My daily readings 03/28/2013

  • tags: annotation

    • The point of this blog post is not to argue against Mr. Andreessen’s thesis – especially since, its undoubtedly true – but rather, to take a look at a smaller trend that falls within his broader argument: in the coming years a number of successful startups will appear to be hardware companies (particularly in the eyes of consumers).
    • Given all this, why are we on the verge of a Hardware Renaissance?  I think the broad trends are well understood and include: the rise of low cost Asian manufacturing, the movement towards universal smartphone penetration (as smartphones will often be the “brain”) and the ability to quickly and easily update hardware over-the-air.
    • In conclusion, software is eating the world but often that software is going to come packaged in beautiful, low cost and/or simple hardware.


      Feel free to post comments & questions below or message me on twitter (@RussSamuels)

    • Here’s a nice, little-known gem I came across during a recent bout of outliner searching:


      ThinkSheet (developed during the 90’s by Richard Marriott)



      Although developed especially for special learning needs, the program turns out to be surprisingly powerful. It integrates rearrangeable notecards, mind mapping, and outlining (through sub-notecards). It can import an existing RTF document (it will just make each paragraph into a separate card), and it can export to a word processor. It’s pretty cool and appears to be well-designed. And you can use it for free for 180 days!


      Incidentally, I also came across a fascinating article about outlining and the writing process by the developer of the unfortunately no-longer-available SuperText. Here’s the citation:


      “A Writing Support Tool with Multiple Views”
       J. Barrow
       Computers and the Humanities, Vol. 31, No. 1 (1997), pp. 13-30


      I posted the full text here:

      • The author of the paper who also created the application, seems to think that there are three “steps” or “stages” of writing, namely

        1. note-taking, which represents “a completely unorganised set of ideas” and notes
        2. Connecting and Hierarchical Ordering, or
        3. networking, and
        4. outlining
        5. the final, linearised, paper-based document.[2]

        It is important to understand that he does not think that these “steps” or “stages” occur necessarily in strict or dstinct temporal sequence. Writers may “cycle” through several iterations of these processes at different times.

    • Whatever may have been the limitations of representations in 1997, they no longer need to constrain us. A personal wiki, like ConnectedText, is very adept at expressing or capturing associations between ideas in a network.[4] The resulting network does notneed to be linearized, but it can be in a special topic or, preferably, in the outliner (with now also includes hoisting).
    • It therefore appears to me that ConnectedText accomplishes better today what SuperText was intended to accomplish in 1997.
    • 5. I should perhaps also point out that the thread in which the reference to the paper is found concerns ThinkSheet, which is an interesting application in its own right.
    • I do think that there is at least one thing that any writing application designed to support multidimensional writing should support, and that is the integration of note-taking and writing. The more this is supported the better. Another thing that is required is that you should be able to view the text from many different perspectives. This is something that Scrivener does quite well, while Ulysses does not do it quite so well. But even Scrivener does not even come close to the kind of integration that a Wiki like ConnectedText provides—at least for me
    • 1. Unless we are talking about “spontaneous” or stream of consciousness writing, which may have a use (even if I have never found it useful for myself). 
       2. Hence the over-abundance of “simple” writing applications. Whether “getting out of the way” is enough is, of course, another questions. I don’t think it is. 
       3. See also this post which emphasizes the necessity of being able to view the written text from different perspectives.
    • Detach yourself emotionally from the work
      The best editor has no emotional attachment to the work, which is hard when you self-edit. You’ll need to be objective. Sometimes when you write an early draft, you write a sentence or a paragraph that you quite nearly fall in love with. Later, you might realize it is not needed, but since it is your own work, it is hard to delete it. This is also a reason to not edit while you write. You might put an hour into something that later has to be cut, and this investment of time makes it even harder to do.
      • Detach yourself emotionally is also important when in meeting and oral discussion. 
    • Linear note-taking is a technique where you take notes sequentially in an outline format (tree structure). In physical mediums, such as paper, you have to make an outline (roughly at least) before taking notes in detail since it is difficult to change the outline structure later. So if you want to create a large document, you need to combine linear and non-linear note-taking (free mapping), and evolve the document by rewriting the whole thing iteratively.
    • This kind of note-taking software is typically called an ‘outliner’. Its more visual and free-formed alternative – mind mapping, has also grown popular among note-taking techniques. The common feature of these techniques is that they let you to take tree-structured notes in a top-down manner.
    • In a tree structure, everything should be well sorted and organized, otherwise you could not find the information you need and when you need it. However, in reality, as the amount and variety of information grows, it becomes more and more difficult to maintain the consistency of the structure and you would end up not organizing it anymore.


      As you all know, the technology that has totally changed the situation was search engines. With an effective search engine, you can access the needed piece of information whenever you want as long as you put the whole data into a place where the search engine can access it. This has changed personal information management to a large extent. I believe many of you stopped sorting your emails out when Gmail was introduced, and more generally, manage your information in a personal database such as Evernote.

    • These technologies have been gradually changing the role of “tree and top-down” so that it is utilized in more limited cases. For example, as a routine, people save incoming daily information to their personal database without sorting it out, and when they want to consider or investigate a certain topic, they search their database for related pieces of information which will become the ingredients of outcome cooked with “tree and top-down” or non-linear note-taking techniques.
      • Search + outliner 
    • That is human creativity.


