Monday, August 29, 2011

"Loose Links" versus "Tight Links"

In a loose analogy to the distinction between hard and soft links that is sometimes made when referring to file links, one may perhaps distinguish between loose and tight links in a knowledge base. The contrast may perhaps also be characterized as one between "indirect" links and "direct" links. Any application that relies on keywords, tags or categories to connect different entries in its database, may be said to rely on indirect or loose links. An application that relies mainly on actual references of one item to another, like a Wiki (or other hyper-textual applications) may be said to rely on direct or tight links.

I have argued before that just relying on indirect links is ineffective (and have criticized a previous incarnation of Luedecke's Zettelkasten for doing this, since it claims to have been conceived after Luhmann's system which relied almost exclusively on direct or hard links).

There is obviously no reason why a wiki application that relies mainly on direct links cannot also utilize the loose links that tags or categories provide. In fact, the two methods are not contradictory but complementary. They offer different views of the same data, possibly opening up new perspectives.

Both types of links or connections depend largely on deliberate input by the maintainer or user of the knowledge base. She has to make the link or assign the category (or keyword) explicitly.

There is an even "looser" connection opened up by an algorithm that computes which topics are "like" the topic under consideration.[1] This kind of connection does not need special deliberation by the user. It adds another view or perspective (and one that will perhaps increase "serendipity").


1. See ConnectedText 5.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

On Agenda, Ecco and the Stupidity of the Marketplace

Bad ideas spread like wildfire, so why didn't a good one catch on? is a post on why Agenda and Ecco were killed by the marketplace. It is a copy of an article by Andrew Brown in the Guardian from 2007, but it's still worth reading.[1]

No further comment!


1. Here the link to the original article, which I found later.

What I Like Most about ConnectedText 5

ConnectedText version 5 is just about to be released. It is a major advance. It is therefor imporssible to mention all significant improvements and additions. Here are the things I like most:
  1. It now allows a different spell checker for different projects. Since some of my projects are in German and some in English that is important to me. Secondly, it now uses the same spell check engine as Open Office or LibreOffice.
  2. You can now protect projects with a password (if you want).
  3. It allows now a special "project outline" for every project in addition to ordinary outlines. You can have several open and the windows can float. I know that ConnectedText is not an outliner per se, but it's outlining window—essentially a one-pane outliner—is more capable than many dedicated outliners. In conjunction with the wiki part, it also becomes a very capable two-pane outliner. You can now create new topics from the outliner itself.
  4. It can display categories (and property searches) as clouds. Really cool! Property searches can also be displayed as pie charts.
  5. It now supports check- and comboboxes in topics.
  6. It now supports Python 2.7 and 3.2.
  7. The Regex engine has been further improved. There is, in fact, no other wiki application (for the desktop or the web) that has search capabilities as strong as those of ConnectedText. Most of the other Wikis have rather anemic search capabilities. A TiddlyWiki, for instance, might do for a few hundred entries, but it is not at all suitable for thousands or tenth of thousands of entries (and not just because of search). Accordingly, it is not suited to serious applications.
  8. ConnectedText now has a function, called "Like this" which displays topics that have significant similarities to the topic in view. This is very much like the DevonThink command that so many people consider to be an example of artificial intelligence. I know of no other application for the PC that has this affordance.
ConnectedText remains a desktop wiki and I like it that way. It's a virtue. In fact, ConnectedText's syntax is very much like MarkDown (or better (MultiMarkdown) that is praised so much on OS X.

There are people who do not know any better and think that a light markup language like the one used by ConnecteText is a limitation or gets in the way. This is like arguing that an airplane is inferior to a car because it has more controls!

ConnectedText does have a learning curve, but it is very easy to get started with the basics.

It probably does not need repeating, but I will do it anyway: ConnectedText is the only application I use every day. It's the first one I open and the last one I close. Most of my thinking and writing goes on in ConnectedText. I highly recommend it!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lotus Agenda's Categories

As regular followers of this blog know, I have a certain nostalgia for Lotus Agenda. I am always on the lookout for a serious re-write of the program. Chandler which was supposed to be Agenda re-incarnated fell seriously short and seems to have fallen into oblivion. There was a rewrite for Linux, called Beeswax. It looked good, but there seems to have been no development since the end of 2008. There was also an attempt of a rewrite in PHP. It also seems to be stalled since September 2010.

The author of the last attempt does, however, offer an interesting discussion of categories in Agenda. See here and here. He notes that "one of the neat things that Agenda will do is run through the text looking for category matches. Once these categories exist then Agenda will become 'smarter' and make these assignments automatically."

