Plain text life 2016

There is a section in the Antifragile book by Nassim Taleb which talks about technology and the longer given technology exists the more likely it is it will continue to exist in the future. Each passing day makes it twice as likely for it double its future existence.

It’s easy to see how this applies to wheel or paper which we know for thousands of years. The same principle can apply to putting trust into plain text files – .txt – as primary method of storing notes and other useful information.

As I’ve been relying on plain text for last number of years I thought it would be good to share some elements of my setup.

The Core

When I decided to move to plain text I initially looked to Dropbox as primary solution to store text files. This seemed to be most popular solution however most the tools available to me at the time were not reliable enough.

My next option was to use Simplenote. This application turned out to be the corner stone of my past and current setup. I’ve been using it ever since and haven’t had any issues. Synchronisation of changes is quick and I haven’t lost a single line of text. Finding information is breeze. Since Automattic made available native applications for all platforms I use (Android & Linux & Windows) I like the application even more.

Simplenote is a key place for storing notes, grabbing ideas, quotes, checklists and everything in between. Essentially if I want to take a note of something it will capture it in Simplenote.

Writing

After significant drop in the level of my posting on this site I’m slowly, very slowly working towards increasing it.

From the begging I decided that writing should be separated from my notes and hence I decided to use Dropbox. Two factors made the decision easy

  • cross platform support – whether it’s JotterPad on my smartphone or GhostWriter or WriteMonkey on my laptop I can access files on all platforms I use. I tend to grab small pockets of time to do bit of writing here and there and chip away on it.

  • support of folder structure and file formats I use – I set up a folder structure to manage stages of writing and hence all my files must be stored individually. As I use mainly use .txt or .md type file either can be stored in my Dropbox account.

I decided to setup following folders to support my writing process:

  • workbench = items in progress and active
  • ideas = my pool of inspiration and items I’ve capture as possible blog posts

  • finished = ready for publication

  • posted = items published on the site.

This setup is very much in the spirit of what I’m trying to achieve it’s flexible, based on plain text, fully under my control and accessible anywhere.

If it’s not a text

For other types of data I tend lean toward open and popular formats like pdf, jpeg, html etc.

So if I capture some interesting graphics or pieces of audio then it all is kept in its own file on my hard drive. While I could use application like Evernote or Onenote my reservation is that at some point either will shut down and my data will end up in locked silo. Also different types of content in a single database tend to make it very large and difficult to manage over long periods of time.

In stead I prefer a holistic approach:

  • name fiels accurately
  • store them in a relatively flat folder structure

  • use search to locate it.

That’s my approach.

If you’re looking for other recent examples of plain text workflows you can dive into these links