Zettelkasten Forum

Descriptions of Folder Based Note-Taking?

In Johannes F.K. Schmidt article on Luhmann he says "The shortcomings of the common methods of organizing notes by collecting them in folders" in describing why Luhmann started thinking about his zettelkasten method. Does anyone know where I can find a description of this common method of folder organization?


  • I am not sure if it is exactly what Schmidt means, but I would assume he is referring to organizing notes into folders according to some categorization that is meaningful to the notetaker (such as by subject matter). What kind of a description are you looking for?

  • @Nick @djdrysdale Schmidt is referring to an interview and the notes where Luhmann described how his Zettelkasten came to be. Unfortunately he does not indicate any sources.

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

  • I wittnessed the common method in person. It is nothing special. He is refering to the habit of professors to collect highlighted articles and excerpts in category folders.

    I am a Zettler

  • Aus "Kommunikation mit Zettelkästen" (Luhmann, 1981): "Für das Innere des Zettelkastens, für das Arrangement der Notizen, für sein geistiges Leben ist entscheidend, daß man sich gegen eine systematische Ordnung nach Themen und Unterthemen und statt dessen für eine feste Stellordnung entscheidet. Ein inhaltliches System (nach Art einer Buchgliederung) würde bedeuten, daß man sich ein für aIlemal (für Jahrzehnte im voraus!) auf eine bestimmte Sequenz festlegt."

  • In English: https://luhmann.surge.sh/communicating-with-slip-boxes

    For the inner life of the card index, for the arrangement of notes or its mental history, it is most important that we decide against the systematic ordering in accordance with topics and sub-topics and choose instead a firm fixed place (Stellordnung). A system based on content, like the outline of a book) would mean that we make a decision that would bind us to a certain order for decades in advance!

    Friendly reminder -- he then continues to stress that placement isn't important. A place is important. Not which.

    This necessarily leads very quickly to problems of placement, if we consider the system of communication and ourselves as capable of development. The fixed filing place needs no system. It is sufficient that we give every slip a number which is easily seen (in or case on the left of the first line) and that we never change this number and thus the fixed place of the slip. This

    Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

  • @sfast oh my that just sounds like it would get messy really fast, especially if you take a lot of notes

  • edited December 2020

    @Nick said:
    @sfast oh my that just sounds like it would get messy really fast, especially if you take a lot of notes

    True. Any professor I interviewed had a system that looked trustworthy to me. Most of them even complained about their systems, or: "systems".

    To me, it was quite comparable to learning about how professional athletes eat. There are quite a lot of them who eat very poorly. Astonishing. But it is quite common in any fields that many professionals are suprisingly unprofessional.

    I am a Zettler

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