How to Store Information
My Crazy, Paranoid, Overly Complicated, but Functioning Way of Storing Information
We live in an age of never-ending information. How should anyone remember anything with all the information bombarding us every day?
Where to Store Information?
- How do you make sure you find the information you saved once again?
- How do you make sure you don’t lose valuable sources?
- How do to know which information is valuable at all?
People have different ways of handling information. Many people don’t care at all and remember nothing, write nothing down.
But I’m not one of these people, my brain functions well, I’ll remember that I read, saw, or heard information on a specific topic, but I don’t remember where. This frustrates me the most … the annoying feeling, when you remember you saw this video explaining how to remember everything you learn, but you can’t remember where you saw it (how ironic), or who created it. You could try to find it again by searching on Google or YouTube.
But this will not work in all cases. And the Internet is a transient, floating world. Everything will disappear.
I tried countless tools: Evernote, Google Keep, Apple Notes, OneNote, Browser bookmarks, Delicious, or Pinboard.
Likewise, I used Evernote excessively since its founding in 2008. I had over 15,000 notes at a time. But then Evernote got into trouble, the service corrupted user files (which got me 2 years of free Premium). Bad press repeated over and over again, with them recently needing to fire 15% of its employees and losing four of its top managers.
Nothing is forever. I decided to think about a new strategy.
3 Rules for Storing Information
I came up with these three rules for storing information:
- Never use a service, which does not allow exporting my content.
- Never store valuable information only on an external server.
- It’s fine to store less valuable information on an external server if it’s easily searchable and information can get back easily.
My first rule crosses out countless services. I don’t care how cool or awesome a service is, if I can’t get my information out, I will not use it … ever. This means I will not use it if I can export my files as PDFs individually. I will not use it if I can get a JSON, or if it’s complicated, and I need to buy an external tool, which tries to extract my information out of someone else’s tool.
Evernote had always a friendly you can export everything policy, why I used them. But because of rule number two, I can’t rely on Evernote.
That’s why I bought DEVONthink Pro Office last year. The software is around since the early 2000s. It’s not the prettiest contender around, and the mobile app is in its infancy (Update 2022: Both apps are now pretty and capable). But it’s powerful, thanks to its artificial intelligence and text analysis. It’s used by professionals, like scientists, teachers, authors, journalists, or lawyers. It has countless features of importing, exporting, converting, and sharing. You can index external files from all kinds of devices and store the information in databases, that you can save at any location.
Sources of Information
How does my information gathering look?
My main entry for information is Raindrop.io. I save every website, picture, link, or information (with a URL) with one click to Raindrop.io.
The regular information I consume via Feedbin in the Reeder app. For every article that I find interesting, I save it directly to Raindrop.io, which is easy with Feedbin. Each time I “star” an item, it gets automatically moved to Raindrop.io.
When I write text, blog posts, and ideas in digital form, I use iA Writer. It’s the best app to write text. Focused, distraction-free writing, Markdown support, and a few more nice features. I store my texts in iCloud.
I shoot photos of things I want to remember and store them in Apple Photos
(they get synced automatically to Google Photos). Selected photos I send from Apple Photos to Evernote.
Fascinating quotes I send directly from my Kindle to
Physical documents I scan with ScannerPro. The text will be processed with OCR and saved as PDFs to iCloud and Dropbox. From there I save them to
Evernote once a week . Attachments in Google Mail are saved automatically with IFTTT to Dropbox. These get saved to Evernote once a week.
And I use a Traveler’s Notebook Passport Size during the day to write down things I want to remember when I’m away from digital devices.
Automating with IFTTT
I created many automated tasks with IFTTT, which collects information from all kinds of sources and bring them to Raindrop.io. When I like, bookmark, upvote, or save on services like YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, Reddit, Flickr, SoundCloud, GoodReads, Spotify, GitHub, Medium, or Ello an item, it will be saved to Raindrop.io, including tags.
In Raindrop.io, I process the content. I have an intensive tagging strategy, which I apply to all items. Raindrop.io (Pro) will analyze the content and suggest tags, which is helpful.
Content, which I want to remember, I immediately archive after I tagged it (like videos, I watched or links to websites to remember). Others I read, when I find the time, which might take a few days or weeks. When I didn’t like an item or think it’s not worth saving it, I delete it.
Raindrop.io has a good full-text search, that is quick and searches not only for tags but for all saved items. Additionally, the content will be stored forever. Even if a website goes offline, you can see the complete saved article (pure text and HTML).
I use DEVONthink to save Documents, Images, Video, and other references I want to keep. They synchronize encrypted via iCloud between my computers and mobile devices.
When I read books, I mark important passages and pages. Occasionally, I draw a Sketchnote of a specific topic, to make sure I don’t forget the information. All highlights in my apps are automatically moved to Readwise.
I try to automate as much as possible with IFTTT. I save all information first to Raindrop.io. Furthermore, can find the information again with a powerful full-text search. Raindrop.io saves the content offline (not the videos), I don’t have to care if somebody takes the content down.
The most valuable information I save to DEVONthink.
If I want to remember information (and not remember where to find it), I use this well-known, boring way of remembering information: Write it down, draw it, make a doodle, or sketch. Read it. Read it again. And think about it repeatedly.