"People who write extensively about note-writing rarely have a serious context of use
Many bloggers and “life-hackers” have made a full-time job of suggesting how you should organize your journal, or how you should most effectively Write about what you read. We should take this advice seriously insofar as those practices have helped the authors achieve meaningful creative work: “Better note-taking” misses the point; what matters is “better thinking”
But most people who write about note-taking don’t seem particularly accomplished in their own fields, whatever those may be. In fact, most such writers aren’t applying their notes to some exogenous creative problem: their primary creative work is writing about productivity."
(I'm describing myself in the above paragraph.)
Outside of certain fields like academia and writing, I've observed that accomplished people tend to focus more on "doing" (including doing the "wrong" things) rather than constructing a super coherent model of the world. They rely on rough heuristics and feedback loops to learn, rather than careful analysis.
I read an article this week "Action Produces Information"  that made me think that maybe the more cerebral among us ought to step outside our mental models occasionally and actually try to interact with the gritty world and let reality be our teacher (instead of our models). By interacting with reality, we actually generate new information.
Watch any group of entrepreneurs for a long enough period of time, for instance, and you would notice that the best entrepreneurs aren’t necessarily the best calibrated Bayesian updaters or expected utility calculators. Instead, the best entrepreneurs tend to have a mix of bias-to-action and fast adaptation in response to new information.
It seems to me that better note-taking methods are great for sharpening the brain (which is a valuable thing in itself), but a bias toward action/empiricism might be better for sharpening the skills needed to do meaningful things in the world. They're not mutually exclusive, but given a finite amount of time, my intuition tells me that putting more weight on the latter will tend to have a higher payoff.
I settled on a $1.20 pen model which I really like, a generic notebook and have kept the resolution not to even look at any more stuff (okay, I read about Zettelkasten but resisted the temptation to try it). This sort of works for me.
I will keep quiet on how much time I had spent researching various productivity-related crap :)
- Andy livestreamed a demo of him on a typical work session:
- this Patreon post explains in greater lenght his OS-level spaced repetition approach:
- Andy is working on a prototype of that system, called Orbit, which might be available soon:
- in regards to his specific writing/thinking system, here's a couple more clarifications:
- Obsidian has a plug-in which replicates the sliding panes of Andy's notes:
I think the space of graph/backlinked personal notes/knowledge systems is taking off , with many solutions free and open-source. (Of that list, many have spaced-repetition plug-ins not referenced there.) It will be interesting to how the field matures in a couple of years.
And thank goodness I did! I eventually left astro for industry and that experience (both the formal classes and just being around a bunch of CS people a lot) helped with that transition tremendously.
Hard to say how much of the trend is just what happened everywhere, but CS1 being in Python rather than Scheme probably helped a bit.
I forget if Scheme was moved to a later course or made optional.
meals + information ⟶ knowledge + heat
To find a higher-frequency leading indicator, notes/day seems apropos.
(The heat above is generated at O(100W). Unfortunately that doesn't correlate well with knowledge produced, or we could just use it as a measure. Would an intermediate measure be drafts/week?)
Highly recommended: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6rVHr6OwjI
Damn, looks like an interesting way to browse knowledge... I want it!
Scales well with number of notes too. I have over 30,000 lines of markdown thus far:
You can also run DokuWiki locally for notes you wish to keep private, it's rather easy to do.
Hacking is playful practice.