Digital archiving & big dick data

I find it quite amusing, but also quite happy when my friends came to me to ask about what app I use to document and organise my work or notes, knowing how much of a radical organiser that I am. Among the first questions I would often ask is, “what would you want to use this app for?” and ask them to list down the features they have in mind.

I find this question very important because different personal productivity softwares, for the lack of a better term, serve different kind of audiences and purposes. There is no one app which could serve all your goals — I am speaking this from a personal experience who tried to design one for one of my MA classes — and the abundance of productivity apps out there, while nifty and do serve their purposes the first few weeks — rarely tackle the challenges of decreasing motivation without resorting to some sort of gamification (I feel some of these also slightly overdone in most cases). The best app I could think so far is Notion, where I see it as an extension of Evernote but also where you could add wikis, schedules, database, regular text posts, code snippets, and many more.

Noah, who wrote Why Is This Interesting? with his friends wrote an issue on digital archiving & Evernote:

First, personal productivity software is a famously hard nut to crack. While there’s abundant energy to be more productive, motivation can quickly fade and declaring task bankruptcy is never more than a new app away. Second, especially in this realm of archiving, the audience is limited to writers, researchers, and super-nerds like myself. This presents a tough product and business problem, as companies try to find the line between being a personal and a professional system. Evernote’s growth and subsequent challenges are a good illustration of what can happen if you get stuck in the middle. Those challenges have left the space with very few players. Evernote is the leader who leaves much to be desired, OneNote is bundled with Office and seems fine if that’s your thing, and Notion is a new app that does a little of everything, including, they claim, replace Evernote.

Some of my friends are bullet journal (or bujo) advocates, and while I do admire the aesthetics and the dedication of preparing a dedicated doodled and handwritten page every single day/month/week, I knew I could never be committed to that kind of work. I wanted a system where I could easily:

  • search
  • filter
  • edited
  • amend
  • sync across all my devices.

But also, having said that I still carry my Moleskine around for quick notes and brainstorming when screen time gets overwhelming. I guess what I am trying to say is, you need to figure out what works best for your projects / working arrangement, whether in goals, or size, before committing your monthly budget to pay for a productivity app.

Some TIL before the post ends:

  • Big dick data: “a formal, academic term that we have coined to denote big data projects that have masculinist, totalising fantasies of world domination through data capture and analysis. Big Dick Data projects ignore context, fetishise size, and overstate and inflate their technical and scientific capabilities”.
  • “As he set to analysing modern Quito’s shifting urban landscape, Nelms turned to Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities (1972) and China Miéville’s The City and the City (2009)—both speculative tales of fictional cities. While the former offers a paratactic catalogue of urban forms, the latter gives us a kind of guidebook for operating in divided cities. These books, Nelms suggested, offer two different ways of understanding the appearance of difference in urban space—and thus two approaches to seeing and unseeing the “alter” in urban alternative economies. What science fiction can do for anthropology.

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