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Nototo – Build a unified mental map of notes (nototo.app)
475 points by dirtyaura on Jan 18, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 131 comments

This is very cool.

Relatedly: I often run while listening to podcasts. When I do, I remember much more of the material. And when I revisit certain blocks around the neighborhood, I find myself recalling what I heard during the run.

The spacial encoding of memories seems very potent and under-investigated.

Two effects working here:

- The recall effect when you see the same areas again. [0]

- The effect of running itself. Your ARAS (or Ascending RAS, or Ascending Reticular Activating System -- not everyone uses the same acronym) in your brainstem is hurling a whole lot of neurotransmitters (like adrenaline and dopamine) towards your hippocampus. Long story short: you'll be able to remember better for the next 30 to 60 minutes. [1]

[0] Too lazy to look up the source (sorry, not having my day in terms of productivity), anyone who studied psychology would've learned the study about people diving under water and doing a memory task and then having a much better recall underwater then on land regarding that memory task.

[1] Source: learned it at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam from Prof. Dr. Erik Scherder. I still don't know where a paper is that describes the full story. I also couldn't find too much information about it online, and I never had enough time to fully figure the story out. So if there's a neuroscientist in the room, please help me out :D

There's a lot more to this. E.g. there's is constant neurogenesis (new neurons being born) but most of those die before they can attach themselves. Aerobic exercise tends to improve their attachment (exact mechanism is not clear) so a lot of new brain cells find their place during sports activities.

That's very interesting!

You're effectively building "memory palaces" without consciously doing it by associating podcast content with real-life locations.

Some memory athletes use that ability to remember digits of pi or decks of cards!

It's called the Method of loci: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Method_of_loci Another term for that is the "memory palace".

BTW, I wonder if anyone here in HN used it to learn significant things using this method?

I first learned about memory palaces in the book Hannibal, named after the character in Silence of the Lambs [0], but the description there is of a lavish imaginary palace inside your mind you can wander in. I did use this technique to try to remember some physics formulae for an exam once, in my memory palace there was a room with giant equations.

This website is a bit of a let-down for me since it's just a bird's eye view, it would be cool to create a palace using a 3d game engine, with signs that point to things like physics formulae, and then some Sims or Google-Sketchup-like tool to add objects that you want to remember.

[0] The relevant excerpt about Hannibal's memory palace: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/illusion-chasers/hannib... , it describes a painting that he uses to remember the fictional address "3327 Tindal, Arlington VA 22308".

One cannot build a 3d world without first building a 2d map

And one cannot have a discussion with pretentious, profound-sounding, smartass one sentence replies.

Ima one-up you both on that ass scale now.

No one can arrive to use a memory palace technique proper good without first learning to visualize space-time. That is FOUR dimensions, not a 2-d map, not a 3-d picture, an actual space you can walk around that changes.

Hans-Lukas Teuber[1] was the head of the psychology department and my professor for the intro psychology class at MIT. He gave one two-hour evening lecture per week, which were delivered without notes. The lectures were riveting, they were given in MIT's largest lecture hall; it was standing room only to hear him speak--many students and faculty would attend even though not enrolled. I don't remember ever hearing a better live lecture than those that he gave (and I've heard many lectures--I spent more years at university than Belucci's character in Animal House).

He used the memory palace method to remember his lecture's organization.

[1] http://www.nasonline.org/publications/biographical-memoirs/m...

I visualize and remember code that way. For me, it's hard to forget somewhere I've been, even if I only imagined being there.

Each function is a little building like an office or a shop, which has a sign out front telling what services or products it sells, and contains everything inside you need to solve some kind of problem or produce some kind of product or service (where equipment in the room is like references to other objects and functions and imported libraries).

You're standing behind the front counter, just about to receive a customer though the front entrance door with the parameters you need for one particular instance of that problem.

You go into the back room, solve the problem, then deliver the results out the exit door at the back of the building (or through any of the other earlier emergency exits, if you had to exit prematurely or throw an error and run away).

The front/back flow is a metaphor for the top/bottom flow of control through a function.


If you squint you can see the example Nassi-Shneiderman diagram in that article as a map of a building, with its front at the top, and exit at the bottom.

You can have internal hallways and rooms for branches and loops, like a Nassi-Shneiderman diagram. The "Sub to Determine Wiki-Article" room is like the front entrance lobby of a theater where buy your ticket. The "Select Favourite Genre" room is like the stage of The Price is Right, and you get to pick what's behind door #1 (History), #2 (Science), or # (Geography), or else choose Other. They each have one or two rooms behind them with your rewards, and then they all finally exit out to the same back stage loading dock, where you take your wonderful prize (or consolation donkey) home.

You've given me a very useful framework for remembering functions, thanks!

I once memorized 200 digits of pi when I had nothing more fun to do on a long boring lecture. Sherlock popped into my mind, so I imagined a journey through my house where I chunked numbers to make them represent certain things or people, and me interacting or talking with them, like in a story of some sort. But it feels like I never applied this method to anything significant, apart from memorizing a few things from my biochemistry course. Although now I remember credit card numbers, every single phone number of my friends and family (by associating numbers with particular facial features or character traits), and some other things. I would say before that day I never fully realized just how much I actually like to memorize stuff like words and numbers. Anyway, I think everyone should give it a try, this is fun.

I've found this to strangely work (tangentially) with music and intense exercise too.

When I accidentally listened to an old gym playlist from 2 years ago at my office desk, I felt a rush of the old determination that used to fuel my HIIT workouts. It was jarring and incredible.

Not under-investigated, just suppressed! ;)

The Method of Loci is an ancient technique that used to be taught for thousands of years as a standard part of a classical eduction, way back when people needed to remember things before the invention of smartphones and printing presses. But in the middle ages it was banned for being immoral! Apparently, some bad apples were abusing the Method of Loci to remember "immoral" things they shouldn't be thinking about, using "fabulous" images they shouldn't be imagining.


