Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Taking Notes

Not to, in any way, equate myself with Fischer Black (of Black-Scholes option pricing fame), but I was struck by a recent posting in Marginal Revolution about how he took notes:
He did almost all of his work in an outlining program called ThinkTank, which he used as a kind of external associative emmory to supplement his own. Everything he read, every conversation he had, every thought that occurred, everything got summarized and added to the data base that swelled eventually to 20 million bytes organized in 2000 alphabetical files...Reading, discussion and thinking that Fischer did outside the office was recorded on slips to paper to be entered into the database later. Reading, discussion, and thinking that took place inside the office was recorded directly. While he was on the phone, he was typing. While he was talking to you in person, he was typing.
I'm not quite back at the ThinkTank stage--even if I remember the program (a "terminate and stay resident (TSR) outliner that essentially simulated multi-tasking in a single-tasking world)--although my sometimes preference for text editors over Mind maps may seem in a similar vein. However, such assidious notetaking does reflect how many of us work as we transition to a world in which our role is increasingly to synthesize vast amounts of data. It's really handy to have this sort of external memory in accessible and searchable form.

When I started as an analyst, I took old-fashioned longhand notes. I'm an enthusiastic convert to the electronic sort. t's just so handy during a briefing to pull up the notes from a peior meeting and ask: "So, when we last met, you said that XYZ was going to be the next big thing. Whatever became of that?" :-)

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