How much metadata do you apply to notes?
Posted 03 March 2012 - 08:24 AM
How do you deal with this?
How many notes do you keep? How many tags do you use?
The more the better? the less the better?
What about adding new tags/attributes/any metadata to a new group of notes but not adding those new tags to all your previously created relevant notes because it's just not practical when you have thousands of notes.
What are your thoughts about the best way to use metadata and store and retrieve personal information overall? (Not technically but in general idea.) yeah, I know, it's a very broad question I think it's still a fairly new thing for most people to try and capture all meaningful information in their life so we're all pioneers in this in a way.
do you know any good books, articles on this topic? I'm not interested in newbie/ tips&tricks kind of stuff though but interested in more of a holistic methodology/concepts/models, e.g. Gtd.
Posted 03 March 2012 - 10:16 AM
Does every attribute you group notes by has to be a tag? Do you use temporarily tags? I mean you could just use searches all the time and keep all metadata/keywords in the body of notes. And you could just use saved searches and search history to create and navigate groups/categories of related notes instead of using tags at all... So why use tags at all? Where do you draw the line in general? What is the purpose of tags in your view/workflow?
I know GrumpyMonkey for example stopped using tags at all and I find it very fascinating and I'm seriously reevaluating my own usage of tags at the moment
I think using index notes to list some groups of notes is a very viable alternative to tags and it doesn't have to be one or the other, i.e. it's possible to use both tags and index/master notes but each for different purposes...
Posted 03 March 2012 - 01:55 PM
i think it would be good to hear from jbenson on this, because he uses the random codes and tags. burgersnfries has a lot more notes than me, and she uses tags a lot as well. i am too lazy, but if you could put links to posts where they explain their systems, that might help generate discussion.
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Posted 03 March 2012 - 02:36 PM
Posted 03 March 2012 - 03:50 PM
"the solution to the overabundance of information is more information."
"When we come across the paper photo from 2005 of Aunt Sally on a beach in Mexico at sunset celebrating cousin Jamie’s birthday, with the twins in the background playing badminton, we have to decide which one spot in one album we’re going to stick it into. If it were a digital album, we wouldn’t have to make that choice. We could label it in as many ways as we could think of: Aunt Sally, Mexico, 2005, beach, birthday, twins, badminton, sunset, trips, foreign countries, fun times, relatives, places we want to go back to, days we got sunburned. "
I like this... The question how do you apply this in Evernote, ie would you just tag everything in every possible way? seems like too much work for me.
But that's definitely interesting...
Maybe delegating stuff like this to AI is the future.
Posted 03 March 2012 - 04:42 PM
I also include any misspellings, I think I may use when searching for the note. IE, if the note is info about someone with the last name of Shafer, I'll include Shaffer as a keyword.
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Posted 04 March 2012 - 09:12 PM
- Title (not really metadata)
- Creation date (I use this a lot, e.g. for the date of letters I receive or send -- I don't always scan incoming mail the same day it arrives)
- URL (in clippings, obviously, but sometimes also explicitly)
I rely on Evernote to automatically fill these, because I refer to them, but don't set them explicitly:
- Changed date
- Location (on mobile)
I've never used the following:
- Author (I use tags for this)
Oh, and in the body, I often add some search keywords, e.g. splitting up "Einkommensteuererklärung" (tax return statement) into "Steuer" "Einkommensteuer" and "Steuererklärung", and adding stuff I might search for, like "fiscal", to the mix. Often, when I'm capturing a note on mobile, I do this right at the end of the note title, leaving the body empty.
Posted 05 March 2012 - 10:07 AM
Posted 05 March 2012 - 04:46 PM
Do I ever rename or delete tags? Yes, occasionally.
Even though Evernote makes it easy to rename, I would estimate 98%+ of my 850 tags have the original spelling.
I might have deleted 20 tags over the past couple years.
The number of my personal / employment related tags is probably around 150.
The majority of my tags apply to my "hobby" of collecting political news - tags for names of politicians, locations, and political issues.
Posted 06 March 2012 - 01:22 PM
Posted 06 March 2012 - 04:29 PM
I only add tags that I consider appropriate.
Most notes will have 2 to 4 tags. Some notes can get up to a dozen (especially if several politicians are mentioned)
I don't have a limit on the number of tags.
I also have a note of saved searches that I run once a month or so that will look for missing tags. Tedious, but it finds notes I missed.
