Annotating Thinking Digital my forthoughts and aftermath

My experiments/hacking with the kindle has lead me to this point.

I’m on my way to thinking digital in Gateshead/Newcastle and with the kindle in my jacket pocket and I’m wondering how this whole thing would work. It seems likely that Amazon never really intended for there software to be used in this way and so there will be a massive delay in sharing notes during a conference. But in actual fact, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

When I though about using the kindle for notes, I didn’t want some sudo realtime thing. There’s already plenty of those type of systems. In actual fact just being able to write my own short notes and then share them was good enough. But if I can make some of those notes sharable then even better. Of course if someone else wants to share there notes with me, then cool beans but when I tend to write notes, they tend to only really make sense to the mind of a dyslexic designer/developer (oh thats me).

I guess part of the experiment is working out if;

  1. Is it possible to share notes in a conference setting
  2. How long are the updates between writing it, etc?
  3. How is the kindle going to separate private notes from public notes?
  4. Does it make sense in a conference like thinking digital?

This is written after the Thinking Digital…

The note writing idea on the Kindle worked quite well, as it did with Future Everything before. The only problem I experienced was when the wifi was bouncing back and forth on the first day of the conference. The problem isn’t a big deal for people on laptops and mobile devices because of the cpu power behind them. But on the Kindle, it would freeze quite badly when it was trying to get online.

I didn’t know it was this, so I assumed my Kindle had crashed because it was almost totally non-responsive. After a restart it seemed to be doing the same thing. I was able to write about 100+ letters before it would freeze up like it had crashed, however I found I could use the home key to get some responsiveness back. The problem is this is a pain if your in middle of a great talk and you can’t make notes.

The wifi at thinking digital was also a bit of a pain because it was a web authenticated. So you would connect to a open wifi point and then be presented with a web page to login. I was surprised it actually worked on the Kindle because web authenticated wifi systems tend to be hit and miss. Anyway each time I had to put in the user name and password because the Kindle browser has no concept of a previous typed or saved passwords. So every-time wifi failed, I had to go to the same page to get online. It wasn’t just me, the guys with his ipad next to me was having trouble getting on each time.

After lunch things settled down (for me and everyone it seems) and I didn’t experience the freezing again for the rest of the conference. Plus Herb said on stage the network support was having real problems keeping up with the huge amount of traffic.

So the sharing aspect of the Kindle Notes wasn’t as expected. It seems you can write notes and there only shared if you make it public via Twitter or Facebook, but also you can only share 140 characters with twitter, so you couldn’t write detailed notes. In the end I started writing notes and posting them before they got too big to post. Once posted, I would then add more to the note for my own notes.

Notes don’t seem to share very well, but to be honest I’m having a little trouble getting kindle software on to my phone so I can’t even check that. On the website, it says "0 customers have Public Notes." So it looks like there might be a way to share notes but I wasn’t doing it correct.

Which leads me to currently conclude…

Its not really elegant but it never was or was going to be. Writing notes for myself on the Kindle is all good but sharing them is only really useful for the casual observer on twitter not really as a way to collaborate on notes currently. But its maybe too early to tell for sure because it might just be that I wasn’t doing it correctly… Once I get home I’ll have a play with the kindle settings to see if I can get my notes up in the "Amazon cloud" and see if another device (my android phone) can pull down those notes. After that it will be a matter of working how long it takes to send those notes up and to pull them back to a kindle software device.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser. Can be found at, and