Recently on the commonplace book

August 11, 2022

I spent a little time reading Matthew Lee Hinman’s current blog, and I came across two interesting articles. The first one, Blogging Shift, is about blogging per se, which admittedly is in decline although there are up and down from one year to another. The author summarizes my own take on that particular matter, namely that the media has changed, along with the way we consume information. The internet, and more generally non-verbal communication, is not an all text place nowadays, and it has been largely impacted by the advent of social networks together with the (over)use of overpowered phones. Moreover, there’s this irrepressible need for some to give their opinion on everything and to follow sort of a normative approach. I left Twitter a few weeks ago, and I don’t regret it. It’s fallen into decay for years, IMHO, and I don’t see any value in checking in even once a week.

This is like a post-experience survey asking you to rank your experience on a scale of 1-to-5. It says “here is a pre-cut reactionary channel for some experience, it would be easiest to follow the template” and by doing so, limits the scope of considered responses. Simultaneously the pre-cut reactions provided to users by most content brokers (of which social networks are one of the largest) skew towards the passive—I’m registering my like or dislike in something with minimal effort—rather than the creationary. The bar for entry of opinion into the public sphere has been lowered at the cost of the diversity in the type of reactions.

Another blog post that attracted my attention has to do with what I though was known as the Zettelkasten note-taking way of archiving personal knowledge, but see How to Take Smart Notes. It happens to have yet another (older) name: a commonplace book. I did not go into the details to distinguish the etymology or the mode of data collection. However, I really like the idea of organizing ideas, thoughts or readings into a bulk of plain text notes, like much Org users I believe. I’m not really an Org user, but I do use Org for writing my notes and handouts. I once started collecting short notes into a master file, but these days I rarely find time to update it. Rather, I guess this blog entries serve as my commonplace book as well.

They differ from journals in that they aren’t necessarily a recording of personal action (though they can be), and they aren’t necessarily prone to introspective writing (though they may), but are more of a scrapbook of sorts, collecting ideas, quotations, diagrams, thoughts, observations, or anything else that may be useful for reference in the future. There is no prescribed format, and the author is also the intended reader, though in some cases, they have been published publicly.

Contrary to the author, I don’t get much from writing those notes, though. I mean, when I write some code to perform a task, I learn from writing the code itself, debugging and so on; but not from summarizing my experience into a blog post. However, when I need to find an old note or blog post, I usually have an idea of where to start, or what keywords to throw out in my terminal to retrieve that information.

♪ Hubert-Félix Thiéfaine • L’étranger dans la glace

See Also

» Just write » Auto-tagging my music library » 15 years and 600 posts » lost+found 2021 » Three years micro-blogging