J.D system for professors/academics?

A system for academics or a tried and true way to implement the native JD would be a great thing. I am currently trying to move from PARA with some numbering to JD after a couple of years. PARA doesn’t feel right for my work. I think it is better for a faster-paced kind of work. I constantly use materials from my archive, e.g. from previous years’ courses, I need them here not there, and I feel that building a body of materials (a repository) incremented/modified a bit each year does not work well with juggling folders between Projects/Areas/Archive. It would be better if a course had its place, constantly augmented by new experience but with everything what was there before at hand.

Same for research.

But while for research I kind of seem to find my way with JD, I struggle with organizing teaching folders. I’d like to have a clear way of storing the materials of previous years.

P Personal Projects
	P01 Life administration
	P02 DnD / RPG
W work/career projects
	W01 Research project 1
		10-19 adm
	W02 Research project 2
	W10 Teaching 1
		10-19 adm
		20-29 course materials
			20 lectures 2023
			21 problems 2023
			22 lectures 2024
			23 problems 2024
		30-39 ideas and other materials
	W11 Teaching 2


W work/career projects
	W01 Research project 1
		10-19 adm
	W02 Research project 2
	W10 Teaching 1 2023
		10-19 adm
		20-29 course materials
			20 lectures
				20.1 lecture 01
				20.2 lecture 02
			21 problems
		30-39 ideas and other materials
    W11 Teaching 2 2023
    W12 Teaching 1 2024

Or some other way, e.g.:

W work/career projects
	W01 Research project 1
		10-19 adm
	W02 Research project 2
	W10 Teaching 1
		10-19 materials from years 2023-33
			10 2023
				10.1 lectures
				10.2 problems
				10.3 ...
			11 2024
			12 2025
			13 ...
		20-29 course materials
			20 lectures
			21 problems
			22 ...
		30-39 ideas and other materials
	W11 Teaching 2

It feels like separate projects for each year are too much. But I can’t find my way around if the course is a project and the years should be inside it.

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I’ll ‘announce’ this here and then y’all have to hold me to it. :smile:

I’ve spoken to a few people via email about this topic and loosely promised to hold a Zoom session(s) to work it out. It needs solving, and I think it’s a great candidate for a group session: there’s a clear goal, there are subject-matter experts, there’s a desire for it to be solved.

So there you go. Express your interest here and I’ll do something more solid about this in the next few weeks. :+1:


Yeah, it probably wasn’t the best idea, in fact one and a half years later, I no longer have the Grades folder. Which shows that it wasn’t really working.

The problem is that keeping everything together in “course materials” (which is what I’m doing right now) is quite unsatisfying, because courses involve a bunch of quite different things. Each year’s grades and the slides that you always update and reuse don’t really work the same way at all, you don’t check them or update them at the same time, you don’t need one when looking at the other, etc.

I have been toying with the idea of having a folder with “lasting course materials” (e.g. the slides or exercise collections, which of course you might want to update every year, but they aren’t linked to a year) and “ephemeral course materials” (exams and grades, which are linked to a year and you typically don’t reuse). But haven’t brought myself to implement it at the moment.

But you’re right in smelling a problem in that part of the hierarchy because it’s probably the part I’m least satisfied with. The research, travel, etc. parts seem to be working fine, but that course materials part is quite a mess. It also doesn’t help that courses are typically shared with other teachers who may have control of shared folders and then you don’t even have that much of a choice on how to organize it.

I haven’t been active here lately but I would love to attend such a session, if I can (i.e. at a time with no work commitments and which isn’t 3 AM or something like that at my -CET- timezone). It would be great if it could be recorded for people who can’t go.

I’d make it as convenient as possible for the USA/EU — obviously there’s nothing perfect, but this or something similar feels like the best compromise.

And yes, it’d be recorded. I might even be able to convince Lucy to lightly edit it to tighten it up a bit.

I’d be interested to attend too!

If it helps, I’ve resorted to an ad-hoc third level for my courses. E.g. course1 is 31.01. Within that I’ve got 31.01.A00 for admin stuff. 31.01.T10 for lectures with individual lectures being 31.01.T101 onwards. 31.01.T20 is assessments. For assessments I also have YYMM folders for specific runs of the module which contains grades.

That looks quite different from the structure you posted before. Care to share?

I basically moved to a two-level structure instead is a three-level one. I found that for most of my work the former was overkill and I was having trouble maintaining it. I just make a third level on an ad-hoc basis for stuff where it’s useful.

Basically realised a few key things. I was obsessing too much over organisation because so long as I could find my content whenever I needed to, I was happy. And I’ve got a few powerful linking utilities that allow me to do this quite reliably.

Search utilities are very powerful nowadays. Where there are gaps in my organisation, the search utilities available can easily fill them in.

So basically I am no longer fussed about getting it exactly right. Just good enough.

Care to share? I’m really interested in this sort of thing.

I think you might know already. Hookmark is the main one. I’ve got my notes in obsidian which itself has deep linking. Some reference stuff is also in DEVONthink. So overall they work well together.

I tend to link related stuff together one way or the other. For example, if I have an email, a folder and a note I need to retain for reference, I’ll just put the links to the other two in my note. I can even use hookmark to maintain three-way linking if I so choose.

I also use Obsidian a lot, together with Zotero. It’s great that they added zotero links you can use in markdown and they can point to a particualr highlight in a pdf file ^^. I link to emails as well, but that’s possible because I use gmail which has unique urls for threads.

