Notetaking should be low-commitment -

Notetaking should be low-commitment

Notetaking describes an interface between thoughts and storage devices.

The essence of notetaking is the act of representing thoughts.

Some accidents of the act of notetaking impose unavoidable “commitments” upon the notetaker:

  • The language the notes are written in (which will never perfectly communicate the initial, pure thought)
  • The input medium which transfers the note from thought to text
  • The output medium which transfers the note to future readers (medium is the message)

A notetaking system should avoid imposing such commitments insofar as possible.


A few ways a notetaking system may impose commitments upon the notetaker:

  • Enforcing systems of taxonomy (hierarchies, categories, organizing notes by date, etc.)
  • Enforcing a given file structure, organization, data format, etc.
  • Requiring specific software to use the system (a program, desktop app, or a web app that isn’t otherwise needed by the notetaker)
  • Providing unnecessary features that add noise and potentially shape the notetaker’s understanding of what their notes should be


A notetaking system should require the smallest possible commitment to enable notetaking:

  • No default taxonomy of notes
  • No default styleguiding
  • As little software/hardware as possible
  • The fewest features necessary

Decisions affect potentialities; commitment corrupts potential.