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Polar as a Personal Knowledge Repository (getpolarized.io)
238 points by burtonator 50 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 110 comments



AFAICT, this is for PDF files on your computer and websites converted to PDF. There's no option to add, say, markdown files or locally stored email files.

Don't get me wrong, I've tried it out and it's awesome. I'm just not seeing how it's going to take off as a knowledge repository with its limitations. The last thing I want is yet another place I have to look for my files, and I sure don't want to have to keep things in sync with a repo that holds the rest of my files.

I'm also concerned with the ability of this thing to scale. There doesn't appear to be any system for grouping items other than tagging. Maybe tagging works for others, but it's not something I trust (if I have hundreds of items and missed a tag, the item is lost).

Definitely don't want this to be a negative comment. It's more "you're 95% of the way to an outstanding product, but I think the last 5% might be an obstacle to adoption."


> AFAICT, this is for PDF files on your computer and websites converted to PDF. There's no option to add, say, markdown files or locally stored email files.

Key point of order.

We don't actually convert the websites to PDF. We cache the pages offline so you have the original in your archive.

This is massively cool and I need to do a better job of making it clear that this isn't just conversion to PDF.

> Don't get me wrong, I've tried it out and it's awesome. I'm just not seeing how it's going to take off as a knowledge repository with its limitations.

You mean specific limitations to Polar?

> I'm also concerned with the ability of this thing to scale. There doesn't appear to be any system for grouping items other than tagging. Maybe tagging works for others, but it's not something I trust (if I have hundreds of items and missed a tag, the item is lost).

Some users want to have more of a hierarchical folder view and we might implement that.

But I don't get your point about a missing tag.

> Definitely don't want this to be a negative comment. It's more "you're 95% of the way to an outstanding product, but I think the last 5% might be an obstacle to adoption."

Well one thing is that I think the Hacker News crowd is very very very picky in terms of features and functionality vs the normal user base.

The features I've seen from HN just aren't going to be necessary for all users. I'm fine adding them if they fit into the roadmap but some just won't be implemented.

One issue is the ability to use other cloud providers which has been brought up a number of times (which is why I wrote this post).

That's a massively complex feature and while that would be cool in some sense it would just be far far far too expensive to implement.

I think the remaining 5% is doable but we will see..

One valid criticism is that PDF is the only format. We're working on markdown and ePub too...


> But I don't get your point about a missing tag.

At least in my experience, interfaces that use tags (Gmail, Google Docs prior to the Drive upgrade) end up being a massive global heap that make it impossible to find anything. Tags help but only marginally, and only when I'm very selective about applying them. When a tag becomes too big it, it's just the soup problem all over again. In my experience with Gmail/Docs I usually find things via search, or not at all (and unfortunately more often than not the latter).

You could argue the same problem occurs in hierarchical folders. But I think one major takeaway I've had is that defaults matter: hierarchical folders normalize a usage where you categorize everything. Therefore, I can find utility bills for an apartment I moved out of some years ago, with about four clicks through my folder tree. As another example, a while back I was asked for my daughter's birth certificate when checking in for a flight. No problem, five clicks and I've got it on my phone. In my experience this is hopeless in a tagging system unless search is very good or the tags are hierarchical and very granular, and at least so far I've never been able to develop the discipline to do this.


1. 100% agree. Tags based solution is non-started at scale. 2. Problem is pretty much all such apps today require you to be a methodical type-writer/curator on some system-of-record application. Hierarchical structures are only as great as your personal hygiene of maintaining them. 3. This is in no way a critique for Polar. I think its a novel effort but I believe we need something significantly better to be universally effective. 4. I am an aggressive user of Evernote and the best use I have gotten is type a keyword X in the global search and see what pops up from my personal knowledge graph. It's always this painful search (pull model of information) which only as good as your own hierarchy or note keeping or tagging. 5. Out of my own pain, I have started working on a project I called Kontext. Think of it as your personal knowledge graph in the cloud but you don't have to categorize or organize or tag anything. Just work as you would normally work with ideas in your head - clip, screenshot, comment, type thoughts and it would auto-categorize, auto-correlate for you with information push model when you need it based on your existing context. Another angle is temporal relevance is key; information relevance changes with time. 6. I am using some latest neuroscience research to base the idea on.

Happy to explore feedback, thoughts, use-cases collaboration ideas.


I mean a document with no tags is just like sticking something in /

Plus, with tags you can have multiple categories.