One of the problems with PARA for me is that you can’t link to a folder or file (from within obsidian vault) because the whole idea is that the location will change when you’re done with a project and that breaks the links. That’s why a good JD struture is so tantalizing. :slight_smile:

I work in linux, so hookmarks won’t work for me. But, out of curiosity, will it update links when you move files around or rename them?

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Yes. Hookmark links are resilient to moving and renaming files but are broken if a file is deleted and recreated.

I’m late to the party here and a relative newcomer to JD (just slogging thru the workbook now). I am a senior professor in an engineering discipline and would love to try to at least be a lurker on the discussion as I figure things out.

I’d been grappling with this as I set up my JD.

I’m not currently studying, so this is manly backfilling my existing material, but I went for this structure.

Say for my undergrad degree HPCP at University of Adelaide. I created an ID each for these to contain info relating to the university as a whole, and degree specific things.

Then each actual course gets an ID, such as Maths 101.

So for an Australian 3 year degree, you should use up 26 IDs. Plenty of room for multiple degrees at each level + repeat courses + change of degree/universities + clubs etc.


Thanks all for this thread. I am working thru my system design. At this point, I think I am looking at three “realms” or “domains” (aka, what JD calls “projects”):

  • University (to include teaching, research, writing, internal service, admin, student advising, etc.)
  • Professional - I do a lot of external work on professional societies, journals and advisory committees
  • Consulting - for which I am paid directly aside from my university
  • Home and Personal

I am leaning to making my index using the one note per one JD.ID, probably in Obsidian (which I will index in Devonthink). I am very wary about being sure I am “future proof” and I think this is more likely to be so than Apple Note.

Now that I understand that one JD.ID can hold more than one item (e.g. all class materials for a class I teach in a given term), I have less concern about running out of ID space.

Comments, especially from other academics welcome. One bit of unfinished business is where I should index random notes from reading that are not (yet) particularly associated with a specific task/project/class

FYI renamed to ‘systems’ just last week as I think it’s clearer.

Same thing, different name.

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Aha - I see that. And then your collective descriptor for the entire set of systems is “collection”?


Here is something I came up with.

t10 course A
	00-09 meta
	10-49 subjects/experiments
		10 uncertainty
			t10.10.01 tutorial
		11 harmonic oscillator
			t10.11.01 manual
			t10.11.02 photos for teaching platform
			t10.11.03 spring invoice 2018
		12 direct current
		13 photoelectric effect
	50-79 organization
		50 201617
		51 201617
		60 202324
			t10.60.01 teaching assistants / staff
			t10.60.02 student matters
			t10.60.03 schedule
t17 course B
	00-09 meta
	10-29 subjects
		10 coulomb's law
		13 Gauss's law
	50-59 organization
		50 202021
			t17.50.01 schedule
			t17.50.02 student matters
	80-89 materials
		80 202021
			t17.80.01 problems for recitation classes
			t17.80.02 lectures

I ended up having different systems for different courses and different research areas. This is because I wanted to retain AC.ID being an artefact. So, for Course A, t10 (I prefer a lower case letter), meta will contain rules, curriculum, likely devided into years; subject/experiments (this is a lab course) contains materials like manuals, invoices, data important for teaching a subject and maintaing an experiment functional, each thing with its PRO.AC.ID. E.g. not long ago, we reverted one manual to a version from a couple years back so it is usefeul te keep different manual versions in a fixed place. This area is broad, 10-49, to accomodate for many subjects.

Organization is separate, 50-79 and broad as well. Each year is a different schedule and staff. With t10.60.01 I can label emails to easily find threads about organizing the lab with different teaching assistants. t10.60.02 is only a label for emails where students asks questions, want to change groups etc. I wanted to keep the level of setting things up separate from actual subjects.

t17 is a lecture. I keep subjects and materials separate. Subjects is a place for books, notes, videos. Materials is for handouts, presentations etc. that we actually create in a given year. Those are likely to remain the same. I don’t know if I’ll just copy unchanged materials to a new year’s folder or use the materials from last year as they were.

For research, I am still not sure. However, this is what emerges:

r01 research field 1
    10-19 implementation
        10 code A
        11 code B
            11.000 code sandbox
            11.001 adding function a
            11.002 refactor function b
            11.003 implement xyz
    20-29 problems being solved A
        20 problem xyz
            20.01 papers on xyz
            20.02 writing paper a
            20.03 writing paper b
            20.04 data from Mark
            20.05 comparison of Ala and Gly spectra 
        21 problem yzx
    30-39 problems being solved B
    40-49 theory and literature
        40 theory of a
        41 theory of b
    60-69 grants for r01?
    98 code
    99 created data

r01.99 is data. I don’t think I’ll kep JD structure therein because it calls for its own structure suitable for that data. It also makes the data available in this particular r01.99 place to reference in code. :slight_smile:

I feel like having AC.ID for different papers is a good idea. Such a choice will result in subfolders within it, for drafts, for figures, but will allow the use of, e.g., r01.10.02 folder in zotero when I collect papers for a given manuscript and labelling emails and projects in overleaf. In mailboxes and overleaf, you can always label stuff with both r01.10.01 and r01.10 to be able to find papers and materials created for a given subject.

r01.41 could be a folder for zotero and a tag for a physical notebook.

I don’t know if it works out. Testing. :slight_smile:

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