There are multiple ways to access Kindle highlights.
There are multiple ways to access Nova2 highlights/notes:
This is a brief description of how I make my ‘notions’, which are permanent notes I keep as part of my private digital garden (titled ‘Garden of the Forking Paths‘). I choose a title and type “.nu” which inserts the current timestamp (as shown above in the title), ensuring unique titles. I use Alfred (and previously used TextExpander) for such keyboard shortcuts. This means I don’t have to use e.g. the ‘Zettelkasten’ plugin for my note taking tool Obsidian, or deal with the fact that such plugins never precisely match your personal preferences. It also means I can change my process anytime I like.
If the notion is based on a blogpost or presentation or other material I wrote, then I will change the timestamp (and the tags at the bottom) to reflect the date of that post / presentation / document.
Then I write the content of the notion.
I include at least one link to an existing notion e.g. something like [[Notes input tactics 20200728173504]], but usually more.
If I think it needs more work then I can do now, I add the tag #aanscherpen (Dutch for ‘sharpen’)
Where applicable I include references of one or more of three types:
Ref: something I just directly name here, a person, book, or ‘my presentation 2018 at conference X’
Ref blog: the url to one of my own bloposts
Ref Zotero: something that can be found in my reference library in Zotero.
I add tags of different varieties, either inline or underneath the note’s content:
- tags naming the reasons and associations why I made the note, what triggered my interest. (An article ‘the 10 biggest tech developments to watch in 2021’ might be tagged ‘prediction’ and ‘2021’ e.g.)
- tags as the terms with which I think my future self should be able to find them,
- tags allowing search in different languages (I write notes in 3 language, but have notes with parts in at least 4 other languages which I can read ok enough to keep the original),
- tags denoting some status or action (urgent, waiting, sharpen etc)
- tags which look like #2020-, #2020-09, #2020-0913, which represent the year, year and month, and date of the creation of the note. This is done by using a shortcut (“/now”) as well. These tags allow me to search by year, month and exact date, as well as allow me to create timelines if needed. E.g. the screenshot below shows my Notions dated July 2003, found by searching the tag #2003-07
This morning I wrote my 300th notion, the term I use for my permanent notes (it was on how the societal impacts of novel infrastructures change the scope and paths of your empathy). These notions I started writing from July 8th, so it took about two months. I hadn’t written almost any in the past week or two, and that felt uncomfortable. Thinking about it I realised I wasn’t going through my old presentations as much anymore, and just picking a presentation from the list helped me get back into it. Regularly those presentations contain 1 idea per slide, so they are a rich source. A second much used source are my existing blog posts. Each day I look at which postings I created on this date in the previous 17 years of this blog.
These first 300 notions are mostly my notions, the things that are core to my thinking about my own work, and the things I internalised over the past 25 years or so, of doing that work. Likely there will be a point where I’ve worked through most of my existing material, and new notions will come more from reading novel material, reading other people’s material. This will take more effort I expect, because I’d need to digest my reading and think about it before lifting out the bits I want to keep. That’s different from what is now basically transcribing my slides or my old blogposts. Likely it will need a slightly different process, with more notes in the process of turning into notions in parallel.
I just realised that it’s a month this Friday that I started using markdown textfiles and Obsidian for notes, and that I have not used my local WordPress install at all during that time, nor Evernote much. I made 4 notes in EN in a month: 1 bookmark, 1 shopping list, 2 call logs. Compared to 47 notes the month prior to it.
Day logs and work notes are now in markdown files, internal wikipages are now my Garden of the Forking Path notes in markdown files. Those were previously in my local WP install. Bookmarks aren’t mindlessly send to Evernote at a touch of a button anymore, with the vague intention of reading later and/or having it come up in a search at some point in the future. Reading ‘later’ never really works for me (Instapaper never succeeded in really landing in my workflow). So now it’s either I read it and want to keep it for reference by adding a snapshot to Zotero, or I did not read it and trust that if it’s important it will resurface at some point again. Other elements in my use of Evernote I’ve recreated on the go in text files quite naturally: Folders for each of my areas of activity match up with what I have as Notebooks in EN.
It feels like coming full circle, as I have for the most part been note taking in simple text files since the late ’80s. I started paying for Evernote in 2010, after using the free version for a while, and used wiki in parallel to text files for note taking for a number of years before that (2004-2008 I think). Textfiles always had my preference, as they’re fast and easy to create, but it needed a way to connect them, add tags etc., and that was always the sticking point. Tools like Obsidian, Foam and others like it are mere viewers on top of those text files in my file system. Viewers that add useful things like visualising connections, and showing multiple queries on the underlying files in parallel. It adds what was missing. So after a month, I am getting more convinced that I am on a path ditching Evernote.
Time to start syncing some of my notes folders to my phone (through NextCloud), and choose a good editor for Android, so I can add/use/edit them there too.
I’ve been exploring my note taking, trying to shape it as a more deliberate practice. As part of that exploration I’ve been reading Sönke Ahrens ‘How to take smart notes’ on Luhmann‘s Zettelkasten (now digitised). More later on that book. What stands out in all things I find about note taking is the importance of taking time to process. Going through notes iteratively, at least once after you created them first.
My own main issue with a lot of the stuff I collect, is just that, it’s a collection. They’re not notes, so the collection mostly never gets used. Of course I also have a heap of written notes, from conversations, presentations I attended etc. There too a second step is missing, that of going through it to really digest it and lift the things out that are of interest to myself and taking note of that. Putting it into the context of the things I’m interested in. The thing I regularly do is marking elements in notes I took afterwards (e.g. marking them as an idea, an action, or something to blog), but that is not lifting them out of the original notes into a place and form where they might get re-used. Ahrens/Luhmann suggest to daily take time for a first step of processing rough notes (the thinking about the notes and capturing the results). Tiago Forte describes a process of progressive summarisation, every time you happen to go back to something you captured (often other’s content), for up to 4 iterations.
There are different steps to shape in such a process. There is how material gets collected / ends up in my inbox, and there’s the second stage of capturing things from it.
I started with looking at reading non-fiction books. With my new e-ink reader, it is easy to export any notes / markings I make in or alongside a book. Zotero is a good tool to capture bibliographic references, and allows me to add those exported notes easily. This covers the first step of getting material in a place I can process it.
The second step, creating notes based on me digesting my reading, I’m now experimenting which form that should take. There are several note apps that might be useful, but some assume too much about the usage process, which is a form of lock-in itself, or store it in a way that might create a hurdle further down the line. So, to get a feel for how I want to make those notes I am first doing it in tools I already use, to see how that feels in terms of low barrier to entry and low friction while doing it. Those two tools are a) Evernote (yes I know, I want to ditch Evernote, but using it now is a way of seeing what is process friction, what is tool friction), and b) my local WordPress instance, that basically works as a Wiki for me. I’m adding key board shortcuts using TextExpander to help easily adding structure to my notes. I’ll do that for a few days to be able to compare.
I made 7 note cards in the past 2 days, and as the number grows, it will get easier to build links between them, threading them, which is part of what I want to experience.