Image credit: Zarah.
The RPG computer game genre stretches back 30+ years. As time passed, the complexity of missions, quests, objectives, and plot information grew and grew.
Around the late 1990's, games started having a "Journal" function - you'd press "J" and you could see a recap of information from recent important dialogs.
Before that, if you forget info - well, that's really tough...
I remember a game I quite liked called Darklands that came out in 1992. It was really hard, which suited me just fine. I never liked easy games much. The game was set in the Holy Roman Empire in the 15th Century and... did I mention it was hard?
Yeah, I did. Anyways, it starts out with an interesting premise - no plot at all in the beginning. Your band of adventurers gets together to seek fame and fortune, and that's it. Later on, you start to hear rumors and weird stuff happening, and you can go pursue it if you want.
But - no journal. So if you come across a group of bad people chasing someone, fight the bad people off, and get info from the person running away - well, if you don't write it down on your real life paper, you're probably going to forget it.
Add to that that there's firm dates for triggered events, and you might never come across many important and interesting things if you aren't writing things down yourself.
You could get a job to go recover a relic for someone, go find the relic, but then forget who gave you the job... well, yeah, that's tough eh? You could wander from city to city talking to everyone to see if you can find who originally gave you the job, but the game is big. You might never find them.
That was '92. Baldur's Gate came out in 1998 with a pretty robust journal system, and it's been a mainstay since then, gradually getting more and more organized. You can see in the Morrowind journal image at the top of screen that it gave extremely detailed instructions of what work you are to do and where to find your contact. You couldn't mess it up if you tried to.
That's obviously a good design decision for games - who wants to write down on real life paper all sorts of nonsense just to play a game?
But it dawns on me that life is more like Darklands than the later, friendlier games. If you get some advice, a recommendation, a tip, a "reach out to this person", a "here's-my-card-give-me-a-ring" - well, you can't press J and call up a transcript of the important plot details there.
Recently I was re-recommended to "A Small World" when a friend of mine told me about good experiences meeting people in cities he didn't know anyone from there.
I thought, huh, that's right. I got advised to check out Small World back in 2009 when I wasn't traveling by my friend Chase, who reported similar good experiences. I thought, "That's interesting" but I had a solid social circle and activities in Los Angeles, and so I didn't pursue it further.
Then I forgot about it.
If we were in a world with the auto-journal, the mission, "If you're ever traveling, look up Small World" would've been added in Year 2009, and put in the index under "Travel."
This, I think, is something to be overcome. I really shouldn't lose book recommendations, travel recommendations, contacts and connections just out of lack of journaling it. Sure, it might not be relevant now, but I'd like to be able to metaphorically hit "J" and see a list of my open plot details, jobs, missions, and so on.
I'm pretty sure the answer will be some sort of hybrid Relational Database/CRM-like system. Put in entries, index them with tags/relations to each other, have intelligent categories, be tweaking/refining on it just like I do with time tracking.
Yes, this ought to be done and will be good when it's done.
My questions for you, answers in the comments appreciated -
Do you have some sort of system like this?
Do you know anyone that does?
If not, would you benefit from one?
If yes, care to share some details?
If no and you want to build one in the near future, care to talk/brainstorm spec details a bit?
I gotta do this sometime this year. I've got too much going on to miss important plot details for lack of writing things down. It's like, okay, I found the fucking Tarhelm, now who was paying for this thing again?
Let me know if you feel the same way in the comments or via email.
I recommend Firefox+Scrapbook Plus for the web journal.
You can clip pages or selections from pages, and save single pdfs and images too, also write notes (you can use html) and bookmark without local copy the pages, and organize all in a hierarchy.
And you can search of course, by title, by full content, comments, date... and sort by title or date.
But apart from technology, my journal system is also based on RPGs.
I have a folder named "codex", where each "scrap" has the title of a concept/person/place and the text of the entry is a *definition* for me to recognize or remember the concept.
I have a "commonplace" folder too, with citations from web or notes with citations from books.
