Data Infant

It's not a clinical condition, but I obsessively take notes – on paper and digital – every day.

After doodling through 65 pocket notebooks and amassing over 5000 separate digital notes in the last seven years, I sadly conclude that it was mostly for nil.

some of my travel notebooks

I invested hundreds of hours in this personal knowledge dump, but when it comes down to it I search and reference mostly elsewhere. I kept on doing this work to capture my innermost thoughts and feelings to, at some later point, express and share them with others. Now I look from a distance: it was hoarding.

I have grown, but my digital self is mostly the same idiot from years ago: a dump of loosely tied files with some images and text, most never to resurface again, even when they are relevant to my current task. writing this essay

My notes, restricted by the systems I've used so far, are bullet lists, quotations, thrown in images, and URLs.  Although I spend a lot of time on it, it's still depressingly useless if I don't interrupt what I'm doing and deliberately search and parse through the silo. That satisfies most and explains the many simplistic apps you see around. But if you actually took the time to imagine what is possible, even with current technologies, you too will become impatient and start longing for more.

Real expressive personal knowledge systems as I imagine them, do not exist. Some proxies, like note taking apps, knowledge bases or CMS on the market are mostly silos for unstructured text with simple keyword (text-only) search – to store and retrieve. Some are pretty, some with good WYSIWYG editors, some with nested tags, some fast, some with templates, but all fail to organize, encode and surface ideas and relationships meaningfully.

Where is the knowledge we have lost left in information?

If we can't even bend even information scientists and data nerds I know do not manage and integrate the many facets of their (digital) lifeour tiny personal data inflow, then how do we manage communities, cities or nations?

As it is with ideas about information flows, our discussion might leap and blur into Wikis, Content Management Systems (CMS), IDEs, (semantic) Search, Web Annotation and Schemafication, Programming and Metalanguages, Ontologies, Domain Languages, Knowledge Graphs and Web Browsers. These concepts are rivers that invariably merge and flow into the troubled sea that is the Internet.

I'm in these rivers a lot and have the habit of biting off more than I can chew. Literally – I choke often. I was just about to leap into the first issue right here, but will keep it modular and connect those topics essay by essay. See this piece as a well connected node in a graph that I hope to traverse with you.

The Graph so far

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