Last week I treated myself with an Boox Nova2 e-ink Android tablet, after reading about it in Robert Lender’s blog. (Meanwhile he has blogged his first impressions and experiences, in German) For most of the week the device sat on my desk, as I didn’t have time yet to take a proper look. Today I finally tried my hand at working with the device, so here are some first impressions.

The Nova2 is intended as a work device for me. To read non-fiction and annotate, as well as for handwritten notes and sketches. It therefore needs to be a seamless part of my workflow, meaning that things I write or annotate need to easily flow into other steps and the tools connected to those steps. Handwritten notes to be either exported as is, or transposed into text. Annotations exported and retrievable. The crucial thing for that is the ability to escape the specific silo a device is part of.

The Nova2 promises a handful of useful things:

  • Syncing with various cloud tools (Evernote, Dropbox e.g.),
  • E-mailing,
  • Handwritten note taking,
  • Multilingual text recognition of handwritten notes,
  • Run a variety of e-reader apps as a generic Android tablet
  • Optimise it for left handed use

My first impressions are only about trying those things out. Once I’ve done that, I can start looking at the workflow of the device itself, and the fit with the rest of my workflow.

It starts up slowly I feel.

It’s a Chinese product, so despite it being an Android device, there’s no preloaded Google stuff on it. That isn’t a big issue, on the contrary, but to use it as an e-reader I also wanted to have the Kindle app installed and that required the Google store. It took me several attempts to get it loaded, until I realised I had to register the device with Onyx first as well. That was a simple as giving it an e-mail address (a unique one as per usual), and typing in the confirmation code received on that mail address. I’m not sure what activating it with Onyx means. I’m not synchronising with the Onyx platform, but I’m not fully sure nothing gets send there. After that connecting it to a Google account and loading the Google store was easy. I also connected my Evernote account, which worked flawlessly.

I set the device up to push my handwritten notes to Evernote. That at first didn’t work. As it turns out this too was because the device wasn’t registered yet with Onyx. So after I got the Google store working, pushing to Evernote also worked.

I set up a new email address, that IMAPs to my mail server from the mail app on the device. This should mean I can also mail notes (to various other applications I’ve given an email address, like my Kindles, my blogs etc.)

Handwriting on devices I’ve never much liked, such as on an iPad, or using the Wacom A4 sized writing pad I use on my desk. Too often it feels like writing with your finger, it lacks fine motor control, and the feedback is usually slightly off, making writing awkward and the result illegible. My handwriting is already hard enough to read in the best of circumstances. This device handles it very well, I’m impressed. I’ve set it up for left handed writing, also meaning I moved the controls to the right hand side of the screen. Writing in the notes app that comes with the Nova2 is really good, and feels natural, also as the protective adhesive layer helps provide the right type of resistance like you have on paper. Hand writing in Evernote doesn’t work. It’s the ‘fat finger’ style of writing again, and the writing shows up on the screen a bit down and to the right of where the pen tip actually is, making it really hard to continue in the spot you left off a second or two earlier.

When you write in the device’s notes app, you have an ‘AI’ option to turn it into text. It will try to also interpret doodles, so you can’t really use it if you have notes and doodles on the same page. For just text at first I got very weird results, but then remembered I should set the language right. Once I did that, letting the writing recognition function know the notes are in Dutch, then it worked fine. Transmogrifying my handwriting into text is done online somewhere, so the device needs to be connected. I don’t know where my notes end up to be processed. I take notes in Dutch and English mostly, sometimes in German. My notes usually contain both Dutch and English at the same time. It seems that I can only select one language for the text recognition algorithm, so that isn’t optimal. That it is able to process Dutch at all is a step up from other apps and devices I tried.

I’ve installed several reading apps, next to the Onyx one itself: Kindle and Kobo. I keep my e-book library in Calibre (and I really should add my more recent Amazon purchases there), and it should therefore be possible to also load books into the native reader app. Likely that is the fastest one after all.
However, I haven’t succeeded yet in connecting the Nova2 to my laptop over USB. My filetransfer application sees the device as locked all the time, so I can’t access its storage. This is something I need to figure out, as this is the preferred route to move files between Calibre and the Nova2. It is possible to transfer files via wifi. If you go to the devices IP address in your local network (the Nova2 will tell you what its IP address is), then you get a html page allowing you to select files to upload. Doing that, I got some epubs and pdfs loaded on the Nova2 to read. [UPDATE plugging the Nova2 into the other USB port on my Mac, Calibre launches automatically as it immediately recognises the device. Android File Transfer does not see the device at all on that port, where it does see it on the first port but as locked. With Calibre working I can now manage the books on the Nova2 well]

BredaPhoto

I like the notion of cards, that @visakanv describes, and threading them into a bigger whole.

