We have created this abstract organizational concept called a directory/folder. It is a part of the skeuomorphism design. The folders we all see in the computer world are purely a conceptual tool for interaction, a way to conveniently organize files containing information we need.
We humans put things in piles, shelves, boxes, folders. It’s the only real way we can physically organize objects. But computers don’t store any physical objects. So why have we chosen this method of organization?
I’m not sure myself, but I boldly assume that it was the simplest and most computationally optimized way to structure files. It’s a staple of file systems up to this day.
While we still use this as a core concept in file systems today, software did take the initiative and iterated on this front, and so we built tagging systems. Another important creation was the link, and it took off as the primary way of navigating websites on the internet.
These two ideas were instrumental to various software projects. Tags and links are very ubiquitous, but note-taking systems, for some reason, didn’t use them until recently. They were hiding in plain sight. But once they did use them, they vastly improved the note-taking space, and helped create the “second brain”, “digital garden” and “personal knowledge management” movements.
Our thinking patterns do not revolve around organization or hierarchy. Thoughts are instead linked together. A thought can trigger another, and thoughts associate with each other through various mental abstractions. The natural way is to link.
Roam Research heavily influenced these modern note-taking programs using backlinks, references, embeds, and so forth. Backlinks can be created spontaneously. They can serve as pages as well as tags and categories all in one. At its core, it links your notes together. It’s effective, removing the organizational overhead of folders. Notes are easy to find through associations, and the experience is active, resulting in better recall and extensive use of the notes.
At the moment of writing, there are continual efforts to integrate AI into note-taking, so that linking pages together becomes more and more automated, leaving us to concentrate our energy on merely writing quality content.
The space is vastly improving. I am patiently observing its further development. The information age of today must be lived through effectively with better tools.