Skip to content

Instantly share code, notes, and snippets.

Created August 24, 2012 02:18
Show Gist options
  • Save sent-hil/3444793 to your computer and use it in GitHub Desktop.
Save sent-hil/3444793 to your computer and use it in GitHub Desktop.
River ( Keep a programming journal.

One of my favorite past times is to look at the notebooks of famous scientists. Da Vinci's notebook is well known, but there plenty others. Worshipping Da Vinci like no other, I bought a Think/Create/Record journal, used it mostly to keep jot down random thoughts and take notes. This was great in the beginning, but the conformity of lines drove me nuts. Only moleskines made blank notebooks, so I had to buy one.

At the same time I started a freelance project. The project itself is irrelevant, but suffice to say it was very complex and spanned several months. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to use the moleskine. Looking back, all my entries fell under few categories:

  • Todo
  • Question
  • Thought
  • Bug
  • Feature

Clearly there isn't any technological reason you couldn't use Github issues or Pivotal or Jira. I tried those, but none of them caught on. The real value for me, was oddly not looking back at the entries (I rarely do), but writing them down on paper, especially the question or thought. I'd write it down, research online, test it and write down the results. It gets tedious at times, but at the end of the day its a real pleasure to look back and see how far I've come.

If you decide to start your own journal, here's few tips:

  • Keep a list of contents
  • Number each page
  • Note date & time before each entry
  • Write everything everything

I've been doing this experiment for the past 4 months and it's been very helpful. Some days I'd feel lazy or be excited to write stuff down, but inevitably the regret train hits me the next day. Nowadays I open the notebook and write down date and time first thing in the morning.

This is part of River blog. See

Copy link

YES! I do the same thing, but I can't stand how dark the lines are in most notebooks. I love the Whitelines brand for both lined and quad-ruled notes:

Copy link

jondot commented Aug 29, 2012

I wrote a CLI tool that saves and organizes notes as you work, on top of Gists for this exact purpose. Of course pen and paper offers the best UX, but command-line is a close second for me.

Copy link

I have a very similar system that I've fallen into after years of documenting nearly everything in a moleskin. I've used the Question mark and Exclamation's - but for "Ideas" I always combined the two - i.e. (!?) <--- idea

I noticed you use the same mechanical pencil I use so there must be similarities in tastes. In the end I found that I liked the Grid moleskins for engineering work (for the occasional diagrame, flowchart) but I felt the exact same as you about having lines on my pages because I write in my journal so the pages are landscaped sometimes - usually when diagramming.

Copy link

A cool way to amp this up is to get a Fountain Pen. Now you are rocking in style.

The bad news is that moleskin has reduced paper quality, so you may need to find an alternative to them.

Copy link

Never buy a notebook to write in. Always make it yourself. It's cheaper and it makes you think more carefully about what you're saying because each page (or folio, in my case) was put there by you by hand.

This is pretty much kind I like to make for myself, I've been doing this since I was 9:

Copy link

STOP THE PRESSES!!! You've been doing this for four months and that's awesome, but I've been doing it for N+1 years and have to add one more detail to "write the date" WRITE THE YEAR AS WELL!!!

Copy link

azat-co commented Aug 30, 2012

You should definitely re-read it :)

Copy link

@sent-hil Ah, I see! I know some people who swear by ink over graphite, and while the latter certainly fades over time, I just don't see how anyone can do drawings or sketches with ink, even if it's just part of a journal. They must have a steadier hand for wireframing than mine.

Copy link

andsve commented Aug 30, 2012

@sent-hil Which Moleskine notebook do you prefer? And which is the brown one in the photo also a Moleskine (if so, what is it called, need to order that one since it looks slick!)? :)

Copy link

@sweetfish The brown one is a Think/Create/Record graph ruled notebook, the black one is a blank Moleskine.

Copy link

the problem i always find is that anything you write in a notebook, moleskine etc., once it's written it takes extra effort to review it or copy it into something you can then process (basecamp), especially if your working with external sources.

so how i do things is use notepads and paper for sketches and notes to help my mind. anything i need to keep or use as actionable items i'll either put in basecamp via email or via the web client.

and then any programming notes i'll put in my note readme's via vim, and i've got a few macros for quick access to those.

i've got 9 filled moleskines at home and i'm pretty certain i have no desire to go thru them again, notebooks for me are temporary and just required to keep things in play during the moment, anything long-term needs a git repo.

probably super anal but that's just me.

Copy link

Just came back to this in 2015 :) This is timeless!

I upgraded my notebook stack to Rhodia - only because it has better paper than a moleskin. Still using this system to this day.

Sign up for free to join this conversation on GitHub. Already have an account? Sign in to comment