JonnyB
I am a teacher/speaker/trainer and spend a lot of time reading, researching, preparing seminars, etc...  I am trying to find the best way of taking notes on books and articles.  Mind maps, flow notes (handwritten pictures and short text), Evernote and PB have all been used in order to capture main ideas for future reference. 

To quickly see the flow of a book or article, mind maps and flow notes seem to be the way to go.  For memorization of material, flow notes seems to be the best.  Evernote is great for quickly adding ideas and notes and then quickly finding it via search.  However, for interconnecting the various ideas with other ideas PB wins hands down. 

So I have been experimenting with doing research in flow form and then taking that material and putting it into PB.  However, this dual note-taking takes a lot of overhead time.  I have done this for a little while but am wondering if all the extra work really will pay off.

How do you use PB in research and taking notes?  Do you only use PB?  Or a combination of PB and other methods?  What has been your best practice?

Thank you!
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zenrain
I try (try being the operative word here ) to use the tool most suited to the job.
When documenting thoughts, and paraphrasing notes on books or research I generally use PB. The reason being, I have chapters, sub-chapters and comments linked together. This works best for me rather than another document because I can interrelate comments on multiple chapters and identify themes easily. Conventional mindmapping tools generally get ugly when you start linking themes and thoughts across chapters and even books. For this I keep my notes in PB, because I want to be able to reference them quickly with my comments.

For thoughts for standalone subjects that require a fair amount of text I generally attach a link to a document. Generally I don't need to see the text immediately, so it doesn't matter as much.
For your example, Evernote would be better for information that isn't interrelated. For information that is partially interrelated, if Evernote can create hyperlinks to specific documents you can use those in PB as a reference. It really depends on how you want to be able to see and search your data.

Windows 7
J-1.6.0_22
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OSX 10.6.3
Java SE 6
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JonnyB
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For thoughts for standalone subjects that require a fair amount of text I generally attach a link to a document. Generally I don't need to see the text immediately, so it doesn't matter as much.
For your example, Evernote would be better for information that isn't interrelated. For information that is partially interrelated, if Evernote can create hyperlinks to specific documents you can use those in PB as a reference. It really depends on how you want to be able to see and search your data.


Zenrain, can you give an example of information that isn't interrelated and partially interrelated?

Do you do brainstorming via paper or with PB or some other mindmapping program? 


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zenrain
An example of information that isn't interrelated is a bit of an issue for me, since I don't use another PIM, (I used to use Together which is similar to Evernote, but doesn't store attachments in a proprietary database) and reduced my workflow to Leap (file manger / search) and PB. It really depends what you use PB for. Evernote is good for quick capture, and that may just be one-off information that you don't necessarily need to store in PB. An example may be receipts.

Partially interrelated where I link to documents is my journal (I currently use a wiki database which is better suited to linking date information, this may or may not change if PB ever gets a Timeline view) my recipe database, information that must be shared online (SharePoint, etc), my blog archive etc.
In essence, any information which is more suited to another format or presentation method.
Windows 7
J-1.6.0_22
--
OSX 10.6.3
Java SE 6
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Darkstar
Evernote 2 allowed for cross linking of notes. Evernote 3 has that planned for the future. (Is it in the current beta?).

I use Evernote for captures that include graphical elements (ie, pictures, graphcs, etc), and to store any story "seeds" that pop up.

I use Zoot to capture purely textual information--- whether web or just tracking my various passords and accounts.

I use a personal wiki (ConnectedText) for my journaling (personal, work, projects--- everything).

PB is my informational ORGANIZER. I use it to put all my documents together for projects (new system for NASA, christmas shopping for the gf, etc), URLS (research, forums for fun, webcomics, etc) and as my quick launch bar (since my frequently used tools for projects are in it--- allows me to quickly launch a tool when I need it when working a project).

For putting together my training classes for users, I brainstorm it in PB, and eventually end up putting it in ConnectedText. First, I organize what I need the course to cover, any links I need to documents (local word/power point/emails, or external URLS), and what not will all be contained in PB. After I've got a significant bit of "skeleton" fleshed out enough, I'd then start building it in ConnectedText. Once I start needing more info than is handy to have in the plex at once, it's time to go for something that handles the information density better than PB.

I have Inspiration, and it is an excellent product. But I just prefer for my stuff to end up in ConnectedText--- as this allows me to easily link and update it while I journal throughout my work process.

In the past, I've used Literary Machine to create different lengths of fiction as well as create short course plots and class outlines. It is an excellent tool designed around writers needs--- such as allowing you to arrange material in multiple outlines at the same time, and see the results. It's built around the writers use of index card paradigm, but is well suited for other information tasks.
-Darkstar
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JonnyB
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I use a personal wiki (ConnectedText) for my journaling (personal, work, projects--- everything).


Darkstar and Zenrain,

You both mentioned using wiki's for your journaling needs.  I have been trying to figure out what advantage that would have.  Can you give a couple of examples?  (If you have time, a couple of screen shots?)

Thank you!
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Darkstar
You mean, other than having a textual record that hyperlinks?

