A good researcher needs to keep good notes. In any project, there are just too many details, factors, and facets that can cause you to lose track of something that’s important. Developers should also make it a practice of taking good lab notes. Coding details are just as complex, if not more so, than any other form of research or development.
I have kept lab notes for years, probably going back 20 years or so by now. They range from detailed descriptions of projects and components to one-liner notes and links to resources. Some lab notes were merely complaints about a problem yet to be solved. I kept my notes on index cards, then I graduated to keeping them in an outline in UserLand Frontier, then to a private wiki page in DokuWiki, and then, finally, to a private notebook in Evernote.
I thought about this long and hard, and finally made a decision. From now on, my lab notes (at least for my own, personal projects) will be posted publicly. I am, by formal training, both a computer scientist and an educator, and one way to combine both disciplines is to share my working notes. So that’s what I will be doing here. All my lab notes (in their completely unvarnished glory) will be recorded in this Lab Notes blog.
There are likely to be crazy gaps between posts. I sometimes get to work on a pet project for days or weeks at a time, and then have to go back to doing real work — grading my students, writing for ZDNet, and producing and delivering webcasts, lectures, briefing papers, advisory statements, opinion pieces, and detailed analysis for CBS Interactive and its partners. So don’t be alarmed if weeks or months go by between posts. In fact, that’s a big part of why these lab notes are so important — they are how I make up for the gap in time between side-project time and come back up to speed.