Codifying handwritten work diary?
July 26, 2019 11:04 AM   Subscribe

I want to keep records of my manufacturing production and supervisor instructions on paper. I have snooping people around me and locked cabinets may be seen as attempting theft.

Cell phone use is frowned upon on my job, so a stack of copier paper and a pen it is.

I looked into Gregg and Pitman shorthand but those are dictation based.

Are there fast ways of written records so times, quantities and names are kept secret?
posted by ayc200 to Writing & Language (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Can you use a small bound notebook and take it with you when you leave?

You can learn to write in cipher, but if even a locked cabinet is considered attempted theft, surely ciphered notes present more of a red flag.
posted by chromium at 11:40 AM on July 26 [8 favorites]

Start recording "quantified self" data like what you eat, mood level, how many steps you walk etc. but instead use those criteria to indicate times, quantities, names. Correlate activities like walked, ran, took stairs, to mean Supervisor 1, Supervisor 2, Supervisor 3, etc. and minutes mean quantities. Maybe ramp up to it by actually taking measurements so people get used to you taking notes for yourself.

So for example: Walked 45 steps by 11:20am = Supervisor Asherton req'd 45 tonnes at 11:20am.
posted by cocoagirl at 11:56 AM on July 26 [19 favorites]

Learn a foreign script. Cyrillic, katakana, hangul, Hebrew, whatever. Adapt it to your needs.
posted by adamrice at 12:40 PM on July 26

Gregg Shorthand doesn’t have to be dictation-based. I learned it in high school and use it as my “secret code” all the time. You do run the slight risk of someone else being able to read it, but I don’t think many people know it anymore. However, it does take some time to learn, both to write it and to be able to read it back.
posted by elphaba at 1:07 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]

Using plain text but in a form of code, as cocoagirl suggests, is what I would do. In addition, do you know how to write in cursive? If so, write in cursive, as a lot of people have some trouble reading that these days. (It's also not that hard to learn if you don't know it.)
posted by gudrun at 2:15 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]

Use something like Babylonian numerals. Assign each supervisor (if more than one) a number, write the quantities in numbers, write the time in numbers. Just continue across the page. Define / create artibtrary dividers, something as simple as the symbol for '1' but upside down.

'1' upside down signifies new communication
supervisor's ID number
'2' upside down divides supervisor from quantity
'3' upside down divides quantity from time

and then start the next '1' upside down as necessary. If you do it nice and neat it'll just look like a page full of doodling or whatever. Not breaking for a new line with each record will keep it from standing out like an intentional list.
posted by komara at 2:36 PM on July 26

The readable-text-as-code-for-notes is a beautiful example of deniable encryption, and that also helps with the problem that an obviously secret code journal may raise some eyebrows.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:13 PM on July 26 [4 favorites]

If you’re only writing down a few types of data, you could always just come up with your own code. Add 5 to every number you write down for example. And make up different names for people or like the suggestion above, different actions could correlate to names. For times you could write in military time? Anything simple would work.
posted by katypickle at 4:54 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]

I remember in the book the Westing Game, someone used shorthand in a language not commonly spoken by the character's peers.

I think the real disadvantage of something like shorthand is that it is so visually interesting, that people may be interested in inspecting it.

But if you know another language, you could write it in cursive (suggested above) which would make it seem like normal uninteresting writing at a glance, but be slow to decipher on inspection.

Also, you might consider making sure it blends in. Can you make your notebook look like boring reference material? An standard binder in your office? A fax machine instruction booklet? In fact, could you literally take a collection of technology instruction booklets and write over the text?

Also, how do you plan to do this and not look like a crazy person? Is writing in secret something that would be frowned upon if discovered? Could you do your writing in your car and keep your records there (is having records outside the office a no-no?)?
posted by jander03 at 9:00 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]

Assuming you can take a pen home with you without too close of an inspection, there are plenty of audio recording devices built into pens that might be useful. They'll won't survive close scrutiny or a very careful X-ray, but for casual use you could easily talk into them while pausing between writing entirely innocuous notes on paper that are designed to distract snoopers. (Car keyfobs are another common option, though it's harder to explain why you're holding them near your face mid-day.) If you get one with a removable micro-SD card, you could slip the card into your pocket or cell phone case while at the toilet and almost certainly get through any realistic security.

Note that if this stuff ever might end up in court, recording audio from other people without their permission can be a crime in many places. Recording yourself almost certainly isn't, unless you're talking about classified stuff. (If you've signed a contract that says you won't do this, you could get sued, of course. Proving you don't just have a very good memory would be hard if you don't mention the recordings.)
posted by eotvos at 4:22 PM on July 31

"Assuming you can take a pen home with you without too close of an inspection"

If that's the case then a simple rolled-up scrap of paper hidden in the pen itself would be an inexpensive option.
posted by komara at 8:45 AM on August 1 [1 favorite]

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