Also, Polar suggest tags for you based on your history. So it gets smarter over time.

We will probably add some sort of hierarchy viewer but I'm torn over whether it should be compiled based on the tags or built manually.


I just went to your website and saw this screenshot:

https://getpolarized.io/assets/screenshots/document-reposito...

This is exactly what I'm talking about. Tags may be supported but it's not a tag-first interface, per se.

When I open finder/explorer/nautilus on my computer, what shows up is the top level of my file hierarchy. This would be like an interface where you showed only top-level tags and then you have to click through one of those to get to any actual documents. You can say this increases friction, but the tradeoff is that it promotes a system of organization that becomes faster overall when I have large numbers of documents.

Or again, the issue of uncategorized files: you say it's like saving a document in /, but when I save a file on my local machine it doesn't put it in / first and then as a second step I have to manually put it somewhere else. But that's how most tagging systems work: documents go into the soup of the untagged list by default, I have to manually tag it if that's what I care about. Again, it's normalizing an approach where you dump things in and organize them later except the second step usually doesn't happen.

Like I said before, it's not that I don't think tagging could be used with discipline to maintain organization, it's that systems that rely on tagging tend to design their interfaces in a way where tagging is at most an afterthought and often isn't done at all. Whereas on my desktop I literally can't save a file without putting it somewhere in the file hierarchy, and the UI is designed to put that hierarchy front and center.


Ah! That screenshot is out of date.

https://i.imgur.com/hXizVHG.png

Tags are now front and center and on by default in the UI.

You can easily filter by tag too:

https://i.imgur.com/9N5ZMi6.png

Polar 2.0 will be web based ... there have been thousands of people checking out the website but not many people downloading the app. Had it been web based I don't think that would have been an issue.

I think they would have started using it.

> it doesn't put it in / first and then as a second step I have to manually put it somewhere else.

no.. but it will pick either the users home or their Documents or their Downloads. That's not much better.


> Also, Polar suggest tags for you based on your history. So it gets smarter over time.

You may want to be careful with this. It sounds like it will lead to a small number of tags becoming increasingly massive to the point where they are basically useless and it is difficult to find anything.


Tags can work very well, but only if you have a very customizeable query system for them. In fact, as TiddlyWiki demonstrates you can basically implement a hierarchical system based on tags.


Maybe a better way to summarize the difficulty I'd have with using Polar heavily is that I put my stuff into projects: something I'm researching, a home improvement project, a new language, etc. It doesn't really seem to fit in with projects, because not everything in a project is going to be PDF files and websites, and I don't see how you can embed Polar in a project either - it's a dump of hundreds of files, and no way to focus on just one project.

> But I don't get your point about a missing tag.

I find tags to be very complex because I have to remember exactly which tags go with which types of material. If I don't attach a particular tag to a file, that file is as good as lost, because it will never come up again.

In contrast, if I organize by projects, I dump all my files into the project and I can come back in two years and have everything I need. Tags just aren't in my experience a substitute for proper organization.


Agreed, "Personal knowledge" needs to also include personal knowledge like self-generated notes, journals, and such


I looked a Polar also, and although it looks good it doesn’t handle all digital assets.

With strong reservations I switched over to using a $12/month G Suite account because it offers a uniform ‘cloud search’ to find and access all of my digital artifacts.

After doing this transition I am happy enough having uniform access to everything, but Google has also fallen down flat on a few things: not letting my GSuite email account be a family member for the large number of purchases I have made over the years with my gmail account; the Google iOS app is really not functional with my G Suite account (no calendar interop, and other limitations). So, they are close to providing a very good $12/month service, but not quite there yet.

For Polar: expand the service to allow email with custom domain, cloud file storage, etc., and unified search, then they will have a dynamite product.


I've also downloaded this software and my impression is that it is far far from 95% to be an outstanding product. At least I bumped into small ui bugs the author should catched himself before a release.

At the same time I agree with his idea that a knowledge base + spaced repetition is a good combination, however outputting spaced repetition into a 3rd party app is not a good idea.

I see that burtonator is trying to push this product here every time a relevant discussion pops up, I don't have an issue with that. But I do think that this product is a long way from being useful for me in a daily setting. Right now it's nothing more than an electron wrapper around pdf.js and knowing how far I read a pdf.


> Right now it's nothing more than an electron wrapper around pdf.js and knowing how far I read a pdf.

