Tag Archive | The CommonBook

My quotes collection

I’m happy to be able to share my quotes collection [<link] with the world (actually it’s not just quotes but also questions and my own short writings, but I’ll call it ‘quotes collection’ for convenience). This is the latest feature of the CommonBook, the digital tool I created with my brother. 

If you have any questions or feedback, I’d love to hear them.

What the link does:

– It takes you to my public notes.

– You have access to my tag structure (as a kind of table of contents and a little glimpse into my mind).

– You can filter my notes (by searching and/or selecting tags in the side menu).

– You can randomize my notes using several randomization options:

shuffle notes (display notes in random order)
one random note
two random notes
1-6 random notes (as if rolling a six-sided die)
random tag (use by hovering over any folder in the side menu)

Most randomization options can be found at the top of the screen.

The randomization is controlled, that is, relative to how the notes are filtered. If you select a tag, you’ll generate random notes only from the notes that have the respective tag.

I use my notes as a resource (and keep only those notes that are useful in this way).

Some are inspirational – they inspire me and help me change state when I’m feeling low.
Some are reflectional – they stimulate my mind.
Some are mementos – they remind me of what’s important.
Some are practical – they have some kind of practical application.

I’ll be sharing many more notes in the future.

On Writing and Systems

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How do you decide what to write about each day?”

“I have a system for it.

I start every day by being creative before reactive. I start every day with writing.

The first phase is playing with ideas. This is essentially free association, mind-mapping style.

I start with something that’s on top of my mind [<link; short read], and/or with some random stimulation, and expand in all directions.”

“What sort of random stimulation?”

“Random quotes. 

As you know, I use quotes as a resource [<link; short read]. In my CommonBook [<link] I have a selection of quotes tagged ‘reflectional‘. These are quotes that stimulate my mind – I call this type of quotes, puzzle quotes. I generate two random reflectional quotes, and use them as a starting point in my exploration.

If I can’t discover my piece for the day this way, I proceed to the second phase: developing ideas.

I have all my writing ideas – ideas about things I want to write about – saved in the CommonBook. I shuffle them (display them in random order), and casually go through them, fleshing them out a little bit more.”

“So instead of going deep on a saved idea, you go wide, developing multiple ideas a little bit.”


We can metaphorically think of ideas in terms of stages of development, like a plant.

Ideas start as seeds.

As you develop them, they turn into seedlings. The bigger the seedling, the more enticing it becomes to write about.

Writing is the process of turning seedling ideas into evergreen ideas.”

Quotes as Resource 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How do you use quotes as a resource?”

“As you know, I collect quotes [<link; short read] in my CommonBook [<link]. 

Some of the most important quotes are quotes that inspire me. I call them inspirational quotes. I tag them with ‘inspirational’.

Among those, some really inspire me. I tag those with ’20’.”

“The 20 from the Pareto Principle (80/20)?”


When I’m feeling low, or when I want a motivation boost, I select the tag ‘inspirational’ to filter them, shuffle them (display them in random order), and read from them for 5 minutes. This has a powerful emotional flooding [<link; short read] effect.”

“Why don’t you read only from the 20%?”

“Unlike regular quotes, my 20-quotes have bolded passages in them – this is by design, to make them stand out. Discovering the 20 among the 80 feels like a surprise, which amplifies their effect.”

P.S. You can try it out for yourself here [<link].

Quotes Collector

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I collect quotes. My quotes collection has exceeded 6000 quotes, and it’s growing.

Without the ability to randomize them, to extract quotes at random, a quotes collection has limited value.

“You can search for them.”

“Searching is useful but limited. To search for something, you have to know what you’re looking for. When you have so many of them, most you won’t remember you have.

Randomness helps you constantly rediscover quotes. And, in not knowing what to expect, it creates a little surprise every time.

That’s (partly) why I created the CommonBook [<link].”

“What are the most valuable quotes in your collection?”

Inspirational Quotes: quotes that influence how I feel, by reminding me of what’s essential. Mementos.

Reflectional Quotes: quotes that stimulate my mind.”

“Like Zen koans and such?”


The most valuable are those that fall in both categories, that both inspire and stimulate.”

Two random quotes

The CommonBook

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the CommonBook [<link]?”

“An online commonplace book built around generating serendipity. I’ve been looking for such a tool for some time, and since I couldn’t find one, I made it myself. (Well, technically my brother did. I was the lead designer.)”

“There’s an opportunity cost to changing knowledge-management tools. Why would one want to make the switch?”

“I see Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) as a system. The CommonBook is simply another tool. For instance, I use both Obsidian [<link] and the CommonBook. They complement one another.”

“What is the central feature of the CommonBook?”

Controlled Randomness – generating random output from a selected pool of information.

When you select a tag or search for something, you narrow down the information pool. This allows you to control the outcome of randomization.”

“What do you use randomness for?”

“I use it to rediscover and create ideas. Ideas are resources. Some can be used to change state, or as mementos, or as creative fuel.

