Bizarre realizations in note taking:
The tattoos on Leonard Shelby’s body in the film Memento act as a physical zettelkasten of information stored on skin rather than index cards. He uses his permanent notes to supplement his fleeting memory to solve a murder.
Replied toa thread by @mizminh and @MikeKra36812131 (Twitter)
That's interesting. Presumably where we have been told that diaries and journals were being kept there were notebooks being created and re-formed. Diaries were kept but clearly not all writing was journaling. Notes were being taken. Fascinating, Mike, thank you
I’ve done something similar in paper form as early as the 1990’s and have seen examples in diaries and commonplace books that go back much earlier. TiddlyWiki had a digital capability to to something like this as early as the late 2000s and I’ve used it there as well. As you mention, content management systems like WordPress certainly do this with various archive views, but this is a secondary effect and not done up front as is seen in tools like Roam, Obsidian, et al. I suspect that one might find the ability to do such workflows with early versions of DEVONThink, Tinderbox, or even MediaWiki, though as these are used personally, it’s much harder to provide evidence for their direct use as such.
The real question is what additional value and affordances does this pattern allow? Some of the value is in emptying your head (forgetting) as seen in productivity systems like 43 folders or doing Morning Pages. I suspect that rarely are people revising these tidbits at later times to get additional value from them.
Outside of this, systems like Roam Research may make it easier to create a diary like this with the day’s work, but the real value there is not the date/timeline created, but the way that the system treats each block like its own unit of knowledge and allows cross linking them. In this case, the real precursor goes back at least as far as Konrad Gessner’s Pandectarum sive Partitionum Universalium (1548), which provides a classic definition of the zettelkasten format, though this obviously is heavily informed by the earlier traditions of excerpting and annotating found in commonplace books, florilegia, etc. stemming from the ideas of rhetoric from the Greeks and Romans.
In oral cultures, precursors of this sort of time ordering can be seen with respect to the ideas of ancestral time, genealogy, and techniques like the songline in Australia, but the implementations will vary and it’s unlikely that one might find a complete one-to-one mapping of these ideas into Western cultures.
Replied toa tweet by TfT Hacker - Exploring Tools for Thought and PKM (Twitter)
Elevator pitch for Tools for Thought
How would you explain Tools for a Thought (TfT) to your friends and family in the most concise way possible?#TfT
— TfT Hacker - Exploring Tools for Thought and PKM (@TfTHacker) January 3, 2022
Good tools for thought encourage or allow me to:
Easily and quickly capture interesting ideas and their original or related contexts so I can artificially remember more of what I’ve seen, read, and thought.
Link these ideas to related and non-related ideas and contexts.
Dramatically accelerates the creation of new ideas with respect to combinatorial creativity and ideas having sex.
Have a greater ability to focus on bigger ideas by letting me forget some less familiar minutiae. I can think more by remembering less though repeated good ideas filter up to the top and through repeated linking and use are more easily remembered.
A few weeks ago I saw Ben Stokes’ post about PaperWebsite.com and my immediate reaction was, “I have to be able to do that!” I’ve long enjoyed writing by hand over typing as the tactile feel of of pen or pencil and paper is such an enjoyable one. I particularly enjoy using a nice fountain pen on high quality paper.
Obviously there was a route to doing a workflow like this as Ben had shown. I just needed to figure out a method with a low enough barrier that I could personally implement for doing this with my own WordPress website.
A Quick Solution
Not being a serious coder, I immediately began looking for ways I could leverage some of the IndieWeb building blocks my site supports. Micropub seemed like a no-brainer for the posting portion since I’ve got an endpoint using the Micropub WordPress plugin. Certainly not wanting to manually re-type everything once I was finished writing, I needed a way of converting my handwriting to text and then automating a way to plug that into my micropub client.
A short burst of searching revealed that Google Docs could do Optical Character Recognition (OCR) on photos. I pulled out my IFTTT app and found a recipe for taking a photo and saving it to Google Drive. Then I set up another recipe to watch a particular folder in Google Drive and take whatever text appears in new documents and send it to my website using a webhook that uses my Micropub endpoint. The whole thing only took a half hour from idea to a working prototype. In the end it took a tap to open IFTTT on my phone and another tap to take the photo. Then I had to manually open the document to trigger the OCR. Finally, I had to manually open and edit the post before posting.
I had set the micropub client to post as a draft as a default just in case the OCR wasn’t perfect. This was fortunate as the Google photo OCR was so solid that the letters “Dia” of the microscopic text from the word “Diamond” partially visible on my pen cap that was in the photo got pulled into the post.
In the few times I’ve used this workflow so far, I’ve mostly done straight text and syndicated posts to Twitter, Mastodon, and Micro.blog. Perhaps in the future I might set things up to add HTML links, but they’re fairly easy to add at the editing stage.
