Tinderbox End Of Summer Sale

The Tinderbox End Of Summer Sale has begun.

For the next few days, you can save $46 on Tinderbox. That's right: it's just $119. If you've been thinking of getting started with Tinderbox, now would be a very good time!

Maybe you've got a product to plan, or customer relationships to manage, or things to get done. Maybe you've just got some notes to take, notes you'll want to analyze and review and, maybe, notes you'll want to share. Tinderbox can help you do more, and do it more productively.

Aug 05 31 2005

Thinking ahead

The news sites and the blogosphere continue to react sluggishly to developments in New Orleans. There are real possibilities here for some extraordinarily serious consequences, many of which don't seem to be getting much discussion.

  • Gas prices, already high, are headed much higher in the near future. $4 gas is, apparently, imminent. Europe manages with even more expensive gasoline, but this will create hardship and dislocation. For example, when filling the family car costs $40 or $50, families are going to think twice about buying suburban and exurban houses.
  • Nobody has said a word about the New Orleans Museum of Art.
  • Do New Orleans homeowner's policies typically cover flood damage? Or not?
  • A lot of people with cars houses in New Orleans have lost a lot of property. Those that evacuated don't know how much they've lost. Some won't know for weeks. After October 17, bankruptcy laws become much harsher. Should people go bankrupt right away?
  • If New Orleans really is going to be evacuated for months, this creates an unprecedented policing problem. You'll have an entire city of empty houses and businesses. How are you going to handle (or even notice) the burglars? (Any precedent for this?)
  • It's one thing to spend a night or two in a stadium, riding out a storm. Spending a couple of months with 20,000 close, personal friends in the Astrodome is going to be interesting. For example: who decides who gets the best sleeping spots?
  • If you were sitting on a stock of oil (or a refinery), wouldn't you be tempted to make a killing by holding up your stock or lowering your production rate while the price is climbing, and then selling at the top? Remember, there are a lot of oil guys from Texas in high places...
  • Who is going to get the contract for rebuilding I-10? For the cleanup? For the levee construction program, which was slated to run through 2050 but which now is bound to be put on the front burner? How about all those oil platforms?
  • If energy costs and the (temporary) closure of a major city and port push the economy into a recession, will the Fed cut rates in the teeth of a big federal spending jump and the huge deficits that will entail?
  • How about a tax increase to pay for rebuilding? Say, restore the estate tax for estates larger than 10M?

Kathryn Cramer points out that the blogosphere is strangely quiet in tracking the story down in New Orleans today -- and it sounds like quite a story.

Right now, we're hearing about a SuperDome filled with 20,000 refugees who need to be evacuated. How? (Apparently by 475 buses to the Astrodome, where people will live for weeks. )

And apparently the I-10 bridge is gone. I seem to recall that that's a Big Deal -- the I-10 is the big bridge that is absolutely necessary to feed New Orleans' population. Of course, New Orleans' population is mostly out of town right now, but still...

And, reportedly, police are joining looters in cleaning out a Wal-Mart store.

The big news sites, as Kathryn points out, aren't getting much of the story. The Times-Picayune headline right now is "Will New Orleans Survive?" This is an improvement over the previous headline, "President's comments on Katrina's devestation" [sic]. When the newspaper can't proofread its headlines, things must be getting a bit tense.

WWL TV is blogging.

A 2003 review article in Civil Engineering gives a good overview of what scientists expected to happen -- including the 20 feet of water in the streets from a category 4 hurricane.

This afternoon was too hot and humid for much progress in Tinderbox for Windows, and probably my last chance to catch a game this year. So, I packed up the files for a couple of hours and headed out to Lynn to say hello (and goodbye) the the spirited North Shore Spirit.

They were playing the Greys -- a team that was supposed to be from Bangor, Maine. But Bangor folded, and the forlorn Greys have spent the year playing only road games. They're cellar dwellars, playing out the string; the Spirit are a couple of games out of first and closing.

What's it like to spend a season on a bad team in a very minor league, playing out the string on a hot day in Lynn? One thing got answered: these guys care a lot about the games.

