fact files

I wrote a while back about wanting to develop a "fact file" or some way of creating a database of notes and clippings that wouldn't (need to be) project specific research, but that I would none the less like the keep track of. Part of the notion was that I felt like I was gathering lots of information and reading lots of stuff, that I didn't really have any good way of retaining this information beyond whatever I could recall based on what I just happen to remember.

I should note that this post is very org-mode focused, and I've not subtitled very much. You've been warned.

Ultimately I developed an org-remember template, and I documented that in the post linked to above.

Since then, however, I've changed things a bit, and I wanted to publish that updated template.

(setq org-remember-templates'(
  ("annotations" ?a
    "* %^{Title} %^g \n  :PROPERTIES:\n  :date: %^t\n  :cite-key: %^{cite-key}\n  :link: %^{link}\n  :END:\n\n %?"
    "~/org/data.org" "Annotations and Notes")
  ("web-clippings" ?w
    "* %^{Title} %^g \n  :PROPERTIES:\n  :date: %^t\n  :link: %^{link}\n  :END:\n\n %x %?"
    "~/org/data.org" "Web Clippings")
  ("fact-file" ?f
    "* %^{Title} %^g \n  :PROPERTIES:\n  :date: %^t\n  :link: %^{link}\n  :END:\n\n %x %?"
    "~/org/data.org" "Fact File")
  ))

What this does, reflects something I noticed in the way I was using the original implementation. I noticed that I was collecting quotes from both a variety of Internet sources and published sources. Not everything had a cite-key (a key that tracks the information in my bibtex database,) and I found that I also wanted to save copies of blog posts and other snippets that I found useful and interesting, but that still didn't seem to qualify as a "fact file entry."

So now there are three templates:

  • First, annotations of published work, all cross referenced against cite-keys in the bibtex database.
  • Second, web clippings, this is where I put blog posts, and other articles which I think will be interesting to revisit and important to archive independently for offline/later reading. Often if I respond to a blogpost on this blog, the chances are that post has made it into this section of the file.
  • Third, miscellaneous facts, these are just quotes, in general. Interesting facts that I pull from wikipedia/wherever, but nothing teleological, particularly. It's good to have a place to collect unstructured information, and I've found the collection of information in this section of the file to be quite useful.

General features:

  • Whatever text I select (and therefore add to the X11 clipboard) is automatically inserted into the remember buffer (with the %? tag)
  • I make copious use of tags and tag compleation which makes it easier to use the "sparse tree by tag" functionality in org-mode to just display heading which are tagged in a certain way.) So that I can see related content easily. Tags include both subject and project-related information for super-cool filtering.
  • All "entires" exist on the second level of the file. I'm often sensative to using too much hierarchy, at the expense of clarity or ease of searching. This seems to be particularly the case in org-mode, given the power of sparse trees for filtering content.

So that's what I'm doing. As always, alternate solutions feedback are more than welcome.

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