A beautiful creativity practice is forcing yourself to make connections between random ideas.”

Two random notes

“How would you describe the CommonBook in three words or less?”

“Random Insight Generator.”

Quotes as Resource

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“There are two types of quotes worth saving:
– quotes you want to find
– quotes you want to stumble upon

The first type give one-time value. You want to see them again only to provide reference. (informational ideas in my classification of ideas [<link; short read])

The second type give repeated value. You want to see them again and again and again. Either because they’re practically useful (inspirational or actionable ideas), or because they’re thought-provoking (reflectional ideas). Moreover, in seeing them again, they have creative potential – the potential to give birth to new ideas. 

The latter are the ideal target for randomization.”

“What do you use for randomization?”

“I’m using the CommonBook [<link] – the digital commonplace book I’ve created with my brother, which is built around randomization.”

“Are you saving the first kind of quotes in the CommonBook as well?”

“I actually see the commonplace book as a system

For the quotes I only want to find, I’m using Obsidian [<link].
For the quotes I want to stumble upon (and find), I’m using the CommonBook.”

The value of rereading

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the value of rereading?”

Creative Value.”

“What do you mean?”

“By Creative Value I mean creating ideas by connecting ideas.

If the created ideas have value, you’re Creating Value.

It’s a matter of timing.

When you read something matters. Depending on your state of mind and what your mind is primed with at the moment of rereading, you’ll make different connections. That’s why it’s important to constantly rediscover ideas.”

“What’s your strategy for rereading?”

Randomness. It allows you to constantly rediscover past ideas.

That’s why randomness is the central feature of the ComonBook – the digital commonplace book I’m creating with my brother.”

Inspirational Materials as Resource

Every day you have to feed your mind. (Tony Robbins)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I take Tony’s quote to mean two things.

Learn every single day.

Go to bed every night a little wiser than when you got up. (Charlie Munger)

Get inspired every single day.

You know how powerful words can be, how they can kindle the fire of motivation within you.”

“I also know that it doesn’t last.”

“Yes, the effect is temporary. That’s precisely why you need to do it more often.

Think of everything that inspires you as a micro-moment of positivity [<link; medium read]. All these micro-moments compound. The goal is to increase the density [<link; short read] of these micro-moments over the course of a day.”


“This takes some optimization design.

Think of inspirational materials as a resource. Don’t go looking for them every time. That is time wasted. Prepare them ahead of time.

Become a collector of inspirational resources. Over time, create your own powerful selection.” 

Be selective. Focus only on the 20% (Pareto Principle).”

“What is your way of doing it?”

“Whenever I encounter a powerful quote, I save it in my CommonBook [<link]. 

From time to time throughout the day, I extract two at random. This accomplishes two things:

I trigger a micro-moment of positivity.
I practice creativity by forcing myself to make connections between them.”

On design and assumptions

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“As a designer, I like to look at (and deconstruct) other people’s designs in order to learn from them. One of the questions I like to ask is:

What implicit assumptions is this design based on?

When it comes to social media, based on the design of their interface, one implicit assumption for ALL of them seems to be: information only has value in the present.”

“How can you tell?”

“For any social media platform, see how easily you can find and access past information.

Take Facebook for instance. Facebook is a black hole. If I want to find my own past information, I need to scroll and scroll and scroll. The more information I have, the more daunting the task becomes.

My reasoning is, if the design premise had been different, the interface would have been different.”

“How would you design them?”

“This is a long discussion (and one of my favorite topics).

Imagine being able to organize all your information into meaningful categories, and having a robust search option. This way, if you visited someone else’s profile, you wouldn’t have to endlessly scroll through their content (which, I imagine, no one ever does). You’d see all their categories at a glance, which, besides being a glimpse into their mind and organizational style, would allow you to easily explore those categories that are most relevant to you.

This is what my CommonBook [<link; long read] project is based on (among many other things).”

On Randomness and the CommonBook

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What is the most important feature of the CommonBook [<link]?”


“I view the commonplace book as a tool, so essentially practical. I’m collecting all this knowledge to use it. The commonplace book as a system achieves its purpose only in so far as and to the extent it allows you to use the knowledge stored within.”

“What kind of tool is it?”

A creativity tool.

As a Thinker and Writer, my Art revolves around playing with ideas. What this means, in essence, is making connections between ideas.

The problem is, the more information you have the less manageable it becomes. In my own commonplace book, in almost two years now I’ve amassed well over five thousand notes – my own ideas, and the ideas of others. At this rate, imagine how many notes I’ll have in ten years’ time.

How do you make very large amounts of information usable?

Many years ago, I used to collect [<link; short read] (digital) pictures. After amassing a huge collection, I realized I was only looking at a very small fraction of them. They were simply too many. That’s when the idea of randomness germinated in mind, and I’ve been playing with it since.

Since then, randomness has become one of my favorite design and creativity tools.

Randomness can be used to practice creativity by allowing you to make connections between ideas which you wouldn’t have otherwise. This can lead to some beautiful insights. I call this creative randomness.”