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  1. Last 7 days
    1. On the Internet there are many collective projects where users interact only by modifying local parts of their shared virtual environment. Wikipedia is an example of this.[17][18] The massive structure of information available in a wiki,[19] or an open source software project such as the FreeBSD kernel[19] could be compared to a termite nest; one initial user leaves a seed of an idea (a mudball) which attracts other users who then build upon and modify this initial concept, eventually constructing an elaborate structure of connected thoughts.[20][21]

      Just as eusocial creatures like termites create pheromone infused mudballs which evolve into pillars, arches, chambers, etc., a single individual can maintain a collection of notes (a commonplace book, a zettelkasten) which contains memetic seeds of ideas (highly interesting to at least themselves). Working with this collection over time and continuing to add to it, modify it, link to it, and expand it will create a complex living community of thoughts and ideas.

      Over time this complexity involves to create new ideas, new structures, new insights.

      Allowing this pattern to move from a single person and note collection to multiple people and multiple collections will tend to compound this effect and accelerate it, particularly with digital tools and modern high speed communication methods.

      (Naturally the key is to prevent outside selfish interests from co-opting this behavior, eg. corporate social media.)

    2. The network of trails functions as a shared external memory for the ant colony.

      Just as a trail of pheromones serves the function of a shared external memory for an ant colony, annotations can create a set of associative trails which serve as an external memory for a broader human collective memory. Further songlines and other orality based memory methods form a shared, but individually stored internal collective memory for those who use and practice them.

      Vestiges of this human practice can be seen in modern society with the use and spread of cultural memes. People are incredibly good at seeing and recognizing memes and what they communicate and spreading them because they've evolved to function this way since the dawn of humanity.

  2. Aug 2022
    1. https://thoughtcatalog.com/ryan-holiday/2013/08/how-and-why-to-keep-a-commonplace-book/

      An early essay from Ryan Holiday about commonplace books including how, why, and their general value.

      Notice that the essay almost reads as if he's copying out cards from his own system. This is highlighted by the fact that he adds dashes in front 23 of his paragraphs/points.

    2. Protect it at all costs. As the historian Douglas Brinkley said about Ronald Reagan’s collection of notecards: “If the Reagans’ home in Palisades were burning, this would be one of the things Reagan would immediately drag out of the house. He carried them with him all over like a carpenter brings their tools. These were the tools for his trade.”

      Another example of saving one's commonplace in case of a fire!

      link to: - https://hypothes.is/a/BLL9TvZ9EeuSIrsiWKCB9w - https://hypothes.is/a/zHUghMiaEeuKKvcrc5ux5w

    3. I’ve been keeping my commonplace books in variety of forms for 6 or 7 years. But I’m just getting started.

      In August 2013 Ryan Holiday said that he'd been commonplacing for "6 or 7 years".

    4. Ronald Reagan actually kept quotes on a similar notecard system.

      By at least 2013 Ryan Holiday was aware of Ronald Reagan's note card system from a 2011 USA Today article and related book.

    5. I use 4×6 ruled index cards, which Robert Greene introduced me to. I write the information on the card, and the theme/category on the top right corner. As he figured out, being able to shuffle and move the cards into different groups is crucial to getting the most out of them.

      Ryan Holiday keeps a commonplace book on 4x6 inch ruled index cards with a theme or category written in the top right corner. He learned his system from Robert Greene.

      Of crucial importance to him was the ability to shuffle the cards and move them around.

    6. A commonplace book is a way to keep our learning priorities in order. It motivates us to look for and keep only the things we can use.
    7. And if you still need a why–I’ll let this quote from Seneca answer it (which I got from my own reading and notes): “We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching and the spirited and noble-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application–not far far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech–and learn them so well that words become works.”
    1. https://lifehacker.com/im-ryan-holiday-and-this-is-how-i-work-1485776137

      An influential productivity article from 2013-12-18 that is seen quoted over the blogosphere for the following years that broadened the idea of the commonplace book and the later popularity of the zettelkasten.

      Note that zettelkasten.de was just starting up at about this time period, though it follows the work of Manfred Kuehn's note taking blog.

    2. It's several thousand 4x6 notecards—based on a system taught to by my mentor Robert Greene when I was his research assistant—that have ideas, notes on books I liked, quotes that caught my attention, research for projects or phrases I am kicking around.

      Ryan Holiday learned his index card-based commonplace book system from writer Robert Greene for whom he worked as an assistant.

    3. My Commonplace Book (pictured above) is the first thing I'm taking out of my house in a fire.

      As a strong indicator of how important his commonplace book is, Ryan Holiday not only indicates that it's the tool he can't live without but he says it "is the first thing I'm taking out of my house in a fire."

      Link to: - https://hypothes.is/a/KCnrXMdHEeyxz3sZy3Uo5g

      Cross reference with his fears of robbery as well: - https://hypothes.is/a/BLL9TvZ9EeuSIrsiWKCB9w

  3. Jul 2022
    1. Or, we canpicture ourselves collecting bones, breaking and roastingthem, and then boiling them for hours or days in a stockpot to release the nutritious and tasty marrow.

      We can imagine mining the information we encounter, following veins and seams underground, then smelting and refining the ore into useful metals. Occasionally we might come across gems that are nearly perfect when we discover them, perhaps needing only a bit of cutting and setting to reveal their beauty. But mostly the work involves patience and effort, as we go through the steps of finding, collecting, refining, and concentrating information from a raw material into exactly what we need for our structure

      I love these two new clever metaphors (mining and refining and cooking) for note taking for building knowledge. They're a welcome addition to the older and more classical metaphor of bees (Latin: apes) collecting pollen to make honey in the commonplace tradition.

    1. He explains the purpose of his "waste book" in his notebook E: Die Kaufleute haben ihr Waste book (Sudelbuch, Klitterbuch glaube ich im deutschen), darin tragen sie von Tag zu Tag alles ein was sie verkaufen und kaufen, alles durch einander ohne Ordnung, aus diesem wird es in das Journal getragen, wo alles mehr systematisch steht ... Dieses verdient von den Gelehrten nachgeahmt zu werden. Erst ein Buch worin ich alles einschreibe, so wie ich es sehe oder wie es mir meine Gedancken eingeben, alsdann kann dieses wieder in ein anderes getragen werden, wo die Materien mehr abgesondert und geordnet sind.[2] "Tradesmen have their 'waste book' (scrawl-book, composition book I think in German), in which they enter from day to day everything they buy and sell, everything all mixed up without any order to it, from there it is transferred to the day-book, where everything appears in more systematic fashion ... This deserves to be imitated by scholars. First a book where I write down everything as I see it or as my thoughts put it before me, later this can be transcribed into another, where the materials are more distinguished and ordered."
    1. Organization of both a commonplace book and pocket notebook .t3_w1vq6q._2FCtq-QzlfuN-SwVMUZMM3 { --postTitle-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; --postTitleLink-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; }

      Historically, following a tradition from accounting ledgers, people kept small, convenient pocket notebooks called "waste books" for quickly capturing notes and ideas in daily life. Later, they'd either expand on them or copy them out in better detail and usually in a nicer hand with sources/citations, and indexing/cross referencing in their permanent commonplaces. When you're done with it, you'd simply dispose of or throw away the waste book.

      As for arrangement or organization, it's been common for people to use something roughly similar to John Locke's indexing method from 1706 for arranging and finding material. Others use a card index file and index cards to be able to rearrange pieces or to more easily index and cross reference portions.

      I often recommend https://indieweb.org/commonplace_book as a pretty solid resource with some history, books, articles, and lots of examples (both digital and analog/paper-based) one might look at to find what they think would be best for themselves.

    1. Beatrice Webb, the famous sociologist and political activist, reported in 1926: "'Every one agrees nowadays', observe the most noted French writers on the study of history, 'that it is advisable to collect materials on separate cards or slips of paper. . . . The advantages of this artifice are obvious; the detachability of the slips enables us to group them at will in a host of different combinations; if necessary, to change their places; it is easy to bring texts of the same kind together, and to incorporate additions, as they are acquired, in the interior of the groups to which they belong.'" [6]

      footnote:

      Webb 1926, p. 363. The number of scholars who have used the index card method is legion, especially in sociology and anthropology, but also in many other subjects. Claude Lévy-Strauss learned their use from Marcel Mauss and others, Roland Barthes used them, Charles Sanders Peirce relied on them, and William Van Orman Quine wrote his lectures on them, etc.

    1. Robert uses a system based on flashcards

      flashcards?!?!! A commonplace book done in index cards is NOT based on "flashcards". 🤮

      Someone here is missing the point...

    2. In his interviews, he likes to emphasize that, in each book, he’s back to square one.

      Where does Robert Greene specifically say this?

      With a commonplace book repository, one is never really starting from square one. Anyone who says otherwise is missing the point.

    3. with established worldwide fame and prestige, to step in his previous successes to write more-of-the-same books and convert all the attention in cheap money. Just like Robert Kiyosaki did with his 942357 books about “Rich dad”.

      Many artists fall into a creativity trap caused by fame. They spend years developing a great work, but then when it's released, the industry requires they follow it up almost immediately with something even stronger.

      Jewel is an reasonable and perhaps typical example of this phenomenon. She spent several years writing the entirety of her first album Pieces of You (1995), which had three to four solid singles. As it became popular she was rushed to release Spirit (1998), which, while it was ultimately successful, didn't measure up to the first album which had far more incubation time. She wasn't able to build up enough material over time to more easily ride her initial wave of fame. Creativity on demand can be a difficult master, particularly when one is actively touring or supporting their first work while needing to

      (Compare the number of titles she self-wrote on album one vs. album two).

      M. Night Shyamalan is in a similar space, though as a director he preferred to direct scripts that he himself had written. While he'd had several years of writing and many scripts, some were owned by other production companies/studios which forced him to start from scratch several times and both write and direct at the same time, a process which is difficult to do by oneself.

      Another example is Robert Kiyosaki who spun off several similar "Rich Dad" books after the success of his first.

      Compare this with artists who have a note taking or commonplacing practice for maintaining the velocity of their creative output: - Eminem - stacking ammo - Taylor Swift - commonplace practice

    1. Realizing that my prior separate advice wasn't as actionable or specific, I thought I'd take another crack at your question.

