Zettelkasten Forum


Help for a new Padawan

Dear Community,

I am a psychology and philosophy undergraduate and I got into making my own Zettelkasten about a month ago because I am fascinated by the potential of the method. I am still very much experimenting with my Zettelkasten, but I have a couple of questions that I need some help with. I have about 85 entries at the moment they are mainly on four broad topics (the internet, philosophy and psychology, and general thoughts) but they are unorganised and not very connected with each other and I am afraid that I am ruining my Zettelkasten right from the get-go.

My question therefore are:

How strong does a link has to be for you to connect notes? Do you try to connect as many notes as possible or wait until more meaningful connections develop over time?

Do you curate your Zettelkasten to find connections that you have missed in the past? or link older notes to new notes that didn't exist before? Do you backlink?

And also within notes I have a question:

I am currently creating a note for Rawls Theory of Justice for a class I have. Do you recommend one note as a summary or smaller notes?

I understand that one thought should fill one note, but how do you approach systems of thoughts?

Sorry for so many questions but thank you very much for your help!

Guy

Comments

  • Welcome, @Guy_Montag!

    How strong does a link has to be for you to connect notes? Do you try to connect as many notes as possible or wait until more meaningful connections develop over time?

    I think this question reveal a bit too much focus on the technical side. E.g I don't have to come up with a numeric value, or a utility function (tonge-in-cheek reference to your Rawls class), to know that I won't benefit from connecting my note about internet router setup with a note about banana bread. I don't need to go from A to B, here. If it doesn't fit naturally, and even if through some hard thinking you cannot say what two notes have in common, that sounds like considering a connection isn't worth the effort. -- I did benefit from connecting my internet router note with a note about listing all IP addresses of all computers in the local network, though. When I want to set up a router, I may want to have a list of tools for troubleshooting handy, so that's why. Similarly, my note about a cow herd needing at least 3 cows so they don't feel lonely is being linked to from an overview about approaches to live off the land.

    Do you curate your Zettelkasten to find connections that you have missed in the past? or link older notes to new notes that didn't exist before? Do you backlink?

    Yes, going through your existing stuff can be a good idea. Spending a whole day trying to figure out if each of my 6k notes could be connected with any other isn't worth the time investment, compared to e.g. work on the app, research something new and take note of that. There's opportunity cost. If you need an extra hour per note to connect it to other notes until you're exhausted, that may be worse than stopping after a handful of minutes

    If you continue to work in your Zettelkasten each day, you'll probably have hunches as to what might be a relevant connection for a new note. After all, you entered the existing notes at some point. It may happen that you forget old stuff, but it's very likely that you'll remember at least the rough topic or point in your life when your Rawls class took place. If you put in the work, it'll leave a mark. Don't be afraid that you will end up forgetting 98% of what you ever wrote in 10 years time :)

    That ties in to my remark at the very top. I kind of know that there's stuff I want to connect a new note to. I may not know the title or content of the exact note I'll end up using, but I will have an idea as to how to get there.

    As your archive grows, you'll create more manual, curated structure notes. And these will serve as entry points into topics. So if someone reads Rawls at the end of their PhD, and remember something from their law classes 3 years back, structures that were created back then will help to get down to the content notes that may be relevant. Scales better than full-text search once the search results become too plenty.

    I am currently creating a note for Rawls Theory of Justice for a class I have. Do you recommend one note as a summary or smaller notes?

    This is all very inidivual -- If you're doing a philosophy major and work through the whole book, it probably pays off to have a structure note for the book to collect all your high-level thoughts. Will the effort to read the whole book pay off in your case? Hard to say. Will it pay off to spend the extra days or weeks of work to process the majority of the book, instead of focusing on a handful of concepts? Also up to you and what you want to make of it in the future. If we all had infinite time, and if there was no opportunity cost, that wouldn't matter :)

    I understand that one thought should fill one note, but how do you approach systems of thoughts?

