Nov 04 2 2004

Blue Dawn

Awake almost all night last night, knowing that I'll be up all night tonight. But it was the hour of the wolf, and in the dark of the night it's easy to imagine the worst.

But I've already voted (no problems), and the morning news looks good, and tomorrow the sun might rise on a country with an honest government, one that tells the truth, honors its allies, and respects the law.

Blue Dawn

Win or lose, weblogs have changed everything. They'll be even more important after the election. Josh Marshall has been my guide to this election -- others, too, of course, but Marshall is the one I've relied on. Solid straight reporting. Real facts, real ideas. Give us weblogs, and they can keep Fox.

Nov 04 1 2004

One day more

One day more

One more dawn
One more day
One day more!

This weblog is in a blue state. Not the state of Massachusetts, though that's a blue state. I guess I'm blue, too, though -- since I think we're going to win -- I can't say that I have the blues.

I'm certainly in a state, as my mother used to say. I'm checking Josh and Atrios and DailyKos every hour.

We're going to win, but it's going to be hard.

Or, as I said yesterday:

But these are the times that try men's souls, and right now we're either witnessing the liberation of a great nation or the foundation of a great resistance movement that will -- no doubt after struggle and sacrifice -- defeat ignorance, superstition, and greed to free that nation and rescue the world.

Remember: vote. If you're not American, write your American friends and tell them what you think.

The Republicans, it seems, are going to try to make it hard for lots of people to vote. One strategy will be to tie up the polls in battleground cities, slowing things down so it may take hours to vote. Be prepared: if this is happening to your precinct, take some time out yourself to help. Bring donuts. Play with the kids. Run errands. Whatever it takes to let people vote.

Reaction and Relevant: Diane Greco (I should have writer's block like this) . JumpingFish thinks this is a "remarkably hopeful" note. Barlow observes that we're not that far from the Second American Civil War. When I first said this to my niece, two years back, everyone thought I was nuts. That's what they said in 1858, too. Alwin reminds us that Oregon is sensible.

Update: Kerry crowd picks up "One More Day" at final rally in Detroit.

Stuart Moulthrop's Victory Garden recalls that first Iraq war, and Dave Ciccoricco, writing in EBR, looks at its political critique.

A lot of this struck me as obvious -- I think the politics of Victory Garden and its tribute to Pynchon lie on the surface, where Ciccoricco seems to think readers might overlook them in the glare of Borgesian allusions. But Ciccoricco (who teaches at the University of Canterbury in Cristchurch, New Zealand) reveals an interesting and unremarked divide in the hypertext literature; many of the best-known recent readings of Victory Garden have been composed by non-American critics. Koskimaa, Klastrup. That's odd: Moulthrop is a very American writer.

Oct 04 29 2004


Whatever your politics, don't overlook Eminem's Mosh, directed by Ian Inaba. It's a very important new media work, displaying buckets of craft, and it offers real insights into new media.

First, it really is new media. It isn't Flash, but it could have been. The production values are intentionally accessible -- there's plenty of polish, but it's polish that you could manage on your new iMac.

Even the music argues, "You could do this." I don't understand Eminem; I'm more of a Bruce guy, or (truth be told) maybe Handel and Haydn. But Eminem's video literally screams: you could do this. Why don't you?


You could do this, but this is very well done indeed. Look at the detailing, the pacing. This is new media that moves. The camera is always moving, the things are always moving, but you can see everything. And note, too, how the video respects the audience; Inaba assumes that you don't need to see an image twice, and you don't need the camera to tell you to notice.

This might well be remembered as the work of new media that changed the world. (Bruce just changed the world, too; 80,000 people in Madison. Madison? For politics? We're in William Jennings Bryan territory, folks) There's a lot of fine work out there that doesn't have a celebrity and an election to battle for it.

But these are the times that try men's souls, and right now we're either witnessing the liberation of a great nation or the foundation of a great resistance movement that will -- no doubt after struggle and sacrifice -- defeat ignorance, superstition, and greed to free that nation and rescue the world.

Three days more.

