Austin Govella on the IA of Note-taking

Austin Govella is a user experience design lead at Avanade, a global professional services company. He’s the author of Collaborative Product Design and co-author of the second edition of Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web. In this conversation, we focus on Austin’s note-taking system and its relation to his work in UX design and information architecture.

Show notes

Show notes include Amazon affiliate links. I get a small commission for purchases made through these links.


Jorge: Austin, welcome to the show.

Austin: Yeah, I’m excited to be here. Looking forward to the conversation.

Jorge: We were just talking before we started recording, saying that we’ve known each other for a long time. But many folks listening in will not be familiar with you. How do you introduce yourself to folks who you’ve never met?

About Austin

Austin: Well, you know, it’s just about tax season right now. And every year I take great pride in putting information architect as my career on my tax form. But I work at a global consultancy called Avanade, and I lead kind of cross-functional teams and we design products and services and strategy for you know, big enterprises that kind of focus on Microsoft stuff. So, usually I just go with the easy user experience lead, as kind of how I introduce myself.

Jorge: When I hear “Microsoft stuff,” does that mean that it’s mostly for internal systems, for the internal systems of companies? Stuff like SharePoint?

Austin: That’s a common perception for sure, right? And that was definitely my perception when I started. At this point especially though, Microsoft is really just become just a big platform. So they have, servers and middleware and databases and front end frameworks. So you could be… from the design perspective, we are just on a platform. But, as with any design, the closer you are to the actual physical stuff that you’re molding, the better you are. The more things you can do, the more things you can see to do with it, that other people don’t necessarily see. So that really does make it more open. And then a lot of it is just digital marketing stuff that sits on top of something like Adobe Experience or just gorgeous websites or apps.

Jorge: Yeah, I’m fascinated by this phrase, “being closer to the stuff that you’re working with.” I think that’s how you phrased it. Does that mean like being closer to the implementation technologies?

Where the building hits the street

Austin: Yeah, I guess that’s being the proxy of the developers or technical architects you work with. But now, especially I’m really interested in the new emerging stuff that is coming out for workplace experiences, that’s where I’ve been focusing on the years. Being able to talk to an engineer or the Microsoft product team about how things are architected and the journey that that sets up for the platform or that particular product is… it’s amazing.

You can imagine, if you were like thousands of years ago and you’re talking to the first Roman engineer who’s designing a road, and you’re talking to him about, what do they see roads are going to be able to do and how difficult is it to make them? And how do you decide how wide they are? What type of grade do they go up and down? Being able to understand those questions means that you could then go and plot out highway systems, map them out for all of Europe, long before they’re able to build them. And so that kind of closeness with the Microsoft technology gives us the ability on the design side to do that.

Things that I could do that for example, when I work on like a Salesforce projects, I don’t have nearly as much familiarity with Salesforce. So I bump into a lot more… edges, right? You know, you bump your elbows a lot more. And that’s the same thing for any framework. I think any designer who works on any product or system somewhere, there is a platform they’re in and you get really just acclimated to which way the water flows, right? Where you can jump in and out and places where things are just immovable. It’s just a hard constraint.

Jorge: I love this analogy with the Roman roads. It really brings it to life. But the way that I’m understanding it is that the familiarity with the technology has to do with understanding its capabilities and constraints, which you do at the moment of trying to implement something with the technology. And in so doing, you can then understand how those capabilities and constraints might be brought to bear on other problems. So, understand it universally. Is that a fair take on that?

Austin: Yeah! No, I think that’s a fair take. And the only thing that I would add to that is, I’ve been reading a lot of architecture stuff lately and your background is in architecture, so I am… and I looked at Phillip Johnson, so I was reading something that Phillip Johnson said. But he talked about how his focus was not the materials per se, other than what the materials looked like. His focus was on how the building hits the street. Like that point at the ground where people are walking by and they walk in.

And that really blew my mind! That his focus was where essentially, where the building hits the road, right? And less so about the building. And he said as long as it’s feasible, he didn’t care. Like that he wasn’t concerned about any of that stuff. And it made me think back to back when I really did more kind of pure information architecture work, where I really was more concerned with where kind of the IA hit the user and less concerned about technology, like what the constraints were. I was really focused on that point. But since I’m doing broader design work over the years, I’ve become more and more concerned about the materials. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing per se, but it was just… I don’t know, it’s just interesting difference in approach that just struck me.

Jorge: Yeah, I share that concern. I’ve long said that information architects — and designers in general — need to understand the materials that we’re working with and the technologies that allow us to mold those materials, use them in different ways. But the reason why we are talking today is that we have a shared interest in note-taking systems. And I have gotten the sense just from the stuff that you write about on Twitter that you have, or are in the process of building for yourself — I think we’re all kind of in the ongoing process of building for ourselves — some kind of note-taking system. And I’m very curious, about what role notes play in all of this. You know, the work that you’ve been describing; what do notes do for you?

Reducing friction

Austin: They perform a couple of important functions. So, I think my focus recently on really understanding a system that works, that can remove some friction points is because my home life is… my home life is crazy. My wife has a chronic condition. I have a four-year-old right now. He’s no longer a toddler, so he’s less maintenance, but he was really premature. So, anytime he has a weird cough, we’re off to go see another specialist, you know, just in case. And then I have my day job. And my day job as a consultant being a more senior resource, I have probably more than one project that I’m working on. I have a couple of sales things I’m working on. I have capabilities, things that are coming like early opportunities maybe. We are discussing things and internal trainings that I do. So, there is a ton of stuff for me to forget, essentially.

So, at home, you have this thing where I have… I don’t have time for friction at home. If I want to sit down and I’m working on stuff for a website or working on a book, I just need to get to work. Jump right in. I’ve got 15 minutes, 30 minutes, maybe I have an hour, hour and a half. I don’t have time for friction. And at work, it’s the same thing. If I need to figure out when the last time was I met somebody or what we talked about or what the decision was or what the next action for some initiative is, the faster I can do that, the better able I am to do my job.

So, my interest is really been honed to a really fine point recently because it’s become critical in order to free me to function the way that I want to function. And maybe better than I functioned in the past, perhaps. And I’m getting older. I bet my memory isn’t as good. So, time constraints, my memory is kind of fading. So I’ve noticed a need… or I guess I’m hoping, I’m aspiring to assist in that will help me fill these gaps that I’ve been coming across.

Jorge: I would imagine that this challenge of switching contexts has only gotten worse during the pandemic when we’ve, for the most part, been working from home. Folks who do consulting work like we do, right?

