Note taking as a developer

Four questions:

When you are in a meeting, how do you take your notes?

When you are at a conference, do you take notes of a talk?

When you are brainstorming, how are you taking notes?

What is your way of taking notes of these situations?

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DISCUSSION (16)

Compiler warning: 'note' is too generic name, please refactor.

Conference (2-3 days event) notes: pen&paper blocknote, then transfer the knowledge in a followup or something.

TODO/ideas related to a personal project: Trello board

Work related projects: whatever they use, Asana, wiki, email, jira comments.

Ahaa moments and notes while walking the street: Inbox (new gmaila app) Reminders

You should adopt note taking as a habit in all your life aspects.

To-do lists will help you organize and categorize your tasks. Try to keep them in one centralized place with easy access.

Writing your thoughts will help you come out with smarter solutions, and you will notice deeper level of details and scenarios that might save you some effort.

That's not the most popular opinion, but: I don't.

That's especially true in meetings, I have a simple rule for this: if it's interesting and/or useful, I'll remember it. Which means that if I have to take note of something, it's most likely because it's useless and/or uninteresting and I'll never come back to my notes anyway.

Although that's mostly because the only way I have to take notes during meetings is paper, which I don't like for that kind of things (mostly because it lacks Ctrl+F 😀), if I had a computer I'd just put some notes in a Markdown file or a Google Keep note, if I need to.

As for brainstorming, the output is often something more concrete than just "notes" (more like a draft of a more complex document or a schema).

  • In a meeting: sketchbook. I write down key words and any important tasks or details I need to remember. I sometimes sketch to illustrate concepts or structures.
  • In a conference: notes app + pics and video/audio on phone. voice recordings are great for quick notes on the go. I tend to go to conferences as media, so I'm actually covering the event journalism style. So I go booth to booth, interview each company on camera, then take extra notes either filming myself talking -- or written down in note pad or social media apps - to ensure I don't forget anything before moving on. The most important thing in cons is to get the data out as fast as possible, since you're assaulted with information constantly. Especially if there's any form of inebriation present (alcohol, cannabis, etc).
  • Brainstorming: Trello or Airtable - depending on the type of data. Trello works great for checklists and organizing resources. Airtable works great for analyzing groups of data and changing the way I see the data (like a table of your competitors and their product features compared to yours -- seeing both their features, or a list of the features you both have (or features you need to implement)).

I mostly take notes in markdown files dumped on my Desktop folder, but I also keep a notebook and mechanical pencil nearby to jot things down.

These things eventually make their way into some private git repo, and sometimes factored into documentation.

I used to use OneNote, then Trello, but I've found that I just want my notes in something flexible, prolific and straightforward to interact with.

Well what sort of notes are you talking about?

Notes I take during client meetings or project meetings? Pencil and paper that I transfer to electronic form to review them (why I don't use electronic form to begin with, me transferring them is my way of making sure I review them again).

Quick notes I need to take to take at work that aren't that important? Sticky Notes app on Windows 10.

Work related: I tend to just put these in the ticket I'm working on as a note so in a few days I'll know what I wanted to do or someony else could look at the ticket and get some ideas what has been tried or thought process.

Discussion post doesn't pass QA: "One simple question" label followed by 4 questions.


When you are in a meeting, how do you take your notes?

I tend not to because my meetings are just Agile things that don't affect anything.

When you are at a conference, do you take notes of a talk?

I haven't been to one, but I'd stick with my general set up (see below), but with a small notebook for being on the go.

When you are brainstorming, how are you taking notes?

The beginning of the notebook has pages left blank for referencing notes (an Index).

Depends on the subject:

  • Draw out the system workflows
  • "Pseudocode" out a solution to a problem (I'm terrible at pseudocode... I swear my eslint rules would pass if I ran my notebook through it)
  • Strikethrough crap code that won't work and write better solutions under it
    • Don't erase anything -- It can all be useful at some point, even if that point isn't the current problem

  • Make tables for test case situations
    • go full on truth table if it helps find edge and corner cases

  • Add page numbers to the notebook and write what the page covered back in the index for later reference

I'd think for something where I would be listening to someone talk, I'd want to get into Cornell Notes but I've never tried it.

To-Dos stay in a different notebook and tend to start as post-it notes. The notebook also has a use for time tracking since I fill out my timesheet every two weeks. It makes stand ups nice, too, since the today and yesterday plans are kept in their own spots instead of intermixed with notes.

Code snippets for future use are kept in markdown files either with something like Quiver, Github Gists, GitLab Snippets... something with syntax highlighting and searching.

What is your way of taking notes of these situations?

In general, a notebook and pen are kept on my desk / in my backpack at all times. The notebook's also tricked out with dev.to stickers all over it.


(I'm available to discuss the pros and cons of various notebooks and pens anytime)

  1. I use Google keep on my phone to keep all my notes
    -- voice memo notes that are automatically translated into text by Google voice recognition
    -- you can create a checklist of tasks you want to do
    -- take a picture from an event and add your notes to it int extra format below
    -- The best thing that I really love is it's web/cloud based. Change your computer or mobile phone, you don't have to worry about your notes being lost

  2. When I am on my computer is sublimetext to write down things in plain text

  3. I use real sticky notes (paper and pencil)

  4. I keep a mini white board on my computer table to understand by drawing how some complicated things work.

Advice: Use paper and pen to take your notes, it'll train your brain

I use Anki with with cloze. Or simple markdown files

In a pinch, plain markdown via vs code... Boostnote is also my favorite and go to app.

Dotgrid notepad, list points and arrows. For all of these.

I have a little notepad and later I convert them as digital for github, trello, asana, email to do or post it on my wall.

Microsoft One Note for everything. Using it from past 5-6 years, works smoothly on Mac, Windows, iPad, Android etc.

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