December 14, 2009

Tinderbox Commentary

The outpouring of Tinderbox comments at Cult Of Mac is extraordinary — not only for supportiveness, but also intelligence. Here’s Russ Lipton:

I have been using personal computer software since 1979; hypertext software nearly that long; Tinderbox since version 1.0.

It is the most interesting software product ever designed. It may be the only interesting software product ever designed. In a just world, Mark Bernstein would be on the cover of Wired magazine. Maybe even Rolling Stone.

Objectively, Tinderbox is probably worth $495. I wish Eastgate would sell it for $49.50 because I think it’s criminal that so few Mac users have given it a shot.

Alas, I think I could foresee the actual result.

Within a few months, 25,000 copies would be sold; more if Tinderbox were included in one of those bundling promotions. About 24,000 users would become so frustrated with Tinderbox’s originality that they would decide it was a terrible product and was CERTAINLY not worth spending fifty bucks on. The hit to Tinderbox’s reputation would be permanent.

Of the other 1,000, maybe 200 or 300 would stick with it long enough to be blown away.

Worse, it would be impossible for Eastgate ever to raise the price of Tinderbox again.

I’m kidding, but not by much.

And, no, I’m not implying for a second that Tinderbox users are especially bright (though it may fall out that this has been so) or that the ‘25,000′ would be flat-out wrong.

Rather, Tinderbox shatters the paradigm of software to-date, whether open source or proprietary. Vendors spoon-feed product to their ‘users’ (and here that word should be seen in all its ugliness) precisely so that the latter will not discover the unexpected, but only reinforce the automated execution of stuff they already understand.

Big surprise (not) that perfectly competent people in their fields view ‘computing’ as an exercise in being patronized and therefore judge anything that moves outside that metaphor to be ‘bad’ … and wisely in most cases.

When a product comes along that doesn’t patronize them, I hardly blame them for failing to recognize the possibility that Tinderbox might be the exception to the marketing lie about computers being our thinking tools.

So, I repeat: Tinderbox is the most interesting software product ever designed.

Tinderbox was great when it was version one, if pathetically immature relative to version 5.0. So how good is version 5.0?

Wicked good.

And yet …..

I’m going to be really irritated if Mark doesn’t continue evolving Tinderbox into his nineties. I hope to be marveling at version 15.0 in my nineties alongside him.

My maps will be very, very, very large visually then …. but I won’t care.