Capture Flexibility and Link Density
There are frequent discussions on this forum about how to take notes while reading books and journal articles. That is surely an important skill and books are perhaps the most important source of information for those working in academia.
But, in my world, ideas for notes come from a wide variety of sources: books and journal articles, but also emails, texts, podcasts, blogs, equipment inspections, conversations, oral interviews, Slack channels, discussion forums, real-world business meetings, Zoom meetings, telephone calls, YouTube, TV, newspapers, and Mother Nature. I get ideas for notes while walking our dogs or driving to the grocery store.
Consequently, the notion of "capture"as it is referred to for GTD task management is, for me, also important for a Zettelkasten. As I do with task management, I capture for a Zettelkasten with Siri on my Watch or iPhone, or with my favorite application -- Drafts. I frequently use the Share menus from all devices. Keyboard Maestro and Alfred are available where they provide special capabilities. I frequently carry a small notebook in my back pocket.
My current choice for ZK software is Roam. Terminology timeout: Roam uses the term "page" where The Archive uses "note" or "file", Ulysses uses "sheet" and Drafts "draft."
Roam has an interesting approach to capture. The basic premise is that you should spend most of your time on a "Daily Page" recording whatever event or information is interesting, regardless of what the event is about or where it originated. I was skeptical about this idea at first, but the Daily Page concept is a surprisingly powerful idea.
I use a template on each Daily Page to record "standard stuff" -- exercise, TODOs, scheduled events, dog walks, morning and evening reviews, and what book(s) I'm reading. But, the fact that a Gila Woodpecker was feeding at one of our hummingbird feeders is also added as does anything and everything that happens throughout the day (including any notes derived from reading a book or journal article). Telephone calls, meeting notes -- just about everything gets into the system via the Daily Page.
Which brings us to the subject of (1)the ease of link and page creation, and (2) link density.
To illustrate, consider this TODO entered on a Daily Page:
[[George]] provide me with the inventory report for the [[Electronics Storeroom]] by [[November 15th, 2020]] with a copy to [[Mary]] and an assessment of its impact on the [[2021 annual budget]].
A TODO is created with a keyboard shortcut. Links and pages are created inline as you type using the [[xxx]] notation, with auto-completion speeding the process.
My TODO example would appear on the following pages, which could either be pre-existing or created on-the-fly by Roam.
- Today's Daily Page (or whatever page on which this task was entered)
- George's page
- The Electronics Storeroom's page
- The November 15th page
- Mary's page
- The 2021 annual budget's page
Each linked entry would be date-stamped. If a page turned out not to be useful in the future, it would exist quietly in some alternative universe, where it could be safely ignored. If you change a page's name Roam updates all of its references.
There is no downside to creating lots of links and lots of pages -- and there is almost no friction in doing so. Like our brains, Roam embraces a degree of chaos.
Here are a few lines from a recent post on this forum showing how links and pages might be applied in Roam (my apologies to @zetzazu ):
but what if I plan on using both for a life time? I'd like to have the contents of [[ZK1]] about [[sociology]], [[philosophies]], etc and [[ZK2]] for [[health]] and [[science-related]] and other interests that don't exactly fit in [[ZK1]] (eg: [[skincare]], [[working out]], tips for [[shorthand]], [[molecular structures of skincare ingredients]], tips for playing the [[guitar]], [[piano]]; any useful tips for [[my interests/hobbies]] for future reference).
That is one sentence with date-stamped links to 13 pages, discounting the Daily Page on which it was entered.
Links can be created almost as fast as you type normally because Roam uses auto-completion to help find the correct page. Type only the first few letters, say, "[[phi" and Roam would immediately suggest [[philosophies]]. "[[So" is sufficient to find the page to my dog [[Sophie]].
There are no UIDs in Roam. There are unique identifiers for pages -- and even paragraphs -- but Roam does the heavy lifting. (You can, by the way, link to paragraphs as well as to pages.)
There is no special process for creating a page. Roam creates pages as they are needed in response to "[[ xxx]]" entries.
To get a better idea of how link density works in a more realistic setting, spend a few minutes at this [link][https://www.nateliason.com/blog/roam] In particular, check out the tennis shoe entry.
Regardless of which software is used (Obsidian and DEVONthink may be reasonable alternatives) there are two things that I think are important to efficient operation -- to not allowing the management of the system to interfere with its purpose: (1) How easily can links and pages (files, notes, sheets, drafts) be created, and (2) How readily can all-source information be captured and entered into the system.
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