Zettelkasten Forum

Just started, already lost in clutter. How do you prevent to get lost in so many notes and links?



  • “Progressive summarization” is a good philosophy, since it makes you focus on the very important aspects of each stage.

    Furthermore, I really like what @sepuku and @Will said: we usually think that learning strictly relies on the notes reading stage.
    In fact, learning starts form the reading, collecting notes, summarizing, etc.
    They are all single aspect of learning.

    So summarizing is never a waste of time.

  • @Will said:
    My dad used to tell me to be suspicious of words with more than two syllables.

    I lived in Italy for ten years. I know better :)

    @IvanFerrero said:
    In fact, learning starts from the reading, collecting notes, summarizing, etc.

    I'm tempted to say that real learning starts with writing. That is when you find out if you have really understood what you have read.

  • @MartinBB said:
    I lived in Italy for ten years. I know better :)

    Hey I'm from Italy, and proud of my Ancient Latin and our rhetoric! ;-)

    @IvanFerrero said:

    I'm tempted to say that real learning starts with writing. That is when you find out if you have really understood what you have read.

    Well, we start to learn from the moment we get exposed to the info.
    I'd go further: we start to learn the moment we feel the need to get the info ;-)

  • edited December 2020

    @Will said:
    The meager skills I've progressively/incrementally acquired Zettelkasting have slowly evolved by stealing ideas from here and seeing how they fit. Some I try for a week or two then find them not as useful as I thought. Some have molded my archive to the beast it is today. It has been a slow rewarding process.

    There’s something inspirational in almost every single one of your posts @Will, that someone could refer to if they are struggling keeping up the habit of ZK’ing...

  • @IvanFerrero said:
    Hey I'm from Italy

    Mi sembrava dal cognome -- ma non si sa mai :)

  • edited December 2020

    @MartinBB said:

    @IvanFerrero said:
    Hey I'm from Italy

    Mi sembrava dal cognome -- ma non si sa mai :)

    Ahah! Hai ragione: Ferrero potrebbe anche essere spagnolo :-)

    You’re right: Ferrero may be Spanish too :-)

  • @IvanFerrero said:
    WOW thank you very much for your kind replies.
    I merge my reply into just none post, in order to prevent fragmentation and to many notifications ;-)


    What is the nature of your studies?
    What application(s) are you currently using to facilitate your studies?

    I'm a Cyberpsychologist.
    I teach parents and teachers how to manage the digital life of their kids, and I run classrooms in order to teach kids how to live the digital environment in a safe and more responsible way.
    I also write on my blog and many guest posts, run a podcast and a YouTube channel, along many other channels.

    So I mainly archive items such as:

    • academic papers : quotes, stats, citations
    • quotes from many sources
    • my articles, videos and other content (outline, links, citations, etc...)
    • my projects (structure, activities, etc...)
    • contacts

    Whew. Quite a buffet.

    Are you managing all of this in one particular program or is the material stored across multiple applications? Anything in the cloud or in a proprietary database? How's your directory set up on your main device (ie. laptop/desktop if applicable)?

    I just recently decided to blow up the system that I had originally, for a while I was trying out the "Johnny Decimal" system. The mistake I made when trying it out is that I tried to predict the categories and topics that I was going to be filing things under ahead of time.

    Right now I have a one main directory inside of the home directory where I store most of my documents that I use to study and refer to.

    • There's an archive -- which is essentially filled with old notes, scripts, graphics etc, that I don't need now, but may come in handy eventually. I just don't want to see them.

    • Then I have a bookmarks folder, I intend to use [Notenik][] to archive these links and generate them into an HTML document that I can spread across devices are across browsers.

    • I have a library directory -- This is a mess. And I'm okay with that. This is all of the debris and shrapnel from the old system that was blown up. I essentially put all of my reference material (pdfs, ebooks, archived blog posts and web pages, forum discussions, etc) across every discipline and interest of mine into a single folder. With apps like Leap, HoudahSpot, Foxtrot Pro, DEVONThink or even plain old Spotlight or grep, a person can just search for the material they're looking for and the app of their choice can return a list of matches after scanning through the directory. Whatever matches appear that pique your interest can be pulled from this directory and refiled elsewhere, such as a devoted directory or an inbox.

