Intro - Hans Siem Schweiger

Hi! My name is Hans and I am on a “quest for the ideal tool” - to put it a little pathetically :slight_smile: I finished a vocational training as an industrial clerk and am a fully trained lawyer, too. However, I’ve never worked as a lawyer or judge but instead spent most of my working life at Swiss Academic Software - a small company producing the software Citavi www.citavi.com. Well, a takeover of the company didn’t work out as expected and almost all colleagues were laid off or quit. So, I’m currently unemployed and learning to code.

Apart from that my interest in “tools for thought” hasn’t diminished and after all the time keeping my thoughts for the company I feel like it could be interesting to participate in more open discussions around PKM and productivity.

To be a little more precise I like to think about how a process or tool or set of tools should ideally look like to support the “area” of text-based understanding, learning, and insight generation, which naturally comprises reading and writing.

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Hi Hans. Sounds like an interesting background.

I’m looking for a better way to utilize my bookmarks. I have probably 45,000+ bookmarks that I’ve collected over the years. Most of them in the last year or two.

I’ve been looking at TinyGem (https://tinygem.org/). It seems like a great way to find interesting links, based on your own interests. I’d like to see it become more, but I’m not sure of the future direction it will take.

Would love to hear if you have any suggestions.

Are you looking for anything specific, at the moment?

David Garner

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Hi David,

I didn’t know TinyGem. “Keep the pages on the web saved forever” first pushed me in the wrong direction; I thought about a service to archive webpages :slight_smile: But I now understand that it is a recommender engine based on your bookmarks.

When I read about your 45,000 bookmarks, I immediately asked myself: Why? :slight_smile:

And when I generalize the question to “Why do we save any information” and I try to approach it from my own point of view “Why do I save any information?” the first answer that comes into my mind is: “Because I don’t know it by heart or I fear to forget it over time.”

That seems to be reasonable, because anything I perfectly know by heart is immediately available to my thinking process for any purpose. I don’t need any help to recollect it.

(Well, there might be situations or times in life where this is not true for any information. When I moved into my first flat, the very old lady who lived there before for nearly her entire life had a note hanging at the inside of the apartment door with her name and address of this very apartment on it and it was obvious that it had hung there for some time.)

In turn that means that I save information I don’t know by heart, because I hope (or know) that I will encounter the information when I “need” it. I think the information could be of importance at a future point in time and I assume I will be able to “use” it then with a greater chance (or even certainty) as if I didn’t save it. At least that seems to be a reasonable rationalization of what I do :slight_smile:

“Need” or “importance” can of course be of very different intensity.

  • I can have a “Watch later” video list to nudge my procrastination at least a little into a useful direction and it doesn’t really matter which video I watch - at least it is not a cat video.
  • Or I can highlight a passage in a PDF which could be the foundation for a whole chapter in my thesis.
  • Or I have no chance to meet the person again I just fell in love with without the phone number scribbled on my forearm.

Depending on the information, we use different means to save (and backup - paper instead of forearm) it. However, these means are not always useful to ensure that you encounter the information again when you need it.

I assume there are many people who are familiar with the situation that they knew that they had highlighted this one section in this one book - but cannot find it again. (And I myself am quite sure that this example either comes from Matuschak or Nielsen or Ahrens - but I cannot find it again)

That means “saving” can be just as useful or useless as not saving.

Just as a side note, I might also want to store seemingly unimportant or not helpful information. For example: links of webpages that were not helpful for the question I wanted to answer. Because if my search results half a year later or a link on another webpage would show me that and why I qualified this webpage as not helpful the last time, I wouldn’t invest unnecessary time to come to the same conclusion this time.

So, it is not the (unimportant) information itself that is helpful, but the meta-data I’ve created around it and the process and tools to use it.

And that is perhaps a general “principle”: The more metadata I create around information the higher is the chance that I’ll be able to use it when I need it - of course given the tools and processes that make use of this data.

And that is what I just find interesting and like to better understand :slight_smile:

If I come back to the 45,000 bookmarks it obviously depends on what you expect them to be helpful for.

  • If they all contain useful pieces of information you probably won’t be able to find that information when needed if you just have the bookmarks to the webpages. The chance to find that information by a simple web search seems to be equally high and equally effortful. But if “bookmarks” means that you’ve used a tool to mark the important parts of each webpage, tagged or otherwise qualified those parts or the whole webpage chances might be that you find (or even “accidentally” run into) the right information when you need it.
  • If you treat them as a reading list I doubt that it is helpful because I assume one cannot prioritize 45,000 bookmarks reasonably. Besides that it might very well happen, that you want to go in a completely different direction after you’ve read the first ten or so. From this perspective, the circumstance that you’ve saved 45000 bookmarks would mean that you lack a process to manage that reading list.
  • If the bookmarks are meant to be just the raw material for a recommender engine and you are not actually interested in their content itself, the list might be useful to get better recommendations. However, I’m not familiar with the underlying principles of recommender engines and therefore don’t know whether a system can draw reasonable recommndations from so much input. Plus, I cannot really imagine why you would need additional recommendations after you’ve already collected 45,000 bookmarks in the first place.

