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Surfulater PrevGen on bits, again

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Posted by 22111
Nov 21, 2013 at 05:19 PM


So it is there again, 40$, and in light of what I had said some weeks here, I seriously considered buying at that price, and so I had another look into the developer’s blog, and from here, my decision was negative, again - and I had considered that program at least half a dozen times, over the years.

In donationcoder.com, I once explained to a tagging afficionado why tagging is inferior to outlining, and I will not redevelop the arguments here. Just some keywords of the discussion:
- superiority as primal means of classification
- no problem with tagging as a secondary means of classification
- not that much against tagging, but very much against taggins-as-it-is-today, i.e. without a (tags) tree (most of the time), without dop-down lists from which to choose your tag(s), and so on

Now there is no doubt that Surfulater’s developer is one of the really smart guys within the business, and in his blog, (most recent article, ““On Organizing Content”, in Surfulater-NextGen”, Posted on August 14, 2013 by nevf”), his development is straightforward, and you see he’s willing to delve into any (also, technical) depth of the matter it will take to deliver a state-of-the-art product; whoever being in search of conceptual exellence highly appreciates such an approach.

But then, Neville does not only do away with all the usual functional/usage problems of tagging (and if I understand him well, he even tries to present (mainly? additionally, I hope) those tags you MIGHT want to tag the item with, which, if it is well done, will be tremendously useful, but then, he clearly states that tagging, INSTEAD of contextual outlining, will be the paradigm of his software, so there will be no need to beg for any “dual” system. And for me, this means that any development in NextGen will be useless for me as a possible PrevGen user, since I NEED ordered context (see below), thus will not be able to “upgrade” some day.

And PrevGen, as it is, has problems with öäüéàè and all this, and when you reside in Europe, you will necessarily have many web pages from Continental sources, and they all contain such non-ASCII chars; also, there is no functionality to even mildly “scrape”, which means that for a homepage with some 12 immediate “children”, you will have to store all this manually if you need to store these pages; perhaps with a little scripting, again…

So now for the a “double” argument where I am contradicting tag proponents. In that article, Neville says that putting one subject into different contexts is “cumbersome” or something. His argument is similar mine, above, with tagging: It’s simply the CURRENT STATE of doing such things, or more precisely, of HAVING TO DO such things, i.e. cloning of items, that is really cumbersome, whilst OF COURSE it is possible to make this functionality available “at your fingertips”: Just as Neville is doing it now with tagging!

Which means that of course, a state-of-the-art outline should PRESENT you possible “parenting targets” “under” which then you would (also) categorize your item in question, and this from at least three pov’s (and I very much hope Neville will do the same for his tag proposals):
- current context: other items here: to which other contexts some of them were linked, too?
- history, i.e. targets you will have used lately
- standards: ToDo’s, but also standard “inboxes” for the upper levels of your (context or tag) tree (and of course, trom there, those clones/tags should be easily movable to more precise locations in those contexts (or tag sub-hierarchies, which would mean that “general” tags should be easily replaceable by more precise tags)
And I detailed before that such things should be made accessible by keyboard, too, for example by automatic on-the-fly (and not-persistant) numbering of the list entries in such additional (pop-down or durably-displayed) list panes; and of course, there should be functionality for processing “combinations”, combinations of items, and combinations of targets/tags (and combinations of those combined).

Now so much for the “cloning is cumbersome whilst tagging is so easy” argument - in both cases, it’s all in the execution, i.e. it’s all in the understanding and the smartness of the developer.

Where I really do miss a conceptual category that (current) tagging will not be able to provide, is, as I often said, context, and I’m even willing to conceive that a perfect tagging system could display lists of items “tagged similar”, or “tagged similar in this respect, and then with these other tags, too”, and your software could provide many such alternative sub-trees, in a row, or even in several columns displayed concurrently, on a large screen, without need to scroll; in fact, I often have MISSED such a “third dimension” in outliners, and tab loyauts (cf. Ultra Recall and multiple hoisting) are not a valid replacement, all the less so since they currently only display hoisted subtrees, which means that you will have to have created many a clone there, in order for those alternative tabs/lists displaying really “alternative views”, whilst ideally, such alternative views SHOULD CREATE THEMSELVES, according to your (multiple) criteria choices.