>Remember to use physical objects in these palaces since they have easily imaginable traits; when you are dealing with more abstract or untranslatable ideas it is best to convert them into objects based on the way the words sound, so Valmur becomes Val Kilmer, Les Preuses becomes purses, etc. Additionally, you don’t need to be concerned with reality when making these memory palaces. The more slapstick, unique and vivid they are, the easier they will stick. Raunchy imagery always works well, to the point where some religious orders in the middle ages banned the practice because it was deemed immoral.

Memory Palace techniques have been known as the Mind Palace, Method of Loci, and Memory Journey, Art of Memory, Ars Memorativa, Memorative Art, Mnemotechnics, Architectural Mnemonic, Graphical Mnemonic, and Textual Mnemonic.




>The most common account of the creation of the art of memory centers around the story of Simonides of Ceos, a famous Greek poet, who was invited to chant a lyric poem in honor of his host, a nobleman of Thessaly. While praising his host, Simonides also mentioned the twin gods Castor and Pollux. When the recital was complete, the nobleman selfishly told Simonides that he would only pay him half of the agreed upon payment for the panegyric, and that he would have to get the balance of the payment from the two gods he had mentioned. A short time later, Simonides was told that two men were waiting for him outside. He left to meet the visitors but could find no one. Then, while he was outside the banquet hall, it collapsed, crushing everyone within. The bodies were so disfigured that they could not be identified for proper burial. But, Simonides was able to remember where each of the guests had been sitting at the table, and so was able to identify them for burial. This experience suggested to Simonides the principles which were to become central to the later development of the art he reputedly invented.

>He inferred that persons desiring to train this faculty (of memory) must select places and form mental images of the things they wish to remember and store those images in the places, so that the order of the places will preserve the order of the things, and the images of the things will denote the things themselves, and we shall employ the places and the images respectively as a wax writing-tablet and the letters written upon it.

>[...] However, this transition was not without its difficulties, and during this period the belief in the effectiveness of the older methods of memory training (to say nothing of the esteem in which its practitioners were held) steadily became occluded. In 1584, a huge controversy over the method broke out in England when the Puritans attacked the art as impious because it was thought to excite absurd and obscene thoughts; this was a sensational, but ultimately not a fatal skirmish. Erasmus of Rotterdam and other humanists, Protestant and Catholic, had also chastised practitioners of the art of memory for making extravagant claims for its efficacy, although they themselves believed firmly in a well-disposed, orderly memory as an essential tool of productive thought.

>One explanation for the steady decline in the importance of the art of memory from the 16th to the 20th century is offered by the late Ioan P. Culianu, who argued that it was suppressed during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation when Protestants and reactionary Catholics alike worked to eradicate pagan influence and the lush visual imagery of the Renaissance.

>Whatever the causes, in keeping with general developments, the art of memory eventually came to be defined primarily as a part of Dialectics, and was assimilated in the 17th century by Francis Bacon and René Descartes into the curriculum of Logic, where it survives to this day as a necessary foundation for the teaching of Argument. Simplified variants of the art of memory were also taught through the 19th century as useful to public orators, including preachers and after-dinner speakers.

"The Art of Memory" is also the title of a 1966 book by Frances A. Yates about the history of mnemonic systems.


Here's some racy discussion from that book about those problematic morally reprehensible corporeal images:


>What we are reading is very extraordinary indeed. For scholasticism in its devotion to the rational, the abstract, as the true pursuit of the rational soul, banned metaphor and poetry as belonging to the lower imaginative level. Grammar and Rhetoric which dealt with such matters had to retreat before the role of Dame Dialectic. And those fables about the ancient gods with which poetry concerned itself were high reprehensible morally. To move, to excite the imagination and the emotions with metaphorica seems a suggestion utterly contrary to the scholastic puritanism with its attention severely fixed on the next world, on Hell, Puratory, and Heaven. Yet, though we are to practice the artificial memory as a part of Prudence, its rules for images are letting in the metaphor and the fabulous for their moving power.

>And now the imagines agentes make their appearance, quoted in full from Tullius. Remarkably beautiful or hideous, dressed in crowns and purple garments, deformed or disfigured with blood or mud, smeared with red paint, comic or ridiculous, they stroll mysteriously, like players, out of antiquity into the scholastic treatise on memory as a part of Prudence. The solution emphasizes the reason for the choice of such images is that they 'move strongly' and so adhere to the soul.

>The verdict in the case for and against the artificial memory, which has been conducted in strict accordance with the rules of scholastic analysis, is as follows:

>"We say that the ars memorandi which Tullius teaches is the best and particularly for the things to be remembered pertaining to life and judgment (ad vitam et iudicium), and such memories (i.e. artificial memories) pertain particularly to the moral man and to the speaker (ad ethicum et rhetorem) because since the act of human life (actus humanae vitae) consists in particulars it is necessary that it should be in the soul through corporeal images; it will not stay in memory save in such images. Whence we say that of all the things which belong to Prudence the most necessary of all is memory, because from past things we are directed to present things and future things, and not the other way round."

Lots more on the Memory Techniques Wiki:


Here's some more recent research -- isn't the point of memorizing to cause lasting changes to the brain?:

An ancient memorization strategy might cause lasting changes to the brain

Using the memory techniques of the pros alters patterns in brain activity, new research says


This is described in the book Moonwalking with Einstein. It's mentioned that one way to remember things would be to "put them" somewhere you are familiar, like where you run, for example.

What if you listen to the same podcast, do you remember that part of your run? This flipped relationship is very powerful for me, i get vivid almost intrusive visuals of what i was doing last time i listened.

Yes I get this too! Not so much with podcasts, but with concepts and things I’ve learnt. For example, when I think of the Python framework Flask or the iOS autolayout framework, I get vivid visuals of where I was when I was first trying them out or debugging some issue.

Is there any name for this effect, or any related research? It’s kind of like the memory palace idea in reverse, where the concept sparks the imagery of the place involuntarily, instead of intentionally thinking of places to spark recall.

I love the idea. My concern is that it's _so_ specialized that when the developers eventually stop working on it, or paying for the servers, I'm going to be screwed.

I feel that apps like this can be incredibly useful but ultimately, if they work for you, you'll spend years shoving data into them only to have it lost the moment the site shuts down, or in the case of desktop apps, the app stops working with the latest OS upgrade.