      Some seem to miss the older techniques and names for this sort of practice and get too wound up in words like categories, tags, #hashtags, [[wikilinks]], or other related taxonomies and ontologies. Some become confounded about how to implement these into digital systems. Simplify things and index your ideas/notes the way one would have indexed books in a library card catalog, generally using subject, author and title.

      Since you're using an approach more grounded in the commonplace book tradition rather than a zettelkasten one, put an easy identifier on your note (this can be a unique title or number) and then cross reference it with any related subject headings or topical category words you find useful.

      Here's a concrete example, hopefully in reasonable detail that one can easily follow. Let's say you have a quote you want to save:

      No piece of information is superior to any other. Power lies in having them all on file and then finding the connections. There are always connections; you have only to want to find them.—Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum

      In a paper system you might give this card the identification number #237. (This is analogous to the Dewey Decimal number that might be put on a book to find it on the shelves.) You want to be able to find this quote in the future using the topical words "power", "information", "connections", and "quotes" for example. (Which topical headings you choose and why can be up to you, the goal is to make it easier to dig up for potential reuse in future contexts). So create a separate paper index with alphabetical headings (A-Z) and then write cards for your topical headings. Your card with "power" at the top will have the number #237 on it to indicate that that card is related to the word power. You'll ultimately have other cards that relate and can easily find everything related to "power" within your system by using this subject index.

      You might also want to file that quote under two other "topics" which will make it easy to find: primarily the author of the quote "Umberto Eco" and the title of the source Foucault's Pendulum. You can add these to your index the same way you did "power", "information", etc., but it may be easier or more logical to keep a bibliographic index separately for footnoting your material, so you might want a separate bibliographic index for authors and sources. If you do this, then create a card with Umberto Eco at the top and then put the number #237 on it. Later you'll add other numbers for other related ideas to Eco. You can then keep your card "Eco, Umberto" alphabetized with all the other authors you cite. You'll effect a similar process with the title.

      With this done, you now have a system in which you don't have to categorize a single idea in a single place. Regardless of what project or thing you're working on, you can find lots of related notes. If you're juggling multiple projects you can have an index file or document outline for these as well. So your book project on the History of Information could have a rough outline of the book on which you've got the number #237 in the chapter or place where you might use the quote.

      Hopefully this will be even more flexible than Holiday's system because that was broadly project based. In practice, if you're keeping notes over a lifetime, you're unlikely to be interested in dramatically different areas the way Ryan Holiday or Robert Greene were for disparate book projects, but will find more overlapping areas. Having a more flexible system that will allow you to reuse your notes for multiple settings or projects will be highly valuable.

      For those who are using digital systems, ask yourself: "what functions and features allow you to do these analog patterns most easily?" If you're using something like Obsidian which has #tagging functionality that automatically creates an index of all your tags, then leverage that and remove some of the manual process. The goal is to make sure the digital system is creating the structure to allow you to easily find and use your notes when you need them. If your note taking system doesn't have custom functionalities for any of these things, then you'll need to do more portions of them manually.

  4. Jun 2022
    1. Looking for advice on how to adapt antinet ideas for my own system .t3_vkllv0._2FCtq-QzlfuN-SwVMUZMM3 { --postTitle-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; --postTitleLink-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; }

      Holiday's system is roughly similar to the idea of a commonplace book, just kept and maintained on index cards instead of a notebook. He also seems to advocate for keeping separate boxes for each project which I find to be odd advice, though it's also roughly the same advice suggested by Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit and Tiago Forte's recent book Building a Second Brain which provides a framing that seems geared more toward broader productivity rather than either the commonplacing or zettelkasten traditions.

      I suspect that if you're not linking discrete ideas, you'll get far more value out of your system by practicing profligate indexing terms on your discrete ideas. Two topical/subject headings on an individual idea seems horrifically limiting much less on an entire article and even worse on a whole book. Fewer index topics is easier to get away with in a digital system which allows search across your corpus, but can be painfully limiting in a pen/paper system.

      Most paperbound commonplaces index topics against page numbers, but it's not clear to me how you're numbering (or not) your system to be able to more easily cross reference your notes with an index. Looking at Luhmann's index as an example (https://niklas-luhmann-archiv.de/bestand/zettelkasten/zettel/ZK_2_SW1_001_V) might be illustrative so you can follow along, but if you're not using his numbering system or linking your cards/ideas, then you could simply use consecutive numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, ..., 92000, 92001, ... on your cards to index against to easily find the cards you're after. It almost sounds to me that with your current filing system, you'd have to duplicate your cards to be able to file them under more than one topic. This obviously isn't ideal.

    1. If you’d like to give this approach to executing projects a try, now isthe perfect time.Start by picking one project you want to move forward on. It couldbe one you identified in Chapter 5, when I asked you to make foldersfor each active project.

      At least two examples of the book attempting to engage the reader in carrying out the principles within.

      I wonder how many tried?

    2. You never knowwhen the rejected scraps from one project might become the perfectmissing piece in another. The possibilities are endless.

      He says this, but his advice on how to use them is too scant and/or flawed. Where are they held? How are they indexed? How are they linked so that finding and using them in the future? (especially, other than rote memory or the need to have vague memory and the ability to search for them in the future?)

    3. • Write down ideas for next steps: At the end of a worksession, write down what you think the next steps could be forthe next one.• Write down the current status: This could include your currentbiggest challenge, most important open question, or futureroadblocks you expect.• Write down any details you have in mind that are likely tobe forgotten once you step away: Such as details about thecharacters in your story, the pitfalls of the event you’re planning,or the subtle considerations of the product you’re designing.• Write out your intention for the next work session: Set anintention for what you plan on tackling next, the problem youintend to solve, or a certain milestone you want to reach.

      A lot of this is geared toward the work of re-contextualizing one's work and projects.

      Why do all this extra work instead of frontloading it? Here again is an example of more work in comparison to zettelkasten...

    4. The Archipelago of Ideas

      This idea doesn't appear in Steven Johnson's book itself, but only in this quirky little BoingBoing piece, so I'll give Forte credit for using his reading and notes from this piece to create a larger thesis here.

      I'm not really a fan of this broader archipelago of ideas as it puts the work much later in the process. For those not doing it upfront by linking ideas as they go, it's the only reasonable strategy left for leveraging one's notes.

    5. If we overlay the four steps of CODE onto the model ofdivergence and convergence, we arrive at a powerful template forthe creative process in our time.

      The way that Tiago Forte overlaps the idea of C.O.D.E. (capture/collect, organize, distill, express) with the divergence/convergence model points out some primary differences of his system and that of some of the more refined methods of maintaining a zettelkasten.

      A flattened diamond shape which grows from a point on the left so as to indicate divergence from a point to the diamond's wide middle which then decreases to the right to indicate convergence  to the opposite point. Overlapping this on the right of the diamond are the words "capture" and "organize" while the converging right side is overlaid with "distill" and "express". <small>Overlapping ideas of C.O.D.E. and divergence/convergence from Tiago Forte's book Building a Second Brain (Atria Books, 2022) </small>

      Forte's focus on organizing is dedicated solely on to putting things into folders, which is a light touch way of indexing them. However it only indexes them on one axis—that of the folder into which they're being placed. This precludes them from being indexed on a variety of other axes from the start to other places where they might also be used in the future. His method requires more additional work and effort to revisit and re-arrange (move them into other folders) or index them later.

      Most historical commonplacing and zettelkasten techniques place a heavier emphasis on indexing pieces as they're collected.

      Commonplacing creates more work on the user between organizing and distilling because they're more dependent on their memory of the user or depending on the regular re-reading and revisiting of pieces one may have a memory of existence. Most commonplacing methods (particularly the older historic forms of collecting and excerpting sententiae) also doesn't focus or rely on one writing out their own ideas in larger form as one goes along, so generally here there is a larger amount of work at the expression stage.

      Zettelkasten techniques as imagined by Luhmann and Ahrens smooth the process between organization and distillation by creating tacit links between ideas. This additional piece of the process makes distillation far easier because the linking work has been done along the way, so one only need edit out ideas that don't add to the overall argument or piece. All that remains is light editing.

      Ahrens' instantiation of the method also focuses on writing out and summarizing other's ideas in one's own words for later convenient reuse. This idea is also seen in Bruce Ballenger's The Curious Researcher as a means of both sensemaking and reuse, though none of the organizational indexing or idea linking seem to be found there.


      This also fits into the diamond shape that Forte provides as the height along the vertical can stand in as a proxy for the equivalent amount of work that is required during the overall process.

      This shape could be reframed for a refined zettelkasten method as an indication of work


      Forte's diamond shape provided gives a visual representation of the overall process of the divergence and convergence.

      But what if we change that shape to indicate the amount of work that is required along the steps of the process?!

      Here, we might expect the diamond to relatively accurately reflect the amounts of work along the path.

      If this is the case, then what might the relative workload look like for a refined zettelkasten? First we'll need to move the express portion between capture and organize where it more naturally sits, at least in Ahren's instantiation of the method. While this does take a discrete small amount of work and time for the note taker, it pays off in the long run as one intends from the start to reuse this work. It also pays further dividends as it dramatically increases one's understanding of the material that is being collected, particularly when conjoined to the organization portion which actively links this knowledge into one's broader world view based on their notes. For the moment, we'll neglect the benefits of comparison of conjoined ideas which may reveal flaws in our thinking and reasoning or the benefits of new questions and ideas which may arise from this juxtaposition.

      Graphs of commonplace book method (collect, organize, distill, express) versus zettelkasten method (collect, express, organize (index/link), and distill (edit)) with work on the vertical axis and time/methods on the horizontal axis. While there is similar work in collection the graph for the zettelkasten is overall lower and flatter and eventually tails off, the commonplace slowly increases over time.

      This sketch could be refined a bit, but overall it shows that frontloading the work has the effect of dramatically increasing the efficiency and productivity for a particular piece of work.

      Note that when compounded over a lifetime's work, this diagram also neglects the productivity increase over being able to revisit old work and re-using it for multiple different types of work or projects where there is potential overlap, not to mention the combinatorial possibilities.

      --

      It could be useful to better and more carefully plot out the amounts of time, work/effort for these methods (based on practical experience) and then regraph the resulting power inputs against each other to come up with a better picture of the efficiency gains.

