Notes are about remembering. Sure, “just jot it down”; and “The lightest pencil beats the strongest memory”; and… you get the idea.
But notes are so, well, personal. Some like them in pen or pencil; some like them typed. Some like to draw as well as write; others like to include pictures, screencaps, videos, audio files.
There is no “right way to do notes,” I think (let me know if you disagree). But there are lots of good ways that I don’t know about.
Here is a link to a Lifehacker piece that is marvelously specific about the use, creation, and maintenance of notes. And here is a link to a piece about spatial hypertext, a grand attempt to create a language for talking about “spatial hypertext,” collections of notes that are arranged in different ways for different reasons.
Lifehacker–a fantastic blog, by the way, full of useful and intelligently written advice–covers the basics of note-taking, especially in terms of meeting and lecture notes. It suggests different tools and practices, in a helpful and unpresumptuous tone.
Another wonderful feature of Lifehacker is “Related Items” inserted in the text, that connect you to, uh, related items–a powerful manifestation of hypertext, and its use in note taking and note management.
Of course, there are other uses for notes than for recalling meetings and lectures. You get thoughts, ideas, assignments; you develop plans of all kinds; you remember something you want to do or buy, but can’t do it right now. Still, notes are notes, and all the ideas in the Lifehacker piece have some relevance for all note-takers.
Mark Bernstein’s paper on spatial hypertext is more academic in tone, but it tackles a profound and generally unexplored area of notes in a readable, well-illustrated, and ambitious way. If you are interested in notes, creativity, information curating, and related topics, you should find some interest in this paper. It’s all abut the different ways you can lay out notes spatially, and the different uses of the different layouts.
What else are notes for? For me, they are often a kind of reflection, a way to externalize stuff that is in my head. By putting it outside of my head, I initiate a kind of dialectic: A thesis in my head; antithesis in the notes; then a synthesis, when I look at the notes and think about them.
What do you think about notes? What note apps or devices do you use?