Garrett Weir (North Shore's leadoff hitter from Brooklyn, a guy who just looks like a leadoff hitter) leads off the bottom of the eighth, tied 5-5, with a dribbler down the first base line. The runner, the catcher, the pitcher, and the ball all converge about half-way down the line. The pitcher picks up the ball and tries to tag the elusive, speedy Weir. Weir says "Ole!" and tries to dodge the bag. The first base ump says "safe!" The play stands.

The pitcher is livid; he thinks he tagged the runner. The Greys' manager charges out; he thinks (correctly) that the runner was out of the baseline. The kids are screaming mindlessly, "he was out! he was out!" But it's a devil of a call -- he was out of the baseline, but the pitcher was in his path, but then again the pitcher does have a right to field the ball, and there are probably rules that matter here that I've forgotten. (A-Rod vs. Arroyo was only months ago, it cost the Yanks the pennant, and I got that one completely wrong when I saw it.)

The umps convene a small symposium. They explain things to the Greys' manager. He dissents. They explain some more. The conclave resumes. The call stands, inevitably. The manager shakes his head and walks back to the dugout. I'm watching him: he's got a tough job, and he seems like a capable and intelligent guy. (OK, the Greys did sacrifice a runner to second in the top of the third, which seems a lousy play to me. But when you're won 6-17 since the break, maybe it's worth a shot.)

He gets back to the dugout, and he's standing there being unhappy when he overhears his catcher -- his only catcher -- who is now standing at home plate and giving a generous helping of advice to the umpire. "This is not baseball!" is the part I caught -- these are, on the whole, the cleanest-spoken athletes of my experience. The manager runs over, pushes the catcher aside, tries to patch things up. We all know he's too late. The catcher picks up some bats and trudges out to the locker room, stopping en route to offer the blue crew some additional recommendations.

This means the Greys need a new catcher, so their emergency catcher straps on the tools of ignorance. Sacrifice, grounder, new pitcher (a good idea, because the Greys pitcher is still visibly steaming). Windup, pitch, backstop. Garrett Weir scores, and the Greys' emergency catcher is covered in dirt and frustration. And he's got a big tear in his trousers.

And he's due up in the 9th, where he's overmatched against North Shore's big reliever, and that's the ball game. As the umps headed for the locker room, the losing pitcher stood on the baseline and applauded them for their performance.

Yeah, they care.

by Rudolph Chelminski

Bernard Loiseau, a poor kid and a worse student, was packed off at 13 to be a kitchen apprentice. He was a bad apprentice, too, but worked in a very good kitchen with some very good apprentices, young men who would grow up to be celebrity chefs. Loiseau joined them: eventually, he had 3 Michelin stars and an IPO. When younger and more radical chefs started to get more attention from his friends in the media, and when rumors started to whisper that perhaps the future might hold a mere two stars, Loiseau killed himself.

The core of this book is not the food (which Chelminski describes without any particular passion) or the Perfectionist's character (although Chelminski was a friend and feels badly about how things turned out). This is a book about the irreconcilable tension between the interests of the late 20th century critic and those of the audience.

Food critics -- notably the small cadre of Michelin inspectors -- eat elaborate and expensive food twice a day, every day. Truffles and foie gras are everyday fare, and something new -- tiny portions! strange ingredients! a light meal! -- is almost a day off. The natural audience for fine restaurants, places where a quiet dinner might cost a thousand dollars, has different interests and desires. By the end of the century, the gap between the writers and the eaters seemed unbridgeable and a gun seemed a good answer.

Aug 05 27 2005


Megnut's berry slump sounded good, so we're baking one tonight. I'm trying it with raspberries and individual ramekins, instead of a big bowl of blueberries. Either way, it sounds promising.

  • crispy salmon on a bed of french lentils with reduced balsamic sauce
  • grilled asparagus
  • raspberry slump

If you're stopping in New England this fall, don't miss Degas at Harvard, a big exhibit of Degas painting, drawing, photography, and sculpture at the Fogg. It's not a blockbuster show (no gift shop!). It's three rooms of superb Degas, including some wonderful drawings.

The bronzes are superbly displayed, too, in free air instead of the usual glass cases. To be honest, the two Arabesques were the first time I think I've really seen how finely modeled these are.

Amazon is offering a complete run of the Penguin Classics Library for $8000 (40% off list). Cool. Thanks, Badger.

