# A Tale of Complexity – Structural Layers in Note Taking

edited March 2018
A Tale of Complexity – Structural Layers in Note Taking

A Zettelkasten is neither a neatly structured filing system for notes easy to access nor a turmoil deep sea generating ideas out of the ununderstandable chaos. There are three layers in my archive which emerged from the years of working with the Zettelkasten Method. I didn’t plan them in advance. It rather was a organic process.

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• Looks like the link to the screenshot is broken.

• Fixed, thanks for pointing that out!

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

• Great explanation of how a good learning workflow pays long-term dividends and how we often limit ourselves (say, to project-centered solutions) because we haven't got a good system in place. Love this post!

• Quick question: I notice the screenshot of the note in the "Structure Notes" section has only double-hash tags. This would indicate that it's actually a Main Structure Note. Is that correct? Do structure notes and main structure notes look different?

• edited April 2018

No. They don't look different.

I came up with a spacial model but Christian doesn't think it is a good illustration.

Posts like this are much more about understanding the metaphysics of a Zettelkasten. I am tinkering with the models and heuristics because often I am suprised by issues people come up with. For example: Can a Zettelkasten can get cluttered? The answer is no. It scales organically with the content and the variability of topics. If you organize your archive properly. (Perhaps, the reason is that I orientate myself towards the work of Frederic Vester?)

I think I am suprised because my internal model of a archive (or Zettelkasten) seems to be very different from man others which is a reason for things like the big "Folgezettel"-war with Daniel Lüdecke. That is the reason I try to develop a theoretical corpus of texts like that.

Practically, the whole issue is very easily solved. I use double-hash tags when I want to get to some point quickly. The "##Morgenroutine" is just for getting there quickly with a few strokes. The "##Ü3" indicates an outline. Main structure notes emerge organically.

I am a Zettler

• I'm using zim-wiki for my notes, and it does not have the separation between reading and producing. I'm very happy with it. Great article, and great site.

• Thanks.

How many notes do you have? When I used it the zim-wiki it slowed remarkably after too many notes.

I am a Zettler

• Thanks for this this is very helpful. Decided to just dive in to creating a zettelkasten and really getting a lot out of it, but was struggling with how to scale up as I add more notes. Was generally familiar with the idea of a "table of contents" or index note, but particularly eager to explore idea of "main structure notes" and double hashes to allow quick and easy way to filter to just see the main structure notes.

• Hi

All the best
P

• @ptohver said:
Do you make one note with ##Morgenroutine that combines things that you consider to fall broadly under "morgenroutine"?

This in particular is an outline a book on creating a morning routine. So, created it once and then linked to new Zettel if they were relevant. When I created this Zettel, I searched my Zettelkasten for relevant Zettel and sorted them in.

In doing so, I imagine you would introduce some structure to different subsets of notes that fall under "morgenroutine". Or does the structural note somehow emerge on its own by adding ##morgenroutine to every note pertaining to the structural hashtag?

No. Only the Structure Zettel that deals with "##tag" gets the double-hash. The double hash allows me to distinguish between normal Zettel and the Zettel.

Couldn't you just use a different title structure for structural notes as you have also done in the example "Ü3 morgenroutine". Searching for "Ü3" would give you all of your structural notes, and choosing "Ü3 morgenroutine" would direct you to your table of contents with all the notes on the topic, so why add ##Ü3 and ##morgenroutine?

The double-hash in general is marker for meta-tags. The difference between "#morgenroutine" and "##morgenroutine" is that the former is asigned to any Zettel that is about the "morgenroutine" and the later is only asigned to the one Zettel that rules them all.

Maybe it's a way to keep the structural note somehow updating automatically, which is the part I'm missing from this post. Does the structural note have an automatic way of updating itself or do you revisit them regularly to update the table of contents?

There is not automatisation method. All is done by oneself. This is important because one of the main ingredients of a good system is a skilled system user. If a system automates structuring one couldn't use the system because one would be too incompetent to work with the skilled system.

This one a big reason why many systems fail: They don't assure that the system user is learning with the system. Many systems are designed to compensate for weaknesses of the user. They try to automate things, allow for sloppy work (just dumping files in, clipping, incomplete processing, postponing regularly etc.).

Take Luhmann for example: He was highly skilled even without his Zettelkasten because his Zettelkasten was a training tool. I encountered this effect in my own work. I know many topics inside out because I worked with my Zettelkasten and did many things myself. Don't model the Zettelkasten as a thing that does things for your but more like a training tool that mirrors your own knowledge work (for the better or worse).

I am a Zettler

• Thanks! That was very helpful, as always.

• @ptohver said:
Thanks! That was very helpful, as always.

You're welcome.

I am a Zettler

• Hi,
Just to be 100% clear, the top level structure notes are also outlines and will have similar naming convention as the structure notes. i.e. They will have the ##Ü3 tag and ##top-level-topic tag.

• No, the other way arround. Outlines are also top level Structure Zettel but there are some Structure Zettel that aren't outlines. Top-Level Structure Zettel will have a "##Ü1" and "##tag". Outlines will have a "##Ü3" and "##tag" and/or "##projecttag".

I am a Zettler

• @sfast said:
No, the other way arround. Outlines are also top level Structure Zettel but there are some Structure Zettel that aren't outlines. Top-Level Structure Zettel will have a "##Ü1" and "##tag". Outlines will have a "##Ü3" and "##tag" and/or "##projecttag".

I understand that you are suggesting to use top level structure notes & structure notes to represent topic and subtopics. ##Ü1 will group all the top level structure notes while ##Ü3 will group all the structure notes.

I am still not clear about the meta-tags representing the topics/project.
Since you are suggesting to use metatags for topics and projects along with the ##Ü1 and ##Ü3 tags, I assume that this means that we can have multiple structure notes representing a same topic/project and apply ##topic or ##projecttag to those notes

But your example also suggests that we will only have one top level note representing a topic that will represent the tip of the iceberg. Then why do we need the metatag for the topic itself. Why cant I just use the note name as the topic name? If I want to search for a structure note, I can always search for ##Ü1 topicname or ##Ü3 topicname