Yeah, it’s summer

My summer holiday just started and, as with much of my life, I’m using it differently than many other people. Some of it has to do with my treacherous body, some with my mindset and interests and some with cicrumstances outside of my control (hello covid-19!).

Sunshine and atopy

To start with my health, unfortunately I have an atopic body that doesn’t like typical summer days. With hay fever (for birch and timothy pollen, so essentially present the whole spring and summer), eczema and photosensitivity, sunny and warm days make me stuffy and itchy and deplete my energy levels. Norway is experiencing a beautiful warm and sunny period at the moment, so here I am, sitting inside, instead of working in the garden, going on a hike or doing other outdoorsy stuff. One hour weeding did lead to a significant increase in symptoms, even with allergy meds, and I may have to concede that it is already too late in the year for that and wait until it starts raining or until autumn starts.

Openings and outbreaks

Norway has recently entered step 3 of its national reopening plan, but we also had the first local covid outbreak since the start of the pandemic and we have been in quarantine for a little while as the school of my youngest was also involved. Luckily, she tested negative twice, but it was a strong reminder that the pandemic is not over yet. We did get our first vaccine shots last week though. But we only planned to travel to Oslo for a short week because the kids need to reneww their passports. So I have a lot of time available for myself.

Personal time again

Now, I don’t really mind sitting inside, as I can do a lot of my hobbies and interests inside. These include faffing with my fountain pens, writing and lettering, and playing games. As I have little on my mind now (I only scan work related channels for news whether I have to help out with an activity during an international digital meeting in my holiday, which I count as hobby-related), I’m starting up my digital weeding and organizing activities again.

Right now I have to start again with learning about building a second brain and using Obsidian for that purpose. I decided to support the developers with a Catalyst payment that will also access to the private beta of the mobile app. I might be writing more later as I learn!

It all starts with weeding

We all know we need to declutter stuff we don’t use anymore. I’m no minimalist at all, but I do like to be able to find things I know I should have. I also don’t want to run into broken stuff that was only moved out of the way to be thrown out another time and is still taking up space in our living space.

When we moved from the Netherlands to Norway in 2008, we had to rigorously select what we wanted to keep as we only had so much space in the moving truck. But we have so much room in our new house now, that it’s starting to overfill again. But it’s at least visible how much physical clutter we have. Still need to weed out the physical junk, but it’s worse with digital clutter.

Saving for later

I once lost my draft thesis text and had to type everything again from the printout I thankfully had made. After that I made it a habit to save important files and backup them and save a copy for good measure. These directories were saved for eternity and copied over to every new computer I got. Despite attempts to organize my file directory, entropy is inevitable, especially when hard disks only seemed to increase in size. If you’ve got the room on your hard drive, it not really urgent to avoid double saves, especially after an experience as I had with my thesis. The main reason to weed out double saves was to ensure that you’d only work with the latest version of a file.

One application to rule them all?

Keeping up with all pieces of information I collected was getting a problem. So when I learned about Evernote, I quickly saw the potential for a system that could organize my files for me. I don’t really remember anymore when I started using Evernote, but is must have been around 2008 or 2009. I have been a premium subscriber for a long time and at a certain moment we decided that Evernote would be our archive for everything. We bought a Scansnap scanner and started scanning in everything directly into Evernote, from our recidence permits, bank statements and invoices to recipes, Christmas cards and drawings by our kids.

Then, in 2015 Evernote changed their management and subscription model drastically. and pissed off a lot of long-term users, like me. I was an early adapter of Springpad and was ready to move over, when they unfortunately and suddenly folded. Microsoft has been quietly building Onenote, which became my alternative note app. I exported everything out of Evernote but never quite imported everything into Onenote. Instead I started new in Onenote and quickly built up a knowledge and information repository there. Yet, I could never really get the hang of Onenote. Sync is not a strong point for Microsoft and I have had several notebooks that I had to copy to a new notebook because of corruption. Not good for a forever archive system!

