Category Archives: Thinking

Knowledge Enthusiasts and Knowledger

I’ve been writing about knowledge apps for over two years here and now I’m going to begin the reveal on my latest knowledge pursuit.

I am building an iOS and Mac Knowledge app using FileMaker 12. FileMaker Go on iOS is free. My distribution options are wide open. This is the creative part of my app journey, though, so distribution is not on my mind yet. It is great fun building the app I want for my iPhone, iPad and Mac.

Knowledger

I call my new app-in-the-making Knowledger. It’s the shortest app name I could think of that plays on the word Knowledge – the focus of the app. For now it is a code name. Things are in flux.

Knowledger is a customizable, personal knowledge dashboard. It can pull information from Wikipedia, Google Search and Google Maps on subjects of interest. It is your own database and internet tool. Ambitious Knowledge Professionals may want to use FileMaker Pro to integrate Knowledger into their own Filemaker framework. Lack of integration is one of the frustrations in the knowledge arena and the door is open to go there as needed and desired.

Knowledge Enthusiasts

If you are a knowledge professional, you must keep up in your area of specialized knowledge and also knowledge in general – including current events. You don’t operate in a vacuum. Forces outside your specialty affect your work. Your perishable knowledge exists in world that changes every day.

Computers have been the tool du jour for knowledge professionals for good reason. You need to master the tool to function as a knowledge professional or pay a price. Now we have new species of computers: iPhones, iPads and their brethren providing access to information 24/7.

Are you a Knowledge Enthusiast? I’ve come to believe that my real market is what I call Knowledge Enthusiasts. I’m one. I love to learn. I have learning goals that exceed my professional interests. I am curious about my passions and become curious easily. Managing my attention so that it goes where my priorities are is part of the reason for Knowledger.

Maybe 5 – 10% of the population share this passion for knowledge whether working or not. That’s where Knowledger comes into play more broadly.

The Holy Grail of Knowledge

I’m treading on dangerous ground working on an app called Knowledger. Having access and storage of all your notes, ideas and clippings, books, whatever is what the knowledge enthusiast craves. Ideas, insights and information slip away as other pieces of information and other ideas come to mind. Knowledge at your fingertips. Google says they want to put the world’s knowledge at your beck and call. I’m entering holy grail turf with caution in my own way and trying to keep focus in the midst of a hurricane. Here’s what I’m up to.

Knowledger Features in Development

In its current incarnation, Knowledger tracks your people, groups, places, things, ideas and works. Whenever you encounter any of these and want to save them and follow them as needed, you just type in the name. Data entry is next to nill. Quick. No hassle. Frictionless.

One of the problems you encounter on iOS is that you have to operate in app silos – App A doesn’t know what App B is doing. That problem is starting to be addressed here and there by URL schemes that allow apps to talk to each other. Knowledger uses URL schemes to talk to other apps. Knowledger can access the web with FileMaker’s built in browser, but stopping there limits you. Key Apps used in concert can crucially improve the experience and aid your knowledge quest.

Knowledger can talk directly to excellent Wikipedia apps like Articles and Wikipanion. It can talk to Chrome if you have it installed. It can talk to Drafts and Day One. This inter-application communication is a key feature of an app that is designed to be your dashboard to the world of information beyond your doorstep.

Creativity

Creating requires invention which requires concentration over time. It is facilitated by obsession. To be creative you need to be mulling over the roadblocks to your vision, dwelling in the subject matter at play and using your subconscious to do the rest while you are driving, dreaming or in the shower. You need to have your note pad ready at all times to capture the stray insight that comes your way. But, the dwelling on and obsession piece is where Knowledger comes in.

Travel

There are huge possibilities for knowledger. We are a world of knowledge workers in a knowledge economy. Flooded with information, most of which we don’t want. Collect the places that catch your interest and learn about them in your spare time. I’ve got Iowa where my grand father was born to go with Duluth where my Norwegian grand parents migrated. I’ve got the classic cities like Paris, London, Rome and Berlin. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland. And Akihabara, the amazing gadget shopping mecca in Japan. Every time I capture a new place or person I get a sense of satisfaction that I’ve claimed them for my collection.

Better Use of your Time

If you are a knowledge enthusiast, you may be among the minority who resist the call of various iOS games, staying on track with your quest for relevant knowledge. Or not. I would like you to have Knowledger with you as a constructive option and alternative to seductive time-fillers.

With Knowledger, you spontaneously add people, places and things as they occur to you. You favorite the ones you want to dwell on and unfavorite them when they’ve become less interesting or you’ve moved on.

That’s it. Your knowledge system dashboard and personal interests database.

