Zettelkasten Forum

Thoughts on Folgezettel


When I read the arguments against Folgezettel, I find myself agreeing with them -- in theory. However, in practice, I realize I'm actually finding it very useful, and I'm not seeing any of the drawbacks.

I use a Tiddlywiki. In addition to all the usual wiki-style cross-links (which I use heavily), it has a neat feature where any entry can be used to tag any other entry. So I can have a note on a broad topic, and use it to tag a note on a sub-topic. The toc-selective-expandable macro will list all of a note's descendants.

So, my zettel template has both the toc macro and a macro to list all backlinks.

It's easy to add, remove, or change parent-tags from a zettel, and it's easy to have more than one. And, I can always just tag it with my top-level "dashboard-topics" if nothing else seems appropriate.

The ease with which changes can be made, and with which more than one parent can be added, prevent the rigidity that is the bane of a true hierarchy. And I don't need structure notes (despite 11 MB of text notes); this loose-and-flexible hierarchy serves that purpose, like the vein-system on a leaf.

My primary method of finding something is by using a search, then picking either the thing I'm looking for, or if I don't immediately see it, then something I expect will be an ancestor of it or link to it, and then check out the links, backlinks, and children.

I have an iterative note-taking system (spaced repetition!)

When I first write a note, it's very broadly categorized (whatever parent topic comes to mind first) overly long (well more than a single thought) and structured largely like the source material.

But then I have a list that shows me my largest zettels. So when I'm in editing mode, I go to the largest zettel and break it down into multiple notes, connected accordingly, and reworded. The smaller the notes get, the more careful I get as to their position(s) in my quasi-heirarchy; It helps me to think through the topic to think about what note(s) should be parent or child topics, in addition to coming up with lateral associations. It also becomes less and less structured like the source, and more and more like my archive, and the notes from different sources merge together when they are about the same thought. It's much easier for me to do this iteratively than try to break everything into one-thought-per-note, reworded, and merged into existing notes where appropriate, all at the same time.

What am I missing? It seems very useful to me, and I'm not seeing the downside. It's not restrictive, and it prevents the archive from becoming overwhelming and needing an additional layer of structure.


  • I'm intrigued by your "list that shows me my largest zettels". Is that something you created yourself? It would be a terrific sort option in The Archive, especially for those of us who, like you, tend to write large notes to begin with.

  • That sounds like a great use case for a script! I'm really looking forward to add an internal script engine so you can get maintenance info like this with a simple keystroke.

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

  • edited September 27

    @Jeremy -- it's a macro I wrote around a tiddlywiki script someone else posted.

    I actually break it into two lists: show me the 25 largest zettels that have not been edited this session, followed by a list of the 10 largest zettels that have been edited this session.

    It's a crucial part of my setup, since if I were unable to work iteratively, I doubt I'd be able to maintain it at all.

  • You don't miss anything. My point was: Folgezettel are not a principle and therefore not mandatory to emulate Luhmann's Method. Hierarchy and structure are the governing principles.

    I am not familiar with Tiddlywiki. But if you can use Folgezettel as a technique to provide you with hierarchy and structure then go for it.

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