What would be ideal, I think, is if all information could be represented as “cards”, and all cards could be easily threaded. Every book, every blogpost, every video, even songs, etc – all could be represented as “threaded cards”. Some cards more valuable than others.

In a way, a lot of what I’ve been trying to do with my personal knowledge management, notetaking, etc is to assemble an interesting, coherent, useful thread of thread of threads, of everything I care about. A personal web of data, with interesting trails and paths I can share with others.

I have a huge, sprawling junkyard mess of Workflowy notes, Evernote cards, Google keep cards, Notes, blogposts, etc etc ad infinitum. Buried in there are entire books worth of interesting + useful information. But it suffers from bad or non-existent threading, constrained by memory.

I too have a mountain’s worth of snippets, pieces, half sentences. And I have a much lower stack of postings and extended notes. Interesting stuff doesn’t get shared, because I envision a more extensive, a more ‘complete’ write-up that then more often than not never happens. The appeal to PKM above is key here for me. The world isn’t just cards, I agree with Neil, who pointed me to the posting above, fragmentation isn’t everything. Because synthesis and curation are important. However, having that synthesis in a fully different channel than the ‘cards’ from which it is built, or rather not having the cards in the same place, so that both don’t exist in the same web of meaning seems less logical. It’s also a source of hesitance, a threshold to posting.

BredaPhoto

Synthesis and curation presume smaller pieces, like cards. Everything starts out as miscellaneous, until patterns stand out, as small pieces get loosely joined.
I don’t know why Visakanv talks of threading only in the context of Twitter. Almost like he’s reinventing tags (tags are a key organising instrument for me). To me threading sounds a bit like a trail of breadcrumbs, to show from which elements something was created. Or cooking, where the cards are the list of ingredients, resulting in a dish, and dishes resulting in a dinner or a buffet.

More ‘cards’, snippets, I find a useful take on how to post in this space (both the blog part and the wiki part), and also bring more from other channels/tools in here.

BredaPhoto

(I took the photos during Breda Photo Festival, of Antony Cairns IBM CTY1 project, which is photos printed on IBM punch cards and held together with pins.)

Elmine maakte dit video-gedicht over writer’s block.

(eerder schreef ze al over lezersblock, en nu filmt ze schrijversblock)

Vanaf begin december maakt Elmine dagelijks een video-verhaal, tot de Kerst, als een soort digitale adventskalender. Kijk ze allemaal! Er zijn flirtende voice-assistenten, klagende schapen, robots die zich niet laten kisten, street wise kabouters, een eeuwenoude treinliefde, gedichten, verhalen-dobbelstenen, moord en doodslag in het dierenrijk, en meer.

Ik volg met interesse het blog van Elja Daae, die in 3 weken tijd een concept voor haar boek af wil schrijven. Omdat de uitgever het dan verwacht. Elke dag schrijft ze over haar voortgang en afwegingen. Inmiddels zijn we een week onderweg, met een eerste posting over het niet bestaan van Writers block, en de laatste over schrijven is schrappen in Refocus.

Mijn interesse zit hem vooral in hoe je dat nou aanpakt, tot een boek concept komen. En eigenlijk ben ik ook wel nieuwsgierig naar hoe ze dan straks van een concept naar een boek komt. Is dan niet immers alles al gezegd? Waarom meer woorden er tegenaan gooien als je de boodschap al op papier hebt? Dat is ook meteen waarom ik haar proces volg. Het verschil tussen schrijvers en lezers lijkt vooral te zijn dat iedereen stiekem wel een boek wil schrijven, maar dat schrijvers het uiteindelijk ook doen. Mij wordt ook wel regelmatig de suggestie aan de hand gedaan, “schrijf daar nou eens een boek over!“. En ik heb bij vlagen ook wel die wensgedachte. Maar doen is iets anders. Veel van de boeken die me als voorbeeld worden voorgehouden komen op me over als veel wol om de ruimte tussen de kaften te vullen. Nog maar weer vijf anecdotes en voorbeelden om het punt nogmaals te maken. Waar een handjevol blogposts, of zelfs een rijtje bullet points, waarschijnlijk ook had volstaan.

