Share notes#



Share personal content to a (more) public medium. There are multiple levels of public. For example, you can publish to:

  • Your team

  • Your company (inner source)

  • The internet (open source)

How open should you be with your thoughts?



In order of value.


More people are surprised by what they learn from sharing software designs before implementing. Why not your thoughts? See a clear example in the comments on Template specialization for types providing a traits class - Stack Overflow. The feedback you get online can be incredibly fast, and continue to improve your design for days beyond your initial query; see for example Reset ext4 filesystem without changing the filesystem UUID - Unix & Linux Stack Exchange.

At best, strangers online are motivated to fix your mental functions for the same reason you’re motivated to fix theirs; so we all have a single source of correct (or at least consistent) notes. If they aren’t motivated by the greater good, lots of reputation on Stack Overflow is easy to link to from a resume and is often taken by employers as a good proxy for a candidate’s ability. As part of a set of other proxies like academic degrees and interview performance, this is not unreasonable.

You want to make incremental comments on other people’s work (in separate repos, if need be) for the same reason that you don’t want to maintain your own FasterRCNN implementation; because publishing lets you avoid maintaining the notes/code yourself. See comments on privatization vs. open-sourcing in Open-source software. Said another way, you want to “open-source” your thoughts to reduce the maintenance burden associated with them (e.g. organizing them, resolving conflicts while merging upstream thoughts). The same happens when a big company like Google or Facebook takes a library or tool they’re maintaining (PyTorch, Kubernetes) and open sources it.

Open sourcing works because you (as an individual, or outsider) suddenly gain “ownership” in the tool that is now in the public domain. That is, you can use Wikipedia as a place to store your own notes immediately next to the notes of others (notes you want to read because they are also useful). That is, as long as you understand the notes you are merging with, you can improve the “code” or “notes” with your own notes and take partial ownership. Then you only have a single source of truth/notes as an individual, benefiting you.

Sharing your notes and drawings doesn’t guarantee you won’t still be in charge of them; others may only take a part of the work. In some cases, you may not even need to share editable content (e.g. share a PDF) to get feedback.

Prefer the term “share” to publicize and publish. The terms publicize and publish assume you have existing content you need to convert between formats to publish. Much of the time, your thoughts can go straight into one of the mediums listed above (interpret “share notes” as sharing mental notes, i.e. sharing your thoughts). Live openly and you can avoid conversions.

Why are so many organizations based around teams? Presumably, peer review by smart people produces better results faster.

For the special case of working through a textbook sharing your answers lets others self-grade their answers against yours. This lets you self-grade against theirs if they also publish or comment on your answers.

Correction by Computers#

A special case of the benefits of publishing for correction is the free computing resources you get from e.g. GitLab. If you’re willing to commit to a particular CI/CD system (like GitLab) every commit you publish will get computer feedback. On the other hand, these free CI/CD machines are usually small (e.g. 2 GB of RAM and 1 CPU). In practice, you often have to provide or buy your computing resources for faster feedback.

It’s more rare, but if you have a large amount of data you can sometimes get more space for it if you’re willing to make it public. In GitLab you can store job artifacts for 30 days (not seeing a size limit). At least two cloud providers offer to store significant open source datasets for free:


Open source contributions look good on a resume. Have you ever searched for someone on LinkedIn, StackOverflow, or elsewhere before interviewing them? In fact, a blog is like a resume. Is what you’re posting better than nothing?

To get anything done on a team you must share your thoughts. You can work directly in your employer’s systems, but then you may lose notes when you move companies. Run a lunch and learn to raise your own visibility or your code’s visibility. At the least, share your opinions with your individual coworkers, spouse, or kids. To “publish” code is to release it to production, in the context of your job (continuous deployment).


Politicians and celebrities have no privacy. What they get in exchange is the ability to get others to value their opinion. Similarly, scientists who publish widely are affecting the language that is used to describe findings, and are determining which hypotheses are most likely to be confirmed or denied next. If you think of “work” as collecting data to confirm or deny a hypothesis, then prominent researchers are determining the tasks other researchers work on.

Said in a more pessimistic way, publishing can be a way to push your opinions or desires on others in the same way spam email or advertising does. Are all the questions at the end of a Textbook worth answering? Is the whole book worth reading?

If a term is popular, then you can essentially define it by how it’s used. What shows up when you search DuckDuckGo? Its algorithm for what a word “means” is likely based on (among other things) some predefined authority for websites and a regularly updated count of links to them (backlinks). Similarly, traditional academic references (with only e.g. an author and date) are a popularity contest as well, though the date of publication is likely given more weight. See for example Define generative model.

It’s likely this is what drives the unique names used for so many deep learning models. It’s easier to get a name popular if you use something more unique, it’s likely to be more memorable, and it’s less likely to be reused in the namespace. If Shannon would have used the generic term “uncertainty” instead of “entropy” for Entropy (information theory) the idea may not have taken off.

