What is Boswell NOT?

Decades and decades ago, Ted Nelson invented the concept of hyper-text, which we now use in a Web browser when clicking on a link to load some other web page. He tells the story of trying to explain this concept to an executive back in the '60s. The fellow knew about computers, but he had never touched a keyboard because his secretary did all that stuff on her typewriter for him. Nelson was having a hard time getting his ideas across about moving quickly from one piece of information to another when suddenly the confused executive's face suddenly lit up with comprehension and he exclaimed, "Oh -- it's a tape drive!"

It's a funny story now, but the fellow was behaving reasonably. People always try to relate new information to what they know already because it's a technique that usually works.

Not always, though. Boswell seems to be one of those times when it doesn't.

Boswell archives and organizes your text which sounds simple. When we try to explain it to folks, they usually say, "It's a database!"

Others have tackled bits of this problem before using databases, outliners, hyperlinks, or Artificial Intelligence. We like to think of them as putting roller skates on the employees in that 1890s general store.

Databases are wonderful for keeping track of very precise information: people who have addresses in a fixed number of states with permanent names; dollar amounts that will never exceed a specified limit; names that will never be longer than a certain number of characters.

The thing is, there is other information out there that simply is not neat enough to be dealt with by a database. You have to deal with e-mails about several topics and articles about a bunch of different people; a few lines of poetry you composed on a whim. Databases were never intended to handle poetry, not even Haikus. Someone can try to make them do it and, even if they succeed, you will probably never compose enough poems in your life to justify getting a database for them.

Boswell is not a database and it is not trying to be one. It does different stuff and it works with chunks of information that people understand quite well but that are strangers to the precise world of databases.

Boswell is not like other available tools either.

With systems like hypertext, you make all the decisions -- but you have to make them for everything, linking every A to every B. This is accurate, but eats up so much time that you eventually do not bother any more.

With Artificial Intelligence, all the decisions get made for you and you have to learn to live with the results. This saves time, but you often do not get exactly what you want and you usually are not allowed to go in and find it for yourself.

Boswell is somewhere in the middle. You make a decision once ("anything containing Fred's e-mail address should be categorized under Fred") and Boswell implements it for everything until you tell it to stop. Boswell also lets you see out how it plans to categorize things so you can override all those decisions if you want to.

Boswell is a completely new way to manage your information, not a failed attempt to be one of the others.

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