Alex Chiri's Blog

Highlights and storing knowledge

Some months ago I was writing about a routine I setup to manage and refresh highlights from books and articles.
In the meantime, I have adjusted it a little bit, removed some services and added some others. Let's start with the bits that didn't work that well.

Highlights from articles

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As much as I liked the flow with sending articles weekly from Pocket to Kindle using a service named aptly Pocket2Kindle, I soon became swamped with articles pending on my Kindle. I decided to stop sending the articles to Kindle, since I didn't get to read them by the time new ones were sent.

Once I cancelled the flow, I stopped using Pocket also. I was still sending bookmarks to it, but I didn't read them. Soon, I would even stop doing that.

Diigo a.k.a. The Highlights Machine

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By chance, by browsing through Gene Bellinger's SystemsWiki I found out about a service that is really good at collecting information from PDFs, web pages, even videos.
Welcome Diigo!

Using Diigo and its mobile phone apps or browser extensions you can easily take highlights from PDFs, websites and even take screenshots from videos playing in the browser.
All of these are saved nicely in the Diigo library.

So besides offering features for collecting bookmarks and offline storage of web pages (premium version), it is quite good at highlights from computer or phone, something I was missing in Pocket. Besides that, every highlighted resource is shareable through unique and private (or public) URLs, a pretty nice feature.

And if you would like to build a digital "commonplace book", Diigo has a feature called Outliner. Those are some sort documents that you can create in your library and you can simply type formatted text or drag highlights from your library. So in the same way you would put index cards in a box, you can drag highlights into an outliner. You can open an outliner in parallel to a resource you're highlighting, just to make it simpler.

One of the struggles I had in maintaining an analog commonplace book was to keep up with extracting highlights from books on index cards. It was very easy to fall behind and as the pile of read books was growing, the harder was to make time to extract highlights. With Kindle and Diigo, you don't have to do that: you can simply import highlights from Kindle into Diigo and then drag them to the right outliner.

Remember Readwise?

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Well, it got even better. The design is more refined and my personal favourite is the new scroll mode, so you can faster go through all the highlights.

One more thing...

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Besides all of these, I started using TheBrain for better storing things I want to recall easily. It's a tool that looks like a giant mindmap, but it's not quite a mindmap and it's so much more than a mindmap.

The amazing part is how you add information and how you retrieve it. You can associate pieces of information with as many other as you wish and this will make it super easy to find something in it. Even if you don't remember the exact name of the information you are looking for, you can find it by context. Not to mention that whenever you are making new connections, you are also reviewing old ones, which improves your retention of things in your real brain!

I've been using it for several months now to store all kind of information and it has become my main tool to accumulate information. I'm still learning how to use it effectively, so I'm planning to dedicate a post to it in the future.