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Doctorow’s Memex Method

Apologies for the extensive quoting, but I don’t think Cory Doctorow would actually mind (too much). Pointing back to a 2021 piece on Medium (full post) and Pluralistic (condensed summary, podcast teaser) entitled The Memex Method. It’s sort of the inspiration for some of the personal content hacking I’ve gotten interested in over the last few month.

Blogging is the process by which I take everything that seems significant and fix it in my memory; the process of explaining why something seems significant for strangers is powerfully mnemonic in exactly the way that scrawling tones in a private notebook isn’t.

The fulltext, searchable, tagged database of everything I’ve ever given real thought to is how I synthesize whatever new things snag my attention into longer, more reflective pieces – which go into the searchable, tagged database, too.

From Medium Memex, combined with Pluralistic — the solo blog I started after I left Boing Boing — is a vast storehouse of nearly everything I found to be significant since 2001. When one of those nucleation events occurs, the full-text search and tag-based retrieval tools built into Wordpress allow me to bring up everything I’ve ever written on the subject, both to refresh my memory as to the salient details and to provide webby links to expansions of related ideas.

Not just because it created a daily writing habit, nor because it helped me organize my thoughts – but also because it is iterative, a way of structuring and auditioning arguments for an audience that refines how to present technical, difficult material.

I’m impressed that simply combining tagging with fulltext search can provide so much creative fuel.

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