Zettelkasten Forum

why do we have different syntax for bibliography and links?

edited December 2020 in Software & Gadgets

of course this doesn't apply to everyone, but those that are using Markdown probably use similar conventions for their Zettelkasten:

  • [[202008121800]] : wikilink to refer to another note
  • @yoda2010 : citation link to refer to bibliography entry

Is there a difference in referring to a citation and referring to another note? Essentially we are simply referring in our note to another source in both cases. What would happen if we use the same syntax for both?

Is there a difference in the way we think about those references? Aren't we simply referring to content, regardless of the type of source? Can we treat ourself just like any other random author?

my first Zettel uid: 202008120915


  • I'm not sure I get what you're hinting at. I always found the way MultiMarkdown solved this to be quite elegant:

    • [click me](https://example.com) for regular inline links
    • [click me][link-id] for regular reference-style links
    • [look me up p 123][#authorYEAR] for reference style citations

    Sadly, most Markdown parsers don't support this (yet?), but I'd have loved to see [click me][[202012081542]] work. Another square bracket inside the other square brackets is considered illegal by most parsers, though ;(

    This leaves us with the flexibility to cite [666][#ironmaiden1982] to tell Markdown processors to convert this to a citation, and [[ironmaiden1982]] for a structure note or whatever on the reference item.

    The real reason to distinguish this is computers and tooling, I guess, to ansert your titular question.

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

  • edited December 2020

    @ctietze wow, you're right Multimarkdown really is elegant. I should consider using it.

    The other thing is that link-id and #authorYEAR both are unique ids so i was wondering whether i need this distinction. For example, i could use [look me up][#authorYEAR] and [look me up][#202012081542] because i don't see a difference in providing the source for a citation and providing the source for any referred information. As long as there are no collisions a key is enough for computers to find as much meta data as i like and process it in a smart way (using a combination of YAML, bibfiles, etc).

    When i want to refer to something, a link is a link is a link. However, i am now reconsidering and think it is not a good idea because it does pollute autocompletion. So there are some usability issues with software.

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

  • Back in 2010 or so, I linked notes using [click me][§202012082234]. Similar to how MultiMarkdown extended what Markdown reference style links already did by using the hash-prefix ID convention, I figured the § prefix might work as well. Becuase in the end, as you said, everything is a link then: You just need a pre-processor to append the link definitions on your behalf automatically, like [§202012082235]: file:///Users/foo/notes/202012082235.txt or whatever. Then it's 100% Markdown compatible then.

    Why add a prefix at all? So you can tell Markdown pre-processors (and extensions like the MultiMarkdown software tools to convert md2pdf) what which reference thingie means. Some are regular hypertext links, e.g. for web addresses; some are citations and should be rendered differently; and some are Zettel links in the file system.

    The tools never made it into existence, and [[wiki links]] are far better known. This is another convention to pick up, but one that also transcends Markdown, for those who don't care about Markdown. It's a totally different compromise, but as you can see when you look around the note-taking app space of 2020, that idea was picked up by quite a few other tools with ease! And having a compatible note format that works with multiple note-taking apps ultimately was more important to us.

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

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