Austin: Oh, no, absolutely. And to tie it back to notes, that’s actually the part… the biggest place of friction I’ve found with my notes in that we take different types of notes. Or, we note different types of things. Tasks. You note things in your calendar that are timed events. But I’ve always taken notes and scribbled in notebooks about design stuff. I’m a writer and I like to write longer form things. So, I’m always doing that. But for work, I’ve come across… I’ve always taken kind of like these daily fleeting notes, right? There’s a note about the project, notes about the meeting and notes about what I did that day. Because I have to record the time that I’m doing.

But I’ve noticed there is a massive switching costs going from being in the, “I’m taking these fleeting, reference type notes,” to switching over to wrestling with and swimming through the atomic-like thinking type notes, where you’re exploring new concepts or learning new things or making new connections.

Whenever I do my weekly reviews — and I don’t quite do them weekly — but I’m going through essentially my inbox and I use Obsidian and all my new notes get stored in that inbox folder. And when I’m going through there, I have to take two passes. The first pass is to go through and identify the fleeting reference type notes: notes for people I met or notes for meetings or notes were projects or things like that. I do a pass to file those away properly.

And then I have to do a second pass to go through and find the concept stuff because the decision logic I use to understand, to keep, or file, or delete one of those fleeting reference type notes is a totally different way of thinking than thinking about those idea information notes. Like it’s just totally separate brains. So found that to be… like that switching cost, just a different set of thinking there, is a huge, huge friction point.

Jorge: It sounds like the first of those steps has to do with some kind of triage, right? It sounds like it’s determining whether it is a fleeting note or a note that deserves greater attention or further processing. Is that right?

Austin: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right.

Jorge: And And then the second step, it sounds to me like it has to do with, perhaps making connections with other things — maybe categorizing it, maybe deciding where it goes into the system.

Connecting notes

Austin: I think that’s fair, and it’s probably the different levels. Like, if it’s a person and it’s a note that I’m going to keep then I know exactly where it goes. It’s just a reference that goes to my people folder, no big deal. But if it’s a note that requires more thought, then I have a default place for that, right. Just the default standard notes place.

But then there are places where I don’t like moving stuff there until it’s a little more formed, right? I don’t believe notes are ever final, other than references. But you know, if you’re kind of your thinking-type, atomic, or zettelkasten-type notes, I think those are always evolving, right? And they should be.

If it was one of those types of notes though I do want to have it be just a little bit more formed, I want to make sure that the title is making some type of claim so the title sums up to note, so at a glance, I know what it is. And then, it should connect to one of the other concepts somewhere that I have. They don’t always, but I mean, I’ve been doing this for a year now in Obsidian, so it’s very, very rare now that it doesn’t connect to something that I’ve been interested in before. So, figuring out how that works.

And a lot of times the connection is a missing link, right? So it’s a note that doesn’t — or concept — that I haven’t captured before, so I have to make… you know, in Obsidian you just make a reference to a note that doesn’t exist and it stays and it just continues not to exist. But it says, “hey, you know, you’ve got a link to this idea.” So, I do that. But that takes some thinking, right? That’s not just like, “oh, Hey! I talked to Jorge today. So I have a note about Jorge. I’m gonna put that my people folder, right?” That’s super easy. Requires no thought. And it shouldn’t require any thought. But those thinking ones are harder. Like that’s… there’s a lot of wrestling there.

Jorge: Sounds like those steps might require a different mindset. Like the triage step, I can imagine, can be done almost… not automatically, but like it’s a sort of thing that where I would put on… maybe one way to distinguish it is like, what kind of music do you put on in the background? Like for the first step, I can put distracting music on and I can still do it, if it’s just triage. But for the second step, I would need ambient music or something really calm. Like I need to be in a different mind space, right? So, I’m wondering if it’s something that if you do both steps at the same time or if you make time to do one and then time to do the other. You said you have a weekly review. Do you do both?

Austin: Yeah. I do them in sequence, though. I do a pass to do the triage of the fleeting stuff. And then I go back through and pick out a few kind of interesting idea notes. They take longer, so I don’t get through as many of them at all. But it’s fulfilling work. It’s the type of work I think a lot of people talk about notes as stuff they want to do, right? You’re trying to think about ideas and what they mean, their implications. So, that’s good.

Jorge: So, in that second step, you talked about making connections with other notes and you referenced linking, which in Obsidian… and I’m an Obsidian user as well. In Obsidian you can create what are called wiki-style links, where you’re basically typing and inline you create this link to this other note, whether it exists or not, like you said. You can also, when using Obsidian, use tags for categorization, and I’m wondering if you are using tags at all, and if so, how?

Tags, principles, and process

Austin: I use tags in three ways. Which is funny when I try in CMSes, it’s usually two types of tags for metadata on something. I don’t know if that’s a coincidence or not. But the first one like a status thing, and it’s really just binary. It’s, ” do I need to go back and touch it?” And the tag is “touch.” This thing hashtag touch. And that I can do a quick look at those. And those are typically ones that are left in the inbox, or maybe there’s someplace else where I need to go and add a topic tag or there’s something I need to go do, but it’s something straightforward and simple. I look at the note and get a sense that it just needs a little bit of cleanup.

The other type of tag is topic tags. But they’re very broad. So, things like… I don’t think I have “design” as a tag. It’d be too broad for the stuff that I capture. But, “behavior” is one, and I have one for psychology and some notes have psychology and behavior because those are… the behaviors are really a subset. But broad, broad swaths of stuff. And a lot of times those I use just to give stuff a shape, right? And so you can look at the graph, and you can turn tags on it and I can see… I’ve seen some times where, and this happened with psychology, actually. The psychology tag got really, really big on the graph.

And that told me that I needed to have… there was something there to go look at. And so I ended up making a… kind of a map of context, psychology, index-type note that kind of organized my psychology stuff. And so, then I had that note there. I’d have a note about psychology. I don’t typically have notes about topics like that. But those topics can also identify when something isn’t nuanced enough.

So, I had a really big “workshops and design thinking” became a really, really big note because I’m really interested in like collaboration and how design works there. And that actually… instead of signifying that I needed like a map of content, it signified that my thinking wasn’t nuanced enough. And so, I was able to go in and kind of identify… kind of pull it apart so it was cleaner, right? So I use tags — topic tags — in that way to help me get a sense of the shape of the information I’m working on.