Here are 3 for Obama.
notebook:Politics Obama -tag:"Obama Barack"
notebook:Politics "President Obama*" -tag:"Obama Barack"
notebook:Politics "Obama administration" -tag:"Obama Barack"
Posted 06 March 2012 - 04:52 PM
it could be as simple as a plain txt file in the database folder or online "note" in the web client of Evernote or something... Would probably be relatively easy to implement,it's nothing groundbreaking.
Basically it would define synonyms for search. E.g. You could define Obama Barack = Obama; president obama; obama administration or vice versa and etc.
Or another example - father = dad and etc.
So for example each time you search for "dad" you would also get the results with the word "father". This way you'd just define synonyms once and wouldn't have to manually add them to each note all the time or do custom searches for missing tags/keywords.
Posted 08 March 2012 - 10:34 PM
First of all Metadata is essentially data about data.
Metadata is infinite - metadata itself is data, it is possible to create metadata about metadata, metadata about metadata about metadata and so on.
In digital world everything could be both data and metada though, depending on the context...
Data and metadata can change their roles... the only distinction between metadata and data is that metadata is what you already know and data is what you’re trying to find out.
From David Weinberger:
There used to be a difference between data and metadata. Data was the suitcase and metadata was the name tag on it. Data was the folder and metadata was its label. Data was the contents of the book and metadata was the Dewey Decimal number on its spine. But, in the Third Age of Order (see the previous issue), everything is becoming metadata.
Now take a closer look at these information objects. They look like contents tagged with lots of metadata, but in fact they're all metadata. If I'm looking for an article about hydrocarbons written by Barbara Rodriguez, then the article's topic ("hydrocarbons") and author's name ("Rodriguez, Barbara") are metadata, and the content is the data. But, I could just as well be trying to remember the name of the author who wrote an article that included the phrase "Hydrocarbons are the burros of the the cosmos" sometime in the 1960s, in which case the content and date are metadata and the author's name is the data. What's data and what's metadata depends on the person doing the asking.
So, in the Third Age of Order, all data is metadata. Contents are labels. Data is all surface and no insides. It's all handles and no suitcase. It's a folder whose content is just another label. It's all sticker and no bumper.
Now here is an interesting thought - is there any difference between notes and tags then? in Evernote there is always a difference between them technically, but in concept sometimes there is no difference. And techical difference between them in Evernote doesn't really matter much.
Notes are both data and metadata because you can use any word or phrase from a note to find that note. So for example if you have an article about an iPad you don't need to tag it with the word "iPad" or "tablet" or "apple" and so on because those words are already in the article anyway. Any word in the article could be already used as tag in search.
Tags are metadata in most cases. They describe the information, what the note is about.
A tag is metadata when you know it and use it to find the data. However a tag could also be data when you don't know the tag and want to find the tag. For example you could use content from a note to find a tag, so in this case you used the note as metada and the tag as data.
So there is no real difference between the note and its tag because either could be both data and metadata.
There is still technical difference between them in Evernote though, for example you can assign tags easier and faster compared to typing keywords manually in the body of a note. And of course there is a separate list for tags and a separate list for notes but both lists become fairly useless when you have thousands of notes/tags so manually navigating/browsing those lists to find anything is not a viable option anyway.
The main advantage of using tags instead of just keywords in notes is that tags are just more convenient. They are always user defiened only but you could also just type some rare characters, e.g. "###this is tag [tag name]" in notes or random codes to define tags
other than that there is not much difference between tags and notes.
Btw this leads me to the idea of organizing notes and tags in Evernote differently. Notes could be used to organize tags/categories just as well as tags/categories could be used to organizied notes. There are no limitations at all in terms of structure basically. This is something I'm experimenting at the moment... It's something I overlooked in the past because I was used to the concept of organizing with tags in Evernote... But it's an artificial limitation. There is another viable option, i.e. to use notes as metadata to organize tags/categories into hierachical or non-hierarchical networked structure. It's a workaround; it's crazy; but it works.
It might seem confusing but what is causing this confusion is that we think about tags and notes in a certain way but in reality there is no single way to define/categorize them and they could change their roles at any time or they could be both things at the same time and etc., e.g.
A quote from David Weinberger
“People keep pretending they can make things deeply hierarchical, categorizable, and sequential when they can’t. Everything is deeply intertwingled.” So said Ted Nelson, the eccentric visionary who coined the term hypertext in the mid-1960s. In the third order of order, information not only becomes intertwingled, intertwingularity enables knowledge. And unique identifiers enable intertwingularity—although there can be so many unique identifiers for the same thing and at various levels of abstraction that the identifiers are all a-twingle also.
