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Paper is the real 'killer app' (bbc.com)
459 points by happy-go-lucky on Jan 23, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 329 comments



The advantage of paper is that you can be more creative and use slow thinking[1]. Just take a look at Newton's[2] or DaVinci's[3] notebooks, how would they think so freely on a computer? Sure for a work task list, a computer is fine, but I find a computer too limiting on my creativity for myself. Added bonus: no ads, bugs, or distractions.

People that create apps create them to make money, not because they make you more productive or help you be more creative.

[1]https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Fast-Slow-Daniel-Kahneman/dp...

[2]https://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/collections/newton

[3]http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=arundel_ms_263_...


For me, the benefit comes from two limitations:

- The slow and physical aspect allows you to think about and consider the idea, as you're writing it.

- The negative reinforcement, for that slow consideration, caused by from the permanence of your mistakes or a tired hand.

But, I don't think paper has to be involved. I see it as an indication of a lack of good stylus input in most devices.

I now use a large iPad Pro, with the stylus...err...Apple Pencil, and have no desire to go back to paper. Having the pages backed up to the cloud, being able to insert links and media when necessary, and being able to quickly switch colors, is all too valuable.

If good stylus input gets cheaper, I don't, personally, see a justification for paper.


I've tried iPad Pro; but went back to using frixion (erasable) pens: http://frixion.jp/lineup/

my favourite being the 4-color (w/ variety of colors to choose from) with very fine line 0.5 mm: http://www.pilot.co.jp/products/pen/ballpen/gel_ink/frixionb...

p.s. could be combined with even finer line 0.38 mm from this pen costing ~ $1.5 : http://www.pilot.co.jp/products/pen/ballpen/gel_ink/frixionb...

For more official occasions these ones are nice: http://www.pilot.co.jp/products/pen/ballpen/multi_color/frix... http://www.pilot.co.jp/products/pen/ballpen/gel_ink/frixionb...


0.5/0.38 a very fine line? I'm using Staedtler pigment liners which are 0.05. The downside is that my handwriting has become positively tiny...


0.5 is pushing it, but for normal size writing 0.38 is a sweet spot of fine for most people. I use a 0.3, and I immediately notice bad paper because it becomes somewhat scratchy. This is in gel pens.

Looking at jet pens, yours seems to be a marker pen, which generally needs to be thinner so it won't bleed. Similar to how ball points need to be fat (0.7mm is called fine) to write smoothly and make a dark enough line.


Why specifically this brand? Is it special, and is the difference between an avg random pen big?


Frixion pens are erasable.

The ink turns invisible when heated. The pen has a rubbery tip on top which acts as an eraser when rubbed on the ink.


You'd be surprised. Pilot G2 is a great writing pen, and I'm personally a fan of Uniballs.


I, too, possess an iPad Pro with Apple Pencil, but I opted for the smaller 9.7" one. It was a mistake, the bigger one would have been better, but I love it anyway. for note-taking. It's a godsend to be able to shuffle text around, resize it, undo my errors etc. I wrote something on paper lately and automatically searched for the undo button when I made a mistake and was frustrated when I realized I have to use my eraser.

Anyway, which app are you using for your notes? I'm using OneNote ATM. I can't describe what's missing, I'm just not feeling 100% satisfied.


I'm on a surface book, but have a similar issue. OneNote is the best I've found, but my issues are a few things:

- Something about how changing color works doesn't quite feel right.

- I can't shuffle pages around, overlap them, etc.

- I want either infinite page size, or fixed, not the weird 'expand when you write near the edge' thing I have now.

I think I almost want a 'virtual desk' kind of thing that I can shuffle paper around on, make things overlap, etc. All the stuff you can do with paper, with the added benefit of being able to save stuff. Organization could be a serious issue though.


Once upon a time, before even the first iPad was released, the Microsoft Courier promised this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmIgNfp-MdI


That's interesting. I've got the larger iPad Pro that I take to meetings for notes. My coworker has the 9.7" and his seems more manageable / not as cumbersome. Perhaps it's due to our meetings being in large community rooms without tables, but there's something that's not sitting right with me. The grass is always greener, I guess.

As far as apps, GoodNotes is where I landed. It's handwriting recognition / search is pretty good, and I like the way it handles importing PDFs and Word documents.


I also use GoodNotes. I chose it because it's relatively low input latency and has handwriting recognition.


I tried both the 9.7" and 12" before I bought my 9.7". For me, while the 12" is fantastic for the available space (and the side by side tile feature is also awesome on the bigger screen), I found the size and weight meant I wouldn't want to carry it around with me wherever I go and is harder for me to hold eg on a bus. The 9.7" is small and light enough to be portable, which was important to me.


Notability works well for me.


One thing that will be a factor for a long time is that a piece of paper doesn't require integration to share it with other people, or a battery to be charged etc. It's just a real object representing your ideas.


> But, I don't think paper has to be involved. I see it > as an indication of a lack of good stylus input in > most devices.

That was going to be my reply to your first comment. I'm still using a Note 3 with its Wacom stylus, and I cannot ever imagine switching to a phone that requires a capacitive stylus.

Pro tip: The absolute best stylus that I've found for capacitive screens is a fresh, stiff cucumber. The water in the cucumber is detected by the screen just like your finger. Carrots work well too, but they are heavier for any given size.


I'll also add that having tried lots of alternatives, the iPad Pro with pencil is the only thing that comes close to real pen and paper (but still falls a bit short)


I agree completely. I bought an iPad Pro (although the smaller one for convenience of carrying it with me wherever I go) and an Apple Pencil and love it. I use it for sketching ideas, diagramming, note taking and brainstorming. And if I want to write a lot of text, I can type with a physical keyboard too (I'm a faster typist than I can hand-write).


I also have switched entirely to a big iPad Pro + pencil. Works great. Notability also lets you record sound and can play it back in sync with your notes.


I have dysgraphia, which is a disability which cognitively affects my ability to write, much like dyslexia affects one's ability to read. Writing is extremely taxing for me, to the point where I will be physically exhausted if I hand write a page of text. I've tried every technology I can think of in an attempt to accommodate my disability. I've been using a computer to take notes for 20 years. I've tried every voice recognition technology you can think of. I've tried every note-taking app I can get my hands on. I've owned more portable devices than I can remember.

In my experience, nothing beats a pen and paper.

I doubt there is anyone on the planet who would be happier to ditch paper than me. While the issues I have with writing are primarily cognitive, writing is far more taxing than typing for me. While writing, Typing avoids any of the cognitive issues I have with physically forming letters -- the computer takes care of that for me -- and spelling and grammar check generally prevents me from leaving words out or jumbling up my word order. However, using a computer FORCES you to write. On a piece of paper, I can draw a diagram (my drawing ability is unaffected) and label key parts. I can make a flow chart. I can draw arrows all over the place. I can literally do millions of things other than writing words on a piece of paper.

Doing these things on a computer is a nightmare. Even if an application has the ability to do any one of these things, it generally pales in comparison to the versatility of writing. Sure, you might be able to move things around on a computer, something that is far more difficult on paper, however I've found it's generally faster to re-draw a flow chart than it is to fix the formatting on a computer if you need to move more than a couple of items around.

Beyond that, your work area with a computer is extremely limited. I have to concentrate so hard when writing that I often forget what I was writing about. I've literally cut up papers I've written in to their individual sentences, spread them on the floor, and rearranged them so that they make sense. I can make a flow chart with thousands of elements, and place it in a place where I can see all of it at once, but also make it big enough to read all of it at once.

Paper isn't all great though. I can't stand writing on paper. It takes me forever. Plus organizing paper is a nightmare. Need to find all of the references you've made to a certain person in the past six months? Prepare to spend a few days combing through your stuff. Backing up paper is time consuming as well, and searching paper back-ups is a huge pain, especially if your handwriting sucks too much for OCR.


Ha :) I don't think it gets better then what you just wrote.

I think it is mostly due to tools on computer being bad. When I use writing app like IA Writer, or simple outliner like Outlinely or Vim plugin... I get a lot from that, mostly because I can type fast.

And I love everything paper and pens/pencils.


Have you tried a pen enabled laptop? Software like OneNote let's you doodle and diagram on a computer, and switch over to typing when needed.


I actually bought a surface pro the first week they were out. I love OneNote, and I though the surface would be everything I dreamed of. I covered some of my issues in a bit more depth in a sibling comment to yours, but my issues with the surface come down to a few things:

1) The pens don't register in the same way real pens do. So mechanisms I've formed for creating legible writing over the past couple of decades of writing are completely useless.

2) I break my surface pens all of the time. The tip splits in half. Plus the point the tip registers at is about 2 mm off from the actual tip of the pen.

3) I require a lot of space to write. The surface pro 1 is a bit too small to write on.

4) I really have to concentrate when writing, and actions like formatting, choosing a pen, moving around the page, etc, take way too much concentration, and cause me to loose my concentration on what I'm writing. This isn't entirely a OneNote problem, it's kind of inevitable for me, since switching from typing to grabbing a pen and writing would be enough to cause me to forget what I was writing.

Honestly, I suspect the assistive technology that will really help would be some sort of AI that can summarize my thoughts for me, so that I could talk to it and have it organize it in a way that I could clean it up later. I've tried Dragon NS and other voice recognition in the past, and it doesn't work at all.


Have you heard of the Livescribe pens? They unfortunately use special paper, but digitize everything you write.

https://www.livescribe.com/en-us/smartpen/ls3/


I tried one about ten years ago. It didn't work well for me.

The legibility of my writing is really sensitive to the interaction between the paper and writing utensil I'm writing. I rarely pick the pen up off the paper -- instead I use the fact that certain pens can 'skate' across certain types of paper to write in a block print that is written kind of like cursive. It's completely legible to me, and mostly legible to other people, without being too fatiguing to write.

The 'skating' effect is created by abusing the shoulder that holds the ball in a ball-point pen in place. If you look at my hand writing, there are actually depressions from the pens between the letters without ink in them, because I dragged the edge of the pen between the end of one letter and the beginning of the next.

My writing is really sensitive to both the paper I'm writing on and the pen I'm using as a result. If I write on smooth paper, like a glossy card stock, I absolutely have to write in draftsmans letters or my writing skitters all over the place. Certain pens have the shoulder in a different place, causing the connections between letters to have ink, or making some letters not appear.

Most digital writing implements don't work at all. I hold my pen at a relatively severe acute angle to the page, because I'm dragging the pen really close to the shoulder that captures the ball in a ball point pen. A lot of digital writing tools require the tool to be used more upright.

