Zettelkasten Forum


Do you feel confident that your ZK will work with 100k notes?

Honest question.

I personally use this as probe question for the validity of ones approach and as a filter for techniques and workflows: I do nothing that wouldn't work with 100k notes.

I am a Zettler

Comments

  • As long as I keep the index and structure notes updated (routinely adding new ones when as exploration of sub-topics grows) and the software can keep up, I don't see why it should be a problem.

    Of course, it might take a bit longer to add all the relevant tags to a new note but I sidestep that anxiety with the thought that it doesn't have to be perfect; as long as there are some connections to a note, I'll get it when I need it.

    Plus, it's not as if I have to visualize 100k notes all at once. It's actually a little bit exciting to think about search strategies for getting the most out of that many notes.

  • Yes.

    But this is probably because I do think of my awesome cyborg ZK as another brain with whom I get to have amazing conversations. As long as all my zettels are connected to at least one other thought node, my ZK should scale the same plastic way my brain's capacity for knowledge has scaled over the years. And to build off what @olegk observed, I don't anticipate thinking all my notes at once - it's more about exploring an flow of thoughts in a sea of (near) infinite possibilities and connections. Woot!

    On the physical/tangible side of things, a 100K ZK card collection may become an issue simply in terms of storage space. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. ;^)

  • I'm not entirely sure, that is a lot of notes. I also have found myself desiring to restart my collection every now and then, which is a bad sign. I think my failure point is with techniques and workflows. Or I'm just neurotic. Not sure which.

  • It's a great question. I would think that my approach works. The turnaround time (the time needed to see notes again) might get longer, but then again, I have tailored my approach to not fret imperfection - or rather impermanence. Some notes will be forgotten, potential will not be realized in all cases, information will not turn into knowledge, etc.: such is live. I also find that understanding that working with my notes is a tool in itself (as opposed to something like the Archive - which is also a tool, but I am here talking about a practice used as a tool) to be engaged in whatever I am interested in - or would like to be interested in. In this sense a notes system with some (manageable) friction might actually be desired…

  • Ha! It's a good question to which I don't have a very good answer. I'll just be happy :wink: if I get there.

  • Who has a 100K Zettelkasten? Or maybe a smaller one like 80K is ok too, because after a certain number of zettels it does not make a difference anymore. Please raise your hand!

    That asked - and I‘m interested to see how many are playing in that league - I venture to say: We all have experience with a system with 100K zettels. That‘s the world‘s books.

    Sure, that number if even larger. But is there really a difference between 100K and maybe 20 million? I don‘t think so. The qualitative feel of a Zettelkasten changes once the number of zettels goes beyond what you remember. As long as you‘re thinking „I know, I once wrote this zettel about X...“ a Zettelkasten is small, I‘d say. It only really becomes interesting when it surprises you. Like a library does.

    You rarely go to a library looking up a book you‘ve already read (or even written yourself). You go there for the surprises. You go there with a question and don‘t know what you‘ll find for an answer: maybe a book, maybe an article, or 2 or 10 or 200. And then you start studying the results - leading to new results. A sub-graph of the world‘s knowledge unfolds before you.

    What was dormant in all the books and magazines gets activated in the memory+zettel combination you‘re creating during your research.

    To me the same happens with a Zettelkasten beyond a certain number of zettels. Once the number of zettels you don‘t remember becomes larger than the ones you do (somewhat) remember it‘s a whole new game. And the question is: do you optimize for that scenario? Or maybe the 100K question can be rephrased like: do you run your Zettelkasten in a way so somebody else would find it equally valuable? (And this somebody else is you in 10 years from now anyway.)

    Because if not, then it‘s not about the Zettelkasten, the artifact alone, but also about the creator. Which is not bad, but should be acknowledged and taken into account when recommending one‘s own approach.

  • @ralfw said:
    To me the same happens with a Zettelkasten beyond a certain number of zettels. … Or maybe the 100K question can be rephrased like: do you run your Zettelkasten in a way so somebody else would find it equally valuable?

    Great thoughts! I try to realize that not all notes are created equal: I have written and will write notes that will not make sense in a couple of years. I think this should be fine as long as there is a sufficient number of notes that are of higher quality and all notes have the potential to become higher quality. Working with notes is a work of flow and improvement: I try to add value to my notes all the time: Maybe it's a link, maybe it's a tag, maybe it's a rephrasing, the addition of a source, maybe it's a note that links two notes and thereby improving those notes. With that said: The 100k question, especially in the way you put it, also might imply a danger, which is trying to keep a too strict regime of consistent quality throughout time and space. This could take away from the engagement with the sources you work on, which in turn could lead to worse understanding/learning of new things. And doing notes for notes sake seems not productive either.

