Exploring This Idea of Linked Notes from Experiences with Tactilis on the iPad

Lay Aside Every Weight (Tactilis Drawing) - Share on OviA good bit of the conversations here lately have been driving in an out of this idea that context should drive the way we interact and live out the text within the Bible. That literacy isn’t so much about reading as much as it is an ability to create and explore in between the points you are trying to relate to so that you can derive and teach facts and relevance. Now, there’s not much different about this kind of thinking/activity that’s not covered in courses talking about organizational management, knowledge management, time management, and even basic note-taking. 

What we are doing here is taking some of those principles and applying them to the unique opportunities and constraints within mobile and tablet environments. Its not enough to just have a list of items as we would with paper. We have to be able to see and manipulate the connections in and around those points – taking advantage of the tool, and embracing more of what’s valuable about our faith.

I’ve been talking about sketchnotes and showing some examples of how to go about re-visualzing notes in some of the larger sketches – having a larger overall picture that shows you more about a topic area as you zoom and pan. One of the apps that continually sparks how this can be done and done effectively is Tactilis. Tactilis is one of those apps where you can always say “if only it had…” but realize when you get into it that it has just enough to get things done and keep most of the tools out of the way of a certain kind of productivity. 

Most recently with Tactilis, I’ve been having an email conversation with its author on potential features and directions of the project. What I’ve enjoyed about this interaction is how he’s listening to people who have used his app, and not necessarily getting away from his central vision for it, but considering how others use it as means to refine what he sees and doesn’t see in his own use. In one of these email conversations, I walked through a Tactilis document I created, and what I think about in terms of features to add which would refine my workflow, and make more beneficial the application in light of its intended purposes. I’m sharing a piece of that email here now, because I think it would be helpful for some of you in seeing how we get from just talking about lists of apps to types of behaviors and the results they enable:

First: the 1st like has a reference to an item in the Bible. I’d love to be able to draw a marquee around that reference, and then have a command which points it to the Bible referencing, URL shortener Bib.ly, to a URL for an online Bible service, or to the search field within a Bible application on my iPad. For the 1st, there’s an API to do something like this. For the latter, it would require those apps being open to outside apps being able to link to it – not sure Apple’s policies on inter-app linking.

On the right there is a graphic. I’d link that to (a) the calendar (that little tag with the time on it would be where I would be doing that linking) and (b) to an online gallery of other artwork that I’ve created. One of the difficulties that I have now is that when I do these drawings on my notes, I have to save the picture to photos, then import into Adobe Ideas, then zoom to only see the picture so that I can export the picture only. Being able to draw a marquee and export the picture to photos/Dropbox/Evernote/email right from Tactilis would save a ton of steps there.

On the left of that graphic is the notes that I made during the 10am session. While its flat on the document, ideally, I’d love to be able to marquee and tag that section by time (10amnotes for that overall event). Then, you can see that there’s some text and directional arrows there: those would be linked to to referencing scriptures, and then also be able to be saved as a collected image which itself is tagged and able to be exported wherever.

Ok, so you are seeing now how I think (some) about layered content. Just one more.

The graphic in the bottom right of the document is actually off-subject of the rest of the note. This often happens when I’m in Tactilis drawing (I think of something but don’t want to leave the doc and start a new one, it breaks the thought/flow). This would be a graphic (maybe called an “aside” – taking from the HTML5 schema) which too can link elsewhere, but acts more like a pinned note. In terms of the scratchpads, this would be something smaller, like of like a limited corkboard of items (3-5 items) which are outside of the main scratchboards. They are smaller (like this) and don’t have the ability to be zoomed or do most of the other full-drawing tasks – but its able to be a snippet for later use. Perhaps it even has a slit-pin graphic like what’s here when its inserted into a document.

I’m pretty big on the linked items within documents. With such a feature, pages aren’t as needed. Being able to zoom in and draw more could take something like the graphics on this page and make them the notes themselves. 

Like I said at the end of that email exchange, a lot of what I’d like to do when I’m taking notes is about linking to other sources and making associations between different content types. When I’m able to do this, the actual creation process of making notes becomes it own adventure into the content. For example, drawings always spark contextual memories of what I was hearing, but linking that to the calendar, a larger art gallery, or even embedding its own set of text into it turns a simply sidebar sketch into something usable across several domains.

I know that we can easily find and talk about Bible applications that make the text available. But, perhaps we should also be looking at better linking to the way that we process, collect, store, and retrieve information we deem personally and collectively valuable. Over the years, do people get from the place of simply wanting to read the text, to wanting to do something more with it (if the initial app experience is pleasing)? If we started making apps from the notes perspective, and then linked into the Bible and other sources, what kinds of expectations could be reset towards retention and living spiritually, that look more like the ways in which people process life and want to learn? Or, what other possibilities for visuializing and hearing the Bible open up when itds not the translation that matters as much as it is the hearing?