      Is some of the reason that people are against zettelkasten methods that they don't see the immediate gains in return for the upfront work, and thus abandon the process? Is this a form of misinterpreted-effort hypothesis at work? It can also be compounded at not being able to see the compounding effects of the upfront work.

      What does research indicate about how people are able to predict compounding effects over time in areas like money/finance? What might this indicate here? Humans definitely have issues seeing and reacting to probabilities in this same manner, so one might expect the same intellectual blindness based on system 1 vs. system 2.


      Given that indexing things, especially digitally, requires so little work and effort upfront, it should be done at the time of collection.


      I'll admit that it only took a moment to read this highlighted sentence and look at the related diagram, but the amount of material I was able to draw out of it by reframing it, thinking about it, having my own thoughts and ideas against it, and then innovating based upon it was incredibly fruitful in terms of better differentiating amongst a variety of note taking and sense making frameworks.

      For me, this is a great example of what reading with a pen in hand, rephrasing, extending, and linking to other ideas can accomplish.

    6. As powerful and necessary as divergence is, if all we ever do isdiverge, then we never arrive anywhere.

      Tiago Forte frames the creative process in the framing of divergence (brainstorming) and convergence (connecting ideas, editing, refining) which emerged out of the Stanford Design School and popularized by IDEO in the 1980s and 1990s.

      But this is just what the more refined practices of maintaining a zettelkasten entail. It's the creation of profligate divergence forced by promiscuously following one's interests and collecting ideas along the way interspersed with active and pointed connection of ideas slowly creating convergence of these ideas over time. The ultimate act of creation finally becomes simple as pulling one's favorite idea of many out of the box (along with all the things connected to it) and editing out any unnecessary pieces and then smoothing the whole into something cohesive.

      This is far less taxing than sculpting marble where one needs to start with an idea of where one is going and then needs the actual skill to get there. Doing this well requires thousands of hours of practice at the skill, working with smaller models, and eventually (hopefully) arriving at art. It's much easier if one has the broad shapes of the entirety of Rodin, Michelangelo, and Donatello's works in their repository and they can simply pull out one that feels interesting and polish it up a bit. Some of the time necessary for work and practice are still there, but the ultimate results are closer to guaranteed art in one domain than the other.


      Commonplacing or slipboxing allows us to take the ability to imitate, which humans are exceptionally good at (Annie Murphy Paul, link tk), and combine those imitations in a way to actively explore and then create new innovative ideas.

      Commonplacing can be thought of as lifelong and consistent practice of brainstorming where one captures all the ideas for later use.


      Link to - practice makes perfect

    7. This standardized routine is known as the creative process, and itoperates according to timeless principles that can be foundthroughout history.

      If the creative process has timeless principles found throughout history, why aren't they written down and practiced religiously withing our culture that is so enamored of creativity and innovation?

      As an example of how this isn't true, we've managed to lose our commonplace tradition and haven't really replaced it with anything useful. Even the evolved practice of the zettelkasten has been created and generally discarded (pun intended) without replacement.

      How much of our creative process is reliant on simple imitation, which is a basic human trait? It's typically more often that imitation juxtaposed with other experiences which is the crucible of innovation. How often, if ever, is true innovation in an entirely different domain created? By this I mean innovation outside of the adjacent possible domains from which it stems? Are there any examples of this?

      Even my own note taking practice is a mélange of broad imitation of what I read combined with the combinatorial juxtaposition of other ideas in an attempt to create new ideas.

    8. How to Resurface and Reuse Your Past Work

      Coming back to the beginning of this section. He talks about tags, solely after-the-fact instead of when taking notes on the fly. While it might seem that he would have been using tags as subject headings in a traditional commonplace book, he really isn't. This is a significant departure from the historical method!! It's also ill advised not to be either tagging/categorizing as one goes along to make searching and linking things together dramatically easier.

      How has he missed the power of this from the start?! This is really a massive flaw in his method from my perspective, particularly as he quotes John Locke's work on the topic.

      Did I maybe miss some of this in earlier sections when he quoted John Locke? Double check, just in case, but this is certainly the section of the book to discuss using these ideas!

    9. Over time, your ability to quickly tap these creative assets andcombine them into something new will make all the difference in yourcareer trajectory, business growth, and even quality of life

      I'm curious how he's going to outline this practice as there's been no discussion of linking or cross-linking ideas prior to this point as is done in some instantiations of the zettelkasten methods. (Of course this interlinking is more valuable when it comes specifically to writing output; once can rely on subject headings and search otherwise.)

    10. The idea of startinganything from scratch will become foreign to you—why not draw onthe wealth of assets you’ve invested in in the past?

      He uses the idea of "wealth" here for notes created in a commonplace instead of "treasure" or storehouse as is the historical tradition, this is an indication of a complete schism between the older traditions and the new.

    11. The ability to intentionally and strategically allocateour attention is a competitive advantage in a distracted world. Wehave to jealously guard it like a valuable treasure.

      It would seem that the word treasure here is being used to modify one's attention. Historically in books about "knowledge work" or commonplacing, the word was used with respect to one's storehouse of knowledge itself and not one's attention. Some of the effect is the result of the break in historical tradition being passed down from one generation to another. It's also an indication that the shift in value has moved not from what one knows or has, but that the attention itself is more valued now, even in a book about excerpting, thinking, and keeping knowledge!

      Oh how far we have fallen!

      It's also an indication of the extremes of information overload we're facing that the treasure is attention and not the small tidbits of knowledge and understanding we're able to glean from the massive volumes we face on a daily basis.

    12. Thus began a lifelong relationship with her commonplace books.Butler would scrape together twenty-five cents to buy small Meadmemo pads, and in those pages she took notes on every aspect ofher life: grocery and clothes shopping lists, last-minute to-dos,wishes and intentions, and calculations of her remaining funds forrent, food, and utilities. She meticulously tracked her daily writinggoals and page counts, lists of her failings and desired personalqualities, her wishes and dreams for the future, and contracts she

      would sign with herself each day for how many words she committed to write.

      Not really enough evidence for a solid quote here. What was his source?

      He cites the following shallowly: <br /> - Octavia E. Butler, Bloodchild and Other Stories: Positive Obsession (New York: Seven Stories, 2005), 123–36.<br /> - 2 Lynell George, A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia Butler (Santa Monica: Angel City Press, 2020).<br /> - 3 Dan Sheehan, “Octavia Butler has finally made the New York Times Best Seller list,” LitHub.com, September 3, 2020, https://lithub.com/octavia- butler-has-finally-made-the-new-york-times-best-seller-list/.<br /> - 4 Butler’s archive has been available to researchers and scholars at the Huntington Library since 2010.

    13. UsingPARA is not just about creating a bunch of folders to put things in. Itis about identifying the structure of your work and life—what you arecommitted to, what you want to change, and where you want to go.

      Using the P.A.R.A. method puts incredible focus on immediate projects and productivity toward them. This is a dramatically different focus from the zettelkasten method.

      The why's of the systems are dramatically different as well.

    14. We are organizing for actionability

      Organize for actionability.

      (Applicable only for P.A.R.A.?)

      This is interesting for general project management, but potentially not for zettelkasten-type notes. That method has more flexibility that doesn't require this sort of organizational method and actually excels as a result of it.

      There is a tension here.


      Notes primarily for project-based productivity are different from notes for writing-based output.

    15. Archives: Things I’ve Completed or Put on Hold

      The P.A.R.A. method seems like an admixture of one's projects/to do lists and productivity details and a more traditional commonplace book. Keeping these two somewhat separate mentally may help users with respect to how these folders should be used.

    16. Resources: Things I Want to Reference in the Future

      Resources (of P.A.R.A.) sound specifically like a more traditional commonplace book space.

    17. Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent andoriginal in your work.—Gustave Flaubert

      In addition to this as a standalone quote...


      If nothing else, one should keep a commonplace book so that they have a treasure house of nifty quotes to use as chapter openers for the books they might write.

    1. Tiago's book follows the general method of the commonplace book, but relies more heavily on a folder-based method and places far less emphasis and value on having a solid index. There isn't any real focus on linking ideas other than putting some things together in the same folder. His experience with the history of the space in feels like it only goes back to some early Ryan Holiday blog posts. He erroneously credits Luhmann with inventing the zettelkasten and Anne-Laure Le Cunff created digital gardens. He's already retracted these in sketch errata here: https://www.buildingasecondbrain.com/endnotes.

      I'll give him at least some credit that there is some reasonable evidence that he actually used his system to write his own book, but the number and depth of his references and experience is exceptionally shallow given the number of years he's been in the space, particularly professionally. He also has some interesting anecdotes and examples of various people including and array of artists and writers which aren't frequently mentioned in the note taking space, so I'll give him points for some diversity of players as well. I'm mostly left with the feeling that he wrote the book because of the general adage that "thought leaders in their space should have a published book in their area to have credibility". Whether or not one can call him a thought leader for "re-inventing" something that Rudolphus Agricola and Desiderius Erasmus firmly ensconced into Western culture about 500 years ago is debatable.

      Stylistically, I'd call his prose a bit florid and too often self-help-y. The four letter acronyms become a bit much after a while. It wavers dangerously close to those who are prone to the sirens' call of the #ProductivityPorn space.

      If you've read a handful of the big articles in the note taking, tools for thought, digital gardens, zettelkasten space, Ahren's book, or regularly keep up with r/antinet or r/Zettelkasten, chances are that you'll be sorely disappointed and not find much insight. If you have friends that don't need the horsepower of Ahrens or zettelkasten, then it might be a reasonable substitute, but then it could have been half the length for the reader.

    1. https://press.princeton.edu/ideas/sherlock-holmes-and-the-history-of-information

      If Sherlock Holmes had an excerpting and commonplacing practice, did Arthur Conan Doyle?

    2. He examines archival documents and prehistoric barrows as expertly as mud splashes and tobacco ash, and files the results of his reading and excerpting systematically in a massive collection of notebooks, which he regularly consults.

      Worth pulling out the exact reference, but Anthony Grafton indicates that Sherlock Holmes regularly read and "excerpted systematically into a massive collection of notebooks, which he regularly consults."

