I am finally getting to learn AlfredApp Workflows. Previously they looked rather daunting to me.

Since I moved to a new laptop I’m learning to do more with AlfredApp (it is Mac only, and I use the paid PowerPack option). On my old laptop I first only used it for custom search, such as finding a business on Open Street Map. Later I added the automated expansion of text snippets, which saves me a lot of typing during the day.

AlfredApp also allows you to make Workflows, where you string together triggers, inputs, operators, actions and outputs to automate tasks on your machine. I had previously looked at Workflows but they seemed complicated to me, judging by some example workflows I downloaded that weren’t at all clear to me. Early this morning I came across this video of Automating All The Things, where Aron Korenblit talks with Chris Messina about using Workflows (it was early and I did not jot down where I found the vid, in someone’s RSS, mastodon stream or someplace else, so HT to whoever pushed it in my stream)

this is just a screenshot from the video that links to the video on YT, not a video player: I didn’t want to embed YT video.

This morning I reckoned I wasn’t going to watch a 87 minute video, but I was wrong (though I did jump forward a few times). Chris takes Aron through the basics of building your own Workflows, and I now get what they are and how to build my own. First I’ve added some fairly easy things, like having typing ‘read’ open up my fresh articles in my TinyTinyRSS feedreader instance, or typing ‘blog’ followed by a type of post, e.g. ‘blog bookmark’ open up the correct editing window for it. Next, I will be thinking through my local routines and context switches, and how I might be able to assist myself by automating them. The video starts with a few quick tips on how to make AlfredApp easier to access and use for yourself, so it can get embedded in your muscle memory.

This morning I watched parts of Andy Matuschak’s stream that shows him working on processing his thoughts and notes from a book he read.
It’s about 100 minutes of seeing him making notes….

There is much value in getting an insight in how other people actually do their work (the master-apprentice model is important for a reason), and it is not often you get to see how knowledge workers organise and do the things they do. It’s why I e.g. documented the way I currently use Obsidian for my PKM system. As a resource for my future self, and as a way to offer others a glimpse so they may take some part of it that fits with their own practices.

Andy Matuschak basically took the idea of live streaming your gaming adventures, to live stream a note taking session. And it’s highly fascinating. Because it shows it is actual work that takes time and energy, digesting a book, following lines of thought, doubling back, referencing earlier material, looking things up in the book in question etc. Also of interest is he is focusing on the tensions that what he read causes with other things he knows and has read. He’s not just lifting things out that chime with him, but the things that cause friction. Because in that friction lies the potential of learning.

I had come across this video earlier already this summer, and then only watched the first few minutes. Then I was expecting something else, that the video would show his set-up. I didn’t have time to watch someone go through their actual process. Now I re-encountered it in a different context and the video made much more sense this time 🙂

Browsing through Andy Matuschak’s public Digital Garden is also interesting to do.

Today in a conversation at the IndieWebCamp East 2020 someone mentioned the book Ergodicity by Luca Dellanna. I haven’t decided yet if I would want to read the book, but one thing did stand out: the book is not just available in various e-book formats, but also as a Roam-research graph. This means it’s available as JSON data file, where various parts of the book’s content are interlinked. This allows you to non-linearly explore the book.

This allows you to load the book directly into your note taking environment. If you use Roam research.
I myself wouldn’t want to load someone else’s book sized content directly into my own collection of Notions. Only stuff in my own words goes in there. But I do think it would be a great experience to go through an entire book like that. So I am curious to do something like that, separate from my own vault of notes.

Dellanne claims to have invented the future of e-books, with roam-books, but of course there’s a long history of book hypertexts where links are a key part of the content and experience (Victory Garden an early hypertext novel was published in 1987). Eastgate’s tool Tinderbox also allows multiple types of visualisation to let you navigate through (and automatically manipulate) a chunk of content, and it too is saved and shareable in a XML format. Then again, a Roam-book could be a website just as much, except for the graph view.

He’s now also sending out a newsletter published as a Roam-research file. I can see the appeal, with things like block transclusion and graphical representation. In Obsidian doing something like that would be a collection of small interlinked text files. Which basically is a …. website… you would send in the mail. As both Roam and Obsidian are only viewers. So that might be something, offer a newsletter in e-mail format, as a pdf or as a interlinked collection of notes. Different formats for different viewers. The added benefit is that loading a newsletter into your note-taking tool means you can immediately put it through your own summarisation / processing, throwing out the things you’re not interested in, basing additional stuff on the things you are interested in. Another benefit is that if you use generic link titles (e.g. things like [[Indieweb]]) the newsletter will automatically link to your own mention of that term (and to previous mentions of it in earlier editions of the newsletter). I don’t want to load another project on Frank‘s plate, but it sure does sound like something he might be interested in exploring.