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I'm writing a new book! Plus Oliver Caviglioli on graphic organizers & other things worth your attention.
INFORMA(C)TION — March 20, 2022
I'm writing a new book! Plus Oliver Caviglioli on graphic organizers & other things worth your attention.
Hello! I'm Jorge Arango and this is INFORMA(C)TION: a biweekly dose of big ideas for people who make digital things. If you like this email, please forward it to a friend. And if you're not subscribed, sign up here. Thanks for reading!
Hands writing on a notebook with a computer, photographs, books, and iPad, and a cup of coffee on the table
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

A book about notes

In my last newsletter, I told you about an unannounced yet exciting project keeping me busy. Well, the news is out: I’m writing another book! It’s about note-taking, and we’re calling it Duly Noted.

What?! A whole book about notes? Yes. Please hear me out. Notes extend our minds. They offload our memories and allow us to think through complex issues.

Of course, note-taking isn’t new; people have amplified their cognition using notes for a long time. But something is new: hyperlinks. Mindfully linked notes create networks that extend our minds in powerful new ways.

But, you may argue, hyperlinks aren’t new either. The web has been around since the early 90s, and there were hypertext systems well before then. Ted Nelson started formulating the concepts behind project Xanadu in the 1960s. So, what has changed?

Availability. There are now consumer-grade tools such as Notion that allow anyone to tap the power of hypertext note-taking. Even Apple Notes— the default note-taking app on iPhones — gives users the ability to tag notes and automatically save contextual references.

The possibilities for expanding our cognitive abilities are tremendous. But fully exploiting these capabilities requires discipline and structure. A little bit of information architecture can go a long way towards building a powerful personal knowledge system.

There’s a real need for a book on this subject. We’re all dealing with more information every day and more people are exploring the power of “smart” note-taking. I can help, given my experience architecting information environments — including my personal “knowledge garden.”

Of course, this project will take a lot of my time over the next year. I plan to continue working, teaching, podcasting, and producing this newsletter. But something’s gotta give, and it’ll be my blog. While I’ll continue posting periodically over the next year, it’ll be less frequent than the last few years.

You’ll also see changes in this newsletter. Expect more focus on note-taking, personal knowledge management systems, tools and techniques, etc. Of course, all will be rooted in information architecture since that’s the book’s essence: IA for our personal information.

Practicing IA has helped me become a better note-taker. I can help others do this as well. I’m excited to share what I’ve learned.

But more importantly, I’m excited to hear from you. How do you take notes? What challenges do you face? What do you wish could be better? The book is still at an early enough phase that your feedback can significantly impact the outcome. Please help me help you. Thanks!

What else is going on with me

How to swallow a frog
It’s tax season in the U.S., which brings drudgery. But year-round, we all have to do unpleasant yet essential tasks. It behooves us to do them with equanimity and joy.

Upcoming workshops

Building a Personal Knowledge Garden 🌱
April 18, 2022 — IA Conference (online)

Strategic Information Architecture 🎯
May 24, 2022 — UXLx (Lisbon)

Also worth your attention

Christopher Alexander 1936-2022
This past Tuesday, I told my students about Alexander’s work. We passed around my old copy of “A Pattern Language” from when I was a student. Then, we looked at design systems of the sort they’ll likely use. I told them that while Alexander was old and no longer productive, he was still alive. Alas. A giant whose influence will be felt for a long time.

Possibility spaces
Gordon Brander: “What dimensions make up the landscape of possibility? What does this space look like? Where are the most interesting things located? How can I effectively navigate through this space of possibility?” I was reminded of Stephen Wolfram’s work in computing and physics. The algorithmic exploration of possibility spaces is in the air.

The authority of the past
Zohar Atkins: “The internet has done to authoritativeness what Uber has done to taxis and AirBnBs to hotels. It has both capitalized on and exacerbated an environment of compromised trust.” Is there a place in the present for the authority of the past? (I, for one, hope we rediscover the classics.) (H/t Martin Gurri)

Medium.com redesign
As I mentioned above, I’ll likely blog less while writing the book, so I’ve contemplated reactivating my Medium presence for the occasional post. Just in time, as IA changes are afoot at Medium: “Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to explore that network broadly — discovering new ideas and perspectives — and deeply — connecting with authors and topics that offer consistent insight and knowledge.”

Design beyond deliverables
Nicolle Nardelli raises a critical yet often unacknowledged subject. Some design decisions must be explored in the abstract, but people struggle when giving feedback on abstract artifacts. The article offers suggestions. (H/t Austin Govella)

IA group on Twitter
Speaking of Austin Govella, he’s spun up an IA-focused group on Twitter. Not much activity yet, but I’m always excited when a new channel opens up. (In the last newsletter, I wrote that Twitter doesn’t have moderated groups. I was unaware of the Communities feature, which is new.)

Systems knowledgebase
“System is a free, open, and living public resource that aims to explain how anything in the world is connected to everything else.” (H/t Peter Bogaards)

Lost and found in Japan
I was unaware of Japan’s nationwide lost and found system. It says a lot about that culture. ❤️ (H/t Tyler Cowen)

The Informed Life with Oliver Caviglioli

Episode 83 of The Informed Life podcast features a conversation with information designer and author Oliver Caviglioli. Oliver is a former special education headteacher who’s written a series of books on how to teach and learn more effectively by visualizing information. Our conversation focused on his latest book, Organise Ideas (Amazon affiliate link), which he co-authored with David Goodwin

Organize Ideas covers the science and practice of using graphic organizers for teaching. However, these tools are useful beyond teaching and learning; we can apply them for better understanding in other situations. Our conversation touches on some of the salient points, but not all. I encourage you to check out both the book and the interview.

The Informed Life episode 83: Oliver Caviglioli on Graphic Organizers


The Informed Life episode 83: Oliver Caviglioli on Graphic Organizers

Parting thought

Making wholeness heals the maker.

— Christopher Alexander

Thanks for reading! 🙏
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