Comments & Questions

If you would like to write a comment or ask a question you can do so. I really appreciate comments and feedback — it’s the lifeblood of any author (money is a close second). And there were some really good comments below the postings so far. I also like questions related to organizing creativity. You have tried something out and it did not work, or have a problem that costs you time and energy — ask. I like to look at these problems, because — for me as someone not emotionally involved — they are fun to solve and give me ideas for future postings. I love thinking about them (even if at times, I do not have a solution ;-)).

Ways to leave a comment or ask a question

There are a couple of ways to leave a comment or ask a question:

  • if available, via the comment boxes below the postings: I had them disabled for a while and still trying to find out whether the new solution avoids spam. I hope so. Simply fill in the fields.
  • via eMail: Send an eMail to: organizingcreativity at me dot com Simply replace the at and dot with the things you usually see in an eMail address (it’s a hurdle, I know, but a manageable one). This will probably also attract spam, but I trust my eMail spam filter. It will also solve a problem that occurred a couple of times when someone asked a (good) question but did not leave a reply address in the comment box. As usual, I will not misuse your eMail address. A good question or comment might end up in a posting but the most I will mention is your first name (unless you want that I mention more).
  • via Twitter: Short feedback is also welcomed via Twitter, also it’s pretty limited for longer questions. My Twitter handle is: Daniel_Wessel

Note that I do not have a facebook account (I hope, not sure whether facebook actually deleted the profile I once had), mostly due to privacy concerns. I haven’t yet found a social network I like (Google+ is no alternative in privacy, and Diaspora and Friendica lack scope).

So, comment and ask 🙂

I’m looking forward to comments and questions. 🙂

13 Comments on Comments & Questions

  1. Dear Dr. Wessel,
    After thoroughly reading your organizing creativity website, I have decided to conduct my research using DevonThink Pro Office, CPN, and Scrivener (together with EndNote X7) softwares.
    Even though my research method is going to develop in its own way over time, I would like to ask you several questions regarding your use of technology:

    1. Correct me if I am wrong, but after you read a PDF file on iPad via GoodReader or via Skim using Macbook (like I do before I purchase iPad 5 which is coming out soon) do you export your highlighted text and annotated notes to both CPN and DevonThink softwares?
    2. Do you replace (i.e. delete) your original unannotated source grouped in A-Z registers folder within DevonThink with the file with highlighted text and annotated notes?
    3. What is the reason of keeping copies of those annotated PDF files in a separate DevonThink database labeled as “read sources”?
    4. When you say keeping those “annotated PDF files,” do you mean that you keep the whole file together with those annotations or just highlighted parts and notes without PDF parts that you find irrelevant?
    5. My weakest point is the use of CPN. Do you attach each annotated file within CPN so you can have an easy access to them once you start writing your outline in CPN where each cell is tagged with the source? Do you use only one CPN notebook for that purpose (i.e. not one notebook for sources and another one for actual writing of your outline)?
    6. I understand the way you name your files in a standard form in both, DevonThink and CPN. However, how do you find an actual page within an article that you either cite or summarize when you finally write your paper in Scrivener? Your standard citation form includes only author’s name and year…

    I apologize from being maybe too broad but any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Sincerely,

  2. Hoi Mio,

    thank you for the questions/comments. 🙂

    1. Correct me if I am wrong, but after you read a PDF file on iPad via GoodReader or via Skim using Macbook (like I do before I purchase iPad 5 which is coming out soon) do you export your highlighted text and annotated notes to both CPN and DevonThink softwares?

    Nah, only to CPN. I have reading notebooks where I store all notes (in case I want to refer to what I got out of the article) and sort it into topic notebooks. I used to put the PDFs with the annotations/notes in a dedicated DT database, but I found that it was unnecessary. Having the content available is sufficient for me. The goal is to have the building bricks available for your own work (with the source information).

    2. Do you replace (i.e. delete) your original unannotated source grouped in A-Z registers folder within DevonThink with the file with highlighted text and annotated notes?

