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General Principles

5 General Principles

This is a description of some general principles, some general themes, that apply to the entire note-keeping process.

  1. Information Presentation issues:

  2. Process:

  3. Writing Form:

  4. Psychology

  5. Maps

We'll start with Information Presentation issues: Information Density,Partitioning, Page Layout, Page Numbers.

Information Density has to do with how much information we can cram on to one pages. There are times where you are going to want a loose density, and times where you will want very tight density.

When you are working with things like MOC's, TOC's, or any other form of presenting raw data, then you want to make things as tight as possible.

There are many ways of doing this, but one of the best ways is to have a template that helps you write small and cram things together. For example, I have standard form speeds (both subject and pan-subject) that keep 45 lines of text- far more than a college rule. It makes you write small. And it's not just height- when you write small, you write small in width too, so something that once took 3 lines now only takes 2.

Information density is a MUST for tables of contents. No double spacing, unless you love flipping pages and scanning with your eyes! You want to be able to see as much as possible in as small a space as possible.

On the other hand, there are times where you will want things spaced out. If you are writing in a POI, you'll want to have plenty of room for comments from the future. You'll want to have space to interrupt yourself, or maybe later draw diagrams. You will want LESS information density.

So keep these things in mind as you work on your notes.

Next: Partitioning.

Partitioning will be a recurring theme as you keep your notebooks.

Let's take the example of a single page: Do you have a space for the Title? How big will you want it to be? How about the page number? How much space will you allocate for revision? How about the page's date- do you want to leave space for that?

Content. As mentioned in information density, you'll want space for future comments. Perhaps you are anticipating a lot of work in the future, so you'll allocate more space for that possible future content.

Now lets get off the page, and talk about namespace.

Whenever you create a system for naming things, you are working in partitioning. You have only so many letters. True, you have infinite glyphs, but they are kind of hard to make indexes out of- they have no intrinsic ordinality, the way letters do.

Some time you may want to reserve a space of page numbers for some particular thing to be filled in in the future. We'll talk about page numbers in a moment.

Partitioning is difficult for me to talk about in the abstract, so I just want to leave you with understanding that ``Partitioning is something that I'll be spending some time thinking about.'' When the particulars of your immediate situation become clearer to you, you'll see what needs to be done. You will have options. The strategies in this book will describe many to you. Over time, you will gain skill in partitioning.

Page Layout.

The last two topics have been pretty vague: ``Think about info density, think about partitioning.''

This one is going to be pretty specific.

On a given page, you can find the following things:

You are probably familiar with the first four, the last two may be a little bit of a mystery to you.

The details of the first four:

Content will fill most of your page. I need not explain it.

The date goes in the top right corner. It reads something like ``(Sunday) 25 May 2003.'' I use the Japanese characters for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I highly recommend learning those particular characters. They are not hard, they are very useful, and they look far more different than one another than the letters for Sunday Monday Tuesday etc.,. You'll be able to mark down the day of the week a lot quicker, and you'll have greater information density. Highly recommended.

The Title appears at the top of the page, centered. Usually the title will include some sort of identification. For example, a title may read: ``POI#26 - the Kitty Model''. The title is ``the Kitty Model'', ``POI #26'' is the identification for the sequence of pages: This is Point-of-Interest #26. You needn't always have a title, nor need an identification. But it's best to have both.

Titles are most important for POI's, because they delimit the boundaries of the POI. Anything that goes beyond the boundary of a POI's point of agreements or title are basically lost, as far as retrieval at a later date goes. That is, if it isn't described by the title, you won't be able to find it. Stay in bounds, spark new POIs when you need to. I'll talk about this more later, when talking about POIs.

Now we have the ``Page ID''. It's a whole topic on it's own, so I'll talk about it after I talk about ``sequence marks'' and ``archival marks.'' For now, let's just say that the page number goes in the bottom right corner, so that you can flip pages and find what you are looking for.

Sequence Marks.

When you create POI #28, it may consist of 1 page, it may consist of 3 pages, it may consist (you want to avoid this) of 27 pages.

But you don't want to have to turn the page to see if there is more material or not. That's a waste of time. So what we have are ``Sequence Marks''. They effectively say whether there is another page in the sequence or not.

As we see when we talk about Page ID's, some times you can tell just by the Page ID. (``P27'', alone, means that there is no next page, that this is a one-sheeter. But if it reads ``P27-1'', than you know that this is the first of several.)

But generally you can't.

In the bottom right corner, you put a little glyph- a little arrow pointing to the right- to mean ``Continues on the next page.''

And if there is nothing on the bottom right corner, that means that you were too busy to put the arrow there, but that you can still, probably go to the next page as well.

However, if you see a little ``box'', a little square, drawn in the bottom right corner, then that means that that's the end of the sequence.

Unless! Unless! You might extend the POI (or whatever sequence it is- maybe some Research, or a Reference, or whatever) later, in which case you need to put an arrow through the box.

The box is made transparent, so that you can later put something in it to cancel the box.

So if you see a box with an arrow on top, that means that once this was the last page of the sequence, but that you later extended it, so: Turn the page.