And then the last way is I actually use… oh, I can’t remember his name. I use tags to identify the type of information. And this is a taxonomy that is… it’s well established. But whether it’s a fact, a concept, a principle, it’s a process or procedure, right? So it’s just a simple taxonomy. And the way I use those as a lot of the stuff that we read, or that I read at least is, it talks about concepts, right? So, for example, like you might, if you’re reading about food, maybe it’s that protein enhances the brain’s ability to focus.

For example, that’s just a concept. But in order for me to apply that, or make an argument, I have to turn that into a principle. I have to derive a principle from that. And so, the principle might be, “start your day with protein so you can improve your productivity and focus.” That’s a principle is something you should be doing. And you derive it from a concept though, and then if I’m really good, I can turn that into a process. So, I have a process for breakfast. You prepare food, you eat and clean up.

And then if you’re really, really good… if it’s something that I do all the time, like make personas or plan workshops or something, I create procedures, right? That I take and break down that process into steps 1, 2, 3. So, in this example, maybe that might be steps one to three for cooking an egg, to make a scrambled egg for breakfast. So… and you can come in any way, like you can pick up a process off a Medium article, “How to cook an egg.” and you can deconstruct that all the way back to the concept, or even to an underlying fact behind the concept.

I use this a lot when I explore a new area. I have all these concepts, but no principles. And I can derive principles… the principles helped me understand more about why the concepts are important. In the same way with a lot of stuff that I read about design, it’s more principles, right? So, psychology is probably more concepts, and then for design, it’s more principles, right? Because that’s just where we are.

But I can work on driving the concepts and that’s something I’ve been doing with design thinking, which has been really valuable because that’s, what’s allowed to be totally reframe my point of view on some of these topics to where that now I think design thinking isn’t about design at all. I think it’s about decision-making. And that design isn’t about interfaces in any sense, it’s just a scientific process for making decisions about fuzzy topics. That’s totally like antithetical to how I saw design thinking, design two years ago. But it comes from deriving concepts from the principles. And that’s been very valuable kind of approach for me.

Jorge: Am I understanding correctly that this process of going from a concept to a principle to a process to procedures is something that you document in your note-taking system? Or is it more kind of internal something that you’re doing, that you’ve internalized and haven’t expressed in your notes?

Austin: Oh, no, I definitely wrote that down. Yeah. And I try and write a lot of process down. I think… that’s something you see in the PKM communities, people will show the processes. In the beginning I thought that was just procrastination around, you know… you’re thinking more about the notes you could take than actually taking notes. However, given my time constraints, if I have a new set of tags that I come up with for some reason, having those written down somewhere — like, I have an index notes that is a list of my tags. — being able to come back two weeks later and just glance at that and refresh myself about where I was, is really important because, like I said, I have huge time pressures and I’m probably… my memory is probably starting to slide. I’m not that old, but I definitely feel like I forget more things than I used to .

Jorge: The reason I asked that is that I make a distinction between what I call work and meta-work. And work is, you know, the work of thinking or researching or getting things done. And then meta-work is working on the systems that allow you to do the work. And one of the risks that is inherent in all of this stuff is that we can end up spending more time — or a lot of time — doing meta-work relative to the work that’s getting done. And the phrase that people use for this is “productivity porn,” this notion that we’re fiddling around with tools rather than actually getting stuff done. And I’m wondering if that… and I say that because you also mentioned the PKM community and PKM I think means ” personal knowledge management,” yeah?

Austin: Yeah.

Jorge: And one of the things that I’ve always been a little wary of is that in working with systems like Obsidian or Roam Research, or some folks are using Notion, I sometimes go on YouTube to learn how to use these tools better and I see these folks who are spending like an inordinate amount of time creating these incredibly baroque systems, right?

Austin: Yeah.

Jorge: And then taking notes about how they’re taking notes. At which point I’m like, “well, you know, but is it really…” you know? Like I can put myself in their shoes and think, “well, would I be actually doing work here or would I be working on the tools?” And that’s a line that I’m always very careful to not stumble over. Has that been an issue for you or is it something that you feel like you have under control?

Structure as scaffolding

Austin: I feel like I have it under control, but I think it’s critically important — the meta-work is. And if we turn it back to information architecture, if you think about that information architecture is essentially kind of… it’s a cultural agreement among all the players in the system that you’re going to just follow these concepts. And you don’t have to design in information architecture for a big kind of enterprise internet, right? You don’t have to. Like, people just start putting stuff up there and giving things names and tagging stuff and searching for stuff. And it works okay, right? Not really well, but it works all right. But taking the time to do the information architecture piece, just get some agreement, right? 60 to 80% or whatever you get. So that more people know how things are supposed to happen.

But I noticed with note taking is there’s kind of two pieces, right? The first is that each of the different… when people will pick a note taking system, right? Whether they’re doing daily fleeting notes or they’re kind of doing something more atomic kind of evergreen note taking, they’re not really looking for a tool. They’re looking for a way, right? Because a lot of people are new to this. They don’t have a way already.

If you’ve been doing this for a while, then you already have kind of your way of doing things. You look for tool that they’ll let you work in that way. But a lot of people pick up a new tool like Obsidian and they don’t know where to start because Obsidian is just… it’s an IDE for thinking, right? It’s like a development environment for thinking. If you think about VS Code or back in the day we used Homesite …you open it up, and it’s just empty. But you would then go and build all kinds of sites and applications using this tool, and it’s empty.

Whereas a lot of other tools, like Roam Research and Logseq, and there’s another one called Reflect. They have a way. They start with the daily note and that’s kind of like your entry point, your spine. And so, if you can follow that way, that gives you an entry point into the tool. But that’s like a cultural kind of agreement you have. And I think that’s the exciting thing about something like Obsidian is you can make it fit your way. That’s also the downside though, right? Is that if you don’t have the way you have to find one and that that’s where the meta work comes in.

But I think the other piece is that if you don’t have the habit or you’re exploring new stuff, then you need some kind of structure and process. And it’s better if you have that documented. I don’t think it has to be All fancy, but just documented. I keep an index list that has most… it doesn’t have all my tags, but it has most of them. I documented like this… the information taxonomy that I use between from concept to principle to process… key things that I use all the time, I document so I can go back and remind myself if I need to.

