Piggydb V6.10 – Document View Improvements and Korean Translation

I have added some changes to Document View to improve its accessibility (especially for Smartphones).

First, from this version, you can access the pages in Document View using a short-form URL like: /d/<id>, /d/<name>

doc-view-url1

doc-view-url2

Secondly, a Document View button has been added to the global header, which allows you to open the home fragment in Document View from anywhere:

doc-view-button

Lastly, internal links to a fragment in Document View have been updated to point to the pages also in Document View rather than to the pages in standard view.

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Piggydb user Sungbin Jeon has very kindly contributed a Korean translation for Piggydb’s UI:

korean

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You can download the latest release of Piggydb from: https://sourceforge.net/projects/piggydb/files/latest/download


Piggydb V6.9 – Document View for Smart Phones and Tablets

Document View lets you browse your content in a plainer and simpler style, which allows you to concentrate on the content itself when you just want to read it. It is also suitable for printing.

old-document-view

Though it is useful and one of the key features of Piggydb, I’ve left it without updates for a long time.

In this version, I finally made relatively large changes to this feature improving its navigation and adding support for smart phones and tablets.

In the new navigation, you can move to the parents if they exist and directly to the home fragment via the home icon at the top-right corner:

navigation

I also added a table of contents to each page, which is useful for grasping the outline when the page is large:

toc

As the most important part of this update, Document View now supports smart phones and tablets:

iphone

I think it will be a typical way to use Piggydb that you elaborate your knowledge on your desktop PC, then comfortably browse through it on your smart phone (yes, you need to set up a server to do this from outside your home network. I will take up this topic in detail in a future entry).

You can try out the new Document View at: http://piggydb.jp/en/document-view.htm

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You can download the latest release of Piggydb from here.


Why does Piggydb make your note-taking stand out from the crowd?

Piggydb changes the way of note-taking.

Note-taking was originally a top-down process. The ancient people started note-taking to record things on important subjects, using it as a device of artificial memory. Naturally, they needed to organize the contents of the memory well enough to be able to use the accumulated knowledge efficiently. But, because of the physical limitations of the old mediums (stone, wood, etc), they had to decide the structure of content in advance. It leads to so-called linear note-taking.

Linear note-taking is a technique where you take notes sequentially in an outline format (tree structure). In physical mediums, such as paper, you have to make an outline (roughly at least) before taking notes in detail since it is difficult to change the outline structure later. So if you want to create a large document, you need to combine linear and non-linear note-taking (free mapping), and evolve the document by rewriting the whole thing iteratively.

As the personal computing era began, there was a huge breakthrough in this area: the emergence of note-taking software. Note-taking software made restructuring notes extremely easy and allowed users to grow a structure by trial and error with virtually no cost.

This kind of note-taking software is typically called an ‘outliner’. Its more visual and free-formed alternative – mind mapping, has also grown popular among note-taking techniques. The common feature of these techniques is that they let you to take tree-structured notes in a top-down manner.

Let’s look at how this “tree and top-down” note-taking technique looks like in Piggydb.

To begin with, you have to select a main topic (A), which becomes the root of the tree you are about to grow. And then, collect subtopics (A1, A2, A3, …) belonging to the main topic:

top-down1

As you are taking notes, you can add a subtopic to any level of topic to extend the hierarchy:

top-down2

And later on, you can change the order of any subtopics:

top-down3

While this “tree and top-down” still seems to be the mainstream of note-taking and other information management techniques, a new trend has emerged in recent years as the amount of information each individual has to deal with increased.

In a tree structure, everything should be well sorted and organized, otherwise you could not find the information you need and when you need it. However, in reality, as the amount and variety of information grows, it becomes more and more difficult to maintain the consistency of the structure and you would end up not organizing it anymore.

As you all know, the technology that has totally changed the situation was search engines. With an effective search engine, you can access the needed piece of information whenever you want as long as you put the whole data into a place where the search engine can access it. This has changed personal information management to a large extent. I believe many of you stopped sorting your emails out when Gmail was introduced, and more generally, manage your information in a personal database such as Evernote.

