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Keeping Track of People (Read 15041 times)
Mark Bernstein
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Keeping Track of People
Dec 24th, 2008, 4:01pm
 
I recently blogged a call for interest in Tinderbox applications for keeping track of people -- historical notes, fiction planning, or simply recording family lore.

http://www.markbernstein.org/Dec0801/ATinderboxTaskKeepingTrack.html

I'd love to hear from you if (a) you're interested in this area, (b) you have great ideas of how to do things, or (c) there's something in this area you want to do, but haven't been able to figure out.
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Re: Keeping Track of People
Reply #1 - Dec 31st, 2008, 12:11pm
 
Mark,

I may try to use Tinderbox as I read through the Bible this year.  Part of that will be keeping track of people as I get through a book. I'll let you know how it goes, and what I find.  Unfortunately, I'm a law student...so this project will be low-intensity for me.  But I'll keep you posted...

Josh
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Alex Strick van Linschoten
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Re: Keeping Track of People
Reply #2 - Jan 1st, 2009, 12:56am
 
Dear Mark,

I read your blog post with interest, as I will be starting a project very soon that allows me to do just that.  In the past I was involved in creating a website (I co-founded AfghanWire.com) which made me think about information architecture and presentation A LOT.

I've recently converted to macs and to Tinderbox and Devonthink etc, so I'm reassessing all my old habits as regards notetaking, website presentation etc etc.

I have several new projects, but all of them require me to keep track of a complex range of key players (and non-key-players) in Afghanistan's political landscape (for a history book I'll be working on alongside my PhD).  I have a feeling Tinderbox offers a long-term solution to a bunch of probems I had this time round (I'm just finishing one book which needs to go to the publisher soon) so I'm sure I'l keep you updated as to how I'm using Tinderbox in my workflow.

Once I'm a little further in, I'll probably send you some examples of the database as perhaps you might have suggestions?  The only think I've been wondering about is whether I could have got Tinderbox to publish the AfghanWire website without paying a web designer lots of money to put something together...  It seems that I could have just used the web-export function.  You can read a bit more about the construction of the website here:

(sorry it won't let me post the link as this is my first message. I'll repost in a sec).

One think I often wonder about, though, is whether it would be possible to integrate tools like i2 Analyst's Notebook or UCINet into Tinderbox.  It's far above my ability to programme and behave on the Mac, but I wondered whether there were possibilities...

Thanks,

Alex
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Alex Strick van Linschoten
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Re: Keeping Track of People
Reply #3 - Jan 1st, 2009, 12:58am
 
http://www.afghanwire.org/AW2008.pdf  is the link to which I was referring in my post.

Thanks,
Alex
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Mark Bernstein
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Re: Keeping Track of People
Reply #4 - Jan 1st, 2009, 9:37am
 
Welcome, Alex Strick van Linschoten!

Afghan politics might well be a paradigmatic example of the task and its challenges.  A fascinating project.
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Re: Keeping Track of People
Reply #5 - Jan 5th, 2009, 9:45am
 
I need to do a better job of this--I'm using Tinderbox for multiple writing projects right now, and keeping details of characters has basically been one note, per character, with tons of info packed into the one note. I tend to write long, detailed bios that work better as a single long note rather than a collection of notes. But so much of what defines characters are how they relate to each other, and I would like to figure out a good way to link characters together in the notes, on points in the novel/film where their interactions are key. If that makes sense.

It also just occurs to me that I could keep a "registry" of real people who are helpful resources for research in Tinderbox as well. Maybe including people I haven't contacted yet but would like to. Right now they're all just in my Entourage address book.
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Alex Strick van Linschoten
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Re: Keeping Track of People
Reply #6 - Jan 7th, 2009, 1:57am
 
Seems you're getting to exactly the point I was interested in: links.  There doesn't seem to be too much online about links, or in the manual, so I'm not really sure how I can use links to my best advantage.

I have a copy of 'the Tinderbox Way' waiting for me back in London which I'll read when I get back next week, so I'm hoping there are some ideas in there.  Does anyone know any good resources or examples where links are being used?  I suppose it's not really the links I'm interested in, but rather what you can then do with the links as an analytical function...
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Re: Keeping Track of People
Reply #7 - Jan 7th, 2009, 5:15am
 
TB is a many faceted tool capable of use in very different contexts so documenting everything is an unending task. What are you trying to do with links - or rather what do you feel you ought to be able to do with links that you can't figure out from the docs? Knowing this makes it easier to help. In general, TB intends not to force you into a particular pattern of use meaning that there's often no 'right' way to do a task.  The 'right' method will be that which best reflects the task you're trying to do.

Are you looking at links as seen within the app or are they of more significance in an exported context? For instance, if exporting content (e.g. to your website) parent/child links and the like are easily created; in addition links between notes can be given link type names (differentiating relationship types) and classes (for CSS use if exported).

