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Why Categories for Your Note Archive are a Bad Idea


imageWhy Categories for Your Note Archive are a Bad Idea

A Zettelkasten is a personal tool for thinking and writing that creates an interconnected web of thought. Its emphasis is on connection and not mere collection of ideas.

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  • I maintained the largest collection of dishes served by restaurants for more than 10 years. It generates a few hundred million dollars annually in revenue to is owner. The dishes recipe were captured by different people via Evernote.

    70% of the metadata was captured via tags, manually added or automatically extracted from plain text. Our clients notified us that some of the entries were of poor quality: for instance some dishes were tagged with "vegan" and "beef" at the same time.
    We organized a few tags into "categories" - aka list of mutually exclusive tags.
    We also added "taxonomies", eg "mayo" implies "egg" and "oil".
    Introducing some constraints on tags did limit what was possible to express but also improved the experience of our clients (and revenue).
    I wanted to share this example to avoid the dogma of a strong position against categories. They are another tool in the toolbox and are, in my opinion, only a more specialized set of tags for specific occasion.

  • I'll make the libertarian argument here: Everybody has the right to mess up his or her own life.

    If you are dealing with anonymous people you surely want to force quality. But you can have a little more trust in yourself than in strangers.

    I am a Zettler

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