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How hackers are creating knowledge

After reading seven Hacker News threads with more than twelve hundred comments I’ve found no tool I would immediately jump in to create personal knowledge.

Five of the threads are pretty recent — summer and autumn of 2018 — revealing a clear pain point the community suffers.

They include not just knowledge creation but proper note taking and goal tracking, information organization and searching, universal syncing and access (mobile), interoperability (data portability) and tool stability (the development stops after a few years).

There were over fifty suggestions for tools to use — like these collected by SaasHub from one of the threads. The consensus is that instead of a common tool a set of tools must be used, each tailored for a different task.

It’s clear Evernote missed this train and Org mode for Emacs is a winner, together with individual solutions like hacking plain text / markdown files and folders together.

Many hackers rely on tools offered by default by their operating system like Google Keep and Suite, Microsoft OneNote and Apple Notes. Others are using tools like Simplenote, Zim Wiki, Notion, Workflowy, Quiver, Vim Wiki, Notational Velocity and Zotero of course.

Some even still use pen and paper. Anki was noticed only a few times. And only half a dozen people were found really digging into this subject of creating knowledge.

It seems these tasks and things are hard, highly personal together with the tools used in the process.

We all have different data use patterns which require highly flexible, customizable tools and services no one offers in a single pack.

Some tools are good for archiving, tagging, categorizing and others are good to distill knowledge, create knowledge, and make remember things. Sometimes search is more important than organization.

In this chaotic order — at the end — a few good advices were found. General rules we can say, which made the day.

  1. Make sure organizing knowledge doesn’t becomes a goal itself. Get a use case first then start organizing information around that.
  2. Make a distinction between passive and active information. Information for archival and information as knowledge which personal, working for you.
  3. Don’t over-engineer.

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