Vision on implementing a universal Zettelkasten
I was trying to set up a long-term digital Zettelkasten but was immediately hit by problems around multimedia content, proprietary data formats, heterogeneous Markdown syntax, device and platform limitations, and Internet connectivity. I propose the following vision as a response to the challenge of setting up an all-encompassing Zettelkasten across devices and platforms.
- In the Information Age, a Zettel should be more than just notes. It should be the case that every piece of self-produced content that can link to other contents AND be linked to may be considered a Zettel, whether it’s mostly textual or not.
- Tagging a Zettel can be seen as linking the Zettel to the tag. Since a tag is a purely structural piece of ‘content’ that links to Zettels AND can be linked to, tags themselves can be seen as Zettels from the perspective under the previous point.
- Furthermore, a Zettelkasten doesn’t have to be contained in a single software, service, or directory. It’s somewhat analogous to the argument that the order of Zettels doesn’t matter as long as proper linking is done. I think that it’s not only the order, but also the environments to which the Zettels belong that don’t matter, as long as one Zettel can be properly and conveniently linked to another.
- It should be possible to build a ‘universal Zettelkasten’ where Zettels are linked with each other across platforms and devices. As long as frequently traversed links can be accessed without having to change the platform or device, it should be fine even if no single software or device could properly read the entire Zettelkasten at any one time.
- Thinking of tags and Zettels as two sides of the same coin lends itself to alleviate the challenge of setting up universal tags in a universal Zettelkasten. Although canonical tags usually aren’t shared between software services, it is possible to set up a reopsitory of mostly structural Zettels linkable from all services in question. Universal tagging can then be done via linking to and back-referencing from this repository of Zettels that function here as tags.
- Ideally, the most crucial pieces of Zettels should be stored offline-first on multiple synced devices, in case of low network availability under urgent situations.
- Explicit user-generated IDs needn't be strictly necessary as long as links remain unambiguous.
- The above arguments can perhaps extend to incorporate physical repositories of Zettels into the universal Zettelkasten.
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