“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.
I’ve saved to this point in the Romero series my concepts of how to use Tinderbox’s™ and Summary Judgment’s™ mapping features. That is because the mapping features are perhaps the most powerful, but also the most esoteric and technically challenging to employ effectively; and, it has taken me a number of months to understand them myself.
For lawyers, the Summary Judgment outline is designed to ensure that the tasks required to arrive at your destination, are performed automatically and effectively as the case progresses. SJ accomplishes this by digitally tracking the gathering, filing, retrieval, analysis and presentation of information a lawyer must logically follow to manage a case from inception to successful conclusion.
For Tinderbox users generally, for whom there is not a ready-made roadmap leading to your destination, I recommend that serious thought be given at the outset of your problem or project to defining key elements for which notes and text are going to be gathered, organized, analyzed and eventually presented.
For example, for a research and writing project — as in writing a novel, a play, an academic paper, a documentary work – to define preliminarily the key people; events; transactions; issues, etc. – that will form the skeleton of the research and writing. As alluded to in my prior Getting a Grip post, Tinderbox is extremely flexible in allowing revision and customization of these outline elements down the road, as the problem or project becomes better understood. But in my view, having a clear destination in conjunction with an initial structure for the note-taking itself, is indispensable to getting on the right road from the start.
Once these fundamental elements are preliminarily defined the following steps in organizing a Tinderbox outline will lend themselves naturally, as Summary Judgment does for lawyers, to performance of the underlying tasks necessary for successful completion of the project:
1. Create a separate “container” or subfile for each key element by opening a TB “Note” for each. Click on the Note menu at the top of the TB screen. Choose “Create Note”. In the Create Note dialog box that appears, give the container/subfile an appropriate title (e.g., “People”).
2. Consider giving the container/subfile (and all notes that are to be filed within it) an identifiable color by using the pull down menu of colors in the Create Note dialog box.
3. Consider adding other distinguishing features from the Note menu such as a distinct “Shape”, “Border”, “Pattern” or adding a “Badge” (i.e., visual symbol/icon, e.g., a “red flag”).
4. In the Create Note dialog box there is a section called “On/Add Action.” This section will allow you to create a “Prototype” form for the container, on which all other notes of the same type will be modeled (e.g., all notes relating to “People” will have the same characteristics such as shape, color, badge, etc.). As a result all notes filed in the container will have the same recognizable characteristics. In the “On/Add Action section of the container type: Prototype=”[Name of Prototype – e.g., “People Prototype”]”.
5. Next create the Prototype form itself (e.g., “People Prototype”) as follows:
a. Open another TB Note using the Note menu at the top of the TB screen;
b. In the Create Note dialog box give the Prototype the same name as the container designation for the Prototype (e..g. “People Prototype”).
c. Importantly, check off the box marked “Can be a Prototype”.
d. Create “key attributes” for the Prototype (i.e., elements that you will want to fill in and have appear at the top of each note created from that Prototype, which can later be used for sorting and retrieving notes based on the Prototype). For example, for the People Prototype, key attributes might include the Name of the person; the Date of the note entered concerning that person; the Source of the text concerning that person; the Citation (e.g., to the book, research work, etc. from which it is drawn).
e. Then add the same visual elements for the Prototype as you used for the container itself (e.g., color, shape, border, pattern, badge).
f. Move the Prototype inside of its container by pressing the tab key so the Prototype becomes a subnote within its designated container.
6. Using the Prototype.
a. Open the container by clicking on the arrow alongside the left side of it to expose the Prototype stored or “nested” inside of the container.
b. Click on the Prototype to highlight it.
c. Hit return.
d. A new form of the Prototype will open and permit you to edit it by filling in the key attribute elements at the top and then inserting the text of the new note in the body of the note form.
e. As discussed above, the new note will have the same characteristics as the Prototype itself (e.g., shape, color, badge, etc.), and be properly stored where it logically belongs as a subnote inside of the container.
7. By following the same procedures for creation and use of Prototypes for the other key elements of your project, all of your project notes will be logically stored where they belong, easily distinguishable by topic, able to be searched and retrieved quickly, and in a form which lends itself to effective use of TB’s powerful mind-mapping features for analysis and understanding.
The effectiveness of this approach to Tinderbox note-taking is demonstrated by the mind map shown below for “A Christmas Carol” by Dickens. Distinctive prototypes for notes relating to the People and Locales were created at the outset, allowing an effective mind map to be made using a Tinderbox map view. The mind map utilizes colored “Adornments” (boxes) to group text notes by category (i.e., for People and Locales). Because the notes are modeled after distinctive “People” and “Locales” prototypes, they are readily distinguishable by, for example, color and shape. Visual links created between the key persons and locales exposes their logical relationships to one another and the overall story.
[N.B. I recommend to my readers that they follow the parallel Romero case blog of Mark Bernstein (Eastgate Systems, Inc.), the developer of Tinderbox. The focus of Mark’s blog is on the mapping features and uses of Tinderbox (which are incorporated in Summary Judgment™) for analyzing complex fact patterns that are unfolding over time.]
Stephen M. Winnick, Esq.
Winnick & Sullivan LLP
134 Main Street
Watertown, MA 02472
Copyright © 2009 Stephen M. Winnick, Esq. All rights reserved.