275 Matching Annotations
  1. Last 7 days
    1. How do you remember what you read?

      I too keep a commonplace book. First it was (and in part still is) on my personal website. Lately I've been using Hypothes.is to annotate digital documents and books, the data of which is piped into the clever tool (one of many) Obsidian.md, a (currently) private repository which helps me to crosslink my thoughts and further flesh them out.

      I've recently found that Sönke Ahrens book How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers is a good encapsulation of my ideas/methods in general, so I frequently recommend that to friends and students interested in the process.

      In addition to my commonplace book, I also practice a wealth of mnemonic techniques including the method of loci/songlines and the phonetic system which helps me remember larger portions of the things I've read and more easily memorized. I've recently been teaching some of these methods to a small cohort of students.

      syndication link: https://drkimburns.com/why-i-keep-a-commonplace-book/?unapproved=4&moderation-hash=d3f1c550516a44ba4dca4b06455f9265#comment-4

    2. https://drkimburns.com/why-i-keep-a-commonplace-book/

      A personal statement from a researcher that keeps one where she describes some of the how and why.

    1. oldandgreat · 21hMe, and probably others, would be really interested to hear your book recommendations!2ReplyGive AwardShareReportSavelevel 4FluentFelicityOp · 20hThank you for sharing. I hope I am able to engage more intelligent readers like yourself in the future.I also agree with the other redditor. It's clear you have a much more comprehensive mental model of knowledge management than most of us who even regularly engage with this stuff.

      I've probably read more and deeper about the space than most, but a lot of my knowledge here is practical in having worked on and used a commonplace for a while. I've generally figured out what does and doesn't work for me over the years. Having more than six months experience sure helps a lot. :) Book recommendations: Practical note taking and reading:

      • Ahrens, Sönke. How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers
        • A recent sine qua non of note taking. Regardless of the form you're using, there's some very solid and practical advice here.
      • Doren, Charles Van, and Mortimer J. Adler. How to Read a Book. Revised and Updated ed. edition. Touchstone, 2011.
      • Havens, Earle. Commonplace Books: A History of Manuscripts and Printed Books from Antiquity to the Twentieth Century. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library New Haven, CT, 2001.
        • Great introduction to the definition and form over the last 2000 years. Nice timeline of history and some examples of use.
      • Moss, Ann. Printed Commonplace-Books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198159087.001.0001.
        • Comprehensive with some interesting speculation about their origin and evolution of commonplaces. Related books that are also relatively fun (for the space).
      • Blair, Ann M. Too Much to Know. Yale University Press, 2011. https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300165395/too-much-know.
      • Krajewski, Markus. Paper Machines: About Cards & Catalogs, 1548-1929. Translated by Peter Krapp. History and Foundations of Information Science. The MIT Press, 2011. https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/paper-machines.
    2. FluentFelicityOp · 12hBrilliant... I must ask you to share a little of your story. What brought you to have learned this much history and philosophy?

      I've always had history and philosophy around me from a relatively young age. Some of this stems from a practice of mnemonics since I was eleven and a more targeted study of the history and philosophy of mnemonics over the past decade. Some of this overlaps areas like knowledge acquisition and commonplace books which I've delved into over the past 6 years. I have a personal website that serves to some extent as a digital commonplace book and I've begun studying and collecting examples of others who practice similar patterns (see: https://indieweb.org/commonplace_book and a selection of public posts at https://boffosocko.com/tag/commonplace-books/) in the blogosphere and wiki space. As a result of this I've been watching the digital gardens space and the ideas relating to Zettelkasten for the past several years as well. If you'd like to go down a similar rabbit hole I can recommend some good books.

    3. 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.

  2. uniweb.uottawa.ca uniweb.uottawa.ca
    1. Victoria E. Burke, Commonplace Genres, Or Women’s Interventions in Non-Traditional Literary Forms: Madame de Sablé, Aphra Behn, and the Maxim, World-making Renaissance Women: Rethinking Women's Place in Early Modern English Literature and Culture, Cambridge University Press Cambridge, 2022Editors: Pamela S. Hammons and Brandie R. SiegfriedEarly modern literatureSeventeenth-century women's writingFranceLiterary Genre

      Another interesting one to pick up when it comes out.

    2. Victoria E. Burke, Commonplacing, Making Miscellanies, and Interpreting Literature, The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Women’s Writing in English, 1540-1680, Oxford University Press Oxford, 2022Editors: Danielle Clarke, Sarah C.E. Ross, and Elizabeth Scott-BaumannBook historyEarly modern literatureManuscript studiesSeventeenth-century women's writing

      This looks like a fun read to track down.

    1. To be informed is to know simply that something is the case. To be enlightened is to know, in addition, what it is all about: why it is the case, what its connections are with other facts, in what respects it is the same, in what respects it is different, and so forth.

      The distinctions between being informed and enlightened.

      Learning might be defined as the pathway from being informed as a preliminary base on the way to full enlightenment. Pedagogy is the teacher's plan for how to take this path.

      How would these definitions and distinctions fit into Bloom's taxonomy?

      Note that properly annotating and taking notes into a commonplace book can be a serious (necessary?) step one might take on the way towards enlightenment.

    2. Mortimer]. Adler

      Adler apparently kept a commonplace book in the form of a massive zettelkasten (and may have kept a more traditional commonplace book as well). I wonder if they detail any note taking details or advice here.

    1. This looks like a bookmarking service that is billing itself as a digital commonplace book. I'm not sure about the digital ownership aspect, but it does have a relatively pretty UI.

      Looks like it works via a Chrome extension: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/commonplaces-your-digital/ckiapimepnnpdnoehhmghgpmiondhbof

    1. u/MushroomPuddle17 days agoGetting started with a commonplace notebook as someone who isn't creative? .t3_ojhwrb ._2FCtq-QzlfuN-SwVMUZMM3 { --postTitle-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; --postTitleLink-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; } Hello everyone!I've known about commonplace books for years and always feel a surge of inspiration when I see them but I'm really not creative. I don't know what I'd ever write in one? I don't ever really have any grand ideas or plans. I don't seem to have conversations or read things that necessarily inspire me. I just live a very regular life where nothing really sticks out to me as important. I've tried bullet journals before and had the same issue.Does anyone have any suggestions? I'd really appreciate it.

      I'm not sure what you mean by your use of the word "creative". I'm worried that you've seen too many photos of decorative and frilly commonplace books on Instagram and Pinterest. I tend to call most of those "productivity porn" as their users spend hours decorating and not enough collecting and expanding their thoughts, which is really their primary use and value. Usually whatever time they think they're "saving" in having a cpb, they're wasting in decorating it. (Though if decorating is your thing, then have at it...) My commonplace is a (boring to others) location of mostly walls of text. It is chock full of creative ideas, thoughts, and questions though. If you're having trouble with a place to start, try creating a (free) Hypothes.is account and highlighting/annotating everything you read online. (Here's what mine looks like: https://hypothes.is/users/chrisaldrich, you'll notice that it could be considered a form of searchable digital commonplace book all by itself.) Then once a day/week/month, take the best of the quotes, ideas, highlights, and your notes, replies, questions and put them into your physical or digital commonplace. Build on them, cross link them, expand on them over time. Do some research to start answering any of the questions you came up with. By starting with annotating things you're personally interested in, you'll soon have a collection of things that become highly valuable and useful to you. After a few weeks you'll start seeing something and likely see a change in the way you're reading, writing, and even thinking.

      reply to: https://www.reddit.com/r/commonplacebook/comments/ojhwrb/getting_started_with_a_commonplace_notebook_as/

    1. I've used something like this in a textbook before while also using different colored pens to help differentiate a larger taxonomy. I found it to be better for a smaller custom cpb that only had a narrow section of topics. In my larger, multi-volume commonplace, I have a separate volume that serves as an index and uses a method similar to John Locke's, though larger in scope and shape. Sadly in this case, the index would be much too large (with too many entries) to make the high five method practicable.

      reply to: https://www.reddit.com/r/commonplacebook/comments/oq12xs/has_anyone_used_this_indexing_system_curious_what/

    1. Highfive Notebook indexing method

      A clever method for creating an index or tracking system in a bound notebook by creating an index and then marking the edge of the page for related pages.

