A note taking problem and a proposed solution

tl;dr

It’s too painful to quickly get frequent notes into note taking and related platforms. Hypothes.is has an open API and a great UI that can be leveraged to simplify note taking processes.

Note taking tools

I’ve been keeping notes in systems like OneNote and Evernote for ages, but for my memory-related research and work in combination with my commonplace book for the last year, I’ve been alternately using TiddlyWiki (with TiddlyBlink) and WordPress (it’s way more than a blog.)

I’ve also dabbled significantly enough with related systems like Roam Research, Obsidian, Org mode/Org Roam, MediaWiki, DocuWiki, and many others to know what I’m looking for.

Many of these, particularly those that can be used alternately as commonplace books and zettelkasten appeal to me greatly when they include the idea of backlinks. (I’ve been using Webmention to leverage that functionality in WordPress settings, and MediaWiki gives it grudgingly with the “what links to this page” basic functionality that can be leveraged into better transclusion if necessary.)

The major problem with most note taking tools

The final remaining problem I’ve found with almost all of these platforms is being able to quickly and easily get data into them so that I can work with or manipulate it. For me the worst part of note taking is the actual taking of notes. Once I’ve got them, I can do some generally useful things with them—it’s literally the physical method of getting data from a web page, book, or other platform into the actual digital notebook that is the most painful, mindless, and useless thing for me.

Evernote and OneNote

Older note taking services like Evernote and OneNote come with browser bookmarklets or mobile share functionality that make taking notes and extracting data from web sources simple and straightforward. Then once the data is in your notebook you can actually do some work with it. Sadly neither of these services has the backlinking functionality that I find has become de rigueur for my note taking or knowledge wrangling needs.

WordPress

My WordPress solutions are pretty well set since that workflow is entirely web-based and because WordPress has both bookmarklet and Micropub support. There I’m primarily using a variety of feeds and services to format data into a usable form that I can use to ping my Micropub endpoint. The Micropub plugin handles the post and most of the meta data I care about.

It would be great if other web services had support for Micropub this way too, as I could see some massive benefits to MediaWiki, Roam Research, and TiddlyWiki if they had this sort of support. The idea of Micropub has such great potential for great user interfaces. I could also see many of these services modifying projects like Omnibear to extend themselves to create highlighting (quoting) and annotating functionality with a browser extension.

With this said, I’m finding that the user interface piece that I’m missing for almost all of these note taking tools is raw data collection.

I’m not the sort of person whose learning style (or memory) is benefited by writing or typing out notes into my notebooks. I’d far rather just have it magically happen. Even copying and pasting data from a web browser into my digital notebook is a painful and annoying process, especially when you’re reading and collecting/curating as many notes as I tend to. I’d rather be able to highlight, type some thoughts and have it appear in my notebook. This would prevent the flow of my reading, thinking, and short annotations from being subverted by the note collection process.

Different modalities for content consumption and note taking 

Based on my general experience there are only a handful of different spaces where I’m typically making notes.

Reading online

A large portion of my reading these days is done in online settings. From newspapers, magazines, journal articles and more, I’m usually reading them online and taking notes from them there.

.pdf texts

Some texts I want to read (often books and journal articles) only live in .pdf form. While reading them in an app-specific setting has previously been my preference, I’ve taken to reading them from within browsers. I’ll explain why in just a moment, but it has to do with a tool that treats this method the same as the general online modality. I’ll note that most of the .pdf  specific apps have dreadful data export—if any.

Reading e-books (Kindle, e-readers, etc.)

If it’s not online or in .pdf format, I’m usually reading books within a Kindle or other e-reading device. These are usually fairly easy to add highlights, annotations, and notes to. While there are some paid apps that can extract these notes, I don’t find it too difficult to find the raw file and cut and paste the data into my notebook of choice. Once there, going through my notes, reformatting them (if necessary), tagging them and expanding on them is not only relatively straightforward, but it also serves as a simple method for doing a first pass of spaced repetition and review for better long term recall.

Lectures

Naturally taking notes from live lectures, audiobooks, and other spoken events occurs, but more often in these cases, I’m typically able to type them directly into my notebook of preference or I’m using something like my digital Livescribe pen for notes which get converted by OCR and are easy enough to convert in bulk into a digital notebook. I won’t belabor this part further, though if others have quick methods, I’d love to hear them.