The sequence mark appears ABOVE the page ID.

Archival Marks.

Archival Marks appear to the LEFT of the page ID. (This is all in the bottom right corner of the page, now.)

The archival mark is a RED mark (unlike the BLUE page numbers and Sequence markers). It can look like whatever you want, I personally use the Japanese Kanji for ``Old''.

It looks like this:

  | |

Looks sort of like a tombstone.

If you put that mark there, that means that the information on this page is no longer required in the subject, in the common-store binder. However, it may still be the target of some links you set up some time long ago, so you want to keep it around. (In the Archives! Not carrying it around with you everywhere.)

So what you do is POINT to the MOST RECENT information on the page- put a note in red saying, ``SEE ALSO: (page id of more recent information)'', and then at the very bottom of the page, to the left of the page ID, put your red glyph for ``Archive.''

Archival pages are in the back part of your section, in terms of physical page layout. Not the VERY back- that special page is for abbreviations and shorthand. But generally, you throw archival stuff out back. Then when you want to save space, you take all of the archival stuff, and merge it into the archive binders.

Finally- Page Numbers.

I use the word ``Page Numbers'', but I should really be saying ``Page Identification'', because it's actually much more than a number.

Here's are some actual ``page numbers'' from my notebooks:

``Notebook S27-S47'' ``GKI REF 1-II-1, 1-III-1'' ``Mental Technique P7-1'' ``P2-3''

The first one means: ``This is a page in the Notebooks subject, representing Speed Thoughts numbered 27-47.''

Next: ``This is a page on the Global Knowledge Infrastructure; It's a commentary on reference number 1; In particular it is commentary on sections II and III of the document.'' (In the references list, you would see that reference number 1 was ``Towards High-Performance Organizations: A Strategic Role for Groupware'', by Douglas C Engelbart in June 1992.)

Next: ``This is a page on mental techniques, the first page in POI #7.''

The last, ``P2-3'', says nothing more than ``This is page #3 of POI #2.'' How do you know what the subject is? Because it's in the tab ``Personal Records.'' Since you don't move pages around (we'll actually talk about that later on- there ARE times when you do- see the section on ``Out Cards'' below), there's no need to worry that you won't be able to put it back, unless there's some freak disaster (such as hitting an economy binder the wrong way, pages spill out, and then something happens to ALSO, further, put the pages radically out of order- I've never seen that last part happen).

So the parts of a page ID are:

Subject - Segment - Segment ID - Page ID

It's a little different for reference segments, because they adapt to the form of the book that they are commenting. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The ``Subject'' part is optional. You don't HAVE to repeat the subject over on every page. I'd argue that it's not even good to do that, unless you have good reason to believe that your binder is going to explode and all the papers fly out in completely different, unordered, directions. If you fear that kind of thing, put the Subject on every single page. Or at least an Acronym for the subject. (Replace ``Global Knowledge Infrastructure'' with ``GKI''.)

There ARE places where it'll be good to put the subject on EACH page, and you'll even want to spell it ALL the way out.

In particular, I am thinking of the Speeds pages, and your P and P pages. Your latest speeds pages, and your P and P pages, from myriad subjects, will all be living right next to each other. You will need to flip between them, thus necessitating the appearance of the subject name in the Page ID. More than that though, you will need THE FULL SUBJECT NAME spelled out, because otherwise you are going to have to expand out the full name of the acronym when you are ordering the speeds. ``Does MTK come before or after MP?'' quickly grates on the nerves. (This is ``Mental Techniques'' vs. ``Metaphysics.'' N is #12, and T is #19, so MTK does indeed come before MP, even though by acronym, it would appear to go the other way.) So just spell everything out on your speeds and on your P and P's.

After the (optional) subject is the (required) segment.

The segment signifiers I use, in no particular order, are:

We'll talk about these segments more in ``Intra-Subject Architecture.'' All you need to know for now, is that there are these segments, and that they have a short identifier, and you'll be sticking that identifier in your page ID.

Most common will be:

Sometimes I use ``R'' rather than ``REF'', but it's problematic because it is easily confused with ``RS''- Research. Quite different things, though similar.

Immediately following the Segment Identifier, you will have a NUMBER.

That number can mean one of either two things:

It can be a TOC #, or it can be a VERSION #.

They are only slightly different.

The TOC number means ``Ordinality in a table of contents.'' Even if you aren't keeping a table of contents yet (there's not much reason to make a table of contents over only 2 or 3 POI), you still have the notion of ordinality, and that the pieces in the segment are in some sort of addressable order. So that's the first.

The second, ``Version number'', is when you have things that don't really have a table of contents.

Consider A/S (``Abbreviations and Shorthand'') for example. You never have multiple A/S's. There's just one- the A/S. Holding all of the abbreviations and shorthands that you use.

Ah, but maybe it's getting over stuffed. Maybe you've filled out all your hash tables in the A/S section, so you need to make a new version- ``A/S2''. You'll copy all of the original A/S (just ``A/S''; though you can write in a ``1'' if you like) into the new, larger tables, you'll archive A/S1, and then just use A/S2.