      Could also be used for tracking one's mood or other similar taxonomic items.

      <small><cite class='h-cite via'> <span class='p-author h-card'>u/mor-leidr </span> in Has anyone used this indexing system? Curious what you think : commonplacebook (<time class='dt-published'>07/30/2021 12:29:53</time>)</cite></small>

    1. Of interest to many here, I and a few others have been maintaining a list of personal website-based online commonplace books, examples, tools, and related information for a few years. It can be found on the IndieWeb Community's wiki (aka a community-based digital commonplace book) at: https://indieweb.org/commonplace_book

      It's got:

      • links to online examples to view for potentially creating your own digital commonplace;
      • lists of tools and resources for creating and maintaining a digital (and especially online) commonplace;
      • lists of articles and related books which some (especially beginners) may find helpful;
      • examples of written, historical and sometimes digitized and browsable online commonplaces;
      • details about other commonplace "flavors" including: anthologies/florilegium, waste books/sudelbücher, wikis, second brains, and the increasingly popular Zettelkasten and digital gardens.

      Syndicated copies: https://www.reddit.com/r/commonplacebook/comments/ourjnl/resources_for_personal_digital_online_commonplace/

    1. u/thepoisonouspotato5 months agoWhat should I use for a Digital Commonplace book? .t3_lxgjgl ._2FCtq-QzlfuN-SwVMUZMM3 { --postTitle-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; --postTitleLink-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; } I never really kept my notes digitally, I have mostly used physical notebooks for journaling, bujoing and other stuffs, mostly decorating and spending a lot of time on it. But with my Uni and all the study pressure and a busy life I am often demotivated to get back on paper, cause I always find this voice inside me, "it should look good". So I'm planning to try a Digital Commonplace book, but since I never really did anything digitally I'm not sure if I can stick to it or not and I'm not up for investing in something I might leave in mid way. Anything you wanna suggest I can use as a beginner?

      Did you pick something? How's it going? For ease of use and simplicity, I most often recommend and personally use the free Obsidian.md, so that I can own all the data and do other things with it easily if I choose. They've also got a very useful forum and a discord with sections on use for education/academia. If you're starting one for educational purposes, I highly recommend reading How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers by Sönke Ahrens. It's written in the framing of a Zettelkasten, an index-card-based cousin of the commonplace, but the method is essentially equivalent to commonplacing and often seen in digital spaces lately. For other digital and online versions of commonplace software, I've been updating a list I (and others) maintain at https://indieweb.org/commonplace_book which has lots of options for either self-hosted solutions, commercial solutions as well as public/private options and examples.

      reply to: https://www.reddit.com/r/commonplacebook/comments/lxgjgl/what_should_i_use_for_a_digital_commonplace_book/

    1. I like the idea of some of the research into education, pedagogy, and technology challenges here.

      Given the incredibly common and oft-repeated misconception which is included in the article ("But Zettelkasten was a very personal practice of Nicholas Luhmann, its inventor."), can we please correct the record?

      Niklas Luhmann positively DID NOT invent the concept of the Zettelkasten. It grew out of the commonplace book tradition in Western culture going back to Aristotle---if not earlier. In Germany it was practiced and morphed with the idea of the waste book or sudelbücher, which was popularized by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg or even re-arrangeable slips of paper used by countless others. From there it morphed again when index cards (whose invention has been attributed to Carl Linnaeus) were able to be mass manufactured in the early 1900s. A number of well-known users who predate Luhmann along with some general history and references can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zettelkasten.

      I suspect that most of the fallacy of Luhmann as the inventor stems from the majority of the early writing about Zettelkasten as a subject appears in German and hasn't been generally translated into English. What little is written about them in English has primarily focused on Luhmann and his output, so the presumption is made that he was the originator of the idea---a falsehood that has been repeated far and wide. This falsehood is also easier to believe because our culture is generally enamored with the mythology of the "lone genius" that managed Herculean feats of output. (We are also historically heavily prone to erase the work and efforts of research assistants, laboratory members, students, amanuenses, secretaries, friends, family, etc. which have traditionally helped writers and researchers in their output.)

      Anyone glancing at the commonplace tradition will realize that similar voluminous outputs were to be easily found among their practitioners as well, especially after their re-popularization by Desiderius Erasmus, Rodolphus Agricola, and Philip Melanchthon in the emergence of humanism in the 1500s. The benefit of this is that there is now a much richer area of research to be done with respect to these tools and the educational enterprise. One need not search very far to discover that Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau's output could potentially be attributed to their commonplace books, which were subsequently published. It was a widely accepted enough technique that it was taught to them at Harvard University when they attended. Apparently we're now all attempting to reinvent the wheel because there's a German buzzword that is somehow linguistically hiding our collective intellectual heritage. Maybe we should put these notes into our digital Zettelkasten (née commonplace books) and let them distill a bit?

      syndication link: https://browninterviews.org/suddenly-you-realize-that-your-house-is-not-equipped-with-a-water-hose-or-even-emergency-exit-we-are-not-prepared-for-e-learning-at-such-a-large-scale-brown-interviews-dr-jingjing-lin/#comment-637

    1. I argue Zettelkasten’s essence is to repeatedly revisit, recall, and engage with that which you have learned, iterating upon the writing artifacts of that process—your crystallized thoughts—over time. Engaging with what you learn is the crux to a successful knowledge management system. The contribution of backlinks is too commonly conflated with the contribution of that routine. Backlinks are a complementary feature.

      I think that this is the biggest part of the value proposition as well. Backlinks can be fun and useful, but it's all the other pieces that add the most value.

      The long tradition of commonplace books in the Western intellectual tradition underlines this as well. The Zettelkasten is simply an iteration of the commonplace book instantiated into index card form.

    1. Watched up to 2:33:00 https://youtu.be/wB89lJs5A3s?t=9181 with talk about research papers.

      Some interesting tidbits and some workflow tips thus far. Not too jargony, but beginners may need to look at some of his other videos or work to see how to better set up pieces. Definitely very thorough so far.

      He's got roughly the same framing for tags/links that I use, though I don't even get into the status pieces with emoji/tags as much as he does.

      I'm not a fan of some of his reliance on iframes where data can (and will) disappear in the future. For Twitter, he does screencaptures of things which can be annoying and take up a lot of storage. Not sure why he isn't using twitter embed functionality which will do blockquotes of tweets and capture the actual text so that it's searchable.

      Taking a short break from this and coming back to it later.

    1. In the Western tradition, these memory traditions date back to ancient Greece and Rome and were broadly used until the late 1500s. Frances A. Yates outlines much of their use in The Art of Memory (Routledge, 1966). She also indicates that some of their decline in use stems from Protestant educational reformers like Peter Ramus who preferred outline and structural related methods. Some religious reformers didn't appreciate the visual mnemonic methods as they often encouraged gross, bloody, non-religious, and sexualized imagery.

