Good Notes 5 – Surprised by Joy

Day 212 of Self Quarantine  Covid 19 Deaths in U.S.:  214,000   VOTE!!

As Professor David Socha and I were collaborating on a paper about “Observe, Don’t Ask” and its role in the software product development life cycle, he pulled out his iPad and Apple Pencil and asked if he could share his notes.

For 20 years, our medium of collaboration was a white board.  We would find a conference room with the biggest expanse of white board and begin a collaboration session.  We’d both bring several colored markers to separate our notes while we visualized our thoughts.

At the end of a session we would take photos of our notes and use those images as fodder for our next round of collaborative writing.

Yet, since March and the Pandemic quarantine, we’ve been severely limited in our ability to collaborate around a white board.  Now, Zoom is our medium of communication.  Instead of a white board we are usually restricted to sharing a web page or a powerpoint presentation and talk around the shared screens.

The good news about Zoom is that we can continue our collaboration remotely AND capture a searchable transcript through

Yet, something magical happened when David started writing notes on this iPad.  For me, it transformed the experience into being back at the white board.  We were fully collaborating again.  Could it be as simple as the pixellated bits on the screen or was it being able to observe and think at the speed of writing.  Instead of a complicated slide being blasted into my feeble brain, the beauty of handwritten notes allows me time to absorb and process the meaning.

Meaning and understanding at the speed of writing.

While Zoom has the annotation capabilities, it is hard for me to write using a mouse.  It is far more natural to write with an Apple Pencil on an iPad.

I am giddy being able to almost experience whiteboarding with David again.

I finally ask David what application he is using on the iPad.  Goodnotes he shares.

I download it.

I decide to do my morning notes on my iPad this morning instead of in my current Moleskine notebook.  For over 30 years, I’ve carried a Moleskine notebook with me where ever I go.  Today, I will try something different.  

I wanted to jot down some thoughts about a blog post on searching and a tool I want to build – Personal Patterns.  I create a notebook from a library of templates and start writing.  Unlike with a Moleskine, I can change the colors of my ink, or type something, or drop a diagram from my photo library onto a page.  I can write my notes or annotate a diagram.  It is fluid and easy.

I continue making notes for an hour without thinking about the transition to this new medium.

As I stop, I need to somehow save the notebook I am writing in.  I find the save button and also notice a search icon.  “Nah,” I say to myself.  “They couldn’t possibly be OCRing my hand writing and making it searchable.”  So I try searching for “patterns.”

Now I am bouncing in my seat being surprised by joy.

Then, I wonder if when I sent the PDF of the notebook to myself that it created a searchable PDF.  On my desktop, I open up the PDF image file.  Up pops all the instances of “patterns.”

Once again the iPad platform and a terrific app like GoodNotes helps me to shift away from paper to digital.  I was overjoyed when I was able to shift from paper based books to the Kindle digital format.  Now, I can do the same thing with my note taking.  My back pack just got lighter once again. 

As with all of the advantages of shifting from paper books, everything I write is now saved in multiple places (iPad, desktop, the cloud) and it is searchable.  I can find notes in my notebooks, just like I can find notes and annotations across my Kindle digital books and within Evernote.  If I could only get 30 years worth of Moleskine notebooks into GoodNotes, I would really be a happy digital native.

In the midst of our pandemic and all of our existential crises, I am surprised by joy once again with how much easier my work and my collaborations will be going forward.  

Thank you, David Socha!

This entry was posted in Content with Context, Design, Know Now, Learning, Lifelet, Software Development, Uncategorized, User Experience. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Good Notes 5 – Surprised by Joy

  1. buzzmodo says:

    Hey Skip… great post! I would love to take the time/expense/trouble to try to make this work. But the one thing I agonize over is that my handwriting has gotten so awful, and I type at 80 WPM, that I wonder if this technology would be a big win for me.

    The one thing I struggle with is understanding whether my awful handwriting could be turned into readable text. What’s been your experience with that kind of problem?


  2. Skip Walter says:


    Good question. That is why I was so surprised as my handwriting continues to deteriorate as I get older and as I try to write faster. Good notes recognized pretty much everything I am writing down. To be fair, I also picked a template that had a dot matrix so that I could slow down and write in a more or less linear fashion. But then I also did some angled writing and it picked many of those notes up as well.

    When I have tried these kinds of tools in the past, the other thing I would try to do is on the first page of a series of notes I would be careful to write the date, the person that I was interacting with (if any) and the topic as precisely as I could at the top of the page. By doing that I had some prayer of being able to get close to what I was looking for.


    • buzzmodo says:

      I recommended to a good friend that he buy the newest iPad air with the pencil. Once he has it, I plan to try both GoodNotes and Notability. i.e. and test them both before making the plunge. I like you have Moleskins or their ilk in every bag and I think on every surface. Given that companies were giving them away like Halloween candy, I have lots. But that also translates into not knowing where ideas are, and if search for something it’s like a scavenger hunt. Total waste of time. Going paperless has been a dream, but my handwriting has only gotten worse! The idea that you have a meeting template as a starting place is a good one. When the world opens up, come over for coffee or a beer.

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