Posted 08 March 2012 - 10:53 PM
Posted 09 March 2012 - 05:04 AM
I have 3000 notes, made up of around 500 for work and 2500 personal. I have around 80 tags defined. Taking away the 20-25 used for categorising scholarly articles and recipes, I'm only using 55-60 for the bulk of my notes, at no more than two levels of nesting. My goal when assigning tags has always been to try to fit the note into an existing tag. If it doesn't fit, then I assign it the 'Misc' tag. Every so often I browse the Misc set and try to identify any similarities that might warrant a new tag.
However, I've been finding lately that ad hoc searches within my five notebooks yields the results I need the majority of the time. If I get too many search results to find the note I'm after, I might refine the search with one or more tags to make the list a little shorter. The only time I really need tags is if the note itself doesn't yield sufficient information retrievable from a search - notes consisting of photos alone (with no OCR'able text) are one example of this.
Perhaps, given that 'data' and 'metadata' are becoming indistinguishable, we should be referring to 'added data' instead. Each note's data, whether it be a photo, a pdf, an audio note or text, is only retrievable if we remember enough about it in order to find it again. The paradox I see is that while Evernote 'remembers everything', we do not, but we do need to remember *something* in order to retrieve *everything*. With a large number of notes, as EN encourages, there is no way of browsing the entire list to find a particular note. Therefore, we need to remember enough about the note required that we can provide a search term, tag or date range that yields an manageably browsable search result to fill the gap between what we remembered and what we want to find. So, when we create a note, we have to predict what 'added data' is required to find it in the future. The nature of this added data is highly individual and undoubtedly related to how our individual minds work. Some people use comprehensive tags (@jbenson2 if I recall) or dates in titles (@BurgersNFries?), while others put extra information into the note itself. The Evernote designers have tried to anticipate the nature of 'added data' by providing for tags, locations, dates of creation/updating based on their perception of how human memory works and we the users try fit our own memory schemas into this structure.
I'm thinking that a study of how people work store and retrieve in Evernote would make a brilliant research study....
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Posted 09 March 2012 - 10:45 AM
However when you really think about it - what's the purpose and outcomes of this?
Why do we want to organize things in the first place?
There are different purposes, e.g. with mind mapping, outlining - we use those tools mostly to understand things and etc. rather than to just find them later and while Evernote could also be used for brainstorming/outlining - it's not really what it's designed for.
In case of Evernote we usually organize things to find them later.
Now I think there are basically 2 main ways to find things - searching and browsing... Both are useful in different cases.
Tags/keywords are generally flat (even though nesting is possible, it's limited in usefulness and it limits you to organize tags in only a single way, more on that later) and are most useful for searching.
But sometimes you don't know what you're looking for and discovering what you want is at least as important as finding what you know you want.
So basically whenever we organize things in Evernote - we organize them for 2 reasons - to find them later by searching and/or by browsing.
But here is a interesting realization - whenever you use just tags to organize notes with the purpose of finding them later by browsing you're going to inevitably run into problems! I think one of the main reasons people want to organize notes with tags is to define some categories and then to browse those categories and to discover what they want, i.e. to discover things when they don't really know what they're looking for... in those cases searching is useless since you don't even know what to search for. When we do not know exactly what we are looking for, it is much easier to be able to broaden and narrow our area of interest with some categories than to perform some sort of random walk from idea to idea.
Now you can say that you can organize notes into categories with tags and then browse those tags and find notes by browsing - so what's the problem? You can even nest tags into hierarchies which is supposed to solve the problem of having a lot of tags, right? In practice though it still doesn't work.
Yeah, there is navigation possibility. But it's limited and also it's unhelpful most of the time, especially when you have a lot of tags/categories to browse through which is what you're going to end with anyway unless you just avoid tags/categories (which is also not helpful and doesn't solve the problem when you want to find information by browsing).
The problem with using tags as categories is that there's no way to conveniently organize tags themselves in multiple ways.
It is a problem because every time you organize matters in one way, you are disordering them in others.
Sure, any note can have multiple tags but if you use tags as categories then eventually you would want to organize those categories with parent child relationships as well, i.e. tags and sub-tags.
Otherwise browsing flat tag list is just as helpful as browsing flat notes list. The list itself becomes useless.
So this is why some people tend to avoid/limit tags I guess.
Nesting tags into hierarchies is limited and not helpful because every time you organize matters in one way, you are disordering them in others. It's similar to tagging a note with only a single tag so you have to make a decision about what is the most important attribute of the note. This is a limitation of a physical world though and it has no place in a digital world.
Btw on a side note - there is no one single most important thing in reality at all, everything could be the most important thing, it really depends on the context. For example at this moment when I'm writing this post - it is the most important thing in my life - but after that I'll move on to something else which would become the most important thing.
It's silly when people say that something is the most important thing in their life, e.g. even health or money and whatever. Everything is important, what's the most important thing really depends on the context...
But back to the topic...
Yep, it's impossible to organize everything in every possible way... No one person or group is going to be able to organize it in all the useful ways, hanging all the leaves on all the branches where they might be hung.
but we do still get value from organizing things.
The solution is to give up control.
Things have their places, not a single place. Doesn't matter if they're not in all of their places. The more ways you can find a relevant note the better. Link/group things whenever it's appropriate and helpful, don't attempt to interlink/group everything in every possible way.
Heck even amazon.com or wikipedia doesn't organize everything in all the useful ways but they still have categories and those categories are still very useful. You just don't want to rely on one thing only, i.e. either browsing with links/categories or searching for exact keywords. You want to do both. The more ways to find stuff the better but there is no best/ultimate way to organize everything.
This is how you solve the scalability issue, basically just give up control and perfectionism.
Evernote is good mostly for one way of information retrival - search. Browsing is possible and in fact everything could be done with some imagination.
But it's not possible in Evernote to organize things to find them later by browsing. unless you use workarounds. (which I do use and will write about them later, but in short - it's about using notes to organize tags and tags to organize notes, i.e. using both notes and tags as data and metadata depending on the context, this gives unlimited flexibility and makes it possible to avoid tags limitations).
Each note's data, whether it be a photo, a pdf, an audio note or text, is only retrievable if we remember enough about it in order to find it again. The paradox I see is that while Evernote 'remembers everything', we do not, but we do need to remember *something* in order to retrieve *everything*. With a large number of notes, as EN encourages, there is no way of browsing the entire list to find a particular note. Therefore, we need to remember enough about the note required that we can provide a search term, tag or date range that yields an manageably browsable search result to fill the gap between what we remembered and what we want to find.
"Each note's data, whether it be a photo, a pdf, an audio note or text, is only retrievable if we remember enough about it in order to find it again."
It's true but since metadata is infinite we always remember "something" about anything...
The problem is when you search for "something" that is a only part of the note itself. This is a problem because you might not remember anything from the note itself.
But If you add metadata to the note, i.e. define all the possible categories/topics (you could think of) it relates to and then also organize those topics into broader and narower topics then it's pretty much impossible to not find anything. It's really just a matter of time then.
"manageably browsable search result to fill the gap between what we remembered and what we want to find."
This really nails it in my view, especially when you consider that a search result could also tell you what you might want to search for additionally. In other words the search doesn't have to be for the note exactly, you could search for the information about the note, i.e. its category/metadata and then use this metadata to find the note itself. But to do this you have to use notes to define categories/metadata instead of and/or as well as tags, (this is just based on Evernote design though) this is what I'm experimenting with at the moment.
Might sound confusing but in practice it's actually not, the only confusing thing is when you try to define what a tag is and what a note is because there is no one ultimate way to define what is what, i.e. it depends on who you ask and when..
Posted 10 March 2012 - 05:18 AM
I would like to reply to some of your questions in hopes it may help in your quest.
I use less than 3 dozen tags, most are abandoned but I haven't removed them yet. You see, I started out with one notebook and tags for "everything". In retrospect, over time it seems I have abandoned most, but not all, tags in favor of notebooks. My current thinking about tags is that a few tags can help group things but adding a tag for every little thing is all but useless. In your example of the photo, IMO, who would benefit from a tag: Badminton? Is that to find pics of us playing, snips from the local store to buy a new set, physics studies of how a birdie flys, etc? It would be useless to me and that is assuming I remembered that we played the game on that trip!
The tags I use now are probably around a dozen, plus a date. I have tags for each month "1 - Jan" and for each year "2012". I also have tags for each member of my family that is relevant and certain select other people that are prominent.