There you go.

The same goes for the maps. You usually start with just a single page map. But eventually, you need to scrap it, and replace it with four pages of map. So the first map was v1, and the next map is v2.

Your first map page was just ``M'', meaning ``This is a map page, the first map page ever, and there isn't even a sequence for it, it's just a single page.''

But your next map pages will be ``M2-1'', ``M2-2'', ``M2-3'', ``M2-4'', denoting their pages within Map #2.

You can later expand out with ``M2-5'', ``M2-6'', ``M2-7'' if you like.

And eventually, you'll do a major reorg, and you'll go afresh with ``M3-1'', ``M3-2'', ``M3-3'', and so on.

So these are more like Version numbers, in this case, rather than TOC entry numbers.

Finally, after the subject, segment, and TOC/version number, you have the page ID.

Most of the time, this is straight forward.

You start with 1, then you go to 2, then you go to 3, yadda yadda yadda.

But there are two special things to note:

  1. It's totally different in the REF segment.
  2. Sometimes you want to put a page between two existing pages, so you give it a ``half number'' or a decimal value. For example, if you want to put two pages between P7-4 and P7-5, so what you do is you make P7-4.3 and P7-4.7. Hey! There's no binder police. You can do whatever you like, as long as it works for you.

By the way- I want to briefly comment on that principle. ``There's no binder police.'' I'm writing this complex system to you, explaining how I made it up, and how it works. What's most important is that you get the IDEAS here, not that you actually replicate my entire system exactly. In fact, I hope that you DON'T. For one, you are living in a different mind than I am, so you are going to probably want to put things in a different way than I do. But more than that, I WANT TO HEAR NEW IDEAS. I want to know what people do with this. And if you just say, ``Hey, I did it exactly like you,'' well, what growth is there in that? I mean, it might be good for a little while, but I really want to see what else is out there. My system changed in a major way at least once every 2-4 months. And it was always a positive change. So I want to hear what you all do. And remember: There's no Binder police, like my girlfriend always tells me about cooking. ``You want to put paprika in there? Throw paprika in there. There's no cooking police that are going to go after you.''

So get the meat of what I am saying, the IDEAS on how you can organize stuff, and then adapt it to your domain.

THEN TELL ME ABOUT IT LATER! Yeah! I'd be astonished to hear that people are doing this- for one- but to hear that you even carried it FORWARD and tried out NEW Things. That'd just validate my life right there, on the spot. <laugh>

Okay. So where were we. Decimal pages. All's fair in love, war, and binders. Decimal pages if you like. This isn't BASIC programming, where you have to renumber if you want to put something between lines 2 and 3.

But References.

I have found that it is best to annotate references by using the book's own organization.

For example, say a book (or web page) is organized into three parts (I,II, and III), and those parts are divided into chapters (1,2,3...)

Then as you annotate, USE THAT STRUCTURE.

The page ID for comments on chapter 3 of part II should begin with ``II.3''.

At the VERY END of the book's structure id, THEN put your normal page numbers, ``1,2,3...''

So for example, if you wrote three pages to go along with ``II.3'', they should be ID'd ``II.3-1'', ``II.3-2'', ``II.3-3''.

Or more completely, assuming this is reference #7, in subject ``Robots'': ``Robots REF7-II.3-1'', ``Robots REF7-II.3-2'', and ``Robots REF7-II.3-3''.

And that's that for page numbers and Information Presentation issues!

We talked about page layout, partitioning, info density, and page numbers.

Maps are related, but we'll talk about them independently.

Next we'll talk about general PROCESS principles:

I want to start with my favorite of these: ``Tolerance for Errors.''


You can't do this and be a perfectionist. (Well, okay, it does require some sort of perfectionism to insist on recording and integrating every meaningful thought. But lets ignore that for the moment.)

I had a good friend in high school. Every day, he would make sure that the entire classes notes fit onto 1 page. This wasn't done for any good reason, it was just the sort of thing like "step on a crack break my mothers back", and you just get into it and can't stop. So he write REALLY REALLY SMALL on the page. And each page was perfectly, identically formatted.

That will absolutely NOT work here.

Now, suppose you are stuck in this. Just say.


What you must do, first, is realize that the imperfection is imperfect, because it is getting in the way of optimal experience of life.

The second, is to INTENTIONALLY FUCK UP YOUR PAGE. And you must do it a different, unique, creative way, each time, until you no longer have a phobia of imperfection.

Take a big fat pen, of the ``wrong'' color, and put a big line down the middle of the page.


Intentionally- On Purpose- Completely Mis-ID the page. Say it's a page from another section, another segment, and a TOC entry ID number like ``Infinity'' or draw a little happy face where the page ID goes.

Put ``Yesterday'' as the date. Or whatever.

Just mess it up. On purpose.

And then sigh a breath of relaxation.

You've screwed the virgin. There's no need to worry now.

Similar to this notion of Tolerance for Errors is "Starting in the Middle."

Suppose you have a new idea on how to organize your notebooks. That's GOOD! You want to evolve your system. Most of your ideas will be good! You'll have some bad ones, but all in all, most will be good, and you'll want to encourage the process of evolving.