Tinderbox is a great tool for notes, but sometimes you need paper. When inspiration strikes while you're waiting in line at the grocery or sitting with your seat in the upright and locked position, there's nothing like a 3x5 card.

Note Cards

But you need to have a card handy. You don't want to remember more stuff; you've got to write it down.

Eastgate's just got a supply of these nice little 3x5 card wallets. There's always a card ready to go, and there's a second pocket were you can slide cards you've already written, ready to scan or transcribe into Tinderbox. And they're really nicely made -- Italian leather, crafted outside Paris, they're thin and light and should last for a long, long time.

Oct 04 28 2004

World Series

When the last ball of summer settled into the Doug Mientkiewicz's glove, all Boston, it seems, reached for a phone. Sportswriters phoned their aged parents. Radio guys phoned their kids. I phoned Levine, who has been watching the Red Sox come close, and fail, since long before the first Impossible Dream.

World Series

It finally happened. Next year arrived.

Go Cubbies!

Rei Shimura , a youngish Japanese American antique freelancer who grew up in San Francisco and now lives in Japan, finds out some unpleasant things about her ancestors and their radically-conservative politics in the years before the Second World War. After a weak outing in The Bride's Kimono, Sujata Massey returns to form in this readable, intelligent, and interesting mystery.

It is now clear, though, that Massey finds the formal requirements of the mystery uncomfortably constraining, and that she's not going to be able to accommodate herself to them. The strain is already evident in The Salaryman's Wife, her wonderful first novel. There, as here, she's got very fine characters, a wonderful sense of place, an eye for detail. But she also has a very shaggy plot in Salaryman, and here -- years later -- we've still got more suspense than we need. I'm all for plot, but there's too much plot here, so much that we stop believing.

Personal note to Massey, cc: Paretsky, Kellerman: there's no rule that requires your protagonist to be in physical peril in the last scene of every mystery. Maybe you need this for the screenplay, but you can add that after they pick up the option and surprise your fans in the last reel.

Oct 04 26 2004

How To Help

Want to help Tinderbox? There's a new page on the Wiki with ideas of things you can do.

For example, VersionTracker tends to fill up with disinformation about almost all good Mac software. Some comes from competitors, lots comes from kids, some is well-intentioned but wrong. Take a minute and write something that helps people decide whether they could benefit from Tinderbox -- and thanks!

Al Hawkins answers a letter about Tinderbox from a perplexed user.

Maybe this will help: Tinderbox is an information processor, just as Photoshop is an image processor and Word is a word processor. One thing they share in common is that they have deep and sometimes non-intuitive interfaces. There is a huge market for post-purchase books about Word and Photoshop, because the manuals don't go into as much depth as new users need to wrap their heads around these complex applications.

New in the Tinderbox Public File Exchange: Jennings Aske contributes a sleek, simple project manager framework that combines a smart todo list and a daybook.

The last evident roadblock between us and Tinderbox for Windows involves a large, old, and much-used class called HypertextView. It's the common ancestor of all sorts of windows: maps, views, outlines, treemaps, roadmaps, and all the rest.

One of the reasons these views are all so powerful is that HypertextView provides services they all can share. For example, you can link to notes in any view -- including the Find dialog -- because they're all HypertextViews.

Unfortunately, that also means HypertextView is big. It's got well over 100 public methods. More than seventy classes depend on it -- and that means every change to HypertextView means all the others need to be recompiled.

This is not aesthetic, but we could live with it until Windows. Unfortunately, windows in Windows don't work like Windows on the Macintosh, and HypertextView assumes, deep down, that its a Mac window.

That has to change. Carefully, because we don't want to break stuff, we're breaking chunks of functionality out of HypertextView and putting them in their own objects. It goes slowly, because every change means recompiling 70 classes.

I just heard a Bush/Cheney ad on the Boston radio.

It was a lie about Kerry's health care program, which was annoying, but beside that, what are they thinking? Kerry's probably ahead by 20 points in Massachusetts, there's no senate race, there's no gubernatorial contest. What can this money possibly accomplish?


I thought that, this year, I would not write about baseball. A lot of you live in places where baseball seems an esoteric rite. And what could top last year?

