Zettelkasten Forum


Newbie having difficulties processing

Hi there. I am new to the ZK method, discovered it 2 days ago actually. I haven't had a chance to write an Intro post yet, but I will do so soon.

In the mean time, I am wondering how you have overcome the paralysis from feeling overwhelmed by all this information. Was starting out a knowledge management system hard for you as well?

For example, I stumbled upon a quote by Donald Rumsfeld:

Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.

I wanted to put this into my ZK, but was struggling with how to break this apart or even how to title it. I know the quote is referring to a division of "things that can be known": known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. I could have a note like that:

202001031825 Things that can be known
Former US Secretary of Defense once about the lack of evidence of linking the government of Iraq with WMD:
> Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.

Things that can be known can be split into known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns.

And maybe I could add facts I learned from the Wikipedia page: that NASA uses the term "unknown unknowns" as well, and that project management also uses it.

Perhaps someone can enlighten me as to how you would process this quote.

I feel like I'm still approaching this form a collector's mindset, wanting to include everything and know everything. Perhaps the important part is asking myself what pieces of information actually matter for me and not trying to process everything?

Comments

  • I don't think there is a "holy grail" in terms of how to do ZK right. You should do it the way it suits you. I process a lot of quotes (I work with texts, old texts especially). For a quote like this, I would just note the source (do it precisely: edition, page number, bibtex citeky, etc.), give it some title like "knowledge", and that's it. As you have more notes, you will see what kind of connections you develop; maybe you will have a bunch of notes on knowledge or the unknown, and then you can have a tag for them.
    I've been doing this -- in various more and less successful formats -- for a while now, but I think the most important thing is not to fret too much about it. Just start. :)

  • edited January 4

    @cowraiser, yes to what @zvt said.
    Here a screenshot of what I did with this quote. 50 out of 900 notes have been tagged as quotes. Most have additional commentary. Value-added.

    Hope this helps. It is only one way to skin a cat or deal with a known' unknown.

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

  • I think your bottle neck are the concepts of knowledge.

    The quote is just a long statement. The last two sentences are sufficient for a quote if you want to capture the statement.

    What to do? You have a couple of choices:

    1. Search for empircal evidence for the statements. (e.g. search for historical examples, statistics etc.)
    2. Search for the mechanism. (e.g. connect it to the Black Swan Model of Nassim Taleb)
    3. Search for practial implications (e.g. creating antifragility -- again -> Nassim Taleb)

    etc.

    Your intuition already lead you in the right direction. You just put a statement in the Zettel but didn't create any knowledge which has structure. Structure is very simple. You need other items (evidence, other statements, implications) and elaborate how they relate to each other. If you create structure when you process something you'll avoid the Collector's Fallacy.

    Perhaps the important part is asking myself what pieces of information actually matter for me and not trying to process everything?

    This is just a criterion for the choice what to process, but does not lead to knowledge creation. Personal relevance is just a possible filter.

    Was starting out a knowledge management system hard for you as well?

    Yes. :smile:

    I am a Zettler

  • edited January 4

    @cowraiser said:
    Perhaps the important part is asking myself what pieces of information actually matter for me ... ?

    For me, it is also important to ask myself why something is important to me. This can sometimes take me a while to understand. I can see something that takes my eye, so I "collect" it. But then I have to think about what attracted me to the item, and what I think I might use it for. What does it illuminate for me? What piece of knowledge or understanding does it contribute to? Sometimes I don't actually find an answer to that until much later. Sometimes I stumble across notes months and years later and think, "Of course -- that is why I collected that item". There are times when the human mind will only reveal itself when it is ready. And that may only be after it has found other bits of the puzzle. Rumsfeld rides again?

    PS: I would add that in certain fields you need to collect quotes. Processing them was an essential part of some of the work I have done in narrative analysis. The text of them was a large part of the thesis I wrote. I would say there is nothing wrong in having the original text easily to hand. All methods need to be adapted to the requirements of the field of study.

  • Thank you all for your replies. I am glad there is a forum where I can see how minds different from mine work.

    @zvt said:
    I don't think there is a "holy grail" in terms of how to do ZK right. You should do it the way it suits you. I process a lot of quotes (I work with texts, old texts especially). For a quote like this, I would just note the source (do it precisely: edition, page number, bibtex citeky, etc.), give it some title like "knowledge", and that's it. As you have more notes, you will see what kind of connections you develop; maybe you will have a bunch of notes on knowledge or the unknown, and then you can have a tag for them.
    I've been doing this -- in various more and less successful formats -- for a while now, but I think the most important thing is not to fret too much about it. Just start. :)

    Ah yes, thank you. This is helpful in dispelling my fear of "dumping information into a container and forgetting about it forever." My distrust of past systems is apparent. Hopefully following this system, and doing it precisely as you said, without focusing too much on "getting it right," will help me start getting into a flow.

    @Will said:
    @cowraiser, yes to what @zvt said.
    Here a screenshot of what I did with this quote. 50 out of 900 notes have been tagged as quotes. Most have additional commentary. Value-added.

    Hope this helps. It is only one way to skin a cat or deal with a known' unknown.