    No, I discard the highlighted/annotated file. I thought about storing it, but to be honest, I don’t see the point. It might be a good idea to put the highlighted/annotated file in a reference manager, but I started putting the original files in it and I like consistency, so I will probably not change it. But there could be a case be made for storing the annotated/highlighted file — if you are working primarily with papers in the sense of your work referring to a paper *a lot* and *in detail*. Personally, I found it more helpful to use a topic notebook, e.g., with a page for a specific theory and collect from different papers what this theory is supposed to do, how much support it has, its limits, etc.

    3. What is the reason of keeping copies of those annotated PDF files in a separate DevonThink database labeled as “read sources”?

    Paranoia. I thought I needed to keep it in case something happens to my notes. In that case I could refer to the PDFs and extract the information again. But I found it unnecessary, although CPN did give me quite a scare.

    4. When you say keeping those “annotated PDF files,” do you mean that you keep the whole file together with those annotations or just highlighted parts and notes without PDF parts that you find irrelevant?

    No longer keep them. In retrospect, I should have imported the annotated files into my reference manager (currently: Papers 2). Papers allows you to share the PDF and automatically remove your annotations. Would have been nice, but still. Note: It might be helpful to write an overall summary on the paper after you have read it. Something that helps you to remember what the overall picture and key message of the paper was.

    5. My weakest point is the use of CPN. Do you attach each annotated file within CPN so you can have an easy access to them once you start writing your outline in CPN where each cell is tagged with the source? Do you use only one CPN notebook for that purpose (i.e. not one notebook for sources and another one for actual writing of your outline)?

    I did store my literature by having a page for each paper (with the PDF). However, I found it too unwhieldy. I’m not interested in a specific paper, but what that paper has to say/contribute to my work. So I use Topic Notebooks. I have notebooks dedicated to my key research interests (and scientific work in general) and store the notes according to these topic sand subtopics. When I do a new paper or presentation, I refer to the topic notebooks, where the structure helps me to sift through the material and the sources as keywords tell me how to cite it. For me, the extracted information with the source information is key.

    6. I understand the way you name your files in a standard form in both, DevonThink and CPN. However, how do you find an actual page within an article that you either cite or summarize when you finally write your paper in Scrivener? Your standard citation form includes only author’s name and year …

    Yup, good point. In many cases, I’m fine with the source (in articles and APA citation format, you do not need the page number). When it comes to books and the like or whenever I would need the page number, I can simply do a search for the highlighted (= verbatim = searchable) text. Inconvenient when you work with a lot of books (where you would need the page number) but it works for me. In that case, perhaps a reference manager like Sente might be something useful. I had a look at it a year or two ago and its annotation feature automatically captures the page number (depends somewhat on the PDF). Of course, GoodReader also gives you a page number (the ‘physical’ one, but not included in the highlights but whenever there is another page).

    I hope this helps. My workflow changed over time, yours will too, I guess. The nice thing about digital information is that there are usually ways to transfer the information from one form into another. What matters is that you can work with it, which somewhat depends on the discipline you are working in and its demands/characteristics. Work with something for a while, do a smaller project like a presentation or conference submission and see where you miss information or where you have annoying phases because some information was lost and change your infrastructure accordingly. The ‘perfect’ system is not developed — yet (I have a few ideas ;-)). Ah, and if you find something that really works for you, drop me a line. I’m always interested in learning more about this topic.

    All the best

    Daniel

  3. Dear Dr. Wessel,
    I found your promptly replied comments invaluable. Thank you very much for sharing your technology tips. It does make an impact on students like me. I will keep you informed if my digital research method progresses in a different direction than the one presented here.
    Kind regards,
    Mio

  4. Dear Daniel,
    as I decided to re-structure my workflow I’m reading your book and posts: basically I already used a very similar workflow (even though yours is more accurate…). I use Sente/Devonthink/Scrivener, basically; with CPN I made a try but I found too difficult (at least for me) to learn how to use it. Till present I wasn’t able to find a good way when it comes to archive bookmarks, not specific webpages or news but simple bookmarks. What I mean is: I’m I come across a web page of argentinean political activists, at present I’m not interested in having the contents of the webpage in some archive but just want to record the info for later (possible) use, for example to see how they talk about a politician… In DTpro I can add a bookmark, but the point is that, after, it gets lost among the thousands of files of my DTbase. How do you manage this cases? Thanks a lot
    Edoardo

