May 9, 2011
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Tinderbox and Speed

An oddity of the Tinderbox 5.9 release has been the lack of much discussion of speed.

The new release is substantially faster to load and save files with lots of notes. In the big picture, even the largest Tinderbox files have always loaded quickly enough, meaning that the delay is an inconsequential part of your working day. But startup delay is uniquely visible and annoying: you want to do something, you’ve told your computer you want to do it, and now you have to wait while it shuffles bits. (Loading a Tinderbox file does require a prodigious amount of computation, so the delay is understandable, but of course that’s little compensation while it’s making you wait.)

Like lots of software tools today, Tinderbox finds itself in an economically interesting performance gap. Making loading-time faster generates substantial value for the community; it might only be a minute or two a day, but the value of a minute a day for a lot of users over the course of a year or two adds up to real money. But, while making Tinderbox faster generates collective wealth, there’s not a very good way for Eastgate to receive a return from its investment in the speed bump.

In this case, faster saving was made desirable because automatic backup and autosave are much easier to implement if saving is likely to be unobtrusive. Fast loading is, pretty much, a gift. We could have thrown a big party at someplace like SxSW and bought you all some beer, but instead we spent the money on performance.

Anyway, we hope you like it.