What you DON'T want to do is go back to your months worth of previous notes, and adapt them all the the new system.

Absolutely not. If you do that, you're going to be stuck forever in your old thoughts, whenever you get a new idea.

So the trick is to ``Start in the Middle.'' Just start NOW with the new system.

If you want, you can partition out part of your name-space for a new experiment. Maybe have a segment named ``X'' for a while, until you figure out whether you like it or not. Then you can rename it if you like. (When devising naming systems, always leave ``outs'' if you can.)

So we've talked about tolerance for errors, and starting in the middle. These are process issues we're talking about, again.

Now lets go back now and talk about Late binding, and out cards.

Out cards: When you move a page from one place to another place, you need to put an ``out card'' in the old place. That is, you put a page in the old place that the same PAGE ID as the old place, that points to the new page.

That's because sometimes you have links to the old place. You don't know, and you don't care to keep track. If you had bidirectional links all over the place (this seems to be one of Ted Nelson's favorite ideas), it would take forever to do (you couldn't refer to something without actually digging it up and then linking back), and you'd have all these irrelevant links all of the place. Sometimes a forward link matters a lot more than knowing that you are linked. Anyways.

You don't know if you are linked to or not, or by how many. I suppose you could count, but it seems like a waste of time. The solution is the OUT CARD.

If you find that a bunch of out cards are next to one another, you can just consolidate them into one, with a wide-range page ID. For example, ``POI3, Pages 4-7''.

Now that we've talked about out cards, it's easier to talk about late binding. Late binding is a common theme in the notebooks.

You want to do work that doesn't apply to the present moment, and that might be rendered completely unnecessary, AT THE LATEST TIME POSSIBLE.

A demonstration.

You make a page, but later move it. So you have an out card.

Now you move the page AGAIN, so you have two out cards.

Out card 1 points to Out card 2 points to the page.

Now, suppose you find a link to out card 1. "That's interesting, what's this?`` You find out it goes to Out card 2. ''Curious and curiouser!" Finally you find the page.

Now, generally, if you follow a link, you are more likely to follow it again in the future. It's a subject of thought and what not. So what you do, after looking up the final link, is that you go to outcard 1, and correct it to point not to card 2, but to the final destination. And then you go to the ORIGINAL link, and have it not point to card 1, but cross that out and put in the final destination.

Yeah! That's late binding. You fix it all up when you ACTUALLY FOLLOW THE LINK.

But you don't do that before, because it would just take too long and be too boring to fix up everything before hand. There's no need. Just do it at the last possible moment.

Finally, ``Divide when Big.''

Sometimes a subject gets BIG. REALLY BIG.

And as it grows, you start to see dissimilarities where before you didn't.

It's a little like Mozart or symphony music. One symphony sounds pretty much like another symphony, if you don't listen to them a whole lot. ``Oh, there's some classical music playing.''

But then, as you start to listen, and think about what you are listening to, you'll start to notice distinctions and connections, where you didn't notice them before. And as you do so, you'll see this new structure.

That same exact thing happens with the musical stream of thoughts going through your head.

The most dramatic example in my case was the fate of two subjects: ``Society'' and ``Metaphysics''. I now laughed thinking that I had them as just singular buckets. But I can't really blame myself, because: How should I have divided them?

The subjects are not logically arranged, by some sort of cosmic organization. They are arranged subjectively, by their own connections in our lives. The process of keeping these notebooks exposes the connections in your mind. They give you a MIRROR to understand your mind and thoughts.

Okay, so what happened to ``Society'' and ``Metaphysics''?

They blew up!

``Society'' became: Military. International Powers. Meetings. Festivals. Communes. Anarcho-Science. Global Knowledge Infrastructure. Democracy. Social Ideologies. Social Goals. Electronic Collaboration. Activism (which later gave way to Strategy.)

Wow! To think, it was all just one subject before.

And ``Metaphysics''? Spirit. Mind First. Admonishment. Ethics. Values. Imagination. Personal Identity.

So: Divide when Big.

It'll help you focus your thoughts. I'll talk a little bit about how to do it in ``Extra-Subject Architecture'', talking about how to spawn out subjects from existing subjects. (Easier than you think. It's MERGING subjects that's terrible. But that's pretty rare. Happens, but it's rare.)

SO. We've talked about process. We've talked about dividing when big, about tolerating errors, starting in the middle, we've talked about late binding and out cards. This is all process stuff.

Before we talking about information presentation, like page layout, partitioning, info density, page numbers. We're talking all together about general principles.

Next we'll talk about Writing Form, Psychology, and Maps.

Writing Form first.

There are two major things to mention here: COLOR, and QUALITY.

And this is where paper and pen really start kicking the computer's ass, and the computer-fanatics don't even know it.

Discussing quality is really made a lot easier by contrasting it with computers, actually.