Except for cloud sync, and annotations, and flashcards, and sync to anki, and pagemarks, and archived documents, and flagging, and tagging, and stats on your reading, and a dedicated annotations view, and the ability to export your annotations, and the ability to capture entire web pages for offline use and annotations.

But other than that it's exactly like pdf.js :)


> I've also downloaded this software and my impression is that it is far far from 95% to be an outstanding product.

I couldn't parse that. Is this good or bad?

> At least I bumped into small ui bugs the author should catched himself before a release.

If you can point these out we can fix them. I'm still working on fit and finish in some places and rapidly iterating. I'm pushing 1/2 builds a week now based on user feedback so if something is broken let me know and I'll fix it :)


Far far from 95% to be an outstanding product, to me, implies it is a bad thing.


I started out with polarized, but then I moved onto just putting all my pdfs in a folder and highlighting them in adobe reader.


Dang. That’s what I’m doing too and I’m somewhat happy with it. But it does bother me that it only works with PDFs, and there’s no easy way to decouple the annotations from the content, so I was hoping that Polar might be significantly better.


Also, wanted to thanks all you guys for reviewing Polar and there's a lot of good feedback here.

In a nutshell:

1. I'm working on more document formats including Markdown and ePub.

2. I'm working on some preliminary support for reference management so we can lookup the full reference info via DOI and have reference formatters for you to use for your research. Some of the DOI storage is already done.

3. I'm working on a webapp and mobile support. Probably a month away.

4. The captured web content isn't actually converted to PDF - it's actually a cached web archive. Full HTML is kept in your repo.

5. Polar 2.0 will be more web aware. You can annotate anything without actually having to store the full thing in Polar. We will just store a URL.

6. Pagemarks will be improved her shortly so you can toggle them on and off and possibly even highlight through them directly.

7. There are definitely small bugs and fit and finish issue we're working on. If you have an issue please report it: https://github.com/burtonator/polar-bookshelf/issues

8. Yes. Polar isn't fully self hosted but that defeats the point. My cure hypothesis is that knowledge benefits from being social which is the main thing I'm trying to test. By the time I'm done I think 95% of you would agree that keeping it private is insane as you don't benefit from the community.

9. If you like Polar please consider donating. https://opencollective.com/polar-bookshelf ... we've received essentially zero Open Source contributions from the community and very little funding.


I asked about mobile in a sibling comment.

> 3. I'm working on a webapp and mobile support. Probably a month away.

Okay, that would likely be fine. I'd suggest at least creating a iOS Shortcut to save to your webapp because not being able to save via the normal share sheet would be a drag.


> 8. Yes. Polar isn't fully self hosted but that defeats the point. My cure hypothesis is that knowledge benefits from being social which is the main thing I'm trying to test. By the time I'm done I think 95% of you would agree that keeping it private is insane as you don't benefit from the community.

Then why are you calling it a Personal Knowledge Repository? It sounds more like you're trying to make it a social media network.


This is cool! I am working on something similar but a slight variation on intelligence augmentation and memory recall. Would love to chat with you, if interested.


Sure.. jump on the discord:

https://discordapp.com/invite/GT8MhA6


I like the idea of the Personal Knowledge Repository, but I don't like having a 3rd party app for it. 3rd Party Apps are good for creating and editing content, because there's a lot of different ways things can be made. Yet there's no great reason to use one to store content, storing content is basically the same, and OS's do it well.


I feel exactly the same way. But a few years ago I basically found a solution the works for me. I have a pile of interlink Markdown files in a git repo (you can use Dropbox also), and I can use various tools to access it.

If you are willing to use the zettelkasten method, then you can use one based on Sublime Text[1], or one that is a standalone program[2].

You can use a more free-form wiki, with a simple plugin for Sublime[3]

These Markdown files will work a slew of different wiki servers, including Gollum, the wiki used for Github, Gitlab, and BitBucket, and are only one step away from vim-wiki.

But, since they are simple text, you could even access them on most other platforms.

[1]: https://github.com/renerocksai/sublime_zk

[2]: https://github.com/renerocksai/sublimeless_zk

[3]: https://github.com/unqueued/sublime-notelink


> Yet there's no great reason to use one to store content,

Depends upon internally-created data or external. If you talk about exposing internal data there‘s /Interoperability Problems/.

You don‘t have to think about other apps creating invalid files. State stored won’t vanish because another app decided it‘s not needed and ignores it during editing+resaving. And all the other interoperability problems you may encounter.

If its external files I may agree.


