Zettelkasten Forum


What are your three main questions regarding the Zettelkasten Method

As I am progressing through the book, I start to collect questions and and look what people liked and disliked in other books. This is the preliminary table of contents of the second edition of my own book.

  1. Introduction. Knowledge and knowledge work. The Zettelkasten Method as applied theory of knowledge work.
  2. Foundations. Didactics with One-File-Zettelkasten. Create zettel. Connect Zettel.
  3. Knowledge Work with your Zettelkasten. Research. Reading. Processing. (14,196 words at the moment. Comparison to the first edition: It was 25000 words total!)
  4. Improving your Zettel. Writing Zettel well. Giving good titles. Making right tag choices. Connecting done right.
  5. Advanced Methods. (no good Translation. German: Vertiefungen) Structure and Structure Zettel. Layering. Using Images. Complexity and managing it. Self scaling of the Zettelkasten. Maintenance.
  6. Yielding hoards. Writing with your Zettelkasten. Using Outlines. How texts emerge from your Zettelkasten. Reverse knowledge flow. Collaborative writing.
  7. Choosing Software. General thoughts on software and the method. The Archive. Texteditors, Wikis. Bibiography Software. Inboxes.
  8. The Greater Context. Knowledge work and your daily/weekly schedule. Measuring your knowledge work. The goal of knowledge work. The Zettelkasten and Deep Work. Zettlekasten method for.. personal knowledge work, students, academics, fiction writer.
  9. Zettelkasten theory. (This could be cut from the final manuscript). Measuring your archive. Collecting data (complexity, connectivity, depth of connection, cardinality.

What is important to you that is not covered (or you want to make sure is covered)? Everything is, of course, relevant for the course, too.

I am a Zettler

Comments

  • Looks fantastic! Is this for an English version?

    I think this depends on your audience, but 3 broad questions:

    1. What is Zettelkasten (What is it?)
    2. Why is it useful and why is it better than other methods of knowledge management? (Purpose/benefits)
    3. How to do it? (Implementation)

    I think spending most time on implementation is wise. I think people get it, but walking them through "how to do it" with a lot of detail will yield most benefit to new and veteran users of ZK

  • What I have found missing in other texts on Zettelkasten is practical examples of how to use a Zettelkasten for writing texts - blog posts, essays, books. Different strategies for each type.
    Also, strategies for adding context to notes. I understand the value of adding context and I've picked up tips here and there but I find other books/articles lacking in concrete examples. It is still hard to do.

    For me, there is no need to convince me of the value of a Zettelkasten, personally I'm past that stage. I just want examples that I can follow and integrate the best parts into my workflow.

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

    1. Lessons learned from experience revealing best practices to embrace and pitfalls to avoid.
    2. Full-text search using boolean operators explained and demonstrated as part of the toolkit.
    3. What conventions to use, why, and how they help. The UID easily comes to mind, but surely there are others, tagging, etc.
  • To offer my suggestion, please indulge me in an analogy that may seem slightly off-topic. I don't know if you have ever read a cookbook by the people at Cook's Illustrated, but the recipes are unlike any other cookbook. The recipe is preceded by an essay of several thousand words, and the essay is incredibly useful because it does two things: 1) very clearly describes what they consider the ideal version of this dish to be, making their goal clear 2) gives clear descriptions of alternate cooking methods and ingredient ratios that they tried but rejected, along with the non-ideal outcomes that these rejected elements produced.

    Based on our other conversations on the forum, I would say that the most important improvement you could make in your book is spending a significant amount of time describing the type of writing that you are aiming to help the reader produce. Every piece of advice in your book, such as what makes a good title, and what are the correct tags, will be based on your assumptions about the nature of the desired outcome, and if these assumptions are not clearly stated, there is a risk that some people will think your methods just don't work well rather than recognizing that they are not the right audience for your suggestions. Many of your suggestions may work well for all types of writing or many types of writing. But even saying that this method works well for "academic" writing is insufficient, and our discussion made clear that you and I have different assumptions about what philosophical writing is as well.

    I am looking forward to buying the English version!

  • Thanks at all!

    @achamess

    This is my thought, too. In the first edition, I made the first two points a bit to large compared to the rest. This is now fixed.

    @Will

    Many examples. That will be done.

    Can you elaborate on this:

    Also, strategies for adding context to notes.

    @MikeBraddock

    I think 1 and 3 are already planned by me. 2 strikes me as odd. Would you mind to expand and explain?

    I understand 1 and 3 as "Make it practical and found methods in experience of success and failure". Did I understand you correctly?

    @achamess

    Is this the right book? https://www.amazon.de/Science-Good-Cooking-Illustrated-Cookbooks/dp/1933615982/

    I think your point will be difficult. I mostly give general advice on why the title needs to correspond with the content of the Zettel in the most direct manner. Most advice is directed towards a good Zettelkasten not what you do. That sounds a bit ignorant to what you wrote since what a good Zettelkasten is should depend on the goal. But I try to identify good practices in general (why direct links are necessary to give life to the Zettelkasten) and then give some good (and bad) reasons to deviate from that in some cases.

    I'll explain in more detail when I have time and capacity to answer in the other threads. :smile:

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast said:

    @MikeBraddock

    I think 1 and 3 are already planned by me. 2 strikes me as odd. Would you mind to expand and explain?

