I've become obsessed with networked thought
2 min read

I've become obsessed with networked thought

The human brain is non-linear: we jump from idea to idea, all the time. Notes and journalling should work the same. In this post, I talk about networked thought and give some recommendations for how you can get started.

Imagine opening a note on your computer and within it you link to, and create, another note by writing [[something]] in square brackets. You now have a link from one note to another, and two notes.

Sounds simple, right? Nothing groundbreaking here, surely?

Upon first glance, yes. But hear me out, I believe this seemingly minor feature has fundamentally changed note-taking. I would even go as far to say it will change how our brains use and rely upon computers —as it pertains to supporting knowledge retention and plasticity.

With this new networked connection, note-taking has become an active, bi-directional relationship —rather than just a one-way dumping ground.

This is the basic premise of networked thought.

You might have seen some of the hype around apps such as Roam Research, Obsidian.md or Walling. The foundations of these apps are built upon networked thought. Billing themselves as your second brain.

Screenshot of Roam Research

Over the past few years I've developed a pretty good habit of writing daily. Sometimes just for as little as twenty minutes. Building this cornerstone habit of journalling and note-taking has had a huge impact on my productivity —I'd highly recommend it. It reduced the strain on my brain's short term memory, as well as my dependency upon it.

With my daily habit established, I wanted to level up.

I wanted to evolve my journalling and note-taking habit to a higher level of reflection and connection. Just dumping my thoughts into a note wasn't enough.

I discovered the idea of Index, Maps of Content, and other fluid Frameworks (IMF). Basically some frameworks, structures, modules and approaches that note-taking pros had come up with, to use in apps such as Obsidian and Roam. By using this IMF foundation, I was able to build a network of thoughts on top of which I could be creative, innovative and strengthen and codify my knowledge.

One of the core aspects of IMF are Maps of Content.

Maps of Content (MOCs)

MOCs set the foundations for a knowledge graph, linking together nodes of thought. They provide structure by acting as fluid, augmented layers.

MOCs have three basic stages:

  1. Collect - put related stuff on a new digital workbench
  2. Craft - have your ideas battle for relational positioning.
  3. Use - enjoy your new knowledge graph; adding, editing and evolving with time

MOCs are most useful for contextualising difficult-to-grasp concepts —a mental squeeze point. Proving some grounding for something that can connect two distant camps of thought in your mind. Typically people become overwhelmed and abandon something if they can't contextualise or understand it. Hence, this. is where I think networked thought provides unique value.

Imagine combining everything in your brain —creating a knowledge graph. Below I've shown a snippet of my '000 Index'. I'd recommend visiting some of the discussion forums, download a template, and start moulding it to best suit your needs.

Screenshot of my Obsidian IMF Structure

Final note

The world of personal knowledge graphs is still in its infancy, and I'm sure there are going to be new systems and approaches developed. The great thing about networked thought and MOCs is the fluidity. They enable your brain to think spatially, connecting seemingly abstract thoughts. Which may be the difference between being able to think of a unique solution to a problem.

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