Jan 05 31 2005


The hard disk on the Tinderbook dropped a block in a very inconvenient way, at a mildly inconvenient moment. Nothing important is lost -- backups are good -- but workflow is a muddle while Disk Warrior rebuilds the directory, ever so slowly.

Meanwhile, read Jack Baty:

My recent experiment with Getting Things Done has been a huge success. With it, I know that everything that needs doing will get done, and sometimes even on time.

He uses an interesting mix of tools -- DEVONthink, Tinderbox, Moleskines, 42 folders. Using each tool for its strength is a Good Idea,

Jan 05 27 2005


What's really nicely thought through in iWork is the way its templates open with placeholder text and images. You can see what goes where, and how the templates are meant to work. Still better, the program becomes its own demo -- especially important when the program's real purpose is clearly to sell the hardware.

The template designs are surprisingly good. So are the icons.

Jan 05 26 2005

Roughing It

Mark Twain's elder brother had been appointed Secretary of Nevada Territory, and offered him a chance to come along as his own private secretary. It was to be an adventure of a few months in the wild West, but with the silver boom in full swing, Twain stayed for years.

This is a witty and fond recollection of a bubble. Twain and a friend were millionaires -- for ten days. Chastened, Twain got a real job and invested prudently and was about to sell out for about $100K in Civil War dollars -- not a fortune, to be sure, but enough to retire on if he chose. Then the silver mine stocks all crashed, and his stock was the same fairy-gold wallpaper that so many internet veterans own.

It's nicely observed. When Twain recalls the stagecoach and the pony express, he's writing about technologies that shaped the world but that lasted only eight or ten years before they were replaced by faster technologies with better throughput. The internet generation didn't invent internet time, it simply made it faster.

But George's [revolver] was a reliable weapon, nevertheless, because, as one of the stage drivers afterwards said, 'If she didn't get what she went after, she would fetch something else.' And so she did. She went after a deuce of spades nailed against a tree, once, and fetched a mule standing about thirty yards to the left of it. Bemis did not want the mule; but the owner came out with a double-barreled shotgun and persuaded him to buy it anyhow. It was a cheerful weapon.
Jan 05 25 2005


I'm going to be speaking at BlogTalk Downunder in Sydney this May. The other invited speakers are Thomas Burg and Rebecca Blood. The exact location of the conference, it seems, is so good that it's a state secret.

You've still got time to submit an abstract. 

A nifty new article on using Tinderbox as a personal content management assistant.

My biggest gripe with CMS applications has been that it’s not particularly easy to generate backups. Moreover, I don’t like having to do the majority of site production online. When my server ran in to problems I lost a lot of material. With Tinderbox you can start notes or features, collect ideas and develop them at your own speed without having to go online. Back-ups are easy. What’s more, Tinderbox gives far more leverage over your site because you can create new structures of information with agents. I found this to be a breakthrough moment and probably the biggest reason why I’ve decided to produce International Basset Hound in Tinderbox.

John Murphy (University of North Texas) writes:

I found out about Tinderbox last fall and it has transformed the way I work. I've used it to redesign my division's web site. I inherited the job of maintaining it from someone who created the pages in Netscape Composer. Until I started using Tinderbox, I did everything directly in traditional, handcrafted HTML. I started using the web for classes in 1994 and maintained my professional society's site from 1997-2002. Now I use Tinderbox, HTML templates, and CSS.

For this week only, the existing site and the redesigned site will both be available while the redesign is tested and critiqued, for those who'd like to compare them.

As I wrote in the "about this site" pages, I found the Tinderbox manual and the templates by Derek Powazek and Marisa Antonaya very helpful.

Jan 05 23 2005


Walking to Blogwalk was a challenge. About 1.25 miles from the El through cold, windy, unploughed and unshoveled blizzard to get there. And of course getting to the El was another half mile.

And now, of course, I'm stuck in Chicago, since the weather in Boston is frightful.

Chicago works well through a modest 14-inch blizzard, but Boston's getting two feet. My flight hasn't been cancelled yet, but it doesn't look good at all.