I have a few separate notebooks but for the most part, the majority of them are in a stack called Reference (ala GTD). Within that stack are "Computer Info", "Food", "Legal", "Photography", etc.
I rarely browse my notes. I'd say at least 90% of the time I am looking for something I know that I used to know. Therefore, most of my use in Evernote is searching for some topic. I usually am pretty good about getting to the note I want via search and sometimes timestamp if I know when it was added so I often don't use the more advanced search features.
In the rare occasion I go browsing for something I rely on good titles to help me find it. For instance, I have a notebook of stories and quotes. I will sometimes browse through that to find a pertinent story or quote about something being discussed. I just search for the topic in that notebook or, if the topic is somewhat nebulous I will simply step through the titles to find what I need.
I add scanned documents, emails, etc. into my Inbox and when I move them from the inbox to their appropriate notebook I add the proper tags if applicable. If it is one of my active tags, such as Medical, I'll add that, the month and year tags when appropriate, the family member and anything else fitting such as Taxes. I don't always add month tags, for example, unless the item added is specific to a certain month - like an electric bill.
If I need to find something that happened on a certain month I can do that. I can find things relating to a certain family member. I can find what I need for taxes. etc.
The more tags the better is definitely not my method. Too few is equally unhelpful. Basically, if you need it - use it, but no more than what is necessary and useful.
If I add a new tag I will almost never go back and add it to older notes. The biggest exception to this is, for example, when I started using Month and Year tags - going through old electric bills is worthwhile to have those tags added.
I sure hope this helps in some small way and didn't just waste your time.
Posted 15 March 2012 - 10:14 PM
I think we all agree our "system" needs to be just complex enough to fit your needs. I am a bit OCD about things and have certainly suffered from tag-overload. Mommy told me not to touch the hot stove, but I certainly never did it again after I burned myself. Shame on me...live and learn.
Regarding note searching, it would be cool to see a "Did you mean?" or "Related Searches:" suggestion thingy.
Regarding the benefits of tags, for me it is the consistency of them. Believe it or not, one day I might tag something "email" and the next day "mail". There are a million other examples of this. By having a not-too-crazy list of tags, I am sure to use the same name every time. Also, tags can be like an umbrella over the concept of your note. Your note may cover a concept without ever actually using the name/description of that concept. Tagging solves this, but I guess adding this to the note body does as well, so...um.
Some of the ideas/concepts in this thread remind me of an M.C. Escher drawing (data/metadata, tags/notes), lol. This is one of the great things about Evernote. It is as simple or complex as you need it to be. I think beginners need examples and suggestions to help them get started. It's like martial arts for organization. Most of us need to "paint the fence" and "wash the car" before we are ready or can even understand what the true masters recognize and practice.
Regarding my organizational structure, I am experimenting with the who, what, when, where model. I can't remember where I saw this. All of my "real" tags are nested under who, what, when, and where. I know that every note I have should have at least one of each of these tags. However, some things have multiple what and multiple who tags. I've only got about 308 notes at the moment. A note might be tagged like this (!!reference #noWhen .anywhere @noWho). This note has a when, where, and who tag even though it really doesn't need it. I'm sure many will find this offensive For me, it's about following a process for each note I create. The only thing I am certain of right now, is that my approach will evolve
Posted 31 March 2012 - 09:39 PM
I want to reassure you that whether others may think it is offensive or not, the only thing that matters is "Does the system work for you?"! Anyone offended by your system is paying too much attention to others and should keep their noses to themselves. Now a healthy exchange of ideas about how to best do something is good, but condemning someone who wants to do it differently is not.
My "Was on, wax off" (see, I'm old so I refer to the first movie. LOL) way to introduce someone to Evernote is this:
Add everything you can into Evernote. If you ever need it then you can get it. It is easier to just add it than to worry about whether you will ever need it. Then if you have any need to group things consider notebooks or tags, whichever feels best. Then after that you should explore all the corners of the system and refine it to meet your needs and run with it.
I would caution the beginner, however, against adding 30 tags to each note to cover every little thing. For instance, I could add a lab report from my last blood work and tag it: Lab, blood, doctor, cholesterol, iron, sugar, diabetes, HA1C, triglycerides, etc. but the best thing for me is to simply label it: Jim, Lab, 2011, 12 - December. The rest of the information is in the note itself and can be searched when needed.
To me the beauty of Evernote is that it has all of these organizational tools for us to use in whichever way we want.
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