Physical books

While I love a physical book 10x more than the next 100 people, I’ve been trying to stay away from them because I find that though they’re easy to highlight, underline, and annotate the margins, it takes too much time and effort (generally useless for memory purposes for me) to transfer these notes into a digital notebook setting. And after all, it’s the time saving piece I’m after here, so my preference is to read in some digital format if at all possible.

A potential solution for most of these modalities

For several years now, I’ve been enamored of the online Hypothes.is annotation tool. It’s open source, allows me reasonable access to my data from the (free) hosted version, and has a simple, beautiful, and fast process for bookmarking, highlighting, and annotating online texts on desktop and mobile. It works exceptionally well for both web pages and when reading .pdf texts within a browser window.

I’ve used it daily to make several thousand annotations on 800+ online web pages and documents. I’m not sure how I managed without it before. It’s the note taking tool I wished I’d always had. It’s a fun and welcome part of my daily life. It does exactly what I want it to and generally stays out of the way otherwise. I love it and recommend it unreservedly. It’s helped me to think more deeply and interact more directly with countless texts.

When reading on desktop or mobile platforms, it’s very simple to tap a browser extension and have all their functionality immediately available. I can quickly highlight a section of a text and their UI pops open to allow me to annotate, tag it, and publish. I feel like it’s even faster than posting something to Twitter. It is fantastically elegant.

The one problem I have with it is that while it’s great for collecting and aggregating my note data into my Hypothes.is account, there’s not much I can do with it once it’s there. It’s missing the notebook functionality some of these other services provide. I wish I could plug all my annotation and highlight content into spaced repetition systems or move it around and modify it within a notebook where it might be more interactive and cross linked for the long term. Sadly I don’t think that any of this sort of functionality is on Hypothes.is’ roadmap any time soon.

There is some great news however! Hypothes.is is open source and has a reasonable API. This portends some exciting things! This means that any of these wiki, zettelkasten, note taking, or spaced repetition services could leverage the UI for collecting data and pipe it into their interfaces for direct use.

As an example, what if I could quickly tell Obsidian to import all my pre-existing and future Hypothes.is data directly into my Obsidian vault for manipulating as notes? (And wouldn’t you know, the small atomic notes I get by highlighting and annotating are just the sort that one would like in a zettelkasten!) What if I could pick and choose specific course-related data from my reading and note taking in Hypothes.is (perhaps by tag or group) for import into Anki to quickly create some flash cards for spaced repetition review? For me, this combination would be my dream application!

These small pieces, loosely joined can provide some awesome opportunities for knowledge workers, students, researchers, and others. The education focused direction that Hypothes.is, many of these note taking platforms, and spaced repetition systems are all facing positions them to make a super-product that we all want and need.

An experiment

So today, as a somewhat limited experiment, I played around with my Hypothes.is atom feed (https://hypothes.is/stream.atom?user=chrisaldrich, because you know you want to subscribe to this) and piped it into IFTTT. Each post creates a new document in a OneDrive file which I can convert to a markdown .md file that can be picked up by my Obsidian client. While I can’t easily get the tags the way I’d like (because they’re not included in the feed) and the formatting is incredibly close, but not quite there, the result is actually quite nice.

Since I can “drop” all my new notes into a particular folder, I can easily process them all at a later date/time if necessary. In fact, I find that the fact that I might want to revisit all my notes to do quick tweaks or adding links or additional thoughts provides the added benefit of a first round of spaced repetition for the notes I took.

Some notes may end up being deleted or reshuffled, but one thing is clear: I’ve never been able to so simply highlight, annotate, and take notes on documents online and get them into my notebook so quickly. And when I want to do something with them, there they are, already sitting in my notebook for manipulation, cross-linking, spaced repetition, and review.

So if the developers of any of these platforms are paying attention, I (and I’m sure others) really can’t wait for plugin integrations using the full power of the Hypothes.is API that allow us to all leverage Hypothes.is’ user interface to make our workflows seamlessly simple.

This post was originally published on Chris Aldrich

Displaying Webmentions on TiddlyWiki

Displaying Webmentions on TiddlyWiki
I’ve previously written about setting up receiving Webmention for TiddlyWiki by logging into webmention.io and creating an account to delegate the receipt of the notifications.
 
