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No, Luhmann was not about Folgezettel


imageNo, Luhmann was not about Folgezettel

A Zettelkasten is a personal tool for thinking and writing that creates an interconnected web of thought. Its emphasis is on connection and not mere collection of ideas.

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  • Very noble of you to post Daniel's response here as it refutes your post.

  • edited February 6

    This whole supercessionist take on fz, linking, and digitization ("but, computers make xyz way irrelevant", etc) is really beat and kinda lacking in creativity. Digitization and links only make fz irrelevant if you see fz (or any alphanumeric system) as having no other use than as a tree hierarchy. For me, fz is less about the tree (though that is important) and more about the UX.

    Fz as a View from Above

    Fz provides a bird's eye view of my notes, complete with visible links without having to start digging around. It's a quick way of see how ideas connected when I imported the note. They show my thinking at the time of import. This view from above, along with declarative titles for my notes, makes it incredibly easy to find things, trigger thoughts and emotional responses, and get the juices flowing.

    But, the fz is just the beginning. Internal links (what I call "jumps" in my notes) take the ideas deeper and at times in seemingly tangential directions.

    Having no bird's eye view of my notes as they relate to one another before I start digging around and looking for emergence seems like an unfortunate waste.

    Fz as" Search"

    I can't stand search. I've yet to find any OS or app that, despite how well it performs, doesn't make myle feel like I'm viewing my notes through a pinhole. For me, search is the very last thing I'll do if I really can't find something.

    In its place I've got my fz (really my own alphanumeric system). All my notes are clustered in different areas that I have become accustomed to. My muscle memory is on board when I flick the track pad to scroll, and my brain has become really good at remembering what the "1H's" refer to, the "4K's" etc.

    Luhmann used fz cuz paper

    I don't doubt it. Now we use it for something else. Next.

  • edited February 6

    @taurusnoises I agree: Folgezettel encode a distinguished spanning tree of (links to) Zettels at the time a Zettel is added to the Zettelkasten. I attempt to emulate this in my digital ZK by recording so-called context links. I use a Zettel template for this. The context links indicate where the Zettel fits in to the pre-existing network.

    Soneone who doesn't care about the initial context of a note; or who freely revises notes without checking how neighboring notes (and their neighbors, and so on) might be affected; or who doesn't care whether obliterating the revision history creates a false rosy narrative of ever upward progress (excelsior!); or who feels no need to retain an instructive record of mistakes and dead ends to avoid in the future won't bother. Not that I oppose revising notes altogether. Provided the tradeoffs are understood, revision sometimes helps. These days I try to exercise restraint.

    Post edited by ZettelDistraction on

    Erdős #2. ZK software components. “If you’re thinking without writing, you only think you’re thinking.” -- Leslie Lamport.

  • edited February 6

    @taurusnoises said:
    Digitization and links only make fz irrelevant if you see fz (or any alphanumeric system) as having no other use than as a tree hierarchy.

    This an almost textbook-fitting showcase of a strawman.

    @taurusnoises said:
    For me, fz is less about the tree (though that is important) and more about the UX.

    This is already addressed numerous times. If Folgezettel work for you, more power to you.


    @ZettelDistraction

    It is quite easy to track mistakes: If there is some back and forth on your learning with mistakes, revisions etc. you can extract what you learned and create a systematic reappraisal. I use those for tricky topics like animal ethics.

    It is similar on how to process experiences. Instead of storing them as episodes you extract out the lessons, going from the chronological/historical to the systematic. (I didn't need to remember everytime I got punched in the face but instead needed to improve my defensive techniques to become a better fighter. My crocked nose is enough of a reminder.)

    Post edited by sfast on

    I am a Zettler

  • edited February 6

    @sfast "This an almost textbook-fitting showcase of a strawman"

    Nah, it isn't.

    "This is already addressed numerous times. If Folgezettel work for you, more power to you."

    I know.

  • edited February 6

    A The Strawman

    @taurusnoises said:

    @sfast "This an almost textbook-fitting showcase of a strawman"

    Nah, it isn't.

    Definition of a strawman:

    A straw man (sometimes written as strawman) is a form of argument and an informal fallacy of having the impression of refuting an argument, whereas the real subject of the argument was not addressed or refuted, but instead replaced with a false one. (Wikipedia)

    Your statement:

    Digitization and links only make fz irrelevant if you see fz (or any alphanumeric system) as having no other use than as a tree hierarchy. (mine emphasis)

    Your argument:

    a) Digitization and links only make fz irrelevant if you see fz (or any alphanumeric system) as having no other use than as a tree hierarchy.
    b) There are other uses of Folgezettel.
    c) Therefore: Folgezettel are not irrelevant.

