Eastgate Systems      Serious Hypertext

Meta Space


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Making Better Notes

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Meeting notes in Tinderbox, from BlogTalk 2 Vienna. Green adornments represent sessions and talks. The large red adornment collects notes about the note-taking process and about tools, while the blue adornment collects recurrent themes and memes from the discussion; these are meta spaces.

Reserve a place in your repository for meta notes -- notes about your notes, your process for making and analyzing them, and your reflections on them.

For example, you might reserve a few pages in the front of your paper notebooks and journals for front matter, such as a thematic index or overview, or a summary. This could be a simple chronological précis:

Or, you might instead (or in addition) summarize recurrent themes:

Meta spaces in Tinderbox can easily be set aside by convention -- for example, you might keep a cluster of meta notes in the upper right-hand corner, or place a container for meta notes at the top of your outline. If using a meta container, consider keeping a small window open to it all the time, making it even easier to locate when you're in a hurry.

Most often, meta spaces are marked off with adornments:

Here, we have two meta spaces at the left edge of a large collection of meeting notes. (The complete map continues several feet to the right.) One meta space collects notes about the note-taking process. As the first session of the meeting began, it became clear that capturing each speaker's name and contact information was a priority -- especially since no printed proceedings were available; each speaker's information is contained in a note and marked off with a special turquoise color. Similiarly, it soon seemed desirable to separate the speaker's positions from the lively discussions that followed: notes on presentations were made in coral while questions and commentary were noted in dark red. Finally, a second meta category called "memes" collects common themes among several sessions.

Meta space is an example of the ability of spatial hypertext to represent important but informal concepts quickly and without interrupting your thinking. Cornell note style is a related scheme for using different parts of a page for different kinds of notes.

Separating notes about process from notes about substance, while valuing both, helps retain focus while preserving space for complete consideration of all facets and alternatives.