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How to > Concepts and Background > Tell me about active meeting notes...

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Taking notes in a meeting is an age-old activity. It is one of the things that everybody assumes everyone can do. The tools for note taking haven't changed much either: pen and paper or word processor they do the same thing, i.e. layout characters on a page.

The notes written with pen, word processor or indeed a handwriting app on the iPad are passive. That is, they are not capable of doing anything other than being read. In order to make them useful you need to be the active party. You have to remember to go and extract the actions from a meeting document, typically by reading the notes and transcribing or copying to a task list. The word processor is a small improvement over pen and paper in that you can search inside the document, store it centrally and copies are more easily distributed. Even so the word processor is a general purpose tool for putting words on a page and as such its content is still passive. 

What would happen if the notes, or parts of the notes were made active? Let's take an action as a good example. The text of the action would be the same as the passive notes. Someone would be responsible, there would be some words about what the action is and when it is due and so on. In addition to that, and the thing that makes it active is that the action has a life beyond the meeting document. It appears in a to do list (don't worry about how, that's the magic of the app). The original action in the meeting notes must remain unchanged because that is a representation of what was agreed in the meeting. But the representation of the action outside the meeting document can change according to the circumstances. The action takes on a life of its own outside the original document - it is active.

So what? The critical point here is that we have flipped responsibility for being active from ourselves to the computer. We delegate to the computer, instructing it to bring to our attention via the to do list the things agreed in the meeting. We can now relax and let those things come to us rather than us spending energy being active and having to go and look for the actions in each of the meetings we attend. It helps us put the tasks "out of sight, out of mind" until we need them. It helps us stay focused on the things that need our attention rather than having to keep things in our heads.

Virtually all note taking apps are passive because that is what people are used to. We are all used to our old fashioned, general purpose tools that were not really designed to solve this particular problem. I designed Meeting Gold to be active so that you can relax and reserve your activity and energy for doing real work.