Oftentimes the issue is caused by a button' that needs to be pushed by the tip to activate the detection, and I'm binding the mechanism up because the force I'm applying to the tip is extremely off-axis. In my surface pen, in addition to this issue, the sensor is about 1.5 mm from the actual tip of the stylus, causing everything I write to be shifted rather far from where I'm intending to write.

Beyond that, I press very hard and tend to break even well-made pens. With real pens, I generally crack the tip of the pen, causing the ball to either come loose or bind inside of it. When this happens I throw out my pen and get a new one. Most styluses are much more expensive, and for whatever reason tend to be made out of much less sturdy stuff. I have broken at least 5 surface pens, which are not cheap.

The actual shape of the pen makes a difference as well, and when I tried livescribe I found the pens to be nearly impossible to use because of the shape. The occupational therapist I used to work with thinks this is probably due to a missing tendon in my right thumb, rather than dysgraphia, but it's an issue I've faced in the past.

I worked with that occupational therapist for a long time on my writing, and we set a goal of making my letters and words legible to me, and my numbers legible to everyone. I've basically achieved that goal when using pen and paper, but I have yet to find an assistive technology that doesn't make my handwriting look like a giant scribbly blob.


Have you tried a Wacom tablet? I think you can hold it and write even in the air.

I have bought 3 (upgraded to better models) in this past decade, couldn't be happier.


Money is a decoupling mechanism. An interface.


True, but it's also an incentive. If there were a way to compensate app developers for actual productivity gains then the incentives would be more aligned. This may actually be possible for bigger ticket, B2B apps. Maybe some sort of share-the-risk arrangement tied to a consulting engagement.


I think what they're describing is that there can be a problem in that the pursuit of compensation causes the disalignment of incentives. "Pay me to solve an artificial problem."


I've found journaling on paper to be one of the best morning rituals for calming anxiety. It really is amazing how just writing a few sentences creates a sense of awareness of what's going on in your head.

I also tried bullet journaling as my 'system', but quickly abandoned it. It is great if you're not a compulsive to-do list maker, but if you follow a GTD-like system where you frequently capture, it becomes onerous to answer the question 'what do I do next?' You either have to constantly flip through pages to review your full list, or regularly copy your to-dos to a master list, which becomes quite tedious, especially if you have a long list.

What works for me is using org mode as my to-do system, with paper for the brainstorming and planning. I always start with paper, then once I have clarity on what to do, I move it to org.


I find this can calm my anxiety about forgetting something important. Back in the 90's I used a Franklin Day Planner which was pretty awesome but also a bit too prescriptive for me so it was equal parts useful and repulsive :-). But I found I could capture the things I felt were important on paper and worried less about them being lost.

That turned into writing into my notebook at night what questions had come up during the day, and what needed doing. And in the morning, reviewing that and picking the top three things on that list to be addressed that day.


If it isn't too personal, what's a typical entry in your morning journal? Does it vary or is there a pattern?


In case it helps, not OP but here is my daily journal template:

https://pastebin.com/djyFiZkz

This is not on paper but I do the same thing on paper when I'm away from the computer. On my computer a cron job just pops this into a Dropbox folder as YYYY-MM-DD.md and I edit it from there.

There are some neat journaling cues available if you read e.g. "The New Diary" by Tristine Rainer. Like writing in the third person, or just viewing a diary/journal as a place to scribble down work notes and improving on it from there.

I probably change my own template every 1-2 months. You'll see on the "schedule" portion that the least productive part of my day is 1-3 p.m., so I encourage a lot of fun and relaxation during that time as a way of releasing anxiety and picking up task momentum.

Most of my work in the journal is under the "other" heading, and I don't fill out every heading every day. Most entries just have a score for the day, some notes on why I chose that score, and ideas to improve it, and then a lot of ideas under "Other".

Every Friday I do a sort of "information archaeology" thing where I go back over my paper & digital journal entries and round up reusable tips or things I've learned into a "frameworks" folder where I have separate files for things like building websites, coding, preparing for meetings, working with various types of people, possible new hobbies, etc. The recapture of these ideas has been worth quite a lot to me, as it feels like I have a better foothold next time I encounter the problem.


That does help, thank you.

Your template is much more complex than I was thinking. I can see though if reflection is the goal, then a format that encourages that makes a great deal of sense.


Thanks, that was really interesting. What is DaySCOR?


Same question; I'm curious enough to hear your feedback, if you're willing to give it, to risk posting this low-content comment. (:


not op but it doesn't have to be typical. just keep your hand moving for 10 or 15 minutes even if it's gibberish. something usually will come out.


Interesting. I wonder how useful journaling would be to help combat insomnia. I will give it a go next time I am lying in bed at 2am with my head buzzing..


I've been successfully using journaling to fight insomnia for a few months now. What I do is try to simply capture every thought that comes into my head as fast as I can write.

At first, my hand can barely keep up with the torrent of thoughts being produced by my mind, but after maybe 5-10 min it slows right down. At some point I feel like I'm actually waiting for thoughts to come up so I can write.

Eventually, my mind goes quiet. It's much easier to fall asleep then.


You may be interested in http://www.themostdangerouswritingapp.com After 5 seconds of inactivity your text goes away. This encourages you to continue typing. It's helped a lot with my fledging journaling habit.


This helped me, too, when I was suffering from insomnia. 700 to 1,000 words was the "sleep like a baby" target range for me. Also, the sooner I could bring myself to write about the really difficult topics, the better.


I too find writing a helpful way to stop thoughts tumbling round in my head so I can sleep. I think it has something to do with silencing the rehearsal loop.

http://www.cognitiveatlas.org/concept/rehearsal_loop

Focusing on a quiet podcast has a similar effect.


Do you work on the computer until late? You should consider trying this app that removes the blue hues from your monitor after 9pm: https://justgetflux.com/ (Apparently, blue coloured light is a cue our brain uses to know when to wake up—morning light has more blue than evening light)


If you are a linux user gtk-redshift does the same thing, I've also found it be very reliable with ATI's binary drivers (though these days I use the open source drivers anyway).


Flux supports Linux.


It does but ime it breaks (or did) on the various ATI/binary combinations and isn't open source.

I've had zero issues with gtk-redshift across multiple machines/configs with 1 to 4 screens :).


What a neat idea. I'll try it out.


It may not work for all of course but my insomnia (undiagnosed, so whatever the sleeplessness actually was if not insomnia) has almost completely gone after I started meditating.

Now I don't mean sitting cross legged while chanting "ahhhh" or anything like that, just give your brain an hour or so daily to start but you can probably drop to less after a while (I do it every 2-3 days now).

My best guess it's like freeing up some CPU time for garbage collection. With having podcasts, videos, films, computering, etc going almost every waking hour the brain never really gets a chance to filter through all of this stuff so attempts to do so the only quiet moment it gets - right when you're trying to fall asleep.

YMMV, Works For Me(tm), etc. Good luck!


Most people with a lot on their minds do find it easier to have pen and paper bed side. This why they can quickly jot down what's on their mind and leave the burden of remembering and figuring stuff out to tomorrow. I can't find the article about it, but it has helped me in the past.

Now I just throw on a nature documentary and a timer to shut the tv off after 30 min. I'm usually fast asleep in 10 minutes. :)


I have used this successfully this very week, with my worst insomnia yet. A trick i learned is that writing mainly helps me to clarify my thoughts, so i realized i can do that without turning on the light and getting a pen: i can use a voice recorder (on my phone) and whisper into it, like journaling out loud.

Hope this helps!


I use sleep cycle as an alarm clock. A few years of sleep data says that (for me) going to bed after working late leads to bad sleep, and going to bed after reading leads to better sleep.

Based on this single data point, perhaps try picking up a book when you call it a night?


Nothing beats curling up in a warm (well, now that it's winter in the Northern hemisphere anyway) bed with a book when you're calling it a day. It's relaxing. This habit also helps you actually get around to reading for leisure.


Even when I go to bed late, reading a few pages from my current book helps me slow down and get to sleep.


So I moved to paper note taking a month and a half ago, and it's helped with work-anxiety. It's not a cure-all either, the hardest part is changing your habits so that you still open the book to look at what you wrote down.


hugely :) you don't even have to use the structure of a journal. i've found it helpful, when my head is too full, to simply write down single words reverberating in my head impairing sleep. I did it just last night!


I know someone who found journaling cured severe RSI, when nothing else worked. I learned about this on HN and was skeptical, but lots of people had testified that it helped them, so I passed the recommendation on - amazingly it did work. See The Mindbody Prescription by Sarno.


I think it will depend on the type of RSI. Both me and a coworker once had horrible RSI. One of the problems (amongst many) that we complained about was that writing with a pen became quite painful.

I mean, RSI can be really bad. It affects your quality of life outside of the computer world. Pressing the button on my remote was painful. Pressing the button to change the frequency on my car radio was painful. Essentially, any delicate work was painful.


I call this the tangibility factor.

When I worked at MetaDesign back in the late nineties and early zeros we had something called RedBooks.

RedBooks were most of the work we had done for a specific client printed out in tabloid size bound into a spiral back book and put on a large shelf system.

We also had a matriculate digital folder system with projects, searchable and the same pages as PDF plus much more accessible from your computer.

Guess which one we used the most?

With the RedBooks it was very easy to pull out the book and look through it for inspiration, talk about how we did this or that and so on and with the book we only put in the things that where somehow relevant.

The computer folders on the other hand had everything because, yeah well why not. But what they had in quantity it lacked in human relatable tangibility.

Computers are great when the amount of information become so waste that it's impossible to manually search through it all or if you need to share a lot of your things with other people.

It turns out that for all the great things computers can help us do it still haven't solved tangibility.


I thought about that a lot, since I grew up in love about computers and believed they would be the solution for everything; even books.

But as many said, "digital" mostly made us realize they were other things than the "pure" content.

I believe our brain just crave as much sensations as possible, and writing, flipping pages, seeing a device move[1], touching, watching, etc ... basically the task of dealing with the physical world is not entirely a cost but a pleasure in itself.

On the other hand(sic) computers send you a massive amount of symbolic informations (think text search in folders, it's "faster" than any physical archive), that tickle another part of your brain but not all of it, also, I think that our brain doesn't actually like too much of these because it evolved to abstract flows into new concepts. And these concepts are either a bit hard or simply not exposed to the users (think relational queries). There's a detrimental mismatch.

