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River (getriver.com): 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 https://gist.github.com/3417820.

@nickbauman
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nickbauman commented Aug 30, 2012

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:

http://danidraws.com/2007/09/19/make-your-own-sketchbook/

@thunderrabbit
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thunderrabbit commented Aug 30, 2012

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!!!

@azat-co
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azat-co commented Aug 30, 2012

You should definitely re-read it :)

@Apocryphon
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Apocryphon commented Aug 30, 2012

@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.

@andsve
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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!)? :)

@sent-hil
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sent-hil commented Aug 30, 2012

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

@johnantoni
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johnantoni commented May 16, 2013

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.

@localredhead
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localredhead commented Jun 30, 2015

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.

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