Ben Crowder

Blog: #notes

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Arc intro

The last entry in the navel-gazing series talking about my personal productivity tools.

Arc is my private notes app. It’s a Python app running FastAPI. The name is short for Archive, as in an archive of notes. It’s my latest app, too — I wrote it around a month ago, as a replacement for Apple Notes (to try to get back to more of a Notational Velocity or Simplenote kind of thing). And just to be clear, this is distinct from the digital garden notes idea I talked about earlier.

Overview

Notes are just text files, stored in a directory with UUIDs for filenames. By default it opens to a blank note screen, but that’s boring, so instead you get to see what it looks like when editing a note (with the bar at the top indicating the text isn’t saved — I originally implemented autosave but soon realized that I prefer manual):

arc-1.png

The search page lists the twenty most recently modified notes (dummy data):

arc-2.png

The search results page uses Ag under the hood (since all the notes are just in a flat directory for now, it was super easy and took maybe ten minutes to implement):

arc-3.png

How I use Arc

On my laptop, I have it open in Firefox as a pinned tab. On my phone, I have it saved to my dock as a PWA.

I’ve been using Arc daily, to keep track of things that I want to be able to refer to easily later on; normal notes usage, nothing too exciting here.

The future

Arc is still pretty new, so we’ll see where continued usage takes us. I’m happy with the plain text storage and with FastAPI, though. (Thus the plans to move over to those for the other tools.) It too is a small app, with around 500 lines of code. Maybe at some point I’ll switch from Ag to ripgrep, but that’s about the only change I can think of right now.


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I’m going to try batching links into groups of five from now on, since solitary links often feel a little too insubstantial for a post. Links often won’t be related.

Links #1:


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I recently came across Maggie Appleton’s article on digital gardens. Oh my goodness, this is delightful. I’m sure some small part of it is just nostalgia for the old days of the web, but the idea seems good and solid nonetheless. I love digital gardens. (See Mike Caulfield’s The Garden and the Stream and Swyx’s Digital Garden Terms of Service for more in this vein.)

Exploring some of these gardens led me to the idea of learning in public (also see Gift Egwuenu’s Learning in Public talk). Very closely related to digital gardens, of course, but a different angle to look at it from. It also nicely parallels the working in public idea I posted about recently.

I’m looking forward to adopting more of these practices myself. Not sure yet exactly what form that will take, but at the moment I’m thinking it’ll probably be the notes system I mentioned. While that would be doable with the website engine I have now, it wouldn’t be very ergonomic, so I’m probably going to retool. (And by probably I mean almost certainly, because I am an inveterate toolmaker at heart. I’ve written out plans for a new version of Slash, my blog engine, that will easily support notes as well as blog posts and web pages. More on that soon.)


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Came across Andy Matuschak’s note on working in public:

One of my favorite ways that creative people communicate is by “working with their garage door up,” to steal Robin Sloan’s phrase. This is the opposite of the Twitter account which mostly posts announcements of finished work: it’s Screenshot Saturday; it’s giving a lecture about the problems you’re pondering in the shower; it’s thinking out loud about the ways in which your project doesn’t work at all. It’s so much of Twitch. I want to see the process. I want to see you trim the artichoke. I want to see you choose the color palette.

I love this kind of communication personally, but I suspect it also creates more invested, interesting followings over the long term.

Yes! I too love it, and I’ll be doing more of it here from now on. (I think long ago I used to do it to some degree, but somewhere along the way a fit of self-consciousness took it out of me.) No luck yet finding the original Robin Sloan source, but if any of you come across it, let me know.

I’ve also enjoyed reading through the rest of Andy’s notes, by the way. Itching to do something similar here. More to come. (I’ve already been planning to rewrite the backend engine for this site — it’s old and decrepit — so this is a fortuitous time to come across this idea.)


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