A long time ago, I stored all of my thoughts in a computer text file. It was actually an AWESOME system. The computer has so many advantages that the paper world doesn't. For example, you don't have to put a thought in just ONE place- you can easily put it into 5 different places! I call it ``Multi-cat'' or ``Multiple Categorization.'' It's easy- just put tags. (It baffles me to this day why people who make computer notebooks DO NOT do this more frequently..! There's all this notebook software out there, and you STILL have to put a thought in one place, and one place only..! They just have a single category tree, and you have to put a thought in a single place. To do otherwise, you have to copy and paste or something. Terrible.) Any ways.

For all this awesomeness in the computer, you are unconsciously pulled into a problem:


I mean, lets ignore the obvious problems with including picture. (Yeah, like you really want to scan in every single image you make. And like you really want to be so punished for visual thinking- the BEST thinking.) Just consider straight text.

In the computer, ALL of your text is EXACTLY THE SAME.

YES, YES! I CAN HEAR YOU COMPUTER-PEOPLE'S COMPLAINING. ``But you can use FONTS!'' But you can make it Bold! But you can make it Italics! yes! Yes! YES! I know it! You CAN do all those things.

But that doesn't make it FAST. In keeping notes, you don't want to constantly be dicking around with your UI. You want to be able to JUST WRITE.

It annoys me enough that to switch pen colors, I have to flick a tab at the top of my pen. But at least I don't have to move my hand away from my pen, or move to a completely different section of the screen to set a font, or move the cursor around. To change fonts for a segment of text, you have to do all that stuff. And you STILL don't get all of the variation you want.

And look: there are ADVANTAGES to having SLOPPY TEXT.

It tells you something about the development of your thoughts. When you see sloppy text, that means "This is just a quick idea I spat out.`` When you see regular solid text, that means ''This is something I thought over for a while." You have your own writing style, and it communicates to you things that are important to you, though you may not consciously register it. (Actually, that's good: Unconscious communication is far stronger, and doesn't get in the way of your thinking.) All of this, all of this telegraphing, disappears on the computer.

The diagrams, the writing style, all disappears.

And consider maps. Maps are basically the backbone of this whole operation that I'm describing. You just can't do it on the computer easily. It takes WORK on the computer to say, ``This text is tiny,'' to give the nuances of positioning, size, quality, all of that stuff.

And icons. I use icons all over the place. That's hard to do in the computer.

So, by contrasting with the computer, I have described the kinds of things you want to concentrate on in your notebook. USE DIAGRAMS EVERYWHERE. They are FAR better than coercive linear text. And USE VARIABLE WRITING STYLES. Write sloppy, write neat, and everything in between. It communicates to you. Use shorthand and abbreviation. Know Gregg's script? Use that when it suits you. You can late-bind decode it later. It's probably not as important as something else.


Enough on that.

Now lets talk about color.

Your pen has four colors: Red, Green, Blue, and Black

You will want to connect meeting with each color.

Here's my associations:

RED: Error, Warning, Correction
BLUE: Structure, Diagram, Picture, Links, Keys (in key-value pairs)
GREEN: Meta, Definition, Naming, Brief Annotation, Glyphs
BLACK: Main Content

I also use green to clarify sloppy writing later on. Blue is for Keys, Black is for values.

I hope that's self-explanatory.

If you make a correction, put it in red. Page numbers are blue. If you draw a diagram, make it blue. Main content in black.

Suppose you make a diagram: Start with a big blue box. Put the diagram in the box. (Or the other way around- make the diagram, than the box around it.) Put some highlighted content in black. Want to define a word? Use a green callout. Oops- there's a problem in the drawing- X it out in red, followed by the correction, in red.

Some times, I use black and blue to alternate emphasis. Black and blue are the easiest to see.

If I'm annotating some text in the future, and the text is black, I'll switch to using blue for content. Or vise versa.

Some annotations are red, if they are major corrections.

Always remember: Tolerate errors. If your black has run out, and you don't want to get up right away to fetch your backup pen, then just switch to blue. When the thoughts out, go get your backup pen.

BY THE WAY- I forgot to mention this in the materials section, but it'll do just fine here.

Those four color pens- I think they're made in France or something. At any rate- YOU CAN SWAP COLORS. For example, say that you have one pen, but it ran out of black. So you start using your next pen. But then say that you run out of BLUE in the new pen. You CAN open up the pen, pop out the blue, and put it in the newer pen. Yeah! The procedure is difficult to describe. You just have to yank really hard on the ink. Then push it into the new pens place. It works! It's not advertised, but it works! So there you go.

Key-value pairs: Sometimes you have a big hash. For example, in abbreviations lists- you'll have letters A-Z running down the left side of the paper. One line may have, say, 3 key-value pairs in it. In my ``People Abbreviations'', for example, under ``MNO'', I have ``MT'', ``NC'', ``NH'', ``ME''. Those letters are written in BLUE, because they are keys. The values, written in black, are ``Michael Turner", ''Noam Chomsky``, ``Napoleon Hill'', and "Michael Ende.'' Quite an interesting collection of people, no? That's why they get to be two-letter people. <smile>

NEXT, the Psychology of notebooks.

I want to talk about being excited, ``stewing", and ''The Kitty Model". All three very different things, but all about the psychological aspects of notebooks.