But one of the things I’ve noticed with my templates, for example, that I use in my note-taking system is at the beginning, they were very much more baroque and ornate, had all these headers and sections in them, and I had a lot more plugins that I use to help automate different things. But as my habits set in, I realized I didn’t need that stuff. That stuff was really there to help me form the habit. And either it provided guidelines that kind of made sure that I kept pointed in the right direction, it was kind of in keeping with my goals and objectives. Or it created safety rails, to make sure I didn’t mess something up or forget something.

And as I’ve continued to optimize my system, my daily note template now is just the date at the top of the page. There’s nothing in the page at all. I used to have all the settings. And my template for like an automic type of evergreen thinking type of note is… I used to have all this stuff in comments about, “remember this metadata, and this metadata,” and now it just has three placeholder tags and a place for the title. Because I’ve internalized all that stuff.

And so all that stuff goes away. But if you internalize something and then you know… there’s something you’re doing, but you don’t remember why you did it this way, and so you try it a different way? And you’re like, “oh!” Something messes up, and you’re like, “oh, that’s, that’s why we did it this other way.” if that structure falls away and you forget it, it’s out of sight. So you just forget what it was or someone else comes into your system, they don’t know why you did things a certain way then you’ve lost. The information architecture is faded, right? If it’s not visible and referenceable, it’ll fade, or it’s more likely to fade maybe? Maybe that’s what we’re saying.

Jorge: I’m tempted to try to derive a principle here based on what you’ve been saying. And what I’m hearing is that — and I’m going to generalize — structure, as manifested in things like the templates, right? That’s like adding structure. Or you talked about Roam Research having this daily note construct, which is their structural nudge. Structure works well as a kind of scaffolding at the beginning before you have built the habits that make that structure unnecessary somehow. And going by habits might… would it be fair to say that it’s desirable to move on from the structure? Is that what you’re suggesting with that principle?

Meta-work for future you

Austin: Well, I’m definitely at the point now where, I thought so, right? It was optimized in that direction, but I’m not certain. And part of that is because one of the reasons that personal knowledge management so interesting to me is I work on knowledge management for enterprises all the time. Like these big enterprise systems. And, it’s always considered as part of like, how does the enterprise manage its knowledge? But if you really think about it from the human-centered perspective, the enterprise is just all these people and all these people are managing their knowledge independently and it all gets dumped into like a big morass. And you hope for some kind of common cultural conventions so you can all find stuff the same way. Or I can find your stuff the way that I would find my stuff.

If the only audience for your note-taking system is just you, even then, it’s not just you. It’s past you and future you as well. If future you won’t remember what tag you used for behavior then they’re going to use a different tag and then they’ll just make your system a little more janky, then it’s worth having the tags written down. So you can just remind future you about what it was. If that’s not as important, right? Then, you know, now your mileage varies for sure.

I think the meta work is really important and I definitely do spend some time on meta-work. Go around and trim the weeds and clip the hedges, right? I find that I delete more notes now than I make, which I think is very interesting. I delete lots of notes. I think that type of meta-work is important for maintaining the system, because it makes a system usable. And maybe that helps. I’m just kinda rambling now, but maybe that makes sure that you can retrieve stuff better? Or when you hit the system, you can actually just work without things being in your way. Kind of like mise en place in cooking, right? Your counter is just clean. I definitely don’t think it goes into like the productivity porn side though. Like, I’m not filming anything it!

Jorge: Well, I would expect that at the very least it would improve the signal-to-noise ratio, right? Because a lot of the things that we kept… and this is something that I suffer from myself. I try to capture everything and have it all flow into my system. And that means that there’s a lot of stuff there that is not as important or as interesting as some other stuff. And then when I get to that second step, which has to do with making connections, all of a sudden there’s too much information there somehow, right?


Austin: Yeah. That is a horrible, horrible, horrible, terrible problem to have. And I do something similar with my daily notes. I just kind of throw everything in there. And there are two things that I found that were really interesting. Like, I never understood backlinks. But, as I mentioned, my wife has this condition. So, on my daily note, I can just kind of type her name and link it. And then I put a tag for, you know, the doctor’s appointment or we picked up this medicine or… you know, she has seizures, so I’ll put like “seizure” on her notes and the backlinks I can search.

In Obsidian, you can search the backlinks to filter them. I can search for seizure and I can see a list of all the days where she’s had seizures. It required no effort on my part, other than typing the daily note that she had it. And I didn’t know I would need that later in the future. I mean I have a tag now, but in the past I would just type it as texts, right? And I could still search through the texts. But there’s a new kind of app called Subconscious. And they talked about how in the beginning, a lot of these backlink pages are really kind of just algorithmic. They’re just canned searches that let you see where something was referenced. And that is super valuable if you’re capturing everything.

I have another one that’s like a collection of user research books to read. I just tag it. I can go to that page. It’s just all these random books that I will never, ever read. I’ll probably buy more than I should. But it’s just captured. And maybe, maybe I’ll remember a book. Like, “what was that book called?” and I’ll have a good place that’s smaller to go look for it. I think that’s pretty useful.

The other piece that’s that’s useful about catching everything is the signal to noise. And this is just in Obsidian. You use DEVONthink also, so you probably are pretty up on the thinking. I used to get a lot of noise when I ran searches. And now, I just exclude all of my reference and daily note folders. So if I’m searching for something about design thinking or say I’m searching for personas — I make personas for a living — i f I search my hard drive or Obsidian for “personas,” I get so many results back it’s useless. I might as well be researching for “B” or something. But if I tell it, “do not search my daily notes folder and don’t search my references folder,” then it only searches all of my atomic evergreen notes. And that’s a very high signal.

I think a lot of tools didn’t let you do that before. And I’m pretty sure that some of the other tools give you that flexibility, but that is… that’s pretty amazing that you can target your search to specific places to help you tune your signal to noise. Because in other times, maybe I want to know when I talked about personas with a client. In which case, I would exclude everything except my daily notes and just search only those, right? To see the last time that that happened.

So, I think that is really… I don’t know figuring that out has really kind of opened up… I’m comfortable now capturing more stuff. I’m confident that it has a place where it will go. So, if I don’t need it, I can just totally slice it out. But it’s not gone, right? Or I can search it all if I want. It wasn’t like that 20 years ago. It wasn’t like that at all.

Jorge: Yeah, that’s the trick. And, I think that what you’re pointing out here and, this is probably a good way to summarize things because we are getting near the end of our conversation, unfortunately… is that as the tools to capture and organize and store our notes have gotten better and more sophisticated, we can bring to bear onto them these techniques, tools, frameworks, practices from disciplines like information architecture. Because what you’re describing there is changing the scope of search, right? That’s something that information architects have known about for a while and it’s really interesting to have this recognition that many of the same principles and tools and ways of doing things that we’ve employed for these large scale enterprise information management challenges can also be of use to us in our personal lives.

