working with quotes and excerpts


I am wondering how others work with quotes and excerpts in DT. Specifically, I have two questions:

1) Scope of entry

Do you file each quote individually (the Steven Berlin Johnson method), or do you use a single rich-text entry per source, where you basically keep summaries, notes, and excerpts of a single source together in one database entry?

2) Organization and database structure

Do you file quotes and excerpts thematically or do you keep them all together? If you file them thematically, do you use replicas (to deal with overlap and to also file them in groups that include material for current projects)?

Currently, I have a single group called “reading notes” in my database, where I keep a single record per source. This is useful as a first stop when I need to refresh my memory about a particular source (for instance when teaching), but it’s not very helpful for DT’s AI functionality.

My file structure is such that I have a lot of overlap (I have some groups for ongoing projects, some for long-standing interests, and some for teaching). I suppose I could use replicas, but I don’t know what the advantage of that would be. (I already feel that I have too many “natural replicas” because I index all my drafts and multiple versions of papers and chapters).

While I admire the Berlin Johnson method, I am hesitant to split up all my files into thousands of small bits. I thought maybe I could learn from other users.

After reading that article, I started dreaming about untapped potential in Devon, and I experimented with using shorter quotes. At first I liked it, and I also had the impression that the results get a bit more accurate. I think that user kalisphoenix wrote a script that would allow him to automate the process of splitting up a long text file - every paragraph would result in one text file. This might be useful if you have many quotations and such, and if you are really dedicated to find them with the see also feature.

After a few months I grew unhappy with the bits-and-pieces-approach. Because, well, I had more trouble splitting up files than actually adding new content. While I am still quite selective about the content I allow into the database (noise in → noise out), I found it inconvenient to read if the document has only one sentence. So if I make an excerpt now I’ll put it into the database as a whole and mark interesting passages. When I read it later, I jump from marked passage to marked passage. PDF files go into the database in one piece, so that I can annotate them in SKIM.
While this is not ideal, it helps me focus on the content instead of over-worrying too much about the perfect organizing solution. Analysis paralysis is something to avoid.

I have three databases at the moment, for different contexts and uses:

  • one is for passwords, banking and money. It lives inside a password- protected disk image, so I have to click on the image alias first (to mount it), enter a password, and then click on the database alias (to open it), and enter another password for the db.

  • one is for my dissertation and anything related to my area of studies. A kind of “work”-database. Folder structure (translated):

(current projects, sometimes with replicas: usually this group is open in an individual window)
stuff I might look into someday: books I want to read, where to find them and why
(alphabetically-ordered sub-groups, like:
_Primary Literature
_Theory (subgroups like postmodernist_crap and other_crap)

  • the third database is for everything else, from cooking recipes to ideas for trips, holiday planning, ideas for blog posts, the weight of the cat (we had to put it on a diet a few months ago), articles about clicker trainig (helps cats lose weight and play piano).
    This sounds funny but the “serious” work with my database has become much easier since I also put the fun stuff there.

The someday-folder is important in this database: When I find some info about something I want to do or have one day (a house, for example), it goes in there. So, when I find a great investment strategy for millionaires without actually being one, it goes in there too :smiley:

replicas: Seldom, but this is just me, since I use index cards and mindmaps to structure my writing, so creating these replicas would waste too much time, that I need for long forum posts, sorry, for my work, of course…