Tinderbox 2.5 compresses the images you paste into notes. That's usually the best approach: after all, these are notes. Your originals are someplace else, in full hi-res glory.

But that creates a headache for the Web: what if you want a high-quality image on the Web but also want to paste a thumbnail into Tinderbox? Tinderbox 2.5 leaves it up to you: you're free to tell Tinderbox:

Leave those images I put on the Web untouched -- don't replace them with your own!

So, everyone is happy.

"But I don't like raw zucchini!", Linda reminded me, as I julienned the zucchini for Clotilde's Salade de Courgette et Poulet au Vinaigre de Framboise. I had no good ideas for last night's dinner, Clotilde's recipe looked nice, and I happened to have a very nice bottle of strawberry balsamic in the pantry.

That reminded me that I don't much like raw zucchini, either.

This turned out well, surprisingly enough, and without recourse to emergency trips to a local restaurant. Zucchini, I think, works better in matchsticks than in slices, if only because slices keep suggesting cucumber to me and zucchini, whatever its virtues, is not cucumber. I didn't happen to walk by Clotilde's Parisian rotisseries where you can get inexpensive chickens left over from lunch, alas, but I sauteed a couple of breasts and, for once, absolutely nailed the turning and burning.

Jul 05 29 2005

Spernau's Cloud

Martin Spernau has a brief note about using Tinderbox to keep track of a cloud of ideas. Good screenshot.

Dave Winer's new OPML editor for Windows has shipped. Congratulation, Dave!

It's a free download. OPML is a XML format for outlines; Dave invented outlines and the new editor does nifty things with shared outlines over the Web.

Yes, Tinderbox reads OPML, and it's easy to export OPML from Tinderbox, too.

Tinderbox 2.5 lets you save and share color schemes -- little XML files that change the colors you use. Painters learn quickly that "red" is a very relative concept: the right, bright red here is not the right bright red there. Tinderbox lets you add colors, and also lets you redefine them.

Here, for example, are some old conference notes, rendered with colors sampled from Monet's 1894 le portail et la tour Saint-Romain.

Color schemes
(click for larger view)
Color schemes

And here's the same map in the standard color scheme. Changing color schemes isn't a great breakthrough, but it can make Tinderbox a little nicer to use. It's not just chart junk: I often use color schemes to remind me about context. One color scheme for my Projects file, another for Tinderbox ToDo, and yet another for my Daybook. It all helps save strain, which keeps you focussed on the things on which you need to focus.

Want to try the Monet scheme? You can download it here; just drop it into your Tinderbox maps using the new Tinderbox 2.5 or later.

Color schemes

You could win this journal! Have a good color scheme to share with the Tinderbox Public File Exchange? Send it here. The author of the favorite color scheme we receive by 15 August 2005 will get a lovely little Florentine journal! (Decisions of our frivolous and capricious judges will be final)

Jul 05 26 2005


There's a big article on Tinderbox and related technology in Sunday's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (July 24), Agent Luhmann, übernehmen Sie! by Jakob Klein. (Available on the net for €1.50, apparently)

Jul 05 23 2005

Cherry Pie

Two separate notes this morning came to the same conclusion about clafoutis: if you're making it at home, don't pit the cherries. (Restaurants need to worry about incautious diners, but you'll be careful, won't you?)

Gareth Renowden, a New Zealand truffle farmer, was the first to write. His latest post describes truffle pizza. Hmmmm.

S. Irene Virbila, who is restaurant critic for the L. A. Times, also advises us to leave the cherries whole.

"You don't have to pit the cherries: in fact, it will taste better if you don't. Part of the pleasure in this rustic dessert is rolling the stones around in your mouth and sucking off every bit of cherry juice.

"I once was staying with a friend in the Dordogne: her elderly mother lived in a small detached building. When I went over to visit, this blind woman in it must have been her late eighties had a clafoutis in the oven. She'd baked them every cherry season for so many years, she could tell when it was done by the smell (which is true, by the way)."

Jul 05 22 2005

Tinderbox Ideas

Martin Spernau has a number of interesting posts lately, including visual outlining in Tinderbox and a Tinderbox for designing a Tarot deck!

The tag has been really active lately, largely because a couple of Tinderbox users are collecting links to everything insight.

Social bookmarking at its best. tag:
Lust at High Speed

One of the cornerstones of the Storyspace test suite is a routine that explores Mary-Kim Arnold's classic hypertext, "Lust". In addition to being a wonderfully-written hypertext, "Lust" offers a baroque array of guard fields, the dynamic links that let Storyspace vary the link behavior to take into account what you've already seen.

Guard fields are indispensable in large hypertext narrative, and (as "Lust" shows) very useful even in short hypertexts. On the Web, you're stuck with javascript or breadcrumbs.