Austin: Yeah, I think that information architecture is focused on… making places inside of information spaces is really relevant, right? The different tools, they all have a different feel. It’s not just the entry point. Like, some places start with daily notes, some places are open; there is a sense of space there. And you fill that with your stuff, like when you move into a house, right? So, your living room feels different from my living room.

But it also affects the type of work you can do. If you’re using this to support work… I can’t write an Obsidian, it’s just a text editor. I go write in Pages, which is just a text editor. But there’s something about the space in Obsidian, even if I adjust the workspace that is not conducive to how I have grown up to all these years of writing, it’s just doesn’t work. So that space… the space that you’re creating, it really does have a sense of place. And that does have a huge impact on how effective that tool helps you be, right? Some people put everything in their vault. Everything, everything, everything. All in one space, all in one place. And I don’t know how those people function. I’m in awe of how they do that.


Jorge: Well, I hope that our conversation today can help them perhaps think more mindfully about where the stuff goes. Thank you for sharing with us how you’re doing it, Austin.

Austin: Yeah.

Jorge: For folks who might want to follow up with you, what’s the best place for them to go to?

Austin: The best place to chat is on Twitter @austingovella. All one word. And then, I also have a website, with a blog where I kind of ramble about stuff around UX, IA, and, some personal knowledge management a bit. But I love talking about this stuff. Or design thinking collaboration… you catch me on Twitter on any of those things, and I am more than happy to have a nice long conversation about any of those topics.

Jorge: Fantastic. I’m going to include links to all of those in the show notes. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to talk about this with you. It’s a subject that I’m deeply passionate about. And I think that, you are equally passionate about it just from hearing you talk about it. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Austin: Yeah, thank you. Thanks for having me. I really, really appreciate it. And you’re going to have to interview yourself one day on your previous OneNote workflow that always amazed me, that you had for like 20 years, I think, right?

Jorge: I’ve been experimenting with things for a long time. And as you were describing the evolution of your own system, I was thinking my system has evolved as well — a lot! And I consider the stewarding of a personal knowledge management system to be a lifelong project. I don’t think it’s ever going to be done.

Austin: Yeah. The meta-work!

Jorge: It’s the meta-work. Thank you, Austin.


Madonnalisa Chan on Notes for Living

Madonnalisa Chan is director of product management, taxonomy, and content services at Salesforce. I’ve known Lisa for a long time and admire her work as a taxonomist. But this conversation doesn’t focus on her work; instead, we discuss how she uses physical notes to manage her personal life.

Show notes

Show notes may include Amazon affiliate links. I get a small commission for purchases made through these links.

Read the transcript

Jorge: Lisa, welcome to the show.

Lisa: Hi Jorge! Thanks so much for having me.

Jorge: I’m very glad to have you on the show. For folks who might not know you, would you mind please introducing yourself?

About Lisa

Lisa: Sure. So I’m Madonnalisa Chan, and I am director of product for content and taxonomy service at Salesforce. Previous to that, I was consulting for close to 20 years, helping different companies in organizations figure out their information architecture and taxonomy problems.

Jorge: Yes, you are one of the folks in the industry that I have known the longest and you are someone who I consider is very mindful in the way that you approach the organization of information. And I was curious about how you manage your own information and what role the organization of information plays in your own life — in your personal life.

Lisa: I think one of the first times we met, we were talking about the tools we use to capture information. Like note-taking and just all the ephemera of life and what we do with it. And I think that was one of the reasons probably where you talk about that all the time when we meet. I think I experiment with so many different things, right? We have the index cards. We have the little micro index cards. We’ve got all shapes and sizes and colors of Post-It® notes. I have many whiteboards. I have an eight foot white board right next to me. I’ve got white boards all over the house, and I’m always looking at ways of optimizing that.

You know, with my library science background, I’m always thinking about how do I catalog this? How do I access it again in the future? And of course between the offline and online worlds, it’s hard to bring them back together. So it’s still stuck in my head. Ideally, it would be neat to have… I don’t know if you remember in Harry Potter the pensieve, where you can take all this stuff out of your head and put it in a bowl and be able to examine it and then see something that you didn’t see before. I want that, because I think that would be the easiest way to just capture that, all of the things that you touch or interact with or hear, or see, or read. And it’s kind of that dream tool I’m looking for. And I still haven’t found it, but I think all of us have been all trying to figure that out as well together with all the new tools especially.

And I think you had someone on your podcast also talking about that kind of thing. But what I think it comes back to is, you have to have some kind of self-awareness of what is the optimal way for you to learn. For me, I’m still trying to figure that out. Even trying to figure out even if I had auditory processing issues where I could be hearing something, but it’s not connecting, but if I read it, it connects. But then I have to hear both. Like, I have to hear it and read it and be able to interact with someone to really fully understand it.

So I’m trying to optimize for my learning. But I’m also experimenting, because I don’t know what’s the best way for me to learn. And so I think that’s why I have all these different artifacts, both digital and offline to just figure that out. And I mean, as old as I am, I’m still trying to optimize my learning. I’m even finding courses and there’s people who are like teaching courses! I mean, one of the most popular classes on Coursera is “Learning How To Learn,” by Barbara Oakley. So I’m like… that’s like, people care about that thing. They want to optimize. They want to be more efficient. And I likewise want to do the same thing and teach others and help others.

On my projects, in my previous life as a consultant, helping out my clients to figure out like, how can we organize this better? That kind of thing. So, yeah, there’s a lot of that personal-professional overlap of that optimizing for information management and learning.

Digital and physical organization

Jorge: I heard several different things there that are worth unpacking. When I hear library sciences and I hear index cards, the thought that comes to mind is like, “oh my gosh, you’re going off and categorizing everything and indexing everything,” and I don’t know that that’s the case. And I’m wondering, how you use index cards. What’s the role that they play in your life?

Lisa: Well, I’m trying to find a method that works for me. And I think, there’s so many books out there on that… was it The Shoebox Method? I can’t remember the name of it, but basically like, anytime you have an idea, you put it on the card and then there’s like a whole indexing program around that. But, I’m pretty much just grouping things at general categories. And then, when I’m trying to generate a new article or generate a paper or some idea, I just revisit some of those categories and flip through all the cards.