Being Excited: Be excited about keeping your notes. Imagine what can come of it! Experience the vision. You are building CLARITY. You are organizing all of your thoughts together, and seeing what it adds up to. The results *WILL* surprise you, and you *WILL* see things that you have NEVER seen before.

Next: Avoid STEWING.

Stewing is what I call it when you are just floating over your notebook, putting things in, maintaining it, and being overall pretty directionless. Just watching connections form.

I suppose it's all right for a little while, and that it has it's uses. You certainly have to do a degree of processing as you keep your notes. But if you just found out that you spent 3 hours stewing over your notebook- you want to, and can, avoid that. Focus on the priority tabs, and decide on thoughts to calculate out. You have problems in your thoughts: figure out solutions. Go for "major notions per minute", don't get so bogged down in details.

Finally: ``The Kitty Model.''

So-called because my girlfriends name is Kitty.

I really want to just scan in the page that she made (and that I included in my notebooks.) However, our scanner has broken for the 3rd time, and we really think it's dead now, SO, I'll just have to tell you what ``The Kitty Model'' page depicts.

Words in parenthesis are either cartoon images or Kanji.

I am ``Lion''. ``Kitty'' is my girlfriend. ``Kitten'' is our daughter. (I should introduce you to my family. Amber is my girlfriend. Our daughter's name is ``Sakura.'')

Straight from ``Notebooks P26'':

POI \#26: The Kitty Model                     (Mon) 26 May 2003

(Lion) ``Oh! I Thinked a Think!''      (Lion) Writes think down.

10 years later.

(Lion)                  ``How will I develop all these thinks?''
(2 stacks of notes.)    ``One at a time I guess.''

(Kitten) - ``Daddy!''
(Lion) (a page)     "OK this is a good think,
                     let's develop it a bit."

(Kitten) - ``Daddy, I'm getting married!''
(Lion) - ``Oh shit! I got another think!''

10 years later...

(Kitten) (Lion) (4 stacks of notes.)
``Daddy?''   ``Shit. I have all my thinks written down!''

    ... (grave marker) <- Lion

    (Kitty) (Bonfire) <- Lion's thinks.


Note the page ID in the bottom right corner, the title on the top, the date in the top-right corner, and the page contents in the middle.

This cartoon speaks for itself. Particularly, on the immobilizing features of the notebook system, and the perils involved here.

Contemplate deeply on this image.

Otherwise, you may find yourself in very dangerous territory.

I'm fucking serious. If you don't worry about this, then you are going into major spiritual self-damage. If you don't believe in that kind of thing, then consider damage in terms of however you contemplate your life. But it can be REALLY BAD to do this for prolonged periods of time.

I'm not saying it isn't a good idea to do this for a little while, or even periodically. But you don't want to do this for much longer than a few months at a time.

Unless you are a monk. In which case- go for it. :)=

Let me know how it goes.


I want to talk about Maps.


Because they are the ASSEMBLY POINTS. That's where ALL OF YOUR THOUGHTS come together into one place.

Your POI, your Speeds, your Research, your References, just everything. You assemble it all together on the map.

And the map you construct- that MAP is FAR MORE IMPORTANT than the sum of the CONTENT of all of your thoughts. Because, with that map, you can reconstruct the WHOLE THING.

Take this book for instance. What I've basically done, is taken my two map pages from my ``Notebooks'' notebook, and I'm just going over the maps I have. Serializing them out into text.

For example, on ``General Principles'', there's a link to ``Psychology'', with ``.33 .37 p26'' next to it. In green, next to ``p26'', it reads ``the Kitty Model.'' Can you guess what .33 and .37 are about? They're about being excited, and about not stewing. If I had put under ``.33'' the word, in green, ``Excited,'' and under .37 ``Don't stew'', I wouldn't even need my speed lists. I could just reconstruct the whole thing for you here in text, based on the map.

So there is that.

Now I want to talk about constructing maps, in the particular. (For this, I'm going over to my ``Visual Language'' notes, and looking at the SMOC, pulling out the section on ``MAPS''.)

And there I have it:

Multi-dimensional MOC's, Possibilities, in Explanations, and Why Better.

For the sake of writing this book, I'm going to skip the possibilities of mapping, and explanations, and focus in on Multi-dimensional maps, and maps the are better than TOCs (in most cases.)

(I'm demonstrating this to you, so that you can see, as I go with this, how they work.)

I see off in the distance ``Mental Coercion.'' It's it's OWN topic, within this SMOC for Visual Language (``VL SMOC''). The big things in this area are ``MAPS'' and ``Mental Coercion." Between them is the ''Why Better field.`` Surrounding that are "Uncoersive'' (which itself links to ``Mental Coercion''), ``Structure'' (which links to the hypertext movement), ``Enables Strategy'', and ``Only read NEW ideas.''

Those things are written in tiny little lower case letters. And the are surrounded by lots of little dots with small numbers by them- references to the VL Speed Lists.