I keep a wiki for each of my projects I work on, as well as a general wiki for just putting in my own journaling into (I used to break apart general - personal and general - work, but since I often have things cross over between the two, I now just have them together in one "general" wiki).

Let's look at the project wiki usage...
  • Any time I get a customer call or email about a software app/system I support, I journal it.
  • Any time I spot a bug, I journal it.
  • Any time I see something unusual with one of my apps or systems, I journal it.
  • Whenever I need to leave myself a note to the future, I journal it.
  • Whenever I do work on that app or system, I journal it.
Advantages of using the wiki: I can quickly hyperlink items (wiki base feature), I can easily search my wiki for what I'm interested in (most wikis), I have full control over what happens to my entries (any personal documents).

For instance: Customer call/email me, asking to change her user profile and requesting a new feature for the app.

  1. If I don't have a "day" entry open, I create it. (Trivial to do in many wiki apps)
  2. I create a bullet entry that "customer" has contacted me (phone/email), and summarize what it is she wants. Note that I  "wikiword" the customer. If I need to make notes about the customer herself, I can. Common examples: Customer is listed in the email system as "Marideth Smith", but is in the app as "Juli Smith" because she prefers "Juli". I'll just open up her wiki page, and include that. Also, include her actual email address, which would be "m.j.smith@ares.gov" (not a real person nor address--- so no worries except for spammers) rather then a more standard named government email account. Telephone number will be tossed in, if she contacted me by telephone, so I can always find it quickly to call her back (rather then look it up in one of the many telephone apps or web sites we use at work).
  3. Journal what I actually do to resolve her issue.
  4. Journal her change request, so it will be easy to find when I next assemble my "Users Requests To Consider".
At the time I do the work, I use the wiki entry to help track the work I've done, what I am doing, what I should next do (all very useful when you get interrupted mutliple times per day), and related important bits of info. So its a scratchpad of doing, to do, and done.

The long term value is the record of what was done, for whom, and why. The journaling will be the important things in the future. If I have to come back to this information, it will be important to know what it was she actually told me, and what I did to resolve it. If "Juli" complains that she is messed up and can't do her work to her new boss after sending me a "change me" request, I've got a record of what she said to me at the time. If it was email, I'll then know what date it was on she sent it to, under what name, and what the actual email is I'm hunting to show she actually asked to have her boss cut off from the system, and that it was okayed by her boss's boss, who also decided to cut her out at that time. When it's been many months (or even years) since you worked something or made a change, it is often important to have these details if you get called back to it for some reason--- or to review a collection of what work is common (so you might break that out for someone to take over as part of a standard "account manager" position for a group of apps, for instance).

By being able to track which user asked for what feature, (or what do I noticed that something could be improved if I made a change,) I know who to talk to get more info on what they might have meant (or what I was thinking when I jotted down the idea if I made it myself--- but was too busy with other things to go worry about right then).

We have a lot of different systems to do all this for us where I work. And every few years, management chunks the current stuff, and has us start using new apps and systems, either due to political decisions (ie, someone in the WH or HQ wants everyone to use the new stuff), price point (vendor is just charging too much for licenses), technology goes obsolete (software is too old to run on current hardware, hardware is too old to get support for, etc). By having my OWN actual record, I don't lose my older bits of work.

For work issues, once I'm done working the item, I can then turn around and quickly enter that info into our various work systems--- as I copy out the bits from the wiki entry into our required work capture systems.

The trick with this is that the more info you put into your entries, the more you can get back later, when you've forgotten the details. The problem is--- what should go in? Only you can know how much detail you need. And a lot of that will be based on your past experiences. It can be trivial and tedious to put in such details as I've described above, but when 3 levels of your managers above you are down in your office, wanting to know why "this" happened, and what your part was or was not, having such information available is invaluable.

Another example: I give a monthly training class on one of my systems. I've got it's project wiki set up so I create a new entry for each class. I list the date, time, and place for the class (and update it as I get bounced between rooms or have to shorten it if a big boss decides they need some of my scheduled time). I use that entry to track who has reserved a spot in the room (which I use at class time as a roster to make sure those who reserved a spot has a place in my class, since seating is limited). I also note who actually shows up (I maintain a sign in sheet as is the custom of our work culture, and I copy that info over after class), and who cancels. I also have entries in that work journal about things like: Parking being rough for a particular class (so if there is a trend over several classes due to building over-booking, I'll know to show up even earlier than usual, and can warn the students), tracking questions asked by students (if there is a trend, then I probably need to review related bits of the course and what I'm actually saying/presenting to make it clearer), and any other thoughts or observations from the class. Again, with that information recorded (put down), I can review it in the future for anything I might need (like, number of students that need a repeat of the course).

Wikis are great for textual information, particular dense or free form. You can link between items easily, and search the information. Another example: I can record which people at our help desk is having difficulty understanding when they should pass on a customer onto me to handle them, and go down and train them so they can handle the customers that call in to them more easily.

