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AD·VNVM·DATVM Down to a single bit of data : Latest Post Tag Handwritten Notes to Link them with Typed Notes

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In short:

After four years of figuring it out and two years of testing it, I have a small tip for incorporating handwritten and typed project notes.

This is a small tip, but it took me four years of active thinking to come to it. I started using it two years ago, just before I authored Markdown Mapper. Markdown Mapper is an R script for reverse-engineering network maps from notes written in Markdown format, incorporating the hierarchical structure of outlines, metadata about the notes, and tags (like #hashtags) in the notes' text.

When I started my graduate career (which I recently concluded), I struggled to find a way to sustainably incorporate handwritten notes from meetings, classes, and brainstorming sessions with typed notes that I would alternatively create on those same types of occasions. Inevitably, my handwritten notes, lacking a coherent indexing strategy, would become forgotten or remain unconsidered as I reviewed the notes that I had typed.

My answer to this: Rather than focusing on constructing an index per se of my handwritten notes, I now just "tag" the notes. I follow this approach when taking handwritten notes (including, and especially, in mindmap format):

  1. Rather than using #hashtags, I double-underline any word or phrase I want to "tag" in my notes.
  2. Periodically, I digitize (i.e., save a digital copy of) my handwritten notebook. I most recently digitized a notebook by placing it on a tabletop, taking a photograph of each page, and sending it to Voussoir, as I described here. Just photographing each page with a camera or camera-phone can alternatively work well. Digitizing periodically also allows less worry about losing the physical notebook, because the notebook is "backed up" in a workflow like this. I save the photographs (either separately or combined as a PDF) alongside my typed notes.
  3. Once per week (or month, etc.), for each page of un-processed handwritten notes, I type the title of that page, the date, and a list of the double-underlined "tags" from that page. I save this list alongside my typed notes.
  4. At this point, I have a computer-searchable index of my handwritten notes alongside my computer-searchable typed notes. The full directory of notes files can be searched together, combined, etc. The presence of the digitized copy of the handwritten notebook allows looking up any page of notes regardless of whether the original, physical notebook is available.

For me, the utility of this approach is that the index arises naturally out of the text I write, and that the indexing process (typing up the "tags") can happen as frequently or infrequently as my projects require.

More Posts:

  1. An Introduction to the "Impost" Book Scanner, using Voussoir // Following several design principles of my "Non-Destructive Guillotine", I introduce a more portable single-camera book scanner design. The scanner uses a hinged platen that works with tightly-bound and paperback books, while allowing the book to sit spine-down at a variable angle. I also introduce a piece of software, "Voussoir," which semi-automates the process of de-keystoning and cropping images.
  2. The University of Pennsylvania has Issued a Press Release about my Appointment as Bollinger Fellow in Library Innovation // The University of Pennsylvania has issued a Press Release about the Bollinger Fellowship that I've started this month.
  3. I am a PhD Graduand // I have successfully defended my dissertation in Psychology at the University of Oregon, and am a PhD graduand (i.e., awaiting the conferral of the degree). My dissertation and its code and supporting files are freely available.
  4. I am Excited to be Working through CLIR in the University of Pennsylvania's Libraries // I am very excited to announce that I will be beginning work in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania in January 2017 as the University Libraries' Bollinger Fellow in Library Innovation through the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).
  5. An Introduction to the "Non-Destructive Guillotine" ("NDG") Book Scanner // I introduce a new portable, single-camera book scanner design. The scanner is small enough to fit into a backpack when disassembled, and can be re-assembled in under 10 minutes. It does not require any power tools to construct; the only required tools are a tape measure, a PVC cutting tool, and scissors. A full list of parts, sizes, and prices are below, along with a video explaining the scanner's construction and use.
  6. A Workflow for Using Plaintext Notes with Zotero // I've created an "export translator" and a CSL file to facilitate creating and using plaintext notes associated with citations in the cross-platform reference manager Zotero. The CSL file should also be compatible with Mendeley and other programs that use the CSL standard.
  7. A Video of 'Time Travel for Academics,' an Introduction to Git, from the University of Oregon // I've posted a video of a one-hour introduction to version control with Git for academics that I presented at the University of Oregon.
  8. Video Privacy Enhancer Plugin Updated // The Video Privacy Enhancer Plugin that I wrote for Pelican has been updated to allow embedding videos from Vimeo.
  9. A Self-Hosted Sync Solution for Zotero // Because of my preference not to use the Zotero server to sync my academic library, I have written a small bash (command-line) function to sync Zotero database files over any server of one's choosing (including, e.g., OwnCloud or Dropbox).