  5. Hoi Edoardo,

    hmm … so the question is where to save one’s bookmarks … good question. It’s easier with RSS feeds, for this, DT is very suited. As for bookmarks, you can simply use your Browser (e.g., Firefox) and export them from time to time for backups, or use DEVONthink and use the tags there. Use a folder/group for the bookmarks and use tags, then you can use smart groups or searches and search for a bookmark (kind = bookmark) with specific tags. Whenever you see something online that you want to save, use the Firefox plugin of DEVONthink to save the page (which includes the URL), because webpages are notoriously unstable. Not sure whether this answers your question, but I hope it helps. If not, drop me another line.

    All the best

    Daniel

  6. Hi Daniel, thanks for your reply: thanks for underlining good points. In the meantime, as I’m in the very process of reorganizing my databases and workflow I decided also to keep in mind two rules that are not necessarily related to my question but maybe they have some points of contact:
    1. NO INFORMATION OVERLOAD: reviewing the files in my DTbase I discovered a lot (a LOT) of crap whose unique use was to make the db enormous and consequently useless; I had all feeds from academic journals in my main research database but, as I knew they were there I never really archived them and filed with tags and they had just become a background noise.
    2. ACTIVE & RESPONSIVE RESEARCH: all the terrific software we use sometime gives the (wrong) impression that our job is just ‘managing’ knowledge because the software can make the rest. But actually the rest is thinking and that is our part of the game. Creativity should be at work also when retrieving information, annotating and so on (I’m saying this because I realized that I spent a big part of my work (and of my time) on meta-research and not on *research*!
    Just my two cents & thanks again for the good book
    Best Edoardo

  7. Hoi Edoardo,

    good points, totally agree 🙂
    (thinking about bookmarks again, I guess referring to external sites in your topic notes is one way to deal with it …)

    All the best

    Daniel

  8. Keith Gray // June 15, 2015 at 1:22 pm //

    Hi Daniel, I’m embarking on writing my thesis for a PhD and I wanted to know if the software mentioned in your ‘How to Write a Dissertation Thesis in a Month: Outlines, Outlines, Outlines’ (e.g. Circus Ponies, Scrivener, Academic Workflow) are still current or are there others that you would now recommend. Many thanks, Keith

  9. Hoi Ketih,
    yup, that’s still what I use and would use for a dissertation or any longer text today. An outliner (e.g., Circus Ponies Notebook) and a good writing software (like Scrivener). But it has to work for you. Still, I recommend trying it out.
    Best regards
    Daniel

  10. Hi Daniel,
    Have you faced any problems with Skim notes after upgrading to OS X Sierra?
    Like many other users per sourceforge.net forum, there are lots of bugs. For instance, it is almost impossible to create text notes. Apparently Apple has truly broken PDFKit this time…
    Let me know if you happen to have a different experience.
    Kind regards,
    Mio

  11. Hoi Mio,
    I don’t use Skim anymore, but there seem to be serious problems with PDFs under macOS. DEVONthink has put out a warning regarding files created with Fujitsu ScanSnap. At the moment, I would be … well, honestly, scared to work with PDFs on macOS: http://blog.devontechnologies.com/2016/09/fujitsu-warns-about-scansnap-problems-with-macos-sierra/
    Best regards (and backup your PDFs ASAP/compare them to files prior to moving them to macOS!)
    Daniel

  12. HI, Daniel,

    I’m curious what word processor you use after you export a file from Scrivener. I wonder if it’s Mellel or Nisus, or maybe Word?

  13. Hoi Chris,

    I usually export it first to Word (yeah, I know). That is usually the end format for work files (sometimes also printed as PDF). Reason being that most people use word and, well, then that’s the format we write in. Private stuff was also InDesign (until I lost access to it, but now I got it back, yeah), but also Word or simply copy-paste to WordPress/HTML (blog postings).

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