I think you're missing the forest for the trees here. There's a lot more functionality than just storing files here.

The OS doesn't provide annotations, highlights, flashcards, doesn't have a tag index, doesn't support offline capture, etc.

Install Polar and take the tour...


What are you going to do with that data you're collecting through hosting? Not forest for trees, more like, hidden monetization strategy with an otherwise more convenient package in the front as "opt-in". It's only missing something if you're thinking several steps ahead.


I'm not sure if it's an issue of 3rd party apps, but more 3rd party proprietary data stores. PDF is an open standard, and as long as POLAR isn't creating entries that are out of spec, your notes should transfer across all PDF viewers/editors.


Polar doesn't mutate the PDF - by design. The PDF stays in tact. The annotations are layered on top.


This would be neater as a self hosted system.

I have a haphazard way of managing notes and docs that has too much overhead.

I would like a squirrel program to store and retrieve more easily and will eventually just write one.

I think we need more tools that rely on self-hosting cheap nodes for data where the owner has complete control. Knowledge management systems are really personal and if third parties go away then that is critically bad. I intend to keep this info for 50-100 years so need something that does a good job of just storing to git or whatever and then rely on different front-ends and things that can be run without any third party access to data.

The iOS model is closest to this in terms of data and apps, but is not OSS and I spend so much time in front of a full computer so phone access only is too limited.


Inspired by the work of the famous psychologist Endel Tulving (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endel_Tulving), I have come up with a simple technique that works for me. I simply keep two text files called "Episodic" and "Semantic" in Dropbox corresponding to the two major forms of human memory. Episodic memory is associated with specific episodes while Semantic memory is simply facts that we have accumulated throughout our lives (not associated with specific incidents). I use episodic memory to record various events in my life and periodically move information from there to the semantic memory. This sounds low-tech (and it is) but it works well for me.

I'm sure more sophisticated tools could be created around this concept.


Do you keep everything in just those files? How are the files themselves structured?


At the moment, these are just text files and I keep all of the facts that I need to know in them. The "semantic" file is organized by topic and the "episodic" file is like a diary. As I said, this is very low tech but it somehow works well.


I'm using gitea to self-host, works well for markdowns and code, but bad for anything that is binary(pdf,media files,etc), because of git, which really does not fit for binaries, and git-lfs is a PITA to use still


Have you tried git-annex? I found it to be a simpler, more git-like solution to the large binaries problem than LFS, which seemed like a centralised system that would be painful to set up.


Git-annex is amazing. It has changed the way I manage my data.


I do the same. I have a gitea instance and all my text saved in markdown in there. I also enabled full-text search so I can find it again. On mobile (iOS) I use working copy as a git client, which handles all files just fine (and also supports git-lfs).

Most of the time I want to attach binary files to notes, so I thought about using a sync solution like NextCloud or FileRun (with syncthing) and just link to my files.


I have something similar (private github, but will move to self host soon).

The binary thing is a challenge for me as well as part of my filing includes always making copies of web sites and office and pdf to check for versioning and edits. I frequently try to remember or check if web sites changed info or released a new version so I need a link and a frozen copy. Git does not like this and gets real big, real fast.


Devonthink is seamless if you use iOS and Mac. Efficient web scraper via iOS shortcut and split-screen support for iPad. Sync to self-hosted or cloud storage, with client-side encryption.


I like the idea and was using this for months, but finally gave up, document viewer (or however this pdf.js thing is called in english) lags every time I scroll and it's too annoying. Also overlays for selecting progress are messing with highlighting and re-reading. It could be showed instead simply as rectangle with borders, without this blue background, if that's possible and if not there should be other way to manage progress.


> the document viewer ... lags every time I scroll and it's too annoying. Also

Even if you scroll down like 5px or if you scrolled multiple pages at once?

How long was the lag?

> overlays for selecting progress are messing with highlighting and re-reading. It could be showed instead simply as rectangle with borders, without this blue background, if that's possible and if not there should be other way to manage progress.

Yes.. I'm planning on evolving this a bit. I didn't realize that people would be so annoyed by this and it isn't part of my normal usage.

I read forward and the pagemarks lag behind my reading and highlights.

I think I can implement a feature to poke through the pagemark to be able to annotate through it.