      Those interested in some of the more modern accounts of memory practice (as well as methods used by indigenous and oral cultures around the world) may profit from Lynne Kelly's recent text Memory Craft (Allen & Unwin, 2019).

      Lots of note taking in the West was (and still is) done via commonplace book, an art that is reasonably well covered in Earle Havens' Commonplace Books: A History of Manuscripts and Printed Books from Antiquity to the Twentieth Century (Yale, 2001).

    1. There's apparently a product that will turn one's Roam Research notes into a digital garden.

      Great to see a bridge for making these things easier for the masses, but I have to think that there's a better and cheaper way. Perhaps some addition competition in the space will help bring the price down.

    1. A lot of guru-esque figures have appeared in the personal knowledge management arena, but once you reach past some of the marketing bluster, there’s a lot to be gained by taking up a note-taking system to help organize your thoughts.

      Sadly this article takes the magical thinking/guru idea to the extreme and misses the longer tradition of these ideas in Western thought.

    1. The term 'lemma' comes from the practice in Greco-Roman antiquity of using the word to refer to the headwords of marginal glosses in scholia; for this reason, the Ancient Greek plural form is sometimes used, namely lemmata (Greek λῆμμα, pl. λήμματα).

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headword

      No mention here of the use of headwords within the commonplace book tradition.

  3. Jul 2021
    1. who’s gonna let me create a digital garden / commonplace book on the blockchain

      Registering that this was a question in the wild. Crazypants, but there it is.

      What problem would this actually be solving though?!?

    1. Feature Idea: Chaos Monkey for PKM

      This idea is a bit on the extreme side, but it does suggest that having a multi-card comparison view in a PKM system would be useful.

      Drawing on Raymond Llull's combitorial memory system from the 12th century and a bit of Herman Ebbinghaus' spaced repetition (though this is also seen in earlier non-literate cultures), one could present two (or more) random atomic notes together as a way of juxtaposing disparate ideas from one's notes.

      The spaced repetition of the cards would be helpful for one's long term memory of the ideas, but it could also have the secondary effect of nudging one to potentially find links or connections between the two ideas and help to spur creativity for the generation of new hybrid ideas or connection to other current ideas based on a person's changed context.

      I've thought about this in the past (most likely while reading Frances Yates' Art of Memory), but don't think I've bothered to write it down (or it's hiding in untranscribed marginalia).

    1. I'm particularly interested here in the idea of interleaved books for additional marginalia. Thanks for the details!

      An aspect that's missing from the overall discussion here is that of the commonplace book. Edwards' Miscellanies is a classic example of the Western note taking and idea collecting tradition of commonplace books.

      While the name for his system is unique, his note taking method was assuredly not. The bigger idea goes back to ancient Greece and Rome with Aristotle and Cicero and continues up to the modern day.

      From roughly 900-1300 theologians and preachers also had a sub-genre of this category called florilegia. In the Christian religious tradition Philip Melanchthon has one of the more influential works on the system: De locis communibus ratio (1539).

      You might appreciate this article on some of the tradition: https://blog.cph.org/study/systematic-theology-and-apologetics/why-are-so-many-great-lutheran-books-called-commonplaces-or-loci

      You'll find Edwards' and your indexing system bears a striking resemblance to that of philosopher John Locke, (yes that Locke!): https://publicdomainreview.org/collection/john-lockes-method-for-common-place-books-1685

    2. The miscellanies, numbered and indexed, would often be noted in the margins of his Bible as well, especially if the note was an expansion of an exegetical point.

      Interesting to see that Jonathan Edwards cross referenced his commonplace book to his bible as well.

    3. As I studied Edwards’ writings and insights, I realized that I might be sitting at the feet of not only Edwards’ intellectual genius but his organizational genius, too. 

      For what I expect to be a coming description of Jonathan Edwards' commonplace book, I'm surprised that the page doesn't use the word or even florilegium.

      Everhard here makes in one breath a common error I'm coming to notice. While it might be true that Edwards had some organizational genius, I think it's disingenuous to attribute his output to his intellectual genius. More and more I'm seeing that throughout history those who were thought of as intellectual geniuses really relied on the organization structures of their commonplace books (or similar devices). By writing, thinking, and producing in a commonplace tradition they were able to do far more, think more clearly, and accomplish more.

      This can be linked with the idea also espoused in Robert Greene's Mastery which seems to have some of the similar flavor.

    1. Best Bible Note-Taking System: Jonathan Edwards's Miscellanies

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqq-4-LiFVs

      Overview of Jonathan Edwards Miscellanies system along with a a few wide-margin bibles. Everhard apparently hasn't heard of the commonplace concept, though I do notice that someone mentions the zettelkasten system in the comments.

    1. Most of this is material I've seen or heard in other forms in the past. It's relatively well reviewed and summarized here though, but it's incredibly dense to try to pull out, unpack and actually use if one were coming to it as a something new.

      3 Productivity hacks

      • Zen Meditation (Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Shunryū Suzuki
      • Research Process -- Annotations and notes, notecards
      • Rigorous exercise routine -- plateau effect

      The Zen meditation hack sounds much in the line of advice to often get away from what you're studing/researching and to let the ideas stew for a bit before coming back to them. It's the same principle as going for walks frequently heard from folks or being a flâneur. (cross reference Nassim Nicholas Taleb et al.) The other version of this that's similar are the diffuse modes of learning (compared with focused modes) described in learning theory. (Examples in work of Barbara Oakley and Terry Sejnowski in https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn)

      I've generally come to the idea that genius doesn't exist myself. Most of it distills down to use of tools like commonplace books.

      Perhaps worth looking into some of the following to see what, if anything, is different than prior version of the commonplace book tradition:

      The Ryan Holiday Notecard System @Intermittent Diversion - https://youtu.be/QoFZQOJ8aA0

      Article On Notecard System [1] https://medium.com/thrive-global/the-notecard-system-the-key-for-remembering-organizing-and-using-everything-you-read-4f48a82371b1 [2] https://www.writingroutines.com/notecard-system-ryan-holiday/ [3] https://www.gallaudet.edu/tutorial-and-instructional-programs/english-center/the-process-and-type-of-writing/pre-writing-writing-and-revising/the-note-card-system/

    1. Reminded by Connor of Mortimer Adler's Syntopicon. I'm pretty sure I've got it in my list of encyclopedias growing out of the commonplace book tradition, but... just in case.

      If I recall it was compiled using index cards, thus also placing it in the zettelkasten tradition.

      (via Almay)

      If you’re generalizing Zettelkasten to “All Non-Linear Knowledge Management Strategies” You should include Mortimer Adler and the Syntopicon, and John Locke’s guide to how to set up a commonplace book<br><br>This isn’t a game of calling “dibs”<br><br>it’s about 🧠👶shttps://t.co/sH3JO6d9Jq

      — Conor White-Sullivan 𐃏🇸🇻 (@Conaw) July 8, 2021
      <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

    1. and bullet journal for more modern take on commonplace books

      Bullet Journals certainly are informed by the commonplace tradition, but are an incredibly specialized version of lists for productivity.

      Perhaps there's more influence by Peter Ramus' outlining tradition here as well?

      I've seen a student's written version of the idea of a Bullet Journal technique which came out of a study habits manual in the 1990's. It didn't quite have the simplicity of the modern BuJo idea or the annotations, but in substance it was the same idea. I'll have to dig up a reference for this.

