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:

  • edited April 6

    @Will I used to have the following routine:

    1. Create a link to a non existent Zettel.
    2. Write the Zettel that is targeted by the link.
    3. Press "zzz" which tagged all the important Structure Zettel, Outlines and Trigger Zettel.

    During the third step I evulate if the new Zettel is worthy of being linked. That is true for the first types of Zettel. The Trigger Zettel were titled with different topics and are meant to remind me of different topics. I routinely asked the question "How can I combine the topics with the new Zettel to write a new Zettel that describes a meaningful connection between them?" I'd then copy the ID and title and wrote just what came to my mind. From time to time, I would empty the Trigger Zettel and refractured Zettel from my notes. They looked similar to this:


    201710140755 Übergang von Alltag zu Überlieferung. Schreibe Inhalte, die noch lange gelesen werden können. Nicht einfach nur aktueller Scheiß. Das ist dann die langfristige Strategie.
    201709130926 Man muss das Tun mögen nicht das Resultat. Bloggen soll Zweck an sich sein. Zwing dich nie, irgendwas zu schreiben, damit du etwas geschrieben hast. Das ist nicht ehrlich.
    201708051151 Moderne falsche Rückmeldung der Lebenswelt für Männer. Man lernt eigentlich nur, dass es auf Likes und Views ankommt. Nur das zählt am Ende.
    201704190931 Vereinbarung von Fremd- und Selbstzweck. Steck deinen Rahmen ab. Eine gewisse Rücksicht auf Traffic und ähnliche Parameter sind nötig, aber sie zielen darauf ab, dass das Schreiben und Bloggen zum Selbstzweck wird.
    201704081042 Spruch über Menschen des Mittelmaß. Hebe dich ab.
    201702281526 Reposting alter Inhalte als Ausschlusskriterium. Kein Reposting!
    201702270850 Sozial vermittelter Selbstwert im Utopia Artisana. Suche den Leserkontakt auch aus deinem eigenen Interesse. Du brauchst das Gefühl zu helfen.


    @cobblepot I think we differ from our assumptions how similar each person is. I argue that we are very similar and you stress the differences. :smile:

    I am a philosophia perennis and concilience of knowledge kind of guy. From my point of view, we all do basically the same thing.

    I am a Zettler

  • I don't have three questions off the top of my head, but I do have one: In the past on this forum we've had some differences of opinion about the need to completely zettelize a source text as a self-contained process and then never refer to the source again. (Please correct me if I'm mischaracterizing.) Do you consider that to be an essential element of the method, or just your own personal work style?

  • @Eurobubba said:
    I don't have three questions off the top of my head, but I do have one: In the past on this forum we've had some differences of opinion about the need to completely zettelize a source text as a self-contained process and then never refer to the source again. (Please correct me if I'm mischaracterizing.) Do you consider that to be an essential element of the method, or just your own personal work style?

    I'd love to discuss this but perhaps you want to start a new thread so it doesn't get lost?

  • @sfast said:
    @cobblepot I think we differ from our assumptions how similar each person is. I argue that we are very similar and you stress the differences. :smile:

    Obviously, people are all the same in many ways and are different in many ways. The question is how large differences need to be to affect the effectiveness of a particular ZK system.

    The fact that you think that in the context of the ZK all people are similar while I think all people are different itself shows the differences between people! :smile: We disagree about how important cognitive differences are to the ZK. You might reflect on how often you have felt misinterpreted on these forums when determining how similar we all are. Even now, there is an ongoing unaddressed difference in forum members about whether the ZK is for thinking and writing drafts (your position) or just for thinking (others' positions).

  • @Eurobubba I can answer it with very short: No. It is not essential. Just a bit sloppy which leads to subpar results.. :wink:

    @cobblepot No, no. You won't do this to me.. :kissing: You line of argument is capable of establishing qualitative statements. But the issue is of quantitative nature. :wink:

    I am a Zettler

  • @Eurobubba I can answer it with very short: No. It is not essential. Just a bit sloppy which leads to subpar results.. :wink:

    Ordnung muss sein!

  • @cobblepot said:
    I'd love to discuss this but perhaps you want to start a new thread so it doesn't get lost?

