Well, I survived the typhoon. Actually we didn't even get any rain here in Ningbo although it was pretty bad in the south of the province. This week I've decided to finish with my part-time work with Web English School as it was just taking up too much of my time. My new job as Dean is really starting to take off and I want to be able to focus on that, and write, and the money isn't so important. It paid for my phone and got me a little extra, so that's ok.
As a writer I like to collect news articles, bits of science and odd words that I uncover on the internet. Previously this meant adding links to your favourites (and, latterly, delicious and bloglines) and forgetting about them. Then, almost inevitably, when you came back to read the article it wold be gone, moved or deleted, meaning extra wasted time searching Google for some remains of a half-remembered idea. Scrapbook for Firefox is a plugin that allows you to select a piece of text or even a whole web page and save it to your hard drive. It also has the ability to categorize your snippets into folders, add notes of your own, search and highlight text. All very useful, until you move to China and leave your computer behind.
Recently Google announced Notebook, an application that does pretty much the same as scrapbook but with the advantage that all your information is stored at Google, can be shared with others, and accessed anywhere with the internet. It also integrates with Firefox so additions can be made quickly simply by right-clicking on a selected piece of text or page, just like Scrapbook...
I've been using it a lot to collect articles and research information but I feel I haven't been using it all that effectively. Sure, it's a repository of information I want to be able to read when I want but what else can it do? This week I started using the enhanced Google homepage again and rediscovered the wonderful Word of the Day. I decided to add a word from the list to the Google notebook and realised that I may be able to use it more effectively. This morning I went into it and set up four different notebooks: Inbox, Words, Inspiration and Novel. Inbox is the default. Everything added goes in there. This saves me having to continuously alter which Notebook I'm adding to which is not an easy or intuitive process, especially from the pop-up window. Now, once a week I can go through the Inbox and file things into the correct notebook. Interesting articles that may be a starting point for an idea in Inspiration, words I like into Words, and research for my novel, well, you get the idea. Each notebook can also be divided into sections, which can be useful fo separating out specific information further. So now I can spend even more time on the web "researching" ;)
Google Notebook is still a labs (beta) product and does have some flaws and some omissions. There is AJAX implementation to create a nice interface but it can be a little unwieldy at times. Options such as collapse all are only available through a drop-down menu and they should really have instant access icons. You can create sections within a notebook but notes added just seem to be thrown into the latest section instead of at the top where they can be filed easily or, ideally, asking you which section you want the note in when you drop it onto the notebook. There is also no "tagging," a concept so integral to Gmail which would also work really well here as it is impossible to have notes in more than one section. The option to be able to quickly highlight text would also be useful as would being able to view the note full page or as a pop-out.