    1. level 2ojboal · 2 hr. agoNot quite understanding the value of Locke's method: far as I understand it, rather than having a list of keywords or phrases, Locke's index is instead based on a combination of first letter and vowel. I can understand how that might be useful for the sake of compression, but doesn't that mean you don't have the benefit of "index as list of keywords/phrases" (or did I miss something)?

      Locke's method is certainly a compact one and is specifically designed for notebooks of several hundred pages where you're slowly growing the index as you go within a limited and usually predetermined amount of space. If you're using an index card or digital system where space isn't an issue, then that specific method may not be as ideal. Whichever option you ultimately choose, it's certainly incredibly valuable and worthwhile to have an index of some sort.

      For those into specifics, here's some detail about creating an index using Hypothes.is data in Obsidian: https://boffosocko.com/2022/05/20/creating-a-commonplace-book-or-zettelkasten-index-from-hypothes-is-tags/ and here's some detail for how I did it for a website built on WordPress: https://boffosocko.com/2021/09/04/an-index-for-my-digital-commonplace-book/

      I'm curious to see how others do this in their tool sets, particularly in ways that remove some of the tedium.

    2. Perhaps it may be helpful to dramatically reframe the question of how to keep a zettelkasten? One page blog posts from people who've only recently seen the idea and are synopsizing it without a year or more practice themselves are highly confusing at best. Can I write something we don't see enough of in spaces relating to zettelkasten? Perhaps we should briefly consider the intellectual predecessor of the slip box?

      Start out by forgetting zettelkasten exist. Instead read about what a commonplace book is and how that (simpler) form of note taking works. This short article outlined as a class assignment is a fascinating way to start and has some illustrative examples: https://www.academia.edu/35101285/Creating_a_Commonplace_Book_CPB_. If you're a writer, researcher, or journalist, perhaps Steven Johnson's perspective may be interesting to you instead: https://stevenberlinjohnson.com/the-glass-box-and-the-commonplace-book-639b16c4f3bb

      Collect interesting passages, quotes, and ideas as you read. Keep them in a notebook and call it your commonplace book. If you like call these your "fleeting notes" as some do.

      As you do this, start building an index of subject headings for your ideas, perhaps using John Locke's method (see: https://publicdomainreview.org/collection/john-lockes-method-for-common-place-books-1685).

      Once you've got this, you've really mastered the majority of what a zettelkasten is and have a powerful tool at your disposal. If you feel it's useful, you can add a few more tools and variations to your set up.

      Next instead of keeping the ideas in a notebook, put them on index cards so that they're easier to sort through, move around, and re-arrange. This particularly useful if you want to use them to create an outline of your ideas for writing something with them.

      Next, maybe keep some index cards that have the references and bibliographies from which your excerpting and note taking comes from. Link these bibliographical cards to the cards with your content.

      As you go through your notes, ideas, and excerpts, maybe you want to further refine them? Write them out in your own words. Improve their clarity, so that when you go to re-use them, you can simply "excerpt" material you've already written for yourself and you're not plagiarizing others. You can call these improved notes, as some do either "permanent notes" or "evergreen notes".

      Perhaps you're looking for more creativity, serendipity, and organic surprise in your system? Next you can link individual notes together. In a paper system you can do this by following one note with another or writing addresses on each card and using that addressing system to link them, but in a digital environment you can link one note to many multiple others that are related. If you're not sure where to start here, look back to your subject headings and pull out cards related to broad categories. Some things will obviously fit more closely than others, so be more selective and only link ideas that are more intimately connected than just the subject heading you've used.

      Now when you want to write or create something new on a particular topic, ask your slip box a question and attempt to answer it by consulting your index. Find cards related to the topic, pull out those and place them in a useful order to create an outline perhaps using the cross links that already exist. (You've done that linking work as you went, so why not use it to make things easier now?) Copy the contents into a document and begin editing.

      Beyond the first few steps, you're really just creating additional complexity to a system to increase the combinatorial complexity of juxtaposed ideas that you could potentially pull back out of your system for writing more interesting text and generating new ideas. Some people may neither want nor need this sort of complexity in their working lives. If you don't need it, then just keep a simple commonplace book (or commonplace card file) to remind you of the interesting ideas and inspirations you've seen and could potentially reuse throughout your life.

      The benefit of this method is that beyond creating your index, you'll always have something useful even if you abandon things later on and quit refining it. If you do go all the way, concentrate on writing out just two short solid ideas every day (Luhmann averaged about 6 per day and Roland Barthes averaged 1 and change). Do it until you have between 500 and 1000 cards (based on some surveys and anecdotal evidence), and you should begin seeing some serendipitous and intriguing results as you use your system for your writing.

      We should acknowledge that that (visual) artists and musicians might also keep commonplaces and zettelkasten. As an example, Eminem keeps a zettelkasten, but it is so minimal that it is literally just a box and slips of paper with no apparent organization beyond this. If this fits your style and you don't get any value out of having cards with locators like 3a4b/65m1, then don't do that useless work. Make sure your system is working for you and you're not working for your system.

      Sadly, it's generally difficult to find a single blog post that can accurately define what a zettelkasten is, how it's structured, how it works, and why one would want one much less what one should expect from it. Sonke Ahrens does a reasonably good job, but his explanation is an entire book. Hopefully this distillation will get you moving in a positive direction for having a useful daily practice, but without an excessive amount of work. Once you've been at it a while, then start looking at Ahrens and others to refine things for your personal preferences and creative needs.

    1. For anyone who reads music, the sketchbooks literally record the progress of hisinvention. He would scribble his rough, unformed ideas in his pocket notebook andthen leave them there, unused, in a state of suspension, but at least captured withpencil on paper. A few months later, in a bigger, more permanent notebook, you canfind him picking up that idea again, but he’s not just copying the musical idea intoanother book. You can see him developing it, tormenting it, improving it in the newnotebook. He might take an original three-note motif and push it to its next stage bydropping one of the notes a half tone and doubling it. Then he’d let the idea sit therefor another six months. It would reappear in a third notebook, again not copied butfurther improved, perhaps inverted this time and ready to be used in a piano sonata.

      Beethoven kept a variation of a waste book in that he kept a pocket notebook for quick capture of ideas. Later, instead of copying them over into a permanent place, he'd translate and amplify on the idea in a second notebook. Later on, he might pick up the idea again in a third notebook with further improvements.

      By doing this me might also use the initial ideas as building blocks for more than one individual piece. This is very clever, particularly in musical development where various snippets of music might be morphed into various different forms in ways that written ideas generally can't be so used.

      This literally allowed him to re-use his "notes" at two different levels (the written ones as well as the musical ones.)

    2. Beethoven, despite his unruly reputation and wild romantic image, waswell organized. He saved everything in a series of notebooks that were organizedaccording to the level of development of the idea. He had notebooks for rough ideas,notebooks for improvements on those ideas, and notebooks for finished ideas,almost as if he was pre-aware of an idea’s early, middle, and late stages.

      Beethoven apparently kept organized notebooks for his work. His system was arranged based on the level of finished work, so he had spaces for rough ideas, improved ideas and others for finished ideas.

      Source for this?

    1. http://messnerenglish.weebly.com/who-uses-a-writers-notebook.html

      Example of a teacher using the commonplace book tradition within her class, though she frames it as a "writer's notebook". I like the way she uses examples of cultural figures who are doing this same sort of pattern.

    1. It would lack a unique personality or an “alter ego,” which is what Luhmann’s system aimed to create. (9)

      Is there evidence that Luhmann's system aimed to create anything from the start in a sort of autopoietic sense? Or is it (more likely) the case that Luhmann saw this sort of "alter ego" emerging over time and described it after-the-fact?

      Based on his experiences and note takers and zettelkasten users might expect this outcome now.

      Are there examples of prior commonplace book users or note takers seeing or describing this sort of experience in the historical record?


      Related to this is the idea that a reader might have a conversation with another author by reading and writing their own notes from a particular text.

      The only real difference here is that one's notes and the ability to link them to other ideas or topical headings in a commonplace book or zettelkasten means that the reader/writer has an infinitely growable perfect memory.

    1. https://www.revolutionaryplayers.org.uk/the-scope-and-nature-of-darwins-commonplace-book/

      Erasmus Darwin's commonplace book

      It is one of the version(s?) published by John Bell based on John Locke's method and is a quarto volume bound in vellum with about 300 sheets of fine paper.

      Blank pages 1 to 160 were numbered and filled by Darwin in his own hand with 136 entries. The book was started in 1776 and continued until 1787. Presumably Darwin had a previous commonplace book, but it has not been found and this version doesn't have any experiments prior to 1776, though there are indications that some material has been transferred from another source.

      The book contains material on medical records, scientific matters, mechanical and industrial improvements, and inventions.

      The provenance of Erasmus Darwin's seems to have it pass through is widow Elizabeth who added some family history to it. It passed through to her son and other descendants who added entries primarily of family related topics. Leonard Darwin (1850-1943), the last surviving son of Charles Darwin gave it to Down House, Kent from whence it was loaned to Erasmus Darwin House in 1999.

    1. The addressing system that many digital note taking systems offer is reminiscent of Luhmann's paper system where it served a particular use. Many might ask themselves if they really need this functionality in digital contexts where text search and other affordances can be more directly useful.

      Frequently missed by many, perhaps because they're befuddled by the complex branching numbering system which gets more publicity, Luhmann's paper-based system had a highly useful and simple subject heading index (see: https://niklas-luhmann-archiv.de/bestand/zettelkasten/zettel/ZK_2_SW1_001_V, for example) which can be replicated using either #tags or [[wikilinks]] within tools like Obsidian. Of course having an index doesn't preclude the incredible usefulness of directly linking one idea to potentially multiple others in some branching tree-like or network structure.

      Note that one highly valuable feature of Luhmann's paper version was that the totality of cards were linked to a minimum of at least one other card by the default that they were placed into the file itself. Those putting notes into Obsidian often place them into their system as singlet, un-linked notes as a default, and this can lead to problems down the road. However this can be mitigated by utilizing topical or subject headings on individual cards which allows for searching on a heading and then cross-linking individual ideas as appropriate.