Naturally, these notifications can be more fun for cross-site conversations if one has the ability to display the webmentions on the posts to which they relate. There are probably a number of ways of doing this, but following the TiddlyWiki advice of keeping Tiddlers as small as possible, it seemed like creating a tiddler for the response and then transcluding or embedding it into the original would be the best course of action.
 
At the recent Gardens and Streams: Wikis, Blogs, and UI—a pop up IndieWebCamp session there was some discussion on internal bi-directional linking in wikis, but I thought it would also be fun to show off bi-directional linking between my wiki and other websites. To do that will require displaying at least some Webmentions.
My wiki currently doesn’t have very many webmentions or incoming links, but after writing about a Bookmarklet for pasting content into TiddlyWiki, I got an email from Anne-Laure Le Cunff that she’d used some of the code to write a bookmarklet for Roam Research. Since her article didn’t send a webmention, I used Telegraph to manually force her article to send my wiki a Webmention so my account would have a record of it for the future for potential exporting or other use.
Now I’d like to display this webmention on that tiddler. Doing it automatically would be great, but I thought, since I don’t expect to receive many on my wiki that I ought to try out a manual set up to see how things might work and how I might display them if they were automated.
Since I had created that bookmarklet, I used it to copy and paste the text from Anne-Laure Le Cunff‘s website into a new tiddler. I then massaged it a bit to format it to look like a response and I’ve transcluded it into the original post under a heading of Responses.
The side benefit of doing this is that the stand alone tiddler that has the link and the context from her post also sits in my wiki as a bookmark of her post as well. As a result, I get a two-for-one deal: I get the bookmark of her post with some context I’m interested in, but my original post can now also display it as a response! Now I can also use that bookmark in other places in my website as well. If only one could do this so easily in other CMSes?!
I’ve yet to hear of another example of this in the wild, so unless I’m missing something, this may be the first displayed Webmention on a TiddlyWiki in the wild.

Next steps

Data formats

TiddlyWiki has lots of ways to display data in Tiddlers, so perhaps one might use various fields in a bookmark tiddler to create the necessary comment display. This could give a more standardized method of displaying them as well. It could be particularly useful if someone was using a microformats parser to import the data of such mentions. If this were the case, then the tiddler that is being commented on could do a filter/search for all tiddlers in the wiki that mention it and transclude the appropriate pieces in a list format with the appropriate mark up as well as links back to the individual tiddlers and/or the links to the sending site.
I’m curious if others have ideas about how to best/easiest implement the display portion of webmentions on a public TiddlyWiki? Since I’m also hosting my entire TiddlyWiki on GitHub pages, there might be other potential considerations if I were to be hosting it statically instead. This may require some experimentation.
I’ve got a few mental models about how one might implement showing Webmentions in TiddlyWiki, but it may take some more thinking to figure out which way may be the best or most efficient.

Automation

I don’t anticipate a lot of incoming webmentions to my wiki at present, but if they become more prevalent, I’ll want to automate the display of these notifications somehow. This will take some thought and coding as well as more knowledge of the internals of TiddlyWiki than I’ve currently got. If someone with the coding chops is interested, I could probably brainstorm a set up fairly quickly.

Microformats

It would also be nice to be able to have full microformats support in TiddlyWiki so that the stand alone “bookmark” mention works properly, but also so that the transcluded version might have the correct mark up. This may rely on the two things to be properly nested to make them work in both contexts.

This post was originally published on Chris Aldrich

A short post mortem, video and note links, and challenge from The Garden and the Stream IndieWebCamp Pop-up session

Thank you everyone!

For those who attended yesterday’s The Garden and the Stream IndieWebCamp session, thank you for participating! I honestly only expected 4 or 5 wiki fans to show up, so I was overwhelmed with the crowd that magically appeared from across multiple countries and timezones.

I’ve heard from many–both during the session and privately after–that it was a fantastic and wide-ranging conversation. (I never suspected memory palaces or my favorite 13th century Franciscan tertiary to be topics of discussion.) Several have suggested we host not only a continuation of the session, but that they’d be interested in other pop-up IndieWebCamp sessions. If you’re interested in future follow ups or sessions shoot me a quick email (you can find it on my home page) and I’ll be sure you get an invite. You can also follow future events via events.indieweb.org or find them in the IndieWeb’s weekly newsletter that is emailed out every Friday afternoon.

