Have you ever had trouble deciding where to store a file on your hard disk? Or worse, had trouble finding it later?
When you store a file on your hard disk, you have to decide which folder to put it in. That folder can in turn live inside other folders. This results in a hierarchy, known in computer science as a *tree*.
The main problem with trees is that sometimes you want things to live in multiple places.
Tagging provides an alternate system. Tags are a lot like folders, except that things can belong to multiple tags. However, but the tags can’t themselves belong to anything. So you have just one level of organisation with no nesting.
The main problem with single-level tagging is that it’s too simple. We want to be able to use fine-grained categories (e.g. ‘lesser spotted greeb’) that themselves belong to higher-level categories (e.g. ‘greeb’, or even ‘bird’ or ‘animal’). But we said that tags can’t themselves belong to tags.
Described like this, perhaps the solution will seem obvious to you too. We want things to belong to multiple tags, and for those tags to sometimes belong to other tags.
I built this into Emacs Freex, my note-taking system.
For instance, I have tagged this blog post with ‘data structure’ and ‘blogme’. In turn ‘data structure’ is tagged with ‘computer science’ and ‘blogme’ is tagged with ‘writing’. So I can find this blog post later in various ways, including by intersecting ‘computer science’ and ‘writing’.
This gives you the best of both worlds: things belong to multiple categories, along with a hierarchy of categories.
When it comes to tools, I am a hedgehog rather than a fox. I like to have a small number of tools, and to know them well.
I recently resolved to start writing again. But I decided that I needed to sharpen my pencils first.
I have plans on how publishing and sharing should work. Grand plans. Too grand, perhaps.
So for now, I wrote something simple for myself. Now I can type away, press buttons… publish.
If you like Emacs, Python and WordPress, this might be interesting to you too. If not, it certainly won’t be.
wordpress-python-emacs GitHub repository
Most of the work is being done by this great Python/Wordpress library. Thank you.
I wrote some simple Python scripts. One grabs all my existing blog posts. One looks through their titles, and checks them against the filename to see if this is a new post.
And then there’s a very simple Emacs function that calls them to save/publish the current text file.
I could add more things: deleting posts, or a proper workflow for moving from draft to published. Maybe later.
I wrote this post, then hit M-x wordpress-publish-this-file.
I realized I never uploaded the final version of my dissertation, ‘Weakening memories by half-remembering them‘.
I got distracted by the NY Times’ Pluviocabulary list, and found myself playing with my new words – just thought I’d share. I particularly enjoyed being reminded of petrichor, and learning flaught and tirl.
– combine this with the Instachrome
extension, and whenever I see a webpage I want to read later, it’ll be waiting with me as I wait for a train
Light – it’s bright! No more torches. If you lived in Hanborough, you’d need this too.
Trainline – faster than my laptop and/or a speeding bullet for checking train times in the UK
PlainText – write notes on your laptop, have them appear on your phone instantly through Dropbox and vice versa. Oh, and Dropbox
of course, too.
Dictionary.com – etymologies, pronunciations, the works
Remote – control Keynote presentations from your phone.
Glympse – let other people know where you are.
Skype – I can call Mia for free while walking the streets
iTrans Tube and Tube Status for planning London Underground journeys
Snaptell – red laser black magic. Point at a book, and have elves whisper about it to you.
Angry Birds – the most popular mobile game of all time
Spotify – all the music in the world on the go. Requires a Spotify subscription
Shazam – tells you the name of songs that are currently playing
Steve Blank and Eric Ries
Steve Blank teaches entrepreneurship at the Haas Business School in Berkeley, but has a pretty serious pedigree as a tech entrepreneur himself. I’m ashamed to admit that I still haven’t read The 4 Steps to the Epiphany, but I’ve read most of what he’s posted online.
Eric Ries is a protege of Steve Blank’s, applies and develops many of the same ‘lean’ ideas, and focuses specifically on web startups.
See the links for both Steve Blank and Eric Ries here.
He’s a tour de force and a hero of mine. One of the early proponents of ‘release early, iterate often’.
These are my favorite as they relate to HR:
This is the best app I’ve found so far for visualizing where all my disk space has gone:
I have a theory that inability to manage one’s finances and one’s hard disk space have the same psychological factors at their root.
P.S. It’s free, but you can pay $20 to get it to stop nagging you.