The test routine starts at the beginning, chooses one of the text links, and then starts following default links. We know where it should go; does it follow the expected path? If it does, we can be pretty sure that Storyspace guard fields are working right!

The new Storyspace 2.5 for MacOSX is so fast that it zooms through "Lust" I noticed more than a momentary flicker on the screen.

There were two papers on "Lust" at Hypertext 2004 last year. (Higgason, Bernstein) (Here's another copy of my pdf)

Storyspace 2.5 for MacOS X: First Build

One reason we're so busy at Eastgate right now is a big push to integrate all the recent changes in the Tinderbox infrastructure -- the beams and pipes that connect everything together -- into Storyspace.

The result will be called Storyspace 2.5 for MacOS X, and a test release should be available soon.

Today was a big milestone. We had Storyspace completely disassembled, in parts spread all over the floor. We plugged in lots of new classes, mostly products of Tinderbox refactoring. We packed it all up again; today, we got a clean build in the new environment.

Storyspace 2.5 is a transitional release. Think of it as "old Storyspace made new." It uses traditional Storyspace files, but it's built on lots of shiny new technology.

The clafoutis recipe calls for just a pound and a half of cherries, and it's cherry season. Easy as pie.

(time passes)

Well, maybe not. After pitting a pound an d a half of cherries, the kitchen looked a bit like a butchery. Good thing I remembered the apron today. It seems I need a cherry pitter: any advice on which? (Who knew that there were such things, much less so many different kinds?)

Can He Bake A Cherry Pie?

The last time I did something quite this messy with fruit was a long time ago, at a Quaker Center I was visiting for a weekend with a friend who was a Friend. (She was an ex-girlfriend who was such a good friend that she carefully thought through who should be my next girlfriend, and here we are some decades later sitting down in our house to eat clafoutis. I attended a Quaker college, which means wordplay on 'friend' is part of the core curriculum. Yea, morals matter.)

Elsner would be dismayed to find that the lyrics to 'Yea, morals matter' appear to occur nowhere on the Web. The shame!

Anyway, the Quaker Center involved helping out with lots of nice plain meals and lots of dirty dishes, and one long afternoon picking and shelling walnuts from one of their walnut trees.

There are probably messier things than shelling walnuts, but none come readily to mind.

Jul 05 17 2005


Automator, a new feature in MacOS X 10.4, is very handy for scripting routine tasks. If you could write a script but you just can't seem to get around to it, Automator might be a better choice.

AutomatorWorld is nice, too.

Categories and topics and tags are great, if you remember to use them. But everyone's busy, and sometimes it's tempting to hit publish right now and spread the news, leaving things unsorted. Or, worse, you toss the post into some convenient bin, but later that turns out to be the wrong bin. How many people go back and clean up their weblog category assignments?

Tinderbox can help.

You can set an agent to look for things in its category, or for things that aren't categorized at all but that probably should be:

Query: Topic=WebDesign | URL(aListApart) | Text(CSS) | Text(Corbusier)

Action: Topic|=WebDesign

This finds all your Web Design notes, plus any notes sources from A List Apart as well as any notes that mention CSS or Le Corbusier and gathers them on a category page. And, if it turns out that some of these notes are uncategorized, Tinderbox tags them in Web Design.

Hint: TEKKA is looking for good notes about using Tinderbox. TEKKA pays. We're also looking for speakers for Tinderbox Weekend. Email Elin Sjursen with story ideas.

Jim Moore, explaining why he's got a venture fund that concentrates on RSS, draws an interesting portrait of an emerging ecosystem. Outlining some broad categories of ecological niches (diurnal scavengers, large carnivores), he identifies an interesting one:

Small, 'one server' companies are becoming essential services:  Bloggdigger,,

I'd always thought that one-server was merely a stepping stone or an affliction. Looking back, when Blogger turned into a machine in a borrowed closet with a quarter of a million customers and no revenue, that was just an anomaly. Blogger needed to be bigger than that, and when it got the cash to be bigger, it got better.

But some valuable services belong at the one-server scale. is a terrific B-to-B service. It wouldn't be better if it did more: it just does enough.

Also relevant is Peter Merholz's talk, yesterday, about Designing for the Sandbox. Back in the old days, Web organizations like Yahoo and AltaVista cluttered up their page (and their business) by adding more and more, vainly trying to get people to stick. Meanwhile, Google just did one thing, and communicated that focus by remaining, in essence, a single box on a single page.

At the same time, people used to prophecy the doom of Amazon when they branched out from books. But selling other stuff wasn't a diversion, because books weren't Amazon's business. Amazon was built to retail lots of SKUs: when you're a bookseller, you need to have a lot of different books to sell because everyone wants something different.