By lag I mean it's not smooth, not sure if lag is a good word, I don't need to wait seconds for refresh, just milliseconds probably, but it's clearly visible when I compare it to built-in Preview app (I'm using Mac) or Chrome internal pdf viewer. The smallest scroll I can make is sometimes ok, sometimes not, but normal scrolling when I'm just reading stuff is always like that, like something is blocking rendering for a moment. It was completely smooth when I started using it (~7 months ago) but I don't remember when it changed to current state. I thought that it might be some problem with Retina screen resolution and changed it to open in low resolution mode, but it didn't help.


I started use evernote for this, but it dawned of me after a while that if evernote went down, all my data, diaries, notes etc etc was to be locked in and I have to start over.

Therefore I'm using org-mode, its just a UTF8 encoded file, even if org-mode disappeared over night, I can still read the data.


Evernote isn't too bad - all the data is cached locally in xml files with attachments - one directory per document. It is almost xhtml - the top level content wrapped in an en-note tag and the images are en-media tags.

I agree that it's important to be sure you can get your data back out of whatever you're using. And another benefit of something like org mode that uses text files as a backing store is that you can edit/consume them with whatever tools you want.


This is why Polar is OSS ... you won't have this issue with Polar just like you wouldn't with org-mode.

I like Emacs too and have written literall hundreds of thousands of lines of elisp (seriously)...

I'm trying to make Polar usable for everyone not just Emacs users.


Look at org-noter if you want something as a substitute for polar with rough edges.


Evernote has an export format and a bunch of other tools can import Evernote exports, given how popular Evernote is. It's not perfect, but it's pretty good.


AFAIK the Evernote client caches your notes locally in a readable file format. I back up that folder in case Evernote goes down.


Like it and will check it out.

Had similar thoughts and I named it knowledge graph.

The center is you, than you tag books, lectures, wikipages and have a visual representation of all of your knowledge.

I also imagined having your whole education in it and because it's a graph, you could import a path which you can follow. 1+1 needs to be done before you can do 1*1 etc.

I thought about it while learning for a university course and a lot of time was spent on finding good material which explained a topic. And after the exam I started to forget stuff again.

It felt really stupid.

I wanna be in control on what I know, what I want to know and what I no longer need to know.

And all tools out there are not that good. Anki is doing its job but nothing else. Memrise does it more playful but also misses stuff. Duolingo (most of online learning has this problem) feels more like 101 <topic>.

How is it possible that 1000thands of universities record videos of lectures every year and are often paid by all of us (Germany for example) but all those videos have one or all of the following issues: - bad audio - bad video - horrible handwriting - no slides

Should it not be possible to sit together and create small topics and build one ONE comprehensive learning page?

...

Edit: and such a platform could not only benefit a lot of people it would also be financially a good deal. From 1-6 grade it could support parents and teachers, than teachers and pupils and later profs and students.

Lots of knowledge doesn't change every year.


A personal knowledge management app that can:

    1. deal with various file formats(pdf,markdown,code,flashcards,etc)
    2. easy to annotate, tag, highlight
    3. works across web and smartphone
    4. can be self-hosted and portable
will be very valuable, I'm willing to pay for it if it exists, though an OSS version is optimal. No I don't want to store all my personal notes on any cloud storage so self-host is a must.


You will absolutely want cloud storage when I'm done with this and have the social functionality implemented.

Read the linked article. I talk about this at the bottom.

IMO 80% of the VALUE of this data is that you're collaboratively building your knowledge with others.

My core hypothesis is that building knowledge is social.


Why would I want spaced repetition for knowledge I don't use? And if I do use it, don't I get spaced repetition for free in the course of using it? It seems there are better uses for my time.


I'm not sure what you're trying to say. You don't have to create flash cards. Polar just makes it easy to turn notes into flash cards, that's all.


The issue is exponential backoff off what your trying to learn. Spaced repetition handles the scheduling. You've learned something important yesterday and you might not forget it tomorrow or the day after but you might in six months.

This is what spaced repetition gives you.


A natural way to think about forgetting is that our minds simply run out of space. The key idea behind Anderson’s new account of human memory is that the problem might be not one of storage, but of organization.

According to his theory, the mind has essentially infinite capacity for memories, but we have only a finite amount of time in which to search for them.

The key to a good human memory then becomes the same as the key to a good computer cache: predicting which items are most likely to be wanted in the future. That it’s a perfect tuning of the brain to the world, making available precisely the things most likely to be needed.

In putting the emphasis on time, caching shows us that memory involves unavoidable tradeoffs, and a certain zero-sumness. You can’t have every library book at your desk, every product on display at the front of the store, every headline above the fold, every paper at the top of the pile. And in the same way, you can’t have every fact or face or name at the front of your mind.