Considerations on Whether to Get an iPad mini

Oct 29: I see that all models of the iPad mini are now showing 2 weeks for their delivery time in the US Apple store. Brave souls have taken the plunge sight unseen. It would help to evaluate this new device to hold it in one’s hand and try it out though. I’ll report back to you on Friday when mine arrives.

Like most Apple products, the build of the smaller tablet is excellent, easily surpassing the competition on the market. By comparison, the Nexus 7 and Fire HD feel like toys. Other manufacturers are going to have to up their game with this product in town. It’s just a striking difference in materials and solidness.

Updated Oct 26: I  preordered a white, wifi-only 16gb iPad mini at midnight Thursday. Please note, I would get an LTE 32gb iPad mini if it was my only iPad but I’m keeping my iPad 3 LTE. I can create a personal wi-fi hotspot with my iPhone 5 for my mini if needed.

At $329, the iPad mini is a more costly than we expected. I had it pegged at $249 and some thought Apple might get crazy and hit $199. I already have the iPad 3 which is now old news with the new iPad 4 announced yesterday.

I thought I would pounce on the mini when I imagined it to be a cheap smaller iPad even if it wasn’t retina because I wanted a Nexus 7-sized tablet that could be a cross between a color kindle and an iPad. I could forget about Kindle and be iPad all the time using my iPad 3 at home mostly when a bigger screen seemed better and using the mini around town when I was travelling light.

Spoiled by the size and lightness of the Kindle 2, I’ve wanted a smaller, lighter iPad all along. I bought a Kindle Fire last December. Even though it is a bit of brick, I liked the size especially for reading. I bought a Nexus 7 in July and love its size, shape and weight. Both of these are gathering dust because I can’t get the apps I want on these devices. I’m not married to google, so that ecosystem doesn’t hold me. I strongly prefer iBooks as an ereader to the Kindle app and don’t appreciate the dumbed down interface on the Fire.

There is inherent loss in just reducing a product in size. We took the time to go back to the beginning and design a product that was a concentration of, not a reduction of, the original. – Jony Ive

These are my big considerations on whether to get this little iPad mini:

  1. The size, thinness and lightness. Everything I liked about the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 will be even better on the mini. It will be easier to hold while I’m using it. It won’t have to be propped up and accommodated to get into a comfortable position. It will be cute and lovable. It will be fun.
  2. It doesn’t have a retina display. I love my iPhone 5, iPad 3 and MacBook Pro retina displays. Firsthand observers who played with the iPad mini yesterday say it is noticeably not a retina display. The word disappointed was mentioned even though further comments emphasized that the screen is very good and better than the iPad 2 screen which is good. I hope the greatly reduced size and weight is more than a fair trade for losing retina. Even for someone spoiled by other retina devices. Retina is high priced in terms of size and weight (you need more batteries).
  3. It’s expensive especially when compared to the Kindle HD 7 and Nexus 7. The comparable Nexus 7 is $249. You have to pay an extra $79 to get the better hardware (but not better screen) and app ecosystem. That hurts. On the other hand, you know very well that $79 doesn’t go far and your time has value. If this tool works for you, do you want the best in class tool or one of the cheaper, economy tools?
  4. It’s a cheap iPad. I paid $359 for my Kindle 2, so this is an amazing bargain in a lot of ways. This is going to be great if you don’t have an iPad yet. It’s $170 cheaper than the iPad 4 retina.
  5. Should you have both a mini and a regular, though? That’s my question. How many devices can you use? This may just be a the right tool for the job situation. I know that my iPad 3 is great when I’m sitting up in bed with my knees up. It’s great on a table with my Logitech keyboard cover when typing. When I need room for whatever reason, that bigger canvas will still be preferable. But when those situations aren’t there and I want easy and light, like for reading which is my highest percentage use, the truly pad-sized, iPad mini will be great! The iPad mini will be a lighter adjunct to my laptop when I need to bring it along with me.

One thing I consider when indulging in more than one iPad or other tablet device like the Kindle or Nexus 7 is that we are moving away from paper. As we do so, we will need digital paper devices of different sizes just as paper pads and notebooks come in a variety of sizes. We don’t limit ourselves to one size of paper pad but use many sizes. The full-sized iPad may be your perfect size, especially if you are a fairly large-sized human. Women, normal to small-sized men and children will really love the iPad mini’s smaller, lighter, more portable form factor.

One last thought. The iPad mini will certainly get a retina display in a future update. Just as the Macbook Airs will get retina. But, the extra size, weight and processing requirements of the retina display are tradeoffs that these diminutive devices cannot yet abide.

Related post: Nexus 7 vs. Kindle Fire 2 vs. iPad mini updated Oct 23 2012.