I think he is right. Automatic category assignment and automatic date recogniton is what sets Agenda apart even today. The latter is easy to implement. In fact, I have written some AutoHotkey scripts that recognize "/tomorrow" or "/next Tuesday", for instance, as dates and substitute a date that is recognized by my favorite note-taking application (ConnectedText). The former seems hard. To be sure, there are many applications that allow you manually to add "keywords" or "tags" to your text, but I am not sure that there are any that do it automatically. I wonder whether it can (or should) be implemented in my favorite application.[1]


1. Just discovered that Evernote can apparently do it. Checked it out, but find it is nothing to write home about.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Update on Elyse and RikiTikiTavi

I uninstalled both of them. Elyse is just useful for static files. RikiTikiTavi has less features than Notebook and a few bugs (won't open doc files on my system, for instance).

If You Were Wondering about Genetic Modification

It's here—and it's beautiful, or is it scary, or both?

"The general process of developing fluorescent fish … begins by adding a fluorescence gene to the fish before it hatches from its egg." And the "fluorescent protein genes occur naturally, and are derived from marine organisms." I am sure other naturally occurring proteins can be incorporated into different species with amazing or terrifying results. When I was teaching at Purdue fifteen years ago, some scientists were already experimenting with chicken genes and potatoes.

I know this has nothing to do with note-taking (except in the sense that we all would do well to take note of these developments)!

No further comment!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Wikitaxi

Wikitaxi allows you to "take Wikipedia with you while you are offline."

It's an interesting application, if you rely on Wikipedia. I have given up on it, however, because of the heavy-handed practices of subject editors.

Just take a look at this and the following note: "The topic of this article may not meet the general notability guideline. Please help to establish notability by adding reliable, secondary sources about the topic. If notability cannot be established, the article is likely to be merged, redirected, or deleted. (May 2010)."

Idiots rule!

WikiCreole, Again

I posted the cheat sheet for WikiCreole before, but forgot. See here.

It's relevant for the previous post on Rikitikitavi .

RikiTikiWiki for Windows

This application is described as a "desktop wiki, an information sharing tool for collecting and organizing shared knowledge into a hyper-linked, searchable database." The installation instructions tell you to install the wiki into "a shared folder on the network" and to give all staff read/write privileges.

It turns out, you do not need to do this. Any folder will do.

The wiki comes with an implementation of a hospital pharmacy department. It is easy to delete this content and to use it for any kind of information.

Here the kicker: It is nothing but a rewrite in Delphi of Will Duquette's Notebook application which I used between 2003 and 2005 and for which I still have a soft spot in my heart. The author, Rick Tharp, used Delphi, DISQLite3 Personal and DICreole, a markup parser, converter and document generator for the Creole markup language for Delphi. So you don't have to use html tags, as you did in Will Duquette's Notebook. I think this is a welcome addition.[1]

Wikicreole is very close to ConnectedText's markup language.

The author asks for a $50 donation at download time. Will Duquette's application was always free (and I am sorry he seems to have lost interest and does not seem to develop it any further).

I have for now installed the program in a Dropbox folder, so I can use it for quick notes.

I think this implementation is a very good application to get your feet wet with wikis, though I am sure that after a while, you will want more, like ConnectedText.



1. On the other hand, you could customize Notebook, using Tcl/Tk. This no longer works in this application which also protects some pages. It's missing the sidebar and the ability to crate more than one log page. Nor can it handle more than one file.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Can Tags Cut It?

Here is an interesting argument to the effect that tags aren't really helpful in classifying things. It focuses on journalistic articles, but seems to me valid for almost any area of knowledge: "Tags are not the right way of disclosing the rich interconnections between news articles and not the right way of packing them together."

They "are labels without any context. Tags are vague, and it’s difficult to tag content consistently."

The author, Stijn Debrouwere, argues that controlled vocabularies and relationships are the answer: "We need to re-engineer tags so that they’ll allow us to represent the rich relationships between our content and the things that content talks about." Relationships or connections are more important to the way we think about the world and our writing about it than tags suggest.

I need to think more about some of the most basic standard relationships of my stuff in Connectedtext. This article is a good starting point!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Elyse

Elyse seems to be the one I have been looking for. Love at first sight.

From their Website: "The concept of folders and directories is replaced in Elyse by tag nodes. Each node is somewhat like a saved search only much faster. Nodes are arranged in trees and give a similar effect to that of folders and directories. The difference is that the trees can be rearranged without any impact on how the files are stored or what tags are associated with each file. The same copy of one file can simultaneously appear in multiple overlapping groups of files, each group represented by a node. For example, you might have a photo of the family at the beach while on holidays. The same one file in Elyse can appear in a list of last summer's holiday photos and also in a list of photos of family members."