So, in the end, at least “primal context” is available within traditional outlining, whilst this, and “alternative context”, too, could be brought to systems relying on tagging, but what is missing in such “tag context”, is order. Let alone hierarchy, just order = sequence.

I know that even this feature could be implemented, and in different contexts, the same item could have different order “numbers” - technically, it’s all easy, it’s just a matter of the design of the underlying relational db, and of course, whenever you get displayed some list, you could manually re-order your items therein, and this new order would be stored somewhere, in order for you to get the list in the form you will have rearranged it another time whenever you will “reopen” that list.

But in this further “reopening” lies the psychological problem: “All” these views (most of them, anyway) are ephemeral, “nothing concrete, just there”. As I said before, I put my stuff into my outliner files, in general inboxes, in more specific ones, and again in very specific ones, or even exactly where I would like it to be, and most of the time, I only refine my “placement choices” when then I need something, in its context: Then, I sometimes have to re-order all the surrounding stuff for hours, and in the end, every one of 200 items I have got there, will be “in perfect order”, in THAT sense that the whole of it constitutes a “complete picture”, a “perfect/rounded gestalt”, or whatever you might call it, and it’s then only that I can both base optimized (not “perfect”, just optimized) decisions on it, or quickly use it within other contexts for which it constitutes an “element”.

And in almost every instance, without any exception I could be aware of, this grouping, sub-grouping AND ORDERING is the necessary factor for my thinking to put those details “into perspective”, “into relation”: The core of my thinking process lies here, in ORDERING things, and, as I said before, sometimes it’s quite long lists (but grouped with separator lines), not that much 7/7/7 cascaded hierarchies.

Now when the material is not of such big importance to my work, I just “browse” some 20, 30 or 60 items, but even then, either they are already pre-ordered in some way, or I now quickly pre-order them when browsing them, and in fact, I only get some “view” of it after this reordering which accompanies my browsing, and so, I “go thru” these items at least two times, onces in order to decide upon their RELATIVE POSITION within their (sub-) list, and another time in order to make my “real” mind up from them - in practice, this is an iterative process, of course, I read here, then move it some positions down in its siblings’ list, then see the next item is “not right here”, and put it at the end of the list (or even send it to an alternative inbox), read some other, without moving them yet, but in the end, the order of all those some dozen items will be much more “logical” than it willl have been before my “passing under review” this little bit of my knowledge.

Now you could pretend that my way of “thinking” is different from yours, but is it, technically? As we all know - and I developed this elsewhere -, and depending on your relative intelligence, you only can preserve some 4, 5, 6 (for real smart people, even more) “core ideas” within your immediate memory, your “thinking space”, and it should be logical that indeed, there’s much advantage in “good grouping” your core elements when you try to “get them all together” in your mind. Now this “grouping” can be made by sub-tagging, or, in an outliner, by sub-headings, but this is not the same thing, since it will cut up your list, into disparate sub-groups, whilst my “adjoining” elements will NOT make explode your list into separate entities.

In the end, it would certainly be possible to entirely replace smart outlining by smart tagging, but Neville isn’t near that, and my outlining is as “smart” as I can get it at this moment, with my technical know-how, and with overlaying external scripts on pre-fetched, dumb software, but with this system, I at least have preserved and enhanced some basic outlining advantage tagging will have way to recoup. And even then, having become on par, it will have to prove its possible advantages I don’t see at this moment yet. Again, we’re speaking of conceptual advantages over really smart outlining, and not of biased line-ups where technical details are designed and executed really dumb in one system and state-of-the-art in the other, to completely blur if not override the comparison of systems.


Posted by 22111
Nov 21, 2013 at 09:31 PM


I should clarify the advantage, by detailing WHICH order I mean, in practice, and I am speaking from experience, not from starting from some theory. First and of course, there is some “temporal” order, in the way, “which aspect should come first”, but it’s evident also that you cannot preserve such “order” when considering things in sort of a “logical” way. Then, there are “suites” of “aspects”, an most of which do not really have “sub-aspects” but rather “vicinity aspects”, i.e. things belonging together in a (main) way, and of different levels of importance, but not really subordinated to each other.