    It is factually incorrect that the critique against Folgezettel is just about them having no other use than as tree hierarchy.

    The strawmaning happens in two places:

    1. The conclusion was never that Folgezettel are irrelevant. Instead, the conclusion is that Folgezettel are not necessary to implement core features of the Luhmannesque Zettelkasten.
    2. No one assumed that Folgezettel have no other use than to make hierarchy possible.

    I highlight the two places in which the strawmaning happened:

    Digitization and links only (1) make fz irrelevant if you see fz (or any alphanumeric system) as having (2) no other use than as a tree hierarchy.

    So, your argument is based on a misrepresentation of the initial claim. The misrepresenting happens by changing the claim ("not necessary" -> "irrelevant") and by making the claim stronger than it is ("Folgezettel are used to utilise hierarchies" -> "Folgezettel have no other use than..."

    Therefore: Strawman.

    B The Textbook

    Why is it textbook-fitting?

    Changing the claim and making the claim stronger than it is (which creates a misfit between the conclusion and the necessary power of the premises) are (in my experience) by far the most prevalent and iconic incidences of strawmaning.

    I am a Zettler

  • edited February 6

    I once had an ex-gf who used to go nuts when we were breaking up cuz I used to cut up and quote her emails back to her in my responses. At the time I would say, "I'm just responding to you. These are your words!" But, years later I realized she was right. But, I'll take the bait this one time. Only cuz it's been so long, like 20 years, since I've had to do it! But, just this once. We ain't effin' and I'm not 23 yo me blogging in 2001.

    "the real subject of the argument was not addressed or refuted, but instead replaced with a false one." -- wiki -- @sfast -- Michael Scott

    Let's see if that's what happened....

    "Luhmann, the godfather of the Zettelkasten Method himself, wrote that it is not important where you store a Zettel as long as you can reference it from every other point to the Zettelkasten.(1)". (emphasis mine)

    Here's where you frame the argument that fz is no longer necessary, using Luhmann's statement as a baseline To which I responded: "I don't doubt [Luhmann's usage]. Now we use it for something else. Next."

    Here, I'm agreeing that that may have been the case. But, I take that and, in a most flippant way, shrug my shoulders. Cuz, who cares? We can now use it for a different reason. [1. subject addressed]

    Now, lest we assume you're only arguing to prove Luhmann's reasons for using fz, and not arguing for extending his reasons onto today's digitized world:

    "The possibility to create a direct reference, for example as a link, reduces the importance of the Zettel coming next in the sequence." (emphasis ye olde me)

    Here, it's stated that fz "loses importance" bc of the ability to link. You'll see above that I argue that fz doesn't lose importance at all, but rather the importance shifts. From being a necessary biproduct of the times, fz can now serve new functions. It's importance isn't reduced. It's shifted. [2. subject addressed]

    "The technique Folgezettel creates value from the position of a Zettel in the archive."

    Here fz is seen as valuable because of its ability to situate notes visually in space. But, the obvious subtext is that this is where fz's value begins and ends ---> in its presenting notes as a hierarchy or tree, giving it a "position." We know this is what's being said, because:

    "But the technique of creating a link reduces the value of the position of a Zettel."

    Here, it's clearly stated that the very thing that makes fz valuable is the thing we no longer have a need for because of our ability to "create a link," which, by extension, can be read as having been enhanced by computers and digitization. To which I again refer you to my orig response. Value is not lost, it is redefined. [3. subject addressed]

    And yet, for some reason you read this...

    "Digitization and links only make fz irrelevant if you see fz (or any alphanumeric system) as having no other use than as a tree hierarchy."

    ...as a strawman argument because you think I am not referencing what you said. To which I'll just say, you're wrong. I am not saying that this is your only argument (which would be wrong, but not entirely so), but that the only way fz becomes irrelevant is if we read fz in the way you do above. Which I believe, as stated in the original response, is a limited and uncreative way of valuing fz.

    So, while I appreciate you linking the wiki definition of strawman, and giving me this opportunity to stroll down 2001 blogging/ex-girlfriend memory lane, you're just off. You raised an opinion. I refuted. I gave a use-case to back it up, and now we're here.

    Post edited by taurusnoises on
  • @Sir_Frank said:
    Very noble of you to post Daniel's response here as it refutes your post.

    I don't get it. Not the post, I mean, but where is the post you are refering too? Why is this thing from 2015 suddenly active again? Can anybody explain this process to me, please?