“Many people hold the bias that human memory is anything but optimal,” wrote Anderson and Schooler. “They point to the many frustrating failures of memory. However, these criticisms fail to appreciate the task before human memory, which is to try to manage a huge stockpile of memories. In any system responsible for managing a vast data base there must be failures of retrieval. It is just too expensive to maintain access to an unbounded number of items.”

From the book: Algorithms to Live By.


very interesting, however:

"We use cookies to track your usage. We use cookies to track your usage and to determine which features are used to improve the quality of Polar.

Additionally, we track application errors which helps us find bugs and to prioritize which issues to fix.

This data is sent to 3rd parties which provide the infrastructure necessary to provide the analytics services needed to analyze and store the data.

We avoid sending personally identifiable information at all times."

https://getpolarized.io/cookie-policy.html

I am forced to click on "Accept" actually, which I don't like.

Overall it looks like calibre to me, however Calibre does not do highlighting


Polar Premium will allow you to disable tracking but you should enable it.

you can audit the code but we only track what features you use and so forth.

I can't build Polar without the analytics data as I don't know what's breaking and have no ability to optimize it and improve usability.


Maybe we should have an open source error tracking engine that can be self hosted. Too often I see this being the reason people freak out about using a product (only on hackernews though).


the entire platform is based on Electron (Node + Chromium)


Can I easily use this to replace zotero, jabref, mendeley etc for citation management?


Still working on that part. I think I'm going to allow association of a DOI then lookup the full metadata and then allow you to copy the metadata in a citation format to the clipboard.

Would that give you 80% of what you want?

I did some analysis and 40-60% of PDFs have the DOIs embedded.


My favorite tools for this sort of thing have been TiddlyWiki as well as Scribble (Racket language). An essential feature present in both is that they both are incredibly hackable and customizeable since most products don't support enough organization for me.

However, my main complaint with these tools is that while they are customizeable, it is sometimes nice to have a WYSIWIG since some notes I take will only every be looked at as I am writing them so having instant feedback is nice, even if the resulting document is imperfect.


I used TiddlyWiki for awhile, and it will always have a place in my heart. But it just wasn't portable enough for me.


Are you building on the web annotation standard? Or otherwise connected to the prior work here? https://www.w3.org/TR/annotation-model/

It applies to PDF's also. More context: https://web.hypothes.is/blog/annotation-is-now-a-web-standar...


No.. I looked at it and I'm still considering it but I wanted to first get a Polar MVP launched and prove that people will actively use it.

To be clear I was one of the inventors of RSS and Atom so it's not like I'm naive in this area...

I just find that implementing standards can slow down a proof of concept that may or not be successful.

Plus I need to review the spec to see if it's compatible with our model and I plan on iterating rapidly on our model and it might not match up with the standard.


I started keeping favorite quotes in Hypercard back in 1987. I didn't pay attention when Hypercard went extinct 15 years later, and failed to do the work to extract the data. Now I keep info in text files and grep is my friend. No spaced repetition, but tags go in as grep-able raw text too. Will Polar, or Evernote, or any other system, be around in 30 years?


"Will... any other system be around in 30 years?"

Yes, Emacs.

"The editor of a lifetime" https://youtu.be/VADudzQGvU8


> Will Polar, or Evernote, or any other system, be around in 30 years?

Yes.. that's literally why I called it Polar.

It's designed to be a permanent vault for your data. This is why it's Open Source.


What do you do about more structured data, such as Excel files?


Great question: If it were just columnized data you could keep it in csv format, but Excel supports way more than that.


Excel is a zip of xml now, so you can do basic text searches within them.


It's not hard to extract the data from your hypercard stack, though.


I am tackling a related challenge with Digraph, an app I'm working on [0]. My project is focused less on providing an infrastructure for learning and retention, and more on simply organizing the vast amount of information that each of us reads every day, month and year into a collection that is coherent and growing and that builds upon itself.

The long-term vision is a crowd-sourced alternative to search engines like Google and Bing. But the short-term focus is on something targeted and immediately useful.

> If the company that runs your PKR goes out of business you’re entire education might be in jeopardy.

I'm dealing with this problem in part by making the Digraph source available under the MIT license.

[0] https://digraph.app/, https://digraph.app/about


Sounds very zettelkasten-esque.



