Search, Bookmarks, and Notes

How do you save a link? You’ve just found something memorable and want to save it for future reference. Now what?

Search, workflow, and social networks have transformed the world immeasurably since the early days of saving web pages. You no longer need to remember things that are easy to find, things that are task related are pretty much tracked automatically, and you can immediately broadcast anything interesting to everyone who is listening. So what’s missing?

In short, listening has gotten harder. There is so much being found that we can’t follow all the broadcasts. The conversation has been overwhelmed, yet we still discover things. Here are a few strategies on how to deal with remembering and sharing.

Memory and Search

The default strategy for keeping link references is your brain and a search engine. Always available, and usually reliable. Not collaborative, and limited to your own memory, but if you forget then it couldn’t have been that important. Right?

Usually right, but not always. A link may become more important over time but you stopped remembering it before that. A pattern of links might be important but not discernable from what is in your working memory now. You may want to revisit memorable links from a different perspective. Perhaps it’s simply been too long, or something else came along in the meantime so you lost it.

With memory alone, collaboration is limited to what happens to come up in social conversation. That’s a very small potential. Just remembering might be the default, but there are better options.

Bookmarks

Bookmarks are NOT a better option. I’m mentioning them because it can be tempting to try use bookmarks as a place to save memorable things. Don’t do it.

It is possible that there are people who know what is saved in their bookmarks, can access their beautifully organized folders faster than searching, and always check their bookmarks first. I’ve never met anyone like that. However I have met several people with large and unwieldy folder hierarchies and a limited knowlege of what is actually in there or how to find it. Don’t use bookmarks for memorable links, bookmarks are for sites you access regularly.

Notes

Notes ARE a better option. Making a note can be as simple as writing a line in a loosely structured file, or as advanced as capturing site contents. A note can be related to something you are working on, part of a group workflow, or something else. Here are some aspects to consider when evaluating where to save a note:

Work or play? Even if you could use the same technology for a hobby as for your work, you probably shouldn’t. Keeping work separate from personal is kind of like keeping collaboration separate from social.

Known timeframe? If the notes you are making are related to a sequence of tasks or events, you may want to group them together on that basis or put things on a calendar. In the absence a known timeframe, notes accumulated over time should not degrade into a mess.

Your own reference or shareable? You make notes because they are helpful to you, but some of your notes could be helpful to others. If you want to collaborate, consider how you and your collaboration buddies will share. Think about what you would like to receive. Make sure you can send accordingly.

Considering these aspects will help provide some perspective when deciding if a technology is useful for your situation. If choosing a technology seems like too much to start, try just saving links in a simple text file for up to a year. Then you’ll have a better idea on how you want to use your notes and whether you want to collaborate.

General strategies

Regardless of what technology you are using, the most important thing you can do when noting a link is to include a line about why you think it is memorable. A one-liner about why a link is worth remembering will increase your chances of finding it, provide context for why you noted it, and facilitate sharing.

The second most important thing you can do is be selective. When you are working on a task, you might note a lot of links. For collaborative sharing, you want to be more selective. Curating is a skill that improves with practice, and it is worth some time to do. A well curated collection is a goldmine of useful information.

For collaborating on selected links, check out membic.org.

Enjoy listening again.

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Search, Bookmarks, and Notes

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