The last book that I finished reading was Mark Bernstein's most excellent The Tinderbox Way. I was so impressed by this book that it will be difficult to convey in this article how much I loved it. I have been a software engineer for twenty years and was a software affectionado before that and have always been a lover of books, so it is much gravity that I say: this is the best book about software that I have ever read.
Part of this is because of the software that the book is about, the venerable boutique personal content assistant Tinderbox by Eastgate Systems. Tinderbox is my favorite software and the only software that I really miss when I'm not on a Macintosh computer. I will write a whole article containing my review of Tinderbox but let it suffice here to say that Tinderbox is like an operating system for your mind and all of its product. A book about this software must be vast in scope and somewhat philosophical.
"The link is the most significant new punctuation since the discovery of the comma."
The Tinderbox Way does far more than teach you how to use Tinderbox. In fact, specifics about how to use Tinderbox take a back seat and you are referred to the excellent manual for many details. The Tinderbox Way takes an organized approach at explaining what Tinderbox is and why it works the way that it does. It explains what artisanal software is and why Tinderbox fits this category. It gives you a lot of ways to do things with Tinderbox that reveal the software's latent simplicity. It goes beyond Tinderbox to explain about recursion and linking and why it is important to keep your notes small. It explains what a dashboard is and some really amazing ways that Tinderbox lets you create an extremely informative one.
More than this, it explains what notes are and why we write them down.
"Notes are what we write when we are writing to ourselves."
It goes into great length about how important your notes are, how to take more of them and what to do with them. It explains information farming and why it is important.
And most of all it inspires you. The Tinderbox Way will inspire you to keep what you think and do something with it. We could all do with more of this. Whether you end up using Tinderbox to keep these notes in or not is less relevant. The book does a great job of explaining why Tinderbox is an excellent place to keep your notes, but it does even more to encourage you to keep them somewhere and do something with them.
This book is well written, truly a joy to read. I would recommend it to anyone who uses Tinderbox without reservation. Or to anyone who is on the fence about buying Tinderbox. But I would also recommend it to people who think and take notes on what they think and believe these notes to be important. I've never seen a book that explores the value of personal note taking in such a comprehensive way.