Similar but OSS: https://fsnot.es/ Happily using it for a few months now.


even after visiting the website, I don't really understand what zettelkasten is really. Is it a software or a standard of sorts?


Polar has absolutely nothing in common with Zettelkasten. Zettelkasten is a method of creating and storing notes, optimised for creating connections between topics and for creative thinking. The creator of this method done that on indexed cards. It's hard to explain this in few words, this book is doing this better than anything I saw online https://takesmartnotes.com/ . You can also try this article if you don't want to pay http://takingnotenow.blogspot.com/2007/12/luhmanns-zettelkas...


Ah, sorry, I actually meant zettelkasten's website, as linked by a sibling comment. Thanks for the links!


which itself sounds rather like org-mode without emacs.


You can already reopen PDFs where you left them in Adobe Reader :

Edit > Accessibility > Setup Assistant > Set all accessibility options > Next > Next > Next > Next > Reopen documents to the last viewed page

or

Edit > Preferences > Documents > Restore last view settings when reopening documents


> maintaining all your documents in one place, annotating them with highlights, comments, managing your documents with tags, and maintaining key extracted knowledge via spaced repetition

> I believe this is a new class of application

I haven't used SuperMemo (the app that inspired Anki development), but looks like it has all these features plus tons of other stuff (https://help.supermemo.org/wiki/Incremental_learning). It has some flaws (not cross platform, doesn't support PDF directly, complex UI, and of course closed source), but I think it's unfair to claim "a new class of application".


Everything new is inspired by something in the past. Literally nothing comes from whole cloth. I think the point I was trying to make is that we're going to see more of these types of apps.


I failed to find how to create notes (it should be able to create and interlink all kinds of them if it's meant to be a knowledge repository: notes attached do a particular document, attached to a particular place in a document and not attached to anything, all notes should be taggable).

Lack of support for any formats other than PDF (it should at least support EPUB, all other formats if possible: AZW, DJVU, FB2, Markdown, single-file HTML) limits its usage for studying e-books.

And it's annoyingly slow (but I'd consider this tolerable if it was really helpful).

I just hope this is just the beginning and Polar is actually going to improve.


I've tried a number of approaches to a personal data repo: plain text files, custom database tools, dropping everything in a file folder...

My current approach - which I really like - is vimwiki saving to markdown instead of the default .wiki. it's on a self-hosted NextCloud instance, giving me access across all my computers as well as my phone.

It's not perfect - I'm extending it with some standardized project templates and other things - but everything's ultimately text; it's self-hosted, so not dependent on a third-party service that might disappear; and I can easily extend it to meet my requirements.


I've tried everything and I really like Dynalist (or any other outliner) as a personal knowledge repo / place to store notes and ideas.

I find ideas do tend to be quite hierarchical and you can link between nodes if need be.


This is extremely cool, I've been wondering about how I can create subject matter repositories of various media types and then enhance that data with my own findings.

What would be cool here would be the ability to reference between documents and notes, like you would with hypertext.

Imagine you write an essay or blog post, and you want to instantly browse the citations and quotes you use. That document could live inside polar, maybe as a simple MarkDown editor.

Either way I've downloaded and installed. I wonder if I can get some fancy PDF scanning gear so I can get book segments into it.

/ramble


It is a problem about "me" but my problem in personal knowledge is not having it (ok: it is, but thats unavoidable) it's my lack of clarity about which of half-a-hundred models of classification to apply at any given time.

I think this is why google free-text search is so powerful: you don't have to have an organizing principle, you just have to know a few key words, or a semantic construct which can be extracted from (meta) data.

OTOH the chaos implicit in my desk (I use volcano filing) probably perpetuates online in this model.


Since I couldn’t find anything about this. Is the volcano filing model where things simply get stacked up until they erupt?


Yes. the model is you stack things, and they form (cinder) cones, and the boring things are either buried, or slip off and fall to the floor, and what is left is relevant or interesting. It's very effective (at forming piles, at least)


I recently started using Evernote again after a couple of years living in other tools (e.g. DEVONthink). Since I last used it, Evernote has gotten better at saving "simplified" formats of articles to my notebooks. The ability to do so on desktop _and_ mobile devices is pretty key for me. Evernote lets me both capture and view on all of my devices.

Any plans for a mobile app for Polarized? Evernote doesn't support annotations usefully, and the incremental reading feature of Polarized also sounds cool.


Any darkmode for Evernote yet? It is useless without it.