The last few years I became more interested in open standards and open source developers. I’m trying to move away from the big names with their greedy fingers in my personal data, although I’m not ready to sacrifice all convenience and ease of use. But a few years ago I moved to my latest note taking app, Joplin, a very capable, free and open source Evernote competitor. Joplin works well and uses markdown, a lightweight markup language where you basically type formatting elements in your normal text. I have been learning and using markdown for a couple of years now and prefer that for writing longer texts over a WYSIWYG editor, so that was a big plus.

Back to basics , but with a twist

So here I am, with a fractured collection of archives that contain partly duplicated, partly new and partly outdated information. Just like a house full of clutter and junk distracts, does this digital clutter also distract. So I’ve made a start this year to clean up and refresh this pile of junk once and for all. I will be writing more about this process, so do come and and visit regularly to follow along. For now, I have made a number of decisions.

The basics of my system

I want a application-independent system, to avoid the mess I ended up with after I stopped using Evernote. I’ve decided on a simple folder structure with markdown files and related resources as the backbone of my new system. On top of that I want another second brain-like organizing system with living and organic connections between pieces of information that is independent of the folder structure. I’ve decided to use Obsidian (not open source, but modern, powerful and free) as my second brain. I tried out Zettlr (which is open source and free), but For I prefer Obsidian. The beauty of using markdown files is that I can easily switch between Obsidian and Zettlr, as they use the same source files. And I can as easily switch to another markdown based system in the future!

Other related posts

Welcome to my digital garden!

Velkomen i den digital hagen min

Dette er ikkje ein vanleg blogg som du kanskje er kjent med, med gjennomtenkte postar som er ordna på den tida dei blei publisert. Her er du i den digitale hagen min, som er plassen kor eg kan skrive om alt eg er opptatt av i det språket som eg føler passar best. Det er ein plass kor eg kan så frø i forma av tankane mine og ser kva kjem til å spire. Det blir eit eventyr for meg og du er hjarteleg velkomen til å bli med!

Å blogge eller ikkje

Kvifor starter eg ikkje berre å blogge? Eg har prøvd det fleire gongar dei sista åra, men det er språkval som pleier å stoppe meg. Eg kjem frå Nederland og har familie og venar der. Så flytta eg med familien min til Noreg i 2008 kor eg har fleire venar og kollegaer. Og så er det engelsk som gjelder når ein vil nå folk på sosialer medier og i resten av verda. Det gjer det vanskeleg å velje eit språk, eller å velje å oversette alle bloggpostar i to andre språk. I hovudet mitt måtte eg ha ein plan før eg kunne starte med nettsida mi og dermed blei bloggplanar lagt på is.

Dybdeåret mitt

Så kva skjedde at eg er i gong no med bloggen min? Alt starta med beslutning eg tok i slutten av 2020 å bruke 2021 som dybdeåret mitt. Det er veldig lett for oss menneske å starte nye aktivtetar og kjøpe nye ting til den aktiviteten, som ofte hamnar på lageret etter ein stund. Ordet dybdeår blei først brukt av David Cain på bloggen hans, Det var ein theoretisk tanke om korleis me kunne stoppe den automatiske kjøpehandlinga og heller bruke energien vår på det som me allereie har. Men folk las om det og ideen tok av! No er det min tur å kome i gong med dybdeåret mitt. 

Frå digital opprydding til ein digital hage

Det første prosjekt eg starta med var å rydde opp i alle digitale informasjon og kunnskap eg har samla. Og eg har samla mykje informasjon på mange plassar og i mange applikasjonar. For å lære korleis andre har takla det, las eg mykje om “personal knowledge management systems”; dvs om systemer som ein kan bruke å organisere alt ein har samla på ein måte at ein kan få bruk og inspirasjon av all kunnskapen. Der las eg første gong om digitale hagar og hjernehagar. Desse er plassar kor ein kan ta vare av tankene dine ved å skrive ned observasjonar og tankar i bloggform utan at alt er omarbeidet til eit sluttprodukt. Det er heile processen korleis hagen utviklar seg som er grunnlaget for ein digital hage. I ein digital hage skriv ein for seg sjølv og ikkje nødvendigvis for andre. Desse observasjonane, tankane og ideane er som frø som blir sådd i hagen og som kan spire på spennande måter.