[1] I booted a PIII desktop last year, to extract files from a TRAVAN backup tape. I cannot describe the pleasure I had watching that HP Colorado tape wake up and move. No matter how "slow" it was compared to anything today. It was so cool. Even the slick sound of tape moving ..


I was trying to explain this to someone ~10 years younger than me the other day. I was telling them about how, when I was in high school (late 90s) I had a portable minidisc player/recorder. In so many ways, listening to music on that device was better than listening to it on Spotfiy + smartphone, even despite the obvious advantages.

Something about holding music in your hands, feeling a drive seek the next track, pressing physical buttons to control playback -- it all feels terrific, and I didn't realize until this conversation that there's a whole generation who hasn't experienced that.

BTW those minidisc players still go for $200-400 on ebay!


MD were such a beautiful thing. I still wonder what would have been if Sony decided to drop it as an open storage medium. Considering it was released in 1992 ... could you imagine.

There's something I recently felt deep and weird about. The society is a double rotating system. We live, we want to solve problems, the solutions become a new ground replacing the past, not solving it.

When I look at old tech (big hifi tuner, vu meters, etc), I still deeply love it. The electro mechanical beauty is still there. Same for video games, or old software (I love win3.1 and 95 to bits, if I could patch the flawed core without changing the UX of that period I'd do it...). Without the commercial need to appeal money that fueled future versions like XP or Vista.

I saw things like the pico8 project, which gives a somehow modern hardware but with 8bit mindset: low res, 256 colors. People made damn beautiful games out of it. Really cool animations, gameplay, design. No need for a PS4 pro. My new pleasure is tweaking old platforms to give them "modern" day usage. Like retrofitting BT in a car radio. Or modding an old HP calc (longer battery, usb).


> MD were such a beautiful thing. I still wonder what would have been if Sony decided to drop it as an open storage medium. Considering it was released in 1992 ... could you imagine.

Sony messed it up when they bought a movie and music studio, and started to hobble their own devices. The MD was awesome, worked for 40 hours on one battery, could to digital recording and replaying.

Damn you sony.


The content side of things made them weird, but I can't really blame them not to foresee the use of a 140MB optical disk when the average consumer used floppy disks. It might be two different parts of their brains.


>Without the commercial need to appeal money that fueled future versions like XP or Vista.

This is pure nostalgia. Bill Gates has always been about the money from day one.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Letter_to_Hobbyists

Bill Gates largely made his fortune by creating an operating system that OEM's would want to ship with their computer. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but Windows 3.1 and 95 were absolutely made for and to attract money.


Yeah it wasn't altruism, I meant commercial interests forces good but old to be replaced by new for the sake of new; you have to have something to pitch to the customers.


I find that the unlimited and instant choice I get with Spotify make me enjoy the music less. There are many songs that I constantly pass over on Spotify but am absolutely delighted to hear on the FM radio.


Happy to hear that I'm not the only FM-ist. I also love "FM quality" ... twice I bought an album after loving it on radio, and was disappointed because the clear mix changed the feel of the songs.

Lastly, remember how it felt to listen to a tape. You didn't want to skip, so you just let the music play and go with the flow.

All of this is the paradox of choice and free will. We think we want ability to do exactly all we want when we want but it turns out it's not so clear cut.


I think that if you made an interface to Spotify in your hands with physical buttons you would get an experience that would be 50% there.


Yeah you can say that technology is great for finding the artifacts in a complex world with lots of variations. But it's not as good for experiencing these artifacts unless they are obviously only possible in the digital space itself (gifs, animation, interaction etc.)


I think the "digital folder" part is the loser here. It sounds like the difference between grabbing a collection based on the client and project (or date, or...) with the RedBooks, vs. reading a book via its index (digital folder). That is, the UI for a RedBook vs the UI for accessing a digital folder are fundamentally different, and the digital folder hierarchy is/was demonstrably worse. Sounds like a banal conclusion I'm sure, but the organization of these kinds of assets can actually be done wrong.


I think you are right but I am also not sure how to change that.

We have Behance, Dribble, Pinterest, Instragram etc. all streams of great work which is kind of a different approach.

But I think there is value to the tangibility and history of creating these folders and having them there.

It's just a what humans find valuable kind of thing.


It comes down to the curation. Those books were the result of one or a few people consciously deciding what was important to include. They made value-based decisions to decide what would make the cut. Constraint forces choices which lead to a more valuable experience.

In addition to the physicality of the book, browsing them meant the viewer didn't need to sort through the cruft (someone had already done that work for them), allowing them to use their own energy/thoughts to build upon that work resulting in new ideas and creativity.


> the amount of information become so waste

That is a wonderful typo.


Hah sorry vaste of course :)


I recently re-subscribed to a real-life, old-fashioned newspaper. I like the digital edition, but prefer the paper version. The resolution is amazing and you can't beat the loading times, and I never run into browser incompatibility issues. There are still too many ads, but they don't pop up and dance.


I'm the opposite. I hate physical newspaper. Don't get me wrong, I like physically printed sheets, but newspaper is the worst quality paper. It tears easily and is partially see-through which means if I'm holding it up against a light (like an open window), it gets hard to read.

And if I'm reading next to an open window and a breeze blows by, the chances that my paper will (at best) get blown around or (at worst) torn are pretty high, again due to how fragile the paper is.

The ink also gets all over everything when I touch it, so if I'm reading the paper at breakfast, I either eat ink when I pick up my toast or I'm washing my hands every time I turn a page.

Meanwhile, when I'm done reading the paper and want to return it to the pile for someone else to read, I have to carefully fold each section and each page and try to get them all back into a neat order, which never happens.

I also disagree on the "resolution is amazing" comment. Maybe my subscription is lower quality than others, but even in the New York Times, the pictures are awful, awful quality compared to digital.

And they're printed once a day, so if an important event happens at noon, I won't get to read about it until tomorrow morning.

And the worst part of it all? Printing all of these copies, every day, distributing them on trucks, and then they get thrown away. A newspaper is the absolute worst way to consume news. Absolute worst. Yeah it might feel nice to sit and read a newspaper, but part of me says that's nostalgia/wistfulness talking. Every piece of a newspaper is the worst way to present that particular thing, from ink to paper to organization to pictures to the news itself.


>And they're printed once a day, so if an important event happens at noon, I won't get to read about it until tomorrow morning.

I don't like reading printed newspapers any longer either, but the one good thing about them is that they are printed once a day. News is not something that you need to know about instantly. The only things we need to know about in real time are existential threats. That is not news, that is an emergency broadcast or alert, which is not what news is for.

Have you ever noticed that when 24-hour cable news covers things in real time, it's mostly just waiting around and bullshiting until something happens, and then they are forced to provide incomplete information that is more often than not, wrong.

The whole idea of a newspaper is that it provides some time between an event and when you learn about it. That time is used by the newspaper to collect information, fact check and provide a more complete account of an event. They still get stuff wrong, but it's still far better than twitter, or cable or any real-time firehose.

Learning about something that happened yesterday also gives the reader the distance to contemplate and thing about what happened as well instead of jumping on twitter or facebook and making an ass of yourself before knowing all the facts.


I tried it, but I found you have to manually run the garbage collector and the quick load times are due to local caching on low-density biodegradable WORM media cartridges. The transport protocol is only simplex and the packet transit time (can't even call it a ping time because it's simplex) is atrocious (there is a send() function but nonce tokens require in-app purchases).


The only issue is that Ctrl+F doesn't work properly on paper, neither within a single newspaper, not across last year's newspapers.


I recently read a printed book for the first time in ages and had a really weird experience. I wanted to find a particular passage, but muscle memory took over and I found myself pressing Ctrl-F on my leg. For a fraction of a second, I thought that the book was broken. It took me a moment to remember to look in the index.

It really threw me for a loop. Electronic texts are so pervasive in my life that I had half forgotten how to interact with a printed book. My automatic familiarity with print had faded enough that I was consciously aware of the properties of the medium. I was frustrated by the inability to zoom in on diagrams or copy and paste. The margins weren't big enough for my notes. There was no autogenerated list of highlighted passages. I felt like a child confronted with a VHS tape or a classic Gameboy.

I grew up obsessed with books. At the back of my desk drawer, there's a little envelope containing the membership cards for eleven different library services. For most of my life, I rarely went anywhere without a book to hand. I spent a large part of my adolescence digging through the dustier shelves of second-hand book shops. Still, I can't shake the feeling that print is largely obsolete. I don't feel nostalgic about books, I'm just frustrated that so few of them are available in digital format.


I think I got a solution - every article is accompanied by a QR code that you can scan to open a searchable version of the exact same text. Just a couple of seconds away and you don't lose the papery-feel either.


We could provide a device -- say, in a nice friendly shape like a cat -- that can read these codes and open up the relevant text on their PC or iPad or whatever! What could possibly go wrong?


Man, brilliant! The VCs and media companies won't be capable of leaving you alone!

...I think I still have one of those in a junk-box somewhere.


cue the music!


Skip the QR code and let the article itself be a code. Some magagines have implemented that already. It takes a specialized reader app but then the paper is not littered with QR codes all over.

Of course the lo-tech version is simply google the title and chances are you'll find the digital version of the article.


Why not ditch the QR code and have an app that takes a photo of text and lets you perform ctrl+f on the image?


because you still couldn't search across pages


This is the distilled version of my opinion. You get so many more useful tools to analyze and search data when it's digital.


No worries, AR glasses coming soon.


After almost a decade of not bothering with them, six months ago I signed back up for physical magazine subscriptions again. I decided I like having the physical artifact around sometimes. There's even a niche magazine (Vitamag) where I'm one of only about 100 people that pay for it through Patreon, that they actually print our names on a page of each book. That's a pretty cool feeling.


In one of the "fake news" threads here, someone suggested The Economist as a good weekly recap. I got a subscription for my wife for Christmas (she wasn't thrilled, but it's growing on her). We've both been enjoying having the physical magazines around, as we can pick one up and read a good 5 minute story with coffee or before bed. Some articles have a clear moneyed establishment slant, but there's a lot of quality research and writing and a minimum of fluff.


Maybe your wife would like The Economist's sister publication called "1843". Less serious, but well written too.


I've had a subscription to three physical magazines for many years now; for two of them, it's been for 20 years. I've also kept all of those issues (ugh).

Recently, though, for one of the magazines I decided to get the CD version with PDFs (Servo Magazine); for the other two, it would be impossible to do this - Servo Magazine hasn't been out as long, and so it was easy to "catch up".


That's interesting to hear, since we're launching a quarterly of stories in 2017, as a classic magazine.

