In his book The Size of Thoughts, Nicholson Baker talks about some of the unexpected advantages of library card catalogs over databases: fingerprints for instance. Dark smudges of body oil can tell you at a glance which topics in the catalog are the most popular, something that would take a complex structured query to achieve in today’s online systems. If you could get at the data.
Baker proposed a digital equivalent of fingerprints. “The accumulation of random ‘grime pixels’ in the top margin – though never so dark that they would interfere with legibility, of course, and every tenth retrieval might remove one grime dot rather than add one, since handling wears away previous deposits too.”
When I discovered that Tinderbox notes yellow with age, I decided then and there that this was the personal information manager I had been seeking for many years. In particular I wanted an application that would help me see who I should be talking to as much as what I should be doing next. I demo’d every Contact Manager app I could get my hands on and was quickly reaching the point of settling for an old-fashioned paper Rolodex file.
Virtually all Contact Managers follow an address-book, calendar, task list metaphor. I liked Market Circle’s Daylite and felt that it almost met my needs, but still found myself working against the structure built into the app. Tinderbox, on the other hand, has virtually no structure to start off with. You begin by creating notes and defining relationships.
At the moment I have a hodge-podge of ideas, structured personal narratives and future scenarios. But every day it is shaping up into a map that reflects my own unique way of thinking.
I’ll keep you posted as I go.