thinking in tinderbox


2008-8-28

The new release of Tinderbox 4.5 (which I sadly haven't upgraded to yet, but will), and a new PeopleAggregator client project has gotten me thinking about the "what is it about Tinderbox anyway"...

Mark Bernstein in his release announcement asked experienced user's to come up and help explain the ways of Tb. Why is it special, and how is it ... USED?

A lot of people have already written about this, myself included. It's not easily explained, because Tb doesn't HAVE "a way," as in a certain procedurl way of doing things. And that is it's greatest strength. You can use it any way you choose. And you can change you mind several times along the way too. Just put in "your stuff" one note at a time. Move notes around and arrange them in a map (spatial relation visualisations?), look at them as an outline, or search/aggregate them with agents (queries).

The thing I just realized while doing some code architecture thinking is this: I could show you a screenshot of my thinking process... but actually that screenshot is rather useless to comunicate the process. The final diagram is just that. I may (or may not) use it to explain my thinking and the resuting architecture to other developers. Yet the real power of Tinderbox in this case lies in enabling and expressing my own thought process. By arranging notes, finsing suitable titles, suitable groupings (I use adornmants to group), by destinguising between titles and narrative notes, by all this I iterate my own odeas and thought. By putting them down and arranging them, they transform from a vague cloud of ideas into a clear picture, into structure.

And there is one additional insight I gained today about my work with Tb: some of the 'limitations' actually help me think more clearly. By having to THINK about how to express the vague idea in terms of Tb notes with tiles etc... I am forced to clarify them. To find appropriate namings, groupings etc.

It turns out I tend to (consciously?( neglect the advanced Tb styling features like borders, shapes etc. If I wanted to use arrows, circles, elepses... I guess I'd diagram in Visio. But no, my my thinking is textual based, with spatial relations added in. I might use color, or rather dark/light destinctions. (I can't actually keep colors apart too well.)

So.. to sum this up a bit: to really teach you how I use Tinderbox... you'd have to sit next to me while I do. The output I prodice 'could' have been prodiced in any other (set of) applications.

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