    2. This isn’t a game of calling “dibs”

      It's definitely not a game of "dibs", but we're all fooling ourselves if we're not taking a look at the incredibly rich history of these ideas.

    3. Your post says nothing at all to suggest Luhman didn’t “invent” “Zettelkasten” (no one says he was only one writing on scraps of paper), you list two names and no links

      My post was more in reaction to the overly common suggestions and statements that Luhmann did invent it and the fact that he's almost always the only quoted user. The link was meant to give some additional context, not proof.

      There are a number of direct predecessors including Hans Blumenberg and Georg Christoph Lichtenberg. For quick/easy reference here try:

      If you want some serious innovation, why not try famous biologist Carl Linnaeus for the invention of the index card? See: http://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/history/research/centres/medicalhistory/past/writing/

      (Though even in this space, I suspect that others were already doing similar things.)

    4. Not all the ancients are ancestors.

      I'll definitely grant this and admit that there may be independent invention or re-discovery of ideas.

      However, I'll also mention that it's far, far less likely that any of these people truly invented very much novel along the way, particularly since Western culture has been swimming in the proverbial waters of writing, rhetoric, and the commonplace book tradition for so long that we too often forget that we're actually swimming in water.

      It's incredibly easy to reinvent the wheel when everything around you is made of circles, hubs, and axles.

    5. Would love links to any descriptions of the systems used by Conrad Gessner (1516-1565) or Johann Jacob Moser (1701–1785)

      I'm only halfway down the rabbit hole on some of these sources myself, a task made harder by my lack of facility with German. I am reasonably positive that the Gessner and Moser references are going to spring directly out of the commonplace book tradition, but include some of the innovation of having notes on slips of paper so that they're more easily re-arranged.

      I'm also sitting on a huge trove of unpublished research which provides a lot more evidence and a trail of context which is missing from the short provocative statement I've made. I've added a few snippets to the Wikipedia page on Zettelkasten which outlines pieces for the curious.

      I suspect soon enough I'll have a handful of journal articles and/or a book to cover some of the more modern history of notes and note taking that picks up where Earle Havens' Commonplace Books: A History of Manuscripts and Printed Books from Antiquity to the Twentieth Century (Yale, 2001) leaves off.

    1. <small><cite class='h-cite via'> <span class='p-author h-card'>Matthias Melcher</span> in About | x28's new Blog (<time class='dt-published'>07/06/2021 11:09:19</time>)</cite></small>

    1. Which makes them similar to “commonplace”: reusable in many places. But this connotation has led to a pejorative flavor of the German translation “Gemeinplatz” which means platitude. That’s why I prefer to call them ‘evergreen’ notes, although I am not sure if I am using this differentiation correctly.

      I've only run across the German "Gemeinplatz" a few times with this translation attached. Sad to think that this negative connotation has apparently taken hold. Even in English the word commonplace can have a somewhat negative connotation as well meaning "everyday, ordinary, unexceptional" when the point of commonplacing notes is specifically because they are surprising or extraordinary by definition.

      Your phrasing of "evergreen notes" seems close enough. I've seen some who might call the shorter notes you're making either "seedlings" or "budding" notes. Some may wait for bigger expansions of their ideas into 500-2000 word essays before they consider them "evergreen" notes. (Compare: https://maggieappleton.com/garden-history and https://notes.andymatuschak.org/Evergreen_notes). Of course this does vary quite a bit from person to person in my experience, so your phrasing certainly fits.

      I've not seen it crop up in the digital gardens or zettelkasten circles specifically but the word "evergreen" is used in the journalism space) to describe a fully formed article that can be re-used wholesale on a recurring basis. Usually they're related to recurring festivals, holidays, or cyclical stories like "How to cook the perfect Turkey" which might get recycled a week before Thanksgiving every year.

    1. Finding these kinds of sites can be tough, especially if you’re looking for authentic 1990s sites and not retro callbacks, since Google seems to refuse to show you pages from over 10 years ago.

      I think I've read this bit about Google forgetting from Tim Bray(?) before. Would be useful to have additional back up for it.

      Not being able to rely on Google means that one's on personal repositories of data in their commonplace book becomes far more valuable in the search proposition. This means that Google search is more of a discovery mechanism rather than having the value of the sort of personalized search people may be looking for.

    1. Linnaeus may have drawn inspiration from playing cards. Until the mid-19th century, the backs of playing cards were left blank by manufacturers, offering “a practical writing surface,” where scholars scribbled notes, says Blair. Playing cards “were frequently used as lottery tickets, marriage and death announcements, notepads, or business cards,” explains Markus Krajewski, the author of Paper Machines: About Cards and Catalogs.

      There was a Krajewski reference I couldn't figure out in the German piece on Zettelkasten that I read earlier today. Perhaps this is what was meant?

      These playing cards might also have been used as an idea of a waste book as well, and then someone decided to skip the commonplace book as an intermediary?

    2. Thomas Harrison, a 17th-century English inventor, devised the “ark of studies,” a small cabinet that allowed scholars to excerpt books and file their notes in a specific order. Readers would attach pieces of paper to metal hooks labeled by subject heading. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the German polymath and coinventor of calculus (with Isaac Newton), relied on Harrison’s cumbersome contraption in at least some of his research.

      Reference for this as well?

      Is this the same piece of library furniture that I've also recently read of Leibniz using?

    3. Many scholars, like the 17th-century chemist Robert Boyle, preferred to work on loose sheets of paper that could be collated, rearranged, and reshuffled, says Blair.

      Reference for this? Perhaps in the Ann Blair text cited in this piece?

    4. More than 1,000 of them, measuring five by three inches, are housed at London’s Linnean Society. Each contains notes about plants and material culled from books and other publications. While flimsier than heavy stock and cut by hand, they’re virtually indistinguishable from modern index cards.

      Information culled from other sources indicates they come from the commonplace book tradition. The index card-like nature becomes the interesting innovation here.

    1. Linnaeus had to manage a conflict between the need to bring information into a fixed order for purposes of later retrieval, and the need to permanently integrate new information into that order, says Mueller-Wille. “His solution to this dilemma was to keep information on particular subjects on separate sheets, which could be complemented and reshuffled,” he says.

      Carl Linnaeus created a method whereby he kept information on separate sheets of paper which could be reshuffled.

      In a commonplace-centric culture, this would have been a fascinating innovation.

      Did the cost of paper (velum) trigger part of the innovation to smaller pieces?

      Did the de-linearization of data imposed by codices (and previously parchment) open up the way people wrote and thought? Being able to lay out and reorder pages made a more 3 dimensional world. Would have potentially made the world more network-like?

      cross-reference McLuhan's idea about our tools shaping us.

    1. Dafür spricht das Credo des Literaten Walter Benjamin: Und heute schon ist das Buch, wie die aktuelle wissenschaftliche Produktionsweise lehrt, eine veraltete Vermittlung zwischen zwei verschiedenen Kartotheksystemen. Denn alles Wesentliche findet sich im Zettelkasten des Forschers, der's verfaßte, und der Gelehrte, der darin studiert, assimiliert es seiner eigenen Kartothek.

      The credo of the writer Walter Benjamin speaks for this:

      And today, as the current scientific method of production teaches, the book is an outdated mediation between two different card index systems. Because everything essential is to be found in the slip box of the researcher who wrote it, and the scholar who studies it assimilates it in his own card index.