  • Blogwalk Chicago was interesting! The original emphasis -- social software in corporate settings -- wasn't the primary interest of most of the particpants, and the open format permitted and encouraged topic drift. This was good when it let interesting people talk about what interests them, and bad when we kept wandering back to off-topic but widespread anxieties like "how do I get the world to recognize the value of my weblog".
  • AKMA blogged like mad. We didn't get to talk; that's a shame. I read that he liked iWork, and immediately ordered a copy; software is like that.
  • Best distinction: feral weblogs (weblogs in the wild) vs. caged weblogs (weblogs behind the firewall)
  • Denham Grey suggested that the value of folk taxonomies lies chiefly in the tails -- in the very common and very rare tags. I suspect that's right, that all the rest will eventually degenerate into semantic mud. But, can we distinguish interesting low-frequency tags from typographic accidents?
  • It was easy to get people worrying about Bad Corporations that might dismiss employees who blog, but hard to get people to discuss why a Good Manager like you or me might need to fire a blogger.
  • There's a sense in this crew that the real action is Somewhere Else, that they're at the margins. Conjecture: all reflective researchers these days feel marginalized, even when their field is Technology Of The Year, on the cover of news magazine, and in every cartoon and TV drama.
  • People who work on collaborative software just want everyone to be nice. Me too. But we've been doing this a while now, and we keep finding trolls and snerts and rivals -- and in the business world, we've got plain-old competitors, too. This leaves social and collaborative systems under constant siege -- we keep adding plugins and interfaces and whatnot to block new kinds of spam and trolling and bad-deed-doing. Maybe we need to design for a world with Bad Guys; I bet we can find a way to do this without walling everything into little fortresses behind bristling security.

I'm hoping to write more about Blogwalk Chicago for TEKKA.

Jan 05 20 2005


Matt Neuberg on Creating Online Help with Tinderbox.

The folks at the paint factory are good with color, and if you need a hand with adjectives someday, I bet they'd be happy to help.

One wall of our kitchen stairs is painted in interactive cream. You aren't supposed to click the wall. It's just a name. Lots of interactive entertainment is like that, such as those heavily-promoted sports sites where they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to ask you to choose your favorite quarterback. I wondered why anyone wants to know this, but then realized that no one does and I felt much better.

The interactive cream stairway leads to a hall that is interactive cream on the side you can't interact with, that side being mostly out of reach. The other walls are painted in bagel. My first impression was, "this bagel is very pale; the full name of the paint must be goyische bagel, but they doubtless shortened it to save ink." But, actually, after comparing the wall to a Zeppy's bagel, I'd have to admit the wall is a pretty fair match. Except that the wall has no poppy seeds.

The doors in the hall were going to be maple sugar. The combination seemed good in theory, but it turns out upon further review that maple sugar doesn't go particularly well with the bagel and the cream. We should have foreseen the difficulty, but we didn't trust the metaphor. So belay the maple sugar; we're going to try mannered gold instead. Manners and mannerism are nice, too, and have fewer calories than maple sugar.

We're hoping that merlot won't clash with railroad. Come to think about it, this weblog is painted in railroad and merlot, so that should be harmonious -- at any rate, the clash should be familiar. The wood trim is all painted in a color I'd have called "white", but the paint factory calls linger. Doubtless that day's batch of adjectives had dried out when they made up the formula and they had to make do with a verb in a pinch.

I hope to linger in the kitchen myself someday; hot plates are getting old.

Marisa Antonaya has a second course site, made with Tinderbox.

She writes that she's received lots of nice email from people who have been trying her template in the Tinderbox Public File Exchange, and she's contemplating some more creative new designs.

Physicist Michael Nielsen shares some useful advice for people who travel a lot.

He's at the University of Queensland, so a lot of his travel involves long, long trips and lots of jet lag.

Optimizing Travel
"Troops from the US-led force in Iraq have caused widespread damage and severe contamination to the remains of the ancient city of Babylon, according to a damning report released today by the British Museum." -- The Guardian

Archaeological relics were used to fill sandbags, according to a British Museum report (Word doc).

Tinderbox users love journals and notebooks. And they love really, really good stuff. So, I spent some time hunting for a truly terrific journal we could stock at Eastgate. Here it is:

Journals from Firenze

These are really, really nice. Yes, they're also expensive.

But, you know -- what does it cost you to write a novel? Or a travel journal for your great grandchildren? Lots of hours. It's a big number.

Not writing is even more expensive: lost ideas, lost opportunities, lost chances.

So, if really nice Italian leather, spare-no-expensive top-quality binding, and extravagantly fine paper help you actually sit down and write it down, well, go for it.

Huygens made it to Titan, where no one has gone before (at least, not for a very long time....)

Can't find any imagery yet....

Technorati has a new "tag" page that displays popular tags and categories.

Charles Starrett asked Boing Boing, "can you use it with Tinderbox?" So, I ran up a simple macro, and now when I say


I get this:

and this entry should be tagged as being about Tinderbox.