Since I started my experimentation, a few others in the IndieWeb community have noticed the paperwebsite.com site. Greg McVerry popped up and linked to it as well. He mentioned that he had a digital notebook with OCR capability. This reminded me that I’ve got both a Livescribe Echo pen and a Rocketbook notebook with a Pilot Frixion pen that has an app for uploading digitized images of notebook pages. I hadn’t done OER with Livescribe in ages, so I pulled out the Rocketbook, which is cleverly erasable and thus reusable not to mention being fairly inexpensive. A bit of quick set up allowed me to take a photo of a page which automatically uploads to Google Drive and does its own OCR process. This already dovetails with my prior process, so the whole thing is much smoother. As a result, I’m composing this post in my Rocketbook notebook and will automatically upload and post it to my site as a draft. I’ll probably add some links, a photo or two, and then publish it in a bit.
The Rocketbook notebook has some solid pages with an odd shiny texture and feel, presumably part of the technology that makes it easy to wipe them clean for reuse. The bottom of each page has seven different faint icon images which are meant to allow the app to determine where to send the digital copy of the notes. One can send them via email or to a variety of storage or sharing services. I could imagine having different recipes set up to allow one to publish their notes to different websites based on the icon X-ed out. Given the micropub possibilities, one could also use the icons as a means of differentiating post kinds (for example, indicating that a particular post is a note, an article, or a bookmark). Another alternate idea would be to use the icons as a means of selecting which services to syndicate your content to (for example, the diamond could mean syndicate this post to Micro.blog, the bell could mean Mastodon, and the clover syndicates the post to Twitter).
The overall process is quite elegant and pleasant. The OCR for Rocketbook is reasonably good aside from a few spelling errors which are easy enough to click and fix. I’ll admit that I far prefer using a fountain pen on some Tomoe River paper to using the Rocketbook paper and the Frixion pen, but really, who wouldn’t?
Handwritten notes for your digital zettelkasten or personal wiki
Since I’ve already got most of the infrastructure, I’ve gone the extra mile and set things up so that I can take notes on index cards zettelkasten-style and use a similar set up to post them to my Obsidian vault using similar IFTTT recipes.
I’m sure, now that there are multiple proofs of concept, some enterprising developer will build a custom micropub client to do all of this work automatically or with a few options built into a clever interface.
I could see pen and paper manufacturers (Moleskin, Leuchtturm, Rocketbook, etc.) creating apps for doing this too. I’d love to see and hear about others trying this out for themselves. Hopefully it can be done with almost no code or some easy cut and paste from my example. Ask if you need help, and I’ll see what I can do to help.
IFTTT Webhook settings
This following will be roughly standard for WordPress endpoints using the plugin, but they can obviously be modified for your platform of choice.
While doing some of this I did come across some older examples of handwriting to websites. Aside from handwriting typography which I think is usually ugly, I saw some interesting examples from Jeff Bridges , gRegor Morrill, and scrolled through some great examples of handwritten and typed Tweets by Alton Brown. In his case, he was simply taking photos of his writing, but it worked! I’ll admit he had some fun and was definitely creative about it. Hopefully Twitter always exists to save the copies for him.
In short, I’ve now got another great way to post to my website. I love the great old school tactile user interface of pen and paper. Now I’m glad to have a reason to be able to do more of it in an ever-digitized culture.
Until I start working on cuneiform solutions…
Write On! 🖋
Editor’s note: This post was originally handwritten on Dec 16, 2021 at 20:15.
On a slip in his zettelkasten (a card catalog or filing cabinet of personal notes), entitled “Does Spirit hide in the filing cabinet?”, Niklas Luhmann wrote a note about people who came to see his system:
“People come, they see everything and nothing more than that, just like in porn movies; consequently, they leave disappointed.”
This is a telling story about people’s perception of the simplicity of the idea of a slip box (zettelkasten, card catalog, commonplace book or whatever you want to call your note taking system).
It’s also a testament to the fact that the value of a zettelkasten is in the upfront work that is required in making valuable notes and linking them. Many people end up trying out the simple looking system and then wonder why it isn’t working for them. The answer is that they’re not working for it.
Just as sex can be fun, working with a system of notes can be fun. (“Just” can be a problematic word, n’cest pas?) In either framing, both partners need to do some work—neither necessarily the same work. The end result can be magic.
As Potter Stewart might have said, “I may not be able to define proper note taking, but I know it when I see it.”
With two planner books and one checklist book, our Ignition Edition 3-Pack for Winter 2021 is the perfect place to keep track of all of your things to do.
4, 3, 2, 1… IGNITION
We all need a place to jot down the first sparks of a big new idea, to record our “notes to self,” and to remind ourselves to pick up the doggo at 4 p.m. on Thursday. Our regular Field Notes Planner is great, but we’re frequently asked for a smaller edition. Our previous limited-edition pocket planners (the long-gone Ambition and Resolution editions) were also great, but we wanted to find a way to fit even more into a Memo-sized date book.
You’ll find that the new Winter 2021 “Ignition” set checks all the boxes. Each 3-Pack contains two 26-Week Planners. Splitting the year into two books gives you a full spread for each week, making more space for each day and incorporating a weekly “To do, or…” list that can be used for productivity OR inspiration. Each page also features a bit of practical advice, direct from Field Notes staff. Note that the pages are undated, allowing you to start either book anytime and fill in the dates as you go.