These technologies have been gradually changing the role of “tree and top-down” so that it is utilized in more limited cases. For example, as a routine, people save incoming daily information to their personal database without sorting it out, and when they want to consider or investigate a certain topic, they search their database for related pieces of information which will become the ingredients of outcome cooked with “tree and top-down” or non-linear note-taking techniques.

It is a quite modern information management and seems to be enough for us to survive in today’s information-oriented world.

However, there is one important area, especially important in today’s world becoming flatter and flatter as a labor market, that these note-taking techniques have not focused on so far.

That is human creativity.

What the traditional note-taking has focused on is, as I mentioned above, extending human memory and efficiently grasping the outline of existing knowledge. But the most important (and interesting) part of intellectual production activities would be the process of discovering unknown concepts from a vast sea of information, not following existing knowledge (yes, it’s still important though).

It is an attempt to restructure the existing system of knowledge.

For most of students who keenly need note-taking, it might be all they could do to follow and absorb existing knowledge. But in order to stand out from the crowd in this digital era where you can get needed information quite easily, you need a technique leading you to the discovery of innovative ideas. That is the bottom-up note-taking Piggydb has proposed.

In bottom-up note-taking, you don’t need to select a main topic. Yet it is quite normal to select a certain topic as a starting point, but you are not bound to be within that area.

You just put incoming pieces of information into your database one by one:

bottom-up1

At the beginning, no remarkable structures are visible. But as the number of the fragments grow and you repeatedly review and shuffle them in the various views,

bottom-up2

you discover an unexpected commonality across several fragments and create a new fragment representing the commonality:

bottom-up3

bottom-up4

Then, after commonality fragments accumulate to some extent, you pick one that feels important to you and turn it into a tag,

bottom-up5

which distinguishes the fragment from others as a concept and provides you with a more useful base to build knowledge of the newborn concept.

That’s a brief introduction to the bottom-up note-taking in Piggydb.

With only “tree and top-down” and a remember-everything-type-of-database, it would not be easy for you to doubt the structure/premises behind the topic you have selected in the first place. These techniques would be good enough to grasp the structure of the cave you are exploring, but not suitable for searching for hidden treasures.

If you are practicing bottom-up note-taking, everyday will be filled with new discoveries. You will arrive at an unexpected destination (in a good sense, of course) and acquire your own thought framework.

Anyway, the best way to understand it is to try it out and experiment yourself. Piggydb is extremely easy to get started, so download the latest version from here and start your journey of knowledge creation right away.


Piggydb V6.8 – Improved Smart Layout

In version 6.4, I introduced Smart Layout, which automatically switches the page layout between vertical and horizontal layout according to the window width. However, this “experimental” implementation was, frankly, not very useful. So I updated it a little bit so that you can scroll each column independently:

each-column-has-its-scrollbar

I also updated some pages (fragment, tag, etc) to maintain the horizontal multi-column layout when you jump to another fragment or tag page from the home page.

In future versions, I hope to update the layout to be more flexible and customizable so that you can handle and browse a large amount of fragments more efficiently.

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This release also contains several bug fixes, such as broken all-in-one package: http://piggydb.lighthouseapp.com/projects/61149-piggydb/tickets/42 (Thanks, Xin Yin!)

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You can download the latest release of Piggydb from here.


Piggydb V6.7 – Home Fragment

Happy new year! This is the first release of this year.

This release introduces Home Fragment that changes the way to select the fragments shown at the home page.

In the older versions, fragments with a #home tag will be shown at the home page. However, this feature has some disadvantages. For example, you can’t put a tag-fragment without the side-effect where the tag-fragment will inherit #home’s feature unexpectedly, which means the fragments tagged with the tag-fragment will also be shown at the home page. Also you can’t control the order of the fragments at home page with #home.

So, the old #home tag has been replaced with Home Fragment whose child-fragments will be shown at the home page with the order maintained.

The following is the steps to replace your #home tag with Home Fragment. It will be a matter of seconds.

First of all, click on the #home tag to jump to the page of it:

home-button

In that page, you can view all of the #home tagged fragments. What you need to do is just to click on the “Add this fragment to home page” button for each of them. That’s it.

