- Oct 2022
Natto https://natto.dev<br /> built by Paul Shen https://twitter.com/_paulshen
Synopsis: Maggie Delano looks at some of the affordances supplied by Tana (compared to Roam Research) in terms of providing better block-based user interface for note type creation, search, and filtering.
These sorts of tools and programmable note implementations remind me of Beatrice Webb's idea of scientific note taking or using her note cards like a database to sort and search for data to analyze it and create new results and insight.
It would seem that many of these note taking tools like Roam and Tana are using blocks and sub blocks as a means of defining atomic notes or database-like data in a way in which sub-blocks are linked to or "filed underneath" their parent blocks. In reality it would seem that they're still using a broadly defined index card type system as used in the late 1800s/early 1900s to implement a set up that otherwise would be a traditional database in the Microsoft Excel or MySQL sort of fashion, the major difference being that the user interface is cognitively easier to understand for most people.
These allow people to take a form of structured textual notes to which might be attached other smaller data or meta data chunks that can be easily searched, sorted, and filtered to allow for quicker or easier use.
Ostensibly from a mathematical (or set theoretic and even topological) point of view there should be a variety of one-to-one and onto relationships (some might even extend these to "links") between these sorts of notes and database representations such that one should be able to implement their note taking system in Excel or MySQL and do all of these sorts of things.
Cascading Idea Sheets or Cascading Idea Relationships
One might analogize these sorts of note taking interfaces to Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). While there is the perennial question about whether or not CSS is a programming language, if we presume that it is (and it is), then we can apply the same sorts of class, id, and inheritance structures to our notes and their meta data. Thus one could have an incredibly atomic word, phrase, or even number(s) which inherits a set of semantic relationships to those ideas which it sits below. These links and relationships then more clearly define and contextualize them with respect to other similar ideas that may be situated outside of or adjacent to them. Once one has done this then there is a variety of Boolean operations which might be applied to various similar sets and classes of ideas.
If one wanted to go an additional level of abstraction further, then one could apply the ideas of category theory to one's notes to generate new ideas and structures. This may allow using abstractions in one field of academic research to others much further afield.
The user interface then becomes the key differentiator when bringing these ideas to the masses. Developers and designers should be endeavoring to allow the power of complex searches, sorts, and filtering while minimizing the sorts of advanced search queries that an average person would be expected to execute for themselves while also allowing some reasonable flexibility in the sorts of ways that users might (most easily for them) add data and meta data to their ideas.
Jupyter programmable notebooks are of this sort, but do they have the same sort of hierarchical "card" type (or atomic note type) implementation?
- integrated thinking environments
- idea links
- card index as database
- user interface
- types of notes
- cascading idea sheets
- Beatrice Webb
- building blocks
- Maggie Delano
- category theory
- Roam Research
- scientific note taking
- super tags
- integrated development environment
- programmable notes
- Boolean algebra
Lustig, Jason. “‘Mere Chips from His Workshop’: Gotthard Deutsch’s Monumental Card Index of Jewish History.” History of the Human Sciences, vol. 32, no. 3, July 2019, pp. 49–75. SAGE Journals, https://doi.org/10.1177/0952695119830900
Cross reference preliminary notes from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0952695119830900
Gotthard Deutsch (1859–1921) taught at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati from 1891 until his death, where he produced a card index of 70,000 ‘facts’ of Jewish history.
Gotthard Deutsch (1859-1921) had a card index of 70,000 items relating to Jewish history.
There is a difference between various modes of note taking and their ultimate outcomes. Some is done for learning about an area and absorbing it into one's own source of general knowledge. Others are done to collect and generate new sorts of knowledge. But some may be done for raw data collection and analysis. Beatrice Webb called this "scientific note taking".
Historian Jacques Goutor talks about research preparation for this sort of data collecting and analysis though he doesn't give it a particular name. He recommends reading papers in related areas to prepare for the sort of data acquisition one may likely require so that one can plan out some of one's needs in advance. This will allow the researcher, especially in areas like history or sociology, the ability to preplan some of the sorts of data and notes they'll need to take from their historical sources or subjects in order to carry out their planned goals. (p8)
C. Wright Mills mentions (On Intellectual Craftsmanship, 1952) similar research planning whereby he writes out potential longer research methods even when he is not able to spend the time, effort, energy, or other (financial) resources to carry out such plans. He felt that just the thought experiments and exercise of doing such unfulfilled research often bore fruit in his other sociological endeavors.
- Sep 2022
Google Forms and Sheets allow users toannotate using customizable tools. Google Forms offers a graphicorganizer that can prompt student-determined categorical input andthen feeds the information into a Sheets database. Sheetsdatabases are taggable, shareable, and exportable to other software,such as Overleaf (London, UK) for writing and Python for coding.The result is a flexible, dynamic knowledge base with many learningapplications for individual and group work
Who is using these forms in practice? I'd love to see some examples.
This sort of set up could be used with some outlining functionality to streamline the content creation end of common note taking practices.
Is anyone using a spreadsheet program (Excel, Google Sheets) as the basis for their zettelkasten?
Link to examples of zettelkasten as database (Webb, Seignobos suggestions)
arranged according to their subject-matter ;" that" epigraphic monuments belonging to the sameterritory mutually explain each other when placedside by side ;" and, lastly, that " while it is all butimpossible to range in order of subject-matter ahundred thousand inscriptions nearly all of whichbelong to several categories ; on the other hand,each monument has but one place, and a verydefinite place, in the geographical order."
Similar to the examples provided by Beatrice Webb in My Apprenticeship, the authors here are talking about a sort of scientific note taking method that is ostensibly similar to that of the use of a modern day computer database or spreadsheet function, but which had to be effected in index card form to do the sorting and compiling and analysis.
Do the authors here use the specific phrase scientific note taking? It appears that they do not.
the method of slips is the only one mechanicallypossible for the purpose of forming, classifying, andutiUsing a collection of documents of any greatextent. Statisticians, financiers, and men of letterswho observe, have now discovered this as well asscholars.
A zettelkasten type note taking method isn't only popular and useful for scholars by 1898, but is useful to "statisticians, financiers, and men of letters".
Note carefully the word "mechanically" here used in a pre-digital context. One can't easily keep large amounts of data in one's head at once to make sense of it, so having a physical and mechanical means of doing so would have been important. In 21st century contexts one would more likely use a spreadsheet or database for these types of manipulations at increasingly larger scales.
- Jul 2022
It wasnot until we had completely re-sorted all our innumerable sheets ofpaper according to subjects, thus bringing together all the facts relatingto each, whatever the trade concerned, or the place or the date—andhad shuffled and reshuffled these sheets according to various tentativehypotheses—that a clear, comprehensive and verifiable theory of theworking and results of Trade Unionism emerged in our minds; tobe embodied, after further researches by way of verification, in ourIndustrial Democracy (1897).
Beatrice Webb was using her custom note taking system in the lead up to the research that resulted in the publication of Industrial Democracy (1897).
Is there evidence that she was practicing this note taking/database practice earlier than this?