      What the traditional note-taking has focused on is, as I mentioned above, extending human memory and efficiently grasping the outline of existing knowledge. But the most important (and interesting) part of intellectual production activities would be the process of discovering unknown concepts from a vast sea of information, not following existing knowledge (yes, it’s still important though).

      • However, can search helps to discover the serendipity?  How about use wiki and outliner together to connect them? Discover the connection?   
    • At the beginning, no remarkable structures are visible. But as the number of the fragments grow and you repeatedly review and shuffle them in the various views,




      you discover an unexpected commonality across several fragments and create a new fragment representing the commonality:

      • Is search the best way to shuffle?  Review, connect and form new knowledge?
    • Then, after commonality fragments accumulate to some extent, you pick one that feels important to you and turn it into a tag,




      which distinguishes the fragment from others as a concept and provides you with a more useful base to build knowledge of the newborn concept.

      • Tag is created as concept after case, not at the time you create the knowledge fragment. This is the key difference. 
    • That’s a brief introduction to the bottom-up note-taking in Piggydb.


      With only “tree and top-down” and a remember-everything-type-of-database, it would not be easy for you to doubt the structure/premises behind the topic you have selected in the first place. These techniques would be good enough to grasp the structure of the cave you are exploring, but not suitable for searching for hidden treasures.


      • Tree and outliner is good for curating and presentation.  Remember everything is good for self-use. 
      • Characteristics of Critical Thinkers


        • They are honest with themselves
        • They resist manipulation
        • They overcome confusion
        • They ask questions
        • They base judgments on evidence
        • They look for connections between subjects
        • They are intellectually independent

          Text adapted with permission from The Department of History’s Study Skills booklets.

      • When you first come to University you may be a little shocked at the amount of reading that is required of you, usually in a short period of time. The important thing is not to get bogged down and feel overwhelmed by the material. You can avoid this by:


        • selecting your reading material wisely
        • keeping your purpose in mind as you read
        • using different reading styles
        • taking short breaks periodically


        This section will introduce you to some different reading styles, and how to use them.

      • Skeleton Prose


        This is the most common form of note taking. Notes are structured as a sequence of numbered points and paragraphs, with headings and indentations – a little like an essay plan. This is useful for those books/articles where arguments are static and built up slowly and sequentially. However they can have drawbacks:


        • They are difficult to add to or amend
        • They do not indicate the relationship or connection between different parts of the argument
        • It is more tempting to copy sentences/passages verbatim
        • People ask to borrow them!
      • Cornell Note Taking System


        This method of note taking was devised for students at Cornell University in the USA, and has been publicised through Walter Pauk’s books on study skills for University education.


        It is a structured, common-sense way of ensuring that you take clear notes, engage with them actively, and have clear material from which to revise.


        • This format is often suggested to students who need to produce summaries of key ideas
        • It is particularly useful for taking notes from lectures
        • It ensures that you actively engage with the material, and aids recall
        • It can be very useful when it comes to preparing and revising for exams
      • Spidergrams, Mind Maps and Concept Maps


        Spidergrams, Mind Maps and Concept Maps are all terms for a similar means of presenting and connecting ideas in a diagrammatical, non-linear form.


        To create a mind map, start in the centre of a page with an idea or heading representing your main idea or central theme. You then create branches out from the central idea, each branch representing a sub-theme. Each sub-theme can then be subdivided, as appropriate.


        This technique has a number of advantages:


        • It enables you to see a large amount of information/thought processing on one page
        • Your central idea is clearly stated in the middle of the page
        • You can show connections between key concepts
        • Additional information can be added easily
        • The open ended nature of the pattern means that you may be able to make new connections
    • Some students find mind maps difficult to use in lectures, when they are unsure of the structure of the lecture in advance. You might find this format more useful when you are reviewing or summarising your lecture notes, or when you are taking notes from written materials. Mind maps can also help you brainstorm and organise your ideas about an essay topic.
    • A mind map consists of a central idea or topic from which sub-topics radiate out. It’s similar to an outline, but due to its non-linear nature it allows the thought process to expand without confinement. This method is excellent for developing ideas and works wonders for everything from organizing class and research notes to planning your spring break.
    • Another truly useful concept in note-taking and organization is the wiki. The idea behind a wiki is to have keywords within context link to definitions or related information (e.g. Wikipedia). It’s a miniature, self-contained version of the web, with hyperlinks ensuring that everything is defined and associated with appropriate content. When used as a note-taking device, it allows for non-linear thought by letting tangents become their own pages.
    • They’re not as ideal for organizing and outlining a structured writing project, but they’re great for collecting and organizing information in an intuitive manner.
    • I’d be interested in tools helping to organize thoughts and ideas, especially in a non-linear way (i.e. not as most existing note taking tools, working with lists and bullets, but rather as a post-it application). Ideally, something like the tool they use in Minority Reports would be cool (without the fancy-touch thingy), but an important point would be the ability to visually connect different ideas/notes together.


      EDIT: Maybe to make things more explicit, I have a visual memory, and it helps me a lot having a graphical disposition to classify things (like important things at the top-right, urgent ones on the middle-left, etc). Basically, I’d like to find my messy desk on my screen 🙂

    • For nice graphical note editing/drawing:


      If you get the hang on it, you probably could use


      Your notes would look great, and you can always zoom in and out, if you want to add details.


      For sharing your notes everywhere (web/smartphone):

      • Presentation is very important kind of output of collecting and curation. 

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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