Second Brain

A WIP write up on some personal wiki / second brain concepts

The concept of wikis goes back to an earlier era of the web. With the advent of blogging (and I would say, RSS feeds to subscribe and follow content from all over), wikis went away for a while.

Wikis probably also get a bad rap from their early incarnation inside company intranets. Aside from a bad editing interface, bad search is the big thing that kills company intranets of all kinds. More on the Wiki page.

Currently, in 2020, personal and company note repositories are experiencing a renaissance. [[Notion]] and Roam Research being the two hype tools.

Second Brain

From reading content online, bookmarking it, keeping notes from online research or in person meetings, I’ve long wanted a way to introspect across all that content.

That is, rather than just using my limited human framework for digital information processing, how do I get more value from it?

As a example, during a day, a week, or a month, how could I run through all the content that I’ve found interesting, created, or saved, and run it through a simple relevance or inference tool that would show the content as clusters of information / concepts, and how they inter-related?

Today, in 2020, such a tool is almost “consumer grade”, other than the fact that it’s not very “consumer accessible”. I’d have to commit to some out-sourced repository, and put it all in there.

What I want to do is gather information over time, compile it into a “second brain”, and

Jobs to be done

The [[Jobs to be done]], or JTBD, concept comes from product management. What “jobs” are you hiring a product to do for you?

So what jobs do I want a second brain to do for me?

Bookmarking

Today, with very good search, why do we bookmark? I think a collection of easy access links in your browser toolbar to apps that you use is great – but that’s not really bookmarking.

I want to document and keep links to apps and tools that I research, use, and/or recommend, in order to find it again later, review if anything has changed, and to share it with other people.

I want to document articles. Maybe it’s keeping a copy of something insightful, especially quoting relevant parts. Yes, like Roam helps to do, to capture these relevant parts. Here’s an example of saving and quoting ‘When Tailwinds Vanish’{: .internal-link}. I haven’t social shared this anywhere, but have mentioned, shared privately, and discussed it in person with multiple people. Clearly something I should keep around.

Basically, if I’m going to share an article with someone, I should “keep” a copy, same as with recommending an app / tool / person.

For now, I’m highlighting some of them on the home page.

Sharing an article is more likely to be done through a social share on my blog, which in turn gets cross posted to Twitter.1

I also have Bookmarks on my blog, mainly because that’s one of the object types defined by the [[Indieweb]] [[Micropub]] interface. I will likely use it less now that this site exists.

Worklog

I have used various tools over the years to keep a worklog. [^worklog]

Roam Research has “Daily Notes” by default, which is really effective in getting the context for a particular day down.

I’m currently creating a new worklog (weeklog!) per week, with headers per day. These are running notes, links, and a log of what I’m going / what my TODOs are.

These logs can be super helpful when you get to the end of a day or week and feel “what the hell did I do??” and you can, indeed, look back and see what you did and accomplished.

This bottom up method of what am I doing / need to do this week, and a log of what I did, is useful in sharing progress with a team.

Of course, if you are using a team project management tool / process of some kind, then that “lives” over there, separate from your personal worklog. The main solution is making sure that you can link to those team TODOs. You are either making a private note to remember to make a task, or you are linking to a team task as part of noting in your worklog that that’s what you worked on.

Notes

Taking notes is really “I want to put this somewhere private as notes to myself”.

There’s a HOWTO version of this when I’m taking notes as I attempt to program or install software. I note down errors, add links to pages where I found the answer to something. This might then also lead to searches that end in [[Tips]] – how do I add a [[Unix]] user? What’s the git command I need to use again?

To Do

“Personal” to-do’s in the sense that they are private to me. They may be for work, personal projects, or internal family items.

Recommendations

As mentioned above, I’ve got a variety of recommendations. This usually comes from someone asking “what do you use for X?”, or it will come from personal research of figuring out what I should use. My Personal CRM post is a good example of this in blog post form.

The startup page{: .internal-link} just got a categorized brain dump of a whole bunch of different categories. Some of them are people / service provider recommendations, like using Justin at Osler as a startup lawyer, or Mike at Sprout Accounting for company accounting.2

There is a seminal Algolia internal search article{: .internal-link}3 that I refer to as the ultimate in company wide knowledge search interfaces, and it’s pretty much what I want as well. I just tagged that article with [[memex]] for what I’ll use for that shorthand from now on: all my information available and searchable / browseable at the point of looking for something.

It’s one of the reasons that I publish a lot of things publicly online. Future me has a chance of finding it again by doing site:bmannconsulting.com some-search-term to see if I’ve talked about it before.

But, that approach to search means you inherit the bias and algorithmic of search engines who aren’t your friends. We need to have our own search, and again, great search is now becoming “consumer grade”.

Tools

Concepts

Tag Clouds

We look at something like a tag cloud that any one person creates. A tag cloud is fairly useless for browsing or search long term, but it’s an interesting artifact which can help highlight or discover themes that grow and shrink over time.

For myself, the “Drupal” tag would be large and prominent from 2003 to 2010 or so.

Digital Exhaust

For a conference – or really any kind of event – there is a “digital exhaust” of content around it, from tweets to checkins to bookmarks, to the in turn likes and re-shares of those items.

  1. for search purposes, should have all the content on my blog accessible here as well and/or available for transclusion (which is really just the case that generalized transclusion from a URI is extremely useful)

  2. Again, super painful to me that I’m not linking those names / companies to individual blocks or fragments, and with this page-based WikiJS interface, it’s slightly too painful / time consuming to create those links.

  3. Well, I just spent like 10 minutes trying to find that article, which pretty much proves that I need to be storing articles I find impactful. It was on their Medium blog, which they don’t index in their company home page “Blog” search :)

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