TheBrain, Tinderbox, DEVONthink (and Craft/Drafts)
I hope the following is of help. I’m a journalist-turned-consultant and so cover multiple topics, often requiring me to get up to speed on something quickly. At the same time I have much more long-term projects that require near-academic levels of note-taking, references and organisation.
I am most familiar with TheBrain, having been a user since its launch in 1999. I wrote about it a few times for a general audience in my WSJ column, Extending Your Brainpower (2007), Spidergrams Appear To Fall Short of Mark (2000). I love its ability to quickly draw connections between ideas, references, companies, people, which then reveal connections or resurface things I had forgotten about, or wasn’t aware were linked. Like Tinderbox, it scales well and repays effort and the adding of metadata. Jerry Michalski is the most impressive user of TheBrain, and is generous with his time, expertise and content.
Originally I used TheBrain as a single repository of everything I was following or had an interest in. Much of this was done via subject (Artificial Intelligence, say) and then the companies and individuals involved, added as I came across them. I have since shifted slightly by creating a new brain for distinct topics where I expect to go to a much deeper level, and where there’s less likelihood the data points I had (people, publications, fields, organisations etc) are going to overlap with my main Brain. For example: DeFi, UAPs, a musical collaboration.
When I switched to Macs in the late 2000s I moved everything I had been doing in Evernote to DEVONthink. For me this is a repository of everything I might need, but which will still need to go through a filter. Research may involve me adding 1000s of FOIA documents in one go; everything is saved as OCRed/text readable PDFs, and my databases usually end up being tens of gigabytes in size.
Tinderbox has been a steeper learning curve, but has become the place where data filtered and processed from DEVONthink can be stored and where significant value gets added. It could be by date, or by person, or by organisation, but its value for me is knowing I can always add an extra layer of metadata — a different badge, outline colour, a new field — to new or existing data, so what I have added to Tinderbox becomes more and more valuable. The adding of data and metadata is (usually) manual, as I’m trying to understand, absorb and retain (harder at my age) the material as I add it. Occasionally I’d do an import, but I’ve preferred to add it manually, since that process has its own value. As with TheBrain, I’ve built separate documents/brains for discrete topics.
Finally I take raw notes, like this one, in Markdown in Drafts, or, more recently, in Craft. I use Hook to build links between each app. Hook works well with all of the above, although it’s not necessary.
I don’t think my system is perfect, because I keep changing it. I’m still feeling my way around Tinderbox, and I could probably get more out of DEVONthink. For me TheBrain is a fast access database, where connections, links, bios etc can be unearthed at a clip; DEVONthink is the garage where I keep everything I could possibly need, and Tinderbox is the thoughtful assistant, helping to prepare the data so I can ask unusual, more nuanced questions of it.
I hope this is of some interest.