It will be digital and paper (comic book/pulp format to evoke the Amazing Stories feel), but we really wanted to get paper magazines out there for that same tangibility.


I've toyed around with this idea but I decided the paper and transport waste meant I was indulging myself recklessly.

On the other hand, an e-ink device over a glossy mobile or laptop screen is something I was happy to restrain myself to.


There's a 'joke' in my office, we have someone who circulates key headlines in a morning email because we all have electronic access to a slew of newspapers which means none of us read any of them.

Related, I renewed a print subscription to The Economist after spending the last ~5 years as a digital-only subscriber. I read so much more of the content when it's a physical item than by picking the articles with 'interesting' headlines.


I've done the same and found it is way less distracting. This means I get through more articles in a shorter period of time and with greater concentration. It also reduces the impulse to share on social media (and the associated brain power to come up with some witty comment about it).


Same. I got the financial times weekly. It's refreshing to read real, well-funded journalism.

And I find I can skim it with much leas distraction. Most pages have several articles, and it takes very little effort to scan headlines to see which ones to read.


I done the same last year, only with a subscription to the paper version of the Economist.


I recently adapted bulletjournaling (from OmniFocus) and absolutely love it. Writing my journal is very relaxing and became a daily ritual of mine. Once a week i escape with my notebook to a cafe (without any tech gadgets) and review my entire system, cut out some tasks that are no longer relevant and plan for the next week.

Paper also allowed me to confront imperfections and mistakes more directly. I made a ton of writing mistakes that drove my crazy first and made me want to buy a new note first since I was so used to having my OmniFocus in perfect shape. It's really refreshing!

Plus It's interesting to see what a engineering brain can do with pen and paper. Most of the "modules" I use in my bulletjournal like my monthly and weekly spreads were from scratch created to fit perfectly on my needs.

Oh and boy does good paper feel nice!



I also use the Bullet Journal "system" and it's really nice and I enjoy writing what I need to do for the day. However, unlike you I haven't really extended it and use only the basics which seems to work fine for me.


That's great! Simpler solutions are most of the times better.

I needed to squish start dates and deadlines, task scheduling, 'waiting on' + 'someday' lists, project pages, weekly overviews and better migrations into mine which took a good amount of trial and error to find something that sticks and is intuitive.

On the other hand, I am trying to literally plan everything in my journal. I don't want to rely on any other app and thus need to come up with modules that make it possible to get rid of app dependencies completely.


I like to think of paper as immutable storage. All my mistakes remind me how safe my jottings are versus the average note taking software effort.

I do use org-mode and git at work, but even then will often capture to paper.


I use an erasable notebook [1] for my scribbling. I find it quite good for sketching a quick diagram /prototyping, short-term todos, mindmapping and brainstorming. I don't think it's good for long term journaling (a proper notebook would be better).

Having an erasable pen solves my problem of making tons of stupid spelling mistakes, being guilty of wasting paper and losing them in a giant pile of worthless annotation. For me it's more helpful to have some of my working ideas physically in front of me instead of hidden behind another window or virtual desktop.

My particular brand of erasable notebook (Whynote) also have detachable sheets, so I'm not bound to the linearity of a conventional notebook (I not super fan of constantly having to turn pages).

[1] http://www.whynote.ch or http://www.wipebook.com or http://www.magicwhiteboard.co.uk/category/magic-notebook


How do you find the Whynote versus Wipebooks?

Is there a reason you went for Whynote over the others?

(I have a Wipebook - but sometimes I forget to erase it immediately, and it gets hard to erase if you leave it too long. Also, the pages aren't the most durable, especially to any liquid. The Whynote doesn't appear available in larger sizes though - e.g. A4, Letter).


> Is there a reason you went for Whynote over the others?

It's super simple: it's the first one I heard of. I already had a Nu board day-planner/organizer/thingamajig I bought during a trip to Japan. I though it was only a novelty thing but I found myself using it more and more; not as a erasable calendar thigy but as a notebook.

Then a friend showed her own Whynote, and I ordered mine shortly thereafter. Plus, this comes from a swiss startup so it felt good to do something chauvinistic for once. Finally, it's available in brick and mortar stores in my area, so it's easy to impulse-buy.

But comparing the two products page I found out that the last version of the Wipebook ommits their detachable spine. That would be a dealbreaker for my, since I really like how I can reorganize the page as I want. It's also much easier to scan if you have can fan a scanner that can batch-scan a pile of document (typically in a library).


Are there any other unexpected caveats there? Like, I don't know, do your fingers get dirty because of small particles of the ink that didn't stick, which add up over time (think whiteboard markers but on smaller scale)?

Because this really looks too good to be true, at least for me. Maybe I should order and see myself...


* The correctable pens (fine point) can dry up pretty if uncapped. I had some case where my pen where partly dried and would randomly not write. In some case I had the feeling that a particular area of the notebook wouldn't let me write where in fact it was only a dry pen. You can "undry" the pen - see [1] - but the process is not as smooth and elegant as the video would suggest. I think it's less a problem with medium point pens; but I don't like writing stuff with those medium pens - too large to my taste.

[1] : https://youtu.be/y_PWw7G1jfg?t=51s

* While we're at it, the pens tends to die much quicker than a conventional ballpoint pen (2-3 month of solid use ? I don't really know). But then, I think I write more with this notebook than I ever wrote with a conventional pen, so my estimation is probably flawed.

* I think I had dirty fingers only once because of the pens, but then that tend to also happens with gel pens. Maybe there's something wrong with the way I'm transporting or holding them ?

* When you erase a whole page (probably with some water - the ink is water soluble - and a microfiber tower) and it is not properly and thoroughly dried, it can stick to the opposite page. But that sort of thing tends to happens to a lot of plastic sheets, and the leave are thick enough to not be a problem. It's only a minor papercut (... sorry, this pun was terrible).

* The spine is not supper-dupper rugged and I recently lost one spiral (one year after I bought it). But the perks of having reorganisable and easily scannable pages are worth it.

* I would really like dotted pages instead of lined pages but this is not available at the moment.

* OneNote OCR doesn't transcribe the scanned page as magically as what it can do with a tablet PC stylus (it's probably looking at the stroke themselve, something that is lost when you scan a page)


Thank you very much for the answer!

So the pens that Whynote sells are just branded Staedtler 305, is that right? Not having to ship the pens from abroad and being able to buy them locally would sell the product for me.


> So the pens that Whynote sells are just branded Staedtler 305

Exactly.


Do you happen to know if either of these are in a retail store such as Staples (would like to check it out in person, seems awesome).


Wipebook, on their webpage, claim they are available in Staples: https://wipebook.com/pages/faqs


Fascinating, I might have to get one. Do these smear when you close the book? Does it have a similar feel and aesthetic to paper?


Smear : you really have to put a lot of ink and immediately close the book to have some. In practice I have none.

Look and feel : The texture and feel is quite different from paper. It's basically paper laminated with some sort of plastic. It depends on the pen you're using[1]. If you're using a medium pen, it feels a lot like a whiteboard (gliding feeling) . With a fine pen, it's a little bit more scratchy.

[1] they are all using Staedtler Lumacolor correctable 305 pens. I wonder if there's an expired patent or if it's just a happy coincidence


Do you need to use special pens? Or can you just use standard dry erase markers?


Erasable pens for overhead transparencies. They're not expensive at all, and most decent stationers would have them.


While those works, they can leave some traces. The guy behind Wipebook made a video about it [1]. See also the Tips and Tricks videos from the same company [2] [3]

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-hE6VDAG_I

[2]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQtGd0YkMos

[3]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_PWw7G1jfg


This is very interesting and it looks useful - thanks for posting this!


Woah, I kind of want one now.


I never liked all the multitude of list making apps - Evernote, Todoist, Omnifocus, etc.

I prefer org-mode[1] on emacs. It's simple, flexible, distraction free and for some reason reminds me of writing on paper. You get the simplicity, while also making it as powerful as you want.

1- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJTwQvgfgMM


org-mode has been my 2017 resolution, and in the 23 days I've been using it, I'm sold. I love prose and writing, and this scratches that itch pretty effectively while also giving me really powerful things that I need to be organized, like structure to my notes and tag searches. It's also as in or out of the way as I want it to be, which is great - I get to define the structure of how it works, and have largely through my emacs config. My last remaining hangup is capture when not in front of a full computer, but I'm sure that's a problem just in need of some time and automation, and admittedly my life would be easier if I'd give in and store my orgfiles in Dropbox, but being less dependent on cloud services I don't control is my sub-resolution, so I'm resisting this one as long as I can.


I capture on paper. If I'm at a meeting or something, I simply write to paper, then transcribe my daily notes to org-mode at the end of the day. I don't particularly worry about structure when spooling to paper.

Sometimes I'll capture to paper even if I'm sitting in front of my computer. If I've got something complex to reason through, I like the free-form nature of paper. I pretend it's an auxiliary scratch buffer whose contents I will reason about later.

My paper notebook, therefore becomes pretty nonsensical, because it isn't the system of record. I carry it as a notebook because I can always go back a day or two if I got lazy and didn't transcribe the previous day. Also a paper notebook puts on a better show for society as compared to just having a few sheets of printer paper along for the ride at meetings (though that works too). Periodically, I rip previous pages out (if spiral bound--they tear cleanly) and shred them just to restore that fresh notebook feeling.


I'll add that I've used Mobile-org and even tried Evernote on mobile. I cannot for the life of me figure out how people use mobile note-taking apps. Even with a bluetooth keyboard the UX is so slow / inflexible compared to paper.

I've seen people apparently use them to reasonable effect though, so I'm going to assume that people capable of note-taking on mobile are just a more evolved kind of human than I am :-)


As someone who writes for a living, I can appreciate mobile note taking. Flexibility of the app is not really the important part - I frequently use apple's notes app. But, in those cases what I'm really doing is "pre-writing" not note taking. I'm not capturing ideas, I'm already interpreting them before I write them down, adding structure as I go.

In paper, I tend to really note-take. I like note-taking on paper for things I don't really understand yet. I prefer pre-writing in an app for situations where my understanding of the topic is good, and I want to skip steps (e.g. writing a blog post about a presentation, where the topic is already familiar)

Now, in fairness, I have recently started using SimpleMind for mind-mapping real-time. I find it does a good job at doing both things. It helps me build a narrative structure in one branch, while capturing notes in others. It also gives me a lot of nice flexibility on-screen to rearrange branches, relocate topics and do other general house-keeping.


This is why I've got a Samsung note.

It's response is sufficient to capture in paper like fashion.

