Zettelkasten Forum


Shared Zettelkasten?

This is a response to Will's Zettel Sharing ... and the interesting interactions which are happening there.

I don't have a Zettelkasten, yet (not sure if I ever will have). I love to read what others are saying about their adventures. Reading the discussions, in that and other threads, sometimes makes my head hurt. I'm not sure if I'm smart enough to think so abstractly about such things. I admire all those here who share their thoughts about how they think about thinking.

I did not want to interrupt or hijack that discussion, but I would like to share my initial reaction: "What would a Shared Zettelkasten look like?".

I think that I understand, from what I've read here, and elsewhere, that a Zettelkasten is a personal database, where one keeps notes and builds upon research and thoughts which are read and created while living life. The hope is to generate and discover new and interesting things while revisiting and exploring new and unfamiliar territory.

The basis of my question is, why should everyone have to start from zero and build upon things that they happen to discover. The "standing on the shoulders of giants" resonates with me. I'm just wondering if there is some way to share a Zettelkasten (or many). Maybe this does not make any sense. Maybe this already exists (Yahoo groups, Discord, Discourse, Reddit, etc.)?

Just wondering if anyone else has any similar thoughts.

Comments

  • I think a shared Zettelkasten would look like a wiki combined with a forum.

    I am a Zettler

  • @dgarner

    I understand the attraction of sharing a Zettelkasten. In fact, one of the primary drivers for me creating one is to pass on what I have learned, and hopefully some of the associated wisdom, to my children and grandchildren.

    However, having been at it for over a year now, I realize that the true value lies in distilling and capturing what we really think. And over time, seeing how what we think changes. To us, that is extremely valuable. I'm not sure it holds anywhere near that level of value to anyone else. To the random reader, who does not have the context of our lives and our experiences, it is just some more stuff they can read, that might be more or less interesting, and in the worst case, might just be noise.

    To those who know us, our ZK might seem to hold some value, at least in providing insights into who we are and how we think. Having knowledge of our lives, they might have motivation to pursue our ZK with more than passing interest.

    It's not too different from finding a journal written by someone else - your interest level could vary from boredom to fascination, depending on the material and your knowledge of the person.

    And of course, studying the ZK written by others could teach you how to create and structure your own ZK.

    But I wouldn't consider viewing other people's ZK's as a short-cut to creating my own. That exercise might help me to clarify my thoughts or contrarily, it might confuse me. But it's no substitute for creating my own ZK.

  • @sfast , Does such a thing currently exist?

    I know Discourse has the ability to be configured with Wiki posts: (https://www.theproductivists.club/t/all-apps-list-a-wiki-of-tools-in-the-pkm-and-productivity-space/152) is an example.

    Is something like Wikipedia such a beast?

    @GeoEng51 , I get that a ZK, as usually discussed here, is kind of like a mutable diary? And as such might not be suitable for general consumption.

    Can you not imagine some kind of shared ZK that might facilitate group thinking with the benefits that ZK does for individuals?

    I wonder if this and other forums or Yahoo/Google Groups are, or could be, a shared ZK?

    Thanks.

  • @dgarner said:
    @GeoEng51 , I get that a ZK, as usually discussed here, is kind of like a mutable diary? And as such might not be suitable for general consumption.

    The reason I think a personal ZK would not be that useful for general consumption is that the creator put in all the work and the "reader" (someone browsing another person's ZK) puts in very little work, outside of reading and thinking, of course. The ZK isn't created like a book or article, with a thesis and associated arguments. Rather, it is created somewhat haphazardly (some would say, the more haphazardly, the better), with the intent of capturing and relating various ideas over time. Its connections are very personal and make sense to the creator but not necessarily to the reader.

    And as you mentioned, both the ideas and the connections are mutable.

    It's sort of like the difference between having a discussion with yourself (which is what you do when you search through your own ZK) or having one with a stranger. The potential for understanding is much greater in the first than in the second. If we had to do the second, most of us would prefer a face-to-face meeting, a relaxing setting, some good food and drink, and lots of time. Your ZK only provides one of these ingredients :smile:

    Can you not imagine some kind of shared ZK that might facilitate group thinking with the benefits that ZK does for individuals?

    Yes, I can. In fact, I did. Six months ago, we started an engineering project at work that was somewhat unusual and required 5 or so people to research topics in a number of areas, attempting to relate them to a particular problem. I guess it was a typical research task, in that sense, but carried out by a team rather than one individual, and processing a very large amount of information in many disparate areas of knowledge. To facilitate the team work and to focus the results, we created a ZK.

    It took a bit of set up - everyone had to get used to the concept of a ZK and the software (we used Zettlr). They had to test drive the process (to become familiar with the principles of creating and connecting zettels). We then made some simple rules about the format and metadata in each zettel, and set everyone "free" to tackle different research areas. Every two weeks, we get together to review progress. We use event trees (we are examining the many different ways in which a created landscape can fail over long time) in a mind-map format to capture what has been learned.

    My experience on this project convinces me that one can effectively use a ZK for pooling knowledge learned by a team of people. That team would certainly be familiar with and could understand the content of the ZK. But we don't intend to somehow publish the ZK as the final result of all our work. For that, we have the final failure modes and event trees, all nicely discussed with appropriate images and associated text in a report.

  • @GeoEng51 , Thanks for the reply.

    I vaguely recall you describing getting ready for your team ZK. I'm glad to hear that it seemed to be helpful.

    I'm not thinking of publishing the findings of the shared ZK, I'm thinking it is the output of the process, and could be perpetually updated as desired.

    Was there anything, in particular, which Zettlr was missing, which would have made the experience better, that you noticed?

  • @dgarner said:
    @GeoEng51 , Thanks for the reply.

    Was there anything, in particular, which Zettlr was missing, which would have made the experience better, that you noticed?

    No, Zettlr did a great job! We independently had been using Zotero for building lists of reference books and papers for our engineering work, which we used on this project as well. Zettlr plays very nicely with Zotero and in producing citations. And we have some people working in MS Windows and others on the MacOS - Zettlr is available for either of those operating systems and I think also for Linux.

    Otherwise, its capabilities are excellent. I would be quite happy using it as my ZK software, but I "grew up" on The Archive and quite like it as well.

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