on-going mostly unedited stream of thoughts

How to capture and distribute what we learn?

Recently I’ve come across 3 websites that gave me a mini-adrenaline rush when I saw them:

Credit where it is due, 2 of them are from following Michael Nielsen who has a pretty amazing website himself. What the 3 of them have in common is the longevity and breadth of knowledge captured. I am envious, because I haven’t done much to capture my own learnings and I wish I have a history like these websites.

These make me want to work more on the learning network idea (prototype still alive here) I had been working on before I decided to focus solely on my health. I am frustrated by the flatness and linearity of how we currently store knowledge – there must be a better and a more dynamic way to do it right?

Form aside, it also takes effort to capture these notes in the first place. Is it a design issue? I don’t know. Over the years I’ve tried evernote, google keep, etc, the problem is always remembering to capture my learnings. I read a book, have a great epiphany, make a mental note to write it down later, but I never get down to doing it and the insight is lost. 

The second part of it is: even if we capture everything religiously, it is still a pain in the ass to retrieve strategic pieces of information when we need them. The most robust search engine still needs to know what to search for in the first place. How do we manufacture serendipity, when the right pieces of information comes to us during moments when we don’t know we need them?

Related to this, recently I’ve read Ray Dalio’s Principles. I’ve avoided reading this because “eugh hedge fund manager”. But somehow I thought that I’ll keep an open mind, and I can always do the “eugh” after I finish reading it if I really dislike it. Liking aside, I have found it interesting that Dalio has codified his life principles like how he has done so for his investment algorithms. He thinks it is possible to put a framework of how we live life into a computer and let it systematically gauge and measure the potential decisions we make. Similarly my friend Buster has a github repo on his beliefs, we can see how he has evolved from the changelog. I have an informal google doc where I note down similar observations about myself, namely the main challenges and anxiety I had been feeling at that point of time. It is a useful exercise for me to go back in time and see what used to plague me so much and how much they don’t anymore. 

What I really wish to do – instead of publishing my learnings as a book when I am in my 60s (like Ray Dalio) – is to make a “living book” (aka website) with the intention and knowledge that it will evolve. I don’t like the immutability of a printed book, especially when it comes to our philosophy on life. I am pretty sure if we write a book on our views in our 30s we will definitely cringe by the time we hit our 40s.

I think we need to rethink how we record and distribute knowledge as the world gets noisier and people’s attention spans get shorter. I have no answers, but instead of thinking I have the final solution, perhaps I can ease myself into thinking that the solution will continually evolve. I should at least attempt to start formatting what I’ve learned into something accessible for myself. Sometimes I read my own journal in reverse chron and I am disturbed by how much I’ve learned *and* forgotten. It is a point of failure to rely on myself to remember to read my journal or wait for an app to remind me that 7 years ago on this day I learned something new.

Last month I went to Kyoto for 3 weeks. While I was there I thought of closing my patreon account again, fueled by guilt. The hesitation comes from the unwillingness to lose this community, however small. At that point I felt like in the near future I would be writing mostly on obscure philosophy while I am figuring out my own existential crisis. What I’ve learned from reading a lot of psychology/philosophy is that instead of reacting to a feeling, how about containing and observing it for a while? Where is my guilt coming from, and is it objectively substantiated? I noticed that one of my major life issues is that I have an “all or nothing” mindset. I go into these obsessive cycles, burn myself out and then into avoidance mode. 

Again I don’t have answers or solutions. I think my guilt comes from neglect, and I neglect because I think I need to have something “meaty” to share. But I think there is value in the ephemeral and the personal. I have to go back to what I hope to achieve out of Patreon. I really relish being amongst the company of people who either have a common interest my experiments, or people who connect with my writing. I hope to have meaningful discussions and feedback here.

I want to continue mulling upon how I can share more of what I’ve learned and read. I’ve been reading a ton of interesting books but I am not capturing enough notes and thoughts that arise from them. Another thing I am thinking about is restructuring my online presence to reflect the evolution that is going on in my life. I don’t know who I am and where I am going, but I think that is the interesting part, how do I info-architect the online presence of someone who is constantly in flux?

My online presence and work is scattered all over the internet, because I believed that there are different expressions as a consequence of different mediums. My writing is split across medium, my public journal and the very rare tinyletter. There is also which holds my experimental work. Yet I envy the single wholeness of the websites I mentioned above, a container for everything. Is it feasible to have a single website that contains my ongoing journal, random notes/learnings, essays and experiments? (I am also growing more wary/weary of using a centralized site like medium, but I appreciate the wider distribution there.)

I want to start capturing notes while reading books and share them. I wonder what is a good form/medium for them? 

What sort of updates on Patreon would you like to see from me?

Please feel free to leave your thoughts, I really appreciate them!

Originally published on Patreon.