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    personal encyclopedias II

    So here's the piece of "long-form text" I wrote about in my last post. It's me, thinking at great length about how to manage my collection of notes. Long-time readers of this blog will know that this is a recurring obsession. The service I've been using still functions, but it's effectively been abandoned (the team that designed it now works for Twitter). It seems like they'll keep the service going for a while, but they're not adding new features or bug fixes, and now that I have a crazy new smart phone I really want a system that has mobile support.

    So, anyway, thinking about this I stumbled upon Steve Rubel's "Gmail as nerve center" system. Much of what follows modifies, extends, or just plain cribs Steve's ideas.

    Without further ado: Ten tips on creating a personal database using a technology you probably already use (Gmail)

    1. Set up a special Gmail address just for notes. You can do this with your existing Gmail address... Gmail allows you to append any word you like to your e-mail address with a plus sign. So, for instance, mail addressed to "my_example@gmail" and "my_example+database@gmail" both go to me. So at the conclusion of this step you have a special database-only e-mail address.

    2. Set up a Gmail filter that that labels e-mail that comes into the database-only e-mail address with a label like "Database," and immediately Archives it. Archiving skips the Inbox—so you'll avoid littering your Inbox with incoming notes—'but Archived items come up in search results, which is what you want. (If you're searching for something else and don't want database results, you can do that, too, since they all have a special label and are targeted to a specific e-mail address, which makes it easy to block them. Using "-label:database" will do it if your label is "Database.")

    3. Install the Gmail This! bookmarklet, which will make e-mailing web stuff to yourself go extra-fast. I dug up an edit to that bookmarklet that would also include any highlighted text in the body of the message— let me know if you want the code —and there are some other cool tricks here.

    4. Download and install Evernote. Evernote allows you to add notes via a special e-mail address that they provide you with. Set this up as a forwarding address in Gmail, and adjust the filter so that everything that comes into the database e-mail address also goes to Evernote, allowing you to use some of its special features and tools without having to do extra work to reduplicate everything. This also makes a backup of your database on a completely separate platform. I took this idea from this article on Gmail to Evernote workflow. (Note: If you'd prefer, you could use Evernote as your starting point, and Gmail as the backup, by making your Evernote Notebooks public, grabbing the RSS address, and using the tricks outlined in 4 and 5, below. This is what I am ultimately going to do.)

    5. Use Delicious to manage your bookmarks? Then you have an RSS feed for those bookmarks. If you have an RSS feed for those bookmarks, you can get a digest of those bookmarks sent to you via Feedburner. Make sure to send it to the database e-mail address. Full instructions here. Now all your Delicious bookmarks will auto-port to the database.

    6. Repeat this process for any other RSS feeds you want to dump directly into your database (blogs, whole sections of the New York Times, Twitter feeds, public Evernote notebooks, etc).

    7. Use a Kindle to note stuff? Those notes are backed up online at kindle.amazon.com and on the Kindle itself in a text file (Clippings.txt). There doesn't appear to be an RSS feed for those, which makes things a little tricky. You can cut-and-paste from either of these, of course, but I thought that there had to be a better way. If you use Windows, you could use a Word macro to clean up the Clippings.txt file and just dump it into Gmail every once in a while. If you use a Mac, you can use Notescraper to pull your notes into Evernote—from there, you could put all your Kindle notes into an Evernote Notebook, make it public, and point the RSS at Gmail. I'm going to say right now that if I can get this really working, I'll buy a Kindle.

    8. Every other note you create on the fly—notes from conversations, physical books, etc—you can just type into Gmail instead of any other notetaking software. E-mail it to yourself at the special database address.

    9. Too much typing? You could get really clever and use Google Voice to create transcriptions of voice memos and mail them to your database e-mail address. I haven't tried this yet, but it's clever enough that I might.

    10. I'm sure I'll come up with a tenth soon.

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    Wednesday, February 02, 2011
    9:17 AM


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