Zettelkasten Forum


Some Fun with Randomness and Context

I was reading Luhmann's text on Communicating with slip boxes and how he expects spontaneity and surprise from his Zettelkasten. Some on this he gets through re-discovering links he put between notes, but others come from the materiality of having a paper archive, for example sing other notes while browsing for the note he was looking for, seeing each note in its sequential context, etc.

Depending on how your Zettelkasten is set up, these contexts are more or less present in your archive. Often in digital contexts, we see only the information we search for and not its context. Compare for example a Wikipedia entry with an entry on a page in an encyclopedia with other entries nearby (certainly a way for me to discover new topics growing up).

Anyway, I found two ways of introducing some randomness and context.

The first is finding and listing random notes. I use Emacs and there are some people who wrote scripts to bring up random files from a folder, but I found it to be enough to open a fuzzy search for files (same as you have in Sublime text and Atom) and then just randomly hitting 3 numbers. Since my UIDs are in the format of "201902181755", I almost always get between 1-5 hits of notes. This number would for example match "9 1 5" or "0 2 7". If you get too many, use 4 numbers and if too few just hit 2 numbers. Works great to re-discover stuff. Plus points for rolling 3 T10 dices to get your numbers instead.

The second method is a context script I wrote in bash that takes a UID as input and lists for the following with the help of the search command ag:

  • Links to file
    Searches for the UID in the archive an list hits.

ag $uid

  • Before and After

List 3 files before and after in the Zettelkasten order

ls|ag -C3 $uid

  • Mutual links

For each link it finds in the file, search and list other notes that has the same link

  • Mutual references

Same but for Zotero citations @authorYEARtitle

What other suggestions do you have to include in the script to provide context?

I put the script on pastebin here, but will put it on github eventually together with some other stuff.

https://pastebin.com/f9W1eHsR

Comments

  • This is great! I love the random number method.

    Any chance that script will end up on melpa eventually? :)

  • If I can convert it from bash to elisp :)

  • edited February 23

    You right @magnus, randomness and context require extra effort in the digital zettelkasten. Thanks so much for the inspiration to tackle this. I can now see the value of randomly adding randomness to my note-taking process. All the randomness fun can't be hoarded by the EMACS crowd. Keyboard Maestro is so helpful here for us who are deaf, dumb, and blind to EMACS. In conjunction with The Archive, I've created a macro that presents a random note. One key press (F5 in my case) and a random note is viewed. Easy peasy.

    Now I'm thinking about how I might implementing a note with the context surrounding it. This will be harder. Give the way The Archive allows only one file at a time in the Omni Bar.

    Heres a link to the goodies.
    Random Note Macro

    Will Simpson
    kestrelcreek.com

  • @Will said:
    Keyboard Maestro is so helpful here for us who are deaf, dumb, and blind to EMACS.

    Don't feel bad, emacs is less an editor and more a Questionable Lifestyle Choice.

  • The evil version of this is to clone your zettelkasten, then run a script on that clone that randomly scrambles your internal links, so that they point to different notes -- existing ones, but different ones.

    Maybe good for creative writing and finding unusual patterns.

    How real are really the connections we put in the zettelkasten? Sometimes I do link without much thought to the connection just to have another way out of the note. I've made a commitment now to not do orphans and preferably always begin a note as a link from another.

  • @magnus said:
    Sometimes I do link without much thought to the connection just to have another way out of the note. I've made a commitment now to not do orphans and preferably always begin a note as a link from another.

    I admit that I too, sometimes 'link without much thought' but I'm not proud just human.
    This is what I consider, in myself, a fault to correct. Not the linking part but the without much thought part.

    I've made a commitment now to not placing tags in notes when they are created but to add links when a note is used in producing a paper. Saves time and lets links be relevant to production.

    Will Simpson
    kestrelcreek.com

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