Type WebPage
Date 2017-12-27
Tags note-taking

Progressive Summarization: A Practical Technique for Designing Discoverable Notes - Forte Labs

Capturing notes is a multilayer process. Work on each layer only when you are encountering the item for other reasons, so as not to waste time on useless information.

  • Layer 0: The original document.
  • Layer 1: The notes initially created.
  • Layer 2: Bold important passages.
  • Layer 3: Highlight extra-important bolded stuff.
  • Layer 4: Create a brief summary of the very important stuff.
  • Layer 5: Remix the ultra-valuable stuff into something new.

Frankly, this seems like a lot of ritual for "take notes and summarize them before making use of them." Three stages of highlighting in a row... why? Because in principle you'll know better what was really important because you've used it two more times? Sure, but you might as well just say "keep refining your notes" and "don't summarize too soon." That's fine advice: notes are a work in progress, because there's always more to learn, and summarizing too soon risks missing the point.

At a more fundamental level, the idea that you shouldn't bother doing anything with your notes until you're forced to only makes sense if you're purposelessly collecting random information. But most information we collect is probably acquired during some intentional process; if we've chosen our sources well, then the extra minutes spent on summary and such should be a worthwhile investment on top of the hours spent reading a book or otherwise researching. And if not, then we need to learn to pick better resources.

Name Role
Tiago Forte Author