I've tried a few document management solutions, but I can't get past the fact that annotating documents by hand is so much more satisfying, I can't angrily scribble or circle text when they're digital!


On iPad (and probably Surface) you can!


I liked the idea but couldn't quite get the anki workflow running smoothly. To be fair I tried this because of the anki integration but I don't think that's what it's meant for


Indeed, it's painful to get notes into Anki currently. I would prefer if I could get any text selected into a new Anki note with minimum number of keypresses, rather than creating flashcards in Polar and then syncing them, which seems rather inefficient.


I would like to make it more efficient for sure.

Part of the problem is actually Anki.

It's kind of janky and then there is the issue of firewalls that some people are running into which isn't fun.

I'm trying to smooth out the UI a bit more but it's an iterative process.


I use Wallabag on a daily basis for months now and never been happier. Polar seems more advanced at the first glance, anyone using it? What are the experiences with it?


Downloaded it. Rather large app bundle. The experience I remember is wanting to archive a page, so:

- Copying its link

- Switching over to the app

- Hunting for a way to add a page to the archive

- A browser like window opening, pasting the link into the address bar, clicking an accept button

- It rendering out the page, asking whether it looks okay - it did, so accepting

- Opening the resulting PDF and it being completely fucked up.

I gave up. I like the idea of Wallabag much more, but can't get the FF extension to work.

Edit: Polar does offer a Chrome extension, but research about a FF version (the API is THE SAME) is hindered by me not being able to find any reference to the Chrome extension anywhere outside of the app. Idk, to me it just seemed fishy. I don't hate burtonator, I've just been frustrated. Why would I save my web pages as PDF anyway? That's an even more obscure, hard to process format. I tend to like the WARC format.

Does Wallabag support a full-text search?


> Polar does offer a Chrome extension, but research about a FF version (the API is THE SAME) is hindered by me not being able to find any reference to the Chrome extension anywhere outside of the app. Idk, to me it just seemed fishy.

Wait. What seems fishy? I don't follow.

I'm planning on revamping this entirely with more of this functionality done within the chrome/FF extension itself where we just capture what's already rendered without any of the above complexity.

It's waiting for Polar 2.0 which is about 1-2 months away.

> Why would I save my web pages as PDF anyway? That's an even more obscure, hard to process format. I tend to like the WARC format.

Big misconception. It's not saved as PDF.. It's saved as a captured HTML format. We might do something like WARC in the future though.


Okok. The features are neat.

But what we really need is Polar for EVERYTHING! PDF, docx, jpg, MD, ...

All of them, like a new modern Filesystem. But with Metadata and auto OCR...

That would revolutionary!


@burtonator: Are in-app flashcards coming anytime soon? Love the idea of a PKR. Tried Anki for that purpose, but it just didn’t work well enough.


We could possibly have in-app flashcards but I want to wait until Polar 2.0 which will support web+mobile+table so that I can do cross device sync easier.

For me having flashcards means having them on my phone.


I would pay decent money for the version of this thing that automatically found all the PDFs in my Pinboard account and loaded them in.


I'm working on a better sync framework to easily drop in systems like this to discovery notes, documents, URLs, etc.


Today I first discovered that Pocket, which is the integrated service associated with that odd icon in FireFox that I had never clicked on before. It's like Instapaper, which is also something I have never used. Both of those seem to be online services, like Polar, with APIs to support browser extensions, Android integration, and other stuff like that.

I was pretty disappointed that FireFox integrated a service that was proprietary and not even one that was GDPR-compliant.

I have been looking for a hackable alternative to Google Keep. In the past, Pinboard.io had served me well, but now I am looking for something more. I want not just to store bookmarks, not just to archive web pages, but really to have all these at my fingertips for analysis. I want to shift the balance I have between consuming new information and munging on the information that's already come my way.

Polar seems to be a great alternative because it's a computer application that's 100% self-hosted. I would like something that could be run in a federated way, like Mastodon, but this is still _very_ nice. Since I own the data, I'm not worried about any limitations. I especially like that various forms of cloud sync are supported (looking at you, Syncthing).

I see Electron bashed on HN from time to time. I have no opinion about it personally. Even if there were some noticeable overhead, the capabilities this offers are probably worth it.

Super exciting. I'll give it a go.


It's slow on my mac. I suspect it's the pdf.js rendering engine.


would you mind taking a video? Some people are saying it's slow and I wonder if it's slow because of another issue that I haven't seen yet.


I use standardnotes.org self hosted




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