Understanding Hierarchy by Translating Folgezettel and Structure Zettel
edited April 2020 in Project: Zettelkasten.de
Understanding Hierarchy by Translating Folgezettel and Structure Zettel
Folgezettel and Structure Zettel use the form of hierarchy: Folgezettel use a single one, Structure Zettel use multiple. Folgezettel can lure you into collector's fallacy, though, when you postpone making connections meaningful.
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I have to think a bit more before I want to write a proper comment for this, but I have one quick thing: I think the terms "meaningless" and "meaningful" are so incredibly loaded that they distract completely from whatever is meant to be said. Either a better choice of words or an explanation at the beginning of the article would prevent a lot of confusion.
@Sascha This blog post is excellent. It brings everything together so nicely and explained it so well. You are very good at this sort of heavy lifting! Bravo! - Thank you!
Thank you for this—I'm tinkering with my own version of Folgezettel technique that doesn't have the problems you enumerated. I, myself, have found a problem with using the technique even while using the prescription of the most authoritative sources on the Internet. This post should act as my North Star.
P.S. Thanks for the mention, that confirmed my stance.
@Sascha I think part of the issue is that people are going through growing pains with trying stuff out and figuring it all out.
i don’t know if you have notes on this, It would be interesting to see an evolution of thinking post. I assume there is an abstracted evolution that most people go through with their thinking?
Similar to how people will separately come to the same conclusion about a plain text approach or if you’ve noticed if there is a common evolution in thinking about tags or IDs.
A super cool post would be evolution of note taking. Which has a problem, solution format.
Where it’d start with:
Problem: limited memory
Solution: people start to take notes
Then work your way up to your current open ended problems
I’d also add this, which is from my intro to psych book “ When people develop expertise in an area, they process information not only in chunks but also in hierarchies composed of a few broad concepts divided and subdivided into narrower concepts and facts.
Organizing knowledge in hierarchies helps us retrieve information efficiently, as Gordon Bower and his colleagues (1969) demonstrated by presenting words either randomly or grouped into categories. When the words were grouped, recall was two to three times better.
Such results show the benefits of organizing what you study—of giving special attention to chapter outlines and headings, and, in this text, to numbered Learning Objective Questions. Taking lecture and text notes in outline format—a type of hierarchical organization—may also prove helpful.“ (David G. Myers, 2018)
Of course, mate! I have Zettel about everything in my Zettelkasten. I have a small department on those types of developments.
Highly recommended btw: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7740089
But you are right. Christian and me had the luck of being neighbors first and then flat mates. We went after each other a lot which improved our learning process (and stress-tested our love. ). Quite some news in the area (not only in this forum but in the field in general) are 10 years old from my perspective and I have the feeling to talk to my 10 year younger self.
Yeah, but I think it would be dishonest because I can't remember all the steps I think. Or are you talking about a true history of note taking?
I am a Zettler
@Sascha , this post really helped me understand your position better. But there is one crucial element I am confused about. You write:
But also: (!)
This seems to be a contradiction to me. I take it that your point is that Structure Zettel remove the meeting from position in a hierarchy, but somehow impose hierarchy through other means. But if not through position, then how? Or was that not the distinction you were trying to make?
Structure Zettel create hierarchies and/or make existing explicit. But the more hierarchies you create the less meaning is in the actual position in each hierarchy. A Zettel can be part of 100 hierarchies. Each position carries less meaning in the overall picture. But within each hierarchy meaning of position remains untouched.
Compare it to our lifes: If you just have a job your position in this hierarchy defines you. But if you are part of a religious community, golf, play e-sports you job loses meaning in the overall picture because you are a mesh of different hierarchies.
But in the middle-distant future I will write a longer piece on what meaning is in the context of the Zettelkasten Method. This post is also a preparation of a deeper dive into the field of knowledge work.
I am a Zettler
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I do not have the intuition that more social roles makes each one less meaningful. I will wait for your explanation of "meaning". I'll also echo the sentiments of another poster ( @Eurobubba ?) who suggested that you no longer use the term "meaning" because it is so loaded and ambiguous. Maybe you should coin a neologism or at minimum a two-word phrase or something.
I know you pride yourself on your simple writing and use of "ordinary" language, but remember the latter half of the quote, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler". These are complex ideas and it will not aid understanding to insist that there is one clear, simple, ordinary meaning that is obvious and everyone should agree on. Using ostensibly "simple" language to refer to ambiguous concepts is not clarifying, but confusing - at least to me!
