Thursday, June 22, 2017

Outwiker 2.0

OutWiker is often advertised as a personal wiki. On the Web site you find: "OutWiker is designed to store notes in a tree. Such programs are called "outliner", personal wiki, or tree-like editors. OutWiker's main difference from the other similar programs is keeping the tree of notes in the form of directories on disk, and encouraging changing the base by external sources and programs." This is at the very least misleading. Outliners and tree-like editors fall into a different category from wikis.

This is not to say, of course, that a program may not fall into both categories. Wikidpad obviously does both. And you might think that OutWiker does so as well.

However, I do not think that it really is a wiki. My main reason is this: While OutWiker allows for internal links, they are really just file links enclosed in double square brackets, like this: "[[other page -> /Projects/Outwiker/Screenshots/Page Example - 21]]".[1] This is really cumbersome and has none of the advantages of wikilinks (or free links). Straight file links would have been preferable. You could probably simplify it with an AhK script, but it would still be much more complicated than it should be.

I like the idea that the entries are text files, and I find much of the wiki markup acceptable, but I cannot live with the way links are implemented. Perhaps others can ...

1. There are other ways of doing the link, but they are all overly complicated, and I could not get most of them to work (which may have had to do with the fact that I ran the program in Parallels).

How Many Books Do You Need To Be A "Bookhoarder."

This site on famous book hoarders implies that 1,000 books are enough. But Karl Lagerfeld--who woul have known?--owns 300,000 and Hannah Arendt 4,000.

I would have liked to know what kind of books Lagerfeld owns. I know the kind Hannah Arendt owned. My own "collection" is very close to Arendt's in number and kind.

Oh ... and the article has beautiful pictures of libraries.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Jarte Plus 6 and Autohotkey

Jarte is a capable word processor based on the Wordpad engine. It has some interesting feature, and the plus version is especially useful (even though I have not used it as much as I might have because it does not do footnotes. The new version still does not do footnotes. However, it now tightly integrates Autohotkey. As they say, "AutoHotkey is general purpose scripting tool and can be used be used with any Windows program, including both Jarte and Jarte Plus. However, Jarte Plus provides special features
that allow you integrate your AutoHotkey scripts seamlessly into Jarte Plus. Specifically, Jarte Plus allows you to do the following:
  • AutoHotkey scripts can be assigned to custom shortcut keys.
  • AutoHotkey scripts can be assigned to custom Quick Bar buttons.
  • Jarte templates can include special tags that automatically run scripts when a new document is started from a template.
  • Jarte Plus provides special Jarte script helper functions that make it easier to write scripts for performing tasks in Jarte."
It's the use in templates that interests me most.

Another new and interesting feature is that Jarte now supports attaching note hyperlinks to selected text. When you hover the mouse cursor over the link, it displays a freeform text note. It does not quite replace a footnote function, but it is a beginning!

I will have to play with it some (and might report on my experience at some later date). If you are interested in the plus version, it will set you back $19.95. The basic version is still free.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Didion on Her Notebook

Joan Didion wrote a famous essay "On Keeping a Notebook
... the point of my keeping a notebook has never been, nor is it now, to have an accurate factual record of what I have been doing or thinking. That would be a different impulse entirely, an instinct for reality which I sometimes envy but do not possess. At no point have I ever been able successfully to keep a diary; my approach to daily life ranges from the grossly negligent to the merely absent, and on those few occasions when I have tried dutifully to record a day's events, boredom has so overcome me that the results are mysterious at best. What is this business about "shopping, typing piece, dinner with E, depressed"? Shopping for what? Typing what piece? Who is E? Was this "E" depressed, or was I depressed? Who cares?
In fact I have abandoned altogether that kind of pointless entry; instead I tell what some would call lies. "That's simply not true," the members of my family frequently tell me when they come up against my memory of a shared event. "The party was not for you, the spider was not a black widow, it wasn't that way at all." Very likely they are right, for not only have I always had trouble distinguishing between what happened and what merely might have happened, but I remain unconvinced that the distinction, for my purposes, matters.
Notebooks are kept for many different purposes. Let's call Didion's notebook a "literary notebook," that is a resource for stories and essays. Insofar as I have kept and do keep notebooks, they have a different purpose: they are scholarly notebooks. I also tried (try) to keep "pointless entries" to a minimum, nor am I primarily interested in having "an accurate factual record of what I have been doing and thinking," but I try to avoid what Didion calls "lies." The distinction between "what happened" and what "might have happened" matters for my purposes, even if (or perhaps just because) it is difficult.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Can Spiderwebs Think?

