One of the things that bothers me is, although I assiduously collect lots of digital stuff (web links, pdfs etc) actually finding useful information afterwards is quite difficult (or perhaps just time consuming).
I thought that was just me being very inefficient but now I think that probably isn’t so. This week I listened in to an informative webinar by Shawn Blanc of The Sweet Setup on using the Ulysses writing app. One benefit he emphasised was that you could keep all your thoughts and info together with your writing in the same app. So you search in just one place (database). However there was a question at the end of the talk which asked about using this acquired info. He replied that it was often quicker and easier just to do a Google search! This is exactly what I do. So what is the point in saving the link or pdf or whatever in the first place? Maybe just doing this keeps a tiny memory that is sufficient for a search later on.
Some people may be quite assiduous in information gathering and tag entries or use folders to categorise plus maybe even make a contextual note on the info. However it all takes time and discipline. Even if you do this, quite often you later realise that another organisational scheme would be better and then there is the saga of whether or not you’re willing to spend the time setting this up. What is the real price of not doing this, would it really make a big difference? Would the order in the seeming ‘chaos’ bring a noticeable payoff (I think the answer may depend on the person).
The other problem I have is that I use many different apps for collecting things. Partly this is due to wanting to keep up with developments (innovative new ideas from software developers) and figuring out whether one app stands out above all others (so far this has never been the case, fleeting superiority at most). It’s a highly dynamical situation, with upgrades and new versions popping up all the time. I guess I shouldn’t be so easily swayed by the alluring and usually overhyped marketing, it is really interesting though. On this note, TheBrain 12 (beta) looks very impressive, and is my current distraction!
Another aspect is that many apps these days can be quite sophisticated with challenging or time consuming learning curves. What is the return on your time investment?
Here is the list of some of the apps I’ve tried so far this year (in alphabetical order, not by usage). Most only run on Apple operating systems. I use some for data gathering, others for shaping or structuring thoughts:
Google Keep Notes
I do all my writing in Scrivener, which I have left many times like an errant lover, but return to each time and wonder why I was tempted to leave. So, luckily, that is a useful fixed point. It’s the general note taking and thought shaping that’s the problem. Currently I mainly use a combination of DEVONthink 3 and Tinderbox 8.
I use an Android phone so that’s sometimes a constraint and explains my use of Evernote and Google Keep which have good Android versions. Of course, in the end, it’s not so much the apps you use as the system (workflow) and this is the real issue I’m struggling with. I do most of my writing and research on a recently bought MacBook Air, make little use of my iPad (partly as quite dated by now) and a lot of quick stuff on the smartphone. To this end, I’ll soon be buying a new iPad and (in spite of the price) I’m considering getting an iPhone 12 Mini. I can imagine that I’ll tend to become much more iPad and iPhone centric over the next 5 years. This being the case, there is then the question of using apps that have a good version that runs on iOS, further complicating matters. However in the end it should all be a lot simpler but I may need to leave some old friends (apps) behind which will be sad.
A complex but interesting blend of possibilities.