I'm reading Michael Feathers' Working Effectively with Legacy Code . It's a readable book that addresses a very technical problem: how can we best use our newest programming techniques with old code?

When I think of legacy code, I think of mountains of COBOL and heaps of FORTRAN. Even early C++ programs, written before modern C++ idioms were discovered and before inheritance was really understood.

But when Feathers thinks of "legacy" code, he means "code that isn't test driven". Meaning, in practice, just about all programs that are more than a couple of years old, and (I bet) plenty of systems written yesterday.

Jul 05 16 2005

Winer Feast

Last night, Dave Winer's OPML roadshow came to Boston in a standing room only debut at the Berkmann center. Beyond standing room only; people were backed into the hallway, onto the stairs. VC's sitting on the floor.

Interesting dinner afterwards. Lisa Williams spoke about categories and blogging with the Dewey Decimal System. I'd have emailed her, but neither of her blogs seems to have contact information.

Memo to the world: spam happens. You're gonna get a lot of spam, whatever you do. That battle is over. You can stop being coy about your email addresses.

It was fun sitting between Aaron Swartz, who is spending the summer building an intriguing startup, and Jim Moore, who is investing (and who has some great ideas about the importance of reframing in knowledge work).

Lisa has a good account of the Winer demo.

Jul 05 14 2005

Ming? Adderley?

Laurie King's new mystery, Locked Rooms, is a delight.

Mary Russell and her husband, the old but active Mr. Holmes, stop off in San Francisco on their way home from India (where, last year, they met Kim). Things get complicated. They meet some interesting San Franciscans.

One of these Yanks is a young Pinkerton named Dashiell. Fair enough. (There's also a brief appearance by an old, small, and heavy statue of a bird from some Mediterranean island or other.) It's a lot of fun.

But there are two characters I couldn't place, and should. One is a delightful old lady, a Miss Adderley, who I finally figured out is the author's great grandmother. The other is a leading citizen of Chinatown and Feng Shui expert, one Dr. Ming. Who is he?

Update: Charlie recalls that Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon and Ming The Merciless) drew a comic strip called Secret Agent X-9, written by Dashiell Hammett (amazon ). Hugh Nicoll speculates that Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee might be involved.

I spent an 16-hour coding day, yesterday, building your next weblog.

I hope that's not a typo.

What we're working on right now is a project I'm calling Flint, a new weblog assistant for Tinderbox that generates a whole family of weblogs. You'll have a bunch of color and layout choices, right out of the box.

And Flint comes loaded with macros and options. There's a flickr macro that grabs some images. There's an Amazon macro that makes Amazon associate links. There's a macro that grabs your latest bookmarks.

Flint has Fagerjordian links, so you can really use your archives.

Flint has smart categories. You assign posts to a category with a pull-down menu. But what if you're too busy? No problem: your category agents can look for uncategorized notes with key words and phrases and classify them automatically!

And lots more.

You'll be able to drag those macros into other Tinderbox documents, too!

Last weekend, we had a barbecue, and then another barbecue.

Dessert the first night was a chocolate pecan tart. It begins with a big 8oz chunk of Valrhona's Manjari chocolate, roughly chopped by hand. Boil 2 cups of heavy cream, pour that over the chocolate, wait five minutes. Then stir in 2 egg yolks, a little vanilla, and 5oz of just-toasted pecans.

Pour the mixture into a baked tart shell (thereby hangs a tale for another day, since this was my first attempt at a tart crust) and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Seriously chocolate.

Also effective was the appetizer of grilled flatbread, topped with garlic-chile oil, grilled dates, and a little goat cheese.

Jul 05 11 2005


Last night at the A.R.T., we saw Gideon Lester's Amerika. A superb end to a very good ART season indeed -- perhaps the best in years.

It's wonderful how Kafka (like Brecht) managed to get so much wrong about life in the US, and still got something exactly right.

Sarah Agnew is Fanny -- a sort of shadow for new immigrant Karl Rossmann. Her role involves lots of exposition -- Lester uses Fanny to clamber over the chasm between novel and theater -- and also requires her to be onstage almost continuously without being able to engage any of the other characters. With a lesser actress or a lesser director (Dominique Serrand is good) it might be a clumsy device. It works.

Nathan Keepers, Deborah Knox, Sarah Agnew. Photo: T. Charles Erickson.

Matt Kirschenbaum points to, and refutes, a foolish essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education that describes ways that some academic bloggers hurt their chances to land a job at Professor Tribble's small, midwestern college.

Tribble (a pseudonym) says that some academic bloggers published things they shouldn't have written, or revealed too much about their interests: in one shocking piece of closed-minded bigotry, he seems to say his department decided not to hire a candidate who seemed to know too much about computers.

