Douglas Johnston on Tinderbox

An "educational technologist, consultant and teacher based in Newfoundland, Canada" has some very interesting things, almost entirely praiseful, to say about Tinderbox. For example,

"[...] Tinderbox is like the Emacs of information management applications. Beneath each deceptively simple exterior [...] there lies a very powerful system with seemingly endless possibilities. Both require some effort and dedication"


" Tinderbox has become my repository for half-baked ideas, snippets of incoherent prose, mind-maps of categorical and causal relationships [...] if you do use a Mac and love to write or play with ideas, I'd highly recommend trying the demo, but only if you have enough time to put into understanding how it works; else, you'll only scratch the surface of what it can do for you, and you'll walk away from it either confused or disappointed"

and, finally,

"consider me firmly in the Tinderbox camp. In all the various applications I've tried, both commercial and Open Source, I haven't come across one that's quite so attuned to the way I play with ideas and write text. [...] it's an environment which encourages creativity without distraction, and yet feels wholly comfortable to use. A winning combination, indeed."

That last snippet sure rolls off the tongue. In fact, it sounds very much like advertising copy. I guess the author might be just really enthusiastic about Tinderbox. But wait, what's that over in the right-hand column? In the little box headed "Sponsored by"....

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. When I read a glowing review of a restaurant in a magazine and see an advertisement for the very same restaurant in the very same issue, I don't immediately assume that the review was anything but completely honest, even if parts of it actually sound like an advertisement.

But it sure does smell.

Note added 12/23/05: Today the creator of Tinderbox placed a puzzling comment on his website, in a note referring readers to Johnston's review: "We advertise on Johnston's He'd like us to advertise on his blog, too." Does he mean continue to advertise? He goes on: "We've been doing a bunch of weblog advertising, lately. Want a piece of the action?" and invites readers to email him, apparently to solicit advertisements. So he quotes from a glowing review on a website, mentions that the owner of the website has been scoring advertising from Eastgate, suggests that now they might be getting even more advertising action, and connects the dots for the reader, strongly suggesting, to my eyes, that if you praise Tinderbox they might put a display advertisement on your site. The message is pretty plain, and pretty bald: we pay for good reviews.

The sad thing is that all this is unnecessary. People are already giving glowing reviews to Tinderbox, for good reasons.