So, there isn’t any formal things. It’s almost pre-digital, all those photo boxes that you might have and you would group the similar, you know, if it was based on an event or a date, or certain people, you would group it. And I pretty much do that with a lot of my offline materials. And at some point it gets digitized. I either take a picture of it or I transcribe some of the notes into something like Evernote or some Google Doc, just so I can access it again, using search. So that’s the challenge of the whole, offline-online situation I’m in.

Structuring around projects

Jorge: I remember reading an interview or seeing an interview somewhere with Ryan Holiday, the author of several books on stoicism among other things. And, his name came to mind as you were talking about shoe boxes, because he used his index cards to work on his books. And, I believe that he has like a box per book. Like, every book is a box. And he was saying how he keeps ideas on index cards, which he then consults as he’s working through the book. And that’s how I think of something like index cards. Very related to a particular project, like writing a book. And I’m wondering if that’s the way in which you’re using things like index cards, and you also talked about digital notes. Is there like a structure around projects or is this more free-form?

Lisa: It’s structured around projects. So if I am planning to write on something, it really is grouped. I’ll have like a stack with a binder clip on it, and then I’ll look at old categories of cards that I might have. And then try to see if there’s any correlation or any relationship between the two ideas. I think if anything, it’s hard to capture, right?

Like, I’m not wandering around with index cards in my pocket all the time. Although there’s many authors who are known to do that. But when the idea comes down, I just write it down on whatever. Back of an envelope, scraps of paper, that kind of thing. But it is hard, right? Once you have it down, is the tool to help you remember the full jist? Or is the tool to actually capture as much as you can so you don’t forget? I’m still refining that. I don’t know.

If the idea is in relationship to something I’m doing and some event, it’s easier to remember. If it’s just a random idea, I really have to write down as much as I can. And I think there’s a lot of research already around that. Like, I’m reading The Extended Mind right now and it’s mentioning all the things that I’m like, “oh, that’s why I can remember those events better than I can just writing something down!” Because there’s a correlation between the outside world and movement and physically writing it and an event, and a memory versus just writing down an idea and there’s no context. So I’m enjoying, embracing that book and like, “oh, I need to experiment more about what I’m physically doing and the setting I’m in when those ideas come so that I can really embrace where that is in my brain.”

Jorge: Funny enough, that book is partly responsible for us having this conversation because, Annie Murphy Paul was on the podcast last year talking about the book and it was one of my favorites of last year. And it’s rekindled my interest in finding out how we’re all doing this for ourselves. How we’re managing our personal information.

Wrangling loose notes

Jorge: When you were describing capturing things — you’ve talked about index cards and scraps of paper and stuff — what do you do with that? Do you have some kind of inbox that you put them into? Because, for me personally, like I have sticky notes, and if I need to remember something, I’ll write it down really quick and I’ll put it somewhere, but then if I don’t do something with that sticky note, it will drop from my consciousness.

Lisa: Oh my gosh, same here. I actually have a certain notation scheme that I’ve been doing for so long, using like different colored pens, different inks, whatever. You know, the little Post-It® notes that are like arrows? I use that sometimes. If I have some kind of signifier on that note, by the end of the day, I will transcribe it, or take a picture of it so that I have it digitally. And then I process a lot of that, like link it back to some conversation or even from our conversations and previous… I’ll link back the email or I’ll link back the picture of what we were talking about or something into a running document of our conversations. So, yeah, there’s a mindfulness, but then there’s also like an action too.

Jorge: Where do you keep those running documents?

Lisa: Oh my gosh! I actually have a stack. So if I’m not doing Post-It® notes, I have, what is this size? I can’t even think of it’s a half-sheet. And I usually put my calendar at the top of the sheet and then what might like be my goals for that day. Like focus? What am I focusing on that day? And then as I’m doing my notes for the day, I just cross off things as it happens. And then anything that has an action item and I put a little box or I highlight it, I actually spend like the end of my day, just transcribing it into what my action needs to be. Like, “schedule an appointment,” or, “write up this document and put a due date in the calendar,” when I say this is a task I need to do.

So it’s almost like you’re revisiting your day. When you’re decompressing and then putting things away… it’s, for me, it’s a good transition point between the workday and the rest of my day? It’s like spending that, I don’t know, fifteenor twenty minutes revisiting the day, looking at the action items, putting them in my calendar to remind me to actually do the work and notify me or whatever. And then same thing with Post-It® notes, if I’m out and about in the house.

Jorge: And to be clear, because folks listening in will not have seen you show the piece of paper, you were talking about physical paper, right?

Lisa: Yeah. Physical paper.

Jorge: These are physical… and it looked like loose leafs of paper, yeah?

Lisa: Yes, I just get a big stack of them. And then I shred them at the end of the week and it’s very satisfying.

Jorge: Oh, so these are kind of ephemeral. They are of the moment. Is that right?

Lisa: Yeah. I noticed that when I take online notes, it’s not as… it doesn’t stick in my head as much. And that’s, like I said, I experiment. Like, what’s better? Doing it online, as it’s happening, or doing an offline, where I capture the distilled information? And that’s where I take action. But if I do online, I end up transcribing a meeting and that’s not useful.

So, I have to actively distill. And doing it on paper was better for me than in digital. I think we’ve talked about that there is this self-awareness and mindfulness. Like, what works for you? You have to keep trying different things. And I noticed I keep coming to these half sheets of paper. And I have a huge stack, but I just buy this huge box, and I feel most effective when I can write the notes that I think are important. And then my action items on it. So it works out, offline.

Jorge: Well, you were talking earlier about modalities, right? Learning modalities and how some of us learn more effectively using one modality than another. And I’ve seen research that suggests that writing by hand is better for recall than typing things out into a digital document and what you’re saying resonates with that.

Note-taking stations

Jorge: I’m wondering if you have a place in your house where you keep these pieces of paper? Because I’m imagining, in my case, if I did this sort of thing in loose paper, I’d have them all over the place and I would not be able to find the most recent ones.

Lisa: Oh, yeah, that’s hard. For me, the paper thing works at my desk. When I’m not at my desk, I have stacks of index cards and Post-It® notes, wherever I sit in the house. So, by the couch, I have a stash of pens and index cards and Post-It® notes. By the kitchen, I have the same thing. And then by my nightstand, I also have… so if there’s ever some idea. And then in the morning, if there’s… you know, I try to keep it on me, so, once I write it down, I like keep it on me. But it’s the best thing. Like, even the kids use it. Like they can take notes! They have a to-do list… that kind of thing. So they know that everywhere… there’s a station in the house with index cards and pens or pencils.

