April 6, 2003
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Decisions, Decisions

James Vornov, who has a weblog about decision making, received his new PowerBook last Wednesday. By Saturday, he'd downloaded Tinderbox and Aquamind's NoteTaker, and was trying to make up his mind. He found Tinderbox more challenging:

Tinderbox is nowhere near as transparent. It's probably a function both of the deeper, more abstract metaphor and the opaque nature of the presentation that I see online.

But, he thinks he's willing to accept the burden of complexity if it will let him work more effectively.

At this point, it seems like Tinderbox will suit me more. as long as I can build up knowledge of its functionality slowly over time. I'll probably use my "Getting Things Done" organizational style to create a map of projects and file plans

I think Vornov succinctly displays two important keys to a better software lifestyle. First, deep products are not transparent: a simple tool can explain itself quickly, but a deep tool (like a deep pool) can only show you its surface at first glance. The plea, "Don't make me think!", only works at the shallow end of the pool. Sometimes, wading is fine, but at other times deep water is what you want, and you've got to swim.

Just as important is the determination to use deep software continuously and continuously to improve your knowledge. Andrea di Sessa (co-author of Turtle Geometry, one of the landmarks of computers in education) used to talk about the importance of continuous incremental advantage. You don't need to understand Tinderbox (or Word, or Keynote) completely to use it everyday. It's important, though, to keep learning, to improve your skills.