@cobblepot: So you have, just, one social role
Far from it! Do you feel that having multiple roles makes each less meaningful? If an unemployed father gets a job, is his fatherhood less meaningful?
I think "meaningful" is being used as something like "meaning/value/importance" in a overall sense. A note with no links would be said to have no "meaning/value/importance", as it wasn't listed in any structure anywhere to help identify that. A note with just one link would only have "meaning/value/importance" to the overall archive derived from that one link, meaning that one link carried all the "meaning/value/importance" of that note. In that sense, as you add more hierarchies and put that note into different ones, each individual link carries less of the overall weight of "meaning/value/importance" for each note, such that losing one wouldn't suddenly rob a note of an overall "meaning/value/importance" that a random unlinked note might have.
In your example, if someone only found value as being a father, having the child move away would be akin to having an identity crisis. Having other roles to ground himself in would give him other things to see himself as, so that losing one or another role wasn't so "earth shattering" (which is sadly what happens when people put all their self-identity into a job and have that taken away).
What @mleo2003 said.
If all you have is your job, and it is taken away from you, how devastated would you be? What would be left for you to know your place in the world?
If all you have is your newborn child/spouse/dog, and it is taken away from you, how devastated would you be? How could you recover from that loss?
If you have a job and a healthy family and practice religion with others and have a bazillion hobbies and your newborn child dies, you'll still be utterly shaken, but you'll still have a "rest of life" that makes it easier to pick yourself up again.
I wonder if you really don't understand the sentences that way, @cobblepot, or if you are playing Devil's Advocate of language
Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/
@cobblepot It is not a matter of intuition or feel.
I am a Zettler
I'm actually not just playing devils advocate here. Think about what your analogy really means. It is suggesting that something's meaningfulness is based on how upset you would be if the thing disappeared. My analogy suggests that meaningfulness is based on whether its importance diminishes when other factors are added to the situation. These are only two types of meaningfulness. In the other thread about meaningfulness, I suggested several possible distinctions about meaning. I could easily imagine someone saying that an item is meaningful based on how specific or ambiguous it is.
Or consider information theory. My understanding is that mathematically something has more information if it is not compressible. That is totally different than ordinary-language notions of information, which can indicate usefulness, or complexity, or authority.
In ordinary-language, saying something is meaningful can mean that it is personally significant, or that it is grammatical (i.e. is not nonsense), or that it makes unambiguous reference to something in the world, or many other things. I referenced this in the other thread about ranking meaning, But the idea that is obvious to many people in this thread – that something is more meaningful if it somehow represents a larger percentage of the domain it is part of – is honestly not clear to me.
Once again, I do not know what your "it" refers to.
Many more things are a matter of intuition than most people give them credit for. I am not sure if you have studied metacognition, but even issues like whether or not a mathematical equation is right is a judgment that is ultimately based on our own intuition of whether when perceiving an equation we have an internal feeling that our thoughts are progressing in a way indicating a correct line of reasoning rather than an incorrect one.
Almost all decision-making ultimately reduces to a interoceptive evaluation of whether the imagined or simulated outcome feels "good" or "bad", intuitively.
Hihi, 62 Words in one sentence
Hi @dbarends! Do I have a troll? Are you my troll?
But seriously, why did you post the word count? Was the sentence unclear or it was just gentle mocking of my writing style?
Not the former
Look at the title of this forum thread. My request is please focus.
I think Sascha is trying to give the "The Archive" app a solid foundation based as much as possible on (proven) facts. And i support that very very much. So intuition or feeling in this context is not relevant.
You wrote three posts ago: "Think about what your analogy really means. It is suggesting ...".
Hu ... , and you lost me .
That's it. To the other readers i apologize for the this off topic post.
"It" is the matter if you life has more or less meaning if you have more or less meaningful roles and if those roles are more meaningful to you.
If a jobless father gets a job his fatherhood will be less meaningful as acted out in his day to day life.
You are ivory towering me: Of course, everything is at some point intuitive as we need to agree on some unproven axioms. Otherwise we would fall into the pit of infinite regress. That is an purely academic problem but not in the real world.
I am a Zettler
This is great.
I am new, and loving it. What I read here is what I was already developing intuitively: a better Commonplace Book as described by Ryan Holiday.
Other words to describe a similar concept are stack and deck.