I still prefer paper, but the little note app that ships with the phone works very well.


I use Emacs' org-mode for pretty much all my work notes. It's very structured, long and includes spreadsheets.

But usually I don't use my laptop during work. Instead I print just day's notes (schedule etc.) to a single paper sheet and keep the note paper with me. I do corrections and maybe add notes with a pen. Then later at home I modify my org-mode files to match my note paper.


I like Evernote as a place to store my notebook pages that I want to search for. It's easy to take a picture with my phone and upload it as a PDF to Evernote which does a shockingly good job of finding text in the images and indexing them. I also get some metadata related to the time, date, and place where I generated the PDF. It's nice having important parts of my notebook available at all times.

I'm also surprised the article didn't mention mind mapping. Does nobody do that anymore?


I do mind mapping extensively, both on paper, and using Mindjet's "mind manager". I use mind mapping to brain dump everything relevant about a project. The free-form approach helps me get stuff down in whatever order my brain decides to bring it to memory. They then get hacked into a logical order, maybe split into separate maps, and get used as an "at a glance" overview, which is great for making sure nothing gets missed during development. Paper is handy for the first cut, or on a bus, in a meeting etc., but the electronic version is better for editing and showing to colleagues and customers.


They all feel like work including orgmode, while writing and sketching on paper is playful.


I'd agree. I've been trying to think of why I like orgmode and todoist and toggl aren't the same, it's that I can manipulate it freely as text without being blocked by the structure or hitting a use-case unanticipated by the authors of the app. I can also extend it easily and have done so.

In that way its benefits are similar to pen and paper.


That is the same problem I have with most of the list making apps, but for web, at least Taskcade (https://www.taskcade.com) does the job for me, while feeling somewhat natural typing on it.


I like workflowy a lot although I rarely use it. (Used to use it on a weekly basis on my previous workplace.)


Do you have a good solution for reading and editing on mobile?


I use Orgzly http://www.orgzly.com/


"I was shocked to realize how dependent I’ve grown on three simple features that just aren’t available in the analog world: search, sort and filter"

https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/04/ui-patterns-for-mob...


They are - you simply have to do the extra bit of indexing work yourself.

Create a high level topic for each note, and put that in the front of the notebook, with a page number. Once you're beyond one book, keep a separate index book and update it periodically with a book/page number from the indexes in the individual books.

If you find yourself referring to a particular topic frequently, take some time and re-write the entry. That way you can correlate several writings on the topic, and add both a better framing and lessons learned.

It's a bit of extra work, but it's worth it.


I would argue that anything you refer back to even once should be translated into digital. Note I said translated, not transcribed. When converting to digital you should fix things: check the facts, make the diagrams pretty, fix the grammar.

Paper is great for a rough draft. Rewriting your rough draft to the final is always good practice.


agreed. the main thing i use pencil & paper for is sketching out designs for some physical stuff I make. I always start on paper, but if it's a design I'm actually going to use more than once, it gets drawn up on the computer.


I've never had much success with digital todo lists, so I've never stoped using pen and paper to schedule what I have to do.

On my current system I have a math notebook (A5 format) where I dump everything I have to do on the left (or right) non-writable areas of the page, and then everyday I write what I have to do for the next day on the writable area. I try to add for each day at least one of those items on the left/right side, and each day I try not to add more than 2/3 items per day.

The reason that this works for me is that I try to have a very simple life, fulfill my daily obligations, and try to have as much free time as I can get. I do not need automatic systems to search my pending tasks way back in time because if those tasks don't "migrate" to the current page of the notebook, it's because they are not much relevant.


Your migrating tasks remind me of the Autofocus system : https://lifehacker.com/5151111/autofocus-is-a-single-paper-b...


Might be a bit off-topic, but here it goes. This article gave me reassurance how I resisted using e-readers and stuck to the notion of using an actual book. Waste of paper? Yes. But then we are wasting papers in many other ways as well (another debate). Plus books hardly get recycled and they often get passed on (used bookstores). Also, my another issue with Kindle-esque books or even buying paperbacks from Amazon is that now I always rely on reviews before purchasing my new book. I remember when I was young and in school, I would just go and browse through books in my school library and pick whatever interests me.


As someone who grew up on paper books, but at one time bought an e-reader, my 2 cents:

Ereaders will likely never be as good as the best paper books. However, they can be better than many printed books. I've owned printed books with poor bindings, poor typesettings, poor quality paper. The ereader was definitely better than those.

On the whole spectrum of quality of published (paper) books, I would rank my ereader to be right smack in the middle.

Then there's the obvious: Ereaders are much more practical on a plane, etc. My first one was 5 inches (which is small - would not recommend). It fit in my jacket pocket. Any time I was stuck somewhere (e.g. mechanic waiting for my car), it was quite convenient to take it out and read on it.

Finally, years ago I had nasty tendonitis in my arms. Holding a heavy hardbound book and reading was painful. The ereader was my constant companion through those months of pain.

Obviously, I still read printed books, but to me, on the whole, the two are roughly equal.


> On the whole spectrum of quality of published (paper) books

Well, not until someone proposes a 10-11" e-reader that doesn't cost half my salary.

The biggest disappointment with my e-reader is that reading PDFs is awful on that ridiculous display.

We might have nice, readable fonts and pictures, with zoom too, and instead...


>The biggest disappointment with my e-reader is that reading PDFs is awful on that ridiculous display.

Ereaders suck for PDFs. To some extent, that's because the PDF format sucks. PDF forces a number of words per line, lines per page, etc. Essentially, PDFs force a certain page size on you. If you compare with physical books, that's not the case. When Stephen King writes a novel, it can be printed as a small paperback or a large print book.

Epubs is the way to go with ereaders.

As for the size of ereaders, it's a tradeoff. 6 inches has its shortcomings (frequent page turns), but they have their pluses (very easy to carry).

Sony used to make 9" readers, and I occasionally find used ones for very cheap at Goodwill (under $10).

The Kobo Auro One is almost 8" (about $250).

But yeah, if you want to read PDFs, ebook readers are not the way to go. Use a tablet instead (with all its screen fatigue, etc).


>Essentially, PDFs force a certain page size on you. ...

Not necessarily. Sony's early readers had automatic reflowing of text if you chose a larger font size. It worked really well for fiction or any other type of text without pictures/diagrams.

For modern e-readers, converters like the free Calibre software (https://calibre-ebook.com), will allow resizing & reflow of text in PDFs to a size more usable for any device.

>Sony used to make 9" readers ...

There are refurbished Sony PRS-900 units available (e.g. eBay) for around $50 and, unlike most e-readers, they have user-replaceable batteries.


>Not necessarily. Sony's early readers had automatic reflowing of text if you chose a larger font size. It worked really well for fiction or any other type of text without pictures/diagrams.

My first ereader was Sony's PRS-350. It had automatic reflowing, but it did a poor job on many PDF's. It did not take care of line breaks - so if I increased the font size, each line was 1.5 lines long (i.e. the original PDF's line would be 1.5 lines on the ereader - it would still respect the line break).

I haven't tried the conversions in recent versions of Calibre. I did try it for PDFs over 5 years ago, and the results were less than satisfactory. I pretty much decided not to use small ereaders for PDFs.


If you're like me, you've spent many times that on books. E-readers often have books at a discount or even free. So its a value proposition: how many e-books over what time make it a bargain?


I love physical books; my wife and I have a library of well over 1000 volumes - certainly not the largest collection, but large enough. Most of it is fiction, but we also have a lot of non-fiction as well.

Even so - I like an e-reader for certain uses. The best use that I've found is for technical documents. Not books, per se, but documentation like electronic component datasheets and the like are much more convenient to access on an e-reader, especially when you're in the middle of a project. Before, one would have to spend a lot of money to get the datasheets in book form from the manufacturer, and then find a place to store the behemoths (some were as thick as phone books, and multi-volume - especially components and such from places like Motorola, ST, and others with extensive component lines). Not only that, each year (or more often) you'd have to get the new versions for the year, and the various errata pages (filed somewhere). Then to search thru all of that...

...today, I can download and read these documents online or offline with a reader, store them locally, search them fairly easily, etc. All on a small and easy to use electronic device.


We have books too. I don't love them (smelly, dusty, heavy) but I have never gotten into an e-reader. So much friction to use - fiddly menus, losing my place, even changing pages or trying to go back and find a passage I read before - all tedious.

So we have a collection. Every bookcase in the house two-deep and books stacked on top of books. When the boys grew up and our church asked for kids books in English for a Romanian school, we donated 1000 books to the effort. Still have a bookcase full of kids books (for the grandkids someday, sigh).

The small electronic device is certainly a selling-point. If they don't expire (go out of business) or get lost changing to the latest gee-whiz gadget, it would be nice to have them all in one place.


Counter-point, at least for me:

I got a Kindle in 2012, when I traveled the world for a few months. Swapping books or even buying new ones every 2-3 days gets boring quickly. So I got the $79 Kindle back then (still think it's the best one ever, because its light, no keyboard, no touch, page flips with mechanical keys on both sides).

The biggest advantage though is: I read way more on a Kindle than ever before. I love that you don't have to carry a book, can adjust the font size, and basically pick it up faster than a physical book and continue reading, even if it's only for 10 minutes in the subway.

Also, Kindle books are usually cheaper and I (as a German) get to download many English books instead of having to order them and wait for a day or two.

Weird: I often highlight some sentences or paragraphs in Kindle books that I like, but I actually never look back at the notes I took.


I found the same thing. Now I make a conscious effort to look at my recent notes every 3-4 days.

I use my kindle to get German books quickly. The kindle vocabulary builder is super useful.


I thought I was fully converted to e-reading, but have recently moved back to physical books. Impacting or meaningful books on my bookshelf are like old friends, and they deserve to take up physical space in my physical space.


There is a great advantage to an e-Reader (like Kindle) in that you can turn any book into a large print book. As you get older and you eyesight gets worse this is no small advantage, since you can continue reading the stuff you like.

There are some magazines (looking at you New Republic) that we stopped subscribing too because the font is too small to read - I can still see it, but trying to read it causes eye strain.


I wonder, has there ever been a challenge to magazine publishers under disability discrimination laws?

Businesses in UK & USA, AIUI, have to make reasonable accommodations for disabilities. It would be supremely easy for a magazine to forward a PDF copy that a legally blind person could use with an eBook reader or similar.


I'd prefer books given a choice but I'm too poor to own a house where l live so a non-kindle e-reader is my saviour.


