Replied to Wunderkammer by Frank Meeuwsen
Sometimes all these things come together so why not chime in with my own thoughts and progress. The last couple of days you might have seen some more bookmarks on this blog insted of fully fleshed out blogposts. It is my way of public experimenting. I just try stuff on this blog and see where it goe...

Thanks for posting this Frank. I really love the notion of Wunderkammer, although my own mental image of my blog is probably closer to a Commonplace book, and I realise that in practice my Evernote collection is actually the real Commonplace book in my information processes, of which the blog is a selection and reflection tool.

This looks as the first potential replacement for Evernote I’ve come across. It is called Standard Notes, and comes open source and with full encryption. It allows for the server to be self-hosted to sync stuff across devices (stand alone everything is stored locally), and use your self-hosted cloud as the place for storage of attachments. They sell subscriptions to extended functionality, but those extensions you can also self-host. I’d have to take a closer look at how I might replace some of the key Evernote functionality with it, or arrange some of my additional wishes. See my earlier list on what I’m looking for. At first glance it looks like a thing worth testing. How about you Peter?

I’ve finished building an AppleScript for automatically creating a Suggested Reading blogpost from my Evernote bookmarks quicker than I thought.

Mostly because in my previous posting on this I, in an example of blogging as thinking out loud, had already created a list of steps I wanted to take. That made it easier to build the step by step solution in AppleScript and find online examples where needed.

Other key ingredients were the AppleScript Language Guide, the Evernote dictionary for AppleScript (which contains the objects from Evernote available to AppleScript), the Evernote query language (for retrieving material from Evernote), and the Postie plugin documentation (which I use to mail to WordPress).

In the end I spent most time on getting the syntax right of talking to the WordPress plugin Postie. By testing it multiple times I ultimately got the sequence of elements right.

The resulting script is on duty from now on. I automatically call the script every Monday afternoon. The result is automatically mailed to my WordPress installation which saves it as a posting with a publication date set for Tuesday afternoon. This allows me time to review or edit the posting if I want, but if I don’t WordPress will go ahead and post it.

There is still some room for improvement. First, I currently use Apple Mail to send the posting to WordPress. My default mail tool is Thunderbird, so I had to configure Mail for this, which I had rather not. Second, the tags from Evernote that I use in the title of the posting aren’t capitalised yet, which I would prefer. Good enough for now though.

I’ve posted the code to my GitHub account, where it is available under an open license. For my own reference I also posted it in the wiki pages of this blog.

The bookmarks to use as listed in Evernote..


…and the resulting posting scheduled in WordPress

This is an AppleScript I wrote to automatically post weekly overviews of bookmarks I made in Evernote, as a Suggested Reading post on my WordPress blog.

set singletaglist to {}
set multitaglist to {}
set alltaglist to {}
set allbulletlist to {}

--get the notes from Evernote
tell application "Evernote"
set query_string to "notebook:\"linklog\" created:day-7" --get notes since last week
set notities to find notes query_string --gives you list of relevant notes
set notenum to count of notities
repeat with notitie in notities
--for every note fetch title, tags and source
set titel to title of notitie
set bron to source URL of notitie
set taglist to tags of notitie
set numtags to number of items in taglist
--the taglist needs to be processed
repeat with counter from 1 to numtags
set tagtest to name of item counter of taglist
--if tag already encountered it goes to multitaglist
if (number of items in alltaglist is 0) then
copy tagtest to end of alltaglist
else
if (alltaglist contains tagtest) then
copy tagtest to end of multitaglist
--if not encountered it goes to all tags
else
copy tagtest to end of alltaglist
end if
end if
end repeat
--fetch content and cut down to first line
set inhoud to ENML content of notitie --gets you en xml, we want text between and


set AppleScript's text item delimiters to "" --text to the right of
set tinhoud to text item 2 of sinhoud
set AppleScript's text item delimiters to ""
set inhoud to ""
set sinhoud to ""
set thisbullet to {titel, bron, tinhoud} --list of this particual ever note
set end of allbulletlist to thisbullet
end repeat
end tell
-- we got what we need from Evernote
-- we now have a list of all items, but need to look at tags to create the title of post
-- I want a title like Suggested reading: tag1, tag2, tag3 and more
-- where two tags are used more than once and one just once
-- alltaglist contains all tags used, multitaglist contains all tags occurring multiple times
-- now create a list of tags that are used once (basically alltags minus multitags)
set allnum to number of items in alltaglist
set doubles to number of items in multitaglist
repeat with counter from 1 to allnum
if (multitaglist does not contain item counter of alltaglist) then copy item counter of alltaglist to end of singletaglist
end repeat
set singles to number of items in singletaglist
--I need 3 tags for the title, two used more than once, and one single. Unless there's not enough.
set posttitle to "Suggested Reading: "
if (allnum < 4) then -- too few tags, use them all repeat with counter from 1 to allnum - 1 set posttitle to posttitle & item counter of alltaglist & ", " end repeat set posttitle to posttitle & item allnum of alltaglist & " and more" else -- at least four tags available set takedouble to 2 --default value if (doubles < 2) then --take from doubles what possible set takedouble to doubles --0 or 1 end if if (singles = 0) then -- take all from doubles set takedouble to 3 end if --in all other cases default value works -- with value of takedouble now build posttitle if (takedouble = 3) then -- take first & last, and in the middle from doubles set middlelist to round doubles / 2 rounding up set posttitle to posttitle & item 1 of multitaglist & ", " & item middlelist of multitaglist & ", " & item doubles of multitaglist & " and more" end if if (takedouble = 2) then -- take first & last from doubles, first from singles set posttitle to posttitle & item 1 of multitaglist & ", " & item 1 of singletaglist & ", " & item doubles of multitaglist & " and more" end if if (takedouble = 1) then -- take first from doubles, first and last from singles set posttitle to posttitle & item 1 of multitaglist & ", " & item 1 of singletaglist & ", " & item singles of singletaglist & " and more" end if if (takedouble = 0) then -- take first middle & last,from singles set middlelist to round singles / 2 rounding up set posttitle to posttitle & item 1 of singletaglist & ", " & item middlelist of singletaglist & ", " & item singles of singletaglist & " and more" end if end if -- we now can start building the blog posting -- title is available posttitle -- now let's build the html for the posting --first opening line and start of UL set blogpostext to "