  • @Perikles We linked to an announcement for Daniel Lüdecke's reply at the bottom of the post, which I guess @Sir_Frank refers to.

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

  • @ctietze But this is dated "Nov 5th, 2015"! Please, why is poster "System" bringing this old blog post up on the forum dated for 6th Feb 2022?

  • @Perikles

    Probably because someone was reading that post and decided to comment on it. A new comment will always bring old threads forward.

  • Ah, I see -- yes, what @GeoEng51 said :) We didn't have a forum back then to power the comments. For new blog posts, I make the forum "System" create a thread immediately, but the old ones don't have that.

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

  • edited February 9

    @taurusnoises

    Perhaps, you don't understand the line of argument? The claim of the article is:

    Folgezettel is not necessary to implement the underlying principles of a Luhmannesque Zettelkasten.

    This is perfectly consistent with your claim:

    Folgezettel provide bird's eye view.

    My own words:

    But if you have a very specific need the concept of Folgezettel can be highly beneficial. It streamlines the content which results in a higher ease of use of the Zettelkasten. (Why Luhmann Had to Start a Second Zettelkasten)

    It might be beneficial to you if you reconsider your learning approach so you actually feel cheated out of a learning opportunity when you actually are. ;) (At least, make yourself familiar with the position you "refute".)

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast I'm not challenging the entire article. I'm challenging your claims in the article (and elsewhere) that linking supercedes fz. Perhaps you should drop that aspect, as it keeps showing up, and, apparently, is a misrepresentation of your position.

    Or maybe that's your "lack of persona" (not) getting in the way again 😉.

  • @taurusnoises you are treating fz as a divine item. This way you'll never understand its relevance.

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

  • @zk_1000 😂 just the opposite. I just think it has its uses. Entirely practical.

  • edited February 9

    I'm challenging your claims in the article (and elsewhere) that linking supercedes fz.

    Correction: Methodologically, direct links are enough to implement the underlying principles of a Luhmannesque Zettelkasten.

    You are still misrepresenting my claim by making it stronger that it is (hence a strawman). My claim is not that links supercede Folgezettel in every way possible. It is specific to the methodological aspect.

    Any utilisation besides the implementation of the underlying principles of a Luhmannesque Zettelkasten is not covered by my argumentation.

    Perhaps you should drop that aspect, as it keeps showing up, and, apparently, is a misrepresentation of your position.

    I cannot drop the misinterpretation of my claim other people make. That is surely an overestimetation of my might and magic.


    Rephrasing: My claim entails a specification to the methodological layer. Not any use case of Folgezettel.

    Perhaps, you don't understand the line of argument?

    I am a Zettler

  • edited February 9

    I don't think you're usage (here and elsewhere) is as refined as you say it is.

    "Correction: Methodologically, direct links are enough to implement the underlying principles of a Luhmannesque Zettelkasten."

    In a vacuum, sure. But, used as an argument against fz (which is how you employ it in the article and elsewhere), you are saying much more. So, for your own progress, here's the difference. These are two different statements:

    Q: Are links enough to work within Luhamann's principles re the zk?
    A: Methodologically, direct links are enough to implement the underlying principles of a Luhmannesque Zettelkasten.

    -vs-
    Q: What is a good reason for using fz in a digital context?
    A: Methodologically, direct links are enough to implement the underlying principles of a Luhmannesque Zettelkasten."

    These are different answers. The first affirms the use of linking. The second refutes the use of fz.

    You need to pay more attention to the context in which you respond, if you want to be understood and not misrepresented (as you say you are being). Since we're giving advice now.

  • edited February 9

    how does the second refute the use of fz? Links always co-exist with connections. There is no way fz doesn't have links. The article makes comparisons based on criteria. There is no way the conclusions drawn prohibit the use of fz. fz vs direct links is also not an alternative outside of the criteria. What is key here is "Sign up there to join the discussion" which provides opportunity to re-evaluate the arguments if something new is brought to the table. How can you create a vacuum without disabling the comment function?

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

  • first, @GeoEng51 said:
    Probably because someone was reading that post and decided to comment on it. A new comment will always bring old threads forward.

    then @ctietze said:

    Ah, I see -- yes, what @GeoEng51 said

    The comment section under that blog post is closed. The newest comment is six years old.

    So it must be something else. What could it be?

  • @zk_1000 said:
    how does the second refute the use of fz?

    Because it implies (by it's context, which is the context there) that no good reason to use fz exists.

  • @Perikles said:
    The comment section under that blog post is closed. The newest comment is six years old.

