Learning Tower of Babel
Over the past couple months I've started building up a bunch of tools in order to manage all my grad school, work, and personal knowledge. Now as a programmer, of course I would have to come up with something extremely complicated.
The current system I have looks like this:
I've had an itch to take notes in the past, either directly in the margins of books, on post-its, or just in a variety of notebooks. The problem was, I could never successfully manage to reference them all, and this information would end up getting lost somewhere.
As a result, I wound up going through a series of applications, from wikis like org-brain, to Devonthink + Tinderbox (this came the closest), to a variety of bad-to-passable software. At the end of it, I had basically settled back to where I started, which is a mess of kindle highlights, instapaper highlights, anki notes, readwise notes, notes in notebooks, twitter bookmarks, pinboard bookmarks, random post-its, etc.
A few weeks back I found org-roam, which basically is everything I wanted rolled into one. There had to be some leg-work before I could get it working, however.
I ended up classifying the inputs into my notes into four broad categories:
- Short form knowledge
- Mostly stuff from Twitter, Instagram, messages, etc
- Medium form knowledge
- News articles, podcasts, etc
- Long form knowledge
- Feature articles, papers, books, etc
- Language knowledge
- Vocabulary, grammar rules, etc
as well as the three main types of knowledge I typically handle:
- Computers related
- mostly short & medium form knowledge, with some long
- Middle East and grad school related
- mostly medium & long, with some short
- different categorization
Instapaper lets me dump the extra tabs I always seem to accumulate, while Readwise integrates with Instapaper's API and Kindle highlights to automatically pull in text I've highlighted, making it a pretty good staging ground.
Since I was already using Instapaper as a staging ground, turning those notes into org-roam notes was fairly simple. This was also surprisingly easy for my highlights and notes from various papers as well, I've really grown fond of reading with a pen in hand the past couple of books.
* Note Title Tags: notes that are related conceptually to this note go here Summary of the text Details from the text, often including references and quotes
I end up making a note for every single article/paper/book I read, which then I can find semantic links for.
For example, the full semantic graph for my notes right now looks like:
This graph looks is a mess, but is surprisingly useful in identifying stray notes. Plus, finding out how your notes relate to each other is pretty enjoyable.
Primarly I query stuff within org-roam itself, but after seeing https://braindump.jethro.dev/ built off of org-roam, I decided that I should have something similar.
For the most part, I ended up cribbing most of Jethro's UI with http://wiki.space.af (thanks Jethro!). I've found this really useful to query, share, and read my notes on my phone.
The display engine for this is driven from a forked hugo theme. I use ox-hugo's auto-export-on-save to generate markdown files, which then get translated via Hugo to HTML files, when then get slapped onto my web sever.
5 Too complicated?
This setup is almost certainly too complicated, but part of the fun is overengineering things.