Checking in after a couple months of blogging with Tinderbox

Early last November, in Welcome back, I guess, I wrote this:

If I’m being honest, I’ll admit that this is just an excuse to play with some old toys and experiment with new ones.

Let’s look at how it’s going with my Blogging With Tinderbox experiment.

First, it’s been a ton of fun wrangling Tinderbox into generating a nice-looking blog that fits my particular way of blogging. I was inspired after trying Dave Winer’s Drummer blogging tool. Tinderbox is ridiculously flexible and powerful and fun, and made this blog possible.

I love outliners, and this site is built using Tinderbox’s powerful version of outliner. All the cool new kids are using outlines, too.

Keeping my “Daybook” type entries in the same Tinderbox file as my blog posts is pretty great. It lets me see everything all at once. I can link, collect, arrange, and analyze everything I write, whether public or private. This is not a small thing, it will likely become more useful over time.

So, I’ll be sticking with Tinderbox for my daily notes blogging, then? Not so fast.

The mechanisms for generating this blog out of Tinderbox are fragile. More than once in the past week, I’ve broken large portions of the site after making what I thought to be a minor change to a template or Agent. Debugging it took quite some time. It makes me nervous.

Links are powerful but strange in Tinderbox. For a simple blog, I don’t need powerful. I need them to be easily created and simple to edit. I don’t find them to be.

The elephant in the room is Emacs, and, more specifically, Org mode. You see, as much as I like managing and processing notes in Tinderbox, I don’t love writing in it. Notes in Tinderbox are rich text. Sure, technically you can have them behave as if they’re Markdown, but doing so is definitely swimming upstream. Tinderbox does a good job of converting rich notes into HTML, and even offers control over how formatting is rendered. It’s all very clever. However, it’s a long way from plain text, and I prefer plain text for writing. And I very much enjoy writing plain text in Emacs.

I haven’t decided yet which way I’ll be taking the blog. For the moment, I like the results so much that I’m happy using Tinderbox. But I feel the pull of Emacs and the simplicity of Org mode and Markdown. I’m still hoping to find a way to have both.