Friday, May 7, 2004
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Search Paths

Sometimes in Tinderbox, we need to refer to a note by name. For example, an agent might look for notes that are #linkedTo(election). Or a Web site template might ^include(the sidebar).

But what should happen if we have two notes with the same name?

The current answer: If there are several notes with the same name, Tinderbox will pick one of them. Probably the first note.

The (suggested) new answer: Tinderbox will first look inside the current note. If it finds a matching note, we're done. If not, Tinderbox will pick the first note in the document.

The advantage here is that you'll be able to build composites, where the note name describes its role. For example, an Article could contain a Caption note and an AuthorBio note, and the templates for the Article could refer to "The AuthorBio for this article". (There's good reason to expect that people will want to do this: see the classic paper on Spatial Hypertext and the Practice of Information Triage by Marshall and Shipman for some examples)

The cost is the added complexity of the search path. In my experience, fancy search paths often seem like a good idea and usually wind up demanding ugly work-arounds. Remember the old Apple poor man's search path in the resource manager? Wasn't that a delight? But here, I suspect that the (slight) extra complexity makes sense.