Launching Subconscious Alpha
We’re starting a slow-rollout for Subconscious. We’ve made it to the starting line! A small MVP app that we’ve been using as our daily driver.
Alpha testers will be invited to an email list that will announce new Subconscious releases as they happen. Invites will go out in batches of about a dozen, so that I am able keep up with feedback. If you don’t get a TestFlight invite right off the bat, don’t worry, it’s coming!
Subconscious Alpha is free, but we are asking alpha testers for a few things:
Tenacity. Subconscious is alpha-quality software. That means there will be bugs. Things can go wrong, up to and including (throws salt over shoulder) data loss. Do not put anything in Subconscious that you absolutely cannot afford to lose!
Beginner’s mind. We’re building something different from Notion, Roam, Obsidian—a creative oracle. It’s going to explore different territory, have different features. Some of these features might work, others might not, and need reworking. It’s going to feel different, regardless.
Feedback. We’d love to learn more about your note-taking process and how you use Subconscious. If you’re cool with it, we may reach out to chat.
If that all sounds good, sign up for the waitlist.
If you already signed up on the the waitlist, you’re good to go.
A quick tour of Subconscious alpha
Subconscious is a simple app for gardening ideas. Its primary purpose is to help you grow evergreen notes, from the ground-up.
In alpha-1, the main view is a list of your recent ideas. So far so good. Nothing too fancy. But what’s that colorful button in the bottom-right corner?
Search-or-create: the game loop at the heart of Subconscious, inspired by Notational Velocity. Creating new notes happens through a search flow.
Search-or-create closes a feedback loop. Every time you create a new note, search-or-create nudges you toward related evergreen notes. Often you find yourself editing an old idea, instead of creating a new one. Over time, these nudges add up, causing snippets to self-organize into durable knowledge artifacts.
(Related notes: Knowledge gardening is recursive, Unconscious R&D, Search reveals useful dimensions in latent idea space, Outward notes, inward notes)
Links: What is hypertext without links? URLs pasted into Subconscious will automatically become linkified, like you would expect. You can link to other notes using shorthand
/slashlinks. Link suggestions surface on a toolbar as you type.
If a note doesn’t exist, tapping the link creates it, like in a wiki. This leaves you with stubs for ideas that you’re thinking about. These stubs get resurfaced in search-or-create. It’s like paving desire paths in your mind, helping you return to and develop ideas over time.
(Related notes: All you need is links, Slashlinks, What if links weren’t meant to be prose?, Knowledge gardening is recursive)
Backlinks: Underneath every idea is a list of backlinks—other ideas that link to this idea. When you have backlinks, links not only function as links, they also function like tags, gathering everything related into one place.
You can think of each note as almost like a knowledge card for that idea, together with search results for that idea underneath. As you develop a note, it tends to get longer and your hand-crafted content pushes down the backlinks. Over time, the way you interact with the idea transitions from primarily algorithmic (backlinks), to primarily curated content (notes), as the idea crystalizes.
(Related notes: You don’t need tags, you just need links, Capture, organize, synthesize, Outward notes, inward notes)
Credible exit—your data is yours and you can take it with you. For now, this means your notes are saved as plain text files on your phone. This is a bit of a stop-gap, since we have eventual goals to build a service that can sync your notes across devices, while continuing to guarantee you credible exit and ownership of your data. That’s something we’re still working on. In the meantime, you have the text!
(Related notes: Your data is yours, Camera Roll as a tool for thought, Saving copies of everything is like low-budget p2p)
The alpha is very small, very simple, with just a few features designed to construct the beginnings of a meaningful feedback loop between your past and future self.
From Subconscious napkin sketch:
This alpha is about laying foundation. Most of the features we’ve landed so far fall on the “converge” side of the spectrum. This is deliberate. Divergence without convergence will cause your idea atoms to fly off in every direction and dissipate into the void. But with a converging feedback loop, those same idea atoms will begin to combine into idea molecules, and maybe even evolve into multicellular idea-life.
So, first we iron out these converging game loops, make sure they’re working, and that the app is working in general, without too many bugs.
Next we bring in creative divergence. How? Geists! Geists will be little bots that live in your Subconscious. They’ll do useful things... finding connections between notes, remixing notes, issuing oracular provocations and gnomic utterances. They’re next on the roadmap, and I’m pretty excited about that.