Other good posts on iPad mini:
eReader Joy: New: iPad Mini.
Josh Topolsky, the Verge: Apple iPad mini Hands On
iPhone J.D.: Why Lawyers will love the 4th gen iPad and iPad mini
James Kendrick: iPad mini: Why I’m buying one as soon as possible

Why My Favorite Notebook App for iPad is ThinkBook

Thinkbook app for iPadThinkBook was released for iPad a little over a year ago. It took the app store by storm and was highly acclaimed. Since then, updates have been few and far between for this app. Nevertheless, this app stands tall in the app store because it is the best Think book. You should be using it as your idea book on your iPad. It’s available for $1.99 right now. Crazy good deal (iTunes).

ThinkBook is a remarkable digital notebook. There are many notebook apps on the iPad and I’ll discuss them briefly to explain how they differ from ThinkBook. Then on to twelve reasons to love ThinkBook and a couple limitations that might stop you. And one wish list item…

Handwriting is something else. First, there are a large number of Notebook apps that let you handwrite on the iPad with your finger or stylus. There are a bunch of these and the best of them are probably Penultimate and Notetaker HD. I’m going to skip that discussion to say, if you can type, you’ll probably prefer typing on your iPad even on the glass to handwriting just because it isn’t as tiring and you get digitally readable text when your done. Text is a godsend. It is lightweight and repurposable in the extreme. These handwriting apps are great and I keep hoping that Notes Plus will get debugged enough after its ambitious rewrite to win the handwriting category one of these days.

Catchall Notebooks Like Evernote are Different. I use Evernote to clip things to. To save articles for reference. It’s like an electronic filing cabinet for me and accessible from Mac, Web, iPhone and iPad. Evernote provides important knowledge functions – capture, collection, storage and search, primarily. ThinkBook is more about thinking than storing. It’s where you keep your thoughts and work with them. ThinkBook has the most powerful outlining and organizing tools I’ve ever seen. Keep using Evernote, but don’t stop there.

ThinkBook App for iPadThinkBook is this magical thinker’s notebook with unique and original features found nowhere else. There are limitations to ThinkBook and I will get to those, but first I want to talk about what is original and uniquely valuable in ThinkBook. The reason you should use it if your thoughts are an important part of who you are.

Twelve Reasons to Love ThinkBook

1. It’s an Amazing Outliner. Indenting and moving notes, to do items and more is built-in at the ground floor of this product. Organizing your ideas and notes is at the root of what this product does.

2. Several Great and Unusual Note Types. In ThinkBook, a notebook is a type of note. A Page is a type of note. A Project is a type of note. A To Do is a type of note. A Question and its answers is a type of Note. And, of course, plain text notes are notes.

3. Everything is a Note. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but what it means is any note type can be inside another note type. So, I can create a Day Page (note) on a Client Page (note) in a Clients Notebook (note) on some Business Page somewhere. It’s kind of like Alice in Wonderland or something. You get to stash things where you want. And then move them somewhere else or put things inside of the smallest thing.

4. Dashboards. ThinkBook has these widgets that will show you your outstanding to do’s and unanswered questions. They are called Finders because they allow you to define criteria about notes that makes them qualify to be found. Kind of like Smart Folders in OS X. Dashboards define a scope (Everywhere, a particular notebook or page to which it applies), required Tags, the number of found items to show, etc.. Very powerful stuff.

5. Projects. One of the note types you can create. A project has a special circle icon at the left and its text appears in bold. Underneath that project goes at least 1 to do item and any number of notes. As to do items under a project get completed, the circle fills in like a piechart showing % of completion of your to do items. Brilliant!

6. Fast Search. You can still just search for what you want when you want and get it in a hurry.

7. Tagging. What would a modern notebook be without tagging, so you can cross-reference to your heart’s content. And tags are inherited which is cool when notes can be inside of notes. If you tag a page business, then the notes on that page are automatically tagged as business.

8. Gorgeous Look. Every page of your ThinkBook is beautiful. ThinkBook looks amazing on the new iPad. I love it! I also really enjoy using Vera Sans Mono which is an unusual but very cool monospaced font option. Helvetica Neue, Gill Sans, Trebuchet MS, Hoefler Text, Palatino, New Times Roman and a cool newer font called Nobile is also available. Lots of font size choice. And three themes, Sky Blue, Polar White and Black Pearl. All three themes are great and I have trouble sticking to just one for very long.

9. Delicious Feel. You will love the intuitive and uber responsive gestures:
a. Indent or Outdent by dragging left or right and then down to move a series of contiguous notes. We need this all the time when outlining.
b. Drag notes to the right into the Slider when you drag on the right side of the screen. This feels wonderful once you get the hang of it.
c. Drag the slider up and down like butter and it pops into place in between items.
d. Drag things out of the slider by dragging left.
It goes on but the main thing is it is just right on iPad.

