Edited on 2 Nov 2013: to add benefits.
Edited on 4 Nov 2013: to add the last section.
We’ll have something to announce soon regarding our projects. This includes much behind the scenes work on our infrastructure here.
Regular readers know that we use Tinderbox for two things.
- It is the platform around which we are building some experimental narrative modeling experiments.
- It is the platform I use to report to you on progress against those experiments and via comments (and direct email) solicit your guidance.
And to those two I add that Tinderbox is my place of creative repose. I have made it beautiful and a place of joy. As the Mac has become more industrial and Swiss, I have kept my world more Shinto and delicate.
Tinderbox is a rather remarkable environment, made even more remarkable because it is wholly created by somewhat polymath Mark Bernstein. My guess is that it serves three needs in his world:
- it is a software product like many others. As a business, it provides him livelihood. He has users — quite a few loyal ones — and of them a few that really stretch the environment. This is a rather conventional buyer-seller arrangement, like we have billions of instances of in the software world.
- Mark is a leading researcher in hypertext, or I guess what used to be called that. Not gimmicky stuff, but ideas that add to the richness of life via tools. I like to think of this as support for emerging narratives, but rare narratives that allow room for individual expression. His special area of interest is “spatial hypertext,” and much of the recent advances in Tinderbox are in this area. In this existence, the relationship is one of collaborative adventure where users help invent the future. This isn’t unique in software or art, I suppose, but it is the only real software tool where I have entrusted my future to the process.
- And there is a third existence. Mark is an advocate of what he calls “Artisanal Software.” By this he means more than the hand crafting that is in the artisanal yogurt I like. He has presented often on this and uses John Ruskin and associated Victorian values as touchstones; I transmap these to Gaudí: visionary architect, master builder and artist of high caliber in some media.
I resonate to this in theory. I like the idea that Mark’s blog posts are as likely to be about some gourmet meal as about the elegance of software abstraction. I aspire to deep alignment of beauty in my own efforts here: the math has to be beautiful, and all the way up the food chain to your mind, else why bother spending a life?
Artisanal isn’t rough and rustic in my mind. It is just quirky in its perfection. The refinement budget has personality.
Why this is in my mind at the moment is that Tinderbox is being modernized and I am helping with the betas. All of the functionality is there. The changes are in internals and user interface. Though I have no problem with speed or robustness with the existing version, this recoding should allow for a better future in manyways.
But in evaluating this beta, I find myself conflicted. There are three of his worlds and three of mine that this thing exists in, and just which ontology should I use in critiquing a control? It is a real problem. In modernizing, a host of Mac UI conventions are being adopted; that’s what it means to leverage the frameworks.
But Tinderbox was/is to some large measure where I go to escape this. One example is that I have often a score Tinderbox windows open, the dimensional placement being significant to me. I drag links all over the place. The dance matters. Many cues have been developed over the years to help with this: colors, fonts, changing badges.
The new Mac way is one screen, one window. A couple panes: text on the right. it works for me in Mail for now, but... shucks.
I’m selfish and hungry for power. I’m worthy of tools that let me do what my heart drives me to. So the best way to navigate this is thorny. I suppose the best approach is dual.
Feedback that presumes I am an ordinary user and can suggest an approach that, say, has fewer clicks or more obvious functionality is the default. But I also need to put on a red shirt and champion a future I need, personally need. Perhaps that will be more private, and speak to the research corner of Mark’s world.
As this progresses, its benefits are several:
- Make things more stable, faster and easy to maintain.
- Take advantage of the growing set of Mac services.
- Be easier for new users.
- Allow for faster progress on updates.
- Make an iOS companion possible.
But the bottom line here is that this environment is moving. It has life and because of how it is created, it has agency. Its most endearing feature is that has coherent agency; in the abstract space of ideas in which I work...
in the space a half inch in front and behind the living stained glass I draw in, it speaks to me as much as I to it.
So it challenges me to learn a new dance. This is the kind of discomfort I wish to keep coming.