(2020-09-04) Lehr A Metalayer For Notes

Julian Lehr: A Meta-Layer for Notes. Hey’s most interesting aspect is not its radical approach to email – but its fresh approach to note taking!

let’s talk about notes and my idea for a radically new kind of note taking app.

Hey has two interesting notes features

The first are so-called Thread Notes. These are basically emails to yourself within an email thread that only you can see.

I’d find Thread Notes super useful in combination with snoozed emails: “Show me this email again in [insert time] and remind me of [insert note]”

The fact that many tasks have external dependencies (which are usually linked to an email thread) is one of the reasons I believe that your email inbox should also be the place where you manage your to-dos. You shouldn’t need a separate to-do list app.

The second note feature in Hey are Inbox Notes. As the name suggests, these notes are added to individual emails in your inbox. Similar to Thread Notes, you can use them to quickly jot down things you need to remember, but they also help you to highlight specific emails.

Together, they remind me of one of my all-time favorite note taking tools: Post-it Notes.

Post-it notes serve two of the same functions that Hey’s note features offer: highlights and reminders.

What makes post-it notes so interesting is the spatial relationship between the notes and their respective context.

Why isn’t there a digital note taking tool that works like this?

Many notes shouldn’t live in a dedicated note taking app that you explicitly have to open and search. Notes should emerge automatically whenever and wherever they are most relevant.

What we need instead is a spatial meta layer for notes on the OS-level that lives across all apps and workflows. This would allow you to instantly take notes without having to switch context. Even better yet, the notes would automatically resurface whenever you revisit the digital location you left them at.

One use case that immediately came to mind when I thought about spatial notes is bookmarking.

We use different bookmarking apps or bookmarking features depending on the type of object we want to save for later: Podcasts are usually saved in a dedicated podcast app

Bookmarks are great to remember what you want to revisit later – but not why you saved something in the first place. I would love to be able to add notes to my bookmarks directly in each app so that I have some context on why these objects are important when I return to them later.

Ideally, these notes wouldn’t just show up in the one place I originally left them, but across all apps and websites that reference the (semantic) object I bookmarked. A note attached to a book I want to read in Goodreads, for example, should also emerge when I see that book in my Amazon search results – or when someone mentions it in my Twitter timeline.

People are a similar type of semantic object you could tie notes to.

Another use case for spatial notes are instructions on how to use specific software features or improve workflows.

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