    So it must be something else. What could it be?

    I'm not sure if this is the right answer, but there are two ways to comment on a System Post - one is through the original (System) post, the comments for which are closed after some time, and the other is by finding the post as a thread in the forum, and commenting there. I believe the latter will allow you to continue adding comments ad infinitum, as we are doing right here.

  • @taurusnoises said:

    "Correction: Methodologically, direct links are enough to implement the underlying principles of a Luhmannesque Zettelkasten."

    In a vacuum, sure. But, used as an argument against fz (which is how you employ it in the article and elsewhere), you are saying much more. So, for your own progress, here's the difference. These are two different statements:

    Still, a misrepresentation. I argued against the essentialist position on Folgezettel on the level of the method. If I argue against Folgezettel in another context I deploy different arguments.

    Q: Are links enough to work within Luhamann's principles re the zk?
    A: Methodologically, direct links are enough to implement the underlying principles of a Luhmannesque Zettelkasten.

    -vs-
    Q: What is a good reason for using fz in a digital context?
    A: Methodologically, direct links are enough to implement the underlying principles of a Luhmannesque Zettelkasten."

    These are different answers. The first affirms the use of linking. The second refutes the use of fz.

    No, it doesn't. It would be a nonsense-answer. It doesn't refute anything about the question. And the correct response to the answer would be: "You are not answering my question."

    You need to pay more attention to the context in which you respond, if you want to be understood and not misrepresented (as you say you are being). Since we're giving advice now.

    The context is layed out in the beginning of the article:

    1. In the first lines, I refer to principles by the quote.
    2. Second, I explicitely introduce the position of Daniel Lüdecke of the Folgezettel being essential to the Luhmannesque Zettelkasten

    And to finish it off the conclusion is:

    "To have a Luhmann-esque Zettelkasten, you don’t have to follow his techniques. Just follow the principles he used and you’ll be fine."

    I cannot and would not if I could pay any attention to what you are cooking in your head. Your context is not the context.


    Imagine instead of presenting your use of the Folgezettel technique as some kind of refutation you had opened a thread you just presented your application just as such.


    @Perikles said:

    @zk_1000 said:
    how does the second refute the use of fz?

    Because it implies (by it's context, which is the context there) that no good reason to use fz exists.

    Wife: Do I look fat in this dress?
    Husband: Yes.
    Wife: Don't you love me anymore!?

    The above example is even not exactly what happens here. This captures it better:

    Wife: Do you think she looks fat in her dress?
    Husband: Yes
    Wife: Don't you love me anymore!?
    Husband: What?
    Wife: I have a dress, too. And I am insecure. You need to pay more attention to the context!

    I am a Zettler

  • edited February 10

    " No, it doesn't. It would be a nonsense-answer. It doesn't refute anything about the question.

    Literally on Reddit a week ago:

    Q: "Why should we need to make a notes sequence? Why can't we just use MOCs/Structure notes for everything instead?"

    Your Answer: "Both linking and structure notes can provide what the Luhmann-ID aims for: Establish a train of thought. Luhmann himself stated that it is not important where you place the note if you can link to it."

    This is how you responded in the article above, and it's how you respond elsewhere (as I said above).

    But, at this point we're just going back and forth with Me: "Yes you do" and You: "No I don't." which is unproductive and basically an impasse.

    In my experience, the writer who feels misunderstood the most tends to be the one whose writing needs the most attention, who ironically tends to also be the writer most resistant to the idea. This ain't anything new.

    Post edited by taurusnoises on
  • edited February 10

    At some point I'll illustrate what I understand to be the difference between 1) a Zettelkasten with Folgezettel IDs; 2) a Zettelkasten with certain timestamps called out within each note and linked to the parent of the note at the time the note was added; and, 3) a Zettelkasten with structure notes. I think illustrations would help.

    In the note template on github I attempted to show how to implement 2), which emulates 1).

    In 1) there is a distinguished spanning tree of notes (for each connected component of the graph of notes). A Folgezettel ID for a note N encodes the path from the note N to the parent to the root of the tree at the time that N was inserted. The path to the root can be retraced through the Zettekasten and compared with any intervening notes that may have been inserted.

    In 2) there is a distinguished spanning tree of notes (for each connected component of the graph of notes). Instead of an ID encoding the path to the root (which could be retraced through the Zettelkasten) a timestamp ID is called out in each note which links to the parent note at the time the note was inserted into the Zettekasten. The path from the note to the parent isn't explicitly encoded in the ID as in 1), but it is unique and it is possible to trace through it.

