Tutorial

Note: Writerflint is constantly being updated based on user feedback. As a result, some aspects of the tutorial may not reflect the very latest interface and functionality, but it is updated frequently and is the primary place to start learning to use Writerflint.

Introduction

We believe that writing is a uniquely effective way to discover information and knowledge in complex domains and we built Writerflint to be the tool of choice for doing so. This tutorial introduces the main features of Writerflint and shows how you can use them to explore and discover information on a topic.
Although writerflint will be customised to various complex domains, we will use a generic example for this tutorial.

View flints

Writerflint is centered around a 'flint', which is simply your written thoughts on what you wish to explore.

This page shows a list of the flints we have written so far and any flints that have been shared with us directly. This is the point from which most things will be managed. We can always get back to it by clicking the 'house' icon in the navigation bar at the top of the page.



Starting off

The thoughts we've been mulling over that make us want to flint are something along the lines of: Why do governments seem to keep ploughing ahead with policies that clearly aren't working? In some cases simple tweaks could lead to improvements but they stubbornly refuse to make them.

So we'll start a new flint ...


...and add that to get our thoughts on this flowing.


Saving the flint opens up Writerflint's other features.



Iteration 1

Knowledge increases and changes as we learn more, good writing is rewriting, and writing is explorative, so Writerflint provides an iterate function. This creates a new version whose contents are a replica of the current version's. Fearlessly use the new version to incorporate new information; the previous version is still there for you to come back or refer to just by clicking on it in the versions sidebar to the left of the content area.


In our flint, we're going to advance a hypothesis to explain the phenomenon we are thinking about: Perhaps it has to do with the hubris with which the policies are proposed on the campaign trail? Now that we've mentioned campaign trail, we realise that perhaps we're only thinking about democratic governments, so we update the text in this version to say so and expand on what we had before.


That last sentence says: This makes them learning governments. Actually 'Learning Governments' currently seems like a good name for our flint so let's set that.


We can set a description for our flint the same way using the description area just below.

We can delete unwanted versions using the version settings button.



Iteration 2

For the next iteration, we continue to develop our thoughts to relate to an obvious question that enters our thoughts: 'A learning government sounds like a lofty goal. How can it be implemented in practice?'. We iterate again before adding our proposal because this seems like a good enough place to do so (iteration points are totally up to you, so iterate whenever you're comfortable).



Scratches and Comments

As we're typing that second iteration, we wonder how members of the electorate will react to this less-confident type of campaigning, as it is likely to be a paradigm shift from the current one. To not lose track of that thought, we create a scratch so we can perhaps think more about it later. We highlight the relevant text, click the 'use highlighted' button...


... then enter the info into the text box of the popover.


Once saved, our new scratch will be available in the scratches sidebar...


...whose view we can toggle with the 'scratches' button.


If we didn't want to tie that question to a particular bit of text in the flint, we would have used the comment functionality at the bottom. The Scratches and Comments areas on the 'edit flint' page only show a limited amount of them. Use the relevant 'manage' links to see and filter all of a version's scratches and comments. We can also delete and change their privacy settings there.



Connected flints

As we're writing this, we start to wonder if this same reason is related to why persons take so long to retract endorsements of political candidates. That seems related, but like a large and different enough topic to flesh out later, deserving of its own flint, ideally with some indication of its connection to this one. The 'connected flints' feature provides this. We use the 'add connected' dropdown to select the name of the connection we want. Our new flint was inspired by this one so let's click 'inspires'...


...and get a new flint to siphon off those offshoot thoughts into.

We'll also add a scratch there about another thought that pops up: does this applies to endorsements in general?.

We appreciate this detour but are eager to get back to our original flint about learning governments. So we name this inspired flint, then switch back to our original flint using the green back arrow button to the far left of the toolbar.

