Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I had a breakfast meeting with Professor Hirotaka Takeuchi about my doctorate program and I was taking notes in my moleskine notebook. I was jotting down just names and keywords and I think the professor thought it was a bit odd. I realized that taking notes with the intention of googling everything later is very different than taking complete notes. I had never noticed that I had started doing this.


Well, I just finished going through my voicenotes on my cell phone... Mostly stuff to google.

I found it funny that I had never really thought about it before either. Heh.

I've never only taken notes as Google fodder. Might be interesting.

Holy moly.

I do it as well! Never noticed either.

Excellent observation, Joi. I also have gotten into habit of typing "g blah" into text boxes because I mapped "g" to Google. Mindbending technology indeed.

What's different/superior about a moleskine notebook versus, say, a spiral-bound pocket notebook?

I notice a lot of bloggers talking about moleskine notebooks these days, and I wonder what the hooplah is about.

Jim gave me a Moleskine for my birthday, so I'm new to this, but here are a few of the "features" I like. They 1) are very sturdy, 2) lie flat on any page so are easy to scan, 3) have good paper, 4) have a nifty pocket in the back, 5) and are the PERFECT size. There is also definitely a kind of "hey I'm cool" factor with them. It was funny because I was meeting with a bunch of big "J" journalists and about 1/2 of them had Moleskines.

So James, to answer your question, there isn't THAT much better than a sprial-bound pocket notebook, but it just feels nice writing in a Moleskine and they're not THAT expensive or anything. (And the rubberband is a bit useless, but cute.)

And since this is a item about googling, I'm not posting the URL for Moleskine... ;-)

Yes there is the "trendiness" or "coolness" factor, but so what? If something is of obvious quality and worth, is it bad for it to be popular?

And to expand on Joi's "features" list, because the Moleskins are high on features:
- form factor: fits in any back pocket or vest/jacket pocket
- no spiral: no squashing / getting caught / flimsy page binding
- page marker thread
- elastic to keep it closed (doesn't open up in your bag/whatever so pages are protected (not useless so, Joi ;)

As for cost... yeah I've bought little notebooks that were literally 1/10th the cost. Never used 'em. My Moleskin goes everywhere with me.

As for Google notes, even when far away from any computer/net access, my mind has this tick where it wants to submit a search query... ;)

Nice idea, Joi. Maybe I'll use it too.

The relevance of blogs as a medium is very notable especially in this Moleskine issue. Let's take a case from Finland.

A blogger who runs a featured list of Finnish blogs wrote an entry about Moleskines. After a month you can see everyone who blogs knows the Moleskine phenomenon and half of them owns one. So do I.

It makes you a lot more creative and gives inspiration when you know you're using the same kind of notebook than van Gogh, Papa Hemingway, Oscar Wilde and Indiana Jones's father!

Boris Anthony wrote:

no spiral: no squashing / getting caught / flimsy page binding

I concur that this is one nice aspect of the Moleskines’ thread-bound pages.
Spiral-binding as a page stack metaphor might have become passé ;-) Will we see the emergence of “thread-bound” NoteTaker skins ?

Anyway, the idea of collecting and organising keywords by saving, say, in NoteTaker the actual Google search URLs seems intriguing. You must, however, have the discipline to regularly copy your handwritten doodles and Google keywords from your comfortable paper notebook to NoteTaker. The search, outlining and organizing power offered by a computer-based information management tool might still make that daily effort worthwhile...

Interesting that for an increasing number of people, scholarship now begins around... oh, say 1995-ish.

It is an interesting problem of secondary orality that we are only capable of living in the present. Primary orality created cultural artefacts that directed our ears toward the past; literacy created cultural artefacts that "gave us an eye for an ear" and cast our gaze forwards towards the future. Now that we live and create artefacts for the present - largely ephemeral artefacts, which I content is characteristic of the effects of instantaneous communications - the implications for scholarship (and philosophy, as it turns out) are important to consider.

According to the meaning of "the medium is the message," your scholarship is affected by the unnoticed ground effects of Google, and that introduces a significant bias into your work.

This reminds me of when I was younger and first got access to the WWW via Mosaic Netscape. In school, I would daydream and jot down whatever came to mind that I wanted to search for. In those days, Google hadn't come around yet so I was using Altavista or whatever. How the future has come!

A lot of fun for sure :)

"And the rubberband is a bit useless, but cute"

...unless you tend to supplement your notebooks with twice their weight in miscellaneous loose scraps of paper. which i do.

I have to echo Boris a bit...

The Moleskine has been around simply forever, and for good reason, many of those reasons you cite. It is simply a quality little notebook.

My father began giving them to me when I began writing in high school. I still have most of them and they have held up in transit (the back of my car, the postal service of various countries) and storage. The only ones showing significant wear are those from my time in the Peace Corp... and even the heat of Kenya and Sudan could not melt the binding glue!

Sadly, even the mighty Moleskine cannot improve the notes, poetry or prose committed to them for storage. For that, I must point to myself in the mirror and say "J'accuse!"

The above is not a valid email address as the likelihood of us engaging in meaningful dialog is limited at best. It is not you, Joi, it is me.

I think there's value in tactile things. The Moleskine touch can evoke the same response as fashion house trendbooks bring to the mix. In my personal experience as a college writing instructor, when you force someone to stay inside the lines on a page with a writing instrument, you often help them focus on expressing clear thoughts. Works for me but we're not a Moleskine campus.

My PDA sits unused in it's cradle yet I am constantly scribbling things in my Moleskin. The "fiddle factor" of managing a PDA just got to the point where it outweighed the benefits.

About the only time I reach for the PDA anymore is some ebook reading or a game of Bejeweled. Otherwise it's a paperweight.

The joy of writing on quality paper with a fine pen is not to be underestimated.

Is it just a woman thing or can a guy have a bag to tote around all our "stuff"? I need something to carry my little digital recorder, daytimer, moleskin notebook, etc. Any suggestions? You can write me direct.

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