      As an example, because two cards may be tagged with "archaeology" doesn't necessarily mean they're closely related as ideas. This tends to decrease in likelihood if one is an archaeologist and a large proportion of cards might contain that tag, but will simultaneously create more value over time as generic tags increase in number but the specific ideas cross link in small numbers. Similarly as one delves more deeply into archaeology, one will also come up with more granular and useful sub-tags (like Zooarcheology, Paleobotany, Archeopedology, Forensic Archeology, Archeoastronomy, Geoarcheology, etc.) as their knowledge in sub areas increases.

      Concretely, one might expect that the subject heading "sociology" would be nearly useless to Luhmann as that was the overarching topic of both of his zettelkästen (I & II), whereas "Autonomie" was much more specific and useful for cross linking a smaller handful of potentially related ideas in the future.

      Looking beyond Luhmann can be highly helpful in designing and using one's own system. I'd recommend taking a look at John Locke's work on indexing (1685) (https://publicdomainreview.org/collection/john-lockes-method-for-common-place-books-1685 is an interesting source, though you're obviously applying it to (digital) cards and not a notebook) or Ross Ashby's hybrid notebook/index card system which is also available online (http://www.rossashby.info/journal/index.html) as an example.

      Another helpful tip some are sure to appreciate in systems that have an auto-complete function is simply starting to write a wikilink with various related subject heading words that may appear within your system. You'll then be presented with potential options of things to link to serendipitously that you may not have otherwise considered. Within a digital zettelkasten, the popularly used DYAC (Damn You Auto Complete) may turn into Bless You Auto Complete.

    1. https://app.thebrain.com/brains/3d80058c-14d8-5361-0b61-a061f89baf87/thoughts/32f9fc36-6963-9ee0-9b44-a89112919e29/attachments/6492d41a-73b2-20d8-b145-3283598c612b

      A fantastic example of an extensive mind map from Jerry Michalski using The Brain.

      There are lots of interesting links and resources, but on the whole

      How many of the nodes actually have specific notes, explicit ideas, annotations, or excerpts within them?

      Without these, it's an interesting map and provides some broad context, but removes local specific context of who Jerry is and how he explicitly thinks. One can review the overarching parts to extract what his biases may be based on availability heuristics, but in areas of conflicting ideas which have relatively equal numbers of links within a particular area, one may not be able to discern arguments from each other.

      Still a fascinating start and something not commonly seen in the broader literature.

      I'll also note that even in a small sample of one video call with Jerry sharing his screen while we talked about a broad sub-topic it's interesting to see his prior contexts as we conversed. I've only ever had similar experiences with Bill Seitz who regularly drops links to his wiki pages in this sort of way or Kevin Marks (usually in text chat contexts and less frequently in video calls/conversations) who drops links to his extensive blogging history which also serves to add his prior thoughts and contextualizations.

  5. May 2022
    1. As told in Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman byJames Gleick

      Forte cleverly combines a story about Feynman from Genius with a quote about Feynman's 12 favorite problems from a piece by Rota. Did they both appear in Gleick's Genius together and Forte quoted them separately, or did he actively use his commonplace to do the juxtaposition for him and thus create a nice juxtaposition himself or was it Gleick's juxtaposition?

      The answer will reveal whether Forte is actively using his system for creative and productive work or if the practice is Gleick's.

    2. Songwriters areknown for compiling “hook books” full of lyrics and musical riffs theymay want to use in future songs. Software engineers build “codelibraries” so useful bits of code are easy to access. Lawyers keep“case files” with details from past cases they might want to refer to inthe future. Marketers and advertisers maintain “swipe files” withexamples of compelling ads they might want to draw from

      Nice list of custom names for area specific commonplaces.

    3. digital, we can supercharge these timelessbenefits with the incredible capabilities of technology—searching,sharing, backups, editing, linking, syncing between devices, andmany others

      List of some affordance of digital note taking over handwriting: * search * sharing * backups (copies) * editing * linking (automatic?) * syncing to multiple spaces for ease of use

    4. American journalist, author, and filmmaker Sebastian Junger oncewrote on the subject of “writer’s block”: “It’s not that I’m blocked. It’sthat I don’t have enough research to write with power and knowledgeabout that topic. It always means, not that I can’t find the right words,[but rather] that I don’t have the ammunition.”7

      7 Tim Ferriss, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers (New York: HarperCollins, 2017), 421.

      relate this to Eminem's "stacking ammo".

    5. There are four essential capabilities that we can rely on a SecondBrain to perform for us:1. Making our ideas concrete.2. Revealing new associations between ideas.3. Incubating our ideas over time.4. Sharpening our unique perspectives.

      Does the system really do each of these? Writing things down for our future selves is the thing that makes ideas concrete, not the system itself. Most notebooks don't reveal new associations, we actively have to do that ourselves via memory or through active search and linking within the system itself. The system may help, but it doesn't automatically create associations nor reveal them. By keeping our ideas in one place they do incubate to some extent, but isn't the real incubation taking place in a diffuse way in our minds to come out later?

    6. your Second Brain is a privateknowledge collection designed to serve a lifetime of learning andgrowth, not just a single use case

      Based on Tiago Forte's definition of a second brain the primary distinction from a commonplace book is solely that it is digital.

      Note here that he explicitly defines a second brain as being private. Historically commonplace books were private affairs though there are examples of them being shared from person to person as well as examples that have been printed.

    7. This digital commonplace book is what I call a Second Brain

      Tiago Forte directly equates a "digital commonplace book" with his concept of a "Second Brain" in his book Building a Second Brain.


      Why create a new "marketing term" for something that should literally be commonplace!

    8. Popularized in a previous period of information overload, theIndustrial Revolution of the eighteenth and early nineteenthcenturies, the commonplace book was more than a diary or journalof personal reflections

      Commonplace books were popularized in the late 1400s/early 1500s in handbooks by Desiderius Erasmus, Philip Melanchthon, Rudolphus Agricola, and others along with the rise and accessibility of printed books.

      Would have been nice to have some more background and history on their development and evolution. Mentions of florilegia, vade mecum, others perhaps? Other cultures?

    9. I had discovered somethingvery special

      Notice the creation myth being born here? Does he really believe that no one has noticed this before?

      What about all the handbook writers who encouraged commonplacing in the 1500s, much less their predecessors?

    10. I’ve spent years studying how prolific writers, artists, and thinkersof the past managed their creative process. I’ve spent countlesshours researching how human beings can use technology to extendand enhance our natural cognitive abilities. I’ve personally

      experimented with every tool, trick, and technique available today for making sense of information. This book distills the very best insights I’ve discovered from teaching thousands of people around the world how to realize the potential of their ideas.

      All this work just for this? When some basic reading of historical note taking, information management, and intellectual history would have saved him the time and effort? Looking through the references I'm not seeing much before even 2010, so it seems as if he's spent most of his time reinventing the wheel.

    11. Now, this eye-opening and accessible guide shows how you caneasily create your own personal system for knowledge management,otherwise known as a Second Brain.

      Marketing speech to convert an old idea (commonplacing) into a new siloed service one needs to pay for.

    12. A revolutionary approach to enhancing productivity,creating flow, and vastly increasing your ability tocapture, remember, and benefit from the unprecedentedamount of information all around us.

      Some great marketing copy, but I'm anticipating a book that is going to lay out some general techniques that go under the topic of commonplace book, a concept that goes back over 2,000 years. This is the opposite of revolutionary.

    13. Forte, Tiago. Building a Second Brain: A Proven Method to Organize Your Digital Life and Unlock Your Creative Potential. Atria Books, 2022. https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Building-a-Second-Brain/Tiago-Forte/9781982167387.

    1. Somewhere in Stuttgart, 1785: Still in high school, a fifteen-year-old reader begins towrite on loose sheets of paper with order, diligence, and discretion: “In his reading, heapproached works in the following way: everything that seemed noteworthy to him—and what didn’t!—he wrote on a single sheet, which he labeled above with the generalheading under which the particular content should be subsumed. In the middle of theupper edge, he then wrote the keyword of the article in large letters, frequently inFraktur. He organized the sheets themselves again according to the alphabet, and dueto this simple mechanism, he was always ready to use his excerpts at any moment.” 1With each of his alphabetized notes, the young reader established a new address thatwould henceforth constitute the site for the concepts upon which his future activitiesas philosopher and scholar would be based.

      Markus Krajewski indicates here that Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (27 August 1770 – 14 November 1831) kept a zettelkasten, though from the sound of it, his sheets, organized by head words have more of a ring of commonplace book.

    1. https://interactions.acm.org/archive/view/may-june-2011/between-the-lines-the-social-life-of-marginalia1

      Danzico, Liz. “Between the Lines: The Social Life of Marginalia.” Interactions 18, no. 3 (May 2011): 12–13. https://doi.org/10.1145/1962438.1962443.

      A short synopsis article about marginalia with some simple questions. She's read a fair amount in the space from the 2010s given references, but little I hadn't encountered before. The Robin Sloan tidbit was interesting as well as the etymology of marginalia, though these will need better references.

    2. Even if we can capture patterns and overcome sharing, we might come back to consider the commonplace book.

      How cool would it be if we could aggregate old commonplace books to create indicators of how often older books were not only read, but which annotations resonated with their readers during subsequent periods of history and overlay them in some visual way? Something like a historical version of Amazon Kindle's indicators that a certain number of readers have highlighted a particular sentence of a book.

    1. https://www.hjkeen.net/halqn/index.htm

      A great example of an online commonplace book prominently featuring quotes with an index featuring authors, titles, categories, and even translators. Even more interesting, it looks like it's hand built using a large table.

    1. Toward the end of the 18th century English publisher John Bell published notebooks entitled Bell’s Common-Place Book, Formed generally upon the Principles Recommended and Practised by Mr Locke.” These included eight pages of instructions on Locke’s indexing method, a system which not only made it easier to find passages, but also served the higher purpose of “facilitat[ing] reflexive thought.”

      At the end of the 18th century, John Bell (1745–1831), an English publisher published notebooks with the title Bell’s Common-Place Book, Formed generally upon the Principles Recommended and Practised by Mr Locke. The notebooks commonly included 550 pages, of which eight pages included instructions on John Locke's indexing method.


      Link to: - Didn't Erasmus Darwin use one of these?!