      Here's an early instantiation of thoughts being put down into data which can be copied from one card to the next as a means of creation.

      A similar idea was held in the commonplace book tradition, in general, but this feels much more specific in the lead up to the idea of the Memex.

    2. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), der nicht nur angesehener Mathematiker und Philosoph war, sondern auch Bibliothekar der Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, soll sich eigens einen Karteischrank als Büchermöbel nach eigenen Vorstellungen haben bauen lassen.

      Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), who was not only a respected mathematician and philosopher, but also librarian at the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel, is said to have had a filing cabinet built for him as book furniture according to his own ideas.

      I'm curious to hear more about what this custom library furniture looked like? Could it have been the precursor to the modern-day filing cabinet?

      I can picture something like the recent photo I saw of Bob Hope amidst his commonplace book.

    3. Der Gelehrte griff bei der Wissensproduktion nur noch auf den flüchtigen Speicher der Exzerptsammlungen zurück, die die loci communes enthielten: die "Gemeinplätze", die wir auch heute sprichwörtlich noch so nennen. Gesner nannte diese Sammlungen "chartaceos libros", also Karteibücher. Er erfand ein eigenes Verfahren, mit dem die einzelnen Notate jederzeit derangierbar und damit auch neu arrangierbar waren, um der Informationsflut Rechnung zu tragen und ständig neue Einträge hinzugefügen zu können. "Du weißt, wie leicht es ist, Fakten zu sammeln, und wie schwer, sie zu ordnen", schrieb der Basler Gelehrte Caspar Wolf, der Herausgeber der Werke Gesners.

      For the production of knowledge, the scholar only resorted to the volatile memory of the excerpt collections, the [[loci communes]] contained: the "platitudes" that we still literally call that today. Gesner called these collections "chartaceos libros", that is, index books. He invented his own method with which the individual notes could be rearranged at any time and thus rearranged in order to take account of the flood of information and to be able to constantly add new entries. "You know how easy it is to collect facts and how difficult it is to organize them," wrote the Basel scholar [[Caspar Wolf]], editor of Gesner's works.

      Is this translation of platitudes correct/appropriate here? Maybe aphorisms or the Latin sententiae (written wisdom) are better?

      I'd like to look more closely at his method. Was he, like Jean Paul, using slips of paper which he could move around within a particular book? Perhaps the way one might move photos around in a photo album with tape/adhesive?

    4. war der Schweizer Humanist Conrad Gesner. Gesners Bibliotheca Universalis, die zwischen 1545 und 1548 in zwei Foliobänden mit jeweils über 1000 Seiten erschien, sollte alle Bücher verzeichnen, die seit Gutenberg erschienen waren.

      Swiss humanist Conrad Gesner. Gesner's Bibliotheca Universalis, which appeared between 1545 and 1548 in two folio volumes with over 1000 pages each, was supposed to list all the books that had appeared since Gutenberg.

      In Bibliotheca Universalis, Conrad Gesner collected a list that was supposed to list all the books which had appeared since Gutenberg's moveable type.

    5. als deren Meister sich sein Zeitgenosse Johann Jacob Moser (1701-1785) erwies. Die Verzettelungstechnik des schwäbischen Juristen und Schriftstellers ist ein nachdrücklicher Beleg dafür, wie man allein durch Umadressierung aus den Exzerpten alter Bücher neue machen kann. Seine auf über 500 Titel veranschlagte Publikationsliste hätte Moser nach eigenem Bekunden ohne das von ihm geschaffene Hilfsmittel nicht bewerkstelligen können. Moser war auch einer der ersten Theoretiker des Zettelkastens. Unter der Überschrift "Meine Art, Materialien zu künfftigen Schrifften zu sammlen" hat er selbst die Algorithmen beschrieben, mit deren Hilfe er seine "Zettelkästgen" füllte.

      the master of which his contemporary Johann Jacob Moser (1701-1785) proved to be. The technique used by the Swabian lawyer and writer to scramble is emphatic evidence of how you can turn excerpts from old books into new ones just by re-addressing them. According to his own admission, Moser would not have been able to manage his publication list, which is estimated at over 500 titles, without the aid he had created. Moser was also one of the first theorists of the card box. Under the heading "My way of collecting materials for future writings", he himself described the algorithms with which he filled his "card boxes".

      Johann Jacob Moser was a commonplace book keeper who referenced his system as a means of inventio. He wrote about how he collected material for future writing and described the ways in which he filled his "card boxes".

      I'm curious what his exact method was and if it could be called an early precursor of the zettelkasten?

    1. Revisiting this essay to review it in the framing of digital gardens.

      In a "gardens and streams" version of this metaphor, the stream is flow and the garden is stock.

      This also fits into a knowledge capture, growth, and innovation framing. The stream are small atomic ideas flowing by which may create new atomic ideas. These then need to be collected (in a garden) where they can be nurtured and grow into new things.

      Clippings of these new growth can be placed back into the stream to move on to other gardeners. Clever gardeners will also occasionally browse through the gardens of others to see bigger picture versions of how their gardens might become.

      Proper commonplacing is about both stock and flow. The unwritten rule is that one needs to link together ideas and expand them in places either within the commonplace or external to it: essays, papers, articles, books, or other larger structures which then become stock for others.

      While some creators appear to be about all stock in the modern era, it's just not true. They're consuming streams (flow) from other (perhaps richer) sources (like articles, books, television rather than social media) and building up their own stock in more private (or at least not public) places. Then they release that article, book, film, television show which becomes content stream for others.

      While we can choose to create public streams, but spending our time in other less information dense steams is less useful. Better is to keep a reasonably curated stream to see which other gardens to go visit.

      Currently is the online media space we have structures like microblogs and blogs (and most social media in general) which are reasonably good at creating streams (flow) and blogs, static sites, and wikis which are good for creating gardens (stock).

      What we're missing is a structure with the appropriate and attendant UI that can help us create both a garden and a stream simultaneously. It would be nice to have a wiki with a steam-like feed out for the smaller attendant ideas, but still allow the evolutionary building of bigger structures, which could also be placed into the stream at occasional times.

      I can imagine something like a MediaWiki with UI for placing small note-like ideas into other streams like Twitter, but which supports Webmention so that ideas that come back from Twitter or other consumers of one's stream can be placed into one's garden. Perhaps in a Zettelkasten like way, one could collect atomic notes into their wiki and then transclude those ideas into larger paragraphs and essays within the same wiki on other pages which might then become articles, books, videos, audio, etc.

      Obsidian, Roam Research do a somewhat reasonable job on the private side and have some facility for collecting data, but have no UI for sharing out into streams.

    2. Where does this idea fit into the historical concept of the commonplace book?

    1. For the past thirty-some years, Rivers has been filing each and every joke she's written (at this point she's amassed over a million) in a library-esque card cabinet housed in her Upper East Side apartment. The jokes—most typed up on three-by-five cards—are meticulously arranged by subject, which Rivers admits is the hardest part of organizing: "Does this one go under ugly or does it go under dumb?"

      Joan Rivers kept a Zettelkasten of jokes in her Upper East Side apartment. They spanned over thirty years and over a million items, most of them typed on 3"x5" index cards and carefully arranged by subject.

    1. The Joke File has been scanned into an internal database that is accessible on-site in both the Recorded Sound and Moving Image Research Centers.

      Bob Hope's commonplace book of jokes has been scanned digitally and available at the United States Library of Congress.

