Tremendously important paper.
Textmind transcends GTD by doing away with the bifurcation between Someday/Maybe and Action, in favor of stigmergy.
All thought leaves a stigma, and all stigma stimulates an agent to perform further work. Textmind is continuous. The PKB directory structure makes notes situated and embodied, as fingers walk the Dired tree.
"Stigmergy" was coined to explain the intelligent and directed emergent behavior of social insects such as ants despite the low intelligence of individuals. Textmind employs the same effect, augmenting the extremely limited immediate human attention scope with a capacious and apt context developed by an easy algorithm.
activity is stigmergic if the action by an agent leaves a mark (stigma in Greek) in the environment that stimulates an agent (the same or another one) to perform further work (ergon in Greek). This subsequent action will leave another mark which in turn will stimulate yet another action. Thus, different actions indirectly trigger each other, via the traces they leave in the environment. For example, upon noticing that someone has used up all the paper, you leave a note to your secretary to buy paper; the subsequent appearance of paper reminds you to print that long report; the printout in turn stimulates you to study its recommendations; etc. Stigmergy was initially conceived by Grassé (1959) to explain the activity of social insects, such as termites and ants. This collaborative activity, such as nest building, is apparently complex, intelligent and goal- directed. Yet, the individual insects are intrinsically very dumb, lacking anything like a working memory or ability to plan. Thanks to the mechanism of stigmergy their work is efficiently coordinated.
The daylog processing loop is Textmind's central cybernetic feedback control. Additional controls may be developed at will via filing and the journal review loop.
The goal is to make knowledge work a flow activity.
We may conclude that the feelings of stress, anxiety, and information overload (Shenk, 1997) that are often experienced during knowledge work may be avoided by restoring a sense of control.
Given the limitations of the brain, this is best achieved when the intrinsically difficult functions of information processing, memory, and the triggering of actions are as much as possible delegated to the environment (cf. Kirsh, 1996, 2000). This means that we should choose or arrange the external situation in such a way that it can reliably store information, stimulate new actions, and provide feedback about the effectiveness of previous actions. In that way, it will allow a complex train of activity to be efficiently sustained, coordinated, and steered towards its intended goals.
Textmind does this.
We can distinguish two nested levels of mind: 1) the traditional idea of mind as inherent in the brain; 2) the “extended mind” (Clark & Chalmers, 1998) which encompasses the brain together with any external memories that are used to support information processing.
The brain is an intrinsically active medium where patterns are always in flux. As such, it is poor at keeping track of unchanging details. The passive media of paper or hard disk are much better at storing information in an invariant way, so that you can be sure that what comes out is exactly what you put in.
In any case, the interesting opportunities will still be available in your external memory, ready to produce actions—unlike a more rigid plan where everything will have to be rescheduled once it turns out that some objectives are no longer worth achieving.
Textmind does this.
GTD's emphasis on context has declined in relevance with the omni-capability and proliferation of the networked personal computer. For knowledge workers, a minority of tasks are context-dependent. This can be adequately handled via org-mode tagging and '3dashboard outline hierarchy.
Proponents of situated cognition assert that the basic functioning mode of the human mind is not reasoning and planning, but interacting via perception and action with the environmental situation. The kind of abstract, internal reasoning envisaged in the symbolic view of cognition is intrinsically hard on the brain, because of its strict “magical number” limitation on working memory and the unreliability of recall from long-term memory. The more natural approach to problem solving is simply trying out actions in the environment and using sensory-motor feedback to correct the situation when errors or disturbances make it deviate from the goal.
The philosophy underlying GTD is that true productivity should be measured not by the number of planned objectives that are achieved, but by the number of intrinsically worthwhile results. Whether these results were foreseen or not is completely irrelevant to their ultimate value. What counts is the total amount of progress made. As we have argued, a flexible and opportunistic approach such as GTD is intrinsically better prepared to maximize productivity in this sense.
Textmind is much more flexible and opportunistic than GTD, often supporting fluid execution without any formal GTD at all.
That's pretty much all I have to say about the paper. It's required foundational reading.