Refactoring MapPane::Layout went well yesterday, so I took a couple of hours off and dropped in on the North Shore Spirit again. Walked up to the turnstile, got 3rd row seats directly behind home plate.

Playing second for New Jersey was Benji Gil, last seen with the World Series Angels. He's 32 or 33 now; Baseball has him with the Mariners system this year. But apparently things went bad, and here he is playing second for the New Jersey Jackals in the Can Am League.

It's impressive to see that a guy who is not far from the show is playing in this league and scrapping for a hit. I'd been impressed with the pitching, but I seldom see a major league fastball from closer than left field. These guys aren't the Sox and Cubs, but they're closer than you think.

I'd like to know why he's here. The bus rides must be long, and going 0-3 doesn't sound like tons of fun. A lot of these players are here because Sears Sucks, Crash. Some are here because it's A Shot, or because they get paid to come to the park. (But Gil had something like 10 ML seasons -- he came up as a 20-year-old phenom -- and though he never was a star that means he still cashed some nice checks) Maybe he really likes to play, and these are the best games he can find this time of year.

I'd like to know. I'm tempted to drop in again tonight and ask.

Connecting a Folder with a Tinderbox note

You can drop a Macintosh Folder onto the Tinderbox file button to associate that folder with a note. Press the button, that folder will open in the Finder.

This can provide a useful shortcut -- for example, a note about the Wonderful Widgets Account can provide one-click access to the all your files about the project.

I didn't know this until a new Tinderbox user asked how to make it happen. I was about to write an answer explaining that you couldn't do it, when I thought, 'Maybe I should give it a try, first.' Sometimes, your software surprises you.

Aug 05 23 2005


A few days ago, I mentioned that I was buried under class Hypertext, an important but sprawling class that's particularly hard to work with. It's been rocky. We've factored out a LinkManager object that handles links, and a ChangeManager object that keeps track up changes, and moved both to Windows. Several other methods have been pushed to better places or to minor objects.

Cleaning up the code makes it easier to port to Windows, and easier to test once its there. But, aside from some slight performance improvements, it's not going to generate much news.

We've been asking lots of students (some of them also happen to be distinguished teachers) about taking notes with Tinderbox.

While we're thinking (in the Northern Hemisphere) of going back to school, Tinderbox can be a nice tool for sketching out and sharing course plans. One particularly nice factor is that you can concentrate on writing now, confident that you can export your work to a Web site that will look the way you want -- when The Way You Want It To Look will be decided sometime later.

Marisa Antonaya sent along her prototype syllabus/course site, remarking that

Each [section of the Tinderbox file] is linked to a different template in order to give each of my courses (history and literature) a unique look. As usual, a few hour's design work is worth not having to worry about the look once it's done, giving me all the time I need to focus on content.
Aug 05 21 2005

Art Museums

Yesterday, we went to the Gardner to see Danijel Zezelj's drawings for his graphic novel, Stray Dogs.

Last week, a survey at the Peabody wanted to know how many times we visit museums a year. I have no idea. One precept of the Tinderbox Way is to write it down. So, here's a rough list of the art museums I've visited this year.

  1. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston
  2. Peabody-Essex Museum, Salem
  3. Art Institute of Chicago
  4. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  5. DeCordova Museum, Boston
  6. Museum of Our National Heritage, Concord
  7. Ogunquit Museum of Art, Ogunquit
  8. Alte Pinakothek, Munich
  9. Neue Pinakothek, Munich
  10. Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
  11. Museum der Moderne, Salzburg
  12. The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
  13. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
  14. NGV Austalia, Melbourne
  15. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
  16. Dahesh Museum of Art, New York
  17. Musée d'Orsay, Paris
  18. Musée Marmottan, Paris
  19. Fogg Museum, Cambridge
  20. SF MOMA
  21. DeYoung Museum, San Francisco
  22. Rhode Island School of Design
  23. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

That's more than I expected. (I bet I missed one or two, too...) I'm not an artist, or a collector, or even a student of art. At most, I'm a Sunday painter who hasn't been painting much for a couple of years. Hmmmm.

