Zettelkasten Forum

Current events and news in a zettelkasten for trendwatching purposes

Do any of you capture interesting current events in your zettelkastens?

There are a few topics that interest me. For example, in my job, I like to keep on top of certain technology trends and it's useful to me to track them. The stories I find might be slight, but I'm more interested in a larger pattern that they represent. The pattern may or may not be obvious at first, or it may end up going in a different direction than what I expected, or it may end up being noise.

My idea is that I would create a note documenting what interests me about the story and have a structure note representing the broader trend, but curious if others have thoughts on the merits and demerits of this kind of approach within a zettelkasten framework.

The concern I have is that I will fall prey to the collector's fallacy, and end up with a bunch of notes that are little more than "So this happened."


  • There are always interesting twists and turns as fate and news unfolds. For instance, John Wilkes Booth's brother Edwin saved Tad Lincoln's life shortly before JWB killed Abraham Lincoln.

    There are linkages like that everywhere. If I were to resurrect my news writing days I would absolutely build a Zettelkasten.

  • @djdrysdale Your approach sounds eminently sensible to me. If you end up with a few news items that go nowhere, don't worry. I think the trick is to draw some sort of "lesson" or "idea" from them, which allows you to link that zettel to others of a similar ilk.

  • @djdrysdale, a few snippets from my own collection, which I use for a similar purpose from time to time:

    Historian Frederic Paxson had a significant practice of excerpting contemporary newspapers in a manner similar to yours. 1 Gotthard Deutsch (1859-1921) had a card index of 70,000 items relating to Jewish history, many of them he collected from his daily news. 2 Aby Warburg "obsessively kept" notes on antisemitic incidents on the Eastern front in his zettelkasten.3 And not as newsy or lofty, but comedienne Phyllis Diller regularly cut out comic strips from the daily newspaper which she taped to index cards and kept as bits of inspiration (outright theft??) for her comedy and stand up performances.

    [1] Pomeroy, Earl. “Frederic L. Paxson and His Approach to History.” The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 39, no. 4 (1953): 673–92. https://doi.org/10.2307/1895394.

    [2] Lustig, Jason. “‘Mere Chips from His Workshop’: Gotthard Deutsch’s Monumental Card Index of Jewish History.” History of the Human Sciences 32, no. 3 (July 1, 2019): 49–75. https://doi.org/10.1177/0952695119830900.

    [3] Aschheim, Steven E., and Vivian Liska, eds. The German-Jewish Experience Revisited. Perspectives on Jewish Texts and Contexts 3. De Gruyter, 2015. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110367195.

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    No piece of information is superior to any other. Power lies in having them all on file and then finding the connections. There are always connections; you have only to want to find them. —Umberto Eco

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