Sequences

Sequences are special connections. They allow us to specify the order of a sequential list of flints, so for example if we were writing a story, we could flint each chapter and link the flints as a sequence. This is done using the 'next' and 'previous' connections which are available in the same 'add connected' dropdown we used for 'inspires'. A flint is only allowed to have a single previous and next connection. When the flint is viewed by readers, the links to the next and previous flints will be displayed.



In general, connections between flints are a flexible way to organise several possibly related pieces of the same idea or work. We can see, edit, toggle privacy and delete a flint's connections using the connections button in the edit flint toolbar or on the 'View Flints' page. Writerflint automatically creates the reverse connection to make the relationship easier to remember (e.g. here the 'Candidate endorsement' flint would have an 'inspired by' link with the 'Learning Governments' flint).

Note: If there are connection names you would like to see added, let us know using the suggest features form.



Sharing

At this point we want to share these thoughts with our friend who is into governance and policy stuff. She might also have some comments or scratches to add, or may even be motivated to do a connected flint herself. Flints can be shared with other users.

On our 'View Flints' page, we select the flint's 'share settings' button...


... search for her and in the results dropdown click the '+' sign next to her name.


After a few more iterations, we might decide to share with several other persons who might be generally interested in our ideas and are usually good for interesting contributions. Flints can be shared with groups of users. Since we may share stuff with them in the future, we'll create a group to not have to share individually the next time.

On the Home page, we use the 'groups' button to see the groups we have.


We'll create one, then search for and add those persons to it.


We share the flint just like we did with a single user but using the 'groups' search instead.


After some more iterations, we might decide we want anyone to be able to see the flint without needing to share it directly with them. To make the flint public, we simply turn off the default 'private' setting in 'share settings'. We can turn it back on if we change our mind.

Our shared flint shows up to others with most of the functionalities to interact that we have.



Tags

Tags let us label our flints so they can be catergorised and searched for. They function primarily as keywords which describe a flint. We can tag a flint from the 'View Flints' page or from the toolbar inside the flint.


Each flint is allowed a maximum of ten tags.

Special tags

Writerflint recognises two special tags: 'sequence' and 'rank'. The 'sequence' tag is used to give a name to a sequence of flints (explained above). So if we want to name our sequence 'My awesome story', tag the first flint 'sequence-My awesome story' and it will display next to the flint name when the flint sequence is displayed on our profile. The 'rank' tag lets us specify an order for flints to show up on our public profile. So if we want flint 'A' to be displayed third, 'B' to be first and 'C' to be second, we tag them 'rank-3', 'rank-1' and 'rank-2' respectively.

Machine Learning help

While we're busy writing our flow of thoughts, Writerflint is working in the background to help us. The results can be seen with the 'some help' button.

Note: These functionalities are currently in beta and the team is working on them so expect them to get better over time. Feel free to send us a note about any thoughts you have on them.

Suggestions

One such help is searching for potentially useful reading material based on what we've written and suggesting them. We can see if they found any by clicking 'Reading suggestions' in the 'some help' dropdown.

Points

Another is trying to extract the information present in our flint and combining those with information in suggested readings to propose possibly relevant new information. Clicking 'Points to explore' in the 'some help' dropdown shows these proposals and some explanation about why they were proposed.



User profile

Each user has a visible public profile which displays the flints they have made public. They can control the order of the flints displayed there using the 'rank-x' tag, as explained above.

Users can edit their personal details (name, bio, password etc.) using the 'edit' button to the right of their Bio (upper right hand corner) on their profile page.



Summing up

Writing is a uniquely effective way to discover information and knowledge on topics in complex domains and we built Writerflint to be as versatile and fluid as your thought process as you research and explore a topic. (See our philosophy for more on this).

There are lots of opportunities for information gathering and overload while you're doing this, so we're building in Machine Learning-powered features to help you locate readings, filter an drank feedback from others, propose relationships to relevant related knowledge and more.


We are constantly improving Writerflint, so expect new features to pop up and keep checking this tutorial to see what's new.

We are happy for you to suggest features or bugs as you use Writerflint.

Happy flinting!
- The Writerflint Team