Monday, August 27, 2012

Voodoopad Blogging

From their Website: "Static publishing turns a VoodooPad document into a lean, mean, Markdown formatting, static blog generating machine. In addition to supporting Markdown, with static publishing you can also sprinkle Scriptlets into your templates and blog posts for dynamic output. You can even use JavaScript events for customization."

But note: "Static is an advanced tool. If you aren't comfortable with JavaScript, it might not be the right tool for you. In addition, Static does not provide web hosting support for your blog. You will need to find a website host on your own" (FlyingMeat).

This is not quite the publication of a static Website, but it is a further move away from a personal wiki. Don't know whether that is a good thing.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Evernote Smart Notebook

The Evernote Smart Notebook is a paper notebook by Moleskine that's designed to make it easy to jot down your thoughts on paper, then record, modify, and remember them forever with Evernote. The paper notebook also includes a set of Smart Stickers that automatically add digital tags to your notes. When you're done writing in the notebook, use the Page Camera feature inside Evernote on iOS (iPhone or iPad) to optimize and import notes into your Evernote Digital memory. Every Evernote Smart Notebook purchase includes a complimentary subscription to Evernote Premium for three months."

They "will be available in two sizes, pocket ($24.95) and large ($29.95), beginning on October 1."

"Normal" Moleskines, if there are such things, cost around $10.00 at Amazon.

No further comment!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Folding Text

Folding Text is advertised as "Plain text productivity for geeks. FoldingText gets you organized and more. As you type, it auto-formats your document into headings, lists, and paragraphs. Fold your headings to see the big picture. Focus headings to view the details."

Folding text editors have always interested me. They let you more easily concentrate on the task at hand. They are not exactly outliners, but share an important feature with them. Hence, I consider it an important addition to the text editor families on the Mac.

The Pomodoro and Todo functionalities are also great. I am persuaded to give it a serious trial.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sparse Connectivity

Seung argues in his book on the Connectome that the theory that the brain is like a white sheet of paper or tabula rasa and has unlimited potential for connections is wrong. The "assumption of all-to-all connectivity is flagrantly wrong. The brain is actually at the opposite extreme of sparse connectivity. Only a tiny fraction of all possible connections actually exists" (p. 86).

I believe that the same should hold for a secondary or external Connectome. It should do with a limited number of connections. Overconnection creates more problems than it solves. The connections provide a potential for knowledge and do not constitute knowledge itself. More is not always better.

Seung also argues that synapse creation is a random process and that there is a process in the brain that resembles the "survival of the fittest for synapses" (88). Some connections get stronger over time, other get weaker. This is what Luhmann predicted for his own Zettelkasten, and this is what I have experienced with my version of it during the last ten years or so.

Monday, August 20, 2012


During my recent holiday in Ohio and Indiana, two great states, I bought and read a book called Connectome. How the Brain's Basic Wiring Makes us Who We Are by Sebastina Seung (New York: Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2012). Seung is professor of computational neuroscience at MIT. (Were it possible to start my academic life over again, that would be the discipline I would want to concentrate in.) He suggest the possibility that we are our connectomes, that is, the totality of the patterns of neuronal connections in our brains. It's more specific than "You are your brain," and very different from "You are your genome." We are, of course far off from mapping all the connections in our brains or nervous system, but it has been done for C-elegans, a roundworm that has 300 neurons (see pp. xi-xii).
What amazes me is how similar (though much more complex) this image looks to the graphs in my ConnectedText projects. Whether Seung's theory is ultimately a true description of us or our brains, I do not know, but some of his thoughts capture the nature of my external brain, kept in ConnectedText.

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.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Comparative Reviews of Outliners

For a series of very informed and very thorough reviews of some of the “best outlining software for windows,” see here. There are four reviews so far, and the series is still continuing.

No further comment!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Day One

Day One is a "simple way to journal. It's easy to quickly enter your thoughts, memories and photos to have them synced and backed up in the cloud." I have been using it since it first came out. The last update adds the ability to include photos and improves sync speed and reliability (though I have never had any problems.[1] It's available for the iPad, iPhone, iPod touch and for OS X. It's also been updated for Snow Leopard.

Right now it's reduced by 50%.

What do I use it for? Sometimes I forget to sync my ConnectedText Projects before leaving home or the office. Day One takes notes that automatically sync on all my computers, and I use it as an interim container of sorts. I could use other applications, but it works well. I also use it on the iPad, where it is one of the best-designed applications for note-taking.

1. "iCloud is the native sync solution for Mac and iOS platforms. It syncs automatically in the background which makes it faster than Dropbox. It’s also included with your Apple account and is automatically enabled if you’ve setup iCloud Documents and Data on your device. Bonus: there’s no need to create a new account."

Speculative Instruments

I. A. Richards begins his Principles of Literary Criticism with the claim that "a book is a machine to think with." He does not seem to want it to usurp the role of a locomotive or of the bellows, however. His book is meant to be a loom by means of which he tends to "reweave some ravelled parts of our civilisation." Whether "re-weaving" already qualifies as thinking should be questionable—or so it seems to me. Furthermore, I am worried with Kant that many people will substitute a book—and this does not have to be the Holy Bible—for thinking: Once you have a book do the thinking for you, you do not have to think for yourself any longer!

Still, I think the claim is very suggestive. I would slightly vary it and say: "a notebook is a machine to think with." Such a notebook does not have to be made of paper, of course. But it must be the kind of thing that allows you to confront what you have noted and thought in a form that is independent of your own subjective frame of mind at any given moment. No matter how primitive this machine is, thinking with it is better than bare thinking. To quote Francis Bacon one more time: "Neither the naked hand nor the understanding left to itself can effect much. It is by instruments and helps that the work is done, which are as much wanted for the understanding as for the hand. And as the instruments of the hand either give motion or guide it, so the instruments of the mind supply either suggestions for the understanding or caution." Richards' "speculative instruments" are his "eyes": the theories, principles, methods, codes, and poems by means of which the mind extends its power of understanding are not just indebted to Bacon's "instruments of the mind," but also presuppose externalization.[1]

The phrase "speculative instruments" seems to come from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who kept many “memorandum books” for the development of his own speculative instruments.[1]

1. There is a fine study of the role some of them played in his work by John Livingston Lowes, The Road to Xanadu. A Study in the Ways of the Imagination (Boston and New York Houghton Mifflin and The Riverside Press Cambridge, 1927).

Daniel Bor on Jonah Lehrer

This post by Daniel Bor seems to me the final word on Jonah Lehrer. See also an earlier entry on this blog on brainstorming. No further comment!