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.

This is definetely a word I’ll remember: data visceralisation.
The term is suggested for data visualization in virtual reality, so that people can better experience differences in data, understand them viscerally.

It is something that I think definitely is useful, not just in virtual reality but also in making data visualisation physical, which I called ‘tangible infographics’ in 2014. You switch the perspective to one or more other senses, thus changing the phenomenological experience, which can yield new insights.

In both, tangible infographics and data visceralisation, the quest is to let people feel the meaning of certain datasets, so they grasp that meaning in a different way than with the more rational parts of their mind. (Hans Rosling’s toilet paper rolls to convey global population developments come to mind too).

Benjamin Lee et al wrote a paper and released a video exploring a number of design probes. I’m not sure I find the video, uhm, a visceral experience, but the experiments are interesting.

They look at 6 experimental probes:

  1. speed (olympic sprint)
  2. distance (olympic long jump)
  3. height (of buildings)
  4. scale (planets in the solar system)
  5. quantities (Hong Kong protest size)
  6. abstract measures (US debt)

The authors point to something that is also true for the examples of 3d printed statistics I mentioned in my old blog post which are much less useful with ‘large numbers’ because the objects would become unwieldy or lose meaning. There is therefore a difference between the first three examples, which are all at human scale, and the other three which aim to convey something that is (much) bigger than us and our everyday sense of our surroundings. That carries additional hurdles to make them ‘visceral’.

(Found in Nathan Yau’s blog FlowingData)

Through my feedreader Jane McConnell tells me she’s started using Obsidian to re-organise her notes into a network of information. She points to a 2001 (!) posting by Thomas Vander Wal, a long time connection of mine, about a model of attraction for information. I’ll have to read that 2001 article by Thomas, and think about what I can use from it (attractors, barriers, patterns and boundaries are important elements in looking at complexity, and feature in my own information strategies as well). Then I realised I hadn’t read anything by Thomas recently, only to find out I was subscribed to the wrong RSS feed. Having fixed that, I stumbled upon his recent posting on his own note taking system and the role of Obsidian in it.

All in all a pattern that suggests I really should add my write-up of using Obsidian for 100 days and contribute it to the distributed conversation.

Bookmarked Home-worker… care-work… self-care. – Maren Deepwell (
And that got me thinking about what the equivalent of a fresh snowfall will be for me as a home-worker this winter, as I continue to work through this crisis in the colder, darker months and return to localised lock downs here in Wales, which will restrict all aspects of my life. ...

Maren Deepwell in a blogpost explores a question E and I have been discussing as well. Now the days are getting shorter, and begin outside a lot is less of an option, how are we going to deal with likely lock-down periods? In the spring the lockdown was easier to carry: the weather was generally beautiful and we enjoyed our garden as much as possible. Now life is taking place inside more for the next few months. As usual around early October, I started taking high doses of vitamin D, which for years has been helpful to me. We’ve already made a few improvements in the house to make it more comfortable. Maren Deepwell points to how the Nordics deal with the dark half of the year, and that is a good pointer. One thing we learned from visiting the north of Sweden, as well as Denmark, in the winter months, is the use of lighting and candles. But there’s likely more.