I'm always trying to think about how to improve the signal to noise ratio for myself and for others. That's the important work of the 21st century, where everything is at our fingertips. My efforts in creating a commonplace book are a good example of a that. In some important ways, I think that I've found value in the process. For example, a recent commonplace links post created a nice web of ideas around the topic of questions and framing our interactions with others.
At the same time, I'm restless about the endeavor. Something about it isn't quite enough: I'm still just loosely collecting things, occasionally finding the links between them. I'm not fully appreciating things for their context and relationship with other things; I turn my attention to them and then move on. One potential remedy is an idea that I've been toying with: going a little deeper and beginning the creation of a zettlekasten, something like a personal knowledge wiki.
Why even bother? At my very core, I’m a learner. I love getting lost down rabbit holes. I care about building a diverse foundation of ideas. I want to know something about everything and everything about something (the latter is still undecided). But I’ve been turning over an idea lately. Knowledge — true knowledge — takes work. It takes process. We can’t just expect to handle the unending stream of information, consume it all, end up with wisdom. Wisdom requires applied knowledge and knowledge requires force applied to information. Something like a zettlekasten would be an opportunity to work with information and then network the resulting knowledge in a way that offers up new insights.
What would it look like? I'm not entirely sure. I have a collection of text files, notes from about 20 books I read in the last year or so, and an enormous Pinboard archive. One approach could be to be more forward focused and establish a process for dealing with incoming ideas while slowly working through the backlog, separating wheat from chaff, and connecting the ideas that rise to the top. I'm intrigued by the potential of using nvALT, a tremendous little plain text editor. More important than the tools, though, is the intention here to really dive into knowledge work.
I'm trying to figure out how to carefully and sustainably build upon my current understanding in ways that help me do what I do better and live a more meaningful life. At the same time, I want to run into the thicket of all the interesting ideas swirling around me and try to make sense of it all. Knowledge work in this sense is a lifelong balancing project of action and reflection and one that I hope keeps me sharp, curious, and excited.