    Search the forum for "structure note" and "hierarchy". You'll find plenty of examples from members. It's one thing to capture a note about a concept definition. It's getting more interesting when you replicate existing hierarchies of ideas, or create your own. :)

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

  • Hello @Guy_Montag hope you enjoy the forum.

    I am currently creating a note for Rawls Theory of Justice for a class I have. Do you recommend one note as a summary or smaller notes?

    Smaller notes have the advantage that some material in your notes can be cited directly with out having to look it up inside a larger note. (Maybe one year later you have a new note and need to link back to a single idea from your class notes).

    However, I recommend creating a structure note, which is an outline or table of contents of Rawls Theory of Justice. The nice thing here is that you can customize your structure note however you'd like. The structure note can have some text to organize and guide your future-self and more importantly links to your notes.

    Good luck with school, have a great week

  • Welcome to the forums.

    @Guy_Montag said:
    My questions therefore are:

    How strong does a link has to be for you to connect notes? Do you try to connect as many notes as possible or wait until more meaningful connections develop over time?

    Do you curate your Zettelkasten to find connections that you have missed in the past? or link older notes to new notes that didn't exist before? Do you backlink?

    I am currently creating a note for Rawls Theory of Justice for a class I have. Do you recommend one note as a summary or smaller notes?

    I understand that one thought should fill one note, but how do you approach systems of thoughts?

    Yes, and sometimes.

    @ctietze said:
    I think this question reveals a bit too much focus on the technical side.

    I recommend using what you know about philosophy and psychology to 'feel' your way towards answers. Personally, my workflow at various times includes both sides of your questions. Links well up when they do. Some at the time of creation and others in the future. Most of the time I take time to create backlinks but not always. I mostly rely on full-text search for retrieving knowledge out of my zettelkasten and don't too often follow links. This is just my style and it likely will change.

    For demonstration purposes, this is one way to deal with a book level reading in a class environment.

    This is what my class zettel looks like so far and this is only week 6!

    First-quarter of one of seventeen books for this class - 202101232137 • Owning It All 1367 word zettel currently. It may or may not be refactored into smaller zettel in the future depending on the mood, motivation, alignment of the planets. Old notes are linked in here and there.

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

  • @Will the literature course overview note is a very nice example because it has so many different things in it, yet makes a coherent whole for some purpose. Thanks for sharing the picture!

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

  • Greetings from a colleague ;-)

    I usually go back to my previous Zettels only when needed.
    I have no time nor energy to curate my Zettelkasten as it's usually intended.

    So when I write a note and I remember of a past note that may be linked, I do it.

    And I'm a big fan of "overview notes".

  • @Will thank you very much for your images!
    I envy how you are able to stay so organized ;-)
    I copy paste your examples, maybe they help me to have more organization inside the notes.

  • Hello all, thank you for the warm welcome and the great feedback! I decided I will just feel myself into it and make ad hoc determinations on what feels right at the time.

  • @Will: As always you are an inspiration and a ZK Forum treasure! :)

    Started ZK 4.2018. "The path is at your feet, see? Now carry on."

  • edited February 10

    @Guy_Montag the whole point of connections is to use them, so one approach is to think about the utility of any given connection. Typically the utility of a connection goes up the more surprising it is. If it is a connection that is already well engrained in you than it doesn't serve much of a purpose. But on the other hand is a connection is so surprising that it is nonsense, then it loses its utility.

    When you think about it this way, you want to prioritize finding and connect your various notes in surprising ways. Connections that are used for navigation purposes (often obvious connections) are still important but they should be less of a priority. In this sense you want a network of notes that resembles a https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Small-world_network

  • @Nick said:
    Typically the utility of a connection goes up the more surprising it is.

    That certainly does not describe my own experience. In my work, if I get surprises it means something has gone wrong, and I would want to put it right. Different fields of work have different requirements, and we always have to be careful of the False Consensus Effect.

Sign In or Register to comment.