The third book is a “Checklist Journal” featuring the popular “Screwhead Device” that we introduced in the 2017 “Resolution” Edition. it's great for to-do lists or bullet journaling… or ignore the Screwheads, and use it like any ruled notebook.
The covers are made from water-and-tear-proof synthetic paper from Yupo that will hold up to a whole year’s worth of abuse. The book’s interior page design is subtly varnished over the cover color. The innards are our reliable 60# Finch with gray rules, bound with black staples.
POINTY. SHINY. HANDY.
Quarterly Subscribers receive a bunch of bonus items with their order this quarter! Along with your two 3-Packs of “Ignition,” we’re including a carded set of three stainless steel Book Darts. They’re perfect for marking your place as you work through the date books. An “Ignition Yellow” Clic Pen and a two-sided 2022 “One Sheet Calendar” are also included with your subscription shipment. Subscribing is the only way to get these items, and of course you'll get the next three editions, their accompanying bonus items, and a yearlong 10% discount on most items on the website. What’s in store for subscribers for 2022? There’s only one way to find out!
By the way: If you check your planner, you’ll see there are a variety of gift-giving holidays coming up, what would make a better quarterly reminder of your generosity than a year’s worth of Field Notes?
01. Proudly printed by the good people of Lake County Press, Inc., Waukegan, Ill.
02. Cover: Yupo Synthetic 74#C “White,” with a brute force application of “Ignition Gray, Yellow, and Black” soy-based Toyo UV inks and a spot UV varnish.
03. Innards: Finch Paper Opaque Smooth 60#T “Bright White,” with a fine, 1-color application of “Ignition Light Gray” soy-based Toyo ink.
04. Cover and innards printed on a Heidelberg Speedmaster XL 105 40" 6-color UV printing press.
05. Bound with a Heidelberg Stitchmaster ST 270 5-pocket saddle stitcher with cover feeder/scorer and Rima RS 10S in-line stacker, with appreciation to Samuel Slocum, George W. McGill, and William J. Brown, the “Founding Fathers of the Staple.”
06. Corners precisely rounded to a 3/8" (9.5mm) radius with a Challenge DCM double round-corner machine.
07. Edition features two 26-Week Date Books and one 56-Page Checklist Journal.
08. Memo book dimensions are 3-1/2" × 5-1/2" (89mm × 140mm).
09. FIELD NOTES uses only the Futura typeface family (Paul Renner, 1927) in its materials.
10. All FIELD NOTES memo books are printed and manufactured in the U.S.A.
I’ve been thinking it for a while, but have needed to write it down for ages—particularly from my experiences with older manuscripts.
In an age of print-on-demand and reflowing text, why in goodness’ name don’t we have the ability to print almost anything we buy and are going to read in any font size and format we like?
Why couldn’t I have a presentation copy sized version of The Paris Review?
“I could fit this in my pocket,” I thought when the first newly re-designed @parisreview arrived. And sure enough editor Emily Stokes said it’s was made to fit in a “large coat pocket” in the editor’s note. pic.twitter.com/tra25GOk6e
Why shouldn’t I be able to have everything printed on bible-thin pages of paper for savings in thickness?
Why couldn’t my textbooks be printed with massively large margins for writing notes into more easily? Why not interleaved with blank pages? Particularly near the homework problem sections?
Why couldn’t I buy my own hardcover, custom edition of Annotationwith massive five inch margins to really make having a handwritten #AnnoConvo easier? (C’mon MIT Press, I know it’s part of a pre-existing series, but editorial considerations should have necessitated leaving at least an inch!)
Why can’t I have more choice in a range of fonts, book sizes, margin sizes, and covers?
When are publishing platforms going to give us this?!?
The Jonathan Edwards Miscellanies Companions are products of JESociety's "Miscellanies Project." Essays were contributed by an international body of scholars hailing from East Asia, Australia, Europe, the UK, and North America. The contributions canvas the wide range of topics contained in Edwards' "Miscellanies."
"The Miscellanies Project" and the Companions are part of the "Visual Edwards Project" created by Robert L. Boss. A unique contribution to Jonathan Edwards studies, "Visual Edwards" is a software project that maps Edwards' writings, volumes 1-26 of the Yale critical edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, and provides a new view of America's theologian. "Visual Edwards" is, as it were, an advanced computational material which can be stretched, bent, and zoomed to direct the scholar to areas of interest. As a cartographic tool, it grants the reader visual access to Edwards in his own words.
A team-oriented project to visually unlock Edwards' notebooks, and map intricate connections in his thought, "The Miscellanies Project" and the print Companions are first steps toward the Himalayan task of visualizing Jonathan Edwards -- an ongoing project seemingly without end. To echo Edwards' sentiment in "Types," "there is room for persons to be learning more and more ... to the end of the world without discovering all."
Now available here: https://t.co/zMpGSptDKh DM me or email me at "doctor" plus "my last name" (all one word) at g mail dot you know, and I will send you my chapter in this book as a sample for FREE! https://t.co/SWqmXTP1xs