What The Heck Is "Boswell"?

Boswell is not easy to describe. Many have tried. These are the best of the bunch:

  • An accounting system for text
  • iTunes for text
  • Google for your desktop
  • Stickies on steroids
  • A brain assistant
  • Minionware

We are not overwhelmed by any of them but have yet to think of with anything better. Others have had the same problem when they come up with something that is not quite like anything that came before.

Working with text can be a lonely business. If you are going to maintain your concentration, it may be better that way. It is also very hard to stay organized and very time-consuming to find something in your notes or earlier drafts. What you really need is an assistant; someone who can do all those chores for you without breaking your concentration.

Imagine there were no computers. Don't panic -- this s only a fantasy we dreamed up to help explain Boswell. While you are at it, fantasize that you are so wealthy that you can afford a crew of efficient clerical workers to do your bidding at a moment's notice. They have a unlimited supply of paper, copying machines, and three-ring binders. Go ahead -- live it up.

You want to write a message; they supply you with a sheet from a pad of pre-printed forms that has already been stamped with the current time. You once again write to Fred about the Harris project. The form also has an area where you can give the message a title and another where you can write comments Fred will not see.

When you are finished, your clericals make copies of the paper before they send off the message it contains. One copy is immediately taken to a room in the back and locked away with copies of all your other writings in an archive in a fireproof vault. They read through the memo and see the words "Fred" and "Harris" so they put a copy of the memo in a binder with everything else for Fred and another in a binder with everything else for the Harris project.Fred replies to your memo. Your clericals make a copy of it on one of their forms, time stamp the copy, and pass it on to you. After you read it you decide that this project is going so badly you might be able to write an entertaining article about it some day. You instruct your clericals to start a new binder for this and to put copies of everything in the Harris binder into it. You don't want poor Fred to know about this because he will probably be one of the main characters and you hope your clericals do not start gossiping with his clericals.

You realize that you have started to exchange many similar memos with Fred about this. The pre-printed form has a list of words along its left margin. These are the names of filing instructions for your clericals. When you check a word in the list, your clericals look up the matching instruction, and put copies in the binders you have specified. You tell them to create a new instruction that puts a copy in that new binder for the possible book as well as the Fred and Harris binders. They add it to the list of instructions on the forms and you check it on the copy of the memo in front of you before handing it off to them for filing.

The French Impressionist painters have long been an enthusiasm of yours and you had your clericals store away many articles about it over the years. It occurs to you that there may be some parallels between Monet's use of yellow and Renoir's use of red. You have your clericals create two new binders for you. One contains copies of everything you have in your thick Impressionism binder that contains both "Monet" and "yellow" while the other has copies of everything containing both "Renoir" and "red." You also have them create a third binder that contains everything that is in both of the first two. A quick browse through these convinces you that the idea is not worth pursuing further. The three new binders are discarded.

Now let's go back to the real world. Computers exist and you cannot afford a vault and infinite office supplies yet alone a docile crew of clericals.

Meet Boswell. It will do everything those fantasy clericals could -- and it won't gossip.

What Boswell gives you are multiple categories for an item of information. We call the categories "notebooks" and the items "entries." A notebook is much like those fantasy three-ring binders containing copies of entries rather than sheets of paper.

When you are working on new stuff, you need it organized into categories that you specify, and cross referenced among multiple categories. Most importantly, you need this done for you automatically because you do not have time to spend making these filing decisions over and over again. Once this has happened, everything becomes searchable, nothing gets lost again, and you discover nifty stuff you had completely forgotten about.

Boswell does exactly that.

Try looking upon Boswell as a savings account for your information; growing, and growing in value, as time passes. Boswell can organize it all for you. It can search it for you in very sophisticated ways. And Boswell will keep all of your knowledge safe for you.

All of your information becomes available to you all the time, no matter how much or how old. A book report from your school days is no farther away than yesterday's e-mail.

All of it. Whenever you want.

And organized in ways that are unique to you; not an arbitrary structure that someone else thinks is the way it should be done; not categories someone else decided upon. You create the categories that are important to you.

And, no, you will not have to spend vast amounts of time in the here and now "filing things away" on the off chance you might need them sometime in the hazy future.

With Boswell, you finally get all the power you once thought computers were supposed to give you in the first place.

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