Thinking about information consumption and keeping the good stuff.

11 12 2013

I’ve been thinking about the way I receive and process information.  And I think writing about it will help.

I’m working to conform to the inbox zero, though I fall off that bicycle every now and then.  Right now, the latest problem with my web-consumption is how I interact with things that require some more in-depth reading and research.  I often come across reports or videos or guides or whatever…. stuff.  Good stuff.  Stuff worth going through, but not stuff I always have the time for. So I email it to myself at work.

And then it sits there, for when I have the time to read it.  It sometimes sits there for a while.  A LONG WHILE.

But I do get there.  Maybe.  Perhaps I save a pdf onto a harddrive.  Or my worst sin, copy a URL into a Windows folder, and then make a word “notes” file?  If I am doing a deep topic dig in a short time, I’ve made a notes .doc for a dozen papers and URLs, copy in all the juicy bits, and use endnotes for documenting source.  Dropbox has made this easier across platform and devices, but still is lacking.

I’ve tried other ways to catalog and keep things.  Words like “favorites” are on many webservices – RSS, twitter; watch later on YouTube; give something 5 star on my iTunes library, etc etc etc.  Every one of these things has a “Good stuff” way to flag, but leaves me with two problems

  1. That good stuff is all over the place.  In a browser. In an app.  On a device.  Printed out with highlighter marks on some random pages. I have to go find it, remember where it came from, and hope it doesn’t get retired (Google Reader), die (harddrives), or get upgraded (smartphone).
  2. The other problem is the good stuff sometimes needs to be marked up, and those good stuff bins don’t always allow an easy way to do it.  If I sit through a 20 minute video once, I want to remember exactly what part I need in the future.  If I find a useful stat in a 180 page pdf, I don’t want to search that paper again for it. And I certainly don’t want have to remember what channel I “favourited” it on.

I need a space for my good stuff.  I think Evernote is the solution, here’s a few reasons why.

  • Cross Platform. As an app, it works consistently on all devices – Windows, Android, iOS. I spend time on all three, and I’ve spent way too much time sending stuff from one to the other.  Usually via email.
  • Easy markup with searchability.  Jotting thoughts is easy regardless the media type, which was critical.  But the search-ability is amazing.  Tags help group, but truly amazing is the scanning from a photo you shot. PDF annotations. Notes regarding webpage. I’m playing and learning here, but it looks super robust.
  • Even for that great text resource I didn’t read but looked full of gold? It doesn’t sit in my inbox until “when I have time” and stare at me for days at end.  It’s placed in a proper bin that, even if never read, is scraped for when a future question needs answering and the resource is forgotten.  A “google” of just my good stuff, my own magic crystal of fuzzy memories.
  • Easy to feed, especially using IFTTT recipes for evernote.  Add starred email, share via my Android phone, favorite tweets, read laters in feedly, watch laters in YouTube.. It seems to hook into everything.  I didn’t think about the recipe for Google Calendar notes – but it makes perfect sense. It takes the good stuff out of it’s respective container, and puts it with all my good stuff. Even if for some reason I can’t find a way to elegantly push something into evernote, you can still email into evernote.

I’m optimistic.  I’m trying the 30 day free pro trial of evernote over the holidays.  I have a few weeks to look at stuff, and hoping Evernote easily keeps that goodness together.