Clicking on the button will create a relationship from Home Fragment to the fragment:

added-to-home

Clicking on the home icon will navigate you to the page of Home Fragment where you can reorder the child-fragments shown at the home page:

reorder-home

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Another change in this version is the way to open the content of a fragment. You can do that by clicking on the header of a fragment, not needing to click on the tiny toggle switch anymore.

click-on-node-header

Thanks for the suggestion:
http://piggydb.lighthouseapp.com/projects/61149-piggydb/tickets/34

You can download the latest version from here.


Piggydb V6.6 – Shuffle!

This is the last release of this year and a relatively important one suitable for the end of the year.

The new feature is Fragment Shuffle. A shuffle button has been added to Fragments View:

shuffle

As you can probably tell, clicking on this button will shuffle the fragments that match the criteria in the Fragments View.

Although you might not understand the purpose of this feature well, it is a very important feature in the context of Knowledge Creation, which I’ve explained and will explain in details in the series of articles ‘The Piggydb Way’ and demonstrate in ‘Let’s Play: Piggydb Knowledge Creation‘.

So please stay tuned in to Piggydb project even if you aren’t using it now 😉

Thank you very much for your support in 2012 and wish you a happy and intellectually exciting 2013!

(You can download the latest version from here.)


Let’s Play: Piggydb Knowledge Creation #2 – “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami

This is the second installment of Let’s Play Knowledge Creation with Piggydb.

It’s been about three months since the last time. As I wrote on the Facebook page, I’ve been going through drastic changes in my work situation. Even though in such a situation, I’m reading books in spare moments in order to collect materials for new articles. The only problem is the lack of my ability, which slows me down in writing new articles.

Anyway, the book featured this time is “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami.

Haruki Murakami is a Japanese novelist and probably the most famous Japanese contemporary novelist worldwide. And this book is one of his essays published relatively recently (in 2009).

Here is the passages that interest me in the book:

http://piggydb.jp/example/fragment.htm?id=23

I squeezed two concepts (‘endurance‘, ‘passed through‘) out of the passages this time, but didn’t find any explicit relationships between the last time (Stephen King) and this time. Naturally, only two books should by no means lead to any remarkable structure. So I should concentrate to input more material for the time being.


Piggydb V6.5 – Fragments View Label

A small release to get the rhythm again … 😉

This release adds a description label to Fragments View:

fragments-label-all

fragments-label-tag

As you can see in the above screenshots, the label also shows the number of found fragments.

You can download it from here.


PiggyPoster – A Piggydb fragment posting App for your iPhone

Yesterday, I noticed a post on Piggydb’s facebook page from Tobias Kamber who had just released a iPhone app called “PiggyPoster”. I immediately installed it on my iPod touch and tried it out. It turned out to be a simple and nice app just focusing on one task: to post a fragment to your Piggydb.

PiggyPoster on iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/ch/app/piggyposter-piggydb-fragment/id573951897?mt=8

One thing that may be a bit of hurdle is that you need to have Piggydb installed on an Internet-accessible server so that your iPhone can access to it, but if you can meet this requirement, it is worth trying out.

So if you are interested, try it out and send feedback to Tobias. I am really looking forward to seeing the future development of PiggyPoster.

Tobias’s websites:


The Piggydb Way: #2 Tags as First-Class Components

Most of you who happen to stumble upon piggydb.net are sure to know what you want, I imagine. You are looking for a tool (in the categories like wiki, outliner, personal database, etc) that helps you organize your information in a more effective way as an alternative to, for example, Evernote or Springpad. Then suddenly, I began to talk about the ‘reversal process’ instead of explaining the basic organizing functionality. You might be confused or think you didn’t need it because you knew what kind of information you were going to organize and how to organize it, and you just needed a tool to support it. Well, okay, but is that really the case? Are you really sure you know what you want?

When you are about to collect information and organize it, quite naturally, you know what kind of information you are going to organize, and anticipate the result. It may be information about your project, daily routines, a travel plan, or it may be a diary. You have already prepared the container in which you are going to just place pieces of information one by one. It would be quite straightforward, you think. However, once you begin it, something in you will be stimulated by what you are doing, and sooner or later, you will unconsciously step into the area of Knowledge Creation even with a most primitive container you use, such as a piece of paper.

