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Working with the door open
Why I’m making my notebook public
I don’t really know what I think about something until I’ve written it down. Something about the process of putting pen to paper, keystroke to screen, forces me to put the jumble of thoughts in my head into some sort of logical order and make sense.
I’ve got notebooks full of scratchings on my shelves, but navigating and developing them is tricky. My notes were always just a way to help myself see what I was thinking at any one particular time, rather than a resource for the future.
Three months ago I decided to change the way I was collecting my notes, putting them all into one electronic database accessible to me from anywhere across the web in a way that would make them more usable for my future-self; today I’ve decided to make those notes public.
This is what I call ‘working with the door open’. I’m gonna be here, typing away, but I’m also gonna let people wander in and chat about what I’m doing and what they think of it.
Now, this is not because my notes are finished. It’s not because I think they are any good. In fact, my reasons for making my notebook public is the opposite: I want my notes to be better for me.
If I feel like I’m writing for an audience then it is more likely I will put some effort into what I making and the notes will be better as a result. That’s good for me, because it makes my notes more useful to the only audience that really matters: my future-self. If I write notes designed for anyone to understand, then it’s more likely that my future-self will understand as well.
The Mind Forest
My notes are based around the metaphor of a Mind Forest. I take notes on ideas initially as seeds. At this stage, they might be just stubs or suggestions of something else. But as I revisit the notes in the forest using a spaced repetition system I have built into it behind the scenes, some of those ideas will germinate into saplings. As these saplings grow, they become intertwined with each other through links and backlinks, like a tree’s root become intertwined with the roots of the rest of the forest. There might only be a couple of my notes that make it to the status of ‘oaks’, which are strong enough to stand out from the rest of the trees, but over time I hope that standard of notes will grow.
Each note is intended to be ‘atomic’ — meaning it can be read on its own as a single unit of understanding — but just like a real forest, I want the growth of ideas to be natural. The growth is more important than the structure. As such, there might be a few cankers that need tending. Also, there’s bound to be a lot of weeds. I’ve decided that is OK. This is a living forest, not a plantation. Who knows what discoveries might be found in amongst the deadwood?
So, here it is. My Mind Forest. Come on in: