Zettelkasten Forum


Atomic notes in digital zettlekasten

I have started using zettlekasten method to take notes and link them. I am using noteplan for that.
I am trying to put automatic notes about whatever I am learning. Let’s say I created an atomic note for one topic. And then after few days I found something which relates to same automic note. Now I have two choices update the existing atomic note to include this new information or create a new note and link it with existing note.
By first approach it will save me from navigation and I can learn or review about that topic in single zettle.
But in second approach I can understand how I learned new information and how it connects.
I see both has its advantages. What you guys suggest or do since we have access to digital zettlekasten where we can update and correct our existing notes. Should we correct or update existing zettle with new infor or should we link the existing zettle with new zettle ?

Comments

  • edited April 16

    Welcome to the forums.

    Your question is fundamental and hard to answer, definitively covering all the various situations. Many zettel start more general and are refactored more and more atomically. Part of this initiative has to do with how much "new information" and rather it is a supplemental, a correction, or an argument.

    For example, let's consider an atomic zettel that lays out the idea of the investment strategy of watching the copper/gold futures ratio. New information about the similarities between this and the Investment Grade bonds vs. Corporate Bonds ratio would require a second note if these types of investment indications were central to your zettelkasten but only require an update if, as in my case, this is the only note in my entire archive about investment strategies and merely an interesting curiosity.

    Your mileage may vary. I'd suggest that when in doubt, go ahead and make a second note and link the two.

    I try and be cognizant of the opportunity costs involved in making or updating notes. Sometimes, probably more than I'd like to admit, I update or make a zettel bigger instead of the more time-consuming task of atomization. It has become more evident as my archive has grown that some notes benefit from atomization, and some can be healthy growing with additions over time. I do set aside time to refactor zettel regularly. I get tremendous joy from refactoring/atomizing old zettel.

    It depends on your field of study. Some benefit from atomization, some not so much.
    @smachhewar, what are your fields of interest? Do you have an example?

    Will Simpson
    I'm a zettelnant.
    Research areas: Attention Horizon, Productive Procrastination, Dzogchen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
    kestrelcreek.com

  • @smachhewar said:
    I have started using zettlekasten method to take notes and link them. I am using noteplan for that.
    What you guys suggest or do since we have access to digital zettlekasten where we can update and correct our existing notes. Should we correct or update existing zettle with new infor or should we link the existing zettle with new zettle ?

    Welcome to the forum!

    @Will has given you some good advice, which I support. I tend to err on the side of making new zettels rather than adding to an existing one. The former approach honours the concept of keeping the zettels atomic whereas the latter may not (depends on what information you are adding). I actually like having short zettels that are connected together rather than long ones, but occasionally it is difficult to condense one idea in a zettel into a few words. I think if you focus on putting only one idea per zettel, you won't go to far astray.

    I see you are using NotePlan. I use that software for all my planning, bullet journalling, to do lists, etc., and love it. It follows the principle of putting your notes in plain text files, which is really important for me.

    I have experimented creating a small Zettelkasten in it as well, but decided to stick with The Archive because of some differences in features. But you could manage a Zettelkasten quite nicely from within NotePlan.

  • @Will Thank you for reply. I think after reading your reply I am on bit right path.
    My field of interest is computer science and I been a note taker from long time. I feel that now with ZK I am on correct path on correctly taking notes. One thing that strikes out is that zk is not simply mindlessly adding notes to your repository of notes but when you connect with existing notes by putting some context then you enforce what you knew and find new insights with new note.
    I am putting all kinds of notes Computer Science being the primary and Productivity and Life hacks being secondary.

    After reading your post I think its very situation and topic dependent to update the existing automic note vs adding a new note and connecting it. As of now, I think I will go like this, if I find very small information related to main to one zettle then I just update the main zettle by adding new reference link to material. If the information is large or if I see a possibility that this info can be linked in other zettle then I will create new zettle.

