Creating a commonplace book with DevonThink?

Query related to this thread, which I started as a new topic, for convenience of future searchers:

The relation between these queries is that a primary reason I’m creating this commonplace group is to find connections, and I want to maximize the opportunities to find those connections automatically, while minimizing the work involved in creating the commonplace book.

I use https://pinboard.in/ as my quick place to stash things. It’s a reliable old-timer that likely inspired raindrop. It also creates a cached copy in case the original source disappears.

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“Booleans” = lists of some sort? Dropdowns, checkbox, etc.?

A boolean custom metadata field in DT3 is depicted as a checkbox

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Help > Documentation > Preferences > Data and Appendix > Metadata > Custom Metadata.

I use DT as a “maybe-read-it-later” service.

I used to employ a variety of other services for this, though they all suffered the same problem: me! However, I’ve since recognized that I’m not going to change. My appetite for new headlines will always exceed my capacity to read the ones I’ve already found. So, I’ve come to rely on DT to address that issue directly. I save everything interesting, use a deliberate and systematic tagging system to give it some context, and then I let these finds inform later work through search or browsing those tags.

It may be that I’ll never directly use many of my finds. Still, I’m neither a librarian: I don’t want to make tough, ambiguous decisions about whether something meets an arbitrary threshold for keeping every time I find something to save. Nor am I a janitor: I don’t want to make tough, ambiguous decisions about whether something meets an arbitrary threshold for not getting trashed in some sort of regular clean-up.

This is the most stable and frictionless setup I’ve had. A couple of key mechanisms make it possible:

  1. I don’t sort things myself. I have an automation that automatically places new items into a year → semester group hierarchy, based on date added.

  2. I use a “closed” tagging system. I tag every item using an automation that allows me to choose tags from a few lists. This makes tagging quick and effortless, and prevents tag overgrowth.

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It sounds like you are exactly the sort of read-it-later packrat that I am. I think I will steal your system.

You have a group called 2020, with subgroups 1H and 2H?

Closed tagging is a great idea. How do you automate that though? Is the automation on both iOS and MacOS?

I think I’m going to need to make a habit to go through my clippings every few days at least, just to see what’s worth keeping.

My semester group hierarchy is 2020 → Fall (or Spring or Winter). It would be trivial to make it more granular but anything smaller than terms seemed less useful to me.

Indeed, I’ve set up the closed tag automation on both macOS and iOS. I’ll try to write it up soon, but roughly I:

  • create a text list of the tags I want to use, one per line
  • when the automation is triggered, pull the text from that text using the DT uuid
  • split the text by new lines
  • present the resulting options as a multi-choice prompt
  • save the selection as tags

The items stay in an “organizer” group when I first save them. Once they have tags, a smart rule automatically places them in a semester folder.

Very interesting. Thank you.

Do you do the automation with Keyboard Maestro on MacOS and Shortcuts on iOS?

You got it.

Here’s the raw Shortcut: https://www.icloud.com/shortcuts/dc633f6f7f2a45f1b9c60712f973bc18

Select a record → Share → If the record is PDF, select the “text” part of the record → Tag with Presets.

You have to replace the UUIDs in the dictionary about halfway down.

I’ll share the raw KM macro when I’m at my desk later!

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I have a commonplace database in DT3. I’ve set it out as a series of folders A - Z, another labeled ‘Quotes’ (because I like quotes!), and another labeled ‘Ideas and Words’ which are basically whimsical thoughts of my own.
I try to use the alphabetical entries fairly obviously as a main subject heading but use tags for additional subjects within the entry. It works well enough for what I want, but I’m not really pushing the envelope here, just collecting stuff as and when. Power user I am not.

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Whoops. Someone drew my attention to this thread and I realized I forgot to share the KM macro. Here it is:

https://axle.design/files/_Tag-from-presets.kmmacros

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I hear you. I used to collect Web Articles, YouTube videos and Podcasts without any context into a “Media” database. It quickly grew out of control as I was collecting “stuff” faster than I was consuming it.

I realized that I was simply collecting data for the sake of collecting instead of doing something actually useful with it.

Things turned around greatly during the beginning of 2020 when I discovered Readwise.io : It’s a service that stores your highlights from read-later apps like Pocket or Instapaper as well as Kindle Books and even podcast apps like Airr.

You can sync your highlights with apps like Evernote, Notion, Roam or even export them as Markdown files. I stick with markdown.

What I do now is that I export my highlights every week and then index them into a folder that syncs both to a DT database and my Obsidian vault. Metadata like links to the original articles, name of the book and the like are maintained.

This means that I can access this data via either DT, DT to go or Obsidian.

I am sure there are scripts to automate the last step to export the Markdown files from Readwise into the Folder I use for DT / Obsidian. I haven’t done any deep research into that yet. Hope that helps you

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I’m researching about this as well (just got to introduced to Readwise today). I was wondering how do you avoid duplicates of highlights exported from Readwise to DTP? It seems that the Readwise export feature only exports the totality of the highlights.

A belated welcome @hecastel

I hear you. I used to collect Web Articles, YouTube videos and Podcasts without any context into a “Media” database. It quickly grew out of control as I was collecting “stuff” faster than I was consuming it.

I realized that I was simply collecting data for the sake of collecting instead of doing something actually useful with it.

These are very astute observations - ones we’d all be wise to stop and consider. Gathering has limited benefits if the data is never accessed and used.

Thank You. These forums and community are gold. Really enjoy how people can come together around a great product like DT.

Now, when putting stuff into one of my permanent databases I ask myself 3 things:

  • Does this help me?
  • Will I need this a year from now?
  • Would future me be glad that I saved it?

If I say Yes to any of them, it earns a spot

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Readwise doesn’t export directly to DTP. It can sync directly with Evernote/ Roam / Notion.

They recently added an “Export as Markdown” function that I use to save my highlights as text files. You can pick to download all of them or only the newer ones.

Picking the newer ones makes sure that there is no duplication.

The way that I get these highlights into DTP is that I index the folder where they reside.

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Thank you very much!

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I deeply appreciate learning about this workflow and plan to start using it myself. One question: will the AI and classify features of DT work on markdown files? Or do those features only work on PDF files?

Yes, the AI on Markdown files, hence so will the See Also and Classify functions.

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