The Digital Diary Experiment

Posted by RichD | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 28-03-2011

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All forms of diaries and journals fascinate me.  I guess that goes without saying.  One of the pitfalls of this hobby is that it becomes hard to stick to one kind of diary when you are constantly attracted to new and different techniques.  It makes for a lot of false starts, I can tell you.  That’s why this year (it was a new years resolution I didn’t tell you about) I have decided to keep a simple, day-to-day diary.  No bells, no whistles and no rules.  I just wanted to put a date at the top of the page and go for it each and every day.

That worked until about the middle of February.  I was reading some articles online that talked about the simple elegance of keeping information in a plain old text file (.txt). It’s easy to update, easy to search, easy to copy and works on any computer, Mac, PC, Linux, even my iPhone.  It had an enormous appeal.  I mean, in my job I am sitting in front of my computer ALL day.  Why not do my journaling at my desk?  The more I thought about it the better the ideas sounded.  Not only could I keep a simple text file for my diary, I could keep it online somewhere.  I thought about Google Docs first but then I thought it would be great to be able to update it from my iPhone and I really haven’t found a good app that lets me edit Google Docs.  Then I remembered that I used an offline storage service called Dropbox (dropbox.com).  I could keep my text file there and then download it to any computer I was using at the time.  I would then put it back in Dropbox when I was done so it would be they’re waiting for me the next time I wanted to update it.  I even found apps that let me keep text notes on Dropbox from my iPhone.

I used this technique for a couple of days and found it was a bit clumsy.  I had multiple copies of my diary that I had to remember to take off of my various computers and the apps on my phone didn’t let me edit the text files, just create new ones so I had to spend time consolidating them later.

That’s when the “AHA!” moment hit me.  I was already using the online notebook service called Evernote.  It had everything I needed.  It was basically a simple text file.  I could organize my diary folder into months.  I could update and edit from the app on my phone.  I could access it from anywhere.  I could even take photos with my phone or upload pics from my other cameras that could be included in the diary.

To date, it’s working perfectly.  I keep a regular diary of thoughts and plans and “what happened today”. On my Evernote account I have folders for pictures and illustrations that I want to include in the completed diary.  Finally, at the end of the year, I intend on sending the whole thing off to Lulu.com and have it printed, pictures and all, into a nice book to put on the shelf with all of my other diaries.

Sure I still keep a notebook around.  Nothing beats a plain old notebook for on the go brainstorming and note jotting, but as soon as I make some sense of the notes I try and put them right into the Evernote file.  I am committed to keeping this entire year on Evernote.  I am already picking up some tricks that I can share with you in other posts, so I’ll be letting you know how things are going as the year progresses.

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