Software Development Methodology is traditionally the self-help refuge of failing managers. When development goes badly (and it generally does), some managers want to call in the consultants and set the rules and impose a method that Solves The Problem, without much regard to what, specifically, the problem might be.

What makes Agile Development interesting, I think, is that it reflects a new understanding of design, one that's been percolating through the arts and engineering for the last decade but that is only slowly gaining recognition. The aesthetic revolution of the early 20th century -- the embrace of honest materials, machine aesthetic, modernity, Bauhaus, Brancusi -- at its heart believed in planning. We'd sit down, rationally analyze what we needed (a house, a city, a teaspoon, it makes no difference), we'd draw up a superb design, and then we'd manufacture it for everyone. On the one hand, this led away from superstition and tradition toward a world where everyone can enjoy things that work well. On the other hand, this also led to five year plans and zoning boards, to Stalin and Pruitt-Igo.

The Agile folks begin with a rejection of software planning and formal design. In a world where everyone was taught to code to spec (and where coding was regarded as work for coolies -- a term once in vogue but now embarrassing since so much of it is currently outsourced to Asia -- the Agile guys said: just sit down and start coding.

Partly, this recognized the growing disconnect between what good programmers did and what they were told they ought to do. Partly, this was nostalgia for a legendary past of legendary programmers, as well as for the programming of our youth, undertaken alone and for fun rather than in cubicles and on deadline. Partly, I think, it's reconciling Scandinavian-model worker socialism with software; the Software Factory wasn't going to play that well in Austin and Palo Alto, but it's really not going to work smoothly in the labor environment of Scandinavia.

The core idea that makes Agile sensible, though, is that good and complex design can be incrementally created through simple, local changes. That's a new idea, a discovery of the last generation. When birds flock, they fly in complex patterns and formations -- but it turns out the birds don't need a complicated playbook, just some simple rules about following your neighbors. Cell differentiation, it turns out, leverages simple rules as well; there isn't a big master plan for building a kitten or a kidney, just lots of local rules. People didn't know this in 1960, just like people didn't know about evolution in 1860. They know it now.

Except for the currrent President of the United States, of course, who isn't sure about evolution.

The surprise in Agile Methods -- and, I think, the still-untested belief -- was its faith that code need not deteriorate over time.

  • New programs are well-designed. Their abstractions are clear and intact. They are relatively small. They are comparatively clear. But new programs also, by definition, don't work: they don't solve the whole problem, they haven't been tested in the field, they can't address all the customer's concerns because those concerns are still inchoate.
  • As programs are used, they begin to work. New features are added. Other features are improved. The software gains functionality. But each change blurs the abstractions and increases complexity. The passage of time and the work of many hands, not all of them equally capable, leads to tangled logic and gradual technical backwardness.
  • Old software thus inevitably becomes an entropic tangle of old technologies and old ideas, patched together in an incomprehensible mess that nobody dares to change. But the old software works -- it took years but it plays a vital role in the enterprise -- and so it's impossibly valuable.

The Agile people -- especially the refactoring folk -- think they can reverse this trend. Martin Fowler showed (in Refactoring ) that you could change code without making it worse, that you could, in fact, leave the code better than it was. Kerievsky shows (in Refactoring to Patterns ) that you could use those small, safe, local transformations to build large, High Design pattern architectures.

Aug 05 19 2005


Hampshire, the foundation underneath Tinderbox and Storyspace, has a class called Hypertext. A Hypertext is a collection of Nodes (notes, containers, agents, adornments) and Links; it's the base class for "a node-and-link hypertext system".

Of course, its responsibilities have grown over time. (Whose don't?) Right now, it's got 163 methods. Ouch.

This afternoon, I'm trimming the Hypertext interface by factoring out a bunch of specialized objects. A LinkManager, for example, will handle a dozen link-related methods; objects that use Hypertext but aren't concerned with links won't need to know about the LinkManager.

This will clean up Hypertext and make it small, lively, and testable once more. And that brings TinderWin another step closer.

But, in the meantime, every step along the way means recompiling the 147 files that depend on Hypertext, and then running the test suite on two platforms. Take me out to the ballgame.

Aug 05 18 2005

CDR printer

Does anyone out there use an low-volume CDR duplicator/printer? I've seen some moderately-priced units. I'd like to know how they stack up against the silk screened CDRs we currently use, and what the operating costs actually run.

