Static Website (Hugo, Jekyll, etc.) as a Zettelkasten

Hi all.
Long time reader here. I'm a medical researcher and physician-in-training. I do a lot of knowledge work, mostly consisting of reading scientific articles, textbooks, etc. My primary outputs are peer-review publications, long-form essays, and blog posts.

I've been on the hunt for a personal knowledgebase for a while:
http://www.acuriousmix.com/2014/09/03/designing-a-personal-knowledgebase/

Christian wrote a response to my post a while back:
https://zettelkasten.de/posts/alex-designing-knowledge-management-app/

Over time, I've come to appreciate the timelessness and simplicity of plain text. I've abandoned most proprietary tools and now mostly keep notes in plain text in nvALT.

Still though, I am lacking. Ultimately, I would like a future-proof, connected web of artifacts from my learnings.

Locally, I can write markdown-formatted text notes and keep other assets (image files mostly) in the same directory. Then I can easily link to those files and then a markdown processor (Marked2) can render the images in html. Everything looks nice. This is a portable, timeless setup, so long as there is text and html.

To make the interface more useful and to possibly make my notes public, I've been thinking about using a static website generator like Hugo or Jekyll. Indeed, I've played around with both. It does indeed render the text files into nice html, and links are clickable. The cons are that both platforms impose restrictions on the file structure. Hugo is most flexible, but things I don't like: (1) cannot keep image files in same directory as text, (2) need to use shortcodes rather than regular markdown links to files.

In any case, I think a static website generator would be a nice add on to a plain-text zettelkasten, and could make a ZK more useable and shareable.

Has anyone done this? What do you think?

Comments

• I have created a nanoc static website generator template for flat wiki structures as an experiment to keep role playing game story notes outside my Zettelkasten. The HitHub hosted version is accessible here: https://weltenbastler.github.io/Dailandia/ —Content is in German, but you can see the page layout. When you look at the source code you’ll notice that images and text are in the same contents/ directory. Nanoc does not enforce any arbitrary file locations. (You can configure Jekyll to mix image and text, too, by the way, but still have to use absolute paths to resolve images.) The page is compiled and uploaded using the Rakefile (and the rake command line tool).

There’s a project template, too, by the way: https://github.com/Weltenbastler/template-mac

So one could mount the text file folder in nvALT and publish the archive as a wiki every now and then. Technically, that does work.

But the way I see it, it’s like writing a diary: when you write knowing aomeone else will read it later, you’ll censor and write differently. This could affect the playfulness when writing notes in your Zettelkasten, and maybe even the selection of topics, blending out very private interests. Like BDSM, say. The quality of the notes should not be affected much; after all, each note should be self-contained and as easy to understand as a blog post. So writing privately vs publicly may not make much of a difference for the style. But I would tend towards writing and explaining in more detail to make each note less idiosyncratic. Which could be a benefit as well as a hindrance when you trade brevity for understandability,

Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

• Hi achamess,

I have difficulty to understand what problem you want to solve.

Do you want a visual improvement over the plain text? Or is the main issue that you have problems with connecting the files together?

I am a Zettler

• edited January 2018

@ctietze said:
I have created a nanoc static website generator template for flat wiki structures as an experiment to keep role playing game story notes outside my Zettelkasten. The HitHub hosted version is accessible here: https://weltenbastler.github.io/Dailandia/ —Content is in German, but you can see the page layout. When you look at the source code you’ll notice that images and text are in the same contents/ directory. Nanoc does not enforce any arbitrary file locations. (You can configure Jekyll to mix image and text, too, by the way, but still have to use absolute paths to resolve images.) The page is compiled and uploaded using the Rakefile (and the rake command line tool).

There’s a project template, too, by the way: https://github.com/Weltenbastler/template-mac

So one could mount the text file folder in nvALT and publish the archive as a wiki every now and then. Technically, that does work.

But the way I see it, it’s like writing a diary: when you write knowing aomeone else will read it later, you’ll censor and write differently. This could affect the playfulness when writing notes in your Zettelkasten, and maybe even the selection of topics, blending out very private interests. Like BDSM, say. The quality of the notes should not be affected much; after all, each note should be self-contained and as easy to understand as a blog post. So writing privately vs publicly may not make much of a difference for the style. But I would tend towards writing and explaining in more detail to make each note less idiosyncratic. Which could be a benefit as well as a hindrance when you trade brevity for understandability,

Hey @ctietze
Your nanoc site is cool. Simple. Connected. Organized. And in a form that others could use.

I agree with the part about public thoughts being potentially self-censored. Maybe one can be selective about what gets shared. My science notes - I don't care who sees. But other things I want to keep for myself.

@Sascha

• better visualization of my archive, yes.
• interfacing with the archive - the clickable links and navigation bar help to move around
• integration of non-text (images mostly): for a lot of my scientific annotations, having the figure picture juxtaposed to the text really helps me not have to return to the original (which is a goal of a ZK, right?)
• public sharing - see response to @ctietze. This really depends on one's purposes. But I think my annotations might be useful to other scientists in my field
• potential for higher level organization (like a wiki. maybe use some plugins to make semantics graphs, etc. at the core, everything is still text, but the SWG can add on layers of functionality that are separate from the core data)
• My concerns would be that with all that features you system would be a bit slow and clumsy.

I divide strictly between my personal archive and the texts I produce. Text can be made public.

I am a Zettler

• Hmmm. I find publishing (parts of) a Zettelkasten into a static website quite interesting. I agree, however, with the self-censorship, etc. Maybe parameters to the site-generator could help here. Maybe to blacklist/whitelist certain tags? Eg to exclude "sensitive" parts of the Zettelkasten? I would also find it interesting to browse a ZK archive, clicking on tags showing me other notes containing the same tags, etc

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