Zettelkasten Forum


How to see the forest in the trees (or: Finding appropriate links)

So last night I spent a few hours working on my zettelkasten again, learning more and more about its principles applied in practice. I generally have bad experiences with tagging too much because it quickly turns everything too complex and fuzzy, and some of you as well as Luhmann himself seems to agree with this. Luhmann only tagged various entry points for strains of thoughts and this is what I have also done so far.

Now, I wonder, when you try to find specific zettel that you think are related to your current zettel, how do you go about filtering out those that do not fit? Do you just scroll through your zettel list and look at the titles in order to retrieve it? Also, if you just want to check whether other zettel might be relatable, do you just skim their titles?
That is what I have done in the past few days usually. Currently my zettelkasten is still small as I am just a beginner, so I still know where everything can be found approximately. But if I continue growing my zettelkasten-brain in the current pace, in a few weeks I will definitely have troubles finding relatable notes in less than 1-2 minutes. Now, in general I don't see anything wrong with that, because this also means I might find interesting links that I would have otherwise not found ('otherwise' being a hierarchical structure of notes or a traditionally categorized system). I just want to check with your feedback whether this more or less erratic approach is "baked into the cake" of the zettelkasten - whether it is a feature instead of a bug. ;) To me, this seems to be the case and actually pretty clever. The only two disadvantages I can see are that sometimes you might easily get distracted and lose focus (by e.g. trying to find zettel relatable to the concept of oversocialization but having to skim lots of zettel on totally different ideas) as well as time-consuming. So I want to make sure I am not wasting time on something that is actually meant to work in some different way than I understood it. Please let me know whether I am on the right track or whether you think I am going to waste a lot of time in the future by continuing my strolling through my zettelkasten the way I currently do.

Comments

  • @lunario said:
    So I want to make sure I am not wasting time on something that is actually meant to work in some different way than I understood it. Please let me know whether I am on the right track or whether you think I am going to waste a lot of time in the future by continuing my strolling through my zettelkasten the way I currently do.

    You are on the right track. In the future, as your zettelkasten and 'zettelkasting' technique develop your "strolling" will naturally add value. I love your metaphor of "strolling". The value of strolling is what Donald Rumsfeld would have classified as an unknown unknown. Surprises, serendipity, the unexpected.

    The key to optimal "strolling" seems to be to focus the list of notes considered to be the most relevant. Not to look at the whole zettelkasten in each instance. This can be done in The Archive by using the Omni bar to do a full-text search. Here the skill becomes forming relevant queries.

    The seeming impreciseness of "strolling" as you lay it out, is precisely the technique of knowledge enhancement, of growing understanding.

    As I'm writing this, suddenly the value of an imprecise search is apparent. Finding the unexpected, and surprising in the unknown is the only way to grow understanding. If what was found was expected then how could it be considered growth in understanding? Finding what is expected is a way of having confirmation bias, not growth.

    Will Simpson
    kestrelcreek.com

  • How many Zettel does your Zettelkasten have?

  • @Will: Thank you for your reply and for reassuring me.

    @sfast: As I only started my kasten two weeks ago, it only has about 50 zettel so far.

    I am using vimwiki as the main tool for managing my kasten, plus some tools like notational-fzf for searching other notes. It will still take me some days or maybe weeks to adjust everything to my desires and get used to the workflow, but I guess I am on the right track.

  • You handle Zettelkastens of different sizes in different ways. Now, I it is fine to go through the list of all Zettel when searching for connections. You should start to build Structure Zettels because they will be the main enter points to you archive later on.

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