10. Tabs. My man Emiliano thinks things through. By default you get the most recent notes you visited last across the top, but there’s more. You can define some persistent tabs and then undefine them when your priorities change. If you are working on Money issues this week, bookmark that tab so it will stick around on the left side of the tab bar. When you have your money under control, slide the tab to the right to make it a normal tab that will only stay present for a while. Let’s say you made a mistake and really needed that Money tab back. Just slide it left and it gets a nice little black star on it to show it is here for the duration.

11. Dropbox Integration. You can save backups to dropbox of specific notes, notebooks, pages, projects. Or backup your entire Thinkbook to dropbox. Or you can save the text of a note, notebook, page, project to dropbox. By saving the text, you can then edit that text from Mac/PC or iPhone. Since dropbox is accessible via web, you can access from other devices too although you may need to download the file to edit it and then put it back in dropbox when you are done. You double-tap the icon to get all sorts of options for that item.

12. The Little Visual Help System. OK, I ran out of numbers. I could keep going but I like this help system! Lots of pictures. Accessible from whereever you are by clicking the little i in the left sidebar. There are 5 little instructional videos on the Thinkbook website. There is a Thinkbook Notebook on the Home Page with a lot more detailed help.

What’s Not to Like

1. Right now ThinkBook is text only. No pictures or documents or PDFs can be put inside your ThinkBook. But this is on the front burner for the Bitolithic development team.

2. Exporting is Limited and no Fancy Printing. You can email a notebook, page, project, to do or note in modestly formatted text form reflecting outlines, to do’s and notes. And don’t worry your data is not trapped in ThinkBook. In fact, ThinkBook’s notes are all plain text and use XML which is the most universal data language on the planet. The foundation is built, but, for now, ThinkBook doesn’t directly print or export to PDF so you don’t get the formatting pizzaz that comes alive inside of ThinkBook.

3. Useable URLs. Another essential addition – is on the do list.

Big Wishlist Item

1. ThinkBook for iPhone! But I can wait. The big plus will be that always with you thing that would place your wonderful Thinkbook in your pocket.

Don’t Wait

Don’t wait for more features. What has happened in the last year is the product has been debugged, polished and made wonderful. What hasn’t happened is these 3 items above and a lot of other things on the drawing board. But, ThinkBook is telling us our wait will soon be over. If you are anything like me, you’ll want to enjoy the powers of this tool now. It is mind-bendingly good!

6 Reasons Twitter is an Original Thinker’s Best Friend

A lot of people have a narrow view of Twitter. They think of it as a marketing tool, a tool to socialize or goof off with, a way to keep in touch with friends. Yes, there are people who use twitter for marketing and it can be good for that. I’m much more interested in Twitter as your own personal hive mind.

Original thinkers are hard at work concocting new ideas, trying to figure something out. When you are in this mode in your knowledge profession, Twitter can be invaluable. Here are just a few unique ways to use Twitter to support your original thinking.

  1. Original thinkers need a community of interested peers. Specialists are the norm these days. An original thinker in a specialized area doesn’t typically have a lot of friends handy with whom to discuss his or her ideas. These ideas are viewed as esoteric and boring by those not in the know. Well, turn on twitter, find some virtual friends who do. Another amazing feature of online friends is that they can be spread across time zones so essentially cover you 24/7.
  2. Twitter is an incredible tool for finding kindred spirits. You can follow people who don’t know you. You can see who they are following and in one tap see what they are saying and thinking. If you find one kindred spirit on Twitter, check out who they are following. This trail of breadcrumbs is instantaneous and networked to grease the wheels of your quest for friends in passion.
  3. Your Research Associates. Your personally selected Hive mind will keep feeding you references and information on the subjects your twitter stream finds relevant. I take for granted that you have discovered, curated and built out a good stream that supports your passions. If not, get on it.
  4. No Writer’s Block. You can try out your new thoughts in tiny chunks or bite-sized publications (tweets). This 140 character, conversational output is about as procrastination-resistant as you can get.
  5. Original thoughts can be fragile. Innovators buck conventional wisdom. Our new ideas don’t always get along well with mainstream thought. As Jony Ive says, ground-breaking thoughts can be fragile. Hanging out in the mainstream conventional world may discourage your most original thoughts and creativity. Those fleeting glimmers and off-the-wall inklings of a new framework, perspective, design or invention need all the loving support they can get. Like-minded, knowledgeable colleagues will be more receptive and supportive of your brainchild.
  6. Energy. The energy generated from these passionate dialogs can incite your creativity. Your Twitter stream can be like a marinade for your incubating thoughts, supporting your otherwise invisible and not yet popular point of view. You can iterate and engage around your passion and come up with the insight you are looking for to crack open the latest conundrum.

Hopefully,  I’ve suggested a couple new ways you  can use Twitter to support your original thinking. It can be fun and useful.