Email, please.

One Big Text File
Lots of interesting discussion at 43 Folders about using One Big Text File as a GTD Daybook, inspired by a Giles Turnbull piece for O'Reilly. Doug Miller has a great discussion, too.

This echoes a familiar old debate: do you want one big Tinderbox file, or many focussed files? (Starting with one big file is always great; the catch always comes when mass piles up)

I think Tinderbox is a clear win over big text files:

  • You've got multiple views of structure and metadata -- maps, outlines, etc.
  • You've got fast incremental search and powerful regular expression search
  • Rules and agents can help manage and use metadata
  • You can easily export to big text files, OR to big XML files, OR to HTML, whenever you feel like it.

One Big Text File
Maps let clusters emerge gradually. Since you can always export to a big text file or XML or whatever, why not have maps and outlines, too?

The catch can be the particular file you're using, of course; if you are living in Tinderbox and you clutter the Tinderbox file up with lots of constraints and actions and stuff that you don't really use, then things can be slow and messy. It can be refreshing to pare back, or even to start fresh.

For example, I just built a fresh little Tinderbox file for the Big List of TinderWin implementation tasks. I'd been keeping these in my main Projects Tinderbox, where they were too detailed; to cut down on the detail, I'd been keeping some of them on odd scraps of paper. Odd scraps of paper are rarely a good strategy.

Storyspace 2.5 for MacOS X beta 1
The first beta for Storyspace 2.5 for MacOS X has shipped. There's still a lot of ongoing work under the hood, but it's time for feedback from the field.

If you're a Storyspace user -- especially if you teach with Storyspace and have lots of licenses -- you'll want to upgrade before Storyspace 2.5 for MacOS X ships. Why? Because you'll save money!

Winner! Sandy Color Scheme

Our frivolous and capricious judges have spoken, and the winner of the Tinderbox color scheme context is Jonathan David Leavitt. Dr. Leavitt gets this lovely Florentine journal, and we all get look at his color scheme, Sandy, now in the Tinderbox Public File Exchange.

Sandy adds a progression of eight new colors, nicely arrayed in tone from light to dark but also varying pleasantly in hue. This is a handy way to provide nearly-continuous feedback for urgency or importance.
Winner! Sandy Color Scheme

I especially like the way these colors work along with the darken colors in outlines preference, setting up a legible progression in the outline while also working smoothly and with variety on the map.

by Michael C. Feathers

Feather's adopts an extreme position on the definition of legacy code: code that doesn't have a complete suite of unit tests that support test driven development. This makes almost everything "legacy".

Still, he makes the definition work, and in the process creates an engaging book that presents one of the few good arguments I've seen that we're not stagnating, that software development really is making progress. Feathers concludes that the underlying issue that complicates and clutters all big systems is, in the end, dependency: everything comes to depend on everything else, and so maintenance increasingly leads toward Big Ball of Mud.

I've been intrigued by this problem for years. It's chronic in hypertext system design. You have core classes that represent core abstractions in your system: Hypertext, Node, Link. They're powerful, so they're big. They're central, so everything depends on them. Soon, every little improvement in functionality requires recompiling the world. Worse, improving one part of the system can conceivably break anything: changing the spell checker might break the registration dialog.

Sound like an exaggeration? It's not. Read my HT02 paper on Storyspace I for some of actual examples. You ship code: zaniness ensues.

Feathers presents concrete steps toward incremental improvement through refactoring and ubiquitous scaffolding.

After the museum, a quick trip to catch the North Shore Spirit, our nearby (very) minor league team, in a come-from-behind squeaker over the Quebec Capitales. Impressively, the game story was posted on the Web site by the time I got home.

For $9 each, we had 4th row seats behind the plate, close enough to see the grass and talk to the player in the on-deck circle. The baseball is good, the crowd cheerful and relaxed, and the players play hard.

Earlier this month, I mentioned that we were looking for some students who take notes with Tinderbox. We received volunteers from all over the world. (Originally, the idea was to have lunch with a couple of people from Harvard and MIT and Brown, but that's harder when you run from Austria to Australia. Plans change.)