Now, you could journal non-work things, if you like. I actually track a lot of things other than work in them. Personal observations, family matters, what work I've had done to my car, etc etc etc. Some of that is just because I have my journal there, open and ready for work journaling. Some of it is actually important stuff I want to track for my own reasons. Some of it is trivial, but I still like to have it written down to look back at later for my own amusements.

When journaling something, it is important to put it somewhere you'd expect to look for it in the future (is this in my general wiki or project X wiki?), and to capture enough details to be useful in the future without wasting your entire day with recording minutia that will never be needed. (So again, experience will help on how much and what to put down.)

Anything else you are curious about?
-Darkstar
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zenrain
The only thing I can add to Darkstar's excellent explanation is that Wiki specific software has several things it does better than PB.

1. Textual handling. PB's note functionality is, uh polarizing. Some people are ok with it, some aren't. As far as I'm concerned, it's good for quick notes, but TheBrain folks have stated that adding a lot of text under the same thought will slow things down. Wiki text editors generally have more power under their hood than PB notes, and provide more control over formatting. Generally, if it's more than a few paragraphs, I use a different application and attach the file. Some people won't use PBs notes at all, while others use them a lot. YMMV.

2. Wiki-links. Wiki software generally automatically create wikilinks, that is two words typed together, if there is a page with that name will automatically create a link. You can also create a link to a place in the document a number of other ways. In PB, while you can link thoughts together, you can't create hyperlinks in the notes to other thoughts. In fact, in PBs notes, even bookmarking won't work within the same note. It must be exported to a .html file to work. This is a big shortcoming as far as linking textual documents are concerned. Especially for dense textual information as Darkstar described.

3. Searching. PBs searching is pretty good, but as it searches attachments, notes, thought names and labels it's slower than a wiki search engine, which just searches it's own notes.

Could you do all of this in PB? Sure. Currently, PBs handling of dates is either create an event for that thought in the calendar, or format the thought name to the date, attach that to some other date based parent thought and away you go. This may work for you. If PB adds a timeline view at some point in the future, I may reconsider my journal workflow. As it is currently though, working off a WikiBased structure is easier for me. If you are curious, try it both ways and see what works best for you.


Windows 7
J-1.6.0_22
--
OSX 10.6.3
Java SE 6
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JonnyB
Thank you so much, Darkstar and Zenrain, for your thorough answers.  

I took the plunge and spent a couple of hours experimenting with TiddlyWiki.  Conclusion: An incredible tool that I will be using in the future.

I have a couple of other questions for both of you (and whoever else uses wiki's and would like to chip in)

  1. Do you have a separate wiki for each project?  A separate wiki for each contact, etc...?
  2. What do you do when you have contacts and journal entries that relate to more than one project?
  3. Contact information and journal entries of a particular person (related to the project) could be in a related project wiki OR linked to a contact plex within PB.   If the person in question is connected to more than one project, why would you not just update the contact within PB so that that info is available outside that particular project?
  4. If you have a contact and he shows up in a journal entry for that day, in the contact's wiki do you in her contact tiddler link back to that journal entry?  I found out how to do that by copying and pasting the journal date and surrounding it with [[ ]] brackets.  Is this what you do?
  5. So as far as I understand, you use a wiki for both journaling (project, work, or personal related) and any "dynamic" information (that changes over the course of time such as contacts and developing ideas).   A project would be in PB with the various related files (linked) AND there would also be a wiki in the plex that would record the progress of the project.  Is this correct?
Thanks again for all of your help!


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Darkstar

#1 - Yes. For every project I work on. I don't put my contacts into their own individual wikis, although I would understand if you do that using TiddlyWiki. It is certainly suited for it.

#2 - Well, the wiki tool I use, ConnectedText (it's a commercial desktop wiki application), allows me to not only cross link between wikis, but cross-include entries between projects. So I just do that now when needed. But before I started using ConnectedText, I'd create dupe entries, with the second (and third and fourth etc) entries kept to the most minimum of information, and have a note that says "See entry in Work Journal for further details" (or wherever is the "proper" wiki for that contact).

Journal entries I find will almost always fall into a particular "domain", so they go there. The few times I had cross wiki domain entries was because I had an area of work that was growing into its own wiki, but wasn't there yet. In those cases, I'd copy the entry, and NOTE "Dupe entry from Work Journal" (or wherever it was sourced from) at the bottom of that entry. If it was an entry that might need further changing/refactoring in the near future, I would even note in the original where the dupes were, but that was very rare for me.

Note, I am not picking on a particular wiki tool. TiddlyWiki is an excellent tool, and one I looked at and experimented with. Being able to have the full file inside PB makes it very useful in that context.

#3 - I keep my contact information in Outlook and Wikis. I just don't use PB for that information. Nothing wrong if you do. Whatever works best for you.

#4 - Yes.

#5 - Exactly right. I use PB as my Information Organizer (Location tracker of resources), primarily, in a project. I just find it suits how I work and think to use a wiki for my journaling (text data) needs.

Remember, just try stuff out, find what works for you.

-Darkstar
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