Niklaus Wirth was a famous computer scientist that, among other things, invented the Pascal programming language after his proposal to improve Algol was turned down. He also wrote an article pleading for lean software and then went on to write Project Oberon which is a self-contained coding environment, compiler, and operating system written in 4000 lines of code. This compares to over 1 billion lines of code for Debian 12 and 40 million lines of code for Google Chrome, which are both mind boggling numbers.

These numbers are so big that it’s impossible for a single person to understand how the software works in their lifetime. It’s impossible for a team to understand everything that’s going on in the software in their lifetime. It’s not possible for a “total security audit” to be complete enough because there are so many moving pieces that you can’t test everything.

Your notes can also get so out of hand that there is no way you can understand what’s in them. Much like Ian Malcolm says in Jurassic Park, it’s so easy to realize you can add something without ever questioning whether you should add that next piece of material to your vault.

Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should. – Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park

Capture is about filtering

The art of capturing content into your vault is only the first step in filtering. I use an inbox1[^1] to capture all of the content that may be useful for my vault. Here I put everything that might be interesting to me. Some, but not all of it gets tagged as the content is saved in my vault and very little of it gets read. In fact, when I sit down to go through my list of things to read, I delete far more than I keep because it was only interesting in the moment and it no longer holds any interest nor do I find a reason for it to be relevant to the things that are currently interesting me.

But most people I talk to rarely delete the sources they once found interesting. They worry they’ll miss some gem of content thus they have an overflowing inbox of shit, yes literal shit content2[^2], they’re never going to read because they feel bad that they may miss one little thing.

If there was one thing I could hold every note-taker to, that’s not currently working on a specific project with those project resources, it would be that they need to delete at least one article from their inbox for every article they read. Better yet, delete more and spend your time on content that can go deeper like a book. Even then, I don’t worry much about 50% of the notes I take in a book. Most of them are around to skim and remind myself about the content of the book and won’t do anything further for me than that basic task.

  1. Currently Linkwarden: ↩︎
  2. But only shit to them because it’s not relevant to anything they’re doing currently ↩︎