If you’re interested in hosting or suggesting other topics for future sessions, there’s a stub page on the IndieWeb wiki for doing so.

Our session went on far longer than I ever could have anticipated and I suspect we could have easily gone all day and still not touched on a fraction of all the topics we all outlined. Special thanks to the larger majority of those who were interested enough and had the free time to stay well past the hour mark and on to the end. I will say it’s nice to be able to cover so much ground and so many ideas without the threat of 5 more sessions following you.

Video and Notes

For those who missed it and are interested or those who have inquired, the video link and the notes from the session have been posted to the IndieWeb wiki. 

If you write up any notes or posts about the session, do add a link to them in the IndieWebCamp Pop-Ups page under blog posts/articles or photos. If you can’t log into the wiki (with your own website), feel free to ping me with the URL and I’ll add them for you.

I’ll  try to write up an organizer’s post-mortem with a few ideas about doing future sessions for others to consider. I hope to rewatch the session myself and add to the growing list of notes and thoughts about it.

Creators Challenge

Because this was just a single IndieWebCamp-style discussion session and we hadn’t specifically planned a traditional creator’s day or hack day, I did want to throw out a small challenge to those who either attended or who are interested in participating. 

For most, the IndieWeb is more about creating something than just talking about it. So in that spirit, I’ll challenge everyone to spend a few hours today/tomorrow or sometime this week and create something on your website or wiki related to the session. It can be a summary of ideas, a blog post about wikis (or anything you like really), a small change you’ve always wanted on your site (a CSS improvement, adding bi-directional links to your wiki, Webmention support, etc.), or anything else you might have found interesting from the conversation. The best part is that you can choose what you create on your own site! Make something you’ll use or appreciate. Have fun!

My personal plan for the challenge is to continue some work to my TiddlyWiki to support bi-directional links using TiddlyBlink. I might also take a crack at doing some design and building work to show some incoming webmentions on my TiddlyWiki. (If anyone is interested in test-driving Mike Caulfield’s implementation of Wikity on WordPress in conjunction with Webmention, I could be game for that too!)

Once you’ve made your creation, post a link to your article or notes or make a quick 2-3 minute demo video of the new feature or write up a post about it and add them to the IndieWeb wiki page for Pop-up Session Demos. Again if you can’t log into the wiki with your own website yet, drop me a note and I’ll add them for you or you can ask for help on how to do it in the IndieWeb chat.

Thanks again everyone! I look forward to seeing what you come up with.


cc: Kailyn Nelson (t), Phil Jones (t), Brian Sholis, Jack Baty

This post was originally published on Chris Aldrich

Gardens and Streams: Wikis, Blogs, and UI—a pop up IndieWebCamp session

Gardens and Streams: Wikis, Blogs, and UI—a pop up IndieWebCamp session
There has been some sporadic conversation about doing impromptu IndieWebCamp sessions and thus far we’ve yet to organize one. Given our physical distancing and the dearth of bigger IndieWebCamps, I thought I would propose this single topic stand alone camp session to get something rolling. I’d invite others to propose and schedule others in the future.

April 25, 2020
Sat 10:00 – 11:00am (America/Los_Angeles)
Meeting ID: 950-1243-4695
Meeting Password: 021089
This is an online only event. We will provide a Zoom video conference link 30 minutes before the session here and in the IndieWeb chat.

Session Topic

We’ll be discussing and brainstorming ideas related to wikis and the IndieWeb, user interfaces, functionalities, examples of wikis and how they differ from blogs and other social media interfaces, and everyones’ ideas surrounding these. Bring your ideas and let’s discuss.

This is just a single one hour IndieWebCamp-like session (though we have the option to go over a bit since there isn’t a session following us) where we’ll brainstorm and discuss a particular topic. Hopefully the weekend time will be convenient for a wide range of people in Europe and North America who have previously shown interest in the topic. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Resources

To prepare for the session we’ll be using the following:

See also: https://indieweb.org/IndieWebCamps/Attending#Technology
This event is covered by the IndieWeb Code of Conduct. By participating, you’re acknowledging your acceptance of this code.

