Hi! I’m Andy Matuschak. You’ve stumbled upon my working notes. They’re kind of strange, so some context might help.
These notes are mostly written for myself: they’re roughly my thinking environment (Evergreen notes; My morning writing practice). But I’m sharing them publicly as an experiment (Work with the garage door up). If a note seems confusing or under-explained, it’s probably because I didn’t write it for you! Sorry—that’s sort of an essential tension of this experiment (Write notes for yourself by default, disregarding audience).
For now, there’s no index or navigational aids: you’ll need to follow a link to some starting point. You might be interested in §What’s top of mind.
PS: My work is made possible by a crowd-funded research grant from my Patreon community. You can become a member to support future work, and to read patron-only updates and previews of upcoming projects.
PS: Many people ask, so I’ll just note here: no, I haven’t made this system available for others to use. It’s still an early research environment, and Premature scaling can stunt system iteration.
If you had to set one metric to use as a leading indicator for yourself as a knowledge worker, the best I know might be the number of Evergreen notes written per day. Note-writing can be a virtuosic skill, but Most people use notes as a bucket for storage or scratch thoughts and Note-writing practices are generally ineffective.
Ahrens, S. (2017). How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers.
If writing is the medium of research and studying nothing else than research, then there is no reason not to work as if nothing else counts than writing.
Focusing on writing as if nothing else counts does not necessarily mean you should do everything else less well, but it certainly makes you do everything else differently. Having a clear, tangible purpose when you attend a lecture, discussion or seminar will make you more engaged and sharpen your focus.
Even if you decide never to write a single line of a manuscript, you will improve your reading, thinking and other intellectual skills just by doing everything as if nothing counts other than writing.
When Evergreen notes are factored and titled well, those titles become an abstraction for the note itself. The entire note’s ideas can then be referenced using that handle (see Concept handles, after Alexander). In fact, this property itself functions as a kind of litmus: as you develops ideas in notes over time and improve the “APIs,” you’ll be able to write individual notes which abstract over increasingly large subtrees (e.g. Enacted experiences have incredible potential as a mass medium, Evergreen note-writing as fundamental unit of knowledge work).
Some effective note “API design” techniques: separation of concerns (Evergreen notes should be atomic), sharp titles (Prefer note titles with complete phrases to sharpen claims), and positive framings (Prefer positive note titles to promote systematic theory).
Related: Grounded claims, after Qian et al
Frederick, M. (2007). 101 things I learned in architecture school. MIT Press.
Conversation with Michael Nielsen, 2019-12-16