    I understand 1 and 3 as "Make it practical and found methods in the experience of success and failure". Did I understand you correctly?

    The Omnibar, is a powerful tool for searching a Zettelkasten. Links and tags and structured notes are wonderful. But if there were no links and no tags you, could find, follow, see, capture, discover anything you wanted, or needed in your Zettelkasten. You could if you are proficient at searching. Before The Archive, you and Christian used to search as a primary tool?

    With your large volume Zettelkasten do you ponder and build search strings using AND OR NOT operators to help narrow your results? What's your approach? Show us how you use searching in your workflow?

    Say you search on Nietzsche and The Archive returns the 3142 zettels. What do you do to pair that down? How do you filter those results to something manageable and find or discover that perfect unremembered Zettel that has been waiting, hiding in plain sight, for you since 2012?

    Isn't searching a skill like linking and tagging?

    Yes, your view of 1 and 3 is correct.

  • @sfast said:
    @Will

    Many examples. That will be done.

    Can you elaborate on this:

    Also, strategies for adding context to notes.

    I'm searching for is a solution to my own shortcomings in note-taking. I am on the constant lookout for tips that will help with searching the archive for what I look for. As an example:

    I'm writing an essay on the Hells Canyon Wilderness. I have a series of notes tagged with #high_trail (which is the main trail in Hells Canyon Wilderness). So I can easily get those notes for review and follow the note links and the interstitial links. I give the interstitial links more weight because they are created at note creation time as opposed to the reference links which are usually added later and sometimes much later. I can do keyword searches in the Omni Bar such as "Hells Canyon Wilderness". But I feel some notes are slipping my grasp. I feel like I'm missing relevant notes related to Literary Wilderness Creative Non-Fiction, which is not a tag nor a phrase I've used in the past. My memory is cloudy but I think I've processed a few articles on beavers, wolves, and haiku writing that might be very relevant. This depends on my fallible and biased wet memory to recall the relevant notes. I want to create the notes in my Zettelkasten, to the best of my ability, so they are infallible and unbiased.

    In responding to you and writing out this example I see lessons I should have already learned. I can only find those "breadcrumbs" I left for myself in the past. No "breadcrumbs" = no finding the note. It is on me to type the note and phrase it in a way so that it will surface in the future with a search. I have no other way. Numbering or naming the note in some magical way will not help. At least I don't think it will help.

    As for examples of tips that help with this -
    1. Adding to the YAML block an entry that stated why this note is being created. Its context.
    2. noting the questions I have about the idea.
    3. revisiting the note either systematically or randomly
    4. Scheduling a time for a random saunter through the Zettelkasten to see what surfaces.
    5. Iteration

    More of these types of tips or exercises is what I meant by "Also, strategies for adding context to notes."

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

  • As someone who kind of has a Zettelkasten going but lacks the discipline to nurture it most of the time, I think it could be interesting to explore ways to lower the resistance of putting something into the zettelkasten.
    I often take notes during the day but I rarely end up adding them. However, anything I added in the past has been super useful later on.
    It feels like I am just always in deadline mode and never have the time (which is probably a time management problem...) to work on it.

    Besides that, I am am since ever and ongoing struggling to include the ZK into anything too technical like math, statistics or computer-scien-ish. While that might be too specific for the book, I think examples of the applications of the Zettelkasten method outside of humanities could be useful.

  • edited March 30

    @MikeBraddock

    Ah, ok. I think I will perhaps add a paragraph or two on that issue. I think that didn't come to my mind because I personally happen to use the search less and less. It is mostly for what Luhmann would call "entry points". Most navigation after that is done via direct links and with the advantage of mostly well maintained Structure Zettel.

    @Will

    Are you familiar with Trigger Zettel?

    @m0hawk

    Oh, luckily you don't know me in person. I often pretend to be triggered by the need of "easy methods". I think the solution is mostly: Make thinking and note taking happen in the Zettelkasten. Then you'll don't have to anything. (That is one reason, I don't do any "literature notes" and then make "permanent notes". I just write in my Zettelkasten and therefore need not such inbox for "literature notes")

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast said:
    @Will

    Are you familiar with Trigger Zettel?

    No. Please school me in what a Trigger Zettel is.

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

  • That's the right "author"/group but I don't know if that book gives recipes or not. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any Cook's Illustrated recipes online. They're pretty careful to not give away content.

    I think your point will be difficult. I mostly give general advice on why the title needs to correspond with the content of the Zettel in the most direct manner. Most advice is directed towards a good Zettelkasten not what you do. That sounds a bit ignorant to what you wrote since what a good Zettelkasten is should depend on the goal. But I try to identify good practices in general (why direct links are necessary to give life to the Zettelkasten) and then give some good (and bad) reasons to deviate from that in some cases.

    Although you are trying to convince yourself otherwise, it's clear to me in this comment that you see the problem. What are good practices in general? What makes a reason to deviate from these practices a good reason or bad reason? It all depends on your goal.

    If I'm giving advice on how to make good bread "in general," and you are thinking of dense, brown, hearty German bread, and I am thinking of fluffy, crusty, white French bread, we could argue for a very long time about the proper way to make bread without ever understanding the basis for our disagreement.

    The time management part of your brain is trying to convince you that this is not a problem so you can finish the book faster. Let the "I still have things to learn" and "other people think differently than I do" parts of your brain open up so the book will be better in the end. :smile:

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