August 16, 2008
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Getting The Story

Jolyon Patten, a London solicitor who specializes in complex commercial issues, writes today about a fascinating kind of Tinderbox analysis. Here's his problem:

I’ve had a thorny problem to deal with today, involving a case in the Philippines, where I had two strands of information: the first was what a party had said (over time) had happened; the second was what had actually happened, as ex post facto discerned from various sources.

As you can imagine, this sort of analysis can quickly turn hair-raising; you need to keep track of what happened, what people thought had happened, what people pretended had happened, and what people could reasonable have believed at different times. This is hard — contrast the wonderful concept demo from Adaptive Path that posits a “business problem” of reacting to a competitor who has called to taunt you about the impact that the weather may have on your profits — and it’s absolutely the sort of problem that people need to solve.

Patten explains that he

…turned to Tinderbox and quickly scratched together a document that allowed me, in map view, to use long, thin adornments to set out the relevant years, with different coloured notes for Real Facts and for Alleged Facts above and below the adornment ‘timeline’. Facts and Representations had different prototypes, with subtle colour differences, and it was easy to add fields as and when needed.

We've got a bunch of new visualization features coming in Tinderbox 4.5, which isn’t quite ready yet. They’re shiny, they look nice, but that’s not the point. The point is that visualization can help you see things you’d otherwise miss, and to discover patterns in data that would otherwise give you a headache.