Having all that said I think I should have actually asked you the why question and not try to answer it myself :slight_smile: So, why do you save a bookmark? And how does it come that you’ve saved 60 a day on average?

Hans Siem Schweiger

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Hans, Thanks for the long, very thoughtful reply.

I’m an engineer. I’m retired. I like to see what I can do with computers. I like to think that there are many things that our modern computers could do for us, but someone just has not figured out how to get them to do many of the things they might do for us. I guess that I imagine that I might be able to improve upon the situation. At least, I hope to try.

I have several computers, a few are capturing e-mail from various accounts, and they are all mostly sitting there burning electricity, awaiting keystrokes or mouse clicks from me. Of course, there are several (Raspberry Pi 4’s, mostly) that are still in the original packing material, awaiting the time when I might find time to put them together and configure them for some eventual use. The idea of clusters of computers has intrigued me for many years. So far, I’ve not found a task that I want to do, that needs such a thing, but I keep dreaming that I might.

I should probably not even mention the thousands of physical books, and many more free e-books that I’ve collected. Newsletters that I’ve subscribed to, etc. I guess that I’m partly, just a pack rat - data hoarder.

As for why I save a bookmark, I think there are various reasons. I think, all of the reasons, you cover above, resonate with me.

Primarily, I think it is because I can’t process very much in my mind at one time, and I think that saving a link to things I’m interested in, will allow me to return to review, and explore many more things, that I find interesting on the surface. If I can find the right tools, having several references for a single topic will help, whenever I might find/make time to study any particular topic.

I’m reminded of my encounter with Differential Equations in Collage. It was a required course for my engineering degree. I think I started the course 4 times. The first three times, I dropped out without mostly without a clue. The text book was old and moldy and seemed like it was written in German or some other language that I did not know. The fourth time, it was with a different, interesting, instructor and the text was fresh and new with lots of white space and clear illustrations. I got an A that time. I have to say that I even enjoyed the subject.

I think part of my reason for saving bookmarks, is that I hope to find presentations that I can relate to, whenever I do finally decide to dive deep into any particular topic.

Part of the reason, for 45,000 bookmarks, is to push the limits of the technology, to the point where it will require getting the computer(s) to help manage it.

Reading your introduction again, I think we may have a lot in common.

I look forward to exploring with you.

David Garner

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Hans, If you found TinyGem interesting, I’d encourage you to check out the TinyGem Discord. It’s a very small group, but the developer is active there and he seems to be interested in figuring out what TinyGem could become.

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Wow, a month has gone by before my reply. Sorry about that, sadly it is typical for me and the amount of time I have to show up here, which I hope to remedy at some point.

In any case, welcome!

Not pathetic at all, I am on the very same quest! :grin:

Excellent, I love this kind of more conceptual and cross-app thought! This is where I like to “play”, too. Much of the space and conversation in PKM is around this tool vs. that, and it can be hard to find a place and like minds for broader and future-oriented discussion. I am hopeful The Productivists can be that (and be of value to people seeking specific, current tools), but as you can see it’s a bit quiet here lately. It may not always be…

In the meantime, while this is tool-specific in some respects, I think you might get some real value out of reading some of the discussion and articles in the Fibery community around “text-based understanding, learning, and insight generation”. The latter there in particular is well-articulated in this Fibery vision statement type of article:

And some interrelated discussion in their forum category:

Particularly the topic discussing their “Fibery Endgame” article:

Nick Milo of Linking Your Thinking is currently doing a series on “the state of PKM” in his newsletter that I think has some really interesting perspectives that speak to some of your goals as well as your and David’s challenges. I wish I could find a way to link to the whole series to date, but here’s the first one:

It is admittedly a little breathless or sensationalist at times, but I promise the overall content and ideas are worth reading through/skimming. One of his principle and critical points is that making connections between your “notes” (more broadly: collected pieces of info, IMO) is what makes them more useful and allows them to be found and surfaced at the “right” time.

Anyway, I find this a very interesting conversation, and there are similar ones happening a lot in various spaces right now. In the Obsidian community, particularly with people like Eleanor Konik (see her info processing workflow here), and in interesting app-oriented spaces like the Mem.ai community+blog+product concept, or Napkin (surfacing notes/ideas contextually based on current focused note), and the awesome Tools for Thought Rocks presentation/video series which I highly recommend checking out, including the archives:

Hope we can continue this conversation, even if in “slow motion”. :grin: And I’ll try to make time to come back here more regularly!