If it was open source and I could host it myself I'd _seriously_ consider using it.

Exactly the same thought here: I absolutely love the idea, but my first and most important criterion for a note taking app is that it doesn't have vendor lock-in. Even if the display code is proprietary, I want access to the underlying data. Also I want a version that works offline.

Definitely going to give it a shot.

The way I study math usually (actually not usually, because it's not very pracrical, but the most productive way I found) is by locking myself in a classroom, laying all my notes spread on different tables, and using the chalkboard as a temporary playground to redo demonstrations and exercises, and sometimes explore ideas on my own.

Theorems and objects end up having a literal spacial position in the room, and I have to move around to study. It feels like being a craft man in his workshop.

It's fun, really. It got me excited to study maths.

But I need a room for it, and I can only get one if I come super early, before class starts, to get 3 or 4 hours of productivity.

Maybe a virtual one like that can work. It's really appealing.

> Maybe a virtual one like that can work.

That to me sounds like a key thing. This app looks neat and probably will work for some, but I think it will only fully click for me if I ever would get a VR equivalent of it where I can have a full embodied experience of walking around. It's one more reason why I really hope Dynamicland will "escape" out of its experimental lab setting

In current VR technology that's going to be hard and annoying:

> Text is tough in VR. It’s hard to read, given the resolution of today’s HMDs and it’s hard to write, since you’re typically blind in a headset and it’s annoying to be tied to a keyboard at a desk when you’d rather walk and move around in VR. I tolerate these problems with RiftSketch by making the text in the editor extremely large. I can only see 20 lines of code at a time in VR whereas my physical desktop has a 4K monitor where I’m usually looking at 140 lines of code per file with several files open side-by-side. (https://uploadvr.com/riftsketch/)

And that isn't even trying to give you a pen & paper experience. (<- something I'd also like to have.)

That's why I mentioned Dynamicland: it kind of inverts VR by projecting onto real-world objects. It might be a way to bypass these issues

Hey! I'm actually one of the makers of Nototo. I'm quite surprised to find my own project trending on HackerNews!

If anyone has questions feel free to ask me here! or at chen@nototo.app

The idea looks cool and useful. But I’m not a fan of hosted services for such needs. I’d very much like a (paid) mobile/desktop app that can manage everything locally and allow syncing through any of the several cloud storage services available.

I guess my concern is that my mental map isn’t private and I don’t have a backup of the data that I control.

Edit: I would happily pay for something like this if it worked well and addressed above concerns.

Edit2: I’m going to try it anyway.

Great idea, I totally get it! Your graphics are beautiful, and the layering and gridding look helpful.

It reminds me of some experimental user interfaces with pie menus I designed for creating and editing memory palaces: "iLoci" on the iPhone for notes and pictures and links and web browser integration in 2008, and "MediaGraph" on Unity3D for organizing and playing music in 2012, both of which I hope will inspire you for ideas to implement (like pie menus, and kissing!) or ways to explain what you've already created.

A memory map editor can not only benefit from pie menus for editing and changing properties (like simultaneously picking a font with direction, and pulling out the font size with distance, for example), but it's also a great way for users to create their own custom bi-directionally gesture navigable pie menus by dragging and dropping and "kissing" islands together against each other to create and break links (like bridges between islands). (See the gesture navigation example at the end of the MediaGraph demo, and imagine that on an iPad or phone!)

I think your crisp clean abstract graphical style would go nicely with something like Simon Schneegans' designs for Gnome-Pie, Coral-Menu, and Trace-Menu:


Some HN posts (updated with updated links):


I wrote an iPhone app called "iLoci" [1] that was based on the Method of Loci [2], which had a gestural interface that let you construct and navigate your own networks of locations by dragging rooms around and "kissing" them together to connect and disconnect them. Another way to think of it is as a pie menu editor.

Later I elaborated on the idea in a Unity prototype called MediaGraph [3], which lets you arrange your music in an editable gesture navigable map.

[1] iPhone app iLoci by Don Hopkins @ Mobile Dev Camp:


A talk about iLoci, an iPhone app and server based on the Method of Loci for constructing a Memory Palace, by Don Hopkins, presented at Mobile Dev Camp in Amsterdam.

Illustrated transcript:


[2] Method of Loci: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Method_of_loci

[3] MediaGraph Music Navigation with Pie Menus Prototype developed for Will Wright's Stupid Fun Club:


This is a demo of a user interface research prototype that I developed for Will Wright at the Stupid Fun Club. It includes pie menus, an editable map of music interconnected with roads, and cellular automata.

It uses one kind of nested hierarchical pie menu to build and edit another kind of geographic networked pie menu.

Discussion of the pie menus:


Pie menus frame this kind of interaction as pop-up menus, which provide a "self revealing gestural user interface". The menu pops up and leads you through the possible selections. That feedback trains you to rehearse the gestures. Soon you begin to make the gesture without looking at the menu, then wait for the menu feedback to confirm you're doing the right thing. Finally you gain enough skill and confidence through "muscle memory" to make the gestures quickly without even looking at the screen or requiring any feedback.

It's best if the menus can provide real time in-world feedback, like applying the effect of the interaction immediately as the menu is tracking. That makes it feel more like immersive "direct manipulation" than indirect "menu selection". It's important that pie menus support "reselection", which makes them much more forgiving and differentiates them from traditional blind gesture recognition, so you at any time during tracking you can change the selection to any item you desire.

Pie menus completely saturate the entire possible gesture space with usable and accessible commands: there is no such thing as a syntax error, and you can always correct any gesture to select what you want, no matter how bad it started out, or cancel the menu, by moving around to the desired item or back to the center to cancel.

Handwriting and gesture recognition does not have this property, and it can be quite frustrating because you can't correct or cancel mistakes, and dangerous because mistakes can be misinterpreted as the wrong command. Most gestures are syntax errors. Blind gesture recognition doesn't have a good way to prompt and train you with the possible gestures, which only cover a tiny fraction of the possible gesture space. All the rest of the space of possible gestures is wasted, and interpreted as a syntax error (or worse, misinterpreted as the wrong gesture), instead of enabling the user to correct mistakes and reselect different gestures.