    That said: My current iteration of my notes system (was Evernote based) is about 4000 notes strong, not including three other notes systems (ikiwiki based, dayone based, tiddlywiki based) that I will slowly integrate into my current system. All told I might have maybe 25000 notes?

  • @matti said:
    Great thoughts! I try to realize that not all notes are created equal: I have written and will write notes that will not make sense in a couple of years.

    Yes, I think so, too. Or they might make sense, but they are not important anymore. They once were, but in the meantime you have evolved, and the Zettelkasten has evolved, too.

    I think this should be fine as long as there is a sufficient number of notes that are of higher quality and all notes have the potential to become higher quality.

    Yes, all notes are created equal - but don't stay equal ;-)
    All notes are important, like all food you eat is important. But in the end you cannot point at a part of your body and say, "See, that's the burger from last month!" ;-) Neither should you be able to point at your "body of knowledge" and say "See, that the note I took 2 years ago."

    Of course, the burger contributed to the body part you're pointing to. But it's not it. And its exact contribution is not important, I think.

    I try to add value to my notes all the time: Maybe it's a link, maybe it's a tag, maybe it's a rephrasing, the addition of a source, maybe it's a note that links two notes and thereby improving those notes.

    I agree - to a certain extent. Enhancing note, embellishing them, adding to them, editing them seems natural. Don't we do that with our houses, too?
    But I think we should come to accept there is a limitation to enhancement. Because every enhancement has to be made within what is already there. That's limitation.

    In software development there is a principle: OCP, the Open-Close Principle. Parts of a program code should be closed for changes (enhancement), but open for extension. If a change to a program is needed, then rather then change a certain part leave it as is and add (!) whatever is necessary at a different place (extend) and connect the old with the new.

    That's how I view a Zettelkasten, too. Each note to me is somewhat closed for changes. Instead when I receive new information I add notes and link to what was there before. That way, I guess, a network with more nodes is woven. And more nodes means more places to link to in the future. A fast lane to 100K zettels :-D

  • edited November 18

    My Zettelkästen notes are all in one directory. The program indexs the
    content using MySQL. I do have some concerns with a large number of
    small files. It often slows down the operating system. I see people
    have no issue with 10k but I never test it at the scale of 100k.

    To me, my entire Zettelkästen is just a key binding from where I am.
    Any latency will decrease my willing to interact with my Zettelkästen,
    so I would like to test it at 100k scale.

  • @ralfw said:
    I agree - to a certain extent.

    In software development there is a principle: OCP, the Open-Close Principle.

    I add notes and link to what was there before.

    A fast lane to 100K zettels :-D

    Paging @ctietze for applying software principles to a notes system.

    I am sure I have notes like this, too. At some point I was very fascinated by change and development over time so my notes where note chains/note trees that also showed the growth and change of the articulation of thought.

    Taking a long duration look at my notes I have to be fine with the fact that I also change my attitude towards how I work with them, having a much more malleable medium (digital in comparison to paper) for my notes means also that I might work for some years one way and then other years another way - because a new app comes along or an old app dies, or whatever. This might not even be a conscious choice, it might be a subtle change that adds up over time.

    All of this means that only the most basic principles are likely to hold over many, many years: Writing, Linking. Maybe stable tagging is already too much to ask for. Writing in a certain way, organizing in a certain way, etc. it's a lot to ask to keep stable over long periods of time. Any notes system is just a temporarily unbroken one.

    I say all this just to add to the discussion. Not to specifically refute a claim.

    Good luck with making it to 100k and beyond. I think we need more people with lots of notes to see what is actually possible as regards to complex notes setups.

  • @ralfw said:
    Sure, that number if even larger. But is there really a difference between 100K and maybe 20 million? I don‘t think so. The qualitative feel of a Zettelkasten changes once the number of zettels goes beyond what you remember. As long as you‘re thinking „I know, I once wrote this zettel about X...“ a Zettelkasten is small, I‘d say. It only really becomes interesting when it surprises you. Like a library does.

    The behavior of the Zettelkasten changes way before that. I can remember every note I encounter and there were significant changes in the behavior of the Zettelkasten. You might be quite surprised how a complex ZK behaves when (or if) you encounter one

    I am a Zettler

  • @ralfw said:
    Yes, all notes are created equal - but don't stay equal ;-)
    All notes are important, like all food you eat is important. But in the end, you cannot point at a part of your body and say, "See, that's the burger from last month!" ;-) Neither should you be able to point at your "body of knowledge" and say, "See, that the note I took 2 years ago."

    This meshes up with one of my favorite quotes by Emerson. “I cannot remember the books I have read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” Even though you can't "See, that the note I took 2 years ago." having made that note 2 years ago, however imperfect, leading to my current "body of knowledge." Thanks, @ralfw, for the reminder.