It goes without saying that whenever there is such subordination, I create a child or a group of children, but you will have understood that I judge the 7/7/7 paradigm (“No list longer than 7 items, and create as many artificial descendence levels as necessary to comply to this stupid rule!”) worthless and even harmful, the irony here being, of course, that this counterproductive rule has been created out of perceiving the same thinking limitations that have been proven for a long time now, this impossibility to have more than just 4 (= for most of us, the 7 number is wishful thinking for most people, and even 5 would be) items within your “head” / “mind”, concurrently.

So I see the problem that by doing sorts of 7/7/7, you deliberately cut off aspects that should be considered simultaneously, and by that I mean at the same time, i.e. within the same fraction of a second.

Now whenever there is a “new” element, there is a “jump” within your list, and many people would then create a new “header” item, by this fractionizing the “list” ad libitum; whilst in fact, most of these “jumps”, in my “lists”, in my thinking, do not even justify a separator line, let alone a new “parent”.

Other jumps do, and so I have 4 levels of jumps (according to the importance of the “distance”): Just a new sibling; a new sibling but bolded, and perhaps some regular further siblings “beneath” it; a new sibling after a separator line; and finally a new “heading”, i.e. a new uncle/aunt (i.e. one level upward); within the siblings, as said, there can be parentage, siblings that contain just 1, or a group, of sub-aspects - whenever I have such a little cluster, but of which the contents should not logically be “nephews” of the other siblings, I usually bold their parent sibling and try to rename the sibling/parent in a way that makes it evident it’s just a container for further siblings, just in order to shorten the list and avoid too much scrolling.

Of course, these jumps are sometimes akward, i.e. the “logical distance” is sometimes rather broad, and that’s another reason why I make rather ample use of separator lines, and of bolding.

But in general, I try to MINIMIZE LOGICAL DISTANCE BETWEEN ITEMS, thus my manual rearranging of items - to a degree at least. You never can do this in any near-perfect way (thus all those jumps), since you have only one dimension, a list, eased a little bit by indentation/levelling, but you don’t even have a real second dimension, let alone three-dimensionality, so it cannot be otherwise: You only can REDUCE jumps, which means, reduce the total, overall length of logical distances, but you cannot avoid them, and as we all know, there have been many tries, in the academic world, to devise 3-dimensional, i.e. spatial, representations of knowledge/thinking, and proper “handling sw” for this, and as we also know, this sw does not seem to help us here: on the contrary, it distorts our vision, probably because our mind tries to “get” more than just 4 elements out of such visuals because they seem to “offer” those elements (even with TheBrain, without the third dimension but with a fully-represented second one, this can be clearly felt).

So we know that outlining is a lamentable compression, into just “broad 1 dimension”, of what “comes” from 3 dimensions, and of course, this totally deconstructs “what is originally there”, into something very different, and it’s blatantly incredible so few people wordwide ever bothered to put some thought to this “new product”, and to an optimization of this new graphical representation… which inevitably creates some very new - and very restricted - thinking processes instead of the “ideal” ones, i.e. those we would have, had our mind been able to properly process 3-dimensional graphic representations.

Now my concept, and which is so easy to obtain in outliners, but almost impossible to recreate with tagging, is SLIDING (in French: glissement), which means, yes, your outline necessarily cuts off other aspects, but at least for most “intimately related”, “near neighboring” aspects, you can do a slide (and then, there’s always CLONING, even WITHIN CLOSE VICINITY! (It’s rare that people think of this possibility to also use clones.)).

SO WHAT IS A SLIDE? You have aspects/elements a, b, c, d, e, listed below another. Then, there is element f, g, h, and a separator line above elements i, j…, i being a parent to some other, no problem. Now if you splice up your elements in indented lists “heading for a, b, c”, “d”, “heading for e, f, g, h”, “heading for sub-items of i”, “heading for j, k…”, your “thinking”, i.e. your ability to concurrently process items, will be more or less confined to these FORCED CLUSTERS, to those some siblings beneath some parent.