    1. Ideally, skilled readers organized notes into personal “arks of study,” or data chests. Vincent Placcius’s De arte excerpendi contains an engraving of a note cabinet, or scrinia literaria, in which notes are attached to hooks and hung on bars according to thematic organization, as well as various drawers for the storage of note paper, hooks, and possibly writing supplies. Both Placcius and later Leibniz built such contraptions, though none survives today. While these organizational tools cannot be directly linked to modern computers, it is difficult not to compare them. Placcius’s design looks strikingly like the old punch-card computation machines that date from the 1880s, and the first mainframes, such as the 1962 IBM 7090.

      "arks of study" being used as early data chests or stores is a fascinating conceptualization

    1. The aim of these books wasn’t regurgitation but rather combinatorial creativity. People were encouraged to improvise on themes and topics. Gathering raw material alone — in this case, information — is not enough. We must transform it into something new. It is in this light that Seneca advised copying the bee and Einstein advised combinatorial play.

      I was really hoping for so much more in this essay on the combinatorial creativity, espcially since the author threw the idea into the title. The real meat must be in the two linked articles about Seneca and Einstein.

      There is a slight mention of combinatorics in the justaposition of pieces within one's commonplace book, and a mention that these books may date back to the 12th century where they were probably more influenced by the combinatoric creativity of Raymond Lull. It's still an open question for me just how far back the idea of commonplaces goes as well as how far back Lull's combinatoric pieces go...

    1. The last element in his file system was an index, from which hewould refer to one or two notes that would serve as a kind of entrypoint into a line of thought or topic.

      Indices are certainly an old construct. One of the oldest structured examples in the note taking space is that of John Locke who detailed it in Méthode nouvelle de dresser des recueils (1685), later translated into English as A New Method of Organizing Common Place Books (1706).

      Previously commonplace books had been structured with headwords done alphabetically. This meant starting with a preconceived structure and leaving blank or empty space ahead of time without prior knowledge of what would fill it or how long that might take. By turning that system on its head, one could fill a notebook from front to back with a specific index of the headwords at the end. Then one didn't need to do the same amount of pre-planning or gymnastics over time with respect to where to put their notes.

      This idea combined with that of Konrad Gessner's design for being able to re-arrange slips of paper (which later became index cards based on an idea by Carl Linnaeus), gives us an awful lot of freedom and flexibility in almost any note taking system.


      Building blocks of the note taking system

      • atomic ideas
      • written on (re-arrangeable) slips, cards, or hypertext spaces
      • cross linked with each other
      • cross linked with an index
      • cross linked with references

      are there others? should they be broken up differently?


      Godfathers of Notetaking

      • Aristotle, Cicero (commonplaces)
      • Seneca the Younger (collecting and reusing)
      • Raymond Llull (combinatorial rearrangements)
      • Konrad Gessner (storage for re-arrangeable slips)
      • John Locke (indices)
      • Carl Linnaeus (index cards)
    1. And yes, some add-ons exist, but I just wish the feature was native to the browser. And I do not want to rely on a third party service. My quotes are mine only and should not necessary be shared with a server on someone's else machine.

      Ownership of the data is important. One could certainly set up their own Hypothes.is server if they liked.

      I personally take the data from my own Hypothes.is account and dump it into my local Obsidian.md vault for saving, crosslinking, and further thought.

    1. During his college studies, he kept notebooks labeled "The Mind," "Natural Science" (containing a discussion of the atomic theory), "The Scriptures" and "Miscellanies," had a grand plan for a work on natural and mental philosophy, and drew up rules for its composition.[9]
    1. This "commonplace book" is a collection of personally chosen quotations. This is not really a "quotations" site like so many on the web. Rather, it is words I save as I read. I give an accurate citation whenever I can.
    1. https://3stages.org/quotes/index.html

      I thought I'd bookmarked this before, but apparently not in my notebook. Example of an explicit online commonplace book, primarily with quotes from J. Jacobs' reading.

    1. What's your opinion on the note card system? Do you personally use it? .t3_ugqnle._2FCtq-QzlfuN-SwVMUZMM3 { --postTitle-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; --postTitleLink-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; }

      https://www.reddit.com/r/commonplacebook/comments/ugqnle/whats_your_opinion_on_the_note_card_system_do_you/

      For commonplace items, I've found notebooks with good indices more valuable. Note cards are better if you're taking atomic notes that you plan on actively reusing in your writing work which is more of a zettelkasten feature/functionality cards are easier to move around, re-arrange, and create outlines for your writing when you get to that point. Historically it was the ability to re-arrange and reuse one's commonplace items that helped to spawn and popularize the idea of zettelkasten, which are often more frequently used by writers, researchers, and academics for creating new content. Historically it was the ability to re-arrange and reuse one's commonplace items that helped to spawn and popularize the idea of zettelkasten, which are often more frequently used by writers, researchers, and academics for creating new content.

      Some of the difference can be personal choice, practicality, ease-of-use, and the functionality you hope to get out of one method or the other. Honestly there's no reason you couldn't do both if you chose, but it may help to have a common index which will allow you to search for and find things you need. A set of useful historical examples can be found in the mid-twentieth century comedians including Bob Hope (pages he kept in files), Phyllis Diller (index cards), Joan Rivers (index cards), and actor/politician Ronald Reagan who maintained what some might call a commonplace book of quotes which he kept on index cards, but held in a notebook-like binder similar to a photo album with pages that he could place the cards in, but still allow him to move them around (both from slot to slot, or move whole pages at a time). The loosest system I've yet seen is that of Eminem who kept ideas and lyrics written on hotel stationery or random slips of paper which he kept wholly unorganized and unindexed in a cardboard box in a method he called "stacking ammo." Do what you think will work best for you and try it out for a while. You can always change methods later on if your needs change.

    1. No piece of information is superior to any other. Power lies in having them all on file and then finding the connections. There are always connections; you have only to want to find them. -- Umberto Eco. Foucault's Pendulum p. 190.

      This is a stunning quote with respect to the idea of note taking and creating connections between pieces of information or knowledge.

      It's highlighted to an even greater degree that this quote appears in someone's online digital commonplace book!

    1. Many writers have devised lots of little systems, and the fact that everyone into PKM mentions this one guy supports my argument. What percentage of history's greatest and most prolific writers did not use a Zettelkasten? More than 99%, probably. Luhmann is an exception that proves the rule.

      There is a heavy availability heuristic at play here. Most people in the recent/modern PKM space are enamored with the idea of zettelkasten and no one (or very few) have delved in more deeply to the history to uncover more than Luhmann. There definitely are many, many more. If we expand the circle to include looser forms like the commonplace book then we find that nearly every major thinker since the Renaissance kept some sort of note taking system and it's highly likely that their work was heavily influenced by their notes, notebooks, and commonplace books.

      Hell, Newton invented the calculus in his waste book, a form of pre-commonplace book from which he apparently never got his temporary notes out into a more personal permanent form.

      A short trip to even the scant references on the Wikipedia pages for commonplace book and zettelkasten will reveal a fraction of the extant examples.

    1. This is all too correct. Sadly the older methods for writing, note taking, thinking, and memory have fallen by the wayside, so most literate moderns don't have the tradition most of (elite educated) Western culture has had for the past 2000+ years. The long tradition of commonplace books and their related versions including waste books, florilegium, sudelbücher, scholia, glossae, notebooks, anthologies, sylvae, table books, vade mecum, memoranda books, diaries, miscellanies, pocket books, thesauruses, etc. underlines your thesis well. The Zettelkasten, exactly like almost all of these others, is simply an iteration of the commonplace book instantiated into index card form. One of the reasons that Umberto Eco's advice on writing seems so similar to the zettelkasten method is that he was a medievalist scholar who was aware of these long traditions of writing, note taking, and memory and leveraged these for himself, though likely in a slightly different manner. Would anyone suggest that he didn't have a voluminous output or an outsized impact on society and culture? If one really wants to go crazy on the idea of backlinks and the ideas of creativity and invention, perhaps they ought to brush up on their Catalan and read some Ramon Llull? He was an 11th century philosopher and polymath who spent a lot of time not only memorizing much of his personal knowledge, but who invented combinatorial creative methods for juxtaposing his volumes of information to actively create new ideas. I guarantee no backlinking system held a match to his associative methods. Now if someone wanted to mix some mysticism into the fray, then perhaps there might be a competition... Many who are now writing so positively about Zettelkasten or backlinks are doing so in much the same way that humanist scholars like Desiderius Erasmus, Rodolphus Agricola, and Philip Melanchthon did when writing about and re-popularizing commonplace books in the 1500s. The primary difference being that the chance that they leave as lasting a legacy is much smaller. Worse many of them are crediting Luhmann for the actual invention of the Zettelkasten when his is but one instantiation on a long evolution of many note taking devices over literal millennia. I'm still waiting for folks to spend more time talking about Carl Linnaeus' revolutionary invention and use of the index card. Or John Locke's system for creating a new indexing system for commonplace books. Generally we don't talk about these innovations because their users spent more of their time using their systems to get other more important things done for their legacies. In the end, the message seems clear, anyone can be incredibly productive; most of it boils down to having some sort of system of reading, thinking, note taking, and new production and sticking with it for a while. Have a system; use your system; evolve it slowly to work well for you and the way you think and work.

    1. https://x28newblog.wordpress.com/2022/05/08/curating-my-blog-archive/

      I like the overall look and effect done here to create a table of contents in WordPress, but it seems like some quirky gymnastics to pull it off. How might this be done in a more straightforward way? Are there any plugins for WordPress that could create a page that keeps the categories and the descriptions? And particularly a page that primarily only shows articles and not other content types?

      Link this to my work on my own index at https://boffosocko.com/about/index/

    1. Amanda CAARSON I've been a web developer since 1999, and I've been on the indieweb since 2015. This site is a commonplace book for all my online activity and will eventually be a home for archives of all of my online content.

      https://arush.io/

      Example of a personal website indicating that it's a commonplace book. (Highly likely through my own influence.)

  6. Apr 2022
    1. https://www.themarginalian.org/2012/11/19/joan-didion-on-keeping-a-notebook/

      A nice little advertisement for Joan Didion's essay "On Keeping a Notebook". Mostly it's pull quotes from the piece without any additional commentary. I've downloaded a copy of the book to read the piece in full myself.