The links() action function allows you do use link traversal - with filtering by link type - to create set attributes; such set data can then be exported. A links() action might thus gather in a set the note names of all the people and organisations linked to note 'Alex' that are of the link type 'Afghanistan'.

If you've not found it already, see also the UsingLinks page on the TBWiki.



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Alex Strick van Linschoten
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Re: Keeping Track of People
Reply #8 - Jan 7th, 2009, 6:10am
 
Thanks for this message.  I'm temporarily away from my Mac until next week so I'll check it out and get back to you in specific about some of the things I mean.  One of the main things I always wondered, though, is whether if I make a link between notes, whether I have to link back to the original note (i.e. what difference does it make whether notes are both linked, or whether one is just linked).  And, depending on what you choose, what does this mean for how you are able to do things later on?

Anyway, as I said I'll get back to you next week.  Thanks.
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Mark Anderson
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Re: Keeping Track of People
Reply #9 - Jan 7th, 2009, 9:06am
 
Links have polarity (source/target) as is shown by the arrowheads when seen in map view. aTbRef describes links (URL link in my previous post) and that shows the degree to which TB can explore it's links automatically. I'd definitely read that before going further.

Quote:
depending on what you choose, what does this mean for how you are able to do things later on


In turn, it all depends on what you intuit ought be possible. What are you expecting the presence of a link to enable you to do? As above, if you throw out some ideas - even rough ones - of things you might want to achieve in your Tinderbox it might be easier to answer your question. Alternatively, it may be the case that you're mental model is based on experience with some other program in which case it might help to know what it is (assuming we've heard of it!); i.e. "In [app X] I can use links to ....".
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Re: Keeping Track of People
Reply #10 - Jan 7th, 2009, 10:08am
 
@Jeff (5 Jan). A default TBX has 11 predefined link 'types' (see here). You can customise these and add your own.  The customisable parts:
  • Label name (the default TB link type is special in having label at all).
  • Label visibility.
  • Link line colou - as seen on Maps.
Here's an example:

Note how the user has added a new link type called 'special' that uses yellow for its link lines.

If you find yourself wanting the same non-default custom additional links in all your TBXs then that's catered for too - look at trying user configuration files.

Having taken the mechanics above onboard I'd see you creating new custom link types for each of the types of relationship you want to establish. Bear in mind the same notes can be linked more than once; using the same link type makes no sense but Amy might both link type 'sister' and 'competitor' to David. Where such multiple (parallel) links exist, in Map view remember that  toggling visibilty (Link Types palette, setting global to all links of selected type) can help keep your view clean.

Currently link creation is user-driven - i.e. manual - TB can't make TB links itself; past discussion indicates this might change in the future (i.e. if some condition were met, then a link might be created/deleted, but as I say that's not in TB at present. On export, codes exist to allow hierarchically links and the like to be created. on export to mark-up.

One other thought.  If you're spinning your wheels, do as others here have done and post a small TBX exemplifying your working environment. By all means sanitise personal data (e.g. names/numbers), but letting others see the sort of data you have will help with making better suggestions as to how TB can be used to improve it.

Another way to capture 'link' data can be in a user attribute.  All David's friends could link to him via an 'associate' link but it might be that you could simply have a Boolean user attribute FriendOfDavid (default- false), ticked in the notes of his friends. In the latter method, to find all David's friends you use an agent to look for $FriendOfDavid=true. You're just 'linking' in a different manner.
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JM
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Re: Keeping Track of People
Reply #11 - Jan 9th, 2009, 5:05pm
 
You could use Tinderbox for genealogy. Just my 2 cents (in euros, that goes without saying). Maybe some users do?
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Re: Keeping Track of People
Reply #12 - Jan 12th, 2009, 4:55pm
 
I am in fact using it for exactly this, in a more historical setting. It is genealogy of teachers-students, rather than parents-children, but much the same. TBX has been very fruitful for this, and will hopefully be even more so if automatic linking gets implemented, as is being discussed in another thread on this forum.

Another thing that would help a "genealogical" use along would be to have a way to organize, to "cleanup", the notes on a map according to dates entered into a date attribute, such that such visual links between parents-children (teachers-students) is relatively cleanly organized. I don't think this is currently doable (?), but perhaps it is something we might be able to request for using TBX as a genealogy outliner/map-maker?
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Re: Keeping Track of People
Reply #13 - Jan 12th, 2009, 4:59pm
 
Assuming for a moment your date attribute is 'MyDate' have you tried the simple expedient of sorting the container on MyDate. Or, are your dates actually strings of text rather than date objects?
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Mark Anderson
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Mark Bernstein
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Re: Keeping Track of People
Reply #14 - Jan 12th, 2009, 5:09pm
 
One approach to Talal's cleanup question would be to set Xpos or Ypos to reflect the note's date, leaving the other map coordinate to indicate a different property (perhaps Name or Latitude).

Incidentally, Tinderbox 4.6 will make this somewhat easier.


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