Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Retrieval Cues

I recently read an entry on how similar Evernote and the human brain and its memories are supposed to be in retrieving information: "Evernote is designed to work the way your brain does and a few months ago, a neuroscientist named Maureen Ritchey came by our offices to explain exactly why that’s the case." If you are interested, just do a search. I am very skeptical about this similarity, all talk of "second brain" for storage systems to the contrary.

There was one good, if perhaps homely, piece of advice: "Include as many potential retrieval cues as possible." Indeed, if you do not keep retrieval in mind while taking notes, it will be harder to find them.

Establishing connections between the new notes and the old ones still seems to be the best way. Second best are tags or categories ... I think. A good search function is also essential.


Anonymous said...

The danger of any notetaking system is that it limits the author to retrieving what s/he already knows is there. In my experience, that only represents a tiny percentage of what is actually there, especially if the note trove is vast or has been built up over many years.

Furthermore, manually setting up "retrieval cues" is hampered by two issues. First, such cues depend on the vocabulary and knowledge of the person who creates them. What may be a good retrieval cue for one person may not be good for another. And second, the imagination of the author may also impose unnecessary constraints. I am convinced that "autotagging" or concordance management - both based on the actual content of the notes - represent the most promising new directions for modern notetaking systems, and that such systems (whether shared or used by individuals) should be capable of automatically setting up taxonomies of related terms or tags - equivalent to thesauri - that can be used not just to retrieve notes, but to broaden the user's knowledge and awareness of their contents. This, for me, represents the difference between a dead archive of information and a dynamic, developing body of constructive thinking - notetaking as mindbuilding rather than archiving.

Just a thought...

MK said...

This could well be true.