    In 3) there may be more than one spanning tree as in 1) or 2) indicating the order in which notes were inserted into the Zettelkasten. (I have to check.)

    Any one of these can emulate any of the others, though the procedure for attaching nodes will tend to make them grow differently.

    I don't know if I want to wade into this!

    Post edited by ZettelDistraction on

    Erdős #2. ZK software components. “If you’re thinking without writing, you only think you’re thinking.” -- Leslie Lamport.

  • @taurusnoises Do you have the Reddit link handy, for the rest of us as reference?

    I cannot follow, to be honest, the point being made: the answer you quote states that both links and structure notes can do "what Luhmann aims for". -- In my tech wizard words, this means both are functionally equivalent implementations to note sequences (Luhmann's aim being what Sascha's original post put as a principle.) So links/stucture notes/MOC/... are alternatives to note sequences aka Folgezettel -- in a specific function. Functional equivalence of 2 or more things renders neither obsolete. (Or in your words: supercession is not a required effect, a term you introduced, which is already something "new" in this debate and worthy of discussion.)

    The way I understand this back-and-forth, you insist on additional functionality of Folgezettel that you like to preserve. Does that sound about right? Or maybe one step further, is your intention to advice others to not throw out the baby with the bathwater? (The question then becomes what exactly the baby is, but the back-and-forth doesn't seem to penetrate that deep, yet.)

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

  • edited February 10

    @ctietze

    "Functional equivalence of 2 or more things renders neither obsolete."

    Literally my point. I am showing that with, regards to FZ, @sfast makes repeated statements that suggest otherwise, both in verbiage and in the context in which that verbiage is expressed. (see examples above). This is true even in cases like the original piece, where it may not be the overarching argument being made, but is still apparent.

    "The way I understand this back-and-forth, you insist on additional functionality of Folgezettel that you like to preserve. Does that sound about right?"

    Basically, yeah. I'm saying that the value and use cases for FZ are not superseded by the advent of digital links, but have instead shifted and become enhanced (for anyone who prefers to stick with that system).

    (FYI I'm bowing out of this one for now. The issue will no doubt come up again 😉).

    For yr reference:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/Zettelkasten/comments/shryun/am_i_right_about_sequences_of_folgezettel_and/

  • @taurusnoises said:
    Literally on Reddit a week ago:

    Q: "Why should we need to make a notes sequence? Why can't we just use MOCs/Structure notes for everything instead?"

    Your Answer: "Both linking and structure notes can provide what the Luhmann-ID aims for: Establish a train of thought. Luhmann himself stated that it is not important where you place the note if you can link to it."

    This is how you responded in the article above, and it's how you respond elsewhere (as I said above).

    This is a different question than you used as an example. This example, like all the other examples, are perfectly consistent with my, I repeat, statement that for some specific use cases the application of the Folgezettel technique.

    The context of the question is even a methological one. There is a saying in German which translates to:

    A chicken is a bird but a bird is not a chicken.

    And its perfectly consistent with what I have written if you had just presented your usage of the Folgezettel technique: Both can be realised by structure notes, both aspects are core features of structure notes and in my opinion structure notes are a better tool, but if you like it you can do it because both work as techniques to establish the underlying principle.

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast said:
    Imagine instead of presenting your use of the Folgezettel technique as some kind of refutation you had opened a thread you just presented your application just as such.

    I don't think that is what he did. You took it as such and I find that funny.

    Me, I can't of course hope to be of good use by jumping into the back-and-forth between you and @taurusnoises about who said what at which point, nor do I want to.

    In regards to your husband/wife example, I cannot really tell what you want to say with that, but that's probably inconsequential at this point anyway.

  • edited February 19

    @Perikles
    I don't think that is what he did.

    This:

    taurusnoises said:
    This whole supercessionist take on fz, linking, and digitization ("but, computers make xyz way irrelevant", etc) is really beat and kinda lacking in creativity.

    and more so this:

    taurusnoises said:
    So, while I appreciate you linking the wiki definition of strawman, and giving me this opportunity to stroll down 2001 blogging/ex-girlfriend memory lane, you're just off. You raised an opinion. I refuted.

    @Perikles
    You took it as such and I find that funny.

    I don't mind a confrontational approach to utter an opinion. When there is something new to me, I stir the exchange as much as possible in the direction of more piece and cooperation. If I thought and discussed a matter multiple times from all kinds of directions and have a comprehensive scope of what arguments are propably to made, like in this case, I'll go along with the more confrontational approach and take it as an opportunity to practice.

    I am a Zettler

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