February 16, 2002

Now, it's yours

This morning, I woke a little before sunrise and didn't work on Tinderbox. Tinderbox 1.0 shipped yesterday. It's finished.

Until yesterday, there was nothing much like it, anywhere. Yes, it's a little like Storyspace, VIKI, Blogger, Agenda, PageJockey, and a host of other systems old and new. But it's a very new kind of software, and until yesterday, if this is the kind of software you needed, you were in a bad place. Now, it's done.

Tinderbox is a personal content management assistant. It's a wonderful tool for making, understanding, and sharing notes.

I've been working on, or thinking about, Tinderbox just about every day since Sunday, August 15, 1999. That morning, as Linda's Toyota headed out the driveway for a photography workshop in Vermont, I settled in to write a new foundation for a pair of hypertext systems. You know these today as Storyspace 2 and Tinderbox. Through the week that followed, Linda photographed and I coded non-stop, working almost around the clock. It was the most extreme of extreme methodologies: an idea, a plan, and a deadline. It was the best run of coding I've ever had.

Tinderbox itself started on April 20, 2001. Since then, it's been 304 days. Roughly 581 files of code, resource definitions, working doc, and test jigs (not counting libraries). About 80,000 line of code. 28 developer releases. The first Tinderbox weblog, the Development peekhole, was published on June 1.

In Hawaii for a conference, I took advantage of the jet lag to watch the sun rise while writing the code that adjusts links when you add or delete text. "It's much harder to concentrate in on a tropical beach than you'd think," my notes read, "although the code seems to be good." Those notes are in a text file; for months, all my programming notes have been in Tinderbox. Now, Tinderbox is yours.

In Denmark for the Hypertext meetings, I took notes in one window and fixed bugs in another. Some of those notes led to features like the Nakakoji view that made it into the first release. On the trip home, the guy in the seat in front of me had his seat all the way back for ten hours. Mine wouldn't budge. I scrunched my half-open laptop sideways in my lap, and fixed a show-stopper from Australia.

In Berlin for p0es1s, I stole moments late at night to fix text editing and adjust HTML templates. On early Malden mornings, I spent birdwatching time hunting bugs and tuning code. I've lost a lot of sleep.

Every line of code had to be written, revised, checked, and tested. Everything has to be just right. Lots of things ended up on the floor -- entire families of classes were written, debugged, rewritten, and then refactored out of existence. Software is craftwork; every joint and bevel in Tinderbox was carefully wrought and polished by hand.

I've wanted this tool for years. It's not everything I want. Yet. It won't be everything you want. But it's new, it's here, and now it's yours.