Monday, March 21, 2016

One Way I Organize My Notes

As everyone who reads this blog knows, I use ConnectedText to organize my notes. ConnectedText is a "personal hypertext." Accordingly, links between notes play a large role. They are very important to me. However, they are not sufficient. I also use categories or tags to classify them. In my main project that has more than 10,000 topics, I have 223 categories or tags (ConnectedText does not sharply differentiate between the two). There are also properties and attributes which I use very sparingly.

One fundamental organizational device I use is what is called a "smart topic" in ConnectedText. It may be thought of as the "reverse" of a wiki category, and it is just a topic with an embedded search. So, if I would like to have an easy way of knowing how many topics I have on the medieval university and its institutions, I could create a topic called "medieval university" and put the following inline query into it: "[[$ASK:medieval and university|Index|]]" and it will list every topic on the subject. (If you are curious, there are 24).

Over the years, I have found three types of smart topics particularly useful, one belongs to the category "Person," another to the category "Concept," and the final one to the category "Theory." So, if I want to know how many and what topics I have, say on A. J. Ayer, I just put "[[$ASK:Ayer|Index|]]" into my Ayer page. If I want to know how many and what topics I have on the concept of "order," I do the equivalent for it, and if I want to know about "string theory" the same. (I assure you that there are not many notes on the last topic [I checked and found exactly 2]).

Some people, including Luhmann, think that classifying one's notes by persons is a deficient way of achieving order. As a Systems theorist, he is somewhat disdainful of this approach:
One possibility is to remember names: Marx, Freud, Giddens, Bourdieu, etc. Obviously most knowledge can also be ordered by names, eventually also by names of theories such as social phenomenology, theory of reception in the literary disciplines, etc. Even introductions to sociology and basic texts are conceived in this way. What one cannot learn from such works, however, are conceptual connections and especially the nature of the problems that these texts try to solve. Still, even candidates in exams at the end of their studies want to be examined on Max Weber or, if that is too much, on Humberto Maturana, and they are prepared to report on what they know about these authors.
Luhmann clearly thinks this is sub-par for the course. I don't disagree. That is why I also sort things according to concepts.

One might argue that this is still deficient. As Karl Popper claimed, "Theories may be true or false. Concepts can at best be adequate and at worst be misleading. Concepts are unimportant, in comparison with theories." And this is why I also have a category named "theory" under which I can find smart topics with searches for particular theories.

This is one way I organize my note-taking. It is by no means the only one, as I suggested at the very beginning.


Stephen Webb said...

How do you organize your attachments in Connectedtext?

One of the things I like about Zim is that it automatically creates directories and copies attachments accordingly.

I have a lot of documents like receipts and statements that I want to move to ConnectedText so I can better manage them.

I don't want to just dump them all in the same directory. There are too many, and many have the same file name (e.g. 2016-03-23 - Receipt.pdf.

Thanks in advance for any light you may be able to shine on this. Also, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this blog. I have found it to be a valuable resource.

MK said...

ConnectedText has a File command. It also takes a directory command, like this

[[$FILE:c\mydir\*.* | My directory]]
[[$FILE:c:\mydir\*.txt; *.gif; *.png | Just text files and images]]

So I could actually dump all my files into one directory and sort them out. But I actually use three different psseudo projects (or directories under the ConnectedText Project folder, namely Docs, Texts, and PDf.

thiagoafdoria said...

Hi, Manfred,
Do you write anything at your smart topics - and, if you do, is there any link departing from these smart topics (e.g., from the person [[Kant]] to the concept named [[pure reason]])?
Another doubt: how do you differentiate between the title of smart topics about concepts or theories which are related to several persons? Let's say you have the topic [[reason]]; would you also have something like [[reason according to Descartes' Meditations]], [[reason according to Kant's Critique of Pure Reason]]? Or maybe would you use some naming rules, like, [[reason - Descartes' Meditations]], [[reason - Kant's Critque]] and so on?

raluke said...

I have been using Apple products for about ten years now but am becoming intrigued by ConnectedText after reading your blog. Soon my desktop computer will need replacing and I am toying with the idea of getting a Windows machine this time. I have the impression that you have switched to a Mac and are using Parallels to run ConnectedText. When I last had a Windows PC, it ran Windows Vista and it was awful but I have been told that Windows 10 is actually pretty good. May I ask your reasons for switching to Mac and do you find it better than Wimdows 10? I really need a personal wiki that doesn't require the upkeep of, say, MediaWiki running on OS X Server. Voodoo pad is obviously dead, which is why ConnectedText is tempting me. Any advice or commentary you could provide would be gratefully received.

MK said...

Why did I leave Windows? After the nth time of "fixing" printing issues (on a network) after working on it for several hours and not knowing what actually fixed it, I decided it was time to move. I remember that clearly. Less clearly, I remember other intractable issues that made for misery at different times.

I haven't had any significant problems with Windows XP and 10 running in Parallels. All that being said, I hope that ConnectedText will run natively on the Mac in a reasonably short time.

I don't know why there isn't a serious wiki-like app on the Mac. Voodoopad (which I own) never really clicked with me.

I find OS X to be much more straightforward and clean, though Windows 10 is not bad for the end user. (I have heard other things from developers.

raluke said...

Thank you!