The Hacker’s Notebook: a Mission Log for Every Project

March 21, 2016 - storage organizer

While “writing it down” competence seem like common sense, it wasn’t always a case. From a times of Ancient Greece, Plato tells a story of a disturbed Egyptian King, who, on witnessing a invention of writing, remarks,

“If group learn this, it will make forgetfulness in their souls; they will stop to practice memory given they rest on that that is written, job things to observance no longer from within themselves, though by means of outmost marks. [1]”

To some, a cover was a dangerous device, a burglar that would sack us of a memories [2]. Fortunately, these days, there’s copiousness of evidence from a Psych texts that contend we humans are flattering unfair during gripping a contribution straight. In fact, any time we remember a memory, we change it! Here lies a beauty of a notebook. Have an suspicion for a new project? Why not record it somewhere for destiny reference? With diligence, a cover can spin a possess personal heart for spurring on new plan ideas.

The Project Log and You

Keeping a cover takes time–time that cuts divided from creation a tangible project. Nevertheless, I’m assured that a tiny well-written intuition can be keep your eyes open to ideas that competence differently be dark when we’re focused on a details.

The Master Reference

It’s tough to conflict a titillate to burst in and start rebellious a plan head-on. A few resistors and op-amps on a breadboard later, and maybe we’re already median there. After all, because delayed down sketch a circuit when we can only make it? Unfortunately, while we can get flattering distant in one night, we can’t always finish. When that happens it’s distant some-more formidable to restart from a crow’s nest of wires than it is from a master reference. Here lies a beauty of a notebook. When we enforce ourselves to write down

every bit counts; some designs start on paper

every bit counts; some designs start on paper

an idea, we’re challenged to give an overarching depiction of what we’re perplexing to build with sufficient fact to erect it later. Once we’re indeed building that 3D printer or breadboarding a circuit, we’ve got a measure or schematic we logged progressing to burst behind into a same context. Fortunately, from block-diagrams, to circuit blueprint symbols, to proof gates, prior engineers have combined an whole wording of black for communicating with any other. Why not use it to promulgate with a destiny self?

The Multi-Body Solution

When we write down or form adult a idea, we put counsel efforts into engaging it. Perhaps it’s another resource for drudge locomotion. Maybe it’s a severe schematic for a switching energy supply. Either way, to remember it later, we’ll need to give a amply minute outline to remember it again when a time is ripe. If we can pull ourselves to put this suspicion into a notebook, we can reap an engaging benefit. Now that it’s on paper or in content format, it can mount by itself.

When we demeanour behind on what we’ve written, perhaps, a day or dual later, we can perform it from an outward perspective. Reading over what we’ve written, we’re giving ourselves a second angle from that to demeanour during a same idea–almost like removing another person’s opinion. And in one sense, it is. The cover becomes a examination with a “yester-you.” We give ourselves a ability to perform many perspectives, any separate opposite a opposite time duration when they were combined down.

Beyond Pulp-and-Paper: 21st Century Notebooks

It’s been a good 3000 years given a Mesopotamians started doodling cuneiform on clay tablets. Surely, we can do better! Fortunately, interjection to complicated technology, we don’t need to keep scribbling like a caveman to keep a thoughts straight. These days, online build logs and digital print albums have been assisting us benefaction ideas, though they can also assistance us beget them. we suspicion I’d strew some light on dual modern-day collection that are tuned for a severe draft.

IPython Notebooks


Image Credit: IPython Developers List

Sometimes, we need to run a test-snippet of formula to break some numbers. Perhaps we’re in a lab, regulating a discerning experiment, or maybe we only need to double check a bit-math. IPython turns your web browser into an interactive Python terminal. Small snippets of formula can be forsaken into Mathematica-like “cells,” that can be run with a simple Shift+Enter. Being browser-based gives it a coherence of regulating on any platform, and we can even run a cover on a server remotely, permitting we full entrance to your notebooks anywhere we can find an internet connection.

IPython is a lab scientists complicated day goal log. It renders LaTeX into pleasing mathematical equations, and it has all a collection and libraries accessible in Python. It’s cell-structure encourages tiny awake snippets. With IPython, we can break numbers, tract data, and trade html webpages, all from a comfort of your browser. For a curious, have a demeanour during some other folks’ some-more polished lab manuals online, some of that are purify adequate to be stand-alone works of technical beauty.

The IO: a connected build log

the_io; join a examination as it happens

Paper competence be means to give we a possibility to revisit your possess take on a project; but, sadly, others don’t spin partial of this feedback loop. Recording your thoughts and projects online gives we one corner from gripping a solo notebook: counterpart review. Keeping a cover gives us a advantage of revisited a deeply thought-out subject with a uninformed set of eyes. Publishing your suspicion process, however, indeed gives us many uninformed sets of eyes! If you’re removing started on a plan and wish to open it to a world, is a illusory place to get a plan underway. No plan need be finish to spin a few heads, ask feedback, and get others to sell a few pro-tips on your plan underway.

Off a Mental Back-burner and On Paper

Whether we’re regulating a fully-fledged IPython interpreter, your anthology of builds on, or scribblings on a few bits of paper, we’re compelling spur-of-the-moment calculations. As a day goes by, we can take one or dual of a many ideas that fly by a mind and locate them before they trip away. Most of these thoughts competence not comprehend themselves into fully-fledged projects, though that’s OK. With a thoughts now on paper, in content files, or online, we’ve given these ideas a honest diagnosis they merit of being entertained only by essay them down.

Surely, there are some-more pieces of record that can assistance us save a thoughts. Google’s Keep, Github Gists, and DEVONthink are all illusory examples of uninformed pieces of program that assistance us record a thoughts. If you’ve got a quite nifty approach of holding notes, we’d adore to hear them in a comments.


[1] Plato on Writing.

[2] Notebooks as memory aids: Precepts and practices in early complicated England. Richard Yeo. Sage Publications 2008.

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