The idea of "thinking spiderwebs" is suggested by the title of an article: The Thoughts of a Spiderweb. Based on an article in Animal Cognition, they suggest that some spider webs are "at least an adjustable part of its sensory apparatus, and sensory apparatus, and at most an extension of the spider’s cognitive system." This, it is further suggest: "would make the web a model example of extended cognition, an idea first proposed by the philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers in 1998 to apply to human thought. In accounts of extended cognition, processes like checking a grocery list or rearranging Scrabble tiles in a tray are close enough to memory-retrieval or problem-solving tasks that happen entirely inside the brain that proponents argue they are actually part of a single, larger, 'extended' mind." Apart from the fact that the idea of an "extended mind" or "extended memory" does not originate with Clark and Chalmers, it is also questionable whether talk of "thoughts" is appropriate with regard to spiders, let alone with regard to their webs.

The author of the article knows these criticisms and suggests that we "more traditional theorists label these structures and spiderwebs alike as extended phenotypes, a term proposed by Richard Dawkins. Extended phenotypes are information from an animal’s genes that they express in the world. For example, bird nests are objects that are somehow encoded in the avian genome. And as with niche construction, natural selection affects the structure — different kinds of birds have evolved to build different kinds of nests, after all. But in the extended phenotype perspective, that selection ultimately just works inward, to tweak the controlling information in the animal’s genome."

I would put in my lot with the more traditional theorists, but I tend to agree with the critics who say "the only really strong case is the one with the most metaphysical baggage: us. “It is conceivable for cognition to be a property of a system with integrated nonbiological components.” I also agree that seems to be "where Homo sapiens is headed” or rather has been heading in this direction for a long time.

Luhmann's idea of "communicating" with Zettelkästen that has pre-occuupied this blog since its beginning is certainly one iteration of this idea.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Uploading and Dowloading Thoughts

Elon Musk's new company "Neuralink is pursuing what Musk calls the "neural lace" technology, implanting tiny brain electrodes that may one day upload and download thoughts, the Wall Street Journal reported." This is interesting, if only because it presupposes a rather naïve view of what thoughts are, namely that they are discrete (software) objects or data structures "in the brain" that can be manipulated in the way in which any digital information can be manipulated.

Biologically speaking, thoughts may well be described as neurons firing together in certain patterns with certain brains. And there may be different patterns for the "same" thought in different brains. These patterns may be more dependent on independent external objects than this view suggests. As Howard Rheingold suggested "[T]he human organism is linked with an external entity in a two-way interaction, creating a coupled system that can be seen as a cognitive system in its own right. All the components in the system play an active causal role, and they jointly govern behavior in the same sort of way that cognition usually does. If we remove the external component the system’s behavioral competence will drop, just as it would if we removed part of its brain. Our thesis is that this sort of coupled process counts equally well as a cognitive process, whether or not it is wholly in the head."

This may mean that notes on paper or the computer are at least as important for "uploading" or "downloading" thoughts than what's in the brain. I am sure this will be figured out eventually.

Just a thought!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Read Today

I read about Gaussian processes today on Wired: "deep neural networks" and "Gaussian processes". The following quote caught my attention: "Gaussian processes are a good way of identifying uncertainty. 'Knowing that you don’t know is a very good thing,' says Chris Williams, a University of Edinburgh AI researcher who co-wrote the definitive book on Gaussian processes and machine learning. 'Making a confident error is the worst thing you can do.'"

This is obviously also very important for note-taking. Any relevance to recent political developments is, of course, purely accidental.

