ThoughtStorms Wiki

Originally a discussion on the SmartDisorganizedIndividuals tribe. (Link long gone). In some ways ZettelKasten seems to be in this direction.

My original post :

I've always kept paper notebooks to scrible ideas and doodle diagrams. But in my new notebook this year, I started numbering the pages. And this has turned out to be amazingly effective for me. My paper notebook is now one of my favourite pieces of technology.

Here's what I do :

When I started the notebook I numbered the first 30 pages in the book. More would have been boring, but 30 took about one minute and a half.

When I get close to the end of the numbered pages, I write numbers for the next 10 pages.

On page 1 I started using the book to write notes. But by page 7 or 8 I realized I needed a contents page / index. So I turned to page 30 - a nice round number - and made an index for the first pages in the book.

Each line of the index page is numbered and has a two or three word summary of the contents of the corresponding page. On my first index I managed to get up to page 46. I've since created a second index on page 60.

Every new topic or change of topic I start a new page.

When I interrupt thoughts on one topic to write about something different, I write it on the next available page, and then, when I resume the first topic, I start it after the interjection. At the end of the first part I write something like "continued on page 37" to make the link to the continuation, and on the continuation I write "from 34".

Actually "continued on page" is now just a little arrow "->", and "from" is now "<-"

When I find I've written 3 or 4 pages that seem related, I create a special subject index page which groups them together. For example, ideas about the desktop wiki software I'm (sort of thinking of) writing are scattered through the book, but on the DesktopWiki page, there are links to them all.

Basically I'm using the notebook like my wiki (

As I say, this is working really well for me. Anyone got any suggestions and or ideas to improve this? Or want to give their experiences with stuff like this?

Alphabetical Order

I'm answering here to the "Page numbers in my notebook" in the Tribe's "SmartDisorganizedIndividuals" group, because it seems vaguely related and I'm to lazy to start up a Tribes account.

:How would contents pages and indexes work in a 3-ring binder?

:Either you have a policy never to remove or insert extra pages out of sequence, in which case the binder is redundant. Or you do allow insertions and you have a problem keeping your index up-to-date? Synchronization problems like this are what kill people short attention spans like me ;-)

:I guess you could use card dividers, but you'll lose ganularity.

The answer LionKimbro gives, is use alphabetic order. Instead of putting numbers, create categories, and inside the categories you can have numbers or sub-categories. Nothing prevents you from moving a page from one category to another (just strike out the category and rewrite). Much Easier to find things and you can have your index table up front.

I also use card dividers in my system, just to for letters.

There should be a wiki on NotebookSystems. Lion wrote a lot of good stuff on it, and I also found a lot of interesting things on Ward's Wiki.


I'm astonished to see this conversation, and answers right out of the book.

Yes, I've started a notebooks wiki: - - though I haven't had time to write in it yet..!


: Update :

Yep, clearly alphabetical order is the way to go when you have ring-binder(s). This means you have to think of a good, unique name for all pages. Probably I wouldn't have had a strong idea of doing that until I started using Wiki. (See also NamesOfPagesAreConcrete)


I tend to prefer categories (even a lot of them, created dynamically) rather than individual pages. Inside the categories you can still use a numbering scheme, or another system, and you can keep an index (or a map) of all categories on a single page (I also underline the categories that have the most things in them on my map).

But I hadn't thought of having a unique name for each page, this may work too. Very wiki-like, I wonder if anybody ever tried ...

– Emile Kroeger

Anti-pattern : Mixing Business with Pleasure

Update to the post. I was so happy with me first notebook that, when I finished with it, I immedietely started a second. However, this time I had a regular day-job. As I still have stary-eyed ideals about the possibility of disolving work into leisure (and AlternativesToCompanies) I figured my super-efficiently searchable notebook could handle both work related and personal stuff.

However, this turned out to be a major mistake. Work stuff for the jobbing programmer is :

  • a) high volume
  • b) high frequency
  • c) very boring in retrospect

Basically, each day I'd fill 10 or so pages with short-term ToDoLists, sketched EntityRelationDiagrams or indecipherable scrawls that represented calls between objects or user-flow between web-pages. Within an hower, decisions had been made or code had been implemented and the page in the notebook was redundant. Usually I'd cross it out.

The end result. A notebook which is three quarters scribbled out, extinct information, and a few bright spots of notes for things I was going to write on this wiki. Unlike my first notebook, this isn't a joy to browse. There aren't lots of interestingly hyperlinked ideas. And I don't feel enthused to carry it, add to it, or re-read it.

So either the lesson is don't mix business with pleasure. Or maybe the problem is incompatibility between time-scales. The higher frequency of work-related stuff, swamps the personal stuff and makes the book 70% reduntant very quickly. (Good excuse for a link to WorldsWithinWheels) So maybe don't mix frequencies of updates?


Thanks for the good points. Maybe having removable pages means that if you mix work and leisure at first you can always seperate them afterwards and put the long boring parts away in a cardboard box. Things would still get mixed (logs, todo lists) but it may be less tragic.


See also : for for the part of LionKimbro's book on the page numbers. (And feel free to go add your own notebook experiences over there !)


So either the lesson is don't mix business with pleasure. Or maybe the problem is incompatibility between time-scales.: Or get a different job.

Less facetiously, what I am most interested in concerning PersonalKnowledgeManagement is how all this note-booking, blogging, emailing, documenting, PDAing, wikiing, etc is actually used. What's it all for?


This discussion moved to WhyMicroContentPhilJones

See also :