Zettelkasten Forum


Differentiate between links to new ideas and other trains of thought

Hi,
I'm relatively new to Zettelkasten, but have been working intensively with it since I read How to take smart notes a few months back. I've tried to mindlessly copy the workflow described by Ahrens, to make sure that I learn the workflow correctly before making adjustments. So I've created a library of about 200 notes in Obsidian.
But a few days ago I noticed a way that my workflow might have diverged from the principles of Zettelkasten, in a way that might hinder the usefulness of my library later on. So far I've created permanent notes by writing about the topic of the note in my own words. The topic can be a general concept, or a specific idea by myself or someone else. And while I was writing, I created connections to other notes whenever I felt it was appropriate or useful. (E.g. a note about "the importance of first hand experiences in science teaching" could have a link to "motivation" and "concentration").
What I've realized, however, is that my notes have not been structured in the way of clear trains of thought (as illustrated on slide 36 here: https://www.slideshare.net/mosessampaul/introduction-to-luhmanns-zettelkasten-thinking ), but more as a network of (deliberately, not automatically) linked notes. This leads to a lack of hierarchy in my library, which I believe can become a bit difficult to navigate after a while.

So I have two questions:
1) What are your experiences with this? Do you believe this will be a significant issue down the line?
2)
When linking notes (e.g. in Obsidian), there are two different types of links. Links that progresses the current train of thought, and links that refer to other trains of thought. Do you differentiate between these while writing permanent notes?
For instance, I'm considering if I should place links to progress the train of thought in the text itself, while links that refer to different trains of thought are placed as footnotes. It seems like a bit of a hassle, so I would appreciate input on if this is worth the effort.

Cheers,
Adrian

Comments

  • You are on to something here. I've evolved my "formatting rules" for where I place links in my notes along the lines you mention.

    "Place the link close to the idea being linked."

    Too many links scattered all over a note sometimes clue me that I've not atomized the note into its fundamental ideas. Sometimes a plethora of links is the result of a deeply linked atomic note expressing a keystone idea.

    In this example, we see links between paragraphs, linking the idea expressed in the preceding paragraph, and we see what I call an "interstitial" link in the middle of a sentence. This links I do not include the title of the target note because I think it too messy. (This is a personal preference, and I'm open to new ideas.) If there were ideas that I felt connoted the thought process expressed in the whole note, I'd place them at the bottom of the note.

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

  • @Will said: we see what I call an "interstitial" link in the middle of a sentence. This links I do not include the title of the target note because I think it too messy.

    I agree Will. I find it messy too. I find myself wishing the title of the link could appear when the cursor hovers over the UID.

    Started ZK 4.2018. "The path is at your feet, see? Now carry on."

  • Thanks a lot for the replies. If I understand you correctly, Phil, it seems like we've ended up on essentially the same solution (where I mark progression in the train of thought clearly in the text, and references to other trains as footnotes). The differences would be because of differences in software.

    When I think about it now the main advantage of this method is that it forces me to think about what I'm trying to achieve with the link, which is an important part of the thinking. It helps me avoid automatically linking keywords. I've tried writing a few notes this way now, and I have stopped linking to central concepts whenever they turn up.

    If anything, it should go the other way: the notes about central topics should have more of a topic-note function, helping me navigate my library, and it's these notes that should link to the specific idea I was writing about.

    I'm curious what you think of this.

  • @Phil, I dislike popups when I move my curser around. They are distracting. Beside there isn't a way to have an action on curser hovering in the user-land configurability of The Archive, even with the sophistication of Keyboard Maestro. Maybe this will be available in The Archive's forth coming scriptability.

    What I've created is a Keyboard Maestro macro that requires a CTRL click on a UUID link and instead of launching the link, it will trigger a notification that presents the note title.

    Click here to see a screen cast showing macro in action.

    Title Notification macro

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

  • @Battle_beaver said:
    If anything, it should go the other way: the notes about central topics should have more of a topic-note function, helping me navigate my library, and it's these notes that should link to the specific idea I was writing about.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "it should go the other way: the notes about central topics should."

    I'm not sure what you mean by "topic-note function."

    I'm a simple beginner easily confused.

    @Will said:
    Too many links scattered all over a note sometimes clue me that I've not atomized the note into its fundamental ideas. Sometimes a plethora of links is the result of a deeply linked note expressing a keystone idea.

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

  • @Will said:

    I'm not sure what you mean by "it should go the other way: the notes about central topics should."

    I'm not sure what you mean by "topic-note function."

    Sorry, I was unclear.

    Topic notes are simply permanent notes that summarizes a certain topic, and it usually links to other relevant permanent notes that deal with this topic somehow. I simply create these whenever I feel a need to organize my notes.

    But to make my thinking a bit clearer:
    Let's say I'm creating a permanent note about a specific idea. For example:
    "First hand experiences in science teaching
    First hand experiences is an effective way to divert our attention to the task at hand, which is important for our motivation. This can be utilized by the teacher in the classroom by designing tasks where students will have first hand experiences.
    -- [First hand experiences demands time]"

    The last link is the next idea in this train of thought.

    In this case it is tempting to link to a different note called "Motivation." The point of the motivation-note is simply to help me keep track of what notes are related to motivation.

    However, the links in the first note should be there to lead me down various trains of thought. If I were to link to "motivation," it would possibly lead me to a topic note. This can be a distraction.

    So my point is that I believe a better practice would be to open the "motivation" note, and create a link there to the first hand experiences-note. This way I keep things orderly, and I avoid creating links that distracts me from the train of thought.

    I'm not sure if this makes sense or not, but it is helpful to me to write this out anyway :)

  • @Will said:

    What I've created is a Keyboard Maestro macro that requires a CTRL click on a UUID link and instead of launching the link, it will trigger a notification that presents the note title.

    Click here to see a screen cast showing macro in action.

    Title Notification macro

    @Will. Fantastic. Thank you.

    Started ZK 4.2018. "The path is at your feet, see? Now carry on."

  • @Battle_beaver

    Coming to your question a bit late, but I believe you will have both clear "trains of thought" and "networks of ideas" in your Zettelkasten. Both are valuable. If you want to ensure that you can find at least the beginning of a train of thought or some related zettels, you could impose an external (hierarchical) organization using structure notes or an index.

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