Web Linking#

Do you want to link to your notes from e.g. Google Calendar reminders? If you publish them you can read them on your phone rather than needing to be at your computer to start rereading your own work. That is, you may often want a public link.

If you publish quickly (e.g. straight from your thoughts), you’ll be able to browse your notes on your phone on a trip, for example. What do you look up on your phone when you’ve got a little free time? What if you reviewed your last blog post? This keeps you in focused work, better than a long-term recommended reading list you or some other site maintain.

Simplified Searching#

Prefer sharing to personal notes so you have one place to search: the web. One way to think about sharing notes is as organizing notes by deleting them from your private repositories if they don’t need to be private. In a similar way, reading anything is effectively making it your notes, taking “notes” to mean natural language you can use to quickly recall a concept. If you define note efficiency (pedagogical efficiency) as the speed at which the notes help you recall a concept, these notes will be less efficient only if you use different internal language than the average English speaker.


Obscurity is a limited way to achieve personal and communal security; see Security through obscurity. For the advantages of security through obscurity, see Redact.

Who are you already sharing with? Do you take notes in Google Docs? Public notes are better than notes you share with Google (in Docs) because other major companies (Amazon, Apple) will have access to the same information. If you’re backing up your notes in the cloud, you’re likely sharing them with someone.

Sharing spreads power out. It’s unlikely you’ll share an idea and have it suddenly lead to huge changes; it would have to get spread and experimented with first. By that point everyone would have the idea and have a chance to catch up. It’s also difficult to keep an idea hidden long. The more people we have who understand a particular concept, the less likely we are to have one person or group of people monopolize power.


To publish notes is to organize notes. Organized notes are easy to publish, and published notes must already be organized. Considering others is considering yourself. See similar thoughts in Organize notes.

An imaginary reader helps you delete notes you don’t know you should delete. For example, you often need to copy your thoughts to an SO answer to remove a bunch of documentation or links that are obvious (that you could get from a quick web search). You naturally don’t want to be too verbose in a text conversation with certain (distractable) people, because they may not respond if you send them a wall of text. To get a response, you naturally cut down your content. You don’t read your own notes for the same reason: too much text you don’t have in working memory. If you want to read your own notes (get any value out of them) you should cut them down, most effectively by sharing them.

If people (including yourself) are bored sick by your articles then they’re not going to get read. That is, sometimes the “value” in the article is not only the changes it makes to your mental model, etc. but a laugh in the present.

Why share your notes and ideas? You remember when you share something, much better than if you simply write it down. You want to be able to perform many tasks without needing to refer to your notes, or only refer them to lightly. Your notes need to be organized at some minimal level for you to be able to remember what notes you need to refer to perform tasks.

A PhD is one way to force yourself to organize a large amount of notes in a coherent way. Either that, or a book. If you’re motivated by others or a personal commitment to organize notes then it is more likely to happen.


In order of cost.


Select License#

Avoid indirection#

On stack exchange sites, a “link” answer is generally not encouraged. On Wikipedia, you should not be referencing your own content. In Confluence (another wiki) users often aren’t prepared to follow a link to an unfamiliar format. Many users want to see results directly in JIRA rather than following yet another link.

In all these scenarios, use the visual editor of the tool (Wikipedia, Confluence, JIRA, etc.) to copy and paste in content from Jupyter Book. Surprisingly, this works quite well if you know beforehand to limit the richness of your content.

In this context to make the copy/paste safer you’ll generally want to use Unicode rather than math mode, include SVGs regularly rather than with the <object> tag, and keep extra minor edits only at the top or bottom of the pasted content.

For the specific case of web links, put them both (the one pointing to the source, and the one pointing to the copy) at the bottom of the content to avoid distracting from it. If you read all your own notes so you’ll see you need to worry about a double link even if it’s at the bottom.

Ideally you can even avoid double linking; as long as you remember the source (your own notes) there may be no need for a link back that you might potentially break and may have little extra detail (it’s a form of compression to skip this link). In fact, if you don’t link back you could “doubly” publish to the alternative medium (e.g. JIRA) before publishing to your own format (your own format would be the second to be published). There’s really no source or copy when you are copy once you’re done double publishing; and it’s only when you put up the second copy that you need to do linking on both ends. If you were to add a third copy, then you might want to think about a master (to avoid two links out in each, or 6x linking).

Still, it can be worth linking if there’s a lot of content or you want to advertise the source. Are there enough details in the link to make it worth anyone digging into? Is whoever you are publishing to the type to go digging into them?

If you want to double publish/link, you can’t push up a comment saying that you doubly published before you have actually done so (because you need to first publish the content to html to link to it, and you may forget to do so). Instead first publish to html, then only later (once the content is up) do the actual double publish. Finally, add a link in your own notes about the double publish (so it will show up in a separate commit). It’s a three step process, but is manageable if you need to do it.