Friday, July 31, 2015

Tinderbox Principles for All Writers?

This post advertises "Tinderbox Principles" for writers. There is nothing in them that would restrict them specifically to Tinderbox, even though the author claims they are: "Tinderbox is more than just a piece of software–it’s a way of thinking. Adjusting your thinking is a critical aspect (and benefit) of using Tinderbox." I think that , on the contrary, the principles might be taken as advice to all writers, no matter what program they may use. They are: (1) Don't throw anything away, (2) Focus on making it easy to store things (as opposed to easy to retrieve things), (3) Let emergence happen, (4) Don’t fear the docs, (5) Be part of the community.

It's an interesting post, though I am struck by an inherent contradiction or tension between (1) and (2).[1] Thus (1) says that "Storing things, particularly texty things, has become affordable to the point where it’s essentially free. You never know when you’ll need something again. Destructive deletes are forever–why risk it? This is especially true for writers, who are known to squirrel away older drafts, and hang on to entire cut scenes and chapters, which might find some use later." But (2) is inspired by Marie Kondo's fantastic book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. If I understand the main message of the book correctly, it is about the importance of discarding according to category.[2] Information certainly is a category, and clutter or untidiness is just as bad in this category as it would be in any other. But perhaps it is worse, as it leads to sloppy thinking, like the one exhibited in this article. If (2) does not contradict (1), it contradicts at the very least the message of the very book it appeals to.

Tidying up and organizing your thinking may be described as the pursuit of "ultimate simplicity" (135) or as paying attention to the "noise" of written information and attempting to eliminate it.

If someone were to object now: "What do you know ... you have never been able to grasp the Tinderbox way of thinking", I only could plead guilty! But I would hope that this interesting post would not count as an example of this way of thinking.


1. But perhaps I am just bothered by the way this blogger supports a view he holds by appealing to a book that actually endorses an approach incompatible with his.
2. The argument goes something like this: (i) "Many people are stuck in a 20th-century mindset about information storage." (ii) "If your mental model resembles filing cabinets and alphabetized folders: reconsider." (3) "Well-crafted tools like Tinderbox have powerful search facilities. Making things easier to retrieve is no longer the critical path against which to focus your efforts." Therefore (3) "Embrace the tool–the more you put in it, the more useful it becomes. Don’t miss an opportunity to save something you might need later." This is hoarding, not tidying! Refactoring, revising, eliminating incompatible alternatives all seem to me essential parts of note-taking and thinking in general. I would think it also holds for "the Tinderbox way of thinking."

1 comment:

Angry Thinker said...

I fully agree with your stance on tidying up. I have a had a few clashes on the Evernote general discussion forum about going through your notes on a regular basis & keeping your database tidy. I got screamed at by many an Evernote user who believes, like Micah Joel, that you should dump anything & everything in there & NOT delete any of it, just in case. After all, Evernote's slogan was "remember everything".
Like you, I am convinced it leads to sloppiness & basic hoarding for the sake of hoarding. I have a 1-year old laptop with a 1 Tb hard drive, which is far more than I need. But just because I have that storage space does not mean I store everything I come across. I am selective & review what is stored regularly. But that's just me :-)