    1. https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/bobhope/images/vcjokes1.jpg Annie Leibovitz. Bob Hope in his joke vault. Photograph, July 17, 1995. Courtesy of Annie Leibovitz

      Bob Hope amidst his commonplace book of jokes.

    2. The jokes included in the final script, as well as jokes not used, were categorized by subject matter and filed in cabinets in a fire- and theft-proof walk-in vault in an office next to his residence in North Hollywood, California. Bob Hope could then consult this “Joke File,” his personal cache of comedy, to create monologs for live appearances or television and radio programs. The complete Bob Hope Joke File—more than 85,000 pages—has been digitally scanned and indexed according to the categories used by Bob Hope for presentation in the Bob Hope Gallery of American Entertainment.

      Bob Hope's joke file of over 85,000 pages represents a massive commonplace book of comedy.

    1. A description of how George Carlin collected material for his comedy. No discussion of how he further worked on or refined it.

    2. “It certainly makes me want to improve my own record-keeping and organization,” he says. “I think there’s a lot people can learn not just about building a comedy routine but about approaching mortality honestly. There’s a real sense of impermanence in all of what he saved.”

      This links together the ideas of memory, commonplace books, and mortality.

      This also underlines the idea that commonplaces could be very specific to their creators.

    3. Over time, Carlin formalized that system: paper scraps with words or phrases would each receive a category, usually noted in a different color at the top of the paper, and then periodically those scraps would be gathered into plastic bags by category, and then those bags would go into file folders. Though he would later begin using a computer to keep track of those ideas, the basic principle of find-ability remained. “That’s how he built this collection of independent ideas that he was able to cross-reference and start to build larger routines from,” Heftel explains.

      George Carlin's process of collecting and collating his material. His plastic bags by category were similar to the concept of waste books to quickly collect information (similar to the idea of fleeting notes). He later placed them into file folders (an iteration on the Zettelkasten using file folders of papers instead of index cards).

    4. Seeing how his system worked is enough to inspire anyone not to let thoughts go to waste, notes Carlin estate archivist Logan Heftel. “A good idea,” Heftel says Carlin learned early, “is not of any use if you can’t find it.”
    1. In some sense, this very blog is a system for me to find out what I have: I take material from my notebooks and turn it into blog posts, and the posts become tags, which become book chapters, etc.
    2. Like William Blake said, you either create your own system or get enslaved by another’s.

      Interesting quote (direct attribution?) particularly within the context of commonplace books.

    3. I read that Brian Eno does something similar: he makes a tremendous amount of music, and then hits shuffle when he’s answering email, etc., and whatever catches his ear, he investigates.
    4. Chris Ballew, aka Caspar Babypants, aka the lead singer and songwriter for The Presidents of the United States of America, says he dumps all his raw song ideas into an iTunes playlist and then puts it on shuffle while he’s washing dishes.
    5. On Twitter the other day I saw someone point out that the longer you listen to Song Exploder, the more you discover that the Voice Memos app on the iPhone has probably had more of an impact on songwriting than any other piece of software. But recording things in Voice Memos is just one step. The next is listening back to things, finding diamonds in the rough.

      Voice recorder as a note taking device, particularly within the realm of music. A music commonplace.

    6. No matter what you make, if you produce a lot every day, you need some sort of system for going back and figuring out what you have.

      The purpose of a commonplace book.

    7. George Carlin’s file folders These filing systems are all analog examples, but one of my heroes, George Carlin, embraced an analog/digital system: I take a lot of single-page notes, little memo pad notes. I make a lot of notes on those things. For when I’m not near a little memo pad, I have a digital recorder… When I harvest the pieces of paper and I go through them and sort them, the one lucky thing I got in my genetic package was a great methodical left brain. I have a very orderly mind that wants to classify and index things and label them and store them according to that. I had a boss in radio when I was 18 years old, and my boss told me to write down every idea I get even if I can’t use it at the time, and then file it away and have a system for filing it away—because a good idea is of no use to you unless you can find it….[In my filing system there are files for all kinds of subjects] but then there are subfiles. Everything has subfiles….It’s like nested boxes, like the Russian dolls—it’s just folders within folders within folders. But I know how to navigate it very well, and I’m a Macintosh a guy and so Spotlight helps me a lot. I just get on Spotlight and say, let’s see, if I say “asshole” and “minister,” I then can find what I want find. “A lot of this,” Carlin said, “is discovery. A lot of things are lying around waiting to be discovered and that’s our job is to just notice them and bring them to life.”

      George Carlin's file system for jokes and ideas.

    8. He even kept “indexes to indexes,” as Robert D. Richardson describes in his wonderful biography, Emerson: The Mind on Fire: Indexing was a crucial method for Emerson because it allowed him to write first and organize later and because it gave him easy access to the enormous mass of specific materials in his ever-increasing pile of notebooks… Emerson spent a good deal of time methodically copying and recopying journal material, indexing, alphabetizing indexes, and eventually making indexes of indexes. When he came to write a lecture, he would work through his indexes, making a list of possible passages. He then assembled, ordered, and reordered these into the talk or lecture.
    9. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the man who encouraged his friend Thoreau to start a journal and the man who had the most success with the journal > lecture > essay > book method, kept elaborate notebooks just for indexing his other notebooks.
    10. get down daily thoughts and mine them for material for larger pieces

      this is the general pattern for commonplace books and zettelkasten

    1. <small><cite class='h-cite via'> <span class='p-author h-card'>Alan Jacobs</span> in the blog garden – Snakes and Ladders (<time class='dt-published'>07/01/2021 09:15:23</time>)</cite></small>

    2. Alan Jacobs seems to be delving into the area of thought spaces provided by blogs and blogging.

      In my view, they come out of a cultural tradition of commonplace books becoming digital and more social in the the modern era. Jacobs is obviously aware of the idea of Zettelkasten, but possibly hasn't come across the Sonke Ahrens' book on smart notes or the conceptualization of the "digital garden" stemming from Mike Caulfield's work.

      He's also acquainted with Robin Sloane, though it's unclear if he's aware of the idea of Stock and Flow.

    3. Blogging, I want to argue, is a seasoned technology that is ripe for lateral thinking.
  4. Jun 2021
    1. For example, the Wikipedia article on Martin Luther King, Jr cites the book To Redeem the Soul of America, by Adam Fairclough. That citation now links directly to page 299 inside the digital version of the book provided by the Internet Archive. There are 66 cited and linked books on that article alone. 

      I'd love to have a commonplace book robot that would do this sort of linking process within it for me. In the meanwhile, I continue to plod along.

      This article was referenced today at [[I Annotate 2021]] by [[Mark Graham]].

    1. This is awesome and moves a bit closer in functionality for how one might use the platform as a commonplace book. Not sure how it's different to the main search except that it's geared toward smaller groups rather than the public timeline which is too large to view.

      My first impressions:

      • It doesn't seem to show within Firefox.
      • It overloads in the Public timeline

      via: Michael mention at IAnno21

    2. This page needs to have some of the plugins for note taking added to it. Many are listed on Github. Circle back to this with a list of additions.

    1. These markings sometimes shed light on the story of how a work was made or received. Researchers can understand more about the creative process, opinions and musings of people throughout the centuries by understanding these historical markings that are often, literally and figuratively, in the margins.

      In addition to looking in the margins, one must also look at contemporaneous copies of both printed and privately held (or collected) commonplace books to cast a wider net on these practices.

    1. Too many “Digital Gardens” end up as not much more than a record of someone dicking around with their note-taking workflow for a couple of months.