Paper has donwisdes (can get wet, takes longer to photocopy to give to others) but it wins because of how it works with my noise/lossy mind.

There are elements of a physical thing (location on page, rough location within notebook, did I end up skrunching additional ideas and notes on the side, etc.). These things aren't as exact as search/ctl-f but these extra associations help my ability to recall.

The other win with paper for me is that with a computer my brain keeps wanting to switch from writing mode to editing mode - as in "oh, that reads poorly, let me rewrite that, wait let me move this around". With paper, unless I actively choose to re-write an entire page or section my brain is less distracted (I'm easily distracted though - squirrel! :)


seems a lot of people in comments are missing the point. of course there is no search/filter/undo (actually undo exists). It doesn't win in every cateogry. What it does offer is force your brain to work more and therefore create a better mental map. It forces your brain to choose the actual things you can do instead of jotting down 1000 things you'll never look at again.

For example, I've used evernote and a notebook to write down ideas each morning. after few weeks i was a lot more intimately familiar with ideas in my notebook because each page had unique character thanks to how my brain worked that day and the kinds of drawings that were added. It is also super easy to flip through pages to skim over other ideas, and thanks to unique shape of writing often i wouldn't need to read the text to know what that page is about.

it's not a silver bullet and if you need to keep track of a ton of things of course it will get tedious, but I believe most people keep track of more things than they actually are capable of executing. And paper sort of forces you to simplify and focus on fewer things which IMO is a good thing


I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Does anyone have a workflow for using paper to take notes & then transferring them to an online notebook (OneNote, Evernote, etc)?

My current process is read a chapter, then take hand written notes trying to recall what I just read. A day or more later I revisit material by putting notes into a OneNote or Evernote. I've been weighing pros & cons of this vs doing freehand using something like a Windows Surface & OneNote.

Hand written notes, revisiting & recalling information is strongly recommended by Professor Barbara Oakley who's a rather popular teacher of learning and memory topics.


Your current workflow is actually quite good for information retention and organisation. You have the benefit of manually entering your notes and organising them in physical space in a notebook (remember to doodle in the margins for even better retention!). Then you revisit them later to optimise them for indexing and search in a digital folder. Moving data from short-term to long-term storage in the brain is hard work and there are few shortcuts. The real question is whether it would be sufficient to outsource storing and search to a digital solution rather than doing the work "in-house" in your head.


Thank you. On your last sentence, I am debating that. I'm going to try the photo/OCR features in Evernote/OneNote. I feel there is a lot to gain by me doing the work instead of outsourcing it in terms of revisiting the information to help build long term memory.


Well, you could use something like a smart pen to automatically mirror everything you write on paper to Evernote. Here's one: https://www.livescribe.com/en-us/smartpen/ls3/


I like this idea a lot, though the Amazon reviews for that particular product appear to be pretty negative. Have you used a workflow like this?


No, I usually do everything digitally. Livescribe was just the first thing that came up when I searched for "smart pen". There are other options though: http://www.toptenreviews.com/electronics/family/best-digital... There's also the Rocketbook, which uses a mobile app to scan pages instead: https://getrocketbook.com/


I haven't tried it, but Molekine has an Evernote Sketch book that's designed specifically so you can take a picture of the page and upload it instantly into Evernote, you might find that useful. I also know they have a notebook you can buy that when you're done with it, you can mail it to them (for free, built into the price I think), and they'll digitize it for you, and either send back your paper copy or recycle it.

http://www.moleskine.com/en/collections/model/product/everno...


Wow, that's pretty cheap. $11.53 + 15% off + 3 months of Evernote Premium right now. I haven't considered taking pictures of my notes, though I've heard of others doing.

Thinking about it, it's probably worth having an image of my notes in my digital notebook as well as typed & cleaned up notes.


They don't explain the feature very well. I can take picture of some cheap paper too?

Do the pages have some kind of distinct marker telling evernote where the picture came from?


For writing text, I prefer to type on a computer because I can easily rearrange / edit things. You can't do that on paper.

I prefer paper for drawing though (diagrams / flowchart / etc). Has anyone tried using drawing tablet like Wacom? How does it feel compared to drawing on paper?


Traditional Wacom tablets are IMO awful. Some people do get used to them but not having direct feedback of what you've written just doesn't work naturally.

A tablet, especially one like the iPad Pro with the Pencil is much better but still doesn't work as well as just sketching on a piece of paper for me. I assume if I applied myself to using a tablet more though, I'd get used to it. Clearly people with a lot more drawing ability than myself can do great work on tablets.


Yeah, Wacom tablets were/are great and terrible at the same time. I've used them on and off for a long time, and they really are great for drawing, but there's a learning curve to be sure. Actually I liked the older Wacoms better than some new ones I've tries out. The ancient "cursor" device was mouse-like, but used in absolute mode was great for some tasks where keeping it in the same place enabled keeping the pointer on the screen in a predictable spot.

Actually the newer touch/stylus screens on tablets like the MS Surface models I've used are harder for me to use with the stylus. Manipulating the stylus is harder due to parallax and the fact that the tool and hand covers up part of the screen. Just doesn't seem as "natural" to me as the old drawing tablet.


Preferences definitely vary. Our graphic artist at a former employer had a Wacom tablet but she drew everything on paper first and then just basically used the tablet to digitize it. I've never found anything I really loved but, then, I'm pretty bad drawing and writing on paper too :-)


Yes, it's sure hard to beat the sensory and esthetic experience of putting pencil to paper. No digital method can come close to it.

OTOH drawing on the computer has a whole new set of features to offer that are completely novel and can't be accomplished in other ways, certainly not easily.

So like in most things, different "tooling" involves tradeoffs, no single solution ever covers it all. We usually have reasons to go one way or the other. In any case, not tool can make up for dearth of talent, how well I know the truth of that statement!


> because I can easily rearrange / edit things

That's the problem for me. I can end up obsesively re-re-...-re-editing a note or checklist, waisting tons of time. To make it worse I can end up with lost time AND lost information simultaneously if not using something with a version control system too...

So, for condensed small-scale 1-user planning, for me, when aiming for maximum productivity, paper is the killer app!


A low-end Wacom is, IMO, probably worth trying. I've been using one in combination with MyPaint[0] for a few years to do quick sketches and cartoons. It definitely hasn't replaced paper for me, but it's a good way to get some of the spontaneity and expressiveness of pen-and-ink into the machine.

[0]: http://mypaint.org/


For rearranging paper: index cards.

3x5 or 4x6 (US) for concepts and notes. Date 'em and stick 'em in a box.

Riffle through them, find the sense and order, stack them that way, then fill in the blanks (or additional references, or whatever).

An index card is, roughly, a full thought.

Keep a small stash on you for notes-on-the-road.


I use a SP3 for note taking and diagram drawing and I like it, feels different than paper for sure but I enjoy it more than I thought I would.


I carry a small "Field Notes" pocket notebook in my back pocket, it's useful for jotting small notes down and reminders.

Each day I review what I've written and and input anything important into digital applications


Wow, my system is just like yours. The key is the daily review and transcription to a digital format (in my case, a big textfile with a rigid date format for everything, Google Calendar for appointments, Habitica for TODOs).

Like bullet journaling, the review ensures that I actually see what I've written. The searchable digital copy can be hugely helpful later. It also adds the possibility of recording daily metrics to be parsed and made into charts.

It's truly the best of both worlds: paper to record, digital to archive.

(I'm about to hit 50 Field Notes in just under five years of doing this. I plan to do a write-up of my system now that I have a pretty good idea of what does and does not work for me.)


I'm probably going through one FN every 3 months, so not a voracious note taker by any means, but it works for me.

I use Dropbox Paper as my digital archive, it seems to work.

My approach to the note taking is mostly just a summary of a thought - might even just be one or two words, but they usually allow me to remember a train of thought I was in at the time. Might be nonsense to anyone else if they read it, but works for me :)


I'd be interested in reading about your system.

What I like about Field Notes is that I can quickly write down thoughts and come back to them later --- if I want. It isn't rigorous which I think is key to productivity. The problem with todo apps is they become jobs that you need to complete.

With paper notes there's no pressure to complete anything. Sure, I keep a todo list in my field notes, and every day I create a new list, some of which carries over from the previous day and some does not. I don't feel pressure to complete anything, and paper is what makes that possible (nothing is permanent, just a checkmark in time).


> The problem with todo apps is they become jobs that you need to complete.

Yep. I read this the other day https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/22/why-time-... and somewhat agree !


Ditto! I have a leather pouch full of them :)


I hate paper. No searching and highly losable. I'm also way faster on a keyboard than with a pen/pencil.

In fact, I had to fax a hand written letter (yeah, don't ask) the other day and realized I'm now almost illiterate with this thing. I could draw very well as a kid, but my handwriting was always pitiful. But after years of neglect, the thing was illegible. I pity the poor person that would have to decifer the hieroglyphs.

In sum, good riddance paper.


"I'm also way faster on a keyboard"

This is sort of the point of pen/paper - slows you down, makes you more contemplative. Plus, with a little practice I'm sure your handwriting would improve.


I practiced through my whole childhood and teens in school, it probably only got worse over the years as I managed to write faster with less care.


Few weeks ago I was at a party and had a moment of inspiration so I took a pen and paper to write down some poems. Barely I could read them later, let alone anyone else.


I imagine the inebriating substances often consumed at parties probably didn't help either


Yup, but I checked and I'm still terrible at handwriting :)


Adding an index takes care of the searching problem. Just a bit of extra effort that the computer normally takes care of for you.


I would say it takes care of the categorization problem. Searching, not so much, unless you spend an unholy amount of time maintaining your index.


Partly it depends on the kind of writing/brainstorming I'm doing. I make lots of drawings in my notes, which is hard to do with a keyboard only app. Graphics tablets, even my Cintiq, which I use for actual drawing, don't have the responsiveness and clarity for note taking, diagram doodling, storyboarding, etc.

Plus, and this the real killer, the start up cost in time of using a tablet and graphic stylus are enormous compared to having paper and pencils handy on my desk. A cheap memo pad in my brief case is also handy. I've tried using my phone, but keyboard input on a phone, while I'm sitting somewhere away from office requires a minimum dedicated effort.

A lot of stuff gets lost when you have to overcome those startup costs. Even unlocking my phone with the thumb sensor contributes to me _not_ reaching for my phone when I've had a thought.


Same, it feels too analogic.


Great article. One of the brightest tech colleagues I ever worked with used a moleskin notebook, always kept it with him.