Even "fuzzy matching" of gestures trades off gestural precision with making it even harder to cancel or correct a gesture, without accidentally being misinterpreted as the wrong gesture. That's not the kind of an interface you would want to use in a mission critical application such as a car or airplane.

Another way to reframe the gestural, self revealing and reselectable qualities of pie menus is as navigation through a map, as opposed to climbing up a hierarchical menu tree. Instead of laboriously climbing up a tree of submenus, you simply navigate around a map of "sibmenus" -- sibling menus that you can easily move back and forth between by moving in opposite directions.

This demo of an iPhone app I developed called "iLoci" demonstrates the idea, enabling users to create their own memorable maps of "locations" instead of "menus", which they can edit by dragging around, that are related to each other by two-way reversible links. It exploits the "Method of Loci," an ancient memorization technique from the time before iPhones when people had to use their own brains to remember things, in order to leverage your spatial navigation memory and make it easy to learn your way around. http://vimeo.com/2419009


"The Method of loci (plural of Latin locus for place or location), also called the memory palace, is a mnemonic device introduced in ancient Roman and Greek rhetorical treatises (in the anonymous Rhetorica ad Herennium, Cicero's De Oratore, and Quintilian's Institutio Oratoria). In basic terms, it is a method of memory enhancement which uses visualization to organize and recall information. Many memory contest champions claim to use this technique to recall faces, digits, and lists of words. These champions’ successes have little to do with brain structure or intelligence, but more to do with their technique of using regions of their brain that have to do with spatial learning."

I like the idea of moving away from hierarchal menu navigation, towards spatial map navigation. It elegantly addresses the problem of personalized user created menus, by making linking and unlinking locations as easy as dragging and dropping objects around and bumping them together to connect and disconnect them. (Compare that to the complexity of a tree or outline editor, which doesn't make the directions explicit.) And it eliminates the need to a special command to move back up in the menu hierarchy, by guaranteeing that every navigation is obviously reversible by moving in the opposite direction. I believe maps are a lot more natural and easier for people to remember than hierarchies, and the interface naturally exploits "mouse ahead" (or "swipe ahead") and is obviously self revealing.

Here is another video demonstrating a prototype exploring this interface that I developed in Unity3D for Will Wright. It shows both an "iLoci" map editing interface, as well as traditional pop-up pie menus using "pull-out" distance parameters with real time in-world feedback to preview the effect of the selection (plus it also has cellular automata, at Will's request!):


As soon as I saw Nototo's demo vid, I immediately came here to say "This reminds me of Don Hopkins' MediaGraph!" It seems I am late to the party, however. :)

MediaGraph has a special place in my heart. Back in 2014 I built a zoomable UI prototype that very much embraced the concept of real-world objects as metaphors, which I think is vastly underappreciated. An antithesis to traditional graph visualization techniques of sorts, and it even had radial pie menus!

That project grew in scope and work on that prototype was discontinued in 2016 pending a major redesign.

The funny part is, I didn't discover MediaGraph until just a couple years ago, so it blew my mind to learn I was unknowingly on a very similar path back then, long after I had mothballed the thing.

As a solo founder, to find out my thinking was even in a remotely similar neighborhood as you and Will, was incredibly meaningful. It was and still is one of the few tiny little kernels of hope I hold on to that keeps me going. Thank you.

Is there a mechanism for local data backup?

Could you share some of the most interesting and unexpected uses of Nototo that you have encountered thus far?

Since we only publically launched yesterday, we haven't gotten the chance to chat with the users yet! I'll keep u posted :)

so you went public yesterday. and you are surprised that your page is trending on HN? right.

shame on he who thinks evil of it ;)

Cool product! I wonder if there would be a way to extend it / use it with my own existing notes, which are all markdown in a folder in plaintext.

When are you planning to release a mobile version that has import from Evernote?

Finally, I can stop taking my notes in Minecraft.

I don't if this was totally a joke, but I use a mincraft world I made years ago as my "memory castle" - and have pretty detailed notes about making a voxel world "memory scrapbook" like Nototo!

Suggestions from an old side-project: automate land management.

- Placing a note automatically creates an island around it with a recognizable landmark nearby. Add a tree after each addition. Add or enlarge a pond after each deletion.

- Dragging a line between two islands/hills either merges the two or moves them closer, depending on the size of the islands/hills involved and the population of the area. Locations, distance, and scale can change but the relative direction should not.

Hey donpark!

1. automatically adding landmarks This is a potential solution to a problem that we think about quite often: it's easy to teach people HOW to place components, but it's hard to teach people WHERE to place components.

We introduced templates to not only help people get started with their notes but also give them an example that they can follow when it comes to making memorable islands.

2. I'm not sure what exactly you mean by dragging a line. Do you mind expanding a little?

Re 1. The template is a nice 'developer' solution but I think the best is freeing users from the burden of learning unnecessary abstractions.

Re 2. I mean the gesture of pressing mouse or finger down on an island/hill then drag to another island/hill then releasing to gesture that the two are related. The line I mentioned is just a feedback mechanism. You can also use an outline of the first island/hill. The ideal reaction to such a gesture is bringing the two notes/topics closer which is where my comment about changing location and/or scale of island/hill while keeping the relative direction (angle) constant. I think relative direction more sticky than the other two.

I was thinking of using an old game one was addicted to for the memory palace. I still remember a lot of the maps in Doom, which I played as a student, for instance.

Interesting! I spend quite some time sim-racing, so I know some track layouts very well. I might try and use them as a memory palace.

As a trial, I'll map all James Bond movies in chronological order to the track while I drive through it and see whether I'll be able to recall them more easily than I can now.

This is what i used too. I used CS maps. I knew a few of them so well (dust, dust2, office, piranesi etc)

My initial reaction was "Cute, in a 'dots I's with hearts' type of way, but not really for me." And after watching the video and reading the site, I still feel that way, but I can see where you are going with this, with spatial memory. It isn't a bad idea.

But I do have a question though---I have my island with the "World Domination" plans on it. On that, I have a plateau with plans for the "Mega Death Laser". But those are related to Tesla's patents, and all his stuff is over there on the other island. Is there a way to link the Tesla patents "over there" with the Mega Death Laser plans "over here"?

