The future of note-taking and knowledge management

I’m starting to collect thoughts, ideas, questions, etc. around the broad topic of “the future of note-taking and knowledge management”. While my own focus is often on personal knowledge (PKM), I think some of the most important challenges in this general space are related or adjacent to multi-user functions and systems, “collective sense-making”, etc.

This will start of pretty basic, but I hope to expand it over time. I would welcome comments to help co-create the content here! Including references to other places where I am sure many people are already sharing much more fleshed-out thoughts, ideas, lists of challenges, solution ideas, etc.

Concepts, Methods, and Technologies

These are things that I personally view as being important or even critical to the future of knowledge management, note-taking, etc. One common theme you’ll see here are concepts and functions that aim to allow for richer expression and understanding of data, commentary and discussion, etc.

  • Stand-off properties - the ability to infinitely layer meaning onto your baseline content/information
  • Typed relationships - the ability to specify the “type” of a relationship when connecting between notes, or other pieces of data, content, etc.
    • For example John Adams was a Signer of the Declaration of Independence (i.e. Declaration of Independence ← → Signed ← → John Adams)
  • Credible exit - the ability to get all (or a meaningful majority) of your relevant data out of a tool or platform you use, and be able to re-use it in other tools/platforms with reasonable ease (this distinguishing it from “export”)

Questions, Challenges, Areas of Consideration, etc.

  • Tension between interop and rich expression
    • I.e. the simpler the content your tool can create, the more likely it conforms to existing standards (e.g markdown or even plain text), and the easier it probably is to get it into another program reasonably intact
  • Organizational functions
    • With ever-increasing amounts of information, notes, articles, highlights, etc., we need new and better systems and tools to organize it all
    • The cooperative/collective organizing of content is also a very interesting component of this (see Wikipedia for current state of things, I suppose)
  • Discovery - How can we better enable people to not only find what they are looking for, but to find what they are not looking for but would want to see right now?
  • Utilization - in what ways do we want to use and benefit from our data, and how can we best enable all that?
    • Memorization
    • Publishing
  • Collaboration - doing all of the above, but with other people
    • I think this is one of the biggest challenges we have to consider and address.

Some of my thoughts here were originally inspired by this round-table discussion last year at “I Annotate” on “The Future of Note Taking”. In particular I felt the need to write this page because, although much of this stuff is definitely talked about, and there are plenty of people working on all these problems, there are some notable yet important-seeming aspects that appear to not be well-publicized and discussed as-yet. For me one of the most notable is stand-off properties. I was surprised to see the subject come up in the talk below, with Conor Sullivan of Roam Research mentioning Codex Editor and the potentially game-changing nature of stand-off, but nobody really engaged much with the point he made, and it never came up again!

I for one would have loved to see Iian of Codex Editor in this conversation, but of course I don’t begrudge the organizers, you can’t include everyone, and you can’t be aware of everyone that might be beneficial to include. But hopefully a future such discussion will be more likely to have Iian and others who are working on stand-off, typed relationships, etc. Check out the rest of the talk below, there is some really interesting stuff from luminaries in the field!