    I don't think I have anything to add right now that I haven't said before, but if you want to start a thread I'm curious what you and others will have to say.

  • @sfast said:
    @cobblepot No, no. You won't do this to me.. :kissing: You line of argument is capable of establishing qualitative statements. But the issue is of quantitative nature. :wink:

    There are two very different kinds of people in this world: those that think ZK discussions are qualitative and those who think they are quantitative. We all think so differently! :wink:

  • @Eurobubba said:
    I don't think I have anything to add right now that I haven't said before, but if you want to start a thread I'm curious what you and others will have to say.

    I don't want to rehash old discussions, but I couldn't find these threads in the search to see what you and others have already said. Can you point me to something or maybe restate?

    I guess I'm also hesitant to start more new threads when I'm already posting so much. I don't want to dominate the conversation. :blush:

  • edited April 9

    To me it is all about facilitating connections that you eventually turn into writings. So on a base level I would want to know

    1. what are the different types of connections?
    2. Tips for creating good connections?
    3. What are bad connections and how to avoid them?

    Oh and also the different ways to take notes and comparison of them. Which kind of gets into the different ways we use them such as a reference (Wikipedia), Idea generator (slip-box), structure thinking (outline or mind map of what you are studying).

  • @cobblepot said:
    I don't want to rehash old discussions, but I couldn't find these threads in the search to see what you and others have already said. Can you point me to something or maybe restate?

    Most recently here.

  • I find the whole topic of bibliography links, software etc is absolutely underrepresented in the literature.

    In this internet age it is to be expected, that over the longer distance most users of the Zettelkasten method will NOT be college and university students.

    There seems to be an assumption that the default basis for Zettelkastlers is "here are the journals your faculty subscribed to, here is the reading list for this semester, now get lost and produce your paper"

    • If you have a Zettelkasten, everything looks like a Zettel.
    • Or even potentially many Zettel!
  • @cobblepot said:
    I guess I'm also hesitant to start more new threads when I'm already posting so much. I don't want to dominate the conversation. :blush:

    Just do it.

    @Nick said:
    To me it is all about facilitating connections that you eventually turn into writings. So on a base level I would want to know

    1. what are the different types of connections?
    2. Tips for creating good connections?
    3. What are bad connections and how to avoid them?

    Oh and also the different ways to take notes and comparison of them. Which kind of gets into the different ways we use them such as a reference (Wikipedia), Idea generator (slip-box), structure thinking (outline or mind map of what you are studying).

    Are your first points correctly re-described by the following?

    How do I connect Zettel in a way that the connection is meaningful enough to be published?

    The second point is not clear to me. Can you expand on that?

    @Perikles said:
    I find the whole topic of bibliography links, software etc is absolutely underrepresented in the literature.

    In this internet age it is to be expected, that over the longer distance most users of the Zettelkasten method will NOT be college and university students.

    There seems to be an assumption that the default basis for Zettelkastlers is "here are the journals your faculty subscribed to, here is the reading list for this semester, now get lost and produce your paper"

    Is your issue that you want to learn how to research properly?

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast my second point is essentially "why do it this way" compared to others?

    When "rule learning" in educational psychology, it helps to have multiple examples side by side so you see the underlying rules vs. just studying one example here and there (example learning).

    So what is the underlying rules (or principles) of note taking more broadly? Lüdecke's presentation slides does this at the beginning as he covers the different ways notes are linked in the various apps.

    Or another way to put it. Create an "Evolution of Note Taking App" which goes from writing stuff in notebooks to current implementation of the Archive in order to explain why this is a good way to take notes compared to others.

  • @Nick I think the book will fall a bit short on that. There are very few examples. I know the method how I created it (with some sprinkling by Christian of course..) works and I will demonstrate it when I write a book in public. But I know not many examples of successful (productive) people who use note taking productively (and are not productive inspite of their methods).

    Those rules have normative nature and the normative power is derived from the success of adhering to them. But I don't see many successful examples (It is not a coincidence that there are quite few practical demonstrations of actually producing something with advertised methods). I hope to fill the gap by doing some knowledge work in public.

    I am a Zettler

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