In theory, you could “process” “c” (from expanded heading a-c), “d”, and “f” (ditto within the e-h nephews), but in practice, you will be unable to do it, your thinking about c, d, and f, in this example, will NOT be concurrent, but in succession.

So what is “thinking”, what is this “processing of 3, 4, 5… elements, concurrently”? Well, I cannot speak for you, but for me it’s BLENDING: The mental vision gets blurred, the aspects mix up together, without “you” “doing” anything here, and if you’re lucky, it will breed an “idea”, i.e. some further aspect which is possible a “solution” to something, and in reality, there are myriads of such often very tiny, but sometimes satisfyingly “intermediate”, “new” elements, and real “solutions” will perhaps come after dozens of such consecutive “minimal” thinking processes, be they in the time range of 10 min., or of several weeks.

Now if you hold your lists flat, AND if you really try to put them into a “logical” order, you are able to consider c, d and f, as intended by your brain, in order for it to be able to (hopefully) deliver (some intermediate) results: concurrently, not consecutively: There is NO BARRIER between them that blocks the input.

There’s a myth which is called “associative thinking”. There’s a myth that goes that geniuses (and ordinary people if they buy some books and fervently try) get totally unconnected things together, and heureka, they the light! That might be so; my personal experience is quite different: When I minimize the “logical distance” between several aspects, I (logically) muse about very similar aspects, and here, some very minor changes, replacing some very similar aspect with another very similar aspect in my “range-of-three” (four? I doubt it, but then, afterwards, you never know for sure, right? it’s been all too well melted together if it was real thinking), such a setting often gives me (intermediate, valid) results - whenever I try “creative thinking”, putting together things that have nothing in common: well, not so much (I understand that “looking out for things that could be transposed” (for products, for literary creation, and so on) is a senseful creativity technique, but that is quite different from the core of the “associative” thinking process I’m trying to describe here).

Also, my “order”, as said, is an iterative process that goes together with my thinking about the elements in that (sub-) tree: I try to find even lesser distances, but which at the same time do not (too much) expand other distances then, or just for things / distances that possible “could be sacrified”, which means there’s always a judgement about possible “core elements” of which the overall clustering / suite (in fact) should be optimized, and lesser, “just supporting” elements, of which spatial optimization doesn’t seem as important as for the former; it goes without saying that such judgements are error-prone, and also that, depending on the “task at hand”, important elements here will become relatively insignificant element then, and vice versa, hence an ever-going of re-arranging those elements at the core of your business or your life.

So your eye falls on abc, then on cdef, then on bcf (you will have put f before d and e in the meanwhile), and so on, and you get results, also from “putting meat” to your a, b, c, etc., from furnishing them with sub-elements: You SLIDE in both directions, your thinking including this sub-range, then another one, then again rearranging items so that a third, new range will be ready for thinking about. Now compare with what you get from today’s tagging systems.

A last word: Have a look into music, especially into non-core-EU music. Look into some jazz, look into some “avantgarde music” of the Sixties and Seventies, and especially, look into traditional music from Azerbeijan, over Asia to Africa: In all these musical genres, there is to be found this VERY SLOW, MINUTELY GRADUALLY PROGRESSION AND DEVELOPMENT for which the French again do have the perfect term: “envoûtant” (a not-that-close translation would perhaps be “bewitching”).

From what I see, the act of thinking runs in quite an analogous way, very similar elements combined having quite a spectacular different effect. Elder readers will remember a 1974 film by Alain Robbe-Grillet, “Glissements progressifs du plaisir”, and the idea of this “glissement progressif” seems to me the perfect description of the act of thinking, and of optimized thinking, provided you’ll get the right vicinity elements, CONCURRENTLY, into your brain, for every such single step of the thinking process. And it’s undeniable that good outlining can be of big help here, whilst traditional tagging tends to mix up things in their immediate vicinity - the one that should deliver optimized input. And a last word, don’t say, I just need it for reference: As there is no non-communication, there is no non-thinking when you look at your material: There’s just bad, or perhaps better, more relevant thinking, and we all strive for the latter variety, right?