Globe beat writer Peter Gammons started typing, 'And all of a sudden the ball was there, like the Mystic River Bridge, suspended out in the black of morning.' In 1975, typewritten pages were filed to the Globe on a telecopier, and it took six minutes for each page to transmit. Employing more than one telecopier, Gammons would file eight pages of new copy in 15 minutes. He was writing faster than the machines could transmit. -- Dan Shaugnessy

Well, now we know. Win or lose, the last three nights have been one wild ride. Happy birthday, .

Just one game, tonight,
To shine for generations.
Why can't it be us?

A Tinderbox users emails:

I am playing with Tinderbox, the newest version, looking at the attributes and there is the TitleBackgroundColor attribute. And I monkey with it and it works -- just as I envisioned it. I mentioned it in the Boston Tinderbox conference, you said 'We can do that.' and here it is. That's why Tinderbox is the greatest.

Actually, this took longer to get into the system than I'd hoped. Step by step.

Tinderbox features

Tinderbox can't GetRecentPosts from your WordPress weblog, because WordPress fails to implement the GetRecentPostTitles API.

That's a problem, because, without it, most servers will only let you retrieve a few recent posts. When you ask for a lot, your server runs out of memory and gives up.

I'm sure this is just an oversight, and that the WP folks will fix the bug soon.

Oct 04 15 2004

Writing it Down

Tinderbox gets a minor (but thrilling!) role in a very real-life medical thriller: Alwin Hawkins writes up "Chilling Out the Burger King."

Then I remembered some things I had stuck away in an old Tinderbox file. The act of writing them down - of typing them into storage for future use - had marked them as *IMPORTANT* and glued them into my personal knowledge base. The data popped to the top of my "stack" and I had an idea on how to damp this positive feedback cycle that had been set into motion.

Christopher Allbritton writes this morning from his hotel in Baghdad.

After yesterday’s dual attacks in the Green Zone, the center of power in Iraq is locked down, meaning no one gets in or out without a special pass. But to get that pass, one has to go into the Zone to get it, so it’s a bit of a catch-22. Bother.

And since it’s Friday and the start of Ramadan and the Green Zone is locked down and it’s too dangerous to go out and just roam around looking for stories, there’s not a lot I can do today other than make a few phone calls.

This is the reality of journalism in Iraq — at least if you’re Western. And since we’ve been under a semi-lockdown of our own since I got back because of Paul Taggart’s abduction, I haven’t even had a chance to get my legs back under me and find new stories to work on. The ones I have started reporting require access to the government or the embassy, which are closed and … oh, you know the rest.

Aren't you glad the President reassured us this week that so many good things are happening in Iraq? The complete disconnect between what is, apparently, really happening, and what almost half the country apparently thinks is happening, is truly frightening. Not just Iraq -- taxes, economics, science policy, environmental policy. Orwell in spades.

Doug Miller and Bill Humphries write about Category Factory, an unexpected discovery from Tinderbox Weekend SF.

Another interesting comment on Tinderbox, this time from Vlad Spears.

Tinderbox is one of those rare programs that becomes what you make of it. You can use the capable surface features just as they present themselves: outlining, conceptual mapping, free-from database, weblogger, etc. Or you can dive in and make it your own, which is akin to soaking up a new programming language or learning how to think in new and improved ways. As I’ve logically developed and progressed in the program, I’ve found the working methods I’m uncovering and creating in Tinderbox have grown outwards into the rest of my life. This is the mark of a serious tool.

Sometimes, I wish people would mention this stuff in places like VersionTracker and MacUpdate and Slashdot. But those sites, despite gaudy traffic claims, tend to be dominated by ill-tempered kiddies whose opinions are strong and shallow.

Oct 04 13 2004

Rocky day

It's been one of those days. The Tinderbox wiki is being spammed unceasingly, mostly from China; we're faced with spending thousands to try to block the spam, or shutting it down. I spent six hours this morning fixing a minor port issue in Tinderbox for Windows, a niggling detail that ramified all over the place It was a drag flavor you'll never know about, until it doesn't work. I got a series of dishonest phone calls from idiot telemarketers. The office was shorthanded all day. The Sox lost again.