    2. Joan Didion on Keeping a Notebook “We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.”
    1. The bookitself participates in the history it recounts: it has a title page, table of contents,footnotes, a bibliography and an index to assist the reader, while the digitalcopy enables the reader to search for individual words and phrases as well asto copy-and-paste without disfiguring a material object.

      Some scholars study annotations as part of material culture. Are they leaving out too much by solely studying those physically left in the books about which they were made, or should we instead also be looking at other sources like commonplace books, notebooks, note cards, digital spaces like e-readers that allow annotation, social media where texts are discussed, or even digital marginalia in services like Hypothes.is or Perusall?

      Some of these forms of annotation allow a digital version of cut and paste which doesn't cause damage to the original text, which should be thought of as a good thing though it may separate the annotations from the original physical object.

    1. published under the title‘An Almost Obsessive Relation to Writing Instruments’, which firstappeared in Le Monde in 1973, Barthes describes the method thatguides his use of index cards:I’m content to read the text in question, in a ratherfetishistic way: writing down certain passages,moments, even words which have the power tomove me. As I go along, I use my cards to writedown quotations, or ideas which come to me, asthey do so, curiously, already in the rhythm of asentence, so that from that moment on, things arealready taking on an existence as writing. (1991:181)

      In an interview with Le Monde in 1973, Barthes indicated that while his note taking practice was somewhat akin to that of a commonplace book where one might collect interesting passages, or quotations, he was also specifically writing down ideas which came to him, but doing so in "in the rhythm of a sentence, so that from that moment on, things are already taking on an existence as writing." This indicates that he's already preparing for future publications in which he might use those very ideas and putting them into a more finished form than most might think of when considering shorter fleeting notes used simply as a reminder. By having the work already done, he can easily put his own ideas directly into longer works.


      Was there any evidence that his notes were crosslinked or indexed in a way so that he could more rapidly rearrange his ideas and pre-written thoughts to more easily copy them into longer articles or books?

    1. 7 Notes could also focus on original thoughts, as in the Pen-sées of Blaise Pascal, the “commonplace book” of George Berkeley, or the Sudel-bücher of Georg Lichtenberg, which were devoted to original reflections ratherthan to excerpts from the writings of other authors.

      Examples of notes focusing on one's original ideas and reflections rather than excerpts of others' works.

    2. Francis Bacon explained succinctlythat notes could be made either “by epitome or abridgement” (that is, by sum-marizing the source) or “by heads or commonplaces” (that is, by copying a pas-sage verbatim or nearly so and storing it in a notebook under a commonplaceheading for later retrieval and use). Bacon considered the latter method “of farmore profit and use,” and most note-taking advice focused on this practice of ex-cerpting.46

      This quote is worth looking up and checking its context. Particularly I'm interested to know if the purpose of summarizing the source is to check one's understanding of the ideas as is done in the Feynman technique, or if the purpose is a reminder summary of the piece itself?


      Link to Ahrens mentions of this technique for checking understanding. (Did he use the phrase Feynman in his text?)

    3. One of his last works, the Aurifodina, “The Mine of All Arts and Sci-ences, or the Habit of Excerpting,” was printed in 1638 (in 2,000 copies) andin another fourteen editions down to 1695 and spawned abridgments in Latin(1658), German (1684), and English.

      Simply the word abridgement here leads me to wonder:

      Was the continual abridgement of texts and excerpting small pieces for later use the partial cause of the loss of the arts of memory? Ars excerpendi ad infinitum? It's possible that this, with the growth of note taking practices, continual information overload, and other pressures for educational reform swamped the prior practices.

      For evidence, take a look at William Engel's work following the arts of memory in England and Europe to see if we can track the slow demise by attrition of the descriptions and practices. What would such a study show? How might we assign values to the various pressures at play? Which was the most responsible?

      Could it have also been the slow, inexorable death of many of these classical means of taking notes as well? How did we loose the practices of excerpting for creating new ideas? Where did the commonplace books go? Where did the zettelkasten disappear to?

      One author, with a carefully honed practice and the extant context of their life writes some brief notes which get passed along to their students or which are put into a new book that misses a lot of their existing context with respect to the new readers. These readers then don't know about the attrition happening and slowly, but surely the knowledge goes missing amidst a wash of information overload. Over time the ideas and practices slowly erode and are replaced with newer techniques which may not have been well tested or stood the test of time. One day the world wakes up and the common practices are no longer of use.

      This is potentially all the more likely because of the extremely basic ideas underpinning some of memory and note taking. They seem like such basic knowledge we're also prone to take them for granted and not teach them as thoroughly as we ought.

      How does one juxtapose this with the idea of humanist scholars excerpting, copying, and using classical texts with a specific eye toward preventing the loss of these very classical texts?

      Is this potentially the idea of having one's eye on a particular target and losing sight of other creeping effects?

      It's also difficult to remember what it was like when we ourselves didn't know something and once that is lost, it can be harder and harder to teach newcomers.

    4. During the same period zibaldone designated notebooks kept bywriters, artists, and merchants to record a wide variety of information: outgoingletters, copies of documents, indexes to books, lists of paintings, and excerptscopied from all kinds of texts, including poetry, prose, merchants’ manuals, legalsources, and tables of weights and measures.27
    5. But modern note-taking is more idiosyncratic to each note-taker and no longer follows a set of subject headings that pedagogical practicesand printed reference works helped to standardize.

      Early modern reference works, handbooks, and pedagogical practices created a sort of standardized set of subject headings amongst note takers.

      A similar sort of effort could have been seen in the blogosphere of the early 2000s in which Technorati and their search functionality may have helped to standardize some of these same sorts of taxonomic issues within their product which was widely used at the time.

    6. Referencebooks also typically offered a larger collection of excerpts than most individualscould amass in a lifetime.

      This makes me wonder if it would be a useful product to have a highly linked note collection to sell to others in a modern context? It could be done entirely in text files for compatibility with Roam Research, Obsidian, Logseq, et al. Ideally it would be done in a more commonplace way with quotes and interlinked and could be expanded upon by the purchaser.

    7. Conrad Gesner, for example, observed in his editionof Stobaeus: “I ask you, who of the learned doesn’t either take commonplacenotes or wish they did from their daily reading on moral matters?”1
  7. Mar 2022
    1. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/22/magazine/commonplace-books-recommendation.html

      An interesting essay centering the idea of a commonplace book, but without describing a particular use case.

      Why did she keep it? How is she actually using it? There is an analogy of it with a diary, but it feels like the writer is keeping one, but not actively using it for anything but nostalgic purposes.

      Why not get more out of it?

    2. Nicholson Baker on commonplace books: “My own bristling brain-urchins of worry melt in the strong solvent of other people’s grammar.”
    3. When I lived in Austin, I updated it regularly as I read at my desk; in Brooklyn, where I had no room for a desk, I would take photos of passages in library books and transcribe them later in a coffee shop. These days I live semi-nomadically, without a fixed address, and I email myself lines. Every few months I sift through them and copy the ones that still resonate into my book.

      Here's an example of someone using photos on their phone and email in the vein of a waste book.

    1. this is george have you have you um found that there are people who are natural thinkers like this uh the zettlecaston type thinking the 01:15:45 bottom-up thinking whatever you want to call it have you studied great thinkers and looked at their patterns and seen that they do that or is it all over the place 01:16:00 i i'm not an expert on i i know what i like in in terms of works um 01:16:13 i think there are similarities between the thinkers i read and i believe 01:16:26 they're often systematic and have found a way to deal with complexity to be able to put heterogeneous 01:16:40 ideas different ideas into a coherent theory system and i think the only way to do that 01:16:54 is by having some kind of external um brain or an equivalent of it

      George is asking a good question here and one I've even asked myself, but doesn't seem to have spent any time looking at intellectual history.

      Almost all great thinkers were not only significant writers as well, but most, at least in Western culture, kept significant notes of their work, had a commonplace book(s), waste books, sudelbücher, zettelkasten, etc.

      Of course most were also fairly wealthy and had the free time to be able to do their work which also helped to tip the balance in their favor.

    2. nicholas lerman is a sample of one 01:09:54 and if the zerocarton is a tool for thinking there are all these other thinkers out there who are thinking um and do we know how they're thinking how their 01:10:07 how you know what note systems are they using i'd like to i'd like to be able to place lerman yeah amongst all these others and and sort of in the zerocast and 01:10:23 see what others are doing as well and yeah i mean if there was one project i would have loved to do is going around 01:10:36 asking everyone i whose work i admire how do you do it how do you do it exactly what do you do in the morning how do you sit down how do you digest the books you're reading 01:10:48 um i was obsessed with the idea and it's just because i'm too shy to follow up on that

      Some discussion of doing research on zettelkasten methods and workflows.


      What do note taking methods and processes look like for individual people?


      What questions would one ask for this sort of research in an interview setting (compared to how one would look at extant physical examples in document-based research)? #openquestions


      Link this to the work of Earle Havens on commonplace books through portions of history.

    1. Topic A topic was once a spot not a subjecttopic. to ̆p’ı ̆k. n. 1. The subject of a speech, essay, thesis, or discourse. 2. A subject of discussion or con-versation. 3. A subdivision of a theme, thesis, or outline.*With no teleprompter, index cards, or even sheets of paper at their disposal, ancient Greek and Roman orators often had to rely on their memories for holding a great deal of information. Given the limi-tations of memory, the points they chose to make had to be clustered in some meaningful way. A popular and quite reliable method for remembering information was known as loci (see Chapter 9), where loci was Latin for “place.” It involved picking a house you knew well, imagining it in your mind’s eye, and then associating the facts you wanted to recall with specifi c places inside of that house. Using this method, a skillful orator could mentally fi ll up numerous houses with the ideas he needed to recall and then simply “visit” them whenever he spoke about a particular subject. The clusters of informa-tion that speakers used routinely came to be known as commonplaces, loci communes in Latin and koinos topos in Greek. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle referred to them simply as topos, meaning “places.” And that’s how we came to use topic to refer to subject or grouping of information.**

      Even in the western tradition, the earliest methods of mnemonics tied ideas to locations, from whence we get the ideas of loci communes (in Latin) and thence commonplaces and commonplace books. The idea of loci communes was koinos topos in Greek from whence we have derived the word 'topic'.

