October 30, 2006

Tinderbox Weekend Boston

This year, we tried a completely new scheme for Tinderbox weekend. I think it went very well indeed!

We leapt directly into hottest part of the Tinderbox fire with Penny Chase's discussion of Tinderbox for meetings. I'd imagined that this might be a gentle way to get started, perhaps discussing ways to use the Tinderbox map in presentations. But within minutes we found ourselves deep in Tinderbox automation: notes that automatically deduce their own type, containers that help compose agents you're going to want, and Minutes that automatically format themselves for distribution. Very challenging -- and lovely!

Then, zoom, Jon Stephan led us through Tinderbox for managing litigation. The complexities of corporate litigation (think Jarnduce v. Jarndyce) make a fascinating match for Tinderbox. For example, related suits might need to be defended in different jurisdictions with different rules, and in these suits different courts might decide the same questions of in different ways. It's fascinating to see how one might go about tracking these complexities in a way that lets you keep track of what's happening and what needs to be done.

Stephan mentioned as well that he used to keep track of things in paper notebooks, and switched to Tinderbox in part from concern that information on paper would be too easily lost. People worry about preservation of electronic media, but paper media are in some ways more fragile and more likely to become effectively inaccessible. If you can't find your notes, it didn't happen.

Al Hawkins once more did a wonderful and engaging talk, this time centering on using agents to organize course notes. Al also walked us through Tinderbox's much-overlooked Explode dialog, demonstrating how quickly he could move from an inconveniently-formatted pdf reading list for his medical informatics course to an flexible set of Tinderbox notes, neatly organized and sorted.

Finally, Kathryn Cramer wound up with a tour de force exploration of investigative journalism, showing how she built graphic overviews and Tinderbox prototype trees to explore complex cases involving money laundering, retired military personnel, fictitious secret societies with offshore bank accounts, and a complex taxonomy of threats and McGuffins that reads like Edward Gorey.

Thanks to everyone, presenters and particpants alike, for lively discussions and exciting examples!