Tinderbox Weekend Boston Lodging
Planning to join us at Tinderbox Weekend Boston, February 12-13? Some suggestions for places to stay are now posted on the information page.

Audible's library server seems to be down. Or stalled. Or the last iTunes update broke it. Or something else is wrong.

All I know is that I can't get the book I paid for. I've tried on two computers, in three browsers. And I've been on hold for 45 minutes.

My call, they tell me, will be handled in the order in which it was received.

Update: long call, much time on hold. They claim to believe it's a firewall, which it's not. They claim that they've never heard of Safari, though Apple's a strategic partner. No resolution. No apology either.

Jan 05 11 2005

Course Site

Course Site
Marisa Antonaya's new Economic Geography course site is made with Tinderbox and has a bunch of interesting features that Tinderbox makes easy.

  • suggested readings and films (with quicjk links to Allconsuming)
  • an instructor's weblog
  • modular, expandable course outline

Alwin Hawkins describes an adventurous yet simple Tinderbox mod that lets you grab lots of posts from a remote weblog.

Alwin will be at Tinderbox Weekend Boston, incidentally!

An interesting and aggressive slate of new stuff from Apple this year.

  • Loud and clear, Apple is saying, "We're not scared of Microsoft anymore." iWork says, "Word can no longer kill us", and the Mac Mini is cleverly planned to cannibalize aging Windows installations. It's not very useful if you don't have a monitor and keyboard handy, but if you're not happy with your Windows box, it's almost an impulse buy.
  • The Mini is interesting for schools with aging computer labs. If you've got a roomful of aging Windows machines, it's a thought.
  • Small is big. A selling point for the Mini is its 6"x6" footprint.
  • UI minimalism reaches its natural extreme in the iPod Shuttle. No UI.
  • It's working: the Apple store is jam-packed
  • I know, because I just iChatted an overseas TEKKA writer for reaction to the news, and the writer wanted a shuttle -- not more money -- for their next review.

Let's meet in Paris this Spring.

Why don't we try to pull together a Tinderbox weekend in Paris, April 16-17? We've got a terrific space at the American University of Paris. We've got just barely enough space in the calendar. Let's go for it!

Tinderbox Weekend Paris

Register soon, please; because space is going to be tight and logistics are complicated by distance, the early registration fee is likely to be a real bargain)

My travel schedule this Spring is going to be slightly demanding. A Tinderbox beta tester wrote me this morning, burdened with yet another fresh release: "don't you guys ever rest?" I'm going to be doing a lot of writing and software development on airplanes.

Jan 05 8 2005


Over in TEKKAlogue, Madison deplores a publicity stunt behind a new game, Playboy, The Mansion. Its developers are offering people a chance to be built into the game.

The rules: You've got to be 18. Could they perhaps add another, small rule? Like... keep your panties on, at least?

Elin agrees. I'm not so sure, though: if the people behind this stunt weren't Playboy -- if this were Gonzalo's project, say, would we be quite so contemptuous? Our reactions to Playboy are mediated by class (so downmarket! so prole!) and era (so very 1950's!); if you don't watch out, the brush that tars The Mansion also gets Peau Nue and Suicide Girls and "The Babysitter".

I've thought for years that there was a fine game to be found in the strategy and tactics of the Victorian ball. I'm not especially hopeful that Playboy has got it right, or even that they worked hard at it, but I think we might take a look at the work and see what there is to see.

Last night, I saw South Africa's Pieter-Dirk Uys in Foreign Aids. He's one funny guy. He's been doing a lot of work in schools, explaining AIDS to kids and trying to convince the rest of us that, if "just say no" is our final answer, then AIDS will succeed where apartheid failed. Sex happens.

If you're interested in digital storytelling, you really need to see The Kid Stays In The Picture. It's a well-made documentary, constructed with found footage, ingeniously edited.

Jolyon Patten tried Marisa Antonaya's Tinderbox templates, and now he gets what the program is about. Hooray!

Peter Wasilko integrates iCal and Tinderbox.

Fagerjord observes (ironically) that "all the nice web designs I know use photographs". This page is pure CSS: no tables, no images. (Best on a Mac, and best with Safari, but pretty good most anywhere)

Web Typography

Coudal does a lovely job on the typography of the book excerpt Cast of Shadows. Again, it's all HTML and CSS -- even the ornate headline is just type.

Web Typography

A year ago I wrote about the purchase of Progress, the Sony TR2 submini laptop that I'm using for Tinderbox development.

It's worked out well. Big enough, fast enough, and (barely) durable enough. It's even smaller than the Tinderbook, my 12" Powerbook.

