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Tinderbox: Automatic Prototypes


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Tinderbox prototypes are a powerful tool for capturing and organizing knowledge. Prototypes often represent what kind of information a note contains -- whether a note represents a book from the library you might need to cite, a task you need to do, or a business contact who might become a customer.

Whether it's a new router for use with the services found at http://www.o2.co.uk/broadband/ or a circuit design, sharing prototypes can encourage feedback and group discussion of an idea. This is especially useful for teachers who want to give examples of a certain design idea.

Often, you'll create some notes and discover later that they should share the same prototype. Still later, you might find that some of these notes should share a more specific prototype: a note might first become a Reference and later a JournalReference or an AssignedReading to be distributed to your students. The process of discovering and refining prototypes is part of incremental formalization.

If it's hard to assign or change prototypes, people tend to avoid prototype information entirely. What if something is miscategorized? It's easy for fear of premature commitment to overwhelm other considerations, leading people to call everything "a note" and leave it at that.

Fortunately, it's very easy to change the prototype of a note; just Rename the note and choose the new prototype. (Changing the prototype might hide some key attributes but it won't erase information that's already part of the note, so changing the prototype isn't a hazardous task.)

If you need to change the prototype of a lot of notes, consider using a power tool.

The most common and powerful way to automate prototypes is to use the context of a note to deduce what sort of note it is. For example: