Friday, January 29, 2021

Opportunities and access are good; too much isn’t!

End of January 2021 as I sit in my man cave imposed stay at home order by local and provincial Gov's. And as you know, and maybe have experienced; with all this time we have now, we tend to think we can justify writing stuff we’d regularly not write. This may be one of those so called justifiable writings that I actually believe are relevant (in my very small brain that is).

Since the original lock-down March 2020 for my region (Ontario, Canada); I’ve used that time to make new friends, dropped disingenuous one’s, joined social media groups and yes dropped many too. And I’ve even adopted new and exciting approaches to KM (Knowledge Management).

Opportunities have abounded; most of them pie in the sky by very well meaning friends and colleagues. Sifting through the opportunities and access I’ve been offered this past 12 months is like reading a list a psychologist may decipher as an indication of panic, overwhelm and a from of ADHD, and yes we can throw mood disorders in there too I guess.

For over 30 years I’ve been a professional (questionable) user of Mind mapping (MM). I won’t elaborate too much re- MM; I’m sure it’s suffice to say you know what it is and probably have come across it.

I’ve classified myself as a Knowledge Architect for some time now; and I’ve been asked to define that; and my elevator paragraph goes something like this:
    “I create, manage and express systematic frameworks for effective knowledge management.”
You may do the very same thing and define yourself as something unique too; defining what I do is way more interesting than defining what I call my self for sure.

I would say everyone wants to be more effective at what they do as they create, manage and express (exchange). I’ve used visual mapping and here comes another definition Method Neutral; it defines Visual Mapping as:
“Multiple modes of information expressed within a flexible workspace” John England founder of Mind systems Australia.

Basically Visual mapping is a tool box that includes numerous tools for expressing our aggregated data; words, images, numbers and time. One size doesn’t fit all and that’s why I like the tool box analogy. And yes; the visual mapping arena, as real as it is; has indeed by the law of development (evolution) become entangled with the Knowledge mapping/management arena.

Opportunities and access to a plethora of personal development, academic enhancement and business productivity tools have presented us with an almost overwhelming choice. This often induces panic and mistaken understandings of what currently works for us versus what the new and shiny may do for us, when we really don’t need them.

We humans though are attracted to the new and shiny aren’t we? I’ve been attracted to a few too over the last year. The first would be Notion and the secondary would be Roam Research, yet what has upset the apple cart has been the rather awesome ClickUp that’s challenging Notion to the nth degree. ClickUp is rather good (even brilliant) yet I beg to differ with the all in one moniker.

Mentioning these three products certainly indicates (two) poles of current usage.

1) The information handler may probably lean towards Notion and ClickUp.
2) the knowledge manager/researcher may probably lean towards Roam. Currently there’s a chasm between two poles.

On one hand we have information handling and on the other there’s knowledge management. It’s actually clear you can perform handling and management in either product; the only differential is in how each product behaves and expresses inputs and outputs.

There’s a gray area in between these two approaches though and it’s an arena waiting to be exploited and capitalized upon. This area is open to products that offer cross-functional capabilities of both approaches. At the time of this blithering there’s a plethora of products jumping into this area. One in particular jumps out to me, and that product is Amplenote; it seems to be a perfect example of filling in that gray area between handling and management.

A note of interest though (maybe a reality check) is that these products have no current track record of being infused or recognized officially into corporate environments and systems of work where knowledge management is indeed a commodity.

This is a curious thing about the digital note arena; it’s often spoken of in terms of personal knowledge management (PKM). This is reinforced by the many experts arriving on the scene who are either solepreneurs and content makers via social media and video. I personally think this is an awesome example of a capitalizing upon the needs of users who demand content to placate their need to know stuff about stuff. And so it should be; as this has become very lucrative for a few notable providers of content who’ve monetized their offerings within specific UX associations with software/services.

It has to be noted though and observed that; the PKM arena is indeed aimed solely at single users who may indeed become solepreneurs too and thus jump into the ever growing arena in itself of content creating. Small business owners seem to be jumping all over these products; those who need a tool to manage their processes and communicate with small teams.

IMO there’s very few that stick out as being thought leadership within this arena. Marie Poulin, August Bradley, Red Gregory, William Nutt, Khe Hy and the one and only (content creator) Danny Hatcher are at this time recognizable and very influential within the no code apps related to PKM. What they produce regarding systematic frameworks for personal, academic and business productivity is rather amazing.

So this takes me back (maybe 10 years or so) to the file format wars of the mind/visual mapping arena; where Mindjet dominated and others battled for bums on seats with the hope of adding to their particular file format. It ended in a landscape of what is synonymous with what we may be seeing potentially happen within the PKM markdown type of arena right now. That landscape was littered with the bodies of many a software who dared to challenge the king at that time (Mindjet).

Of course; we don’t have file formats to worry about within the digital information handling and knowledge management arenas. We have Markdown and that’s killed the graphical mappers hopes of dominating their file formats. It just doesn’t matter anymore.

Another interesting note regarding adoption of visual mapping and indeed digital note taking (DNT) products/services is the current lack of adoption into the mainstream of the corporate working mechanisms.