Første frøet er planta

Dermed blei det mykje lettare for meg å kome i gong med den digitale hagen min. Her er det berre å skrive ned kva eg er opptatt av og bruke den plassen som ein digital notatbok. Men sjølv om det er hjørnet mitt, er det kjekt med besøk. Så har du lyst å kome følgje med, er du hjarteleg velkomen i hagen min!

Andre aktuelle postar

Welcome to my digital garden

Welkom in mijn digitale tuin

Welkom in mijn digitale tuin; een blog die eigenlijk geen blog is. Dit is mijn persoonlijke plek op het internet, mijn digitale notitieboek en journaal. Hier kan ik mijn gedachten, observaties en ideeën opschrijven zonder publicatiedruk en zonder dat alles verwerkt is tot een gepolijste en strategisch geschreven blogpost. Hoewel ik eerder heb geblogd, leidde de gedachte om weer te gaan bloggen voortdurend tot een blokkade. De belangrijkste reden daarvoor is mijn taalprobleem.

Toen ik eerder blogde, was dat voornamelijk in het Nederlands, mijn moedertaal. Ik heb familie en vrienden in Nederland, dus het is logisch om in het Nederlands te schrijven. Maar in 2008 ben ik met mijn gezin naar Noorwegen verhuisd en heb daar inmiddels ook vrienden, kennissen en collega’s. En als ik mijn vrienden op sociale media en een internationaal publiek wil bereiken, dan is Engels de beste taal. Maar ik ziet er niet op te wachten om elke post in drie talen te moeten schrijven; de gedachte alleen al is genoeg om alle websiteplannen opzij te schuiven.

Mijn dieptejaar

Wat is dan de reden dat ik toch over die hobbel heen gekomen ben? Dat begon met mijn voornemen eind 2020 om 2021 mijn dieptejaar te maken. Een dieptejaar is een begrip dat ik voor het eerst ben tegengekomen in de blog van David Cain, David zag een dieptejaar als een nieuwe mijlpaal voor onze comsumptiemaatschappij. Hij fantaseerde over een jaar dat gebruikt werd om ons te verdiepen in wat we al hebben. Dit kan een hobby zijn, die nog niet op gang gekomen is of in de vergetelheid is geraakt. Of een boek dat ligt te wachten naast het bed. Misschien kunnen we tijd besteden aan het opruimen van onze fysieke en digitale archieven, zodat we een overzicht hebben wat we allemaal hebben. Het zou een jaar moeten zijn waarin we geen nieuwe dingen beginnen of kopen. De diepte in en niet de breedte. Hij bracht onder woorden wat ik in de loop van 2020 voelde. Ik heb zoveel spullen en informatie over liggen dat ik mijn controle daarover verloren was. Vandaar dat 2021 voor mij een dieptejaar is geworden.

Van digitale detox to digtale tuinen

Het eerste probleem dat ik ging aanpakken was een digitale opruimactie. Daar ben ik nog steeds mee bezig. Ik heb zoveel informatie op zoveel verschillende plaatsen verzameld en opgeslagen, dat het een hele klus is om dat allemaal door te lopen en uit te ruimen. Dat kan nog wel eens mijn enige klus dit jaar worden. Maar om een beter inzicht te krijgen over hoe anderen hiermee omgegeaan zijn, ben ik op onderzoek gegaan naar informatie over persoonlijke kennismanagement systemen op het net. Dat zijn systemen die bedoeld zijn om persoonlijke kennis op zo’n manier te organiseren dat er relaties gelegd kunnen worden tussen verschillende brokjes informatie en kennis, die helpen om tot nieuwe inzichten te komen. Tijdens dit onderzoek kwam ik ook de termen digitale tuin en mentale tuin tegen.

Dit zijn digitale plekken waar je al die brokjes informatie en kennis kan neerschrijven voor je eigen ontwikkeling. Waar je tijd kan gebruiken om dat te analyseren, relaties te leggen en zo tot nieuwe inzichten kan komen. Waar het om het proces gaan en niet om het product. Deze verklaring leidde tot een aardverschuiving voor mij. Ik dacht altijd dat er een zeker plan aanwezig moest zijn voor een website. Maar hier was een verhaal dat helemaal niet ging over bloggen als werktuig om een doelgroep te kunnen bereiken. Hier was sprake van bloggen voor jezelf en niet voor anderen. Hier hoeft je niet druk te maken over wat je met een blogpost wil bereiken, want het gaat om het proces, niet het eindresultaat. En de manier waarop de site zich ontwikkelt is afhankelijk van je eigen, persoonlijke interesses en de veranderingen die daarin plaatsvinden. Dat betekent ook voor mij dat ik me niet druk hoef te maken over de taal waarin ik schrijf, maar de taal kies waarvan ik voel dat die het beste bij een onderwerp of tijdstip past.