See what I wrote about linking by "kissing" islands together in iLoci and MediaGraph in this other message and the videos I linked to:


Seconding the native app. The concept is great and I'd like to put it to work right now but (like a few other commercial products) it's a non-starter to store my data on your servers.

Neat! Some inspiration if this ever delves into references and connections between notes beyond just spatial relations:

- Older ideas based around Xanadu ZigZag (e.g. fenfire.org): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACPav69eW78 .

- Tinderbox guide videos

- An old HN comment I rediscovered that lists out many older note-taking projects: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4401550 (notably realized connectedtext had a feature akin to roamresearch)

When I heard about "memory palaces" I thought it would be cool if there was some sort of "hashing function" from concept to 3D space, to initially accommodate the thoughts/notes of a certain kind in a certain area of that space. That way you would get closely related concepts closely together in space too.

Wilmot's Warehouse also comes to mind [1] :-)

1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAcyPIJYOx4

This is slightly tangential. But, in line with visual representation of ideas to aid with memory I found that memories of things I did in VR were more like "real life memories" than anything I ever did in a 2d game.

I have a few odd memories of Echo Arena where I swear I can remember feeling the cool air of the arena on my skin and smelling the cold metal walls mixed with sweat. It felt like I was "there".

I wonder if some memory palace concepts could be combined with VR.

I agree, I always thought in theory it could be possible to mix memory palaces with VR.

Someone did a research study on it here if you're interested.


Thank you for the link! I'm very interested in reading it.

Please make an offline version with a one-off fee. I would send you lots of lentils for this.


I just saw the intro video. I agree with the key insight (I'm a psychology graduate, I'm basing it on that knowledge).

Here's some raw feedback from an n = 1. I'm being as critical as I can here, because your project can take it.

Personally, I don't think this is the final answer to the problem your solving but a good step towards it. I see some UX issues. It feels like I'm looking at a Blackberry (in a pre-Blackberry era) and not an iPhone.

So in conclusion: you found a key insight that everyone missed, executed well on it, but I'm missing a certain polish. I wouldn't know what this certain polish is, otherwise I'd have told you. It's simply a gut feeling (and gut feelings are terrible at picking things apart).

I know it sounds a bit nitpicky, but view it this way: your one step away from world domination as far your product is concerned in my eyes. I'd say in a sense that's really positive feedback, isn't it?


I'm going to riff on this idea in my free time: how can visual layout information help recall? I mean, one quick thought I have is: you can also make a VR app for this. Not sure if that would be the way to go (I think not), but I can imagine how it could help.

There should definitively be a VR app made from this!

Since this seems tailored for remembering content, it might be nice if you published some content in this format rather than just having it be a blank note-taking tool. For ex, let people explore a world that represents a biology textbook, or drivers-ed manual, or something else that commonly needs to be studied & memorized.

I think an example or two would be nice, but much like spaced repetition, I'd guess a lot of the value comes from building the material yourself.

Agreed, was looking for something like this.

You could integrate it into the site a bit as well and display release notes or your blog.

This is the repository I want to leave my kids when I'm gone, with curated content from my life experience the can explore when they feel as if they need some guidance.

It's also got a ton of potential as UI for blockchain exploration, where the elevation and other topographical features are influenced by transaction characteristics.

That's a very cool idea. Although it also reminds me of a longform article from about ten years ago (can't remember where from) by a guy who every so often visits the Minecraft worlds he built with his daughter. She is grown up and has gone to college.

I love the idea. However I tried playing with the product for a while and there's no way I can recommend any of my friends to use this in lecture. It uses 70% CPU and 10% GPU causing the fans to spin up. I've found that outlets can be rare when taking and reviewing notes so high power use is a non-starter.

Having played and playing a MMORPG where there are farming/fishing/shop points on a map, these types of things start to lose organization when it gets to around 70ish nodes. While a bit better than text, it's not 10x better.

Along the same lines about digital habits & itunes and gmail: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22087406

Why do I still need to sort & remember where I put my note/email/idea? Why not just search for keywords and bring all the relevant notes up? I do agree that part of the problem/key is how the user inputs their idea, but the memory tool should bring it back w/o myself remembering.

Nice execution on the tool - my criticism is in challenging what the right recall mechanism should be vs. the input mechanism.

I've often thought about wanting to build something like this, as I find something enchanting about the memory palace idea.

However in my case I think it wouldn't do anything for me, I'm not a visual thinker, I think in paragraphs, I understand things that are written down, even simple diagrams of server client interaction can slow down my understanding of what something is supposed to do in my job. Perhaps that's why I find it enchanting, it seems a fantasy because my brain doesn't work that way.

All that said I think my daughter's brain works completely visually, she struggles with language, her memory for abstraction is not good, but she is great with visual ideas. I guess I might start her on this, however like other people I find myself a little hesitant given that you haven't figured out a cost for the service yet.

So what happens when I fill up an island and I want to capture an idea in the proper place RIGHT NOW? Especially if I've got it surrounded by other islands. Aw shit, I just lost my fragile new idea while getting distracted by landscaping.

Also holy crap the body type in these notes is microscopic.

Great point! The idea of running out of real estate is something that we thought quite a bit about in the beginning.

So, we used to have somewhat like a tag system that we thought would lower the friction required to make a note. Where you can open up a notebook anywhere and we'll put it on the correct island for you after #tag it. But it kinda defeated the purpose of this app, for people to place their notes down like how they place a lego block down.

Also, it turns out, people usually don't fill up their islands to the point of collision. They have a lot of empty spaces between notes. So, it's actually a problem that we haven't encountered yet.

Additionally, note blocks can be seen as their own word documents and the tiny words on top are previews. So you can also just "open up" one of these blocks and put your idea there.

OR, what I do, is I have an island for random ideas like that. Write it down first, organize it later.

lastly, we will add a font size option for the rooftop fonts soon, don't wanna get eye damage lawsuits haha.

Definitely need that font size option! ... or, better, just good dynamic autoscaling based on f(text_length, box_size, zoom_level) and maybe a font size override option for static association.