Sharing with others

Jorge: Sounds like there’s these little kind of thinking caches to capture thoughts, which is a lovely idea. You’ve brought up the fact that you have a family. And I was wondering how, if any, this notion of capturing information for later processing works with others? Or if it’s something that you do exclusively on your own?

Lisa: No, we have to do it as a… if anything, because of some of the learning challenges that one of my kids has, we’ve had to actively learn how to do it together. There are a lot of tools out there. One of the books that I recommend is, Scattered But Smart. They talk about a lot of the executive functions around young children and helping them learn how to organize themselves, how to communicate structure and time and judging how long something would take.

And we’ve had to actively help our child to learn what that means in the context of their learning and their projects. And so, mind mapping is such a big thing with that… and outlining and how to take notes and how to pull things that are out of your head and putting it on paper or even using voice, right? If I interview my son and ask him the same prompts that a school assignment has, he will talk and talk and talk and talk! It’s great! So, I can record him and we can outline, you know? And then play it back and then get all the notes that he needs.

But if you were to give him a piece of paper and a pencil, or even just on the computer, he’ll have a hard time starting. But if you engage in the conversation and ask the questions that the teacher will want to have, you know, have prompted and just have that as a casual conversation, he opens up so much more with such richness and vocabulary that he has a hard time putting in handwriting or in typing. So, a lot of these techniques that I do is kind of the things that we do with our children as well.

Jorge: It’s fascinating because it comes back again to this notion of identifying the optimal modalities for you to capture your thoughts and to synthesize your thoughts and articulate them, right? And it seems to me that what you’re doing for your child there is helping guide them to the modalities that work best for them, while also interfacing with the modalities that they need to employ to interact in school or what have you.

Lisa: Yeah.

Family vision board

Jorge: When we were talking about this earlier, you mentioned an exercise that you’ve done as a family. I think you called it a vision board? And we’ve not talked much about it, but just from the name of it, I’m very intrigued! And I’m wondering what that is. Is it something you can share with us?

Lisa: Sure, sure. So, many, many years ago, I came across this exercise of projecting what you want for your future with a vision board. You basically get magazines and cut out pictures and cut out phrases to kind of just project what you care about and what you want for yourself. Of course, when you’re younger, you’re like putting in a fancy car, a big house, or a picture of a family, or, you know, you’re… it’s a lot more material, you know? Like wants.

And, I transformed that exercise for something that would help my kids when they were really little, be able to articulate what their hopes and dreams are together as a family and for themselves. And the exercise starts first with helping everyone identify what do we care about as a family? What are our values? How do we spend our time and prioritize what we do together — or separately — to make us better people, and a better family? Or better than what we were yesterday. And when my kids were little, it was easy to get stickers and magazines and cut out words and whatnot and actually put that together as a picture.

So, just imagine a poster size board. In the middle are the values that we care about as a family, and what our goals are as a family. So, anything from like, “spend more time together,” or “let’s go camping more,” or that kind of thing. And then there’s four quadrants outside of that center that represents each of the family members. And we each have our own personal goals and things we want to achieve, and our hopes and dreams for ourselves. And so, each of those four boxes would represent pictures and words that we care about or sentences. And it’s not so much like a… it’s not really a checklist? But really to just… it’s a sign in the road to remind you like, these are the things you care about, and these are the things you want to achieve in the next few years.

So, I did this several years ago with the kids and my husband. And then we recently moved and before we moved, we did another one. It was good to revisit it because of course my youngest child didn’t know how to write when we did it the first time. So, it was just all scratchings and sketches and doodles and like stickers. But now he’s been able to articulate, “these are the things I care about. These are the things I want to do.” And it’s been great to help us organize prioritizing what we’re working on. Like, “are we going to plan that vacation?” Or, “are we going to read a book together?” Or, “are we going to learn a new skill together?” And it’s been a great… you know, like a totem for all of us to just reflect and help us organize our days and our weeks and our priorities from a values-based perspective.

Jorge: It sounds wonderful. And I was going to ask you about the frequency, but it sounds like it’s been a couple of years between doing the exercise. I have pictures in my mind as to how this might unfold, but I would really love to hear what the exercise actually looks like. If I were in the room when you’re doing this, what would I see?

Lisa: Sure. Kitchen table is clear. You get all the construction paper, magazines and scissors, and tape or glue. Just arming yourself with things you would find at any craft store. And you think… especially if you have little ones, just all the fun things that they would care about like scrapbooking paper or ribbons or whatnot.

So, that’s the materials. But the harder part is coming together and talking through what the values are, right? What are the things we care about as a family? How we spend our time, about kindness, about giving, about trust, about helping people in need, the connecting… like really writing it down and making lists and then refining it if needed. First time we did it, we must have had like twenty or thirty words that we put, and we happened to find stickers with those words. So, we were able to just put the stickers in a circle and say, “this is our family.” And our circle is bounded by all these values. And, in the middle ended up being all the things we wanted to work on together as a family.

Jorge: Again, this is sounding so lovely and like something that I would like to do with my family. I think my kids are a little older than yours, and I’m wondering about the discussion around values. When kids are smaller, the parents can set the tone for the values. But I’m trying to imagine how to structure the discussion around values in such a way where they, I mean, if nothing else that would be incredibly valuable in this exercise.

Lisa: It’s a learning process, right? Like you’re not only trying to itemize them, but help the children… Well, my kids are older now. Like I’ve got teenagers now. But when they were little, we had to explain what those values are. Fortunate for me, I used to be a Girl Scout leader — a Girl Scout troop leader. And the first things that we did as a troop was trying to identify what is the Girl Scout values. And a lot of them are definitely like those globally accepted types of values where, yeah! Of course that makes sense. And having examples made sense and resonated with my daughter because we were in the troop together. So, we used that jumping board to see this is the value and this is how you demonstrate it in your community and for others and for yourself.

And so, that’s where you start, right? Like just having the language and the examples and then how you would do it as a family. Like, what does it mean to be trustworthy as a family? Or what does it mean to express kindness as a family, and to others, right? You first start with your family, for each other, and then for others. So it’s a great way to introduce that, especially for little ones, you know? And then as you revisit the vision board, you can say, “are these still the values we care about? Or do we have better examples for how we can express these values?” and then that’s how we can find activities or think about our giving plan for the year and that kind of thing.

