, is the following:
/Users/pf/Documents/Zotero_files/zotero/storage/EDFA9CAA/
Once Zotero has saved all the files connected to this web page in a specific subdirectory, I am able to view it even when I am offline in their original and complete form.
Unfortunately, Zotero exports neither the address created for any attached file, nor the full path. So no export from Zotero can be used to point to the files saved in the Zotero directory. This makes it impossible to use other applications for pointing to files saved in the Zotero directory, which is part of your file system.
The important thing to point at is that Zotero is not only a bibliographic manager but also a file manager and it would be totally cumbersome to use another application for duplicating this work which is perfectly done by Zotero and no other application can do so well.
So for those willing to use both Zotero and Tinderbox, the problems are 2:
1) how to effectively import in Tinderbox the bibliographic references from Zotero
2) how to point to the attachments: the file HTML or PDF etc, stored in your file system.

pierfranco
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Lew Friedland
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Re: Tinderbox for Academic and Nonfiction Writers
Reply #10 - Jul 1st, 2012, 12:26pm
 
Thank you very helpful.  So now I have a note that reads (as a text string):
TY  - BOOK
ID  - 252
T1  - The new urban America : growth and politics in Sunbelt cities
CY  - Chapel Hill
A1  - Abbott,Carl
PB  - University of North Carolina Press
PY  - 1987///
N1  - 86040490
Carl Abbott.
Bibliography: p. [291]-327.
Includes index.
KW  - Cities and towns Sunbelt States Growth.
KW  - Metropolitan areas Sunbelt States.
KW  - Regional planning Sunbelt States.
SN  - 0807841803 (pbk.)
ER  -
I am assuming that one must set up a specific TBX bibliographic prototype that matches the fields of RIS precisely?   If so, can you point to how?
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Mark Bernstein
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Re: Tinderbox for Academic and Nonfiction Writers
Reply #11 - Jul 1st, 2012, 12:49pm
 
Let's move all this discussion of Zotero vs Bookends vs whatever to a separate thread -- Mark Anderson has already made a thread for this -- and return this thread to a general discussion of Tinderbox for Academic and Nonfiction Writers.

There's a lot more to writing nonfiction than wrangling over whether we happen to prefer Zotero or Bookends.
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Lew Friedland
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Re: Tinderbox for Academic and Nonfiction Writers
Reply #12 - Jul 1st, 2012, 1:38pm
 
Yes, happy to do that.  Although much discussion of academic writing on the forum migrates back to workflow.  The larger problem here is bibliographic management in/with Tinderbox, how much sync do we need between tools. When 50% plus of all notes refer to sources (and for most of us the threshold is closer to 80%) then this is a real problem that crops up repeatedly. As you point out, the specifics of tool management we should move elsewhere, the problems of flow, perhaps not?
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Derek Van Ittersum
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Re: Tinderbox for Academic and Nonfiction Writers
Reply #13 - Jul 2nd, 2012, 9:01am
 
I use Zotero, DevonThink, Skim, Tinderbox as well, but don't find the PDF management to be an issue really. Basically, all my PDFs are in a single dropbox folder with filenames matching this pattern:

author - title - year.pdf

Then, reading notes for each PDF gets their own folder in DevonThink named through the same pattern. PDFs are not stored in DevonThink, but they are indexed by it.

Then, when notes in DevonThink migrate to a tinderbox file (for a specific project), I have recently been using bibdesk to approximate the same function that is now possible with Bookends/Tinderbox. But even before I was doing that, I found it trivial to create a prototype for each source that populated author/title/year KeyAttributes.

Under this system, I don't have "links" that can take me to each source with a click, but I find it trivial to simply navigate to the source I want in whatever application (Finder, Devonthink, etc.).

For me, everything that ends up in Tinderbox is put there deliberately, which helps me use it as a thinking place, rather than a giant inbox (like DT). So, even if I'm using some reading notes from a source in a project, I won't dump all the notes from DT into TBX, just the ones that seem useful at the moment. Given the low volume of sources I'm working with (relatively I suppose, we're not talking more than 30 sources per project at this point) I don't see the value of clickable links for PDFs for my working practices.
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Christian Tagsold
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Re: Tinderbox for Academic and Nonfiction Writers
Reply #14 - Jul 2nd, 2012, 10:19am
 
Very much like Derek I do not depend on linking to pdfs and so on very much.
Pdfs go into DevonThink, Bookends is purely for creating bibliographies in the end while I write my papers in Scrivener.
I put all my excracts of what I have read the last 10 years into one single Tinderbox file just weeks before the possibility of drag & drop from Bookends. However, it was also ok to manage the task by exporting all relevant bibliographic information via a numbers document from Bookends and back into Tinderbox. The extracts came from rtfs which had lived in DT. Lately I have been arranging notes on what I have read in mindmaps in Tinderbox. This makes the information much more accessible for me even after memory has blurred on what I have read excactly.

So Tinderbox does mainly three things for my writing:
1. a repository for extracts from papers, books and archival stuff
2. a bucket for all sorts of ideas which come across my mind for future projects and papers (mostly a list sometimes evolving into some sort of map)
3. a mindmap for carving out the actual structure for what I want to write which then moves into Scrivener when done

These three things happen in different documents however and I have not yet found a compelling way to bring them together in one. Hence they are not linked very well. I even don't know wether it makes sense to streamline this process into one document… which might become extremly bulky anyway since it would hold probably about 10.000 single notes.
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