I bought a moleskin notebook for myself, but then my granddaughter started drawing in it, and I wanted to leave it as she left it. After reading this article I am going to buy another.

I have always used yellow pads to brainstorm for new projects, but I later toss my notes and drawings. Using permanent notebooks seems like a better idea.


Personally I'd recommend not buying a moleskine, the quality of the paper seems to have dramatically gone down the hill over the years to the point where you're getting ink bleeding through the paper.

I'm a big fan of the Rhodia notebooks with Clairefontaine paper :)


They're nice for journaling. If you need to organize things a bit more, I'd recommend Leuchtturm 1917. Very high quality paper, dotted, line numbers, comes with an index. It's really quite lovely.

Both run circles around moleskine, which by now mostly coasts on the name.


Thanks, I will check out Rhodia notebooks.


Respectful alternative suggestion: buy a simple artist's sketchbook from your local art materials shop. In the UK, these would be less than half the cost of the Moleskin and have thicker paper (sharpie proof) and hard board covers with sown signatures. Granddaughter could selectively illuminate chosen pages :-)


I have started two new note taking practices recently: learning shorthand and sketchnotes. Sketchnotes I've seen fairly frequently around here, but not much mention of shorthand.

My goal with both is that A) I hate taking notes on a computer; B) I'm trying to increase retention, which I'm finding the sketchnotes definitely helps with; C) I need a better way of keeping up in meetings, and writing longhand just isn't cutting it. I'm not far enough along with the shorthand, but I'm curious if anybody else around here uses it.

Shorthand method: https://www.amazon.com/GREGG-Shorthand-Manual-Simplified/dp/...

Sketchnoting: https://www.amazon.com/Sketchnote-Handbook-illustrated-visua...


I really like paper systems like David Seah Printable Ceo: http://davidseah.com/node/the-resourcetime-tracker/

Really good for project status and 100% paper-based.


"Paper" used to mean endless soul-destroying reams of office printout, or before that, typed memos. And thank goodness, that seems to be receding.

The new "paper" isn't really the same thing. Like handwriting, woodblock printing, and the making of books from hand-inked parchment, it is receding into a handicraft.


Yes, but in the era before the reams of printout, we had notebooks produced by local stationery printers in styles that varied shop to shop. I miss that local choice and small scale production.

UK: anyone remember the hard backed board notebooks with marbled covers and canvas spines in around 10 by 8 inch format?


> anyone remember the hard backed board notebooks with marbled covers and canvas spine

Yes! Although my only encounter with them was when they were handed out for use as "lab books" during university. They certainly felt like a night-and-day upgrade over whatever was given out in school classrooms. Tuition fees well invested...


"Stationery" is probably the term you're looking for.


There definitely is an appeal to the analog and the idea of slowing down to be more creative and productive.

Photography is a hobby of mine. I own a Nikon D500, which is one of Nikon's flagship professional DSLR cameras. It can shoot at 10 frames per second with a buffer of 200 shots. The storage cards hold thousands of images. All of this is great when you're shooting high-speed action where every shot in a short time frame counts, but it also means there's very little risk in each shot. So if you take 900 pictures and only 9 are keepers it's no big deal. I shoot in RAW mode so any type of color and lighting adjustments can be made in post, and the resolution's high enough that I can crop for a good composition after the fact.

But recently I've decided to get into plain old fashioned 35mm film photography. The equipment is all still relatively inexpensive, but the film costs $5-10 per roll of 24 or 36 exposures. Then you either have to send the film out to be developed, which can take days or weeks (since there are very few places that do it in house anymore), or you can develop it yourself (as I have started to do) which involves an hour long process mixing chemicals, making sure everything's the right temperature, shaking and stirring, drying and cutting, then finally scanning the processed film. Each shot has more risk, and so you take more time and compose more carefully, which makes the end result that much better. I've found it to be incredibly enjoyable and rewarding.


You can buy a 1Gb SD card for every photo session, and throw it to garbage after it's full. Don't lie to yourself, you just like film and paper itself, and all that stuff and smells around the process. :-) (me too)


Ah, ya got me! I just love that grain, but I haven't started printing yet. Unfortunately my darkroom (read: bathroom) isn't quite big enough for that -- a larger bathroom will be a must in my next apartment.


I assume you're developing black and white, since doing color at home is impossible unless you basically have a dedicated lab for it, which even the most hardcore photographers have a hard time justifying.

As you get used to developing, you'll get faster at it; i can now do a few rolls in 30 minutes easily.

I'd also suggest that you look into doing your own printing. The chemical process is nothing different from scanning negatives; you do need an enlarger, which can be a pain to set up at home- check into any local photo clubs. (there is Harvey Milk Photo Center in SF that I recommend) The satisfaction you'll get from it will go even beyond developing just the film; and the results are much more creatively rewarding than negative scanning.


You're right, I'm only doing black and white at the moment, but only because the color chems I ordered haven't arrived yet. From what I've read I don't think color developing is as difficult as you're making it seem, at least for C-41 color film. The temperature tolerances are tighter and the chemicals themselves are a bit more expensive (but still reasonable) and have a shorter shelf life, but it seems very doable. This is the kit I have coming sometime this week: http://www.freestylephoto.biz/20411-Arista-C-41-Liquid-Color...

As far as the hour time frame I gave, that was really just an estimate of diluting concentrates, loading the film reels (which is still the trickiest part for me so far), and then the actual developing. The steps of developing itself maybe take me about 25 minutes total.

Ane finally, yeah I do want to start printing at some point, but my bathroom currently is about 30 square feet, if that, so right now it doesn't seem very feasible.

Edit: I should also add that I live in very rural northern New York state. The nearest public use lab to me is a three-hour or so drive away, so that option's out.


In a world moving to mobile and the web I think the problem is there is no solution as powerful as org-mode. Almost every time I see a link like this I see (and think+agree) that org-mode is amazing and solves this. Great.

Except you need to use Emacs. And it's NOT user friendly. Evernote is mucher easier. Todoist is much more integrated. etc. But those things are actually worse than org-mode.

We need a sort of org-mode for the web.


Every now and then, it seems a thread of luddism creeps through the geek psyche - and here we see it again. For all the benefits being talked up by the authors and the posters here, a few things are being overlooked:

* Paper isn't searchable. Say whatever you want about how it lets you clear your mind, but what use is all this information you're taking down if you can't easily locate it later?

* Paper media doesn't have adblock. If you want to talk about distraction...

* Paper media can't be reformatted to make the fine print less fine, or to fix an awful font choice or layout, etc.

* Paper is a pain to handle. Any serious amount of writing is going to require desks, filing cabinets, and so forth, more physical stuff to organize other physical stuff, when an entire lifetime of plaintext notes could fit on a MicroSD card of modest capacity.

* Paper isn't safe. The aforementioned MicroSD card can be trivially backed up an indefinite number of times and rendered immune to fire, theft, kids, angry exes, acts of God, acts of Cthulu, and pets. And not to mention, encryption. While you can, technically, RSA encrypt your paperwork by hand[1], it's almost certainly not an efficient use of your time.

I've no doubt that these hard copy systems work for the people that say it works, but I can't help but imagine there's a certain irrational rejection of technology happening, borne out of a refusal to leave the comfort zone when even something ridiculously easy like Simplenote or Notational Velocity would provide actual efficiency gains.

1: http://sergematovic.tripod.com/rsa1.html


Thoughts are more than just letters and punctuations. I can't write down the majority of things in my head with just letters and punctuation.

Seems like language is getting in the way of writing down thoughts when you are relying on a screen and a qwerty keyboard as your only choice of input.


Ha ironically I thought they were talking about 53's Paper app


I figured it was Dropbox Paper...which is a killer app, although nothing close to being "the" killer app.


It can be much better to write down notes, rather than typing. The reason, is that writing is slow and therefore forces one to analyse and summarize at origin, rather than just blasting it out, almost verbatim by typing.


I (largely) agree with your point, that doing things by hand limits your capacity to record lots of things, and brings the mind-set of "I can only write down so much, how can I distil it?"

There's decreasingly less time pressure on learners - in and out of formal education. Note-taking from written sources, or recordings (video or audio) means there's less rush to take notes right there and then.

The processes of analysis and comprehension are slow, and so probably aren't best considered at one event, e.g. taking notes. The average person isn't writing something down once, then fully understanding it, no matter how slowly they write. Even improved retention requires revisiting material, and comprehension or synthesis require application and evaluation of the material.


I always find it far easier when working on personal software projects to sketch out ideas on a notepad.

From drawings to pseudocode it all seems far easier.


When I get assigned a new feature to implement, I take the spec and write out my plan for implementation in longhand on paper. It makes me spend more time considering every aspect.


Often, when I need to get familiar with a particularly tricky piece of code, I print it out and start annotating the printout, drawing arrows between dependent functions, visualizing data structures, algorithms and data flow, simplifying fragments in the margins, highlighting important stuff with different colors.

For fragments of code where search is not needed this is just such a superior experience. I dream of some day being able to do the same in a code editor with i.e. diagrams in comments or graphical annotations right there in the code.

The same applies to writing code. Being able to visualize hard-to-describe concepts on a piece of paper makes the overall algorithm as well as early design mistakes and edge cases much more obvious.

When I'm writing just text (todo lists, product ideas, whatever) and being able to easily edit, archive or search through the text a normal editor is a much better choice, but I'm not gonna ditch paper anytime soon.


Not really technology-free; retrogressive rather.


Yeah, it's always interesting how we stop considering certain things as "technology" once enough time passes. Yet anyone reading I, Pencil would be hard pressed to consider it an unprocessed product of the Earth.


Thanks for mentioning I, Pencil. I hadn't encountered that before and found it very interesting.

Link for anyone else interested: http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/rdPncl1.html


Is there something wrong with me when I'm the opposite? I can't even read my own handwriting all that well :(

I just write everything in notepad (or vim/emacs) and store the plain text files on my server (and take some backups)


Nope. They're different tools. They do different things.

I find paper keeps me sane in a hyper-multi-tasked distraction heavy over-Slacked world. What made it work was an idea I borrowed from Bullet Journal -- every task needs gets finished, copied to the current timeframe, or deliberately abandoned.

You could easily do this in a text file or notetaking app, I just spend so much time staring at screens that it's refreshing to have a tool that isn't one.


Me too! The speed and efficiency of typing, editing, saving, searching, how can paper compete with that?

Vim just needs a graphics plugin and we're set.


There's DrawIt:

http://www.vim.org/scripts/script.php?script_id=40

...but really I'd like to figure out a good workflow for dropping screenshots and MyPaint sketches into vimwiki diary entries.