When I was heavily involved within the visual mapping arena, I did actually experience and witness a few corporate entities who subscribed to offering their employees access to a mainstream visual knowledge mapping product. Alas though, these instances were so scarce as to really make mentioning this a useless observation.

The reality of tools such as MindManager, MindMapper, Xmind and the notable ConceptDraw suite is that they’ve never broken into the mainstream of corporate. Yes they did garner much interest in focus groups within corporate; yet the tools them selves in reality became the secret weapon of individual and internal-preneurs.

I would say the same may apply to the DNT products at this time.

I could blither on much more about this most compelling arena; and if I do this article won’t be a January article at all. It is incomplete thought as much of this arena is at this time. It’s developing (evolving) as you read this and may indeed in time morph into something else. It’s an exciting arena to be inside, be involved with and to witness the potential for a battle of products to be played out in the theater of war for dominance.

In as much as this article is incomplete on purpose; it’s really up to you the users, note takers an makers and content makers to add your 10 cents worth.

I look forward with anticipation to reading comments from the content makers, experts and thought leaders.


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Why the surge in digital note taking?

Since February 2020 the lockdowns have forced us all to divert our attention to being more focused on activities and interests that seem to have the key word of productivity associated with them.

From physical/mental health to the pursuit of intellectual health (and wealth) even Spirituality of all shades too; we’ve certainly added to the landscape of seekers who’ve found and enabled newer and even rediscovered older tools for our personal, academic and business KPI’s.

The surge in digital note taking (DNT) is interesting, and hey what is digital note taking anyways?
Well it’s real simple; DNT is good old note taking inside digital products; that’s all.

These digital products?
They’ve been given prominence by the huge number of users that have initially and artificially been engorged by the huge number of people stuck and home due to the Covid thing.

The list of DNT products is getting stupid crazy long, and they’‘re being developed at an exponential rate so as to (by nature of the market) totally overwhelm and confuse any prospective user of such products.

For the most part they’re all mostly cloud based; a few have become established as mainstream for now and they’re all pretty damn good at what they purport to do.

Roam Research seems to be the leader of the pack by the sheer numbers of users. I even have colleagues and friends who’re raving about Roam; and yes there’s a cult following of Roam too.

The other product that is as mainstream as Roam is a surprisingly newcomer to the DNT arena and the product is called Obsidian.

And as far as I can view at this time there’s another upcoming and mainstream product called Remnote that seems to be capturing a Huge amount of deserved attention too.

What to do though; as an old school dude, I still take notes inside my old pencil and paper moleskin note book. The newer approaches are indeed enticing aren’t they?

I’ve actually tuned into Notion as my default for information handling.
Roam is an ongoing learning process for me and TBH Remnote seems to be the tool I may settle with as its local storage and suits me just fine regarding personal privacy and data security.

I mentioned all or most of these newer DNT apps are cloud based; and that’s a problem for many like me who rely on E2EE and 2FA.
End to end encryption and two function authentication may be something you’ve willingly overlooked due to some of these products looking and behaving oh so proficiently; yet the lack of security and privacy leaves users opened to intrusions and data mining.

Looking at these products with their standard bullet point structure and lack of file/folder structure (Obsidian excluded); they seem to be another expression of what a knowledge managed Twitter flow would and should look like. BTW I don’t use the word hate a lot but I do truly hate Twitter as a platform for vitriolic shit talk, bullying and vile chatter; yet it works as a social media portal (such an oxymoron eh).

Digital note taking though eh; it’s almost becoming standard, and the question we often are asked of by friends and colleagues is “what product do you use. The cult of Roam has ensured Roam as being, wel a cult following that borders on fanaticism (the good kind).

Yet as I scan through my phone (both ios and android) I am able to take notes and sync if I wish to the cloud and desktop too; and all for free. No they don’t have the functionality of Roam et al, yet Digital Note Taking is here and it’s here to stay.

The further development (read evolution) is astonishing and rather overwhelming. Look up the blatant copies of Roam and you’ll get the gist that there’s a lot of un-originality around too.

Obsidian was without a doubt a reaction to Roam and then we have Remnote that is focused on knowledge retention (super relevant) and spaced repetition too.

There are tons of other unoriginal copies of these products (basically Roam) yet they all have their relevancy for the water to find its own level eventually and maybe what shall emerge is a convergence of tools into a newer and more relevant standard. Markdown is the thing though eh, and we are preserving textual thoughts, feeling and potential game changing actions via the MD realm and preserving our thought Journaling for future generations to ruminate over.
The here and now though looks like a battlefield that may be eventually strewn with the bodies of developments that came, tried to conquer and failed; yet there may be a few who shall even usurp even the current leaders. Time will of course tell for sure as it always does.

I must not fail to mention the battlefield includes a too I have settled with for my personal, academic and business knowledge models; that product is Notion. It has quite simply transformed the ways I create, manage and express my information and knowledge.

The question though that I cannot fathom an answer to though remains to be: Why the surge in digital note taking?

Pray tell the answer?