Types and Tailcalls

I Want a Better Note-Taking System

published on November 27th, 2019

In my project to learn datascience, I've come to the conclusion that I need a better way to take notes than the notes I have scribbled into my notebook so far.

What I've done so far is to write questions (based on the question book method) about things I see in video lectures and then proceed with an open recall session to recall as much as possible from the lecture. After the open recall I go through the questions written earlier and answer these if I haven't answered them already during open recall.

I've found this process to work really well for optimizing what I retain immediately from a lecture, but currently I'm not producing persistent notes that are well suited for future reference. In addition, I would also like to produce flash cards which I can use to commit (parts of) the material to long term memory - why not include these directly in the notes? Taking notes on a technical subject, I would of course like to include sections with code, mathematical formulas and diagrams. And while we're at it, why not give this system a powerful way to tag concepts, create concept-hierarchies and cross-reference them?

So overall, here is a laundry list of the features which I would like to see in my perfect note-taking application:

There is support for a lot of this out there, but I don't think there is anything that quite meets the bar. A lot of this can be done by combining KaTeX, mermaid and Markdown and there are nice applications which combine these libraries to meet a lot of these features. But I don't think the enable tagging concepts (inline in the text) and enable cross-referencing them. Similarly, I also don't think there is support for building flash cards (I understand that this is a bit of an esoteric requirement).

On the other hand, there is a Racket DSL called Pollen whose goal it is to provide a programmable language to create online books. Pollen looks a lot like something I want, but I'm not really sure if I it (a) does what I want or how easy it is to get it to do that and (b) if I really want to buy into the Racket ecosystem which I don't know anything about and which is surely not as active as JavaScripts. It might be possible to combine the two and leverage things like katex, mermaid and syntax highlighting for codeblocks from JavaScript and more advanced markup techniques from Pollen.

I'm not sure where I will go with this but its an itch that I would like to scratch. I think the responsible thing is to look for the currently best solution and go with this for the time being. Maybe I'll give Pollen a go and see how that works for my purposes.

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