I am currently reading Wayfinding by Michael Bond. I picked up a paper version of the book in a Utrecht bookstore two months ago, while browsing book shelves.

So far I find it fascinating, and I’ve been annotating quite a bit. For the next stage of working through those annotations I realised I might want to also buy the e-book version, so I can digitally connect source text and annotations together, lift out quotes etc.

Do you at times use the paper and e-version of the same book in parallel?

For this book I enjoy being able to easily inspect the structure and main topics, using the paper book. But lifting out the smaller parts that speak to me would be more easily done from the e-book.

Or perhaps I should do all that first by hand as I do normally, and only then start down the exploratory path I feel brewing behind what I’m reading and thinking. I’m not entirely sure what I’m after here, the ability to switch easier from analog to digital, to actually combine the prime affordances of both? Or is it seeking faster gratification from exploring notes, rather than first work through the source material?

The cost of course doubles more or less if you do this. So likely it only applies to books that trigger a more intensive engagement with their contents.

Gisteravond was de 6e meet-up van Nederlandstalige Obsidian gebruikers. Net als de editie van afgelopen december vond deze meet-up plaats onder de vlag van de Digitale Fitheid community en de KNVI (Koninklijke Nederlandse Vereniging van Informatieprofessionals).
De vorige keer was ik een van de facilitators, dit keer was de begeleiding in handen van Martijn Aslander en Lykle de Vries. Dat gaf mij gelegenheid meer inhoudelijk mee te doen, en dat was prettig.

Het recept was hetzelfde als wat Marieke van Vliet en ik de vorige keer improviseerden: aanwezigen droegen aan het begin een onderwerp aan, en vervolgens mocht iemand telkens iets kiezen uit de lijst (maar niet het eigen onderwerp). Zo komt een divers lijstje onderwerpen tot stand, en zorg je ervoor dat een bredere groep aan het woord komt.

Iemand vroeg of je Obsidian ook op een USB stick kunt draaien. Dat je je vault op een stick hebt, en dan op systemen waar Obsidian staat die kunt openen inclusief alle plugins etc. Ik stelde voor dat ter plekke te proberen, en het antwoord lijkt ja te zijn. Deed me denken aan de wiki-on-a-stick experimenten die ik lang geleden deed rondom het ‘patchwork portal‘, waarbij wiki’s met een lokale kleine webserver op een stick werden uitgedeeld waar anno 2005 nog geen of heel weinig internet verbinding was.

Ik was zelf benieuwd of mensen n.a.v. de PKM Summit in maart meer zijn gaan doen met de visuele technieken die Zsolt Viczián met zijn Excalidraw plugin toen liet zien. Met name was ik geïnteresseerd in of mensen bestanden tegelijkertijd als tekst en als visueel element gebruiken (hier uitgelegd door Nicole van der Hoeven). Twee deelnemers lieten het e.e.a. zien. Zelf heb ik een sneltoets voor het schakelen tussen tekst en visueel ingesteld, maar dat zag ik hen niet doen. Dat zegt me dat ze die switch weinig maken. Ik zal er zelf eens iets over schrijven in meer detail, met twee recente voorbeelden hoe dat waardevol voor me was en heel prettig en wrijvingsloos voelde.

Maarten den Braber was een van de aanwezigen die liet zien hoe hij bepaalde zaken in zijn workflow automatiseert, vanuit hetzelfde principe dat ik hanteer: geen dingen doen die uniek zijn voor Obsidian, je moet altijd ook met je platte tekst bestanden uit de voeten kunnen. Hij liet de PDF++ plugin zien, en die moet ik zeker eens onderzoeken en vergelijken met hoe ik momenteel Zotero gebruik.

Muhammed Kilic liet zien hoe hij over meerdere apps heen dezelfde tags, links en indexes gebruikt. Hij noemde daarbij hoe ik dat ook doe in mijn hypothes.is annotaties (links naar bestaande notes, taken, tags opnemen waardoor het in Obsidian meteen in context staat), maar liet zien dat hij dat ook in Zotero doet. Dat doe ik niet in mijn annotaties daar, en toen hij het liet zien vroeg ik me af waarom eigenlijk. Ik link wel vanuit Obsidian naar Zotero, maar in mijn annotaties verweef ik in Zotero mijn notes en tags veel minder. Eens over nadenken, en uitproberen.

Tot slot merkte ik dat het in een groepsgesprek als dit lastig is om min of meer standaard ook te laten zien wat je beschrijft. Je moet je dan maar voorstellen wat iemand daadwerkelijk doet, ipv het te zien. Voelen we ons kwetsbaar in het tonen van onze tools en werkwijzen? Het aantal malen dat ‘tell’ ook met ‘show’ werd ondersteund was daardoor beperkt, en dat is jammer vind ik. Voor een volgende keer zou het ook leuk zijn om in plaats van over aspecten te praten eens iets van ieders gehele implementatie te zien, en daar vragen over te stellen.

I topped 1000 annotations in Hypothesis today. That is a year and 9 months after reaching 100 after the first month, or about 45 per month in total. Almost all of them are public annotations (97%).