Also need a drag feature for increasing island size, not just click. I would like to be able to create a large island quickly, like using a paintbrush almost. Even if I don't have notes to populate it with anytime soon.

Really love all this though.

I’m looking at how much stuff I have in Evernote after around a decade of using that and... if anyone uses this, you’ll definitely have that problem.

I wasn’t talking about the fonts in the scroll-around-the-islands view being tiny, I meant the body copy when you open up a note. At least on OSX Safari it is like 6pt.

Also left click should be "place new if null and immediately open note" to reduce friction.

Right click can be context menu for changing color/placing objects etc.

I think the app is more a solution for organizing your thoughts rather than capturing them when they come. But I agree that something should be done in that regards.

This is cool. I agree about the pricing page. If you're going to charge, charge.

I like where this is going. You are right that humans are visual. But we are more than that; we need to create more tools that complement our biological form. This is a cool step.

Cool idea! "Unfortunately", I have grown too accustomed to Notion's usability feautures (e.g. markdown, slash commands, organizing in databases) to switch apps again.

I think it would be cool to visualize notes of other apps (Notion, Evernote, ...) with maps via APIs. Maybe even automated somehow.

If you are interested in reading more about knowledge management in a software engineering context, you might like my blog post: https://tkainrad.dev/posts/managing-my-personal-knowledge-ba...

I quite like this idea. It seems for now to be fairly simple: I think more "decorations" and higher detail on trees, or whatever, might be important.

It seems that it's only 2.5D though. Have you considered making it truly 3D somehow? There's a surprisingly large amount of extra space you gain with that third dimension.

Also, fun idea: what if the island evolved over time? Like every time you visit, trees grow a bit and some new trees grow next to them, so eventually you get a forest, etc. I wonder what the implications of this would be to remembering things? Would the constant change help, or no?

Very interesting. There’s certainly something to this associative memory phenomenon. Case and point. I stumbled across this on accident, by listening to the radio while commuting to work in the morning. Some shows repeat themselves throughout the day. If I hear the repeat on my commute home, I can recall an amazing number of details around my morning commute at the same time in the show. It’s pretty amazing and I’m trying to find a way to exploit this outside of listening to Howard Stern on my commute to/from work. :-)

Hey, it's a Unix system! I know this!

...and everything old is new again, apparently.

I need help understanding the analogy!

It's a quote from the first "Jurassic Park" movie; one of the characters sees a graphical representation of a directory tree, and says the, "Hey, it's a Unix system! I know this!" line.

Movie reference from Jurasic Park (1993). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4kBRC2co7Y [perhaps a spoiler...]

I’m the family archivist and it’s long been a dream of mine to build some kind of 3D virtual museum to host all the content (audio, video, photos, documents). I looked into using Blender to construct some “museum geometry” but it seems more suited to organic modelling of objects rather than environments. It feels the technology isn’t quite ready for what I want to do - scaling to tens of millions of assets.

Memory palace is a good description of what I want and this app encourages me that others are doing work in the same space!

Nice concept. I'm thinking in a possible nebulous improvement. A potential problem here is that it can scale with problems as hundreds of notes are added. We organize knowledge in a hierarchical way, just as we do files in folders, or places in continents, countries, states, cities, neighborhoods and streets. Maybe a tree model of exploitable nodes, and order of magnitude slider, or something to do with what Prezi does. But yes, conceptual proximity as topographical is a great metaphor.

Very creative approach. There are flavors of abstraction of information The spatial visuals / artifacts are definitely helpful.

Much more relevant and sustainable than logs of notes.

It's pretty interesting that people remember much more about their own Minecraft creation than their notes/ tasks. This balanced approach is very interesting! Cause of concern: business/ pricing model.

Now you too can keep notes like you're playing [Wilmot's Warehouse](http://wilmotswarehouse.com/). Really reminds me of that game and how I floundered at creating a warehouse that was organized such that my spatial brain could actually remember where everything was.

Slick. I’ll be following the project.

I’ve been tracking the Munx VR [0] app which is similar, but unable to try it out without a VR headset. They just announced desktop version support so going to give that a go soon along with this Nototo app.

[0] https://linguisticator.com/p/munxvr

This is pretty cool, and I want to try it! but I was expecting it to be a paid Mac native app, not a web app behind a sign-up process... If you plan to keep it web-based, I'd encourage you to create a demo portal that doesn't require a signup. But I'd love a native app with export functionality (so I can use my own backups)!

Hey! Thanks for the encouragement!

A native app is definitely on the to-do list. The reason why we chose the browser is mainly so that we can distribute it to a broader audience. Also, I use a MacBook and my Co-founder uses windows, and we'd both like to use the app ourselves haha.

I may be wrong on this, but I think the friction to download a native app is much higher than a web app. And we really want as many users, from as many demographics, as we can to test the product and guide our development.

A demo portal/sandbox on our front page would be cool too! But we have some bugs/features that are much higher on our todo list.

Again, thanks a lot for the feedback!

I think the threshold for downloading a native app vs a web app is when you have to start putting your person data in the application.

what you are creating is something that will be filled with peoples personal data. Many of us, are required by employers, law, or a sense of owning the data, are going to prevent people from storing the data on your server.

you could look at a native app, if your rending is done client side, you could make the data files exportable, and make use of client side encryption.

Think the way a lot of password managers are working.

Additionally, on your demo video, I know voice over can be a pain for small devs, but have some on screen techs would really be helpful, or hell even some background music.

I know I personally started checking my headphone, trying to see if they were muted.

"Many of us, are required by employers, law, or a sense of owning the data" Ahh, interesting. I've never thought about this when it comes to web vs native. It is surely one of my blind spots. Thank you for pointing that out!

We will definitely work towards that, however, at this moment we are quite limited by our development speed. So it is unclear how long it will be until our #1 prioritization becomes creating a native app.

Also, will definitely make the demo vid better, eventually!

Thanks for your feedback, I really appreciate them.

You're doing great work. This is a fantastic product. Keep it up. Good luck keeping it running.