      Was this a carryover from other local oral traditions or a new innovation? Given the prevalence of very similar Indigenous methods around the world, it was assuredly not an innovation. Perhaps it was a rediscovery after the loss of some of these traditions locally in societies that were less reliant on orality and moving towards more reliance on literacy for their memories.

    1. Human minds are made of memories, and today those memories have competition. Biological memory capacities are being supplanted, or at least supplemented, by digital ones, as we rely on recording—phone cameras, digital video, speech-to-text—to capture information we’ll need in the future and then rely on those stored recordings to know what happened in the past. Search engines have taken over not only traditional reference materials but also the knowledge base that used to be encoded in our own brains. Google remembers, so we don’t have to. And when we don’t have to, we no longer can. Or can we? Remembering and Forgetting in the Age of Technology offers concise, nontechnical explanations of major principles of memory and attention—concepts that all teachers should know and that can inform how technology is used in their classes. Teachers will come away with a new appreciation of the importance of memory for learning, useful ideas for handling and discussing technology with their students, and an understanding of how memory is changing in our technology-saturated world.

      How much history is covered here?

      Will mnemotechniques be covered here? Spaced repetition? Note taking methods in the commonplace book or zettelkasten traditions?

  8. Feb 2022
    1. Some content from this blog has been copied over to TiddlySpace so I can farm it for ideas and such.

      Example of a blog being used as a source of material for creating new ideas.

    1. Together: responsive, inline “autocomplete” pow­ered by an RNN trained on a cor­pus of old sci-fi stories.

      I can't help but think, what if one used their own collected corpus of ideas based on their ever-growing commonplace book to create a text generator? Then by taking notes, highlighting other work, and doing your own work, you're creating a corpus of material that's imminently interesting to you. This also means that by subsuming text over time in making your own notes, the artificial intelligence will more likely also be using your own prior thought patterns to make something that from an information theoretic standpoint look and sound more like you. It would have your "hand" so to speak.

    1. This is why choosing an external system that forces us todeliberate practice and confronts us as much as possible with ourlack of understanding or not-yet-learned information is such a smartmove.

      Choosing an external system for knowledge keeping and production forces the learner into a deliberate practice and confronts them with their lack of understanding. This is a large part of the underlying value not only of the zettelkasten, but of the use of a commonplace book which Benjamin Franklin was getting at when recommending that one "read with a pen in your hand". The external system also creates a modality shift from reading to writing by way of thinking which further underlines the value.

      What other building blocks are present in addition to: - modality shift - deliberate practice - confrontation of lack of understanding

      Are there other systems that do all of these as well as others simultaneously?


      link to Franklin quote

    2. We need to getour thoughts on paper first and improve them there, where we canlook at them. Especially complex ideas are difficult to turn into alinear text in the head alone. If we try to please the critical readerinstantly, our workflow would come to a standstill. We tend to callextremely slow writers, who always try to write as if for print,perfectionists. Even though it sounds like praise for extremeprofessionalism, it is not: A real professional would wait until it wastime for proofreading, so he or she can focus on one thing at a time.While proofreading requires more focused attention, finding the rightwords during writing requires much more floating attention.

      Proofreading while rewriting, structuring, or doing the thinking or creative parts of writing is a form of bikeshedding. It is easy to focus on the small and picayune fixes when writing, but this distracts from the more important parts of the work which really need one's attention to be successful.

      Get your ideas down on paper and only afterwards work on proofreading at the end. Switching contexts from thinking and creativity to spelling, small bits of grammar, and typography can be taxing from the perspective of trying to multi-task.


      Link: Draft #4 and using Webster's 1913 dictionary for choosing better words/verbiage as a discrete step within the rewrite.


      Linked to above: Are there other dictionaries, thesauruses, books of quotations, or individual commonplace books, waste books that can serve as resources for finding better words, phrases, or phrasing when writing? Imagine searching through Thoreau's commonplace book for finding interesting turns of phrase. Naturally searching through one's own commonplace book is a great place to start, if you're saving those sorts of things, especially from fiction.

      Link this to Robin Sloan's AI talk and using artificial intelligence and corpuses of literature to generate writing.

    3. Be extra selective withquotes – don’t copy them to skip the step of really understanding

      what they mean.

      When quoting material it should have great phrasing and reasonable stand-alone meaning. Preferably the source or person being quoted should have stature or gravitas with respect to the idea at hand. Quotes should recall the classical idea of sententiae as imagined by Aristotle and Quintilian and seen throughout the commonplace book tradition.

    4. a system is neededto keep track of the ever-increasing pool of information, which allowsone to combine different ideas in an intelligent way with the aim ofgenerating new ideas.

      The point of good tools of thought is to allow one to keep track of the ever increasing flood of information that also allows them to juxtapose or combine ideas in novel and interesting ways. Further, this should provide them with a means of generating and then improving upon their new ideas.

    1. I would advise you to read with a pen in your hand, and enter in a little book short hints of what you find that is curious or that may be useful; for this will be the best method of imprinting such particulars in your memory, where they will be ready either for practice on some future occasion if they are matters of utility, or at least to adorn and improve your conversation if they are rather points of curiosity.

      Benjamin Franklin letter to Miss Stevenson, Wanstead. Craven-street, May 16, 1760.

      Franklin doesn't use the word commonplace book here, but is actively recommending the creation and use of one. He's also encouraging the practice of annotation, though in commonplace form rather than within the book itself.

  9. Jan 2022
    1. https://smithery.com/2022/01/14/making-the-most-of-moments-that-matter/

      A company created a custom commonplace book for attendees of a conference. Not sure how they tummeled people into using them in interesting ways though.

      Could also have done something along the lines of a sketchnote process as well. I liked their idea of having stickers to place in these as well, though that's more of a scrapbook process...


      <small><cite class='h-cite via'> <span class='p-author h-card'>Tom Critchlow </span> in Tom Critchlow on Twitter: "Love this meditation from @willsh on building artefacts, commonplace books, and more: https://t.co/zJmkMcaUN2 (and look at those physical keys they forged for a workshop!!!!)" / Twitter (<time class='dt-published'>01/22/2022 23:05:44</time>)</cite></small>

    2. In the more recent decades, of course, personal collation of this sort is well supported by digital tools – early blog platforms, Delicious, Tumblr, Pinterest, and so on – and we toyed briefly with the idea of something as a shared digital experience or app.

      Indication here of digital platforms like Delicious, Tumblr, and Pinterest standing in for digital commonplace books.

    1. He also jotted down, as Johannes Schmidt has found in his research, a few keywords along with the respective page num-bers (in early modern Europe, this excerpting system was called adversaria or lemmata).83

      In early modern Europe the system of excerpting from reading material was called adversaria or lemmata.

    2. With respect to the Ark of Studies, for example, Johann Benedict Metzler did not use gratifying words; yet he nonetheless recommended numbering the hooks (aciculas) to which the paper slips should be attached and recording the matching of number and heading in a subject index. In this way, Metzler noted, scholars would not be compelled to leave empty spaces between entries and to recalibrate the entire content any time a new entry (a new commonplace) should be added.65

      65 Johann Benedict Metzler, Artificium excerpendi genuinum dictus Die rechte Kunst zu excer-piren (Leipzig, 1709), 23–4; 30; 91–2

      Is there really any mathematical difference between alphabetical order and a numerical decimal order? Can't they be shown to be one-to-one and onto?

      To a layperson they may seem different...

    3. Placcius recommended considering the first, the second, and the third letters in the words listed in the subject index in order to avoid spending too much time in searching for an entry;

      Placcius, De arte excerpendi, 84–5;

    4. Just Christoph Udenius, for example, sug-gested leaving thirty or forty blank pages at the end of a commonplace book to be filled in with a well-made subject index, or devoting a separate in-octavo booklet for this essential task;

      Just Christoph Udenius, Excerpendi ratio nova (Nordhausen, 1687), 62–3; Placcius, De arte excerpendi, 84–5; Drexel, Aurifodina, 135.

      What earlier suggestions might there have been for creating indices for commonplaces?

    1. Definition of adversaria 1 : commentaries or notes (as on a text or document) 2 : a miscellaneous collection of notes, remarks, or selections : commonplace book
    1. I use the end-papers at the back of the book to make a personal index of the author's points in the order of their appearance.

      Interesting that he makes no reference to the commonplace book or zettelkasten traditions—particularly because we know he (later?) had an extensive system of index cards.

    1. What an awesome little site. Sadly no RSS to make it easy to follow, so bookmarking here.

      I like that she's titled her posts feed as a "notebook": https://telepathics.xyz/notebook. There's not enough content here (yet) to make a determination that they're using it as a commonplace book though.

      Someone in the IndieWeb chat pointed out an awesome implementation of "stories" she's got on her personal site: https://telepathics.xyz/notes/2020/new-york-city-friends-food-sights/

      I particularly also like the layout and presentation of her Social Media Links page which has tags for the types of content as well as indicators for which are no longer active.

      This makes me wonder if I could use tags on some of my links to provide CSS styling on them to do the same thing for inactive services?

    1. Reflecting upon Robert Darnton's comment, perhaps my personal reading and writing style is more representative of the seventeenth century than the twentieth or twenty-first.  Throughout my career in the antiquarian book trade, which began in the 1960s, I found myself moving between subjects in the course of a day as I catalogued various books in stock, read about other books for sale, or discussed the different interests of clients.  With access to the Internet in the 1990s it was, of course, possible to follow-up more efficiently on diverse topics with Internet searches and hyperlinks.  The way that HistoryofInformation.com is written, as a series of reading and research notes connected by links and indexed in a database, may be viewed to a certain extent as analogous to the method of maintaining and indexing commonplace books described by Locke.

      Jeremy Norman, an antiquarian bookseller, indicates that his website is written in much the same manner as John Locke's commonplace book.

    1. I go through my old posts every day. I know that much – most? – of them are not for the ages. But some of them are good. Some, I think, are great. They define who I am. They're my outboard brain.

      Cory Doctorow calls his blog and its archives his "outboard brain".

    2. First and foremost, I do it for me. The memex I've created by thinking about and then describing every interesting thing I've encountered is hugely important for how I understand the world. It's the raw material of every novel, article, story and speech I write.

      On why Cory Doctorow keeps a digital commonplace book.