December 11th, 2020

New Apps are NOT Magic Bullets - Friday Notes 128

I've been finding the Zettelkasten system revolutionary in the way I take and organize my notes. I felt the same way about my reading when I read How to Read a Book, all the reading before was worth so much less than I realized. Now, all the notes before I started using a Zettelkasten system seem like their quality dropped immensely.

While I happen to use and like Obsidian, the tool wasn't the revolutionary part of my workflow. The system is what changed everything, the application simply facilitates the workflow...or not.

I think that people gravitate towards app reviews because they get these two ideas mixed up. They think that their broken system will be "fixed" by a new tool. A new tool that has some new features, but they're mostly going to use it in the same way they've used previous tools.

We see this with the forever hunt for a new task manager. While there are some differences between Things 3, OmniFocus, Todoist, Ticktick...the key piece to each one is how you use it. If you take your same broken approach to task management with you to the new tool, you'll still end up with a broken task management system.

We need to remember this as we sit inside a bit of a note taking revolution. Yes, Zettelkasten has been around for decades. How to Take Smart Notes came out in 2017 but it has only come into many people's mainstream knowledge in the last year as tools like Roam Research, Obsidian have shown us new ways of taking notes.

I like Obsidian, but for my iPad first workflow it's a bit of a let down. It doesn't have a native iPad application, but you can work with the Markdown files in 1Writer easily. What you miss is finding all the connections and parsing your data like you can on macOS. Then we have Craft, which is native on iPadOS and macOS and offers many of the same features that Obsidian has.

As I look at Craft, and maybe moving my notes over to it, it's important to remember that it won't solve my problems with notes. It's a tool and only if I integrate a new system for taking notes and going back and reviewing them will I have a huge change in my note taking life.

I expect to see more advancements in the research/note/Zettelkasten app space over the next year or two, but I'll be taking my process with me and know that no app will revolutionize how I work with notes unless I change the process I use.

I Shipped

On Monday I looked at an issue with Things 3 if you want to work with Shortcuts. In short, their iPad app and iPhone app are separate so you have to create a Shortcut twice to make it work. Watch the video to see the way I structure my Things 3 Shortcuts to reduce the friction.

I also launched my Timeblocking course this week on SkillShare and made one of the videos free for everyone. If you want to see how I do digital timeblocking, check it out.

Today I took a look at A Brief History of Misogyny by Jack Holland. This is a hard book to read, in part because you realize how little progress we've made. Back when I looked at The Underground Girls of Kabul I said that North America just puts a prettier face on it's misogyny, and this book backs up that claim in spades.

Over on Nexcess I wrote about Adding Unit Tests to an Existing WordPress Plugin. I find unit testing my code to be a great help in keeping my work solid and clients running a long time without needing updates in my work.