Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Taking Better Notes

I recently realized that I should have been taking notes for awhile now. For whatever reason, I assumed that I would be able to retain the most import pieces of my technical career for reuse later when the time arose. What I failed to realize is that details matter sometimes verses conceptual memories.

I also failed to realized that I would forget these details quickly due to the amount of work done. Within six months of an implementation, looking back with another teammate asking me why I did something, I really had no idea. My explanation was that I figured it out at the time, got the solution working and moved on to the next chunk of work for the delivery. This is not helpful in the for my fellow teammate, it requires someone to figure out why something was done in order to fix it or reuse the existing implementation.

My problem has been that this always works for me, I can quickly figure something out and get moving. What wasn't fair is that someone else had to deal with something I did and I couldn't explain myself well. I felt like I didn't do my part to properly assist a fellow teammate.

This is why I want to try to start taking better notes. I thought source files, logs, instant messages, emails, documents, etc, would provide the all the natural reference I would need to create context and meaning. Sort of like "the source code is the documentation". This didn't help. We had all the artifacts, but no context to pull everything together.

So, what will I do? I don't know. I will try pencil and paper first, just like in college. I hatted taking digital notes for some reason. The act of handwriting felt more natural to me. There is also Google Notebook which I will try. It seems to work nicely with labels, search and exporting. Regardless of what I do, I suggest this exercise to anyone else as well, regardless of field. Be nice to your colleagues.

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