    • I have an inbox folder, that I intend to keep light. I would like to use this folder as the prompt for what sort of material I should read next. I would prefer to only sparingly add to this folder until I know that something has been removed or refiled out of it. [^ This massive re-haul that I'm describing to you is effectively a result of the "Collector's Fallacy". So now I try to be very critical with what I "collect".]

    • I have a directory that has all of the "atomic notes" from my past Zettelkasten-influenced efforts. If Allah wills it, I will describe what I do with this directory in a moment.

    • I'm in the process of also setting up directories that are categorized by discipline and interest. These consists of short-form notes, I guess you can say they are "atomic"? But they are not in the all-purpose slip box styled format that the Zettelkasten system promotes. If anything they could be described as categorical slip boxes, sure. Again, I intend to use Notenik to manage these files because the data in these individual slip boxes serve particular purposes (as denoted by their categorization) and I love how Notenik allows a person to metadata, scripting and templating in order to manipulate plain text into static web pages, spreadsheets, etc. Notenik is like the .38 caliber snub nose of note taking. Little app. But packs a bang when in the hand of a skilled marksman.

    • The information in my library, inbox, old slip box and new federated slip boxes should all trickle down into my main notes repository. This directory is filled with Emacs Org-mode documents, each concerning single topics. These documents again, are the culmination of everything that was processed out of the directories that I described above. The advantage of Org mode is that I do not need to make a litany of single topic "atomic notes" and then spin back around and make summary or outline notes that consists of links to these single notes in a thematic sequence. Org mode by its very nature is an outliner tool. So my notes are essentially nested headers, that I can shuffle around and refile across documents as necessary.

    I use an Emacs package called org-z, which is a Zettelkasten inspired package that is a very, very minimal sort of Org-roam tool. It allows me to capture notes into a inbox.org document as new headings, refile them and link them to other notes with a unique ID attached to it so the link will remain the same if the heading moves around. It also comes packaged with a tool called helm-rg that uses the ripgrep utility so that I can search all of the directories just described (in particular, the one that has the notes from my old slip boxes) to pull up notes and other information. When I pull a note from my old slip box, I cut the relevant information out of it and paste it into the corresponding .org document, then I either delete the note (if I cut out the entire note, depending on its length) or I can run a terminal command inside of Emacs to quickly move the note into a more relevant directory, such as the inbox or a federated slip box. This way the note is repurposed into the main file system.

    • The work done in this main .org directory is really for the purpose of cultivated, planning and thinking my way toward focused, formal written works of my own. Articles, papers, newsletters, etc.

    Of course all of this doesn't cover the in between glue tools that a person may rely upon.

    Applications like Curio, Tinderbox, DEVONThink, Bookends, Zotero, Mindnode, Scrivener, Omnifocus, Taskpaper etc are the sort of tools that a person would look into when it comes down to keeping a person busy and allowing them to look at their material in a way that is compatible with their personal style of thinking and writing. These are essentially the applications that are beneficial for "projects" I would assume.

    @Will mentioned breaking his workflow as far as notes are concerned into three stages, which I agree with. I skimmed through "How to Take Smart Notes" over the course of three days and what I took the most out of it was facilitating a positive feedback for yourself by knowing exactly what you're doing when you're engaging with notes, reference material and project materials.

    What mode am I in? Writing? Editing? Researching? Organizing? Planning? This is what counts the most.

    This may not be of any help to you. But what I wanted to bring forth is the practice compartmentalization and working in increments. Taking all my pdfs, ebooks, and saved web pages and putting them into one big file, taking all of my old notes and putting them into one big file; not having to see the mess that I had made for myself at all was a huge help.

    It isn't necessarily starting from scratch because I still have the stuff. But now I do get to start fresh and be a little bit more deliberate in my interactions with my resources because these big folders of old notes and old references look a lot cleaner under the abstraction of a search query.

    So I take what I want out of the pile(s) and put them where I think that they should go. In the beginning I started with just the archive, the library, the inbox and the old slip box. Everything else can develop as needed.

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