      I've seen this pattern. I suspect some of the issue is having a clean, useful user interface for actually using the thing instead of spending time setting it up and tweaking it.

    1. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.

      His definition of a Memex is simply a mechanized (or what we would now call digitized) commonplace book, which has a long history in the literature of knowledge management.


      I'll note here that he's somehow still stuck on the mechanical engineering idea of mechanized. Despite the fact that he was the advisor to Claude Shannon, father of the digital revolution, he is still thinking in terms of mechanical pipes, levers, and fluids. He literally had Shannon building a computer out of pipes and fluid while he was a student at MIT.

    1. The author argued that you didn’t truly own a book (spiritually, intellectually) until you had marked it up.

      sentiment from “How to Read a Book.”

      Pull out the original quote of this.


      Note also that [[Mortimer J. Adler]] is saying this in a time period where books are far cheaper than in the past. An author from a few generations prior would have indicated that the quotes and marginalia should have gone in one's commonplace book.

    1. "In the event of a fire, the black-bound excerpts are to be saved first," instructed the poet Jean Paul to his wife before setting off on a trip in 1812.

      Writer Jean Paul on the importance of his Zettelkasten.

    1. Reflecting on how new digital tools have re-invigorated annotation and contributed to the creation of their recent book, they suggest annotation presents a vital means by which academics can re-engage with each other and the wider world.

      I've been seeing some of this in the digital gardening space online. People are actively hosting their annotations, thoughts, and ideas, almost as personal wikis.

      Some are using RSS and other feeds as well as Webmention notifications so that these notebooks can communicate with each other in a realization of Vanmevar Bush's dream.

      Networked academic samizdat anyone?

  5. May 2021
    1. Gwern.net was one of the earliest and most consistent gardeners to offer meta-reflections on their work. Each entry comes with:topic tagsstart and end datea stage tag: draft, in progress, or finisheda certainty tag: impossible, unlikely, certain, etc.1-10 importance tagThese are all explained in their website guide, which is worth reading if you're designing your own epistemological system.
    2. In performance-blog-land you do that thinking and researching privately, then shove it out at the final moment. A grand flourish that hides the process.

      This generally doesn't happen with IndieWeb-based sites where one often publishes all the smaller tidbits along the way and intersperses them with the longer articles.

      Of course, not everyone here necessarily publishes everything publicly either.

    1. he is focusing on the tensions that what he read causes with other things he knows and has read. He’s not just lifting things out that chime with him, but the things that cause friction. Because in that friction lies the potential of learning.

      Dissonance of juxtaposed ideas, and particularly those just at the edge of chaos, can be some of the most fruitful places for learning.

      Attempting to resolve these frictions can generate new knowledge.

      This is what commonplace books are meant to do. Record this knowledge, allow one to juxtapose, and to think and write into new spaces.

      It's also important to look more closely at things that don't cause dissonance. Is it general wisdom that makes them true or seem true? Question the assumptions underneath them. Where do they come from? Why do they seem comfortable? How could one make them uncomfortable. Questioning assumptions can lead to new pathways.

      An example of this is the questioning the final assumption of Euclid (the "ugly" one) which led mathematicians into different geometry systems.

    1. Your new home on the web

      Understory is a digital garden, a micro-publishing space for you to plant the seeds of your ideas and grow them into bi-directionally linked web portals.

      via IndieWeb Chat

    1. MMScotofGlasgow

      @MMScotofGlasgow, Hopefully it's not too late...

      Francis Yates discusses Petrus Ramus as an educational reformer in Chapter 10 and onward in The Art of Memory. There she outlines Ramus' crusade against images (based in part on the admonition from 4 Deuteronomy about graven images) and on their prurient use (sex, violence, etc.) which were meant to make things more memorable. Ramism caught on in the late 1500's and essentially removed memory by the root from the subject of rhetoric of which it had been an integral part. Ramus felt that structure and rote memorization would suffice in its stead. As a result the method of loci decreased in prominence in schools and disappeared from the scene based on educational reform which was primarily pushed by Huguenot/Protestants. I've not read anywhere that the practice was ever banned, it just fell out of fashion due to these reforms.

      I'm sure it didn't help that printed books became ever cheaper during/after this time and so the prior need to memorize for those reasons wasn't helped either.

      I'm sure another confounding factor was Erasmus' Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style (1512) which dramatically popularized the keeping and use of commonplace books by the learned and literate. These became a regular place in which people collected and kept their thoughts and ideas rather than memorizing them as they may have done in the past.

  6. commonplace.knowledgefutures.org commonplace.knowledgefutures.org
    1. This almost appears to be a small, community-based commonplace book.

      And apparently published on PubPub.

      <small><cite class='h-cite via'> <span class='p-author h-card'>Samuel Klein</span> in Samuel Klein on Twitter: "@flancian See also https://t.co/KMmU7pDuQx" / Twitter (<time class='dt-published'>05/18/2021 19:30:42</time>)</cite></small>

    1. One of the toughest parts of note taking systems can be moving from one to another, particularly digital ones, as the technical overhead is almost never easy and typically requires a huge amount of work. Wouter's description here may seem facile, but I'm sure it wasn't simple, not to mention the fact that he's got more facility with coding than the average person ever will.

      I do like the idea of basic text or markdown files that can be used in a variety of settings with relatively easy wiki mark up.

      Of the systems I've seen, this seems to be the most portable format, but it also requires software that supports it at the base level, but which still provides search and other useful functionalities.

    1. A relatively comprehensive view of Wouter Groeneveld's commonplacing workflow. There are a few bits missing here and there, but he's got most of the bigger basics down that a majority of people seem to have found and discovered.

      He's got a strong concept of indexing, search, and even some review, which many miss. There's some organic work toward combinatorial thought, but only via the search piece.

      I should make a list of the important pieces for more advanced versions to have. I've yet to see any articles or work on this.

    2. My wife taught me to add some color after some pages are filled and the more I do that, the more I like browsing through the journal. Watercolor is still too heavy for most notebooks and I don’t bother to bring colored pencils on location. That’s a relaxing activity to do at home.

      Color also adds creativity and additional loci to one's pages which also can help to make them more memorable.

    3. It does take a while to look at the scanned image to figure out where exactly I placed that particular piece of information - that’s one downside of the system. But as I journal “organically”, meaning putting everything in the same place from pictures to drawings, my brain can find what I need on the scan pretty quickly, compared to pages full of text between lines.

      This may not be as bad a thing as needing to reread a short section is also good for creating context of the original note as well as review for memory and retention.

    4. “but I how will I be able to find stuff later on?”. Good question we’ll answer later. A part of the answer is simply by re-reading. If you don’t re-read what you’ve written, nothing will ever happen with it. So, if you intent to simply write down thoughts in order to feel a temporary moment of relief, fine. But if you intent to change your life, that won’t suffice.

      One needs to re-read and reprocess things from time to time. This is a part of the combinatorial creativity that having notes is for.

      This is reminiscent of the CAA addage: "If you read something and then don't tell anyone about it, you may as well not have read it in the first place."

    1. My website is adactio.com. I love my website. Even though it isn’t a physical thing, I think it might be my most prized possession. It’s a place for me to think and a place for me to link.

      a stark statement to make about one's website

    1. For almost a decade from ~1988 I kept my reading & research commonplace book in Persoft's IZE, a DOS textbase -- orphaned all too soon -- that did simple but very useful things with keywords presented in an indented hierarchy. The more entries and keywords I gave it, the more the hierarchies took on increasingly interesting and suggestive sequences; i.e. they looked more like *outlines.* IZE seemed to understand the content of the passages.

