The Novelty Index


Hey friends,

A few weeks ago I watched an absolutely sick writing masterclass by Julian Shapiro. Julian’s coolest technique has no name, but I think of it as The Novelty Index.

As we come across new ideas and take notes (in Notion, Roam, Apple Notes, a notebook, etc), we can use the Novelty Index to rank those ideas by how novel or exciting they seem at the time. That way, when we look back at our notes, we can always tell which ideas are most exciting to a total beginner. This is often the stuff that’s most worth writing about.

Here’s how the Novelty Index works in practice:

  1. Take a note when something interests or surprises you, (including when you strongly disagree with something).
  2. Write down a score (1-5) of how much it surprised or interested you at the time.
  3. Later on, use this ranking system to decide what ideas you should write about. If something was super-novel and exciting to you a few months ago (4 or 5 points), it’s probably a good topic to write about – even if your future self thinks “this is old news – why would I write about that?”.

Using a Novelty Index in our note-taking has a few advantages:

  • We always have a curated list of exciting, novel topics to write about.
  • We can avoid the Curse of Knowledge – assuming that what’s obvious to us is obvious to everyone else. The Novelty Index reminds us of just how mindblowing an idea was to us as a beginner, and that it could still blow other people’s minds – if we write about it.
  • The Novelty Index also measures how optimal our information diet is. If we look back and see that everything we’re read over the last months scores between 1-3, we should probably challenge ourselves a bit more.

Have a great week!

xx Ali

🚢 Ship 30 for 30

I’ve enrolled in to help develop more of a writing habit – it’s a cohort-based course that teaches the basics of writing online. It starts up again in January 2022: here’s my affiliate link if you’re interested.

♥️ My Favourite Things

🎸 Music – Zac Brown Band. They play country music – I’ve been a fan for years. Recently started listening to them a bit more.

📝 Article – The Day You Decided to Take the Leap. Another amazing article by More to That, about manageable concerns vs unimaginable benefits, and why taking big leaps in life is just the logical thing to do.

✍️ Quote of the Week

Remember that in most cases, the ideas behind the writing are more important than the quality of the writing itself. You’d rather have great ideas and pretty good writing than the other way around.

From Mailbag #1 — Wait but Why by Tim Urban. Resurfaced using Readwise.

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