I explored Security and Encryption last Thursday. I wanted to add a strong encryption to the vault, the place where Kneaver keeps users credentials for other services. Some services like Diigo or WordPress still require Basic Authentification. There is already some encryption in Kneaver but I wanted something stronger and for this I had to go for learning about it. This is my story.

As often it starts with a fragment I copied from a random reading. This was about the Ashley Madison leak of their password. I didn’t keep the link because only this sentence was interesting me and copying it once for all for the best option. I do this often, all day long. I typically capture 50 fragments, screen shots with or without links every day. When it’s public and reusable I place in Diigo, when it’s either private or results from using an app or a some action I copy and take a screen shot. When I’m unsure that the information will be there again, I take a screen shot.

What I was interested in was a conversation between people way more aware than me mentioning bcrypt. let’s start there. I did a search on Google.

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I copied the definition and the link to Wikipedia. It’s often a good start.

Followed with adding the term to Kneaver,

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Notice the src: link to back to where I copied the text from.

I added some personal remarks to contextualize this new item. So it’s now more than a search, more than a link.

I created a topic for my exploration “Encryption”, you can see it before on my “Recents” page. I position myself on this Recents” page often when I do explorations because it will fill with my findings.

Compared to note taking apps like Evernote I don’t need to think “What is the best place to keep this new note”, items don’t belong to folders, they are just links to items, some more general, some just related. With Kneaver links are not built in marble, they will change as our understanding of the topic evolves. With a note oriented tool it would require constant re-editing of everything, not with Kneaver. Also, I will not create one long item for everything I will find, just the opposite: I will create an item for every concept, every person, every post I come by.

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I would say that up to here it’s feasible with either a bookmarking tool or a note taking tool. From here it becomes trickier with content oriented tools like WordPress, Evernote or tag-oriented like Diigo.

Let’s add a second key term: Security and relate it to this brcypt, because Encryption is really the general class of technology but the need is security.

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I used the + button from brcrypt, directly from the pages showing many items. I don’t need to open or edit this item to create links because links are outside items. You can link to an item even without owning it. It’s very web oriented, while note taking apps are just transcription of the paper pattern to the web.

Ok! you could have created a sub-notebook of Encryption, called Security, or the opposite. No: the opposite. Well, I’m not sure. This the hierarchy hell. In folder oriented tools, you need to choose before you actually explore and organize once for all something you precisely don’t know.

Or You could have used tags, but you will end up with as many tags you have topics. tags could be items also and have their own links. So are you creating folders, tags? The choice will affect your agility for further organizing your thoughts. if you wish to have moveable thought you need Kneaver because in Kneaver tags, folder, master notes are all the same, just mutable items, so no need to choose. or back to post-its.

https://twitter.com/stipton/status/647892218217283584

Let’s continue, I come to something I heard of but never understood the impact on my design choices: replay attacks.

Let’s add an item to this guy.

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A little later I came to hashes algorithms and the fact that MD5 used everywhere can be broken if you can guess some values. I used it recently and will have to modify my design.

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Notice as I add new items that links to previous items are growing as well. I will create like 20 items on the topic. After a while it becomes obvious that it relates to existing items. Penetration of new knowledge will become evident as it relates to existing hot topics and leads to applicable cases. The normal process is to start at a point of Inquiry and search for something we can actually use. For me it was a library, easy to install and some confirmation I was doing the right choice.

Meanwhile I learned other things I may apply later. If my finding where uniqely link to this search they would be buried forever. By proactively linking them, on the flight, to existing topics, I make them retrievable later. They will even pop up with context (as opposed to simple tagging). When you use wikilinks the copy around the link will provide the reason you relate this item.

It didn’t happen much this day but often I unearth old items while trying to recreate them. First I search, the star button behind the search is handy becaus eit will reuse the search string a title for the new item. So there is no typing lost by searching. With the short summary showing up I can decide if the found topic is the same or a different meaning. Searches are made in all forms of each term (Working will match work, worked, works etc) and on all alternate names. So if nothing is found it’s safe to say the concept is new. If there was something it’s the jackpot because I will relearn something I forgot and bring a new facet to it, effectively growing my knowledge stronger. The more densly linked my knowledge is, the better it is. It creates more occasions to combine things, it gives a stronger understanding by providing different point of view and context.

I continue reading and come across an interesting blog written by this Schneider about Blowfish. I keep an item for the blog. This is more like a entry in a newsreader like Feedly. An OPML record. This is because I feel this site will be a good source of information.

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Next I start implementing a library I found, some time elapsed here. I kept my Kneaver open while working. Some other pieces of information may have been kept directly in the source code ( I document my source code heavily). I come across this concept of Initialization vector and I need to dig this further.

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Done! notice that it embeds a tweet and a note. I often add notes to items when there is a context, a remark for myself.

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Notice also that I changed my mind on the blog above and prefer to take the occasion to remember the guy behind it as an expert of the field and add an item for him. I should retype it as foaf:Person, that will be for the next iteration: I keep changing and updating stuff as it’s so easy and flexible. The ability to semantically structure information is a key benefit of a hybrid text and semantic Knowledge System like Kneaver. Also I fixed the typo in his name. My Alsatian origin surely influenced me.

Later I came on his card and added his twitter handle to allow to gain up-to-date knowledge on the topic.

See the piece of advice I kept for my own govern:

https://twitter.com/schneierblog/status/643416209275228160

and a mention to thank him for his generous sharing of knowledge

https://twitter.com/brunowinck/status/647042429493886976

Because I use the Twitter Integrations my tweet and my retweet of his work will show up when I visit his card again, showing me the kind of interactions we had or not. Links in Kneaver are active, they lead to more possibilities than just clicking on them.

My work continued for a few more hours. I don’t place everything in Kneaver, just the most important stuff that let me reconnect to longer details elsewhere. If could be notes on my disk or in sources files, on web pages. What is important is to be able to find back all this knowledge. If I can locate the time and topic I was working on when I created an item it’s often sufficient to rebuild the whole context and find more details.

https://twitter.com/brunowinck/status/647153134679236608

Takeaways

My exploration was faster, safer, more susbtainable.

Using Kneaver while exploring let me get deep in a topic, very quickly, without loosing my path, while keeping my learning path. I feel safer exploring in depth because I know most important notions will be presented back to me during reviews. It’s not just reading and forgetting: I’m building long-term memory.

Items are not only related one with the other or just below a master item. They are scattered like our thoughts and get related and organized as we gain a deeper understanding. This activity of organizing prompts us to revisit concepts several times and analyze them in term of the position they hold one to the other. This agile scaffolding taking place before, during and after discovering concepts is very efficient.

Adding external items like tweets, handles, links let us keep what is inside Kneaver Lean. We don’t copy inside Knowledge, we link. Links are then used in two ways: as references but also to regain context of learning.

As I make progress I build a strong PLN, handles will be placed in lists, sites will be placed in my newsreader to stay updated. my knowledge is not a still picture I take, it’s a river bringing its water to grow my projects.