Sunday, October 26, 2008

Long-Term Use of a Personal Electronic Notebook

Thomas Erickson reports in an article on The Design and Long-Term Use of a Personal Electronic Notebook: A Reflective Analysis about his experience with a HyperCard application he developed during the early nineties. It was called Proteus. The article provides "a useful data point for those interested in the issue of how to design highly customizable systems for managing personal information," even though it is by now twelve years old.

One of the most interesting sections for me was the one concerning Usage of Proteus versus Paper Notebooks. Erickson reports that "before Proteus I was a heavy user of paper notebooks. ... I used paper notebooks as a sort of work diary: I started each day on a new page, kept a To Do list, meeting notes, and used it as a repository for other information. However, there are couple of striking differences (besides the obvious one that I didn't use it for composing email). First, I find that I make many more notes in Proteus-in part this is because I find typing easier and faster than writing, and in part because of synergetic effects I describe in the next section. Second, I rarely looked back through my paper notebooks-and when I did, I only tended to look at recent entries. In contrast, I re-read entries in Proteus frequently. There are several reasons for this: it is easier to search and browse; the content is more legible; and when I find something useful it can be copied and re-used."

I use ConnectedText in the ways in which Erickson did not use Proteus. Actually, I use ConnectedText more in just the way he originally thought he would use Proteus, namely as a tool to facilitate thinking about quotations, notes, and reflections in an extensively interlinked way—something that would have been difficult in his application, I do find his account suggestive for organizing my own work even better.

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