De eerste zaadjes zijn geplant

Met deze post zijn de eerste zaadjes gepland. De ingangen naar mijn digitale tuin zijn geopend. Hier kan ik beginnen met brokjes informatie en kennis die resoneren en die ik zelf verder wil uitwerken. Sommige van die scheuten blijven groeien, terwijl andere tot een natuurlijk eindpunt komen. Hoe deze tuin zich ontwikkelt, is van te vorn niet te voorspellen en dat is juist het spannende hieraan. Ik zie heel veel parallelen met mijn fysieke tuin, die ook nog tot ontwikkleing moet komen en ik ben heel benieuwd naar wat allemaal gaan groeien en bloeien!

Lees ook

Welcome to my digital garden!

Welcome to my digital garden

Welcome to my digital garden; a blog that isn’t really a blog. This is my personal notebook where I can write down thoughts and ideas without feeling pressed to write a fully researched and polished blog post that fits in a predefined publication plan. I have many thoughts that I’d like to share and have developed and run different websites, but the thought of starting my own website/blog always caused a bad case of stage fright.

The main reason is language, as I have a multilingual audience. I grew up in the Netherlands where I have friends and family, moved to Norway in 2008 where I have even more friends and colleagues, and then, there is the international audience that I can reach with English. But the thought of having to translate every post or find a way to seperate posts is enough to give me a splitting headache and make me give up my ideas of sharing my thoughts with the world.

My depth year

So what happened that I managed to get over that hurdle now? It all started with my resolution to make 2021 my depth year. While surfing, I came through a serendipitous string of links across this post on David Cain’s website, where he talked about a new tradition he’d like to invent, a Depth Year, spent going deeper instead of wider. A year to focus on what we already have and drill deeper in existing interests and hobbies. His website, by the way, is well worth diving into! Anyway, that post put into words what I was feeling as the Covid pandemic forced us to think anew about a lot of things. As my social world shrunk during lockdown, my private world became more prevalent and what a mess it was. I had so many hobbies and interests, collected many resources for do-it-yourself activities to try out and so many future projects that my home and brain were completely cluttered. Therefore I decided to use 2021 to start decluttering and stop buying unnecessary new stuff. No new hobbies this year, but focus on what I’m already working with. 

Decluttering my personal knowledge

One of the my long-term projects is digitally decluttering all the places I have stored information. As it is turning out, that may well be the big project for the foreseeable future, because I have a lot of junk everywhere. This led me to a deep dive into the world of personal knowledge management systems. Trying to consolidate my personal knowledge into a future-proof system that makes it easier to actually use that knowledge to learn and discover. I found out I also wanted and needed a way to share my journey.

And this is where I am now. Thinking hard about what is important for me, how my brain works and what system would work best for me. In the meantime, I learned about digital gardens and mind gardens. These are digital places where you can putter around yourself, not for an audience. Where the important thing is the process, not the product. Where you can sow the seeds of your thoughts and ideas and see them grow organically. Where some of these seeds grow continuously, while others come to a natural conclusion. This concept caused a mindshift for me. Tending my digital garden as a metaphor for writing down my thoughts and ideas and using that for my personal learning makes it seem just like tending my physical garden, where I also have to do a lot of learning by doing. It needs consistency and patience, but is a intrinsically rewarding process just like physical journaling, which I have been doing on and off during my whole life.

The first seed is planted

So this is the first seed planted in this digital garden of mine. I’m journaling about my personal growth and learning, not blogging. Learning and experimenting, not telling others how they should live their life. I’m not going to stress about language, I’ll write in whatever language feels right for that moment. I’m looking forward to see what more will grow here.