Back Links

Back links are a standard Wiki Technology. A list of back links is the same as the list of all pages that refer to the page you are viewing. This makes the navigation in the Wiki much easier. See here.

There are quite a few "wiki" apps that do not have this capability.[1]

1. See previous post (plus comments).

Saturday, January 28, 2017


Bear is a relatively new application. It seems to be very popular.

I have fooled around with the desktop application, but I have no real need for the iPhone and iPad apps at this time. This might be the reason why I find it less than compelling.

It has a clean interface, and I like it. Whether it is "beautiful," as they claim, I do not know. To me, it looks like many other note-taking apps on the Mac.

They claim: "Link notes to each other to build a body of work. Use hashtags to organize for the way you think. All notes are stored in portable plain text. Yes, it allows you to link notes--very much the way that nvAlt allows you to do it: You enclose words in double brackets, and if those words correspond to a note title, it links to the note. This looks like a wiki-link, but it has only some of the characteristics of a wiki-link. Chhange the title of the note and the link is broken. No back links either.

Bear supports its own version of Markdown and has a "Markdown compatibility" mode. It handles pictures very well, and it also exports to PDF and Word, and it has many other interesting and useful functions. It is a good applications. I recommend it, but I myself would have liked a stronger linking capability.

I would very much like to see something like "ConnectedText for Windows," and I had some hopes "Bear" might be it. But it isn't. To be sure, this is a very esoteric expectation, but I cannot help myself.

If you would like to see a more thorough review of Bear, see here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

20,000 Notes in Evernote

It appears that Evernote can handle 20,000 notes with relative ease. That is good to know, even if I don't use Evernote extensively. I am very worried about putting that much trust into an online system that is under someone else's control.

Still, it is interesting that it can be used as a heavy-duty note-taking system.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Searle on Writing

Writing "has enormous meta-cognitive implications. The power is this: That you cannot only think in ways that you could not possibly think if you did not have the written word, but you can now think about the thinking that you do with the written word. There is danger in this, and the danger is that the enormous expressive and self-referential capacities of the written word, that is, the capacities to keep referring to referring to referring, will reach a point where you lose contact with the real world." (Interview)

I'd prefer to aay "can reach" a point where you lose contact with reality. But that does not indicate deep disagreement.

Monday, January 9, 2017

OneNote Links

OneNote is another application I don't use much. In fact, I have never really used the latest Windows version. But my last post motivated me to try and see what happens when I rename the target of wiki links in this application. Anyone who really uses OneNote probably knows the answer: The referring link does not get changed when you rename the target, but the link does not break (as it does in TiddlyWiki. So [[xyz]] continues to link to "xyz" even when it is called "abc". I suppose that is better than TiddlyWiki, but I think it would be better still if "[[xyz]]" became "[[abc]]".

I would find the behavior disconcerting in the long run. But that may just be a sign of my limitations.

A TiddlyWiki Limitation

When you talk about a personal wiki in any context, it does not take long for someone to mention "TiddlyWiki" as one of the best and most useful implementations of this concept. I have never had any serious reason to doubt such claims, even though I personally never took to any kind of TiddlyWiki because they seemed to "busy" to me. That's very subjective, I know. I was also worried by the fact that TiddlyWikis usually consist of just one file that needs to be opened in a browser. I am told that this does not present a big problem, as even large files can be navigated quickly, but it was a worry.

In any case, neither one of these would have been the biggest worry. I found out today that a TiddlyWiki does not keep track of all the tiddlers that refer to a renamed tiddler. Renaming a tiddler breaks all the links.[1] But, one of the most important things of any wiki-like application for me is just this: the application keeps track of everything that links to a particular topic or entry, and I do not have to worry at all about what happens when I rename it. This seems to me an essential part of any "wiki." I am glad, therefore, that I never seriously tried to make TiddlyWiki work for me. I also think that anyone thinking about adopting TiddlyWiki should seriously think about this. Can you imagine what happens in a wiki with more than 10,000 entries, if you have to keep track of such changes.[2]

1., for instance.
2. Nor does this seem to be a superficial and easily fixed problem. I suppose it will eventually be solved ... but as far as I can tell, it hasn't so far.