Notes for Monday, October 25, 2021

What is Zettelblogging?

I’ve got a quick way to do casual blogging that works so well, it has me posting near daily. The key is to send anything I see of interest over to Drafts via the share sheet. If I have some text selected, Drafts capture it as a Markdown link plus a pull quote. I used to do that with a bookmarklet and MarsEdit. Since that fine app is Mac only, it hasn’t been a practical blogging aid for a while. This works.

After I’ve edited the collection as a Journal post for the day in Drafts, I just copy it over to the WordPress app on iOS or the web editor on the Mac. Works the same either way. I’ll probably use a Drafts action for this soon just to save a few clicks.

I’ve been contemplating the next step which would be to use these daily notes to help curate and synthesize information over time. These mixed, short journal style entries are easy and fun, but lost in the stream of posts very quickly. I had started archiving them to DEVONthink using a Drafts action, but I discovered today that’s entirely unnecessary. I’ve had an RSS feed of On Deciding . . . Better in a database for a while. To my surprise, when I switched to this pasting of Markdown into the WordPress app, the RSS feed in DEVONthink is now just the Markdown file. So I get an archive of published drafts for free!

Now that I’m synthesizing some notes from the journal, I figured I need a name for the process. The note taking world seems quite taken by the Zettelkasten method, but most of the discussions I read miss the point of the method. It’s not about linking notes, it’s about writing ideas in your own words gleaned from research and then creating higher level topical notes based on and linked to the evidence and other relevant concepts. So it is Hypertextual in some sense, but its about synthesis. But it was created in an academic world of taxonomy, I think, where enlightenment thought promised to unify knowledge, whereas in my post-modernist, ecological frame knowledge is best framed as just densely interconnected.

In my casual blogging method, I’m starting with small summaries to begin with. Here, for example, I’m bringing together concepts of casual blogging, Zettelkasten, and the ecology of knowledge. The job, it seems to me, is to spend some time synthesizing those ideas from this kind of casual journaling.

Why Zettelblogging? Well a Zettel is just a note. Luhrmann used index cards, thus Zettelkasten or note-cards. I’m using the blog as the container, with the same idea of collection and curation of ideas. The synthesis could just resurface in more journaling, with curation being behind the scenes in this author’s head and private notes. But blogging implies publication, so at some point, presumably those ideas become blog posts of their own to represent some higher level of organization than just the daily note.

So far, the only tool I have at my disposal seems to be Tinderbox for the analysis and synthesis part. Drafts and Ulysses both have stronger support for bidirectional editing of WordPress posts through the API. Actually, MarsEdit does this very well too. So it may be that writing gets done in one of those apps based on the Tinderbox knowledge management. Let’s put this into action and see where it leads. This is, after all, casual blogging and working in public.

Tinderbox is not so complicated

Just few thoughts on TInderbox, then. I’ve been using it for a very long time and like by blogging, I’m a casual user. The potential power inherent in the software leads to many overcomplicating things with multiple prototypes and actions. I don’t have time.

For me, Tinderbox is a Hypertext Notes app that provides me with multiple views of the document. I’m a visual thinker and love moving concepts around in maps. But because I’ve lived in organizational systems of topical folders my whole life, I also like to sort by topic to enable focus. Tinderbox lets me easily switch back and forth. And because we’ve laid hypertextual links on the world as an express lane from one note to another, I create those links to be able to create connections across topics.

Those powerful tools are also quite simple and familiar. Notes have attributes, which is just metadata that’s useful to attatch to text. Like a URL or reference to a file on the computer. Then there are Actions to change or otherwise use that metadata.

As a tool for idea manipulation, I’m working on taking these daily journal Markdown files with their free associations across topics and using the Explode function in Tinderbox to create individual notes divided by the headlines or horizontal rules I used to organize the page. From there it’s a matter of topical sorting and starting to create topic level notes to synthesize more ideas. It doesn’t use much of Tinderbox’s potential power, but then that’s also how I use Word and Excel. Document creation, some graphs, often a Pivot Table.


The commercialization of Earth orbit begins: Orbital Reef | Orbital Reef

Orbital Reef will be the premier mixed-use space station in low Earth orbit for commerce, research, and tourism by the end of this decade.

Free of national control and regulation. Unlimited void to dump waste heat. Unlimited solar power unimpressed by weather. Having the government fund the development of the launch vehicles was a boon. We’ll be manufacturing and housing server farms in space pretty soon.


On the other hand, my industry, pharmaceutical companies and biotechs continue to be free of any market limits on what we charge. And it looks like it won’t change. How PhRMA is trying to thwart Democrats’ effort to lower drug prices – The Washington Post

Brian Newell, a PhRMA spokesman, said only that the trade group has had “constructive engagement with various policymakers” in an effort to “lower costs for patients, while protecting choice, access and future innovation.”

What drug companies charge is only limited by social pressure based on their profits. When profits grow too large, there’s pressure to play ball from multiple stakeholders including insurers and the government. But as long as the R&D spend continues and new treatments appear, it’s a matter of what you can charge, not what anything actually costs or is actually worth.

I have no real solution for the problem. Government negotiation is just shifting the social pressure from public opinion to government agencies that can only look at the same profit vs R&D spend metrics. Pricing based on some notion of added health or clinical benefit is just not how we’ve ever priced medical care- The Neurologist who diagnoses dementia but can’t offer treatment will be compensated more than Walgreens tech that administers the life saving COVID vaccine. Prices can’t be based just on health outcome. In the end there’s some overall national budget for healthcare and it gets divided up between administration,providers, capital costs and drugs. Balancing that is hard and I don’t know how to reduce that to the price charged for a new drug with either a bigger or smaller benefit than what has come before.


I’ve learned to value doing hard things. Some times the hard thing is just a strength training session and sometimes the hard think is controlling anger and frustration. But recognize that these things are hard and look for more hard things to do.