We hosted Part 1 of a talk series called Tools for Thought Interchange on May 27th, 2021. Tools for Thought — also known as second brains, digital gardens, or simply personal note taking apps — is seeing a lot of interest right now, with more being built every day. The question we posed was: how do we work on interchange between these systems?

Not just import or export (although those play a role as well). Rather, can we work on ways to interchange data between systems in a way that preserves the unique capabilities of each system, while also allowing users and developers to more easily use different tools to work with their own data?

It became clear that many people were interested. We talked to a number of speakers about presenting, and ideally it will turn it into a community of interest and speaker series of its own, distinct from our Fission Tech Talk Thursdays.

Fission Building Blocks for Tools for Thought

Fission provides a Webnative SDK for developers that provides portable identity, end-to-end encrypted data & file storage, and web publishing today. This is perfect for the peace of mind of your important second brain notes, without being stuck in a single SaaS database.

On the public side, the permanent content addressing and graph structure of the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) has the potential to be a commons network that helps with annotation and linking of tools for thought resources.

TiddlyWiki already has a Fission enabled app, and previous presenters like Kosmik App are also building on IPFS for global data.

If this sounds interesting, drop by the Fission Discord chat to find out more »

Part 1 Presentations

Here are the presentations, notes, and video from Part 1. Join us for Part 2 on June 3rd »

Blaine Cook: atJSON as potential format for interchange

Blaine Cook kicked us off as the main presentation for the first event. He has been working at Condé Nast on atJSON, which has this to say in its GitHub README:

For Condé Nast, it is essential for our stories to be a format that doesn’t age quickly – we have over a hundred years of articles from publications across the world. It is extremely important for us to be able to put these stories written for digital media in our archive for the future. Many current content formats do not strive for rigorousness in this, instead tying the constraints of the format to the current platform of choice. When constructing this format, we chose to separate the original text from the data associated for this purpose.

Said perhaps a bit more succinctly, atJSON is designed to be a "100 year document format".

Jeremy Ruston, TiddlyWiki

Jeremy showed some in progress work on transforming ePUB into TiddlyWiki format for in browser annotation and linking, which you can try out online at twpub viewer.

TiddlyWiki already supports multi formats, and using something like atJSON as an interchange format would allow for the ePUB code to be used by multiple projects. Maybe this is a good starting point for some shared code?

Gordon Brander, Subconscious

Gordon is building a new tool for thought called Subconscious, and walked us through the design of Subtext, a new type of markup, designed for note taking.

Christina Bowen, Social Roots

Christina Bowen did an amazing job rounding out the presentations with a discussion about the usage of notes and note-taking tools for cross-group coordination and collaborative work to address social mess problems. Socialroots is a worker-owned platform cooperative, the first coop to receive funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). They are currently researching healthy teams and social coordination, especially around things like food, climate, health.


At almost 2 hours long, this video has a lot to get through. It was fantastic to have these three great presenters, as well as an active and engaged audience who themselves added tons of questions and shared resources in the chat. The chat log is checked into the TFT Interchange GitHub Repo »

Have further links to share or comments to make? Leave them in the comments below or on the initial event forum thread »

Kicking off TFT Interchange Community

If you’re interested in getting involved in organizing future presentations, please ping Boris in the #tools-for-thought channel on the Fission Discord. We'll discuss building a community around curating an ongoing speaker series, identifying open source code to work on as a group, and anything else related to forming and growing a "Tools for Thought Interchange" community of interest.

Register for Part 2

Join us for Part 2 on June 3rd, 6pm PDT / June 4th, 11am UTC+10, featuring:

  • Iian from Codex Editor, our main presentation on standoff editing and how it is functionally similar to atJSON
  • Frode Hegland from Augmented Text Company on Visual Meta, including metadata visibly
  • Brian Rubinton on Kanopi, a graph first tool for thought which uses RDF as primary import/export.
Register for Tools for Thought Interchange Part 2