    Also as you do, I think I will start breaking or combining the zettles as I go further into topic. Feels like ZK is personal and will have to be adapted as we go. Digital notetaking helps a lot though.

    @GeoEng51 Thanks for reply. NotePlan is my choice because of its great user friendliness for mobile device. I like being taking notes on the go and then spending quality time managing zettles on mac noteplan. Sometimes I use obsidian on mac to work with ZK. Since we use the md files we have a choice in software. I hope this area gets attention and better and better softwares are developed.

  • @smachhewar said:
    I see both has its advantages. What you guys suggest or do since we have access to digital zettlekasten where we can update and correct our existing notes. Should we correct or update existing zettle with new infor or should we link the existing zettle with new zettle ?

    Pick one and do it! You can always change your mind :)

  • @smachhewar said:
    @GeoEng51 Thanks for reply. NotePlan is my choice because of its great user friendliness for mobile device. I like being taking notes on the go and then spending quality time managing zettles on mac noteplan. Sometimes I use obsidian on mac to work with ZK. Since we use the md files we have a choice in software. I hope this area gets attention and better and better softwares are developed.

    Yes, I agree NotePlan is great. I always have it open on my Mac and running on my iPhone. It is probably my most used app these days, or at least, the app to which I refer most frequently. And I use NotePlan in the same way you describe - quick notes on my iPhone as ideas occur to me and then review and revision on my Mac at night.

    I did note that the links between notes are to the note title and not to the note file name - a change from The Archive and one of which you should be aware. But that doesn't matter in the bigger scheme of things.

    Good luck with the development of your Zettelkasten. If you run into any interesting "findings" in regard to using NotePlan to create a Zettelkasten, I'd sure be interested in hearing about them.

  • Thank you :). Yes I noticed that, title becomes the file name. But recently noteplan launched interesting feature where if you update title file name and its references also change. So there is no issue if you decide to correct title later on.

  • edited April 17

    Both @Will and @GeoEng51 have provided excellent advice. Many of the books and articles I read, which are Business-oriented and may well be different than your interest in computer science, tend to be circular in their authorship. By that I mean, Chapter one deals with five reasons why something occurs. Chapter two deals with the first reason why and Chapter three deals with the second and so forth. This circular thinking creates havoc in atomic Zettel notes if they are not edited into the original note.
    I'll explain. In a recent book, I am processing (Managing the Unexpected), the second principle of High-Reliability Organizations is a reluctance to simplify. Great, Zettel note started. Two chapters later, I learn that organizing can reduce the amount of information they see, note update. More chapters later, I find that even words and labels can cloud our thoughts. More updates. And now expectations, anticipation can all cause problems of simplification! Whew! Add to that a quote I felt was meaningful, a keyword here and there, plus notes and references from the studies the book referred too and now I have a Zettle note that is quickly approaching a point in time where it might need splitting to return to a more atomic state. Perhaps one that deals with how words and labels cause us to ignore things that don't quite fit. You are correct that it is very situational, and atomic doesn't necessarily mean short. I like @argonsnorts description of "Functionally Atomic" found here. In any case, if you can adjust a few words, add a reference, it works exceptionally well and creates depth to the original note. Attached is a view of my Zettel Notes from Managing the Unexpected. Purple is Zettel notes, light green references, and keywords are spelled out. I use TheBrain.com

  • @smachhewar said:
    @Will Thank you for reply. I think after reading your reply I am on bit right path.

    It does sound as though you're getting into the swing of things.

    Some of the most enjoyable time spent zettelkasting is refactoring notes and looking at their connectivity deeper in the database. It can be like discovering or renewing old acquaintances. I find when I refactor older notes, I uncover connections to newer ideas. The surprise can be surprising.

    Will Simpson
    I'm a zettelnant.
    Research areas: Attention Horizon, Productive Procrastination, Dzogchen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
    kestrelcreek.com

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