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Author Topic: Caro's Outline and the Limitations of Software Outliners  (Read 1239 times)
Paul Keith
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« on: May 26, 2012, 01:54:53 AM »

Again, copied from OutlinerSoftware.com: http://www.outlinersoftwa...4/0/robert-caros-outliner

Screenshot: http://www.nytimes.com/sl...obert-caro-process-7.html
Web service mentioned: http://www.spaaze.com/home

Quote from: Mark
On a corkboard covering the wall beside Caro?s desk, he keeps an outline, pinned up on legal-size sheets, of “The Years of Lyndon Johnson.” It’s not a classic outline, with indentations and numbered headings and subheadings, but a maze of sentences and paragraphs and notes to himself. These days, part of the top row is gone: the empty spaces are where the pages mapping the new book used to be. But there are several rows left to go, and 13 additional pages that won?t fit on the wall until yet more come down. Somewhere on those sheets, already written, is the very last line of “The Years of Lyndon Johnson,” whatever volume that turns out to be. I begged him more than once, but Caro wouldn’t tell me what that line says.

Quote from: Dr Andus
Yes, this sort of large scale visualisation is one area where computer programmes are at a disadvantage. I wonder if something similar could be achieved in the near future using projectors? I suppose we already have electronic whiteboards which are fairly big and if outliner software were supporting them, could be used similarly. Once we will be in the brave new world of wall-sized computer screens like in that Tom Cruise movie, this will be a piece of cake…

The sad part is: this will be fixed by the Ipads and the Androids.

Sad because touch screen will motivate more doodling than information management when to me the greater problem is a "cue-based" usability type of mechanic.

For example, many inspirations come from your body feeling thirsty after taking a side glance at an empty cup which then makes you stand up, grab a cup and provide a brief mulling of your work.

It's this same principle which gives heart to Caro's Outline (from my perspective) and without it, this is just a messy corkboard.

To get an idea of what I mean from a non-PIM standpoint, install this on top of Google Chrome and read a book with it. It won't revolutionize/maximize your reading experience (especially compared to e-ink technology) but as you can see the curl provides a different "fauna" to reading from a basic scroll or text highlighter scrolling or even just page flip animations. IMO that's the beauty of Caro's outline which is why I disagree with dan7000's comment:

Quote
Caro’s system would be totally unworkable for me because of 1) its inefficiency and time requirements; and 2) its volume limitations.

First, anything that requires you to write by hand is slow.  Typing is much faster.  Plus, if you write by hand you then have to re-copy everything into a computer.  I think this really points up Dr. Andus’s point that this guy is just very privileged.  He has four years to write a book so he can use the absolutely slowest method of outlining (handwriting and re-copying) regardless of its inefficiencies.  He has no deadlines so efficiency is a non-issue.

Second, looking at those pictures, what NYT calls a “painstaking” and “detailed” outline is nothing compared to outlines I regularly generate.  He has 30 pages for a whole book.  Yikes.  I have outlines 3X that long.  His system simply couldn’t accommodate a truly detailed outline.  NYT also says that he has filing cabinets full of notes and references.  That gets back to efficiency: keeping that stuff in evernote or even searchable PDFs makes it thousands of times faster to find what you need when looking through your references.  But again, the guy has all the time he needs.

Ultimately, even if I had all the time in the world for a project I can’t imagine working his way when we have computer resources available.  The inefficiency would drive me crazy. Maybe he’s just stuck in his ways.
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