From article it seems that real productivity killer are the social media.


The real productivity killer is multi-tasking and in my opinion the problem with using digital media is that it's too effortless to start multi-tasking.

There are already apps that restrict yourself to certain programs or websites - that might be a solution for people having trouble with multi-tasking.

I can't imagine writing on paper that's for sure.


Trying to remove technology from our lives seems to be a current trend. Don't hate technology just because it's technology. Instead, we should think about what new undesirable behaviors it introduces and how to address those deeper issues. I quite like my phone, but I also value setting it aside as much as possible when in the pleasure of someone's company. I don't recommend we backpedal on important advances in sanitation, sustainable power, etc. just because the transistor counts are getting too high.


It lacks a good undo/redo feature.

Unless you scan your work, erase stuff on your computer, and then print it.


I warmly recommend a mechanical pencil with a relatively soft lead and a little eraser on the back. If you write softly with soft lead, erasing is very little effort.


The Frixion line of pens is also useful for this. They might be somewhat limited as to what you can get outside of Japan, but a site like Jet Pens should be able to fix any deficiencies. (Eg: didn't know that they made highlighters with Frixion ink until a recent trip to Japan, where they have these pens literally everywhere)


I've heard horror stories of students using those on an exam, and the teacher leaving the exam in a hot car, which 'erases' the heat sensitive ink.


These are the only pens I've bought through high school and university. It strikes the perfect balance between easy erasability and visible ink (luckily going to school in the northeast, I never had the overheating in the car issue).


Dip a page in a 50% alcohol solution and set fire to it. Dry. Now you have a clean page again!


These pens are amazing.


I like working on index cards because if I screw up a note I can just throw it out and start again without impacting any other notes. Notebooks give me anxiety; my fear of somehow "messing up" the notebook causes me to underuse it. And the sortability/filterability of cards sometimes comes in very handy as well.


We learn from our mistakes, and my crossings out in my notebooks are an important part of my notebooks.


I draw lines through things. Write-only interface!

My note-taking became much more effective once I realized that my notes rarely ended up in anyone else's hands, and that they were usually for short-term consumption.

You don't need beautiful notes, you need your notes! Scribble all over if you want (plus it's fun to scratch things out)


I do the same, and I like to think of it as an audit trail.


A pencil and eraser allows non-linear undo/redo.

Edit: Plus whiteout allows fairly simple overwrites.


The article if a mixed bag. I use a combination of paper and electronic note-taking. Being dogmatic about paper is as nearsighted as trumpeting some specific software solution.

For example, the article states, correctly, that whiteboards dominate workplace collaborative text and drawing. It is also true that electronic whiteboards are a repeated failure over multiple product generations. But this ignores the ubiquity of smartphone cameras. Now people take pictures of whiteboards and share the images and transcribe the important text.

Cameras have mostly superseded dedicated document scanning machines. Checks, receipts, signed NDAs, etc. are often managed using document imaging, but the document imaging product category has largely dissolved into our smartphones and apps.

I'm not picky about software. I used to use any text editor to make lists, and have settled on Keep for electronic lists. Having reusable shopping lists makes Keep a winner over paper for that application. But I also keep a pocket pen and a small notebook in my pockets. There are times I can't keep up with note taking. There are also times when I need to extract a short list of tasks to be done in a morning, and doing that on paper is usually the easiest way to do it.


One of my "when I have some time" projects is to make a 'better' (in that it fits my usage case) scanner for all my notebooks, I want something intelligent that I just put a pad under and it takes an image, converts it to pdf and stores it and that detects when I turn the page and takes the next image rather than having to press a button (though that's an option with a floor button).

I have the design in my head I just need to build one.


I'm 100% onboard with the paper paradigm for my project-related note-taking, but I've moved over to using GoodNotes with my iPad and Pencil[1] over actual paper and graphite. It's basically as good as the real thing, but you also get a pristine PDF version of your notebook once you're done with your doodling. No doubt that there's a charm to leafing through a pile of your ragged, dog-eared Moleskines as an occasional nostalgia trip, but I've found myself returning to my old notebooks far more often now that they're sitting in a folder on my Dropbox.

In searching for an app like this, one of my main requirements was that the app produce standard data as output, so that if it shut down or the company went out of business all my journals would still be safe. Fortunately, the PDFs GoodNotes spits out are basically pristine copies of its internal data model: vector graphics, multiple layers (including one for the paper texture), and even hidden OCR text.

[1]: http://beta-blog.archagon.net/2016/08/30/on-the-wonders-of-d...


I also moved to GoodNotes entirely. It combines all the benefits of paper and digital: it's exactly as flexible as paper, but also editable. This is a huge deal: I can refine my handwritten notes by easily moving things around, adding paragraphs, etc. I can also reorder and move pages around between notebooks easily, and it's fully searchable. the iPad Pro having the same size as a sheet of paper, the Apple Pencil being the first stylus that has low enough latency to make you forget it's not a real pen, and well-designed software like GoodNotes really has been a revolutionary combination for me.


I use paper everyday but am getting tired of buying expensive notebooks and taking pictures of my pages. Interesting that this would be on the front page today. I just impulse preordered a remarkable tablet: (https://getremarkable.com). I was experiencing some buyers remorse. Seeing this article lifted my spirits substantially.


From my genealogical perspective use paper, please!!!

Writing is a true anchor.

Future generations will enjoy your handwritten, authentic writing.

If ancestry .com is bad now for linking generations (where blind faith can often lead to incorrect trees) wait till all our electronic words is available 100 years from now. Writing will be greatly appreciated by your yet unborn great great grandchildren.


Paper is not only bad for but also harmful.

You actually have to cut a tree to make a notepad. I hope in 100 years people will look at the "paper age" as we do see the era when people carving information in stones.

Why paper is worse:

* you cannot easily edit/alter information that has been already created

* it is hard to replicate and distribute

* version control is non existent (except book keeping)

* due to the replication problem and accessibility the information on it is not durable (at least not as durable as s3)

* collaboration is hard and not possible over the long distance

* security it terrible (even with all the stamps and hand signatures)

I know that paper might sound tempting sometimes, but I blame the schooling system which enforces kids to use it. We are trained to use paper first that's why it might seems easier. To learn how not to use paper (I don't use it at all for over 3 years) is really hard, it requires to change the workflows, mindset and attitude towards the information. But at the end of the day, it is really worth it.


>due to the replication problem and accessibility the information on it is not durable (at least not as durable as s3)

Paper records can last for hundreds of years without the support of any expensive infrastructure. I wouldn't bet on things that are stored on s3 being available hundreds of years from now.


I think it is called a positive selection bias.

Some of paper lasted for hundreds of years. How much of information didn't survive during that time period?

Information on s3 might not last for hundreds of years, but AFAIK the Voyager satellite didn't ship the information about our specie on paper.


It seems to be default when you count governments and businesses. Those have lasted decades even when they didn't want individual records to on occasion. Whereas, the current systems use individual components that break faster with huge damage loss per square inch provided through services that charge you & try to cause lock-in more over time. The competition for those services is also intense in a way that often results in firms going under with a few surviving.

Whereas, the older tech that lasted so long used simple components on older, process nodes with careful engineering practices. The better ones were also extremely costly with Voyager being a good example at $800+ million.


>Some of paper lasted for hundreds of years. How much of information didn't survive during that time period?

But we're just dealing with simple physical facts about paper here. All you need is a safe place to store it. S3 doesn't run without constant and costly maintenance.


I made my work desk all digital over two years ago. If there is one thing I've learned about paper vs digital, is that nothing can beat the UX of paper at flexibility.

Only once you have an idea what you want to represent, and how you want to represent it, do software tools that rigidly enforce that systematization of your written data become helpful instead of hindrances. I have dozens of different pieces of software for composition, to store data into hundreds of formats, none of which I'm wholly satisfied with.

With paper I know when I run into the limitations of paper, they are either my personal limitations and/or the bounds of what humans have figured out how to do. In software, I can see the design decisions standing between me and what I'd really like to be able to do. I can't move my pen and just do it anyway, I'd have to waste years of my life creating a competing software package.

Even though my overall choice is still to be all digital, I have to face the downsides of that trade-off every goddamn day.


Have you tried OneNote?

Maybe have a Microsoft surface or another tablet with a stylus for when you want to "have that paper feel"

This is why I'm hoping for a surface phone this MWC. Then I could use Full OneNote, outlook, excel etc instead of the current cut down apps.


Paper or Sustainability is a false dichotomy https://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2010/04/14/going-paperless-not...


How bad is it in comparison to the resources used to make your computer/phone?


For most people that resource cost will be sunk. If you note take on paper the chances are you'll still have a computer. The reverse is possibly not true.


I take exception with this item:

> due to the replication problem and accessibility the information on it is not durable (at least not as durable as s3)

We have documents that are thousands of years old, and digital archiving is far from a solved problem. Still, I think going back to paper is insane and this is a total puff piece about people longing for olden days. I'll add one significant item to your list: search! If I had to go back to flipping through endless pages of notebooks to find that one margin entry I made during a customer meeting about some edge case requirement I'd go mad.


Actually, due to pseudo-immutability, scribblings on the dead trees have better durability properties than many digital things.

A durable storage may be less prone to use data due to say, a fire or a flood, but it's way easier to lose data if it's just overwritten. Overwrite a file in-place and it's pretty much gone (good thing most editors don't, but create a temporary file then rename it, so old data still can be scrubbed from HDD). That had happened to my files a few times, but never had such experiences with paper.

Not to say commodity-grade paper may easily outlive commodity-grade HDDs, magnetic tapes or CD-R's. I still have my notes from university, but all the CD-R's I've burned around the same time are unreadable, and I've replaced dying HDDs quite a few times over past years. And paper is probably easier to recycle (although not sure about this).


Designing data storage for countries is not easy, but it is easier to store a Peta Byte of data digitally than on paper.

Nice documentary about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdZxI3nFVJs


>security it terrible (even with all the stamps and hand signatures)

Sure, if you're sending a letter. But as long as you maintain physical control over your paper it's far more secure than anything stored on a computer.

There's a reason Russia's FSB bought typewriters instead of a thought-to-be-secure computer system for the storage of its most sensitive secrets.


Not to mention that the security of your letter increases quite nicely when you use thick paper and seal it shut. Yes, with wax.

No, it's not super-secure, but it stops most casual snooping attempts. Taking off (and reattaching) a seal without breaking it is quite a bit of work if you choose the right wax.


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