Linking is better than integrating

Thoughts about information management systems

Free associations, idea mapping

Summary

All the information doesn’t live in a single system. To refer to information across different system, there are two main possibilities:

  1. You can copy-paste a link reference.
  2. You can build an integration.

I think that:

  • Linking is better than integrating.
  • Transparent links are better than opaque links.

Indexing

  • Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs).
  • Can refer to physical objects.
  • I have my own personal URI scheme for referring to notebook pages:
    • → yyyy-mm-dd p. 000’ — The date helps find the correct journal, because I only have one Notes journal at a time.
    • To refer to a page within the same journal, I just use ‘p. 000’.
  • My physical zettelkasten also has a hierarchical index system.

Linking

Linking is the action of copy-pasting a URL from one place to another place. It is quick and can work across almost any applications.

Opaque links point to a domain but don’t provide information about what the link is pointing to.

Examples:

  • Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, etc.
    https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/126imPv4xjNuM[…]
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1D5uNKrWjn4K8h-Bv[…]/edit
  • Nextcloud shares:
    https://nextcloud.[…].net/s/Ra3NM[........]P2s
  • Slack messages and threads:
    https://[…].slack.com/archives/G01ER[....]/p1637[…]

Transparent links provide information about what the link is pointing to. Often, URL query parameters define a specific view on the target document (example: Grafana URL variables).

The URL path may start with a unique identifier (UID). The UID is a code that provides an unambiguous and stable reference, permitting more flexibility on the human readable portion (example: Grafana dashboard UIDs).

Examples:

  • Most modern blogs.
    https://alexandre.deverteuil.net/post/linking-is-better-than-indexing/
  • Grafana dashboards.
    https://grafana.deverteuil.net/d/BYE_lWuGk/haproxy-overview?orgId=1&from=now-12h&to=now

Integrating

Integrations are software plugins that include or embed content from a system into content of another system. The benefit of integrations is that they allow people to work within a single system while accessing information elsewhere. It is much more complex than simply linking. Every create, read, update and delete operation must be programmed, and an API must be available. The information must often be reformatted in the new context.

One of the simplest integration is the <iframe>...</iframe> HTML element.

Integrations are typically limited to a domain. For example, integrations between web based applications. It is not possible to embed documents from a filing cabinet into a web page. But it is possible to integrate Prometheus and Grafana because they are in the web/networking domain.

Slack has lots of interactive integrations.

Solutions Architect

I teach people how to see the matrix metrics.
Monkeys and sunsets make me happy.

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