There are two issues I raised here: 1) the nature of intuition vs. "facts" and 2) the meaning of "meaning". Re: 1), I suggested that most people think facts and intuition are less opposed/exclusive than people often think, which you understandably resisted (as did @Sascha). Re: 2), my comments on how "meaning" can mean different things lost you, and you concluded that my comments were off-topic and suggested that I should focus. It's strange to me that you decided to make this point by suggesting that I had no relevant point rather than asking me to clarify, but I can understand if you think my posts are distracting from more important issues you want to read about (not being sarcastic - I can understand).
However, I actually think these issues are relevant to the core point of this thread. I will put off the intuition/facts thing and focus on "meaning." I made some related comments in a thread by @ctietze here about conflating types of meaning. The fact that people here are questioning my motives, in a sense, tells me that either my position is crazier or less clearly expressed than I thought. @ctietze thought I was just playing devil's advocate and @Sascha accused my of "ivory towering" him, both of which I take to mean that they think I can't seriously be arguing that "meaning" is unclear, but am just doing this as an academic exercise (or to make trouble/troll the conversation). And @mleo2003 also thinks that the meaning of "meaning" is pretty obvious to well-intentioned readers, writing:
@Sascha responded to my jobless but newly employed father example, writing:
To me, each of these is actually measuring meaning differently. Let me say up front that I'm aware that this may be due to the nature of analogies, but it's not obvious to me that that's the core issue. @mleo2003 measures meaning by exclusivity - the fewer links a note has, the more meaningful each link is. @Sascha measures meaning by time - fatherhood is less meaningful as acted out in his day to day life (i.e., will be less meaningful in one specific way), presumably because he will spend less time consciously focused on it. @ctietze measure meaning by significance of loss - how devastating it would be to have the thing taken away.
I am open to the idea that my intuition here is just totally off the mark, but these seem different to me and if you are trying to rank types of ZK practices by meaningfulness (whether position or types of links), you need to pin down what you mean more than this. I have small items that represent memories that I spend very little time with, but would be very upset to lose. I have aspects of my life that I spend lots of time with, but would subjectively say are not highly meaningful to me, even though I choose to do them (e.g. mindlessly playing a casual game on my phone). Which is more meaningful? I want to say that they are clearly meaningful in different ways, and that those differences are not clarified by saying, "I just mean the ordinary, obvious definition of meaning." It is also not clear to me that exclusivity is a good way to measure meaningfulness, at least not by itself; consider that a high percentage of a small pie is much less than a small percentage of a huge pie. Is a link between note A and note B, if it is the only link on either card, more meaningful than a link between note C and note D, where note C links to 100 other notes, but is visited much more often than A and B, and where that link causes me to look from note C to note D dozens of times? How do we even think about ranking these, and what is the benefit of doing so?
Since people seem to think I'm raising an unimportant concern, perhaps I'll take some time off re: this issue to give me a chance to think about it. Maybe when @Sascha publishes his piece explaining how links have different meaning it will make more sense to me.
@cobblepot I'd actually thought about just the differences in what you are talking about with "meaning". The main difference in these uses (as with most things) is in the different contexts.
The original conversation was regarding Folgezettel, and how their links carry all the "meaning" to the notes for the Zettelkasten. As such, it is in the context of "to the Zettelkasten" that it is said to carry the majority the meaning or "relevance". This is just simply noticing that, to the Zettelkasten, the note is only related to one other idea, in one hierarchy. If that were to be replaced/lost, then that note would be without any links, and "to the Zettelkasten", become a floating/irrelevant link, since it would literally have no relatives linked to it. So given whatever relevance or meaning a note can have, the links between the notes would be said to "carry" or "convey" that meaning between ideas, so the more links you had, the less of the "weight of meaning" each individual link would have to carry.
I have a similar personal example as well: my grandmother (who died when I was a teenager) wrote poetry, and those poems have a very large significance "to me personally". Storing such things in my Zettelkasten, I can see how those types of things are very personally meaningful (to my personal context). However, if those poems were not linked to many other notes, then "to the Zettelkasten", each of those links would have to carry all the "meaning/relevance" by themselves. It is not saying that the note is less "personally meaningful" to me(in my context), but that to the Zettelkasten, each link carries more of that weight the fewer links there are.