It's one thing to be proficient in Microsoft Office applications or HTML, but we can't afford to have our new hire ditching us to hang out in computer science after a few weeks on the job.

Kirschenbaum asks,

Would all academic bloggers reading this consider posting a comment or a trackback entry about some specific professional dividend that their online presence in the blogosphere has garnered for them?

Notice that all of Tribble's arguments are, essentially, arguments against publication. I used to worry about this a lot: what happens if you publish something that turns out to be mistaken? After all those years of people talking about your Permanent Record in school, well, publication really is your permanent record.

We all know how important a low profile can be to a successful career in the humanities. Look at Camille Paglia. Sandy Stone. Umberto Eco -- all those film reviews and political editorials and whatnot sure hurt him, didn't they?

At Eastgate, we're working on a next-generation Tinderbox weblog template assistant. It's going to have some nice new things:

  • pluggable looks
  • powerful and easy macros
  • lots of special tools
  • modern Web standards

If there's something you'd like to do with a Tinderbox weblog but haven't quite gotten around to, send us an email. Perhaps we can add it to the project.

We're also happy to hear about weblogs that just look terrific.

A note about an advanced (but useful) Tinderbox technique...

Most often, you use Tinderbox rules to enforce constraints. Things like, "make sure all the urgent things are bright red", or "If we don't know the priority of this change request, and it's part of a bigger package of changes, then use the priority of the whole package."

But you can also use rules to force Tinderbox to be a little bit smarter.

For example, lets you request HTML snippets that you can paste on your web site by putting together a simple URL -- something like this:

where your_account is your account name. Easy enough! We can just put our account into the URL of a note, turn on AutoFetch, and we've got today's snippet. Dandy!

But suppose we don't want to edit the URL. We could pick up the account name from another note:


This means, "go find the note inside the container named Configuration, because we want to know the Account name stored there."

Of course, we can't just paste that into a URL. How would Tinderbox know that ^getFor was an instruction to Tinderbox and not part of the URL?

But I can easily synthesize the URL in a rule:

URL= ^getFor(/Configuration/,Account)^?count=5

The next time the rule runs, it sets the URL. If we change accounts and someone updates the Configuration note, the rule will pick up the change and immediately fix up the URL. Nice!

Tinderbox is still on sale for just $128, but the sale ends soon.

Jon Buscall writes:

I can’t decide what it is I love most about the latest version of Tinderbox. There’s so much going on and I’m still exploring. I definitely think the speed bump and image compression has improved things. I also love the shaded prototype icons. But most of all ..

A customer sent us an OPML file with the following XML processing directive:


My parser says "this is illegal", bailing at the '=' sign -- presumably because the target of a processing directive can only contain letters, numbers, and underscores.

Am I right?

Interested in a nifty way to share some of the goodness of Tinderbox maps embedded in Web pages? Leslie Orchard (decafbad) has a prototype with some intriguing technology. If you're interested in developing this further, I bet he'd be receiptive!

Today's Boston Globe editorial:

WHEN IN the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these Rights...

Vlad Spears has updated his tools for Tinderbox RSS 2.0 and Atom feeds to work with Tinderbox 2.5 . (Tinderbox's rules for quoted strings were revised in the new release, requiring some tweaks for validation.)

Doug Miller writes that "the main reason I've been late in mentioning" Tinderbox 2.5 "is because I'm using Tinderbox so much."

In my new role, I'm having to 1) attend a lot more meetings and take a lot more notes, and 2) write up proposals and research white papers. I'm doing all of my writing in Tinderbox because it's simply the best writing environment available. It's easy to integrate those meeting notes, material gleaned online, and my own writing into a single document, and then with a keystroke export all that material into a nicely formatted HTML document

Lots of interesting ideas here.

You can now pre-register for Tinderbox Weekend San Francisco, November19-20.

You can also sign up for Tinderbox Weekend Seattle!

We're going to have two great events. Lots of sessions, lots of topics. Tinderbox in health care, in tech writing, in business. Plenty of introductory stuff, but also some exciting sessions on cutting-edge topics. Lots of new Tinderbox fun.

Some early comments on Tinderbox 2.5 from the Tinderbox News Page.

One of the interesting additions to Tinderbox 2.5.0 is that agents no have a priority. In particular, you can tell an agent to run only occasionally, or to run only when things absolutely must be up to date (e.g. right before you export your shared notes).

There's always been a tension between having lots of clever agents and having so many agents that updates take too long. Agents are remarkably fast, so it's not a big tension. But it's nice to be able to have some agents that sit back and stay out of your way while others stay right on top of things.

I think we're going to learn a lot about agents, now that we have more control and can use more of them.