Another folder for "missions", each entry a mission, and use the ID (second of capture) of these entries in other folders who carry "data" or a diary of the status of the mission...
Sorry for my english.. :)
A long time ago, there was a plugin for Emacs, called Remembrance Agent, which did search in the background for documents related to the file you were working on. http://www.remem.org/
It hasn't be updated in a long time.
The good part of it, is that if you did all of your work in text files, locally, in emacs, it would show you pretty good recommendations.
But, these days, we all have multiple devices and work on many sorts of things, mostly distributed, using many tools.
Another appears to be abandoned project, which I'm using to recall a bit of my online history, is poyozo. It uses the SQLite database that holds your browsing history, combined with a XUL chrome app, to show your history as a calendar. It's in need of love, and I'm really can't recommend people try it, because of security issues arising out of the project being abandoned by the authors.
It's an interesting problem.
I've actually used that for a while. It's cool at first. Then just becomes a bother since (at the time) there's no good way to export your info. I didn't think there was enough flexibility.
Things could have changed since then though. I'd love to hear that it's improved. I see that it auto-categorizes things now. This can be really, really useful. It also didn't have this functionality before.
I'm testing out this one.
It looks like it has massive potential to be what we are looking for.
Chrome extension: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/fabhmllhnkeblofibdkhnoemhibigmfn
Also it has android, iphone, and ipad apps.
A third vote for Evernote (but personally, I prefer the older 3.1 (for windows) version over 3.5 or 4). The older version lets you see a continuous view of your notes, which works better for my brain. Evernote allows tagging, lets me create notes via e-mail or mobile applications, and generally acts as a secondary brain for me.
Does anyone have an invite to A Small World? Looks like it could be interesting!
Hey Sebastian. I second the Evernote suggestion. Due to it's prevalence on most digital devices, you can use it pretty much on the go from an iphone / Android / web access.
I use to make do with paper notes, notes to self on mobiles & computers scattered everywhere. Since I begin using Evernote, it's my one source go to place to jot down all kinds of info.
And what's more, it's free for those uploading 45mb or less per month (only text & image files are supported). Premium at $45USD /year will get you 1GB of month data and support for all file types.
Happy journaling :)
What about something like NotationalVelocity, or Evernote? They have slightly different approaches, but they seem designed to solve exactly this problem.
I desperately need a system like this. I'm already in the habit of writing everything down, but I never manage to do anything about it, because it is all in giant unorganized lists. Google bookmarks does a great job of saving pages that I want to look at again. I love the labels features. If a similar system was made for notes, I would just write everything in a notebook and then update the notes at the end of the day. I would code it myself, but my programming skills aren't up to par.
It sounds like a decent first pass at this would be a generic, bucket o' documents search index. If you just indexed your various sources of information (twitter, facebook, email, rss-feeds, etc) you'd get a fair way towards discoverability - search by keywords, source and dates for example. Think gmail's approach to email.
Although I might just think this because I work on search engines all day - when all you have is a hammer...
Gosh, I like the Wall Street Journal a lot. I like this piece, too -
No You Can't: "Is genius a simple matter of hard work? Not a chance"
I like the whole piece, except I disagree with the conclusions.
You'd need a certain baseline to be able to do the kind of work or craft you want to do. Enough to understand the discipline. But that's not such a high bar.
If you can understand the discipline, then, is it possible to make incremental progress every single week? Could you tighten your fundamentals, study related disciplines for synergy and crossover, and experiment on the hardest problems every single week?
Just look at those fun little icons many of us windows office workers have come to love. I know the Spider Solitaire and Minesweeper icons are kinda tough looking, but they are tough in a "fun" way. That's why the sucker punch they gave me was so unexpected. I mean they are just a nice little games to give me a break when my brain is a little tired or when I need a break before starting the next project. How could it turn out like this?
I noticed this after winning a quick game of FreeCell...
And this after the computer beat me in a friendly game of Chess Titans...