Questions? Concerns?

Feel free to ask in the IndieWeb chat: https://chat.indieweb.org/indieweb/

RSVP (optional)

If your website supports it, post an indie RSVP. Or, log in to indieweb.org and click “I’m Going”. (And if none of that means anything to you, don’t worry about it; just show up!)

This post was originally published on Chris Aldrich

Webmention for TiddlyWiki to enable website to website notifications and communication

Webmention for TiddlyWiki to enable website to website notifications and communication

What is a Webmention?

Webmention is a relatively recent web standard (or W3C recommendation) that allows notifications when one website mentions a URL on another website. Think of it like @mentions on social platforms, but instead of just working within a particular website from one account to another, they work across websites. Your website can now @mention my website!

For those who are interested in delving deeper into the idea and its implications, I’ve written a primer in the past : Webmentions: Enabling Better Communication on the Internet.

The goal is for other websites to be able to reference content in my TiddlyWiki website, and if those websites support sending the notifications as either webmentions (or the older pingbacks), I’ll get a notification that my content was referenced elsewhere on the web. This is just the beginning of allowing two way communication between websites.

My exploration today is how to quickly get these up and running on a public TiddlyWiki instance. The public part is important because webmentions won’t work for non-public URLs which includes private TiddlyWikis. If you’re wondering how to self-host a TiddlyWiki on your own domain, I’ve recently written up a tutorial for doing just that. At the end of this article, I’ll make a few notes about how one might use webmentions, particularly in a TiddlyWiki ecosystem.

I’ll start out by saying that writing a full JavaScript implementation of the Webmention spec is beyond my capabilities presently, but it could be something that TiddlyWiki core might implement in the future. (Maybe something like Lazymention which is written in node.js might be leveraged?)

Here I’m going to focus on using a third party service to do all of the heavy lifting and code our behalf. It’s relatively common, especially in the static website space, for websites to rely on third party or publisher services to either send or receive Webmentions on their behalf. Given my current knowledge of TiddlyWiki and how its internals work and my knowledge of Webmention services, I thought it would be quickest and easiest to look at using the Webmention.io service to handle receiving these @mentions from other sites on my behalf.

While this article may seem long, I’m hoping it’s detailed enough for those who are code averse to follow the recipe and do this themselves. If you can create a Tiddler, cut and paste some text, and follow the tutorial you won’t need to know anything about code. I did the entire thing myself in about five minutes from start to finish.

Receiving Webmention notifications for your TiddlyWiki

As a quick overview, we’re going to cut and paste a few lines of code into a special tiddler of our TiddlyWiki based website. This will allow us to do two things:

  1. Log into Webmention.io to create an account
  2. Allow other sites that send webmentions to us to find an endpoint on our TiddlyWiki website that accepts them on our behalf.

We’ll then rely on the Webmention.io dashboard to show us our notifications or received webmentions.

Logging into Webmention.io

Webmention.io requires you to log in with your domain name/URL and relies on you being able to authenticate yourself using it. Since I’m not aware of an IndieAuth or equivalent mechanism for using TiddlyWiki to log into Webmention.io, the quickest method to accomplish this is to rely on RelMeAuth using IndieAuth.com to log into Webmention.io using either a Twitter or GitHub account. From a non-technical perspective, we’ll be using either our Twitter or GitHub account and it’s OAuth2 security to log into the service.

First we want to put a link to our public TiddlyWiki website into the website field on either Twitter or GitHub using the profile settings of one of those services. Here’s what mine looks like on GitHub:

Screenshot of my GitHub accounts details featuring a link to my website

Next we want to place a corresponding link to the relevant service into the <head> of our TiddlyWiki site using one (it’s okay to use both) of the the following lines of code:

<link rel="me" href="https://twitter.com/username" />
<link rel="me" href="https://github.com/username" />

where you will replace the username in these links with the respective usernames of your accounts. (I’ll note that you don’t need to do this for both accounts, you can use either Twitter or GitHub.)

To place these lines into the appropriate location on your TiddlyWiki, you’ll want to create a tiddler with a name like $:/plugins/indieweb/core/rawMarkup and the tag $:/tags/RawMarkup.