While I do use it regularly, I don’t use it daily or at high volume. Annotations are automatically added to my local notes through the Hypothesis API, which is where I continue working on them. About the same number of annotations I make directly from my browser to my notes using a markdown webclipper, mostly when I save an entire article. Any annotations of PDFs I do in Zotero, and then there’s the e-book and paper book annotations. So at most a quarter of my annotations is in Hypothes.is.

In my annotations I have become accustomed to referencing existing notes (I have a little hotkey that lets me search and then paste a note title as markdown link in the annotation), using tags, and adding to-do’s that are picked up by my to-do lists. Things I started doing in the first month, like adding webarchive urls as page note, I still routinely do. All good reduction of friction I find.

I made it possible to post a first page annotation to Hypothes.is directly from my feed reader a year ago. While in theory that is very useful, in practice I’ve used it sparingly. Mostly because I have been spending less time inside my feed reader I think.

Many annotations are just basically bookmarking an article with a first remark for curation and being able to find it back in my own terms. While I do return to some of those for more extensive annotation, that is not often. Partly because I may do that in my local notes, partly because as always you encounter more than you can process. I do regularly re-find my annotations in my notes when searching, which is useful, and that sometimes results in revisiting an article for further annotation.

There is some performance effect involved in public annotation I suspect. I annotate mostly in English and am always aware others may read that. Especially criticism brings that awareness. It makes it feel like a form of blogging, but with an even smaller audience than my blog’s.

The social effect I experience of using Hypothes.is is very small. I’m not involved in annotating groups, which undoubtedly would feel different. I have had some conversation resulting from annotation however, which is always fun.

While I am enthusiastic about Hypothes.is as a tool, it hasn’t become a central tool, nor the primary ‘place’ for annotating things. I wonder if that would be different if I was more capable in interacting more with the API (e.g. to send changes or other annotations sources to H.), or if I could run a personal instance of it and federate that.

I started using Hypothes.is after the summer of 2022 because of reading the book Annotation by Kalir and Garcia in the spring of 2022 (although my Hypothesis account already existed).
My perception of annotations has permanently changed because of reading that book. It is now a much more everyday occurrence and practice within my sense making, not just for academic articles or books, and can take different shapes and forms. Just that most of that takes place outside of Hypothes.is.

How could I not buy these small notebooks? Made by my friend Peter from paper cut-offs from boxes he made and printed in Tuscany, they are made from Magnani 1404 paper. Magnani started making paper in Pescia in 1404 (they ceased operation in recent years, but another Magnani is still making paper, since 1481), right at the moment in time that the literate population of Tuscany started using paper notebooks to make everyday notes, and lots of them. Paper had become affordable and available enough roughly a century earlier, with Tuscany being at the heart of that, and Florentine merchants used their book keeping system and the paper notebooks needed for it to build a continent spanning trade network. After the Black Death personal note taking took off too, and from 1400 onwards it had become commonplace:

At the end of the Middle Ages, urban Tuscans seemed stricken with a writing fever, a desire to note down everything they saw.’ But they remained a peculiarly local phenomenon: there was something uniquely Florentine (or more accurately ‘Tuscan’ as examples also survive from Siena and Lucca) about them,…

Allen, Roland. The Notebook: A History of Thinking on Paper (p. 61).”

Around the turn of the year I gave The Notebook as a present to Peter thinking it would be something to his liking. My own notes have helped me learn and work for decades. E and I when we lived in Lucca for a month, passed through Pescia by train en route to Firenze.

Tuscany, paper from a company that was there from the start of everyday note taking, The Notebook, personal knowledge management, and friendship, all coming together in this piece of craftsmanship. How could I not buy them? So I did.

Had a good workshop from TNO this morning about data space connectors, but what also stood out was how well the flow was working in Obsidian for me during the session.

I started making notes as usual in Obsidian, and then the facilitator started building a visual map of how different elements of a data space set-up work together.

I quickly turned my note into a note that is also an Excalidraw drawing (I could also have started from the note/excalidraw template I have, but only belatedly realised I hadn’t done that). I drew my own diagram alongside the presentation.


A note that is also an excalidraw image at the same time

Then we started working hands-on with some software which had a web interface. Following the links I added in my notes, I opened that web interface inside Obsidian itself using the Surf plugin.
This allowed me to very quickly alternate between visual and text as well as online material, taking and adding screenshots etc, all without ever leaving my note really.


Browsing a software tool inside Obsidian

As this emerged I realised how smooth it felt.

From now on I will aim to prepare for such sessions as this morning in a similar way.

A gift from my colleagues. ‘Tegeltjeswijsheid’ means ’tile-wisdom’ or the often somewhat cliché phrases that are printed on tiles as an old fashioned type of decoration. We moved into new offices this January (in the same building), and since then everyone of us is getting their own tile with some characteristic phrase etc. about them. Yesterday I received mine. It reads “In my notes of 20 years ago I see that…”. A (exaggerated! really!) reference to my personal knowledge management (pkm) system. I indeed regularly inject things into conversations, when some question or topic is discussed along the lines of “last time we discussed this in 201x, we thought this or that, and concluded somesuch”.