And before we go much further: YES, I do realize the irony here. YES, I do realize that my writing here is terrible. I'm not a writer. And YES, I realize that this should be written AS A HYPERTEXT. And YES, I realize that for being such a strong proponent for visual language, that this document should be VISUAL. And YES, I realize that it should be mapped out, rather than a big long didactic mentally coercive text.

YES, I realize all of these things. But I also know that my computer skills of actually inputting those things- are actually pretty poor. I'm a great programmer, but I don't know how to use photoshop. And the tools out there are pretty poor for the kinds of things I am describing.

And I realize that if I try to write in those ways, that this book will never appear on the Internet.

And I further realize that there is NEAR ZERO content on the Internet that has to do with the kinds of things I am describing.

SO. In conclusion. I say ``better a little than none at all.''

I only believe that, if you are actually reading this, if there is ONE PERSON in the world interested in this subject- that you will be grateful that this work appears, even in this ultra-crummy form.

YES, I have talked with people who have read MY ENTIRE WEIRD FILE ( lion/weird.html), SO. I believe people will read this. And that someone may even follow the directions and do something like this themselves. Please contact me if you do.

I MAY (I would say ``Will'', but I don't really know for sure) make a 2nd draft of this document. (Whoa! Concept!) And if I DID, I would put it in DOCBook. Than you'd at least have a table of contents, and organized pages. As much as I hate tables of contents for their weaknesses. And I MAY even scan in pictures and diagrams from my notebooks, and if I DO, the text would become incredibly more clear and accessible. And it is CONCEIVABLE, THAT, IN THE DISTANT FUTURE, I would put together this all in a mapped, hypertext, icon including set of pages. It would be a lot of work, but I could go that far. If people were interested.

So the lesson is: If you are slaving through this, if there is a Single Soul out there actually reading this: You MUST let me know. It is a MORAL IMPERATIVE.

Thank you.

Back to maps, from Irony.

I want to write about why maps are better, and about how to frame the first page of a bunch of map pages. I also want to write about creation techniques.

Maps are better than TOCs because:

``Mental Coercion''. Let me describe this idea for a moment.

Think about a Shakespeare play. Now think of a map of, say, the Earth.

The Shakespeare play is ``Mentally Coercive.'' To get it, you have to go through the whole thing, start to finish. You can't watch it backwards, and get the same thing. It's possible, but difficult, to just look at portions of threads that interest you, without significantly processing other sections. You have to scan a lot, if you want to do that.

Now contrast that with a globe. If you are interested in a particular thing, you can just go straight to that thing. Focus in on the State of Washington, or whatever have you.

In your mind, the rest of the globe disappears. You're just looking at Washington, and Canada, and Oregon, and what not. ("Yes, I am a US-ian and Seattle-ite. Anything north of the border is just 'Canada'. Quebeque, BC, what are those things? It's all just Canada, to my untrained ear." No cruelty intended. Apologies to the rest of the world for the incredible harm our country inflicts.)

That's what I mean when I talk about ``mental coercion.''

It is my opinion that most books (textbooks in particular) are unnecessarily mentally coercive. I believe that you could also write fiction that was not mentally coercive, and still get around "but do they understand the build-up?" problems that hyper-text fictions have. But I am not here to talk about hyper-text fiction, I am here to talk about maps right now.

So one: Maps are mentally uncoersive. Much of the remaining advantages are based on this.

Next: Maps reveal structure.

Maps reveal structure in ways that TOCs, by nature of their forced ordinality, CANNOT.

How could I possibly represent the links from MAP - to Why better - Uncoercive - MENTAL COERCION in a TOC?

Both ``Map'' and ``Mental Coercion'' are ``high level'' constructs.

Can I imagine:

I. MAP 1. Why Better 2. Uncoercive II. MENTAL COERCION


Not only does it not work, but ``Uncoercive'' should be connected BENEATH why better, and we're also screwed up because as soon as we put in item 3, the link is broken between Uncoercive and "Mental Coercion".

No, that's all wrong. I am convinced that the only reason that we do TOCs is because we just haven't built the tools to make Maps. We are being beat up by the constraints of our medium of expression.

Fortunately, this will all change in the future. Scott McCloud and Robert Horn etc. all are hard at work at correcting this mistake, now that we have the computers that can express what we really WANT.

Complex structure cannot be represented by a TOC. It can only be represented by a Map. Even then, there are still problems, (for example, non-graphable interconnections), but we are still light-years beyond the TOC.

Next: Maps enable Strategy.

You can zoom in on precisely what you want to read. To be STRATEGIC, you need CONTEXT. Without context, you cannot make strategic decisions. With a TOC, you are limited to TWO pieces of context: What's above, and what's below. (Actually, you also get to go back an indentation level, and you can also look at children of a super-topic. So that's two more.) So you are confined to a grid. But we don't want that. We want to be able to go every which way, in order to more fully see the context, the terrain, so that we can make strategic decisions about what to read, or what to write.

Finally: You have the possibility of incredible subtlety.

I'm not talking useless or "This is so incredibly subtle, you will never even get it."