Let’s suppose that you keep a record of things you have done in your daily life in a plain old paper notebook. You do so because you want to use these information later on when you need to know what you did and when you did it. And then, one day, after a while since it became a daily routine, you reflect on the record. In that reflection, you happen to find an interesting pattern in the log. You underline these places with a red pen and write an explanation of the concept common to them in your own way. This discovery is totally what you didn’t expect when you started this habit. I’m sure many of you have experienced something like this before if you have a note-taking habit. Let’s call this kind of practice ‘Weighting Information‘ (selecting a certain part of information and putting some meaning into it). So you acquired a new point of view as a result of weighting information.

Information weighting appears whenever you deal with information. For example, if you are reading this article on a web browser (I believe most of you are), it must have a bookmarking function. Bookmark allows you to save addresses of websites that you want to revisit later, and it can be regarded as a way of information weighting. You select a small bit of the vast sea of the Web and attach the concept of ‘bookmark’ to it.

As you may have noticed in the example of recording things done, there are two steps in information weighting. The first one is the discovery of an interesting commonality across random things and the second one is putting a label on it. In this process, the mechanism of the discovery is especially interesting and mysterious. One of the most interesting things about it is that you can’t expect the outcome in advance, in other words, you can’t plan what kind of thing you are going to discover.

The other day, I came across an interesting column on innovation titled “The Idea Idea” by Peter J. Denning (http://cs.gmu.edu/cne/pjd/PUBS/CACMcols/cacmMar12.pdf). Denning brought skepticism to the popular belief that an innovation is the result of adopting a good idea. He proposed a hypothesis that “practices rather than ideas are the main source of innovation” and “many ideas are therefore afterthoughts to explain innovations that have already happened“. The term ‘idea‘ here can be replaced by ‘concept‘ that we are discussing about. In the above example of information weighting, the concept discovery was not expected or planned but happened in the course of the practice of recording things done in daily life.

Stephen King, a world-renowned novelist, once wrote about his style of writing novels. He wrote in his memoir “On Writing” as follows: “I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.” The ‘plot‘ mentioned in the quote would correspond to the ‘idea‘ in Denning’s column. As Denning said practices are the main source of innovations and ideas are afterthoughts to explain innovations that have already happened, King said stories pretty much make themselves in the course of writing and progress to theme. And King’s figurative expression for his creative process is really impressive: “stories are found things, like fossils in the ground“. Although I don’t know of many novelists, I imagine there are not a few novelists who take this type of approach. Haruki Murakami, who reportedly leads race for Nobel prize for literature as of writing this article (the winner turned out to be Mo Yan who happens to have the same family name as my wife), is one of them. This spontaneity would be essential for creative process and I think that human beings instinctively know it because, as King wrote, “stories are relics, part of an undiscovered preexisting world

After discovering a concept, you need to put a label on it so that it can be a part of your knowledge. And through this label, you can view the world around you in a fresh-new viewpoint. This kind of concept-oriented knowledge building is the main focus of the Knowledge Creation in Piggydb.

The most important feature of Piggydb in terms of concept-oriented knowledge building is Tag-Fragments. A tag-fragment, which is the kind of a knowledge fragment whose ‘as-a-tag’ attribute is enabled, can be used to represent a concept that you have discovered as in the above episode or selected as a theme in advance for your study or investigation. Originally, classic tags have played an assistant role in the Web 2.0 systems providing a lightweight way of organizing information. And, of course, you can use these tags to represent found concepts other than familiar categories. However, this means just grouping elements by concepts, which does not contain any structure for the concepts.

As you might know already, the labels of concepts themselves do not solely hold the value of your knowledge. They are just labels. The value resides in the context behind concepts, the context in which you have come to discover and build the concepts (the Internet is filled with fruitless communication triggered by responding to keywords without considering their contexts). Therefore, the important factor deciding the value of your concepts is how you structure this context information, and that’s why Piggydb introduces Tag-Fragment that supports two-layer structure allowing you to evolve found concepts into more rich and structured knowledge. While classic tags is no more than collective keywords for indexing, Piggydb’s tags can be treated as the same as the first-class information components (knowledge fragments) in a database, which means they can have their description and relationships to other components.

[To be continued]