Then cut and paste one or both of these links as appropriate into this tiddler and save it (and your TiddlyWiki).

You should now be able to go to webmention.io and enter the URL for your TiddlyWiki into the web sign in box and click “sign in”. The service will parse your website’s page, find the link to either Twitter or GitHub and present you with the appropriate sign in button for one or both of those services. Click on the button for your chosen service. IndieAuth.com will then take you to that service to log into it, or, if you’re already logged in, it will take you back to webmention.io to your new account.

Creating your Webmention endpoint

Within webmention.io you can now go to the “settings” page which will give you two more links which are your webmention and pingback endpoints. They will look something like this:

<link rel="webmention" href="https://webmention.io/example.com/webmention" />
<link rel="pingback" href="https://webmention.io/example.com/xmlrpc" />

where example.com will be replaced with the URL for your website.

Now you should cut and paste these two <link>s into the same tiddler you created above: $:/plugins/indieweb/core/rawMarkup. Now save the Tiddler and your TiddlyWiki. (Be sure to leave the previous links in case you need to log back into webmention.io in the future.)

You’re done!

That hopefully wasn’t too hard.

But what does this do? When another website links to your website and sends you a notification, the code on your page will delegate the receipt of the webmention to webmention.io which will verify that the sending site has your URL on a publicly viewable page (this helps to cut down on spam problems that pingbacks used to have). It will then store the notification for you.

If you need a reminder to check them occasionally, maybe you could add a Tiddler with the link to your dashboard to appear on your wiki when you open it next.

Perhaps in a future tutorial I’ll delve into the specifics of actually showing these mentions directly within your TiddlyWiki on the Tiddlers to which they relate.

Optional Webmention badge

Some may notice that I’ve put a small Webmention badge into the footer of my TiddlyWiki site to visually indicate to human readers that the site accepts webmentions. You can optionally do this for fun if you’d like.

Sending Webmentions with TiddlyWiki

Sending Webmentions seems to be an issue as the fragment-based URLs that TiddlyWiki uses as permalinks using JavaScript seem to cause an issue with many receivers. They apparently have problems resolving and parsing pages due to js;dr related issues. I would send webmentions manually, but most receivers I’m aware of have this js;dr problem. I’m not sure if there is an easy way around this issue.

Hyperchats, Wikis, and Open Educational Resources

What’s interesting about supporting Webmention, particularly from a TiddlyWiki perspective, is that if my TiddlyWiki is notified of mentions of it from outside sources, I can quickly cut and paste those responses directly into my Wiki pages in a pseudo-comment section similar to the comments section on this post which could serve as a model. If those mentions of a particular Tiddler are from other TiddlyWikis, I could also choose to drag-and-drop (or import) them into my TiddlyWiki!

If I want to go a step further, I could transclude those imported Tiddlers into the Tiddler that they’re in reference to. Perhaps I might do this under a heading of “@mentions” or perhaps “Comments” and suddenly I’ve got a way of displaying two-way conversations on my own TiddlyWiki site.

As is mentioned in Kicks Condor’s post about Hyperchat Modality, one could potentially use custom theming information (cleverly named “whostyles” in that post) from imported Tiddlers (or themes from other platforms) to identify the web identities of the sites they’re received from. I’ll also mention Kicks’ post about Hypertexting which is related and forms an interesting melange of websites, blogs, wikis, and hypertext of all kinds to form a more interesting web medium.

For the broader information collecting and building or academic communities (and here I can’t help thinking about the Open Educational Resources space that uses Creative Commons licensing to build their teaching resources), one could use these webmentions as a means of notifying sites that their content has been used, changed, or updated (typically those using Creative Commons will credit their source using a link). Then the receiver of the notification could optionally add to or change their version or even just collect the changes. This becomes particularly useful when the Tiddlers can be easily dragged and dropped between TiddyWikis!

As an explicit example, imagine a professor who wanted to build a textbook anthology, but who could do so by dragging and dropping a variety of Tiddlers from one site to another to create a quick textbook or reader for their students. This idea is particularly exciting to me when combined with the idea behind TW5-powered ebooks!

What could you imagine doing with webmention notifications on your TiddlyWiki site?

This post was originally published on Chris Aldrich