Phil Gyford


Thursday 29 April 2004

PreviousIndexNext External scaffolding

I’m a forgetful man. I could tell you the names of most people in my classes at school or college, but when it comes to the contents of books or plots of films I’m usually stumped. I’ve often wondered whether it’s worth plodding through several hundred pages of a non-fiction book when a couple of weeks later I might only remember a couple of ideas. I deeply, deeply envy people who can rattle off quotes and references as if Google is squatting behind their eyes.

So, in an effort to make something, anything, stick, I’ve started taking notes when I read non-fiction books. A few post-it notes nestled inside the cover are a convenient place to scribble thoughts and summaries. Later I type these up so I can still read them in the future, so I can search them, so I can back them up, and in the hope that the repetition will hammer a few more facts into place.

Given I have the notes in digital form I thought I might as well put them online; a couple of hours work in setting the weblog up means I can access my notes from anywhere and search them easily, making them a much more accessible form of external scaffolding (a term I picked up from Small Pieces Loosely Joined). There’s always a chance someone else will find them useful too. Having only done three books so far it’s hard to tell how things will settle down (assuming I keep this going), but I expect the notes will be a mixture of the points I found most interesting and attempts at a complete summary. We’ll see how it goes.

(Of course, there’s an RSS feed if you’re embarrassingly interested.)


So where are the Amazon links?

Personally, I make my notes on unruled index cards. I really should start typing them up some time.

Posted by Richard on 1 May 2004, 4:05 pm | Link

I'm sure you're aware of this resource, but have you thought about using All Consuming ( to track and manage your books? Along with Amazon links and other bells/whistles, it'll hold your notes natively or via trackbacks. And building on your comment above ("There

Posted by john kruper on 6 May 2004, 3:28 pm | Link

Better late than never - I've added links to All Consuming, and now ping, so hopefully things will Just Work...

Posted by Phil Gyford on 1 July 2004, 4:11 pm | Link

Good idea.
I have same problem too with books.

Btw, the url link to the "Small Pieces Loosely Joined" (URL: is not working anymore.

Posted by Visitor on 19 April 2005, 7:16 am | Link

Oops, ta, fixed the links now.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 19 April 2005, 9:22 am | Link

Commenting is disabled on posts once they’re 30 days old.

Some sites linking to this entry (Trackbacks)

Reading Notes
Reading (and Conference) notes by Phil Gyford.
At '...pickhits...' on Monday 23 August 2004, 12:48 PM