I’ve started the earliest version of a digital commonplace book. It’s simply a blog with google’s blogger, into which I post a copy + link of anything I read of significance. To make the posting experience smooth, I use the Google Toolbar in Firefox, which has a button for posting to blogger.
I chose blogger because the terms of service say you can have as many posts as you like, of whatever length you like, and there’s also a comprehensive API for any future custom code of mine to use.
Is it working out? Well, my idea was that google would index the blog entirely and in realtime (as it seems to do with this blog). However, that isn’t the case so far. A few random articles are indexed, the rest not. Perhaps I need to wait longer?
Or, perhaps because nothing except this blog links to the digital commonplace blog, the Googlebot all but ignores it? This could continue to be the case, in which case I could “fix” it by encouraging links from other sites. Really though, this isn’t about being linked to; it’s for my consumption, it doesn’t need to interact publicly with other information. So, it might be that using a public blog + google search is a bust.
In that case, plan B is to create my own knowledge base on a machine at home, and point an open source search engine at it. That’ll require custom code, but not all that much (a bit of python likely). It’ll have the benefit that I can make it private, and thus be able to put anything in, whole commercial books, whatever. I probably have to build this anyway with plan A, purely to hold closed commercial sources that I can’t publish.
But I’ll give the blog approach a little longer.
Also, in parallel I’ve turned on Google Web History (google.com/history). If you use Google Toolbar, you can get it to log all your web activity to google, which they make available to you in the Web History tool, privately. It’s fully searchable, a great service actually. Anyone prepared to trust google with their surfing data will benefit from this tool. Check it out.
However, for this project it’s not enough. I can’t add other, non website info to it (except perhaps by publishing that info on a blog then navigating to it in firefox). Also, there’s no API; I can’t do anything programmatic with it. So that’s a bit of a non starter. A shame.
As to auto-memeticism, I’ve noticed that I’m automatically censoring what I add to the commonplace book. In particular, I’m leaving out sites where I think the information is suspect. I just noticed myself doing this a little while ago, and the thought was “I don’t really want to pollute my memory with crap like that”.
Without really thinking about it, I’ve been operating in the knowledge that my present self is managing a mental environment for my future self, and that my present self can make decisions knowing that my future self will be unaware of them; present self is in control of what is remembered.
I’m manipulating the future me!
This is a strange rabbit hole I’m going down. I’m a huge fan of the movie Memento, but do I want to live like that? Come to think of it, that might actually be the genesis of this idea. #freakingmyselfout .