The Best Context Aware Link is You!

First published on .

We are in a modern renaissance of hypertext thinking. I’ve written about the advantages of writing in hypertext and I personally have loved following the latest developments in Roam Research, Notion, and my favorite at the time of writing Org-Roam for Emacs. All these tools use context aware links that are aware of the other pages that link to a given page and allow the note taker to discover new connections they might not have seen before.

A graph of my org-roam notes.
A graph of the connections between my org-roam notes.

If you’ve spent much time on my website you’ll have seen that I take advantage of similar ideas to implement dynamic link previews. I also use this to generate dynamic tag pages that know whether or not there’s a relevant page in my notes to also link.

Maybe you discovered this website because you found it on a list of digital garden or maybe you too are interested in the growing Personal Knowledge Management space. I have found myself using a variety of these tools over the years — from using the Bear notes app, to using a Bullet Journal, to task software, to Emacs with a variety of useful packages, to just underlining and marking my books.

As I’ve jumped from system to system over the years I have taken things I liked from each system. And always after the initial shine of a new technology eventually I feel the tug to some new technology or back to an old technology that I left behind. Currently I am shifting from trying to use Emacs for everything to using a hybrid system depending on the situation.

At the end of the day all these tools in my toolbox are exactly that. It certainly does feel and look like a rennaisance of personal knowledge management tools, and I certainly look forward to continuing to grow my collection of org-roam notes, grow my bullet journal collection, and continue to turn my head at the latest and greates tool to come down the pipeline. But my brain is what ultimately makes the connections that matter. The tools I use help me keep track of things that that matter; they help me make sense of all my disparate interests — from the importance of community to The Lord of the Rings to Svelte and everything in between.

Socrates worried that writing would change the way we think, and our brains are shaped by the tools we use. See my notes on that or the book Reclaiming Conversation. But they remain our brains, shaped by our interests and whatever system I end up using I will be making connections not just with the information I put into that particular system, but with all my experiences, thoughts, and emotions. “No man is an island,” wrote John Donne and though he wrote that about community and the church it is also true of the individual. We are not made for isolation but integration.

Other things to read

  • How I wrote in 2020
    The tools I used to write in 2020.
  • Hypertext Writing
    Every medium has its strengths. There are considerable strengths inherent to a digital, web-based, way of thinking -- first and foremost is the sheer amount of interactivity and connections you can make.
  • Editing a Year
    "Good writing is editing." I know this is true. There are many thoughts that can be expressed more simply and many more that don't need to…


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