Daily Notes for 2024-02-14

ยท 764 words ยท 4 minute read

The Org Borg ๐Ÿ”—

I like the ideas I get from taking a tour of a tool like Logseq, even if I don’t think the whole thing is going to work for me. It’s a chance to fold ideas into what is practically my forever tool, which is org-mode/Emacs, or at least rethink things I thought were more bothersome to fix than they sometimes end up being.

The last few weeks I’ve been intrigued by PARA as a simple organizing principle, I’ve wanted to continue to mesh prose and tasks in the way org-mode excels, and I’ve wanted to de-gunk my Denote setup.

I gave Logseq a try, looked at Workflowy again, and briefly dusted off my last Obsidian setup. Logseq and Obsidian are pretty good at surfacing tasks from all over your notes collection. org-mode can manage that but it is very oriented around the org agenda as a way to see your tasks, and the agenda doesn’t scale well with large collections of notes.

There are a few ways of coming at that problem, ranging from “just be selective about which files go into the agenda” to functions that pre-scan your corpus cheaply then assemble a list of agenda files only from things with active todos.

I am still a long way away from having a notes collection large enough to slow the agenda down, but it’s growing.

So, in the midst of poking around and trying to decide whether or not to add one of several possible lumps of lisp to my config, I came across Jack Baty’s post on his own solution, which is limiting your agenda files to just project files, based on Denote’s naming convention.

My own Denote hierarchy has a bunch of little atomic notes, then a collection of project files, area files, and people files. It also has a home file that indexes the project and area files, and an inbox file. I’ve been experimenting with a foundations type that I use to define core concepts. For instance, my team’s work a specific tool migration might be a project file; while portfolio management generally is an area file. Defining what even is the portfolio, what it means for someone on the team to own a piece of the portfolio, and what expectations are for portfolio owners is a piece of foundation thinking.

I can see putting tasks in those special-purpose files, and will tend to avoid putting them in tinier atomic or fragmentary notes files. Feels like a reasonable compromise that discourages littering my notes with tasks, keeps org’s agenda efficient, and provides a little bit of structure that I feel can go missing in a strictly anti-hierarchical note setup.

The code Jack shared defines denote-to-agenda-regexp to make a decision on whether or not some supporting functions should include a file in the agenda. He limits his to files with _project in the name (derived from having project somewhere in the filetags). I wanted to include area and people, too, so I expanded the regexp (inelegantly):

(defvar my-denote-to-agenda-regexp "_project\\|_area\\|_people\\|_inbox"
      "Denote file names that are added to the agenda.
    See `my-add-denote-to-agenda'.")

I’ve also added the project/area/person name as the #+category: property in my agenda-ready files, since that cleans up the far-left column on the agenda, which is the (very long in Denote) filename by default.

Forsaking mobile ๐Ÿ”—

I guess the other development of all the cleanup and fussing was choosing to not care about the mobile use case for this stuff at all.

I think I have shared elsewhere that one of my formative work experiences included being handed the keys to a portfolio of websites with zero supporting staff and being expected to keep comment moderation going seven days a week. I developed a small fixation around mobile work that predated useful technology for mobile work by a good number of years. It made sense because it allowed me to be out and about and doing little moderation micro-tasks whenever.

Since then, I’ve had this scar or kink or crease in my brain about making sure the mobile bases are covered, but the more I think about it the more I think it’s a bad idea. It’s bad enough that I let Slack or Gmail on my phone, let alone wanting all my work notes and tasks available wherever I am. I suppose in a truly, truly dire situation I could use Blink to sign in to the desktop machine and run an agenda or look up a note, but that’s a ridiculous scenario and the better answer is probably “yeah, sorry, away from my computer rn.”