We sent them a long, long list of questions. Answers are already arriving, and they're very informative, too. Lots of great ideas.

And lots of great stories. Here's one:

[Tinderbox] has helped me so much in getting my act together for this diploma - other new students are still having trouble finding their way around and I think we will lose some of them judging by their lack of participation. So many of them are saying they are overwhelmed. Without Tinderbox, I too would have been overwhelmed.

(If you missed the first round, there's still plenty of time to play -- and it'd be a big help for us. If you're willing, email me, )

At the Salem Peabody Essex Museum -- a big, delightful collection of the great age of sail and life in an early-American entrepot -- there's an major exhibit of the art of Ayutthayan Thailand, 1350-1800. Extremely well mounted, the exhibit is not explained as well as I'd like, but it's great to look at and has more documentation than you'd expect.


I'd be interested in suggestions for a readable book on Ayutthaya.

An interesting proposal for an extension to Tinderbox, using a pan-zoom interface reminiscent of Pad++, from J. Nathan Matias.

Aug 05 12 2005


Leslie Michael Orchard pays us a nice compliment:

I think that one of the greatest compliments I can give to Eastgate, Mark Bernstein, and Tinderbox is this:

On the few occasions I’ve been inspired to build my own clone of or cousin to Tinderbox, the first tool for which I reach is Tinderbox itself.

That's the idea, of course. Doug Engelbart was the first to point out that, if we're really going to get leverage out of our software, we need to think about software that helps us think.

'Create tools for the people with the ideas and then get out of their way.' -- Dave Winer
Is Software Development Getting Better?

Here at Eastgate headquarters, much of this week has been devoted to paying down some long-term technical debt we've accumulated, in the form of a monster class that handles the interface between text windows and the underlying text engine. Over time, this class accumulated a ton of responsibilities. It displays links in several ways, on several different occasions. It pumps text and images between Storyspace and Tinderbox and the text engine. It keeps track of special link highlighting. It adjusts links as you edit the text around them.

It's much too big, and it needs to be ported to Windows where many underlying structures are different. It's hard to test, so it's difficult to refactor.

It's been a big project, but it's gone surprisingly well so far. No disasters, no rollbacks, and no spectacular failures. There's never been a point where the whole system is lying on the floor in pieces and we're just hoping we can fit everything back again. And that's a surprise.

Why hasn't this project, which I've been dreading for a year, been excruciating? One reason is simply that we're all getting better as this. Moore's Law has been speeding up our hardware at a predictable pace for decades, but progress in software development has been harder to predict. Many promising tools have broken in our hands, and others seem mired in ambiguity and buzzword compliance.

This improvement is one reason I worry less than some about preservation issues in electronic literature. Once we decide we want to keep a literary work, the cost of reimplimenting it on new platforms declines with each preservation step. Systems that used to be the sole province of the very top Ph.D.'s will be implemented by script kiddies in a decade or two. (The PAD people think they can reimplement HyperCard on four platforms in two developer-years, or 1/3 the cost of Façade; they don't explain why they think they can do it, but it's an interesting data point that they think so.)

I've been reading a book about Working with Legacy Code that defines "legacy code" as anything developed without test-driven development -- in practice, everything more than a year or two old. I'm a software trends skeptic, but the agility/refactoring wave does look like the real deal. (I thought structured programming was a bad idea, back in the day, so discount opinions appropriately).

On RSS Tool, J Nathan Matias has a rundown on tools for keeping up with lots and lots of blogs.

Are you a Berliner? Join Ed Ward in a classic urban design game: Hide The Synagogue! (Thanks, Nick Palevsky)

Now, Meg Hourihan's been reading Almost French. She liked it more than I, though I liked it too. Meg was, I think, reading it for the French, while I was interested in the French but reading it for the Australian.

Also hot on Frenchness, Salon's Christine Smallwood has a lovely profile of Tereska Torres who, in the 1940's, found herself in the Free French Army and subsequently found herself the author of a best-selling and pioneering paperback, Women's Barracks.

Benoit Pointet has developed a nifty set of templates that export Tinderbox documents to PalmDocs.