Posted by 22111
Dec 1, 2013 at 04:11 PM


As in the Proust bomb, a year ago, I’m stating crucial points here nobody’s interested in, but which are at the core of our thinking, and hence of our IM (when treated right, meaning, if you segregate IM from thinking, and vice versa, you’ll be doomed, as for the results of both).

Today (before my two other posts; I came here for this one, both others being just an interlude), I had - it’s the weekend, right? - read into some articles re racial preferences in online dating (and in order to not just give vague blah-blah, here’s the very instructive link to the original article, whilst I came to that one by reading some 20 or so web-stored newspaper articles, many of them in Time and/or in telegraph.co.uk : http://blog.okcupid.com/index.php/your-race-affects-whether-people-write-you-back/ ).

Now, my current tasks are (and you will have concluded this from my delving into the “from-outliner-to-pdf/html” subject lately), “how to resolve some marketing problems”, i.e. how to provide the very best tools to sales representatives within a given, “difficult” sales situation.

Now it’s evident that courtship and selling ain’t that “far away”, from a conceptual pov, but all my previous thinking about how to apply courtship concepts to the special sales situations those salesmen face, weren’t fruitful.

Here, within the “race-and-courtship” problems, I mused about “race-and-courthip” problems, NOT about possible “makings-it-work” within sales problems (remember, it’s Sunday!).

And bingo, and I also perfectly remember the situation (no, some hours ago, because of my intermediate two other posts here today): I had “thought”/“reflected” - no: in fact “mused about”, or the optimized English terms would perhaps be “I had weighted” those arguments there, and in a perfectly minimalist fashion: It had NOT been “thinking”, I had NOT been trying to “resolve” any “problem” (“for them”, e.g.), I just mused, “j’ai laissé passer en revue”, I was a totally inactive “bystander” of those interrelated ideas that were freely flying around in my head if I might say, but I’m 100 p.c. positive about them being VERY similar one to any other; in fact, I wasn’t even able to distinguish them (anymore, cf. my post above) - and bingo.

This - totally passive - musing about the above (racial preferences in online dating, but of which I had been reading about 20 sources, together with about 60 “comments” of great variance) then did not finish by my taking another look at some other site for this subject, but this totally unidentifiable cluster of some previously ingurgitated “ideas”, where those “ideas” had become some “mud”, “sludge” to me, a “perfectly blended nothingness”, without any identifiable element/ingreditent - as said, bingo.

This mud, without any details anymore, become suddenly the solution to all of my core marketing problem, and smarter people than I am certainly would have got this “perfect idea” weeks before I today finallly got it, but fact is, thinking does function this way: Blending of disparate but very similar things (and I remember perfectly that in the (milli) seconds before this outcome, my conscious “thought”, i.e. my “meta-musing about my musing”, had been, “well, this doesn’t give any sense, it’s all too similar, it’s all too compacted!”, “this” NOT meaning my sources and the facts within them, but, hear this well, my “mental product” of all this, and within this precise moment).

Also, I remember that in my musings, I had (automatically?) discarded any non-matching element, I had “blended” some very similar ones, but which weren’t identifiable for me; if I remember well, point of departure had been one of the main “statements”, and then my mind “grouped” some very similar around it, as in the case of a “spatial figure” (what do you call them again?) where one main planet attracts minor spatial entities which either circle around it or are at least in its immediate vicinity…

and then, either, strictly nothing will happen, or then, here and then, that planet becomes voracious, and instantly devours all its lesser siblings, and implodes/explodes - whatever the analogy is your mind might prefer, fact is, here and then, “total assimilation of the very similar” creates something entirely new.

And that I call thinking: Blending of very similar things up to implosion, and something new will have been born. It’s NOT about “integration of dissimilarities”, and that’s the core element of what I’m trying to convey. Hence the overwhelming interest in today’s outliners over today’s tagging concepts.

And no, I will not go into details about my marketing problem resolved, our subject being outliner perfect - mine is, anyway.


Posted by 22111
Dec 1, 2013 at 04:13 PM


That would have been “outliner perfection”, but after all, “outliner perfect”, as a new paradigm, is quite an appealing idea.


Posted by 22111
Dec 1, 2013 at 04:22 PM


And that would have been “planets”, yeah.


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