Personal knowledge base



I;m thinking about thos Notes

Still trying to figure out the ideal personal knowledge base, and trying to migrate years of bookmarks from over to this page in a way that makes sense. I already implemented bookmarks, but it’s different. Right now they are meant as hooks to hang quotes and notes on, while the pinboard links feel more throw-away; many are to handy resources or single images or whatever, pages that encourage neither quoting or noting.

I’m using link dumps as one way of porting them, even trying to sort some by theme. Was just trying to do one about color, but it turned out there wasn’t really enough links to make a whole thing out of it, so the philosophy of digital gardening kicked in: “this can be the starting point, to which I can add more color-related links later!”

But a note doesn’t seem like the right vehicle for that kind of thing; a note should be it’s own, self-contained item. Notes should be categorized, not house categories. So I started thinking: “Maybe I can add a document type for collecting items with a similar theme...”, but wait! I already have that: my catalog of tags.

I keep running into the same problem of balance: automated collections miss a certain personal touch, while curating collections gets too involved.

The beauty of is that almost everything is a document, and documents can contain whatever. So it finally dawned on me: my tags already have several fields for metadata, there’s nothing stopping me from expanding them with optional fields for curation of content.

TODO, then: Add optional rich content fields to tags for adding general descriptions and featuring items. Maybe some kind of page to cater for certain tag combos would be handy, too?


Information overload

Yet back [in 2010] the evidence already was strongly suggesting that the internet was a very powerful way to access lots of information very quickly. We were all concentrating on that great new bounty of information: the more information, the better — the faster it comes to me, the better.

What we lost sight of was how we actually take that information into our mind. There’s all sorts of very good evidence that if you’re distracted — if your attention is shifting very quickly — you can gather lots of information in a very swift fashion, but you’re not going to assemble it very well into knowledge. It’s going to just remain bits of information. You’re not going to develop a rich store of personal knowledge, which is all about connections and associations.

Revisiting notes

But, really, it doesn’t matter how your [reading/note-taking] system works. It only matters that you have a system. Why? So that you can have a catalog of ideas that you can revisit. Parrish organizes his blank sheets by putting them into topic binders [...], and then sits down to look at his binders about once every two months. Over time, he finds himself remembering things and making connections he may not have otherwise, mastering these various subjects.

“Not only do you understand the book at a different level, but you're writing it down. It's tangible. Instead of rereading all these books, you can just pick up this binder. ‘Oh, this is great. I want to go back to this story. Maybe I missed something [here].’ You're connecting things across different domains or different situations. That's effectively how we improve our thinking.”

Zettelkasten for notes

In regular note-taking, connections between ideas are not made by default. When reviewing a note, other relevant notes (i.e., ideas) don’t present themselves.


The key is to make connections between ideas during note-taking, way before you need to review them for your work. This forces you to actively connect the dots (during note-taking) and lets you find relevant ideas with ease in future.

Files not meant to see

Surely [digital filing] is more organized. Surely it is more efficient and secure. Surely it is cleaner and more environmentally friendly (especially if we ignore the power required to keep the servers running). On these unearthly planes, it’s harder for people to accidentally stumble across something they weren’t meant to see (darn); no forgotten documents peek out mischievously from a manila folder begging to be read (ooh). No longer does the simple act of rifling turn up something damning or private; it now requires special I.T. skills to sneak such files open.

Yet not being able to find these things — whether we were meant to or not — also means we’ve lost something too.