Knowhow stored in Notions and Google Docs will not scale (what if you need to change something?), we can’t do a search and replace. But why not use what developers have for ages for knowledge, too?
Similar to Markdown, plaintext files are future-proof.
Every device, including ones long gone, and ones not invented yet, can read and edit plain text. Whether future virtual reality or a chip you can implant in your earlobe, plain text will be there. Will Microsoft Word? Evernote? Notion? Maybe. Maybe not.
Plaintext files are:
- No Dependencies
- Easiest to convert
Here’s a good video on how to do that and work with a team, mainly with git and GitHub, but all with Plain text: The Plain-Text Team.
# Local First
An outstanding essay is on local first and how to resolve the best of Markdown with a local plain text file with a method called CRDT. As the article mentions, Towards a better future. As other technologies like Google Docs, Notion, etc. always lack something, CRDTs seem to solve all 7 points and satisfy the local-first ideas.
|1. Fast||2. Multi-device||3. Offline||4. Collaboration||5. Longevity||6. Privacy||7. User control|
|Files + email attachments||✓||—||✓||✗||✓||—||✓|
|Firebase, CloudKit, Realm||—||✓||✓||—||✗||✗||✗|
Source of above table from above essay
We have found some technologies that appear to be promising foundations for local-first ideals. Most notable are the family of distributed systems algorithms called Conflict-free Replicated Data Types (CRDTs).
However, based on our experience with them, we believe that CRDTs have the potential to be a foundation for a new generation of software. Just as packet switching was an enabling technology for the Internet and the web, or as capacitive touchscreens were an enabling technology for smartphones, so we think CRDTs may be the foundation for collaborative software that gives users full ownership of their data.
In these experiments we tried network communication via WebRTC; a “sneakernet” implementation of copying files around with Dropbox and USB keys; possible use of the IPFS protocols; and eventually settled on the Hypercore peer-to-peer libraries from Dat
# File over app
File over app is a philosophy: if you want to create digital artifacts that last, they must be files you can control, in formats that are easy to retrieve and read. Use tools that give you this freedom.
File over app is an appeal to tool makers: accept that all software is ephemeral, and give people ownership over their data. stephango.com
Creating innumerable digital artifacts, but most of these artifacts are out of our control. They have proprietary formats that make them incompatible with older systems:
If you want your writing to still be readable on a computer from the 2060s or 2160s, it’s important that your notes can be read on a computer from the 1960s.
All the apps will eventually become obsolete. It’s the plain text files we create that are designed to last.
Related Unix Philosophy
Read more on Markdown vs Rich Text.