The idea of a lattice or web is really key here: each Zettel is a point or center to stop at. The links to other notes are the strings and connections to the rest of the whole system. The fewer links you have connecting any one note, the higher load or weight of "relevance" those links have, regardless as to how "meaningful" the notes themselves are to you personally. As it is, something can be highly meaningful to you, but be "hanging on by a thread" to the Zettelkasten, and that thread is therefore carrying all its "weight". If you linked that thing to other areas, many different times, then the original link is not carrying all the "weight" of relevance to the Zettelkasten, it is distributed across all the links.
I think we all have the same definition of meaning, but are considering it from different perspectives and with different contexts in mind.
@Sascha to actually answer your questions from the end of the article after having read it properly
If you use the Folgezettel technique, what are your actual goals?
My goal is to create useful chains of thoughts on a topic, whether that be an argument or development of a concept. I think I use the folgezettel technique but it depends on what you mean.
If you mean "follow up slip" than yes I use that because we tend to create arguments and pieces of writing in linear fashion due to nature of time.
If you mean the whole numbering/word system that people are a fan of. No I don't and I don't understand why people do so because like you said it is just a way to get around the limitations of a physical system.
Instead I use a homepage/index. On each card that represents the start of an argument or concept I'm developing I have a section at the bottom titled "Note Sequence". If a new card adds to that argument then I will just add it to the note sequence.
How do you measure your progress towards those goals?
Well eventually my note sequences get long and developed enough where I would use them to write. I will have an intuition on whether a concept has gone in an interesting direction and if it is fleshed out enough from just going through it.
I'm already busy for a long time with documenting stuff for myself. Recently I came across the Zettelkasten method and the step towards it seemed quite seductive. So I jumped on it and (as avid vim user and software developer) figured out a system that might work for me. Just to be clear, my goal was not to copy the Zettelkasten method, but to take elements and ideas from it and incorporate it into my system. After all, a documentation system is something very personal that needs to fit to ones brain. Still, figuring out what do think about Folgezettel took a while. At some point (and after watching the talk of Sönke Ahrens at the newcrafts conference), I concluded for myself: the Zettelkasten method is something that extends my brain. And this is also my starting point: to stick close to the brain, I always tend to think in associations and not in hierarchies. And for me, Folgezettel are exactly that: thought associations. As analogy: after a couple of years I eat popcorn again, I associate the first Starwars movie with it, thinking about Chewbacca and about hairy Animals leading me to the "Invisible Gorilla experiment". There is no hierarchy. Transferred to Folgezettel, I interpret them not as parent-child, but as previous-next relation.
This might (I'm too young in the business to make final statements ) have some advantages:
Less duplication: I would attach a piece of information that I forgot, but read again, probably at the same position again. I would spot that I have already this information in the "Kasten".
Less thought: I don't need to think about hierarchy and its correctness, I can just attach the stuff to the Zettel I think is right
It might feel "holistic": my Zettelkasten uses the same approach as my brain.
Note that one can still structure the hell out of it, if desired.
This is my personal interpretation that might be wrong (in terms of being close to the Zettelkasten), but works for me. I thought I dump my thoughts here so other people can use it, if they want, but also as possibility to bounce my view on this back to this awesome community.
@mleo2003 , thanks for the comment. I agree that if there are fewer links to a note, each link to that note carries a higher percentage of the "meaning" of the note-to-note connection. The problem is that note-to-note connections are not all equally meaningful. You say it yourself:
But when people think intuitively about meaning, they don't disregard how meaningful the notes themselves are to them personally (or how useful they are, etc.). Meaning in the ambiguous ordinary-language sense combines the relative share/exclusivity issue of how many links with the "magnitude" of the note's significance in the ZK network (or at least that's my intuition). And the note's ZK significance is probably indicated to some degree by a large number of links, not a small number of links.
Let's look back at @Sascha 's post at the top of the thread. He writes:
Here, meaningful suggests some similarity of content
Not sure what meaning means here. What does it mean to give a link pattern meaning?
If meaning is proportional to a limited number of links (rather than more), then how do Folgezettel eliminate meaning from hierarchy? "meaningful" here can't equate with exclusivity.
(Incidentally, @Sascha , can you convey the idea of "robbing hierarchy of meaning" in a different way? I honestly have no idea what idea that phrase is pointing to.)
Here, "meaningfulness" is clearly linked to the position of a note in the hierarchy. That seems to me to be unrelated to the number of links a note has.