This makes it all ok:

Their technical support is also excellent - they are simply the most responsive software company I’ve dealt with in nearly thirty years of working with computers and software.

A chilling account of a recent talk by the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, describes a phone call he received from a first lieutenant in Iraq. The lieutenant's platoon had been stationed outside a quite agricultural town for some time, near a granary. The granary owner had hired a bunch of guys to protect the grain; the soldiers and the guards got to know each other.

They were a couple weeks together, they knew each other. So orders came down from the generals in Baghdad, we want to clear the village, like in Samarra. And as he told the story, another platoon from his company came and executed all the guards, as his people were screaming, stop. And he said they just shot them one by one. He went nuts, and his soldiers went nuts. And he's hysterical. He's totally hysterical. And he went to the captain. He was a lieutenant, he went to the company captain. And the company captain said, 'No, you don't understand. That's a kill. We got thirty-six insurgents.'
You know what I told him? I said, fella, I said: you've complained to the captain. He knows you think they committed murder. Your troops know their fellow soldiers committed murder. Shut up. Just shut up. Get through your tour and just shut up. You're going to get a bullet in the back. You don't need that. And that's where we are with this war.

More details from UC Berkeley, where the talk was delivered.

Anders Fagerjord showed Tinderbox to students in his creative web communciation course, thinking that, while crafting HTML export templates might be too hard, they could use Tinderbox for brainstorming.

The students surprised him.

One thing I didn't expect: I showed Tinderbox to the students the first week, pointing to the basic logic and Web export features, thinking they might use it for brainstorming and IA work before moving to Dreamweaver and Flash. Well, two of the four groups are using Tinderbox to create the whole thing. It caught on.

Interesting stuff, from hurricane theory to Darfur.

Adam Feuer has new a new Tinderbox weblog and has designed a fresh Tinderbox badge:

He writes:

I like to think I'm sophisticated when it comes to hypertext software. So why did I find Tinderbox so hard to understand? It was humbling. Which is not a bad thing! But I was still clueless. Tinderbox was still too different from anything else I've ever worked with. So I let the program sit there and gather dust.

Then, I read on Mark Bernstein's blog that he was having a Tinderbox Weekend in San Francisco- he was going to get some people together to talk about and show what they did with the program. And eat good food, drink good wine, and have a great time in some cool little hotel in SF's Nob Hill district. More of a party than a training. I signed up, almost completely on intuition.

I mean, what am I doing paying $800 in transportation, lodging, and training fees to learn to use a $150 program?!? What's wrong with this picture? It didn't make sense.

But let me tell you, it paid off. I did learn how to start using Tinderbox. Those few handles that Elin, Doug, Mark, and others provided for using the program were worth the cost alone. And the paradigm...! I'm still trying to get my mind around the concepts, but now they're more inside me now rather than outside... and they are useful.

A cooking weblog that adopts a remarkably nice new format for describing recipes: Cooking for Engineers. Thanks, Kathryn Cramer.

Tinderbox Public Exchange
The new Tinderbox Public File Exchange is now online. It's a place for sharing Tinderbox sample files, small and large, simple and complicated.

Suggestions -- and contributions of new samples -- are very welcome.

Asilomar Tinderbox
Following last week's Asilomar conference, Jorge Arango posts a fascinating and detailed explanation of how he uses Tinderbox in his practice.

In later sessions, we take these notes and start grouping them. Usually, the grouping will arise from the discussions with the client. In other cases, the groupings are implicit in the content itself. In either case, I use decorations in Tinderbox to start organizing the content groups. I also start exploring links between notes, and understanding how they relate to each other.
... the real power of the tool comes in when attributes are applied to the notes....
... The end result is a rough sketch of the site’s structure and content. The clincher is that Tinderbox can generate entire HTML web sites from these notes, so site prototypes are fairly easy to generate.
To put a story onto a page or into Storyspace is an incredible thing. The hypertext story extends the tradition. Now to put the city in hypertext.