Revisiting the vision board

Jorge: You said revisit the vision board. Does that mean that you keep the old ones so that you can consult them later?

Lisa: Right. So we looked at the old one when we made our new one a few months ago. We looked at the old one and said, “are these still true?” Or have they become bigger or smaller or should we reshuffle things because certain things are more important to us now. So I think COVID changed a lot of those values, too. So we had to rethink… well, how do we express this value?

Jorge: I want to be clear on the format for the vision board itself, because it sounded to me like the values exercise was the kind of setup part, but then there’s the board itself, which you described as having a center and then quadrants for each one of the family members. And what exactly goes in the quadrants? Are these our visions for how we would like to live our lives or…

Lisa: How do you articulate the values for yourself? So, for me, I said I wanted to get healthy, right? So I would articulate in my quadrant a picture of exercising or a cookbook or things that would be related to being healthy. For my son, he wanted to learn how — this is when he was really little! — he wanted to learn how to tie his shoes. So, he actually… we tied a ribbon and he put it on the board. So, those are the things he wanted to learn. That was the kind of things… like for him, that was an expression of wanting to learn. And so, it’s having the value and then finding a picture or a word to actually like… how that would be expressed for your context. Like, as an adult, it would be different about learning versus a child, right? So, for me, it would be like, take a class, or read a book. For my son it was like, “I want to learn how to tie my shoes.” So that was his expression of we value learning.

Jorge: I’m hearing two types of things there. One is something that could be thought of as a goal, right? Like learning to tie your shoes is an achievement that you’re looking to strive for.

Lisa: How do you measure it? And what’s the… yeah! What the outcome is.

Jorge: Right! And the other is some kind of action plan because you mentioned taking a class, right? Which is like, “well, if I know I want to achieve this and I know that I need to, I don’t know, brush up my knowledge or whatever, then what can I do about it? Well, I can take a class,” right?

Planning next steps

Jorge: I’m wondering about the next steps here. I would imagine that for something like learning to tie your shoes or getting healthy, it can’t stop there, right? You actually have to take steps, especially if you plan to revisit this and see how you’re fairing against your vision. Are there next steps? Like how do you go about turning this into action?

Lisa: I think thats why we had to revisit it because a lot of things have changed over the last couple of years, right? The kids are older, they can articulate things better as their goals. But we always relate it back to what the values are. Since we just recently moved, I haven’t put it up in a central place, but we used to actually have it in our living room where we congregated. And so, it was the first thing you saw in the morning and it’s the last thing you saw in the day. But now I need to find a new place because we just moved in. We’re still sort of unpacking, but it’s definitely something that we want to make more accessible so that we can revisit and make sure that we’re on track.

So… and it’s for each person; they have their own goals and they ask us for help in those areas where they know they need help. But, yeah! It takes time. It comes back to the mindfulness, right? Like, that’s very important to us, you know? Do we do this together as a family? And it’s tricky! We’re trying to figure it out, because now I have teenagers. It’s a very different environment at home in terms of like, what’s a goal, what’s our values. And they perceive it differently than we do as parents. So…

Jorge: No eye-rolling happening about…

Lisa: Oh my goodness! That could be a whole different parenting conversation, but that’s all the process, right? Of growing up.

Jorge: Right. I want try to articulate what I’ve heard here. If I might extract a learning or a big takeaway for me, it’s that you’re using physical artifacts to extend your mind in various ways. In the case of your own personal reflections, you have your desk and these caches of notes throughout the house, right? Where you can take stuff out of your consciousness and kind of put it out into the world where you can interact with it and use it later.

And then, as a family unit, you have this artifact that you referred to earlier as totemic, which sounds like it has like a special place in the home as well. And I just find that fascinating because oftentimes when we think of the places where we live, we think of the practical purposes they serve: keeping us safe, keeping us warm, dry, giving us a place to sleep, a place to eat, et cetera. But then there’s also this… kind of like this conception of the home as an extension of our mind as individuals and as a group. And it sounds to me like y’all are using that to its fullest extent. Does that sound like a good reflection of what I’ve heard?

Lisa: Yeah, it is! It’s that embodied, I don’t know, memory maker? Memory keeper? It really is that informed life — it’s not just the tools, but how is it part of our actual life? And I think… I think it’s hard to imagine because it’s just something that… you know? I’m not going to share the image because it’s just too personal. But I think you were having, you wanted to kind of see it! Like I said, it’s all the values, and then the goals we had as a family, and then each of us had our own thing. And then you could see my little one, he didn’t know how to write yet! So his is just sketches and doodles. And I think somewhere I had to translate some of it too, so that we were focused, like someone has transcribed what he was saying in these things.

But, yeah! It’s a very important tool for us as a family, because it does inform our life, right? Like this is a tool that we’ve generated together and have agreed upon in terms of the values and then articulated it with pictures and words into a analog memory-keeper type thing. Or I don’t know what you want to call that.

Jorge: Which you’ve made a feature of the home, right? And I think that that’s a critical component because you talked about the role that this thing plays in reminding you of who you are and your values on a day-to-day basis. Not just when you’re doing the exercise, which I think is really valuable.

And I’ll say you did show me the image over Zoom here, but obviously I’m not going to share it in the show notes, but I’ll just describe for listeners that it is a beautiful artifact, clearly handmade and very crafty in the sense of like craft work, like craft paper. And you can tell that it’s been built lovingly by a group of people with a diverse range of skills, right? Like you said, some of them are clearly a child’s drawings, others are written lists, right? So, there’s a range there. Again, thank you for sharing that personal artifact. It’s really wonderful. For folks who might want to follow up with you, how can they best reach you?


Lisa: I guess LinkedIn would be the best way to reach out and/or follow. I share a lot about my thinking about information architecture and taxonomy and ontology. I sometimes share about things that involve just how we learn and that kind of thing. And up-skilling so… but definitely reach out if you are curious about this vision board for families.

Jorge: Well, I am so grateful that you shared it with us and that I got to spend this time talking with you about it. Thank you for being on the show.

Lisa: Thanks, Jorge. This has been fun.


Heather Hedden on Taxonomies

My guest today is Heather Hedden. Heather is an information management consultant specialized in taxonomies, controlled vocabularies, metadata, and indexing. She’s the author of two books, including The Accidental Taxonomist, a guide to the discipline of taxonomy creation and management. In this conversation, we explore taxonomies and why they’re important for organizations.