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Thursday, 29 May 2003


Software that comes close to what you envision is TinderBox; you can view it here:


It is powerful and unlike much else that it out here.

ken tompkins

Or Maybe Personal Brain

PurpleWiki / PurpleNumbers
You might take a look at the work I've been doing on my blog to combine something called PurpleWiki with Movable Type. At first glance it is another wiki blog integration but there is more to it than that.

It adds purple numbers, which make paragraphs, headers and list items in the content granularly addressable. That is, you can make a direct reference into some content, like this:


Then, since every node in the document is uniquely identified, you can include text from other places by reference. It's a dirty form of transclusion, which is akin to what you want for not having to state an idea twice in your database. See it described and demonstrated here:


and in action here:


(The quoted text is not copied, it's in there by reference: if the remote text is changed and the blog rebuilt you'll see the changes in the citing location.)

The stuff is not quite ready for prime time but is getting closer. Tonight I got it into a pure MT plugin instead of needing patches. There are still some issues with passing around config information that should be addressed in the next few days.

Anyway: not exactly what you after, but maybe some fodder.

Personal Brain
Eric, I'd also be interested to see what you think of Personal Brain. It's not web-based, and apparently the owners of the company are pretty heavy handed about their IP-rights, but the product is at least a somewhat useful mind-mapping tool. I'd really like to see an open source clone of it come out.

The Brain Isn't Forthcoming
Thanks for the pointers... I'll look into all three of these applications.

Update: I tried twice to download the Personal Brain but each time it got stuck at about 5%. If I could just get to 10% that would be enough because I hear that's all we use. I've also been waiting eagerly for a PC version of Tinderbox but so far it looks like it's only available on Mac (which I don't currently have, but covet greatly).

I've seen the PurpleWiki before... it looks interesting. It's very similar to something I never completed that was an attempt at making a real writing tool for the web (where comments could be made on specific paragraphs and it was easy to split and combine and rearrange paragraphs without losing the comments that were associated with them). Unfortunately, I don't like purple. If it was a GrayWiki I'd probably be all over it. Still, I think I may try out an installation and see how it goes.

In the meantime, I've already begun outlining and coding up my own personal idea database so maybe I'll have something to compare it with once development on Tinderbox is done and the Personal Brain completes downloading. :)

I once had an idea, years ago, for a dynamic editor. It was meant at the time to be (aside from a cool programming exercise and an excuse to learn C++) support for writing a story, so that one could be plugging away at a scene or a dialog and be able to, out of the blue, open up a side window and write or review information on a story element, such as a character, an item, a location, etc. My idea was that one could either key/click to cause a popup window that one could assign a keyword to for future reference, or highlight a word or phrase in existing text and use that as the keyword for a new window. Links would be automatic -- existing keywords would appear in a different color, either retroactively or as they're entered. Existing keywords would also appear on a sidebar for quick access, and perhaps even drag-and-drop association with other text.

Later, someone told me I was trying to reinvent Hypercard.

No, I never got it coded. But is it along the lines of what you're envisioning?

Yeah, that's it exactly.
Something that would make writing easier so that the writing process was more isomorphic to the process of thinking about writing as you were writing.

I never finished mine because I just couldn't convince myself that the textarea would ever be a good place to write and revise work. There's no auto-save, no easy spellchecker, no search and replace, etc.

I never used Hypercard, but it's come up in conversations multiple times during the last week for me... is it still around?

Hypercard is a Mac app. My daughter's run into it a couple times in the past year or two at school, but who knows how current a public school's Mac technology is? However, she's also heard there's a hypercard emulator for the PC.

I'm lookin for almost exactly the type of thing you are thinking of. It's like we need some sort of brainstorming tool in order to figure out the brainstorming tool...

If you need some help or ideas, feel free to contact me.

Dynamic List
I've been working in this direction for some time now. The current solution is basically an instant outliner. The database backend database supports many of the features you describe. The UI has some elegant features to it, but is lacking some functionality. Try it out.

Possible answers
Chris's Purple Wiki is certainly going in the right direction. Tinderbox is probably the closest to what you're talking about in terms of commercial software. My own IdeaGraph should be a perfect fit when it's ready.

btw, I'm grateful for your notes - they help with my requirements list!


While personal brain was kinda of cool, about three years ago, I don't think it's exactly what he's looking for. "The Brain" has a lot of drawbacks. It's also primarily Java based. There also hasn't been a lot of developement in the last few years. cool idea but the sdk I don't think would even be worth it. Too expensive for too much of a gimmicky thing.

is a clone of HyperCard which runs on Win

A tool I find very useful for brainstorming is MindManager, available from Mindjet (http://www.mindjet.com).

MindManager's based on the mind mapping methodology developed by Tony Buzan back in, I believe, the late '60s. It's presentation is in trunk-->branch-->twig logic, so it's easy and intuitive to just throw out ideas, and then arrange their relationships.

The software is well integrated with MSFT products; hyperlinking to other mindmaps, other files, applications, or the web is easy; it performs as both an individual tool and in group conference; and, portable, synchable versions are available for Tablet, Pocket PC, and Palm OS.

Idea Management
Actually, the kind of tools and concept you are talking about are called Idea Management. It's a growing field and there are a number of products out there (although very few open source). We've developed Jenni enterprise idea management software which is a web based idea management tool and Sylvia, a web based brainstorming tool using traditional brainstorming techniques. We've got a couple additional products in development. Info at http://www.jpb.com.

You will also find a lot of info and links to idea management and BrainStorming at http://www.innovationtools.com.

As innovation is becoming increasingly critical to competitiveness, you can be sure this will be a growth area over the upcoming decade.

The thing Eric Benson mentions sounds like co-citer, it only really works with your browser though. It creates an XML file, just like the brain does.

Want I want is something to import the files I make with co-citer into the brain.

I think the best idea database that I have seen is
NewIdeapedia, The Wikipedia for Ideas

NewIdeapedia: The Wikipedia for Ideas

which is a "Wikipedia for ideas about improving our world". Take a look at this and let me know what you think.
Have you seen anything else like this?

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