Zettelkasten Forum


Tags vs structure notes

Hello,

Now that my Zettelkasten has a few notes (around 200), I realize that my tags and structure notes are redundant. I tend to create notes from a structure note, and it becomes a chore to add tags that I pretty much never use. I think this comes done to the fact that you can add more structure in a structure note that in a tag.

For example, I am trying to study probability. I have a structure note for the topic (and a few large notes that can act as sub structure notes), but then, should I just add a "probability" tag to all those notes? A "mathematics" one? This seems redundant and useless.

Is there anything I am missing here? What is your use of tags compared to structure notes?

Comments

  • edited October 20

    I see three different ways to use tags.

    Organizational Tags to track what needs done in your zettelkasten. For example, I've used #elaborate, #rewrite, and #further-research

    Thematic Tags to track the occurrence of different themes throughout your zettelkasten. For example I have an entire "Vault" dedicated to tracking books I'm interested in. At the end of every note I add what major topics/genres the book covers. This gives me insight into what topics I'm most interested in overtime. Someday I hope to get further insights from creating a tag heat map, which will show me which tags occur the most together.

    Search Tags (Index Tags) can be used to track all your structure notes and the start of note sequences. This is essentially what Luhmann was doing with his keyword index and you see implemented in the program zettelkasten^3. For this to work you have to be very specific with your tags, whereby you only ever have 1-3 notes per tag. This method originated because doing a manual global search (going through every note you have physically) would take way too long, so it became a way to systematically rediscover a note. Nowadays this method isn't as important because having the computer do the global search for you is fairly quick. How useful the global search is mainly depends on how many notes you have with the keyword in them and how good the global search is at showing you the structure notes for any given topic.


    Regarding your probability notes, it all depends on how you want to utilize tags. If you are tracking themes than adding #probability to all them would make sense. If you are just using tags as a search tool then I'd add #probability to the structure note only, than also create a mathematics structure note with the #mathematics tag that links to the probability note.

    I do not have a neuroscience degree, nor have I ever taken a class on it, so take this with a grain of salt. From my understanding, when you revisit a memory, you are strengthening the wiring to it. It does this by adding what is called a "myelin sheath", which helps electrical impulses to transmit quickly and efficiently along the nerve cells. You can think of tagging in the same way. If you notice yourself revisiting certain notes over and over again, then it'd make sense to create a shortcut to them using an index tag, facilitating faster retrieval of those notes.

    So for your situation, you'd normally just travel along the pipeline of #mathematics --> mathematics structure note --> probability structure note --> note on probability you are looking for. But if you find yourself visiting the probability structure note a lot, then it'd make sense to create a tag for it, such that you go #probability --> probability structure note --> note on probability you are looking for.

    Hope that makes sense and that I just didn't confuse you more

  • edited October 20

    @tantrig

    For example, I am trying to study probability. I have a structure note for the topic (and a few large notes that can act as sub structure notes), but then, should I just add a "probability" tag to all those notes? A "mathematics" one? This seems redundant and useless.

    I studied mathematics at a grad level I guess I could be helpful here. For a structure note I would layout systematically a topic; for example one topic in probability has some (A) theory and definitions, (B) key results, (C) sample problems, (D) your homework problems. In each I would add the corresponding atomic notes or directly link to a sheet of paper with the steps of a solution.

    For each note I'd have tags like, #math, #problem_sample, #problem_hw, #definition, #theory. The structure note would have #math and #probability.

    Hierarchy; Structure note #math #probability #topicA. Rest of notes #math #definition etc…

    In general, try to always have a way to separate your work from others. Tags and notes that come from the book or lecture notes should always be different than your work. The structure notes should try to make that distinction clear in your notes and also attempt to make them live together (your work and others work).

    Hope you make it work and implement on my suggestions.

    PS. It's easier to work with shorter but descriptive tags as to avoid misspelling as in mathematics. Instead use #math or #prob_sample #prob_hw

  • @tantrig said:
    Hello,

    Now that my Zettelkasten has a few notes (around 200), I realize that my tags and structure notes are redundant. I tend to create notes from a structure note, and it becomes a chore to add tags that I pretty much never use. I think this comes done to the fact that you can add more structure in a structure note that in a tag.

    ...

    What is your use of tags compared to structure notes?

    For the most part, I agree that tags are redundant in a modern digital zettelkasten populated with thoughtful structure notes and sub-structure notes. Creating notes starting from an established structure note is key. When I think of structure notes, I think of an annotated TOC, not a simple listing of zettel. If I were going to list the zettel, I see where each tag would produce a similar note list. This list would be worthless, in my opinion, because it would not have the grouping and structure and annotations of a true structure note. With a well-maintained structure note, each zettel having the same tag becomes indeed redundant.

    I'm embarrassed to say, "I tag." I don't really know why. I have a few saved searches that use tags. (#inbox, #hub, #slogans, #haiku). But otherwise, I've never used tags in a search. I've always started from a structure note or done a full-text search of my zettelkasten. Tagging a zettel seems like time spent fruitlessly that would be better spent reading or refactoring zettel.

    Will Simpson
    I'm a Zettelnant.
    Research: Rationalism, Zen, Dzogchen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
    kestrelcreek.com

  • @Nick said:
    I see three different ways to use tags.

    Organizational Tags to track what needs done in your zettelkasten....

    Thematic Tags to track the occurrence of different themes throughout your zettelkasten....

    Search Tags (Index Tags) can be used to track all your structure notes and the start of note sequences....

    I like this distinction and I certainly use tags in all of these ways.

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