"Free at the moment" is not the way to go. I Don;t want to sign up and invest my time in a product not knowing how much it will cost when you do decide to start chat]raging. Better idea, is either day free for now but____ in the future,

If we could model a room of our favorite design and store notes in drawers that would be cool.

This is awesome!

Looks really cool, however I would be more comfortable if this was a desktop/mobile app rather than a web app. I would like to have some sense of control over my data and prefer if it is not stored on a server somewhere.

Very cool idea.

I have been thinking about how augmented reality might help with notes/todos and a memory palace might be it. Still unsure about how to execute this but intriguing nonetheless.

Take my money. I've been thinking about this for a long time, just dont have the energy. Implement this well and I think it's a kick ass idea.

Interesting concept. The brain does store information with visual location so that works in that way.

reminds me a bit of Jurassic Park's OS :)

The OS in Jurassic Park (the original movie) was plain Irix running accelerated GL X11, with a well known demo program for 3D.

I remember we got one of those workstations at work. No one could figure out what it’s purpose should be.. someone suggested it would make a decent mmorpg server... and it was.

I recall that one of the demos included with some versions of Irix was a multiplayer fighter combat simulator, one of the first users of IP multicast :D

You're thinking of fsn, a 3D filesystem browser demo for the Irix operating system :-)


First thought: "what the flying fuck"

Second thought: "wait, this actually makes perfect sense. I want it"

Kudos for the great idea!

I've been using visuospatial techniques like the method of loci (i.e. memory palaces, but I don't call them that) to enhance my memory for about 10 years - here are a few reasons why I think this particular solution won't really improve your memory, at least compared with normal diagramming/outlining techniques.

1. How you navigate through the environment matters. A lot. Let me use an example to try to illustrate how navigation plays a role in the method of loci. You're tasked with remembering how to solve a maze you must walk through. Consider how your brain ultimately end up encoding the solution. The brain only retains information that's (likely) relevant to solving some problem it is motivated to solve, and, also noteworthy, it tries to encode this information as sparsely as possible. Thus, what you end up remembering is not the precise spatial layout of the maze. Instead, you remember a stack of instructions/decisions associated with certain visual cues that contain a very small handful (say 1 to 3) of precise identifying details framed within a very undetailed visual "gist".[0] How does this relate to the method of loci? Well, as the encoding of your memory palace matures in your brain it is precisely these pictorial memories that end up solidifying in long term memory and becoming the "loci" in which you place the items you want to remember.

This entails some important things: first, to actually use a "method of loci" it is important that the environment change little. The solution here does not appear to afford that; you generate the environment, you can change the environment, etc. Well, learning is ultimately a generative activity, so this is okay. Chunking is a generative activity, and that is a highly effective memory technique. But I am going to guess that this, as a generative activity, is not significantly more effective than the generative activities of spider diagramming or outlining in a word document. Worse, if it's implemented poorly or lacks certain features it's probably worse. Second, to actually use a "method of loci" it is important that you have a clearly defined path to navigate. Again, the solution here does not afford this, as you seem to be constantly moving around wherever you like in the environment. Exploration is fine as a learning activity but if you never boil it down to a specific path (like you do in the maze example), you're not creating a true "mind palace" and getting the benefits thereof. Third, each loci must have specific and fairly apparent details that distinguish it from the others, or else your images will tend to get confused. Doesn't look like this solution offers much in the way of that with the little models you can place on the islands. I assume that will change over time.

As a side note, I also once tried to use the method of loci with such a top down perspective as you see in the demo (specifically I was using the Sims 2, ah how I love that game...). I found it didn't work that well.

Some years ago my experience was further validated by reading Mary Carruthers' work on the medieval idea of _ductus_, a core concept in medieval memorytechnique. Ductus doesn't have to do with a defined navigation of your body through an environment, though, but a defined navigation of your eyes through an image.

To sum up point #1, this solution does not help you produce strong loci like you get with a true method of loci. The "loci" it helps you produce are, if I had to guess, not significantly more effective than the "loci" you produce in your mind when you create, view, and encode the spatial relationships in, say, a draw.io diagram.

2. The loci are not being populated with imageable contents, and the method of loci works best for imageable content. I remember reading some cog psyche studies showing this somewhere but CBA to go find them. Also, the more specific the images the more memorable. E.g. apple is worse than Macintosh is worse than "that one Macintosh apple I saw on the floor at the store last week".

3. Related to #2, converting non-imageable concepts to images is expensive and, when you don't have at least a partly preconceived "memory language" of images, this almost always offsets the advantages of using the method of loci. I think the problem with non-imageable content is probably the biggest obstacle to using the method of loci for real work (There are some exceptions to this, e.g. if you're learning Art History or Medicine) and this does nothing to solve that big problem. Again, I think this puts it in the same league as other diagramming/outlining techniques.

<long tangent> The solution to this problem I found was creating a bunch of rules for creating such a "memory language". Most of these images (I call them "esographs") are compiled and a few can be made JIT when you need them. Another advantage of using these rules is that creating and using the esographs can be a mnemonic/memory exercise in of itself that can be used for real work. An example. I might use a black chicken to represent the concept of a decimal point. The connection comes from a story that I heard from watching the TV show QI[1]. The story goes that John Napier, the inventor of the decimal point, had a thieving servant. Now, to figure out which was the thief he persuaded his servants that he owned a magic black chicken that could identify thieving hands when touched. He placed this chicken in an empty room and had each servant go in and touch it. In reality, the story goes, the chicken was actually covered in soot and he identified the thief by seeing which servant had clean hands.

Now you can see that this image packs a whole parable-like story (which is itself a memory techniqe), and every time I use this image it reinforces my knowledge.

The trick to creating a "memory language" like this is to get into the habit of creating these images whenever possible and eventually you will build up enough images to have some sort of fluency in the language. Admittedly, this is a difficult habit to pick up. But after a while it has been paying off in my case, and can be enhanced with the method of loci. YMMV.

Digging through some old notes I found a list of good "rules" for converting non-imageable concepts into imageable ones. I'm not sure if I should share them since this post is already really long.

In any case, such a framework is actually more important than the method of loci since, without it, it's very difficult to use the method of loci for real work.