Some links I thought worth reading the past few days

    "
    --for each bullet in bulletlist a new LI
    --with the blurb, and the title as href to the link
    repeat with listitem in allbulletlist
    set thislisitem to "

  • " & item 3 of listitem & ": " & item 1 of listitem & "
  • "
    set blogpostext to blogpostext & thislisitem
    end repeat
    --end the ul started at the top
    set blogpostext to blogpostext & "

" --we got it all now
--mail it to wordpress cat linklog, tags all tags, title and body.
--the content of the mail is determined by the Postie plugin settings
--the plugin used in my WordPress
-- cat and title in subject, rest in body: delay to post must come first, then body, then tags after one empty line
set mailsubject to "standard//[Linklog] " & posttitle
set tagtext to ""
repeat with counter from 1 to allnum - 1
set tagtext to tagtext & item counter of alltaglist & ", "
end repeat
set tagtext to tagtext & item allnum of alltaglist
set mailbody to "delay: 1d
"
set mailbody to mailbody & ":start " & blogpostext & "

tags: " & tagtext --don't use :end delimiter

--now send it as email
tell application "Mail"
set myMessage to make new outgoing message with properties {sender:"your@mail.com", subject:mailsubject, content:mailbody}
tell myMessage
make new to recipient with properties {address:"yoursecret@blogmail.com"}
end tell
send myMessage
delay 5 --wait for the mail to be processed
quit --quit Mail as I don't use it for anything else
end tell

Evernote
How to deal with the green elephant in the room?

After I quit using Gmail earlier this year, Evernote has become my biggest silo and single point of failure in my workflow. I have been using it since October 2010 with a premium account, and maintain some 4500 notes, about 25GB total in size. With my move away from Gmail, my use of Evernote has actually increased as well. Part of my e-mail triage process now is forwarding receipts etc to Evernote, before removing them from my mail box.

As with leaving Gmail, there are no immediately visible alternatives to Evernote, that cater to all convenient affordances I have become accustomed to. This was already apparant when I quit Gmail, when Peter Rukavina and I exchanged some thoughts about it. So in order to make the first steps towards ditching Evernote, I will follow the recipe I derived from leaving Gmail, as I presented it at the Koppelting conference in August.

Why do I want to leave?

  • It’s a single point of failure for both private and work related material
  • It’s on US servers, and I would like my own cloud instead
  • It’s not exportable in a general format

What I don’t like about Evernote

  • No easy way to get an overview or visualisation of my notes (although notes are easy to link, those links are not visible as a network)
  • No easy way to mine the total of notes, aside from regular search for specific notes
  • No way to let Evernote use my own cloud / server for storage
  • No reliable way to share with others who are not Evernote users themselves

What I like about Evernote

  • Really everything can be a note
  • It’s cross device (I consult material on my phone, and store e.g. boarding passes there during travel)
  • It has good webclippers for most browsers (allowing choosing the destination notebook, tags, and add remarks)
  • I can easily share to Evernote from most apps on my phone
  • I can e-mail material to it, while indicating destination notebook and adding tags
  • I can automate Evernote stuff with Applescript (I e.g. integrate Evernote with my other core tools Things (todo lists) and Tinderbox (mindmapping)
  • It makes handwritten stuff, images, and scans searchable (even if it doesn’t convert everything to text)

Next steps will be coming up with viable solutions and alternatives for each of those points, and see if I can then integrate those into a coherent whole again. Terry Frazier pointed me to The Brain again today on FB. The Brain is a tool I heavily used from 18 to 13 years ago. It turns out this mindmapping/note taking tool is still around. It currently works cross-device and has Android and iOS apps, and allows attaching files and navigating links in a visual way. It comes at a hefty price though, and still looks like it really is from 1998. Will explore a bit if it might fit my needs enough to give it another try.

We visited “O’Hanlons Heroes” yesterday, in the local natural history museum (Twentse Welle). In this exposition by Redmond O’Hanlon, in parallel to a previous tv series, he follows in the footsteps of all his 19th century explore heroes.

19th Century Notebook
19th century explorer’s notebook

What jumped out for me, once again, from all the displays, is that taking notes of each and every thing is a key habit. Because you never know what will have meaning afterwards, or which patterns jump out at you when you take a step back.

A good reminder that all those notebooks, the 20.000+ photos, all the stuff in Evernote, 12 years of blogging isn’t useless. Even if for most of the time I never look at it. It is raw material. Taking notes are for taking note.