November 29, 2015

Digital vs Analog Note Taking

➔ Handwritten Notes — The Brooks Review

Ben Brooks wrote this good piece on analog vs digital note taking. I have asked myself these same questions. At work I use a combination of both, but primarily when I go to meetings I take a notebook and pen. I’d say 90% of my notes are taken on paper. Then a small fraction of that is actually consolidated and written down into an Evernote note.

There are many times when I find that I need to get a lot of information down quickly. In those cases digital note taking is almost always better. It is so much faster for me to type. I have never been one that can scribble notes quickly. When I get into this situation and only have pen and paper I feel lost. I miss too much detail unless I am able to ask for things to be repeated.

When I take notes digitally I feel like I am able to get more stuff down. What’s even better is that information is stored in Evernote where it is easy to search and parse that huge list of items you talked about. When you have to reference something later digital is almost always better.

In my experience, I think it would make sense for me to take my laptop or iPad (with keyboard) to every meeting I attend. The benefit of having those meeting notes and thoughts stored digitally would usually outweigh the negatives for me.

➔ Which Do You Enjoy More? — The Brooks Review

The next piece from Ben addresses that inexlicable pleasure we get from these things. Should we do something because it is objectively better, or should we do something because we enjoy it more; ultimately making it more effective?

Like Ben, I don’t really care which method I use for taking notes. I love using pen and paper but in my job the most important thing is bettering the pertinent information down. Digital is probably the most efficient way to achieve that.

My quandry comes in journaling. Up until recently (in the last 3 years) I dint have a good digital solution for journaling. Then I found the Day One app. It looks great. It makes it easy to tag entries and attach photos. The calendar view makes it simple to look back and read old entries… and all the entries are searchable. Day One is awesome and makes organization easy. Objectively it is clearly better for journaling.

However, I still keep a paper journal. I cannot clearly explain why, I just enjoy it. I like the feeling of a fountain pen nib scratching across the paper. Hand-made lines on a page are so much more personal than a keyboard’s apathetic text. I don’t think I will ever stop writing in a notebook. Using pen and paper seem to help find clarity.

So now I have two separate places to store my thoughts and I don’t like that one bit. I have tried to integrate the two. I created a script on my phone that allows me to capture the physical book and page number, type in a quick synopsis of what I wrote about, and create a digital entry as a placeholder. I can then search for something and see that I wrote about that topic on this day in this notebook. This obviously requires numbering and catalogging all of your notebooks. The concept was great, but I have never been able to keep up with it. Even though it isn’t time consuming, I rarely create the Day One entries.

Every now and then I get renewed focus on a hybrid journaling system, but it never seems to stick. For now I will keep waffling back and forth. It seems to be working alright. At least I am writing.

I have also considered going through each month and dictating all of my analog entries into digital entries. Again, this is time consuming and I ultimately I have never been able to keep up with it. For fun I dug out a notebook from 14 years ago and started creating the Day One entries back on the corresponding date I wrote it. Reading those entries out loud made me cringe[1], but I’m still glad I wrote them.

  1. Mortified is a really entertaining podcast. You should listen.  ↩

November 25, 2015

Ex Machina - Robots With Attitude

It is a rare occasion that I write about a movie on this blog. Last week I watched Ex Machina and I am forcing myself to write about it even though I had a very lukewarm reaction. Over the last few months I have watched at least a dozen movies without creating a single post. I need to get back at it.

Ex Machina is a low-budget sci-fi film about artificial intelligence. Nathan, an accentric billionaire is working on some top secret stuff on his island compound. Caleb, a programmer at his company, wins a chance to visit the island and work on a special project. Caleb is wisked off to the island and introduced to Ava, the humanoid robot with the face on a angel and a silicon brain.

Ex Machina seemed like it was right in my wheelhouse. It was reviewed well and I usually eat up this type of sci-fi/drama/suspense. My expectations were pretty high… and they were letdown in almost every way. I am not saying it was a terrible movie, but I didn’t find it to be nearly as “smart” as everyone made it out to be. The dialog felt awkward and forced, which always kept me at an arms length from the story.

The entire plot hings on the relationship between 3 characters, and the motivations behind those relationships. Even after everthing is revealed in the end I’m not sure I understand what is going on in the characters’ heads. To the film’s credit I thought about it quite a bit when it was over, but I feel like there are some pretty big plot holes, and I still don’t understand what is going on in Caleb’s brain. Maybe I need to watch it again, which I might do since it is now available on Amazon streaming.

Ex Machina does a really good job of creating tension from the beginning and sustaining it throughout. There is always this sense that something isn’t quite right, and from the beginning Nathan made me uneasy. Even so, I feel like his actions were mostly justified. Maybe it is just my personality, but I could not humanize this being that is clearly not human. When it came down to it I could not understand why Caleb acted the way he did, and it seemed incongruious with his character. His supposed relationship with Ava, which happens in short snippets over just a few days, does not justify anything his character does in my opinion.

I like thinking out the concept and ideas behind Ex Machina. I think it is intereesting to consider the possibility of artificial intelligence and what that would mean. Ex Machina raises the idea that true AI would include the concept of free will and the desire for freedom. How would the creation overcome the feeling of being enslaved by the creator? I guess the plot of Ex Machina gives us a what-not-to-do.