A New App Lets You Catalog Your Thoughts Like an Engineer

Illustration for article titled A New App Lets You Catalog Your Thoughts Like an Engineer
Screenshot: ByteBase

Bytebase, a new app by two Columbia University software engineers, promises to let you store your snippets, thoughts, and notes in a way that is instantly searchable and automatically organized.

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Created by ex-Twilio engineer Cara Borenstein and ex-Nextdoor engineer Theo Marin, the barebones web app is sort of like Evernote amped up on the drug from Limitless.

Explaining how the app works is actually kind of difficult. Like any other note-taking system, you enter data and paste in code, text, or whatever you want to save. You can share it with others and create separate notebooks for each project. More important, each note can act as a link to another note, allowing you to nest information within other pieces of information. To use it, you simply paste in code snippets and text into the “No Man’s Land” area and then move it into separate projects later. You can also make outlines and to-do lists in the app.

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Each one of those lines can act as another separate note.
Each one of those lines can act as another separate note.
Screenshot: ByteBase

A feed lets you send notes, called bytes, to co-workers within Bytebase. Because the co-founders are coders, they’ve also added clever keyboard shortcuts that will be familiar to Vim and Emacs users. You can also add large text chunks called BigBytes.

“As a software engineer, it was challenging to get the information I needed to do my job. The information was supposed to be on the wiki, but it wasn’t,” said Borenstein. “So we went back to the drawing board and invested in more user research. We knew that people weren’t really using wikis to their potential, but they were collaborating. We wanted to figure out what it was that they were already doing and see if we could make it easier and better. What we found was really surprising.”

Their discovery?

“Over 90% of the people we surveyed use simple digital scratchpads daily. And they aren’t just using scratch pads for throwaway thoughts. They use scratchpads as the foundation for all sorts of collaborative work,” she said. Borenstein pointed to other services like Pastebin and Tot as examples of shared data dumps.

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“With Bytebase, notes aren’t fragmented,” said Borenstein. “You capture notes in a scratchpad within Bytebase (called ‘No Man’s Land’). Then you triage into shared categories using keyboard shortcuts.”

The pair raised a small angel round to build the app, and they’ve been testing the product with about 1,000 engineers. The app is still in closed beta, but they encourage folks who want to try it to request access.

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“Without Bytebase, daily notes are fragmented,” said Borenstein. Now, she says, they’re easy to search and share, a step up from the usual mix of Notepad, Vim, and whatever else devs use to dump their brains into their computers.

John Biggs is a writer from Ohio who lives in Brooklyn. He likes books, board games, watches, and his dog. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Gizmodo.

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DISCUSSION

gdtesp
JuniorSamplesJr.

What if I wanted to catalogue my thoughts like the fevered dreams of a madman?

Are there options other than Pinterest?