Thursday, December 20, 2018

It Needs Wiki-Like Superpower

Tim King in a post on note-taking makes the following observation:
If there is one feature that excels above all others in information software of the past two decades that deserves its place in the note taking pantheon, its the humble double bracketed internal link.

We all recognise power to store and retrieve information at will, but when you combine this power with the ability to successfully create new knowledge trees from existing documents, to follow thoughts in a ‘stream of consciousness’ non-linear fashion then individual notes transform from multiple static word-silos into a living information system system.

Sadly, this is the one major feature that is always neglected, or is piecemeal at best… and one time note taking king Evernote is to blame.

Evernote had long been the gold standard of note taking, flexible, functional and best of all affordable. While its user interface was a little odd at times, the features were excellent, but they made the simple mistake of not enabling wiki style internal links. Instead, they required a user to copy a note link from one note and paste it into another.

This is a trend that other note taking software developers have seemingly taken to heart as quite a number of top-tier apps now emulate this somewhat novel but far from useful feature.

While this seems to give the same end result, it doesn’t achieve the effect that Ward Cunningham intended when he began to develop some of the first Wiki Software.

Cunningham first developed the ability to automatically create internal links (read: new notes) when typing text in CamelCase. This meant you could easily be typing a sentence while describing a piece of information and simply type a word (or series of words) in CamelCase which would create a link to another piece of information (even if its page hadn’t already been created).

This was quickly superseded by the double square bracket links most wiki’s use today to achieve the same results, and its the staple creation method in both wiki’s and other premier information systems today.

Quickly typing in double square brackets [[ This would be a link ]] lets you get on with the text you’re currently typing, while also recognising another important subject you also want to write about later. Clicking on the resultant link creates and visits a new document to which you can immediately add information.

The only piece of note taking software on the market that currently supports this feature (that I’m aware of) is Microsoft OneNote.

If I could have only one note taking wish fulfilled is that this wiki-like feature be first on the minds of developers, copying a note link and pasting it in just doesn’t cut it. (I’m staring at you Ulysses, Bear, and Apple Notes devs.)

I couldn't agree more with this observation. He seems to be on the Mac and is therefore excused for not knowing ConnectedText.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

George Steiner on Readers and Intellectuals

George Steiner said abbout Chardin's "Le Philosophe Lisant":
He has his pen next to his reading. Serious reading means you read with a pen. What do you do with a pen? You underline, you take notes on the page, you write around the margin. What are you really doing? You are in dialog with the book, you are answering it, you are speaking to it, and if you are very arrogant and very ambitious, you are saying secretly, you can write a better one. And that is the beginning of a certain relationship of passionate joy and love with the text.
He defined an intellectual as "quite simply, a human being who has a pencil in his or her hand when reading a book." I like it, even if it is a bit simple-minded.[1]


2. See George Steiner, No Passion Spent: Essays 1978-1995 (New Haven: Yale U Press, 1996), p. 8. For an interesting take on pencils, see here.