    Thank you for sharing. I like how you re-defined the terms in your own words. I noticed you didn't add any in-text citations, is that intentional?

    @sfast said:
    I think your bottle neck are the concepts of knowledge.

    The quote is just a long statement. The last two sentences are sufficient for a quote if you want to capture the statement.

    What to do? You have a couple of choices:

    1. Search for empircal evidence for the statements. (e.g. search for historical examples, statistics etc.)
    2. Search for the mechanism. (e.g. connect it to the Black Swan Model of Nassim Taleb)
    3. Search for practial implications (e.g. creating antifragility -- again -> Nassim Taleb)

    etc.

    Your intuition already lead you in the right direction. You just put a statement in the Zettel but didn't create any knowledge which has structure. Structure is very simple. You need other items (evidence, other statements, implications) and elaborate how they relate to each other. If you create structure when you process something you'll avoid the Collector's Fallacy.

    This is just a criterion for the choice what to process, but does not lead to knowledge creation. Personal relevance is just a possible filter.

    This makes a lot of sense. Your knowledge of knowledge processing is impressive and I think it is worthwhile to add what you've said to my ZK. :open_mouth: Do you have notes about knowledge processing as well?

    @MartinBB said:
    For me, it is also important to ask myself why something is important to me. This can sometimes take me a while to understand. I can see something that takes my eye, so I "collect" it. But then I have to think about what attracted me to the item, and what I think I might use it for. What does it illuminate for me? What piece of knowledge or understanding does it contribute to? Sometimes I don't actually find an answer to that until much later. Sometimes I stumble across notes months and years later and think, "Of course -- that is why I collected that item". There are times when the human mind will only reveal itself when it is ready. And that may only be after it has found other bits of the puzzle. Rumsfeld rides again?

    I was thinking about that as well. Why is it important to me? I think it will take me a while to answer this.

  • @cowraiser said:
    This makes a lot of sense. Your knowledge of knowledge processing is impressive and I think it is worthwhile to add what you've said to my ZK. :open_mouth: Do you have notes about knowledge processing as well?

    Don't make me blush. :smiley:

    I do have many notes on knowledge processing. One could say it is my one of my jobs to create methods for knowledge processing. :smile:

    I am a Zettler

  • @cowraiser said:
    Thank you all for your replies. I am glad there is a forum where I can see how minds different from mine work.

    @Will said:
    @cowraiser, yes to what @zvt said.
    Here a screenshot of what I did with this quote. 50 out of 900 notes have been tagged as quotes. Most have additional commentary. Value-added.

    Hope this helps. It is only one way to skin a cat or deal with a known' unknown.

    Thank you for sharing. I like how you re-defined the terms in your own words. I noticed you didn't add any in-text citations, is that intentional?

    To paraphrase what @sfast pointed out, through searching for evidence, the discovery of the mechanics, reflecting on the practical and personal implications. Adding these findings to a note helps clarify its meaning and prevents falling into the Collector's Fallacy.

    I simply try and add meaning to a note when recording a quote.

    When asking about 'in-text citations', are you referring to bibliography citations or in-line links to other notes in my zettelkasten?

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

  • edited January 5

    @Will said:
    To paraphrase what @sfast pointed out, through searching for evidence, the discovery of the mechanics, reflecting on the practical and personal implications. Adding these findings to a note helps clarify its meaning and prevents falling into the Collector's Fallacy.

    I simply try and add meaning to a note when recording a quote.

    Makes sense! The thinking and processing step seems to be the key, and my biggest barrier.

    When asking about 'in-text citations', are you referring to bibliography citations or in-line links to other notes in my zettelkasten?

    I meant bibliography citations! But now that I think about it, both!

  • @cowraiser said:

    Makes sense! The thinking and processing step seems to be the key, and my biggest barrier.

    Writing is thinking and what is written is the product of the process. Mind weather is a distraction.

    @cowraiser said:
    I meant bibliography citations! But now that I think about it, both!
    previously:
    I noticed you didn't add any in-text citations, is that intentional?

    Intentions - I don't know. I didn't intend to include or not include. It just happened. Now let me guess. My workflow is such that for citations if there is only one and this is the usual case as a second citation would call for a second note usually. When making a second note, the link to it would be placed as an inline note link in the first note (as in the sample below).

    I do have a summary note with multiple bibliography citations. But it's not quite the same cat. The bibliography citations are number listed at the bottom of the note. I place the cite key inline where appropriate. Example, '[@Blyth:1952a]'.

    Screenshot of part of a note that has inline note links and multiple bibliography citations but this is a special case as it is a summary note.

    The difference between inline note links and links listed in the end-block is subtle. Inline links are made during the note creation process to indicate thought branching. The links in the end-block are referential in some way and usually added at the end of the note creation process. More and more these referential links are added (discovered) weeks or months after the fact during an editing session.

    I hope this helps. I hope this not too confusing. I hope this doesn't sound crazy.

    This discussion is helping me see where my workflow can improve. I don't publish academically so my methods are more relaxed. Your requirements might be more stringent. Maybe others might pipe in with comments around how to cite works inline with page numbers.

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

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