Note taking seems to be having one of its many turns as an internet topic. The world of analog journalling is flourishing, propelled by (mostly) Japanese stationary brands like Midori with its Traveler’s Notebook and the Hobonichi Techo, but some stalwart European and British brands like Rhodia and even Filofax. On the digital side there’s a new crop of back linking network note taking apps that join the still relevant categories of GTD task managers, plain text approaches, Wikis and Hypertext (like my favorite, Eastgate’s Tinderbox), and integrated note systems from Evernote to Ulysses to Markdown editors to the latest like Craft. And then there’s the handwriting on iPad apps like Notability and Good Notes. I almost forgot the emerging ePaper device category, which has tempted me a few times1.
I ask myself, “With all this note taking, where’s the shared content being shared?”
Lots of notes, lots of systems, lots of discussion. Not so much content coming back out of these notes outside of work product like academic publications, corporate reports and the commercial content universe of the internet which has replaced magazines and newspapers, but tends toward the slick and superficial.
I miss the individual voices of the early internet and it seems that all of this note taking should provide some path for sharing what we’re all learning outside of commercial sites.
An Appeal To Contribute
I often see mention of how Google/YouTube has turned the web into a closed system by controlling search and advertising. For a long time, its been noticeable how many searches return no real results on the first or event the second page. I get advertising, shopping and howto Youtube videos.
If I see real content it’s often a link to Reddit, a company support forum or, sometimes a post on Medium. In fact, I’ve subscribed to Medium because so often search results take me there. Since most of the web writing going on is on commercial sites selling courses or subscription content, even when I get sent to a content page, it’s often a teaser for some course or software. I rarely get linked to one of the sites I follow through RSS feeds via NetNewsWire. In fact, I’ll often add a word or two to the search to make sure that I get an answer from Thom Hogan on photography plus others who may have commented on his opinion.
Curiously, huge amounts of the internet are generally completely cut out of these searches- Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. And email subscription newsletters. And Substack. We’re in a world of walled gardens and click farms.
Sadly, this isn’t entirely the fault of the Machine Learning algorithms that now rule the world and decide how to rank the results on a Google search page. There’s definitely less for the search engines to point to and less interchange between web sites that leads to links an interest.
Where’s the useful content then?
Now I’ll admit my own guilt here. I lost the drive to create useful content here when that early blogging community dissipated. I do learn things I ought to be sharing. There’s a steady stream of traffic here, so I could contribute more. I read, take notes, come to conclusions. My notebooks are full, my blog is empty.
An example? Is it worth the cost to buy a 16GB M1 Mac or should I get the quickly available 8GB memory model? Once I found a few examples of limitations, it seemed clear that for my use, processing big RAW files in Photoshop with Nik filters, a 16GB upgrade was going to be worth it. And it is. I don’t have a suite of test results, but I did see how fast the Apple Silicon Photoshop beta processed gaussian filters to create the now infamous Orton Effect2
Another one? Should I switch to editing this website with the WordPress Gutenberg editor or keep my existing MarsEdit staging workflow? It looks like it makes sense to do only early drafts in MarsEdit to take advantage of creating links and pulling in media from Photos, but then publishing is best out of the new WordPress interface. And it looks like there’s no reason to move off of WordPress to any other system.
Workflows. How to use tools. Hacks, tricks and lessons learned in the course of exploration and implementing. All interesting reads and worth sharing.
If I needed any evidence of the value of sharing useful lessons, I need look no further than the content that is seen here. By far, the most viewed page is How Bill Gates Takes Notes, which is a short piece about the tale of his using the Cornell note taking system during meetings. I wrote that page because I found it interesting and there was no where left on the web where it was ell documented. I also have some photography pages and note taking workflow pages that get a hit or two day. Mostly from Google based on questions asked about how to do something or what something is, bypassing all the shopping and YouTube content.
But I know that fountain pen and paper just works for me better than stylus on iPad and probably one of these cool, single purpose devices ↩
If you haven’t heard, the Orton effect is that glowy landscape look, taking over from the overdone HDR workflow (which is not at all natural looking!) as getting likes on Flickr. Previously, I participated in the oversaturated landscape movement, to my everlasting shame. ↩