I mean- that you can position things, precisely, in order to make statements that require no words. This goes back to the sort of ``unconscious communication'' idea I mentioned. It's BEST when you can communicate complex ideas, without even speaking a word- and people ``just get it.''

What am I talking about here?

I'm talking about how you can position ideas that are related close to one another, and you don't even have to assign a label to the group of ideas.

Or you can position one idea right smack-dab between two other ideas, if there is a relationship between them. And people will get it. People can figure out what you can mean. And even if you don't draw a line between them, people will pick it up.

This blends into my next topic, which is constructing maps.

When you create a map, as per my system, you have two basic types of ``materials''.

You have your LINKS, ``Hard content'': That is, your speeds, your POI, your References, your whatever. Even other maps. Every thing you keep in your subject, appears as ``Hard content'' on your map.

Then you have your MAGNETS. These are words that ``pull'' on the hard content. They build your structure.

Here's an example from my notebooks, particularly ``PFT'' - Public Field Technologies. I wanted to make a map of what PFT meant to me. I made a big list of all of the public field technologies:

1 - Visual-Verbal Language 2 - Self-help Books 3 - Personal Notebooks 4 - Home Organizing 5 - Community 6 - Co-ops 7 - Communes 8 - Community Dollar Networks 9 - Free Software Dev Pratices 10 - Community Democratic Self-Rule 11 - Babysitting Networks 12 - Community Public Papers 13 - Community Wireless Networks 14 - Festivals that INVOLVE Participants 15 - Toolshare Networks 16 - Activist EDU Networks 17 - OpenSpace Technology (OST) 18 - Social Blueprints 19 - Social INET Organizing Blueprints 20 - Group-Help Books 21 - Arguments Databases 22 - Collaborative Mapping 23 - Groupware 24 - Wiki 25 - Anarcho-Science 26 - Collaboration Techniques and Study 27 - Field Advancement Study 28 - Visual Facilitation 29 - Public Field Technology self-Study 30 - Open HyperDocument System (OHS)

That's a list of what I call ``Public Field Technologies.'' But I don't want to get lost talking about it all right now. The focus is on the mapping process right now.

First that was just an unnumbered list. Then I numbered it. (1-30).

Then I started to look for patterns. I tried a few ways, and then I realized that I could handle a substantial number of the items by making a scale:

From Individual, to Family, to Clan/Tight-Community, to Loose Community, to Global. Yeah!

So 2 and 3: Self-help books, Personal notebooks (this!), those are on the ``Individual'' end of the scale.

Then on Family, there's ``Home Organizing.''

You don't want to actually write out ``Home Organizing'', because it's a lot of space, and a lot of writing. You just want to put ```4'' on the map. That way, if you decide to move it later on, you just cross out the ```4'', and put it somewhere else. Much easier. Much more agile.

Once it's all solidified and you are happy with it- you can turn on the Green, and expand out the numbers. But for now, you want just numbers out there.

So the word ``INDIVIDUAL'' appears, pretty big, on the page. That's a ``MAGNET'' word. It's ``attracting'' `2 and `3 to itself. They are right next to it.

Now let me point out something interesting:

`10 is ``Community Democratic Rule.'' Where did I put that?

It's not attached directly to a magnet word! Actually, it appears BETWEEN two magnet words: ``Clan,Tight Community", and ''Loose Community."

Clan/Tight Community has, immediately connected to it, ```6 co-op'' and ```7 commune". And Loose community has connected to it ''`5 Community (Local)``, "`14 festivals involving participants''. Interestingly enough, it also has some magnet words on it's sides- "Community Communications Line`` (w/ 12 and 13 attached) and ''Community Resource Collection" (w/ 8,11, and 15 attached).

But Democratic Self Rule, #10, floats between them.

So this is an example of some of the subtlety that maps allow, that TOC's do not, and how they work out. Yeah!

Incidentally, for those who wonder:

The line from Individual - Global was just one half.

The other half is centered around Collaboration, and Communication itself (Visual-Verbal Language).

So there you are. You should be able to map things now, at least crudely. Your skill will increase with practice.

Now I want to talk about what to do when maps get big, and multiple categorization of maps.

When maps get big, you want to rebuild them, and have a "distant view". You also want to respect multiple-categorization. Frequently, there are three ways of looking at the same thing, and you will want to capture all of them.

The first map in a sequence of maps should be a MAP of MAPS.

Oh, by the way. Yes, you can have icons and pictures and smiley faces on your maps. THERE ARE NO MAP MAKING POLICE. YOU CAN DO IT HOWEVER YOU LIKE!8

So have a map of maps at the beginning. And have super-maps as you need them: Maps that give you a birds eye view of other maps.

And have teleporters and warps from map to map. Really, you can do whatever you want.9


So. You now know why maps are cool, and how to make them.

You won't just make them in your SMOC and GSMOC, you may also make use of them in your POIs, as I did with the PFT map.

And we're done with this section! We've discussed the general principles!

A brief rehash:

Next, we'll talk about the architecture within a subject.

Then we'll talk about the super-architecture, binding all of the subjects together.

Then a bit about the theory of notebooks, and finally, the question of computers.

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