“I must admit that after many years of work in this area, the efficacy of randomness for so many algorithmic problems is absolutely mysterious to me. It is efficient, it works; but why and how is absolutely mysterious.”

– Michael Rabin, from Algorithms to Live By

We recently launched version 3.0 of RandomNote, our free web app for serendipitously resurfacing notes from your Evernote account. We’ve had some very positive feedback, and now it’s time to ask for your help.

We need developers to help us continue to improve the app, from simple bug fixes, to adding new features, to tweaking the user experience, to making the backend run more efficiently.

I’ve taken down the paywall for my original article describing what I see as the potential of this app: RandomNote: Building an Idea Generator

To summarize from the article above, I believe there are 5 main benefits to using this app:

  • Recover some of the attention that’s been hijacked by social media for more productive uses (using some of the same quick feedback loops)
  • Make the process of revisiting notes more surprising, serendipitous, enjoyable, and rewarding
  • Create many more opportunities to encounter, tweak, modify, improve, and delete notes
  • Refresh your familiarity with what kinds of notes you have, without having to memorize their contents
  • Surface and stimulate cross-connections across typical categories and topics

I believe we have a unique opportunity to create something inherently useful, that matches a proven need for a growing audience – people who are interested in or actively using my Building a Second Brain (BASB) methodology, whether they’ve taken my course or just read my blog posts on Praxis.

Later this year or beginning of next year, I will publish the BASB book, which should grow the addressable audience another order of magnitude. My goal is to have RandomNote be a thriving, fully featured product by then, either as a free complement to my books and courses, or a stand-alone subscription.

Eventually, RandomNote could be part of a suite of web apps, plugins, extensions, and even full-scale applications directly enabling people to build their “second brain.” Instead of a random bunch of utilities competing with each other and all catering to the lowest common denominator, it would be a unified ecosystem of tools with a coherent methodology already baked in.

In the same way that GTD enabled the rise of a whole generation of task managers that could rely on terms like “inbox” and “next action,” RandomNote and friends could provide a similar conceptual framework to enable the spread of serendipitous, creative note-taking.

Here are a few examples of new features we’d like to add in the near future:

  • Add a brief instructions blurb upon initial sign-in, orienting new users on how to use the app
  • Make the “refresh” button more obvious/prominent so users know it can be clicked
  • Highlight the current filter button so it’s clear where the note is being drawn from
  • Add additional filter options (such as “least recently seen,” by tag, by keyword, by summarization layer)
  • Preserve the current filter across instances
  • Release other versions of the app accessible in more places (by email, menu bar dropdown, Chrome extension, smartphone notifications, homescreen app)

We’ve created an open-source GitHub repository for the project, which includes the code and a history of changes already made.

  • Chris Galtenberg has been the lead developer so far, and has a solid understanding of the app and the capabilities of the Evernote API. He will continue to direct and coordinate the big picture development of the project.
  • Callum Flack has led the design. He will be available for consultation on these aspects.

We’ll invite everyone involved or interested in the project to the dedicated #randomnotedev channel on the Forte Labs Slack, which will serve as our discussion forum for everything related to RandomNote development. I will be available there for talking through any hurdles or potential new features, and we’ll also be able to talk to beta testers from among existing Forte Labs customers in other channels.

We’re going to try a first experiment: Chris has identified 14 issues of varying size and complexity that are currently needed or wanted, and described them in the Github project.

If you are a developer willing to help us move this forward, could you take a look at these and contribute your code? If you have any questions or requests, join the Forte Labs Slack here and join the #randomnotedev channel.

Thank you for your interest!

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