    @matti said:
    I try to realize that not all notes are created equal: I have written and will write notes that will not make sense in a couple of years. I think this should be fine as long as there is a sufficient number of notes that are of higher quality and all notes have the potential to become higher quality. Working with notes is a work of flow and improvement: I try to add value to my notes all the time: Maybe it's a link, maybe it's a tag, maybe it's a rephrasing, the addition of a source, maybe it's a note that links two notes and thereby improving those notes.

    This is a great take-away. It lowers my stress now as I'm a beginner. I don't have to be perfect. Just strive to be better than yesterday. As my workflow improves, so will my notes. I try and apply the backpacking slogan of "Leave a campsite in better shape than you found it" to my notes.

    Will Simpson
    I'm a Zettelnant.
    Research: Rationalism, Zen, Dzogchen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
    kestrelcreek.com

  • Who has a 100K Zettelkasten? Or maybe a smaller one like 80K is ok too, because after a certain number of zettels it does not make a difference anymore. Please raise your hand!

    The Zettelkasten Method is partially based on the work of Nassim Taleb. Overcompensation is key to a future proof system.

    I am a Zettler

  • @matti said:

    @ralfw said:
    I agree - to a certain extent.

    In software development there is a principle: OCP, the Open-Close Principle.

    I add notes and link to what was there before.

    A fast lane to 100K zettels :-D

    Paging @ctietze for applying software principles to a notes system.

    Thanks for the ping :) I can relate to that! I can only vaguely remember how I initially got over the hurdle of taking notes on a more regular basis, as I apparently didn't put down my reflections in a systematic way. (I always liked to write, and type, so the wish to put something onto (digital) paper was there, but in which form? People who can resist writing, though, have to overcome this hurdle, first, and it's probably not easy to get over that one for them.) Principles from programming that lead to stuff like the Principle of Atomicity of notes, were a tremendous help in partitioning the stuff somehow. Maybe not in the best possible way, and very likely not from the start, but getting relaxed and overcoming resistance is a good first goal. Extending and constantly improving can play part in that.

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

  • @sfast said:
    The Zettelkasten Method is partially based on the work of Nassim Taleb. Overcompensation is key to a future proof system.

    Antifragility is great. I'm all for that.

    But here's the thing: Overcompensation requires experience.

    If you don't have experience with a 100K Zettelkasten, then you don't know what's needed for overcompensation. You just speculate. Maybe some of your speculation is quite well founded. Maybe some of it is not. You'll only know once you get to 100K zettels.

    And then, when you've been there, done that, got the t-shirt...🥳 then you can come back to people with just measly 10K zettels and tell them: "You should do X even though you don't feel you need it right now. Because beyond 50K zettels you'll wish you had done it."

    I'm assuming you don't have 100K zettels, and you're still young. So you don't have experience with what the right overcompensation looks like for a huge number of zettels and a very long time (several decades) of working with a Zettelkasten.

    And that's ok, I think. That's perfect and inevitable. You'll know so much more in 5, 10, 20 years about how you should have done it differently. I'd almost pity you if you would say in 20 years, "I was right all the time." Where would the fun of exploration and evolution be?😀

  • @ctietze said:
    Principles from programming that lead to stuff like the Principle of Atomicity of notes, were a tremendous help in partitioning the stuff somehow.

    This I would find a very interesting topic to explore: In how far can programming principles (e.g. SRP, DRY, KISS) help building a Zettelkasten in a sustainable way?

    I already see zettel refactoring tools appearing. A move in the right direction, I guess.

  • But here's the thing: Overcompensation requires experience.
    If you don't have experience with a 100K Zettelkasten, then you don't know what's needed for overcompensation.

    Wrong. Preparing for a 100k ZK is overcompensating for past failures with a smaller one.

    I am a Zettler

  • edited November 20

    @ralfw said:

    @ctietze said:
    Principles from programming that lead to stuff like the Principle of Atomicity of notes, were a tremendous help in partitioning the stuff somehow.

    This I would find a very interesting topic to explore: In how far can programming principles (e.g. SRP, DRY, KISS) help building a Zettelkasten in a sustainable way?

    I already see zettel refactoring tools appearing. A move in the right direction, I guess.

    I believe the term "refactoring" won't appeal to a broader audience beyond early adopters of the Zettelkasten method (we scrapped "Zettel refactorings" from the version 2 feature list of The Archive eventually), but that's how I actually think about and present most of the changes I make in my notes :) Figure our responsibilities ("atoms"), extract them, reorganize pieces into new aggregates (structures) -- I don't know if that will make sense to everyone, but I do think that there's value for at least some users.

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

  • It's not about the word "refactoring", it's about the meaning. If "restructure" or "reorganize" are easier to understand for the non-developer then that's fine with me.

    There are patterns of "reorganization", I guess. Like in software development. E.g.

    • rename
    • extract
    • inline

    Obsidian, for example, supports rename and extract. That's what I need most and I'm very happy to have that kind of support in a tool.

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