I think one problem is that even within the ZK, there are many different contexts for notes, depending on what aspect of the ZK you are thinking about.
How do you know? Did you make a poll or something like that?
I am a Zettler
It is interesting that you have recently criticized me for "ivory-towering" you with pointless skepticism, yet your response to my post is...pointless skepticism. (Pointless because you are asking a question when you think you already have the answer).
If you had read just one sentence more, I write: "Meaning in the ambiguous ordinary-language sense combines the relative share/exclusivity issue of how many links with the "magnitude" of the note's significance in the ZK network (or at least that's my intuition)." So I acknowledge that it's an intuition. BUT - it's one that is shared by me and @mleo2003 at least.
The REAL question is: Do you disagree or not that the ordinary use of meaning combines several different elements, including both emotional significance and time-based prioritization? I've attempted to outline some distinctions and ambiguities in your use of "meaningful" pretty carefully with specific reference to your writings. Please clarify rather than asking sarcastic unconstructive rhetorical questions. Did YOU take a poll about what YOU think "meaning" means?
The strength of the evidence supporting my intuition only matters if you're willing to take a clear positive stand for or against my claim.
So do you guys not link content notes to any other content notes? (i.e. create folgezettels) It is all via structure notes? When I just made a new note that is related to an existing one, I find it easier to create a new note that ties them than to create a good structure note.
For instance, I create the new note "Play is an ideal way to spend me time". I can easily connect it to the notes "Play consists of activities performed for self-amusement that have behavioral, social, and psychomotor rewards" and "Me time is time where one can do wholeheartedly what one wants to do". If both of those are still orphan notes, would you say I have to create two structure notes? One such as "What is play?" and another such as "What is me time?"
The later is the reason why you can't attack the problem of meaning with analytical means. Meaning belongs to the realm of pragmatics and empiric knowledge. It is something that needs to work and something that needs to be experienced (and studied by empirical studies).
My claims are not analytical by nature. They are not even explicit. They are empirical and implicit. I can talk with no problems about the meaning of links with most people and that is enough because when I teach this concept they improve their work.
Nope. An unfounded claim can refuted by just another claim. If somebody says Y is Z, a simple no is sufficient because it is the person who makes the claim who has the first duty of providing the evidence. (as practiced in this very paragraph. )
But: I will provide a working theory of meaning with some analytical claims.
I link heavily between content notes as those links form the sequences and the hyper as in hypertext.
I am a Zettler
I infered that your critique is pointless because your critique was that my claim was an intuition rather than an evidence-based claim. Yet I clearly stated myself that my claim is an intuition. I'm not sure why you ignored that part of my post.
Are you actually interested in what "meaning" can mean? In some contexts I'm sure you are, but in the context of this thread, you don't seem to be. This is based on your refusal to take a clear position. Usually, people who critique others but will not take a clear position themselves are interested in argument as a game, but not actually interested in discovering answers to questions.
A very wise teacher of mine once said, "If you can't say what you mean, you don't know what you mean." Facts about the world - such as the results your claims have on others - are not claims, but facts. I don't know what you mean to say your claims on this point about meaning are "empirical" - that they are about empirical things? They are not implicit claims, because if they were, they could be easily made explicit. They seem to be feelings and intuitions. But intuitions are not necessarily implicit claims (in any interesting sense)
Lots of people talk about moral goodness, emotions, the soul, heaven, etc. and get results they like. It's true that it's not a problem in general conversation. But you are trying to make a logical argument in your post. If you really want to simply rely on getting results, then there is no point on spending time constructing a logical argument. Just be like Deepak Chopra - he happily tells people that if they follow his advice, they will be happy like his millions of followers!
The burden of proof is on the person making the claim. You made the claim that links can be ranked by meaningfulness. I said that I don't see how to do that, since "meaningfulness" is an ambiguous concept that includes several aspects. If a person cares about actually learning something about whether meanings can be ranked, then in practice, it doesn't matter that much whether my claim is supported only by my intuition or by tons of evidence UNLESS there is another alternative to compare it to. You are not agreeing that meaning does include multiple aspects, and you are not denying that it does. You are just not addressing it. Yet you want to maintain your positive claim that meaningfulness can be ranked. That's fine, you have no obligation to address my critique, but in such a context, skeptically questioning the "evidence" for my claim (a claim that was explicitly framed as an intuition in any case) is, in fact, pointless in discovering anything about meaning. At least that's my non-evidence-based intuition.