Integrated Thinking Environment

Hi All,

Somebody in the community, I think it was @Bill_French posted about the idea of an Integrated Thinking Environment. An ITE is modeled on the idea of the Integrated Development Environment. As the IDE removes obstacles to coding, so the ITE removes obstacles to thinking. Get all your notes, information and ideas out of your brain, leaving it free to think.

A good ITE will make it easy to take note, to retrieve then and to cross-reference them as you make new insights.

That intrigued me, and I think Coda is a REALLY suitable environment in which to do an ITE.

So here is a BETA of my ITE implementation.
I have followed a layered approach, so that people do not get overwhelmed when the oipen the document.
I start out with a really simple note taking page. Spend some time here making notes, before you delve into more details.
Once you want to start organising your notes, you can go to the Basic page, and follow the explanations there.
As you get more involved, the Basic Page has an Intermediate page, and finally, the intermediate page has a Detail page, with a basic GTD implementation.

Remember, a large part of the idea of an ITE is to mold it to your requirements, to your way of thinking.

Comments and suggestions are appreciated.

It’s just a Ramble,
Rambling Pete


Correct, I had hypothesized in many instances why we have this preoccupation for finding the perfect note-taking app. As I think back to the late 80s I have been perpetually on the hunt for the best way to capture and store what I casually describe as thoughts.

I often refer to it as the sticky note paradox. These little yellow “objects” harbor what could best be described as critical information. Yet, as soon as we digitize them, they become hidden. As a knowledge-faring society, we work our tails off trying to formulate the best approach to camouflaging everything that matters.

Fast-forward forty-plus years, the quest for the best note-taking app continues. The PKM (personal knowledge management) segment is still pumping out future shelf-ware. Mem, Tana, Obsidian - these are simply the latest crop moving through the revolving door. Even the future in Back to the Future is the well behind us (October 21, 2015) and we’re anxiously reading 2023’s Best Note-taking app reviews hoping, by some strange miracle that the nut has finally been cracked - we are all saved and the quest has ended.

Where We’re Going There Are No Roads

Doc Brown returns from the future in a flying DeLorean. Is it possible that the right note-taking and sense-making app is no app at all?

I’ve often felt that capturing things that matter to us in the context of PKM occurs everywhere. From the top of the information funnel to way down deep inside applications like a field in a database. The cone of sense-making activities is extensive and very deep.

You might be sitting on a blog and realize there’s something related to a cell in a record in Coda, which happens to be open in the adjacent browser tab. You’re determined to capture both of these observations, but your PKM platform of choice doesn’t work in either of them, and it’s not likely to - ever.

I think the capacity for PKM interoperability intersects with two realities:

  1. The note-taking funnel is an abstraction, an economic externality to every PKM tool.
  2. Artifacts gathered in this abstraction must be easily found when needed.

These are universal attributes that hold true in all PKM activities. From innovators to users, we generally believe that a single PKM tool can meet many, if not all, interoperability and findability requirements.

If you own a really nice electric vehicle, its true value is determined by its ability to be conveniently charged. Elon Musk was visionary; he realized infrastructure was a critical economic externality of Tesla’s automobile success.

Your second brain’s architecture is no different; it needs infrastructure for its value to be fully realized. The two external realities outline the missing infrastructure and leads me to ask - is a note-taking app what we really need? Or, could it be that we’re just looking at this problem from the wrong perspective?

The top of the funnel, where notes begin, is what drives us to believe that an ITE must have an app of some sort. Imagine if you could tap a button on your phone and capture a note by simply saying it. This is already possible and I do this with Tana Capture and my notes are sent [cirquitously] to Coda.

I think we have everything we need for the ideal PKM. We just haven’t arranged the components in a way that ends the quest for the perfect app.

Hi Bill ,

Thanks for your response. It has made me think a bit more clearly on what I am trying to do.

For me this doc is a note taking app, in the same way that an automobile is a fuel storage device. The fuel storage/ note storage is incidental to a much more elevated function.

RP ITE has several goals:

  1. Have a single repository of information to facilitate knowledge work
  • Collect information to use as the base for research, and to record insights.
  • Managing a todo list. Currently I have a GTD lite implementation in this version, but in my office version I have added a time line version.
  1. Have an environment that can be customised easily.
  • Hence the idea of a “note type”. They can range from as simple as an action item, or as complex as you would like them to be. In my office version the most involved structure is a functional design document (FDD), and it’s related developments (FRICEWs). There is a note type with a template for the FDD that gets copied into a canvas column for each new functional design. And a note type for FRICEW - I do not yet have a technical design template for the FRICEW, I just take unstructured notes. But these are cross-referenced to each other using the relation column type to refer to the dbNotes table where all notes are stored.
  • There is also three tag columns that can be used to build hierarchical as well as matrix structures - the idea is that each user will organically have structure evolve out of his notes.

Searching all your directories for the spreadsheet where you stored that specific piece of information gets old very quickly.
This approach is a stop gap until we can get Star Trek’s Data to walk with us all day. But in the meantime having this allows a mixture of structure, free form and searchability which was unheard of until Coda arrived on the scene. And I specifically do not include Notion, or the other no-code tools, I do not think that any of them come close to the functionality that we enjoy in Coda.

And in response to your somments, the dbNotes table will henceforth be known as dbThoughts… :wink:

It’s just another ramble…