Weeks ago, I wrote a number of posts about my quest for a personal knowledge system. (See my tag, Knowledge systems.) I’ve continued to think about this, and I’ve conducted a few more experiments. Today I want to unpack my thoughts about using a physical system.
I started into this quest with an open mind. Any physical system—slips of paper, note cards, etc.—will not have the features of a digital system. When thinking about “features” I’m imagining what that feature enables, if anything. So both types (physical/digital) capture data, but the digital system is easily searched, and so on. My thinking was that the digital system (there are actually several) had all of the features of the physical system, and I’d steered towards digital.
One misconception about digital is that it is more durable. I contend that physical slips, (3×5 cards, etc.,) are more durable. Nothing short of theft or a catastrophic fire endangers them. Digital, on the other hand I don’t trust at all—I know enough about how things really work, and I’ve seen enough problems in my 25+ years in tech. But I’d thought, “the digital system is the enemy I know,” and I thought I’d be willing to invest the extra effort needed to maintain the digital system. (Yes, I believe the digital system is more effort to protect and maintain.)
But I think the deal breaker on the digital side is a missing feature of the physical system: The ability to hold many notes in view at once. In a digital system, I’m limited by my display space. In a physical system, I can cover my desk, a table, the entire floor even, (I’ve done it,) with notes and sweep over it quickly. Short of a touch screen the size of my desktop, (have you seen the touch-wall in Minority Report? …jealous,) any digital system will fall short on this feature.
I’m left with one feature missing in a physical system: How to capture URLs. How do I capture links to resources on the Internet? I have an idea about that…