Jan 05 5 2005

Active Developer

Matthew Eis discovers how quickly the blogosphere's tools help people connect.

Merely mention the name of his incredible program, and Mark Bernstein, the developer of Tinderbox comes running…

This is a good time to mention that Technorati now indexes keywords.

Want to be a Tinderbox Tutor in Calgary, Alberta? Let us know!

Apparently, I overlooked this intriguing survey of maps in hypertext fiction, from Marie-Laure Ryan.

The GPS applications  described above may be a passing fashion, and they will probably never become a dominant mode of textuality, but they signal the possibility of a reconciliation of real space, in which GPS texts are anchored, and cyberspace, from where they come to us. In order to reestablish  a connection to place, location-specific texts  sacrifices  mobility, since they can only be downloaded from a certain area. But if they renounce the postmodern nomadism of their Internet companions, they make us rediscover the world, by insisting on being read in the presence of their referent.

Texts that insist on being read at a specific place are not without precedent.


This inscription appears to say "remember who built this lovely building for you", but it's deceptive; apparently, it means to say "remember that the guy who built this lovely building for you was such a mensch that he didn't even take credit, but instead left the credit to the guy who built the old one that used to be here." Premodern pomo.

People have been doing complicated things with mixing image and text for a long time too, and coping with all the graphic-design complexities that entails. This is from Pergamon. It's now in Berlin, where I hear Sylvester had a nice party.

I'm not arguing that there is nothing new under the sun, or that new media were anticipated by old media. That's boring.

I'm not arguing that new media aren't new. That's boring, and we know it's untrue.

But finding what is really new in new media depends crucially on finding what we admire, what we find inspiring and exciting and important. If the most excitement we can muster "may be a passing fashion", perhaps we're looking at what is, for us, the wrong frontier?

Jan 05 4 2005


A sourceforge project has built a PDF of Leo Brodie's ancient classic, Thinking FORTH. Thanks, Sunset and Labrea!

FORTH was a remarkable little language of the prehistoric era which traded everything for concision. It had an amazingly tiny footprint -- you could squeeze an operating system, an integrated development environment, and a database application into a memory space smaller than a Web jpeg. In capable hands, it made for elegant programming on very small machines, and it's still relevant for embedded devices and for small machines like palmtops where every byte matters.

If you've been thinking, pondering, wondering, and procrastinating about Tinderbox, now would be a good time: Eastgate's got a very special price.

Get that new project organized for the new year.

TEKKA's news site (TEKKAlogue) has a terrific appetite for news. In particular, we need to know about interesting sites -- and why they're interesting. For example, there's Gotta Get My Stuff Done. I've got a bunch of questions:

  • Who made this? And why is it hard to find out? (This is a corollary of that common weblog annoyance, the Missing About Link)
  • Digital storytellers usually start from the sound track, and edit the video to fit the sound. I suspect this movie was edited first and then the sound was recorded to fit, and I suspect that one reason it's so funny is tied to this slight technical awkwardness. True?
  • Would this work as well (or better?) as a simple Flash animation, instead of capturing drawings in progress?
  • How does a nice little toy like this relate to, say, William Kentridge's animated sketches? I'm very unclear about the relationship between net art, art video, vogs, and ultra-low-budget film.

So, send the URLs, but send the questions too. OK?

Jan 05 3 2005

Marisa's List

Marisa Antonaya is also keeping track of her reading this year.

Perhaps we need a list of booklists?

She also reminds us to consider Bloggers Without Borders.

Jakob Nielsen's first AlertBox of 2005: Reviving Advanced Hypertext, returns to the past for good ideas and decries the time we've wasted "on dooment attempts at making the Web more like television."

Should I subscribe to McSweeney's? What do you think? Mail .

David Golding saw 117 movies last year. Here's the list.

Diane Greco has some new book notes (hooray!) I wish more of you would add book notes to your weblogs. You don't need to comment if that worries you -- though I find it occasionally gives writers an excuse for emailing you! Just tell us what you're reading. We'd like to know.

Sean Bonner watches 30 movies a month. Awesome!

Don't miss Pepys diary, since he always squares his accounts before New Years.

suppose myself to be worth about 500l. clear in the world, and my goods of my house my own.... But my greatest trouble is, that I have for this last half year been a very great spendthrift in all manner of respects, that I am afeard to cast up my accounts, though I hope I am worth what I say above. But I will cast them up very shortly. I have newly taken a solemn oath about abstaining from plays and wine, which I am resolved to keep according to the letter of the oath which I keep by me.