      Noting that the idea of commonplace book appears here in the comments.

    2. The other thing that would be fascinating would be to open up these personal libraries to the external world. That would be a lovely combination of old-fashioned book-based wisdom, advanced semantic search technology, and the personality-driven filters that we've come to enjoy in the blogosphere. I can imagine someone sitting down to write an article about complexity theory and the web, and saying, "I bet Johnson's got some good material on this in his 'library.'" (You wouldn't be able to pull down the entire database, just query it, so there wouldn't be any potential for intellectual property abuse.) I can imagine saying to myself: "I have to write this essay on taxonomies, so I'd better sift through Weinberger's library, and that chapter about power laws won't be complete without a visit to Shirky's database."

      He's got a nice conceptualization here of a networked version of commonplace books for search and creation for one's own commonplace book.

    3. So the proper unit for this kind of exploratory, semantic search is not the file, but rather something else, something I don't quite have a word for: a chunk or cluster of text, something close to those little quotes that I've assembled in DevonThink. If I have an eBook of Manual DeLanda's on my hard drive, and I search for "urban ecosystem" I don't want the software to tell me that an entire book is related to my query. I want the software to tell me that these five separate paragraphs from this book are relevant. Until the tools can break out those smaller units on their own, I'll still be assembling my research library by hand in DevonThink.

      Search on documents returning something in the neighborhood of 500 words or so seems to be the right amount of information. One wants a few paragraphs related to an idea and not an entire book which takes longer to scan.

      Google search does this type of search and it's also what Google Books attempts to do as well when searching specifically there.

    4. Over the past few years of working with this approach, I've learned a few key principles. The system works for three reasons: 1) The DevonThink software does a great job at making semantic connections between documents based on word frequency. 2) I have pre-filtered the results by selecting quotes that interest me, and by archiving my own prose. The signal-to-noise ratio is so high because I've eliminated 99% of the noise on my own. 3) Most of the entries are in a sweet spot where length is concerned: between 50 and 500 words. If I had whole eBooks in there, instead of little clips of text, the tool would be useless.

      Stephen Johnson describes the reasons he thinks his DevonThink writing process works with semantic search.

    1. Compare that to the traditional way of exploring your files, where the computer is like a dutiful, but dumb, butler: "Find me that document about the chimpanzees!" That's searching. The other feels different, so different that we don't quite have a verb for it: it's riffing, or brainstorming, or exploring. There are false starts and red herrings, to be sure, but there are just as many happy accidents and unexpected discoveries. Indeed, the fuzziness of the results is part of what makes the software so powerful.

      What is the best word/verb for this sort of pseudo-searching via word or idea association for generating new ideas?

      I've used the related phrase combinatorial thought before, but he's also using the idea of artificial intelligence to search/find and juxtapose these ideas.

    2. But I'm not at all confident I would have made the initial connection without the help of the software. The idea was a true collaboration, two very different kinds of intelligence playing off each other, one carbon-based, the other silicon.

      Stephen Johnson uses the word collaboration to describe his interaction with his own notes in DevonThink, much the way Niklas Luhmann describes with working with his Zettlekasten.

      I'll also note that here in 2005, Johnson doesn't mention the idea of a commonplace book the way he does just a few years later.

    1. An interesting take from a significant modern researcher/writer about commonplaces in the digital era. He's particularly enamoured of the fact that Evernote dovetails with Google searches to show details from his own notebooks which he's saved in the past.

      Search in commonplace books is definitely a must have feature.

    1. The top starts out with some interesting articles in the past two decades and then delves into the writer's personal use of Evernote to create his digital commonplace book.

      Mildly interesting as a particular example.

    2. (dig into his process at his personal site
    1. As the erudite Samuel Hartlib explained in 1641, “Zwinger made his excerpta by being using [sic] of old books and tearing whole leaves out of them, otherwise it had beene impossible to have written so much if every thing should have beene written or copied out.”

      And to think of how I complain about how hard it is to excerpt notes from sources and get them into my own personal commonplace book?!

      Makes me wonder who the inventor of the first cut and paste was?

    2. 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

    3. Jesuit manuals such as Jeremias Drexel’s Aurifodina, subtitled The Mine of All Arts and Sciences, or the Habit of Excerpting, explained how to best take notes from reading to create commonplace books: personal notebooks of reading extracts that contained the religious, ethical, and political maxims deemed necessary to lead a good life. There were even admonitions about which texts not to read and how not to fold page corners or to mark texts with fingernail scratches.

      Fascinating to see that practices like folding page corners and marking texts are far from new.

    4. Ulisse Aldrovandi, the great Bolognese natural philosopher and collector of specimens (such as the large lizards that adorn his university library museum), wrote four hundred volumes of manuscript notes. Joachim Jungius, a German professor of mathematics, medicine, logic, and natural philosophy, was famous for having produced an estimated 150,000 pages of notes. But as Blair makes clear, the vast collections of scientific notes were not simply the mad scratchings of obsessive pedants. Commonplace notes comprised the data for internationally successful scientific works, such as Jean Bodin’s Universae naturae theatrum.

      Examples of significant collections of notes.

    5. To extract knowledge successfully from reading was to “deflower” a book, as explained by the preface to the twelfth-century Libri deflorationum.

      Libri deflorationum

    6. Blair’s previous work demonstrated that the practices of literary reading and writing were central to the rise of scientific method. Focusing on the lawyer and scientist Jean Bodin in the sixteenth century, she meticulously examined how Bodin collected commonplace reading notes and then stored and analyzed them as scientific evidence.

      I really do need to create a historical timeline for commonplace books already.

      Georg Christoph Lichtenberg also did this in the late 1700's and became famous for it after his death and the publication of his Waste Books. Worth looking into who his influences may have been?

    1. That’s not the only inversion that blogging entails. When it comes to a (my) blogging method for writing longer, more synthetic work, the traditional relationship between research and writing is reversed. Traditionally, a writer identifies a subject of interest and researches it, then writes about it. In the (my) blogging method, the writer blogs about everything that seems interesting, until a subject gels out of all of those disparate, short pieces.Blogging isn’t just a way to organize your research — it’s a way to do research for a book or essay or story or speech you don’t even know you want to write yet. It’s a way to discover what your future books and essays and stories and speeches will be about.

      This is also roughly the way that zettelkasten and commonplace books have worked for centuries.

      This passage is an excellent reason for "why" to keep one, which few sources I've seen bother to mention.

    2. The auctorial equivalent to the artist’s sketchbook is the “commonplace book,” which can contain everything from newspaper clippings to grocery lists to attempts to capture those inspirational bolts out of the blue.

      This is a great analogy for a commonplace book

    1. Two hundred years later, Blumenberg’s note cards, each of them number-stamped by him and thus carrying along a trace of their temporal order of origin, could be moved and rearranged continuously in ways that weren’t open to the entries confined to the bound pages of Lichtenberg’s books. Blumenberg relied on the new connections and constellations generated within his Zettelkasten throughout his life as a writer.

      Another major example of a significant zettelkasten.

    2. “If only I had channels in my head,” Lichtenberg had fantasized, “so as to promote domestic trade between the stockpiles of my thought! But alas, there they lie by the hundreds without being of use to one another.”

      A fascinating quote in the history of the commonplace book on it's way to becoming the Memex.