Elja komt in ieder geval tot actie, en ze laat iedereen meekijken. Frank Meeuwsen schreef ooit ook een boek, Bloghelden, over de vroege Nederlandstalige blog-wereld. Zou hij het proces van Elja herkennen? Frank en ik hadden het laatst over een boek over het IndieWeb, om het vrije en open web uit te leggen aan nieuw publiek. Materiaal genoeg op zich. Maar ook nog veel te onderzoeken. Schrijft Elja alleen uit ervaring, of doet ze ook extra onderzoek tijdens het maken van haar boek?

(Ik ontmoette Elja aan de keukentafel van Ewout, voor een goed gesprek over de toekomst van het internet. Frank was daar ook bij. Hij en ik kennen elkaar uit de Nederlandse blog-oertijd. Zowel Elja (blogpost) als Frank (blogpost) waren aanwezig op onze STM18 unconference op Elmine’s verjaardag.)

Seems I need to find a way of making it easier for me to blog, to save time. At the current volume I really need more seamless and frictionless ways of posting than how I currently mostly use the WordPress back-end. This year I’ve already posted more items (391) than in the previous 10 years combined (361). In terms of long form blogposts, I blogged just over (135) the number of postings I made in my busiest blogging year 2003 (134 postings). So reducing the friction of posting, and distinguishing much better between writing and posting will no doubt save me time.

Design Museum
Something to aspire to

A few years ago Elmine and I wrote a short e-book on how to organize an unconference as a birthday party (PDF linked on the right). Since then I’ve regularly entertained the idea of writing another e-book, but that never really happened. While I do have some topics I’d like to write about, I find my knowledge of those topics still too limited to be able to come up with a narrative to share anything worthwile. There are also doubts (fears?) about what type of things would have a potential readership

So this week I decided to ask:

What would you like to see me write more or more extensively about?

Already I got a range of responses, and it is an intriguing list. Some suggestions are about aspects of my own journey, others are about topics that I don’t know much (or anything) about, but where apparantly there’s interest in my take on it. Some come close to topics I already want to write more about, but feel I haven’t found an angle yet.

Here’s the list until now. More suggestions and thoughts are welcome.

  • Optimal unfamiliarity (a phrase I coined in 2004 initially to describe what mix of people make a great event audience to be part of, but has become a design principle in how I try to collect information and learn.), suggested by Piers Young
  • An epistolary travel log novella (something that could arise from my 14 years of blogging about my travels and work), suggested by Georges Labreche
  • Open currencies (which Google tells me they have no meaningful results for, but which connects to my experience with LETS, and chimes with free currencies in p2p networks), suggested by Pedro Custodio
  • Moderating sessions with a mix of analog and digital tools (closely connected to my thoughts about fruitful information strategies in social contexts), suggested by Oliver Gassner
  • Fatherhood (as I became one 9 weeks ago, but I don’t think 9 weeks counts as experience), suggested by Dries Krens
  • Motivating others to act on open data (a large chunk of my work), suggested by Gerrit Eicker
  • Being a European in the digital age (which I strongly claim to be), suggest by Alipasha Foroughi
  • Convincing profit oriented organisations of the value of open access and responsible research (comes close to Gerrit’s point), suggested by Johnny Søraker
  • How and why I left my job (being employed by Dries mentioned above), suggested by Rob Paterson
  • The journey from my involvement in knowledge management and early blogging, to where I am now, and how it impacted the way Elmine and I arrange our lives (lots to unpack here!), suggested by Jon Husband (who, like Rob Paterson, has been part and witness of that journey over many years)
  • The proliferation of means of communication versus the quality of communication (for me this points to information strategies on focus, filtering etc.), suggested by Jos Eikhout
  • Personal information strategies and processes using open source tools (something I blogged often about in various shapes and forms), suggested by Terry Frazier, a fellow blogger on knowledge management back when I started blogging in 2002

Looking at who responded is already in a way a manifestation of some of the suggested topics (the journey, the information strategies, the optimal unfamiliarity, facilitating communities).

I can’t promise I’ll write about all of the things suggested, but I appreciate the breadth and scope of this list and the feedback I can unpack from it. More suggestions are very welcome.