Panamanian information architect Jorge Arango is happy about Tinderbox 2.3!

Tinderbox is an essential tool for anyone who needs to organize large collections of disparate items. It allows you to organize information visually, and to create logical links between pieces of information. For people who are primarily visual thinkers, such as myself, it’s indispensable.

Victor Magdic has only been using Tinderbox for two or three days, but already he's writing elegant templates for exporting Tinderbox to OPML. He's doing this to build bridges to outliners and brainstorming programs like OmniOutliner and NovaMinds. And he's having fun!

I've only recently started using Tinderbox, and I'm very excited about what it can do. If my approach is over-engineered, let me know. It was fun to create in any case.

Alwin Hawkins has generously posted a gallery of snapshots from Tinderbox Weekend San Francisco.

If you'd like a Remote Membership in Tinderbox Weekend West, with all the handouts and the CD, it might be best to order it today.

Tinderbox Weekend Photos

Doug Miller discusses, "what is Tinderbox?" infinite box of index cards, which you can attach to an infinite wall. Now, in addition to those index cards and that wall, you have a very smart, very programmable, very fast robot. That robot can nearly instantly retrieve, sort, rearrange, and even change the content of those index cards at your merest whim. Better yet, it can memorize your commands and re-execute them on demand.

With all the interest in sample Tinderbox files, I think we ought to set up a Tinderbox sample site. Anyone have ideas on how to make it better? email me.

I spent the last two days moving Eastgate's server from Texas to Pittsburgh. So far, it's gone fairly smoothly. We know 40 emails went into the ether. Most of them were spam, but if I missed yours, do send it again.

Meanwhile, I expect that we'll discover a variety of breakage throughout our sites. The Tinderbox Wiki should be back by now. Tell us what's broken, so we can fix it.

Don't be shy!

Oct 04 5 2004

Wilder Tinderbox

Fresh from Tinderbox Weekend, Doug Miller posts a bunch of exciting Tinderbox sample files. Lots of great examples -- whiteboard, notebook, job search tracking, customer relationship management, and a Fagerjordian weblog.

Update: Ken Hagler offers a Tinderbox on concert photography.

Journalist Jon Buscal gives us a look at how he uses Tinderbox to track story ideas, writing he's working on, and articles he's published. You can download his Tinderbox template from his site, or from a mirror here. Thanks!

Tinderbox In The Wild

I'm always surprised by new things people do with Tinderbox.

Here's one I hadn't expected: Tinderbox: the tool for love notes.

Doug Miller has a thorough (and delightful, and very flattering) report on Tinderbox Weekend San Francisco.

Tinderbox Weekend West was absolutely fantastic. There's simply no question that it was one of the best conference experiences I've had, ever.
....Where for others who haven't used Tinderbox as long as I have the weekend was filled with 'ooohs!'and 'ahs!' as they learned about major features, for me it was more an experience like finding almost the last few pieces of a large puzzle, when you're too the point when a complex images is finally nearly completely revealed.

In addition, Ken Hagler has posted his notes on the weekend-- in Tinderbox.

We're back in Boston, and already starting to plan more Tinderbox weekends. Got an idea for a venue? Let us know!

Alwin Hawkins reports on the San Francisco Tinderbox dinner.

I ended the meal with a parfait of huckleberries and poached pears, the cool creamy sweetness of the zabaglione contrasting with the slight sharp acidity of huckleberries and the 'chew' of the pears. Three contrasting sweets hitting your mouth at once are like a flavor bomb going off, in a very good way. Elin said that they replicated the flavor of molteberries, a taste that she hadn't found in American markets.

The dinner came off brilliantly, thanks to Pat Delaney (who did the legwork) and the remarkably informative folks at the Rex, who did a great job of finding a great venue, in a specific neighborhood, on short notice. Lots of people, quite a big of really good wine, some lovely food, and lots of fascinating tinder.

Later, Alwin writes:

And as much as I love to blog using TB, it has so many other abilities that calling it a weblog tool is like calling it an outliner. It does those things, but that is not what it is and to look at it in that manner blinds you to seeing the whole elephant.