Startling fact: the word, "shallot", comes from the city of Ashkelon (more), which is 40 miles south of modern Tel Aviv. From 2000-1550 BC, Ashkelon was the largest Canaanite seaport and, apparently, the place to go if you wanted extra-special onions.

People have long memories. (Thanks, McGee!)

Aug 05 9 2005

Facade Discussed

Steve Ersinghaus offers an interesting discussion of Stern and Mateas's long-awaited hypertext drama, Façade.

In a subsequent note, he expresses some frustration that the characters seem not to be paying attention to him.

The Façade web site says they've had 95,000 downloads. I'm sure they also have sold a bunch of disks -- including mine. I haven't been able to install it on Progress, but we'll get it done eventually.

Peter Merholz offers a thoughtful critique of Shirky's recent writing on tags, and concludes with an interesting simile: Clay Shirky as Jakob Nielsen.

Clay has pretty much decided to be to tagging what Jakob Nielsen is to usability. Vocal, bombastic, attention-getting, and frequently specious. Read his words carefully, because while his rhetoric might induce a lot of head-nodding, his arguments have a tendency to fall apart.

We should consider why our tech culture rewards -- and perhaps insists on -- exactly this rhetorical approach. If you're careful not to argue beyond the evidence and if you're thorough with your research, it seems, you're likely to be stuck as a respected but obscure academic researcher. Add a little more bombast and subtract a lot of restraint, and you can be a star.

Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art has a spectacular retrospective on Dan Flavin, an artist who worked almost exclusively with off-the-shelf fluorescent lighting fixtures.

This is not generally my cup of tea, but the impact of this large show (presented in a wonderfully large spaced) is terrific. These are sculptures about light, and the light suffuses the atmosphere wonderfully. Well worth the time.

A rite of passage at the Art Institute: the unexpected discovery that the family Lifetime Membership we've had for longer than I can remember expired when my dad died. It's a strange feeling: we've just always been members, and yesterday we weren't. (Linda and I are, again, at least for now.)


The whole question of reciprocal membership needs to be woked out more thoroughly by the big art museums. Back in the day, even if you were a frequent museum-goer, a membership in your local museum was probably the only one you'd need; you can put up with the line at the Louvre if it's a once-a-decade thing. The world's gotten smaller, and we're not less busy, and the lines at museums only get longer. It seems to me that one of the things that Boston or Chicago could offer its members might be a convenient way to get a temporary membership at the Met or the Musee d'Orsay.

Aug 05 3 2005

ELO, again

Alan Liu and a bunch of co-authors are thinking about preserving electronic literature. They write, strangely, that

Many early electronic literature works were written in Storyspace for Mac and will not run on Windows.

Of course, everyone knows that Storyspace for Windows has been available for a decade.

Do you take notes in Tinderbox?
Tinderbox is the tool for notes. Who takes a lot of notes? Students, for starters.

Tinderbox is designed to be a professional tool for people who need to manage lots of information to do demanding and sophisticated knowledge work. Sometimes, people forget how demanding it is to be a student, or how many long hours we demand from students....

I'd like to talk to a few students who have used Tinderbox to take notes. It doesn't really matter what kind of class: 4th grade or grad school. It doesn't matter whether you used Tinderbox in a really clever and subtle way, or just barely scratched the surface.

Just a few quick questions. If you're willing, email me,

Aug 05 2 2005

Scoble Observes

Consoling Molly Holzschlag, who has been dealing with a weblog flamefest, Robert Scoble observes that

One thing I notice is that most of the rudest are anonymous. I also discovered something else. The rudest ones are goons working on behalf of people or movements or, gasp, even other companies, and that they are trying to disrupt things by just being rude.

Here's yet another example: comments destroy blogs and bloggers. When stuff like this breaks out, you keep wanting to tell the trolls: "Get your own blog and write your drivel there!" But they won't -- because your comments supply them a better platform from which to sling mud.

Ted Goranson's masterful series on outliners, ATPO, continues with a close examination of style handling in contemporary outline applications. As usual, there's a rundown of new features in the latest software releases, including Tinderbox 2.5.

The latest version, as always, has a long list of new stuff which you can review on the site. Three features are worth mentioning in the Tracker context....

Goranson is especially intrigued with the interplay between Tinderbox and Dave Winer's new OPML editor.