"Elyse also recognises that relationships exist between tags. For example: lions, ostriches and elephants are all animals. By creating a tag relationship structure to define these relationships it becomes possible to instantly create a list of all files that have an animal type tag associated with them. There is no need to attach the tag animal to every file about an animal."

It's available for both Windows and the OS X.

I will post more after I have used it extensively.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Theory?

In a post from 24 March 2005 in N + 1, one finds the following claim about the "The Intellectual Situation:"
Was theory a gigantic hoax? On the contrary. It was the only salvation, for a twenty year period, from two colossal abdications by American thinkers and writers. From about 1975 to 1995, through a historical accident, a lot of American thinking and mental living got done by people who were French, and by young Americans who followed the French.
I wonder where someone who writes like that takes the chuzpah! Whatever one may think about "theory"—and I am rather critical of "it"— questions like "Was theory a gigantic hoax?" are rather uncritical. What about "some aspects of ..." or "certain developments ..." or certain practitioners of ..."? What about some subtlety? The answer "On the contrary. It is the only salvation ..." is equally vacuous.

No wonder "theory" has a bad name in some circles! Stuff like this does not even beg a question.

Why did I come across this now? Someone at 3quarksdaily thought it needed our attention. I am going to remove this site from my sidebar, as the quality of the posts of late leave much to be desired.

Remember the Apple Newton?

Apparently, some people—at least one person—are still using it.

No further comment!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

How Pencils Are Made

See Pencil Sandwiches ... interesting (by way of The Pen Addict .)

No further comment!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hypercard

Houdini must must have come out around the same time as Hypercard which was less a predecessor of wiki and more of an all-around hypertext application. It was advertised as a "software erector set," or a kind of do-it yourself language for organizing information.

Here is an interesting video from 1987, explaining how Hypercard can be used.

Should I say that ConnectedText not only replaces Hypercard in many respects, but that I consider it a definite improvement over it in some respects? Version 5 should be out soon.

1. I discussed a Hypercard application before.

The First Personal Wiki?

Here what appears to be the text of an advertisement or a flyer from the late 1980s (I think):
HOUDINI is a relational text editor, designed to build cognitive networks. "Every word, line, sentence, or paragraph can link to (affect or be affected by) as many other units of text as desired, creating spider webs of connections." In addition to basic word processing commands, it includes many commands to create, edit, analyze, modify or remove links. Apparently it has the ability to add cross-linked notes to original text, and then organize by cross-linkages. Can handle > 1K nodes & 8K links. The VIEW command allows the tracing of paths thru these links, while searching allows the retrieval of all nodes linked together. $89 (money-back guarantee) from MaxThink, 230 Crocker, Piedmont Calif. 94610 ...
I remember fooling around with this program, making a Hypertext of Kant's Groundwork that never came to anything. It was far ahead of it's time. I still think it is a good short description of the hypertextual approach to note-taking and writing.

While the author has ported Maxthink, one of the earliest Outliners, to Windows, he does not seem to have made any effort to re-create Houdini (or Transtext or Hyplus, or HyperRez). Perhaps he thinks that Personal Wikis do it all.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Waterman Panta

I bought a Waterman Panta some time ago. It’s one of the first multi-function pens ever made. It was made in the fifties and sixties.

4coul

What I did not know when I bought it was that the refill, called "Pantabille," is no longer made. You can still buy some at ridiculously high prices in England, but even if you are will to pay the price, they have only black ones left at this time.

The refills have a slightly greater diameter and a shorter than the standard D1 refills for multi-function pens (5 4/8’’ rather than 5 5/8 ‘’). I found that Pentel BKSS7 (made for the four-color “Rolly”) are the right thickness and can be cut to size. The process is a bit messy, however, as the ink leaks after you have cut the refill to size. Scooping out a little ink,  inserting a toothpick as far as it will fit, and breaking it off will fix it. But you have to be prepared to get your hands dirty.

As it turns out, standard D1 also work—and better. You need to cut off 1/8 of inch, which is easy with a razor saw or even a sharp utility knife (you just have to score it and then break it off). Ink is not a problem as these things are not even close to being filled to the top . Makes you wonder what you really pay for!)

The thickness is easily adjusted by electrical tape or even a bit of Scotch tape. (You don’t need to the whole thing, but only the part where clamping mechanism closes down). Works like a charm.

I like the look and feel of my Panta 3.

Ten Editors for Webpages

See 10 Fantastic Free Web Page Editors.

No further comment!