Zettelkasten Forum


How do you see emerging topics derived from multiple structure notes?

Hi, I'm Al, the owner of Improveism - a research-based self-improvement blog. (Not too academic, though. General readers like easily digestible texts)

I've been roaming around on this blog for a while (as well as the forums) and I'm now getting started in creating my own Zettelkasten to improve the content on my blog. To be honest, I'm frustrated by the quality and quantity of what I'm putting out and I think the Zettelkasten will solve this problem. (Not instantly, though. But I'll get there.)

So, my current software stack consists of:

Temporary notes

  • Evernote - for random thoughts and storing the actual highlights and notes from the reading I do on Kindle (I'll get back to this in a second)
  • Zotero - I just realized how much faster you get citations and highlights (as well as track your sources) with Zotero. I didn't know you can do the same highlighting and note-taking there as in Kindle, lol
  • Clippings.io + Kindle - I do most of my reading on Kindle. I push articles on Kindle and read books on Kindle. Every highlight and note gets automatically updated at Clippings.io. Then, Clippings connects to Evernote to transfer every highlight and note.

Literature Notes

  • I don't do Literature Notes on Zotero (yet) but I want everything in the same place where I can see both highlights (I make them italic or indented or I just add quotation marks) and my interpretations/analogies. That's Evernote.
  • Also, I do Tiago Forte's Progressive Summarization method so I can easily browse what these notes are about when I want to copy a relevant passage for a deliverable.
  • From the Literature Notes, I transfer what I feel the best pieces of knowledge are on my Zettelkasten--starting from a structure note.

Slip-box

  • Sublimeless_ZK by @rene - I use Windows and I like how simple and customizable this program is. I tried using Roam--which is nice, by the way--but I'm afraid of losing my data in the long run. The automatic backlink feature is nice, but I found another solution. This brings me to the next point:
  • note-link-janitor by Andy Matuschak - It's pretty neat to have backlinks for easier navigation between connected notes as well as bring you the context "how the two are related" immediately. Since sublimeless_zk uses a different title scheme, I used @piotr's fork.

Are these good enough? Or am I doing something wrong? Also, should you always add cite keys to your Zettels?

Visualization

  • I haven't done this yet, but I think I'm just going with FreeMind to visualize a structure note and its children's connections. This is where I'm having a problem.

Let's say I made structure notes for thirty books I've read.

Surely, some notes in each book will be connected in some way because they're books on behavior, for example. And as per @argonsnorts, notes inside a structure notes imply relevance.

But, how am I going to see these emerging topics outside of my structure notes?

Do you guys use some sort of tool outside of simple mind maps to see connections between these notes?
1. I can't get the visualization script available in the forum by @alexchabot to work on my PC (I use Windows, and have zero background on software. I use trial-and-error).
2. Checking them one-by-one seems kind of a chore to me; and
3. Structure notes (to the best of my limited knowledge) don't show these.

Edit: Idk if this is the right forum category to post this. But yeah, I believe we all think monolithically now so it doesn't matter :lol:

I write about unconventional self-improvement advice at improveism.com

Comments

  • @improveism said:
    But, how am I going to see these emerging topics outside of my structure notes?

    >

    This where the work/magic happens.

    Just because we create a note doesn't add to our knowledge. We just collected it.

    We have to spend time integrating it into our established Zettelkasten. It's work. I do this with the help of a little macro that I use a lot. It starts with a highlighted phrase in any application and the macro will search my Zettelkasten for any similar phrase.

    This points me to notes anywhere in my archive where I use a similar phrase. There are some false positives in the search but I'm continually surprised by what I find and can link up. By keeping my notes atomized the search phrase becomes obvious. I do this when creating a note and also I try and schedule an hour or two a week to just spend time finding the nuggets of connective knowledge that the archive contains. To this end, I also have a macro that presents a random note from which I can start my search.

    With this workflow, it matters not whether a note in part of a structure note or is the structure note. I get presented with the option of connecting them or not.

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

  • @Will so that means: the search, tags, and structure notes are actually just tools to help connect new notes to others. Theoretically, without search functions, we'll have to look at an index or go through each note one-by-one just to connect them to old notes, am I correct? (Some criticize me for being too theoretical, but I think simulating the extreme conditions helps to understand situational concepts more easily)

    In addition, based on what you said, the mindset should be to invest the time to connect each new zettel now, so that writing becomes easier in the future.

    I write about unconventional self-improvement advice at improveism.com

  • @improveism said:
    @Will so that means: the search, tags, and structure notes are actually just tools to help connect new notes to others.

    Each tool (as you call them) plays a different role. Each is used in its own context. I let my inspiration move me to choose which "tool" to use. This is a moving target as I learn and become more Bayesian. Also add to this "Tool Kit" note links, backlinks, inline links and temporary or permanent escalation of note via a special character in the file name.

    In addition, based on what you said, the mindset should be to invest the time to connect each new zettel now, so that writing becomes easier in the future.

    NO! Investing time into each new Zettel is an opportunity cost that has to be weighed against approaching death! Let time surface those notes which inspire. The whole idea of a Zettelkasten is to develop knowledge, not to be once and done. The goal is not to collect notes but to discover the interconnectedness of new ideas expressed in future notes. This is what leads to the mythical 'easier writing in the future'.

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

  • Preach on Zettelnaut! Amen

  • I am not sure if I understand the question right. But my answer would be:

    You see the emerging topics through eureka moments that happen while working with your Zettelkasten. Then you'll act on it (write something, create a new Structure Zettel to capture the nee structure etc.)

    I am a Zettler

  • I see, thanks for reassuring, @sfast. I'm curious, how long does it take you to link a new note to your permanent ones?

    I write about unconventional self-improvement advice at improveism.com

  • @improveism said:
    I see, thanks for reassuring, @sfast. I'm curious, how long does it take you to link a new note to your permanent ones?

    Zero seconds for the first link. I only create Zettel (=Note that is structually part of a Zettelkasten) if I created a link first. Then I'll go through my Zettelkasten and because I know the department (a cluster of Structure Zettel and heavily interlinked notes) of it I link there pretty fast, too. Most of the time, I have an idea and make that connection in addition. This takes a couple of minutes per Zettel.

    I am a Zettler

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