Funnily enough, such images representing abstract concepts is also core to medieval memorytechnique and also seems to be a major underlying motivation for religious iconography. And of course you can use the iconography as readymade images for certain concepts. </long tangent>

I guess the last thing I will mention is that the method of loci seems to work quite well for some people, especially when they are highly motivated and interested in content that is more imageable, but it does not seem to be all that effective for others. So YMMV.

[0] Anecdotally, I have a long commute that doesn't require a lot in the way of cognitive effort to navigate. I noticed that it took a very long time for me to remember the landmarks on long stretches of road where I don't have to turn.

[1] Season 3, Episode 3

Replying to my own comment cuz, well, I wrote this long post at 3 AM and one is apt to write some incoherent stuff at 3 AM. So, forgive me for any parts that don't make much sense :P Would be happy to elaborate on anything for anyone interested.

It worked great on Safari. On Chrome the islands were not showing up.

Great app. That makes me want to use minecraft as notetaking.

Damn... Ive had this idea for the longest time

Why does this have to be a cloud app? Just make a great app, sell it for download for ten bucks, and go away. Repeat this if you come up with more awesome ideas.

A very good question!

I think given the amount of manpower we had, it was the best choice to make the browser version first. If we desperately want a desktop version, we can use Electron or some tools to convert the browser version into a desktop version. The performance may not be the greatest, but it's cheap. We can do the same for iOS and Android.

This may just be me, but I feel like the app is somewhat like my kid. This may make it tough if we need to ditch the app or pivot one day, but yea...great question!

I will feel like my note-world is my kid if I spend a year putting notes into this. Will I lose all my notes if you shut down the app?

If somehow I can't work on this any more for the rest of my life, I'd probably still just keep it running. The amount of credits we have for these hosting services is enough to keep it running for a long time.

Also, it's quite unethical to just shut the app down without giving people the ability to export the notes. I can't really see myself doing that. And I don't think neither of my 2 teammates would allow that to happen.

Soooo... Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the whole point of taking notes on your easily searchable computer that you _don’t_ have to remember them?

Are you going to support evernote?

Sadly it's not mobile first

Their pricing page really bothers me:

> We are just three engineering students in an apartment living room, eating lentils everyday, and spending every waking moment of our lives trying to make Nototo into something that people love.

> Therefore, we really can't afford to spend time and figure out the best way to take money from you.

I really dislike this trend of "formulating a business plan for our business isn't important for us". It's supposed to come off as "we care so much about delivering a great product that we don't care about money" but once you remove the stigma about making money (you're a for profit business, you should be making money. It's a good thing. There's no shame in that) it just comes off lazy. Designing a pricing system and monetizing strategy is just as much a part of making a product as designing the frontend or the tech, and all that directly affects me as a user.

It doesn't really inspire me to try it if I have no idea if their pricing will be something I'm ok with or if their product won't exist because they didnt think coming up with a business plan was important.

I just wanna say that these are very valid points! It does make us seem less professional. And is potentially losing us some users.

We kind of scrambled that page together quickly because we wanted to get launch and get users as quickly as possible. Designing a pricing system may not take too long, but implementation would have delayed our launch date quite a bit and we really didn't want to delay the launch any further.

I think our lack of professionalism can also be an upside. It kind of allows me to create a personal relationship with some of our hardcore users and talk to them in order to guide the development direction of the app.

All in all, I appreciate the criticism!

Just say you are in free beta until you figure out a good and fair way to price your product.

Good luck with the product, looks very cool! Mistakes happen, nothing that would be a problem in the long term

Or use "preview" which makes it sound even better.

I disagree with the critique. Not all software or services need to be businesses - they don't present themselves as one. It's a student project fur fun and maybe recognition.

You could also argue in the other direction that they could release the source and let people self-host it.

For someone with the intention to make a profitable SaaS business (which, as you say, there's nothing at all wrong with) it'd be valid advise, but there are many models under which to release software and not having it figured out yet is totally fine too.

Student projects are great, but for me to invest my time and effort into using just about anything (especially something that is supposed to store my notes), I do need to see a stable long-term sustainable business.

Incidentally, that also excludes most VC-funded companies, because these are neither long-term nor sustainable and usually have a user-facing lifespan of 3-5 years.

Yet i remember the times where people where doing things on internet for free.

It works when it's just software that you can support on your own later (open source). It doesn't work when it's SaaS.

It is that. It's free unless you find it so compelling you want to give the creators money you can. I'm sure the only thing stopping that from happening "back in your times" was that setting up a payment processor and accepting payments didn't take 15 mins. At no point do they say you can't use it if you don't pay

Absence of pricing != absence of business plan, e.g. note data is valuable in its own right. They publish a privacy policy.

Mining notes for data is a terrible idea and a very quick way to guarantee that you never get any users.

Pricing in this regard is a signal for stability. If you’re paying for a service, it is far more likely to stick around. And the more stable the product, the more likely is a user to actually use the app — especially for a note taking app.

No, but an admission that they haven’t taken time to think about how to make money = absence of business plan.

Agreed, especially with a note taking app. You want me to live in here? Ok, you better be around in 10 years. Charge me some money so that will be the case.

It's totally fine to dip feet in the water without commiting to anything.

Clearly this is all just validation of a product. Will people use our product if it's free? Will they use if there is a small price? A business plan is easy when theres demand for a product established.

Where to download it?!

Very very cool!

Unified xxx == Yet Another xxx. See https://xkcd.com/927/

It looks like there’s no desktop app of any kind? The idea looks fascinating, but unfortunately it’s a complete no-go for me without a native and offline option.

@dang - is this some kind of marketing post that was promoted? There’s very little chance that there are this many people this excited about some note taking app where you drag your notes as trees and park benches on a windows 95 looking map UI.

Also, the number of people requesting a native app for purchase and talking about pricing… Something isn’t right here.

Not as far as I can tell, but I only have my phone and can't do much with that. I'll check again when I've got my laptop. But the votes look clean and the comments I saw so far are by established users.

It's not uncommon that a post like this strikes a whimsical chord. Promotional behavior is usually more mechanical and samey.

I'm not the only one who thought exactly the same thing, eh?

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