Zettelkasten Forum


What is your preferred metaphor for Zettelkasten? And why?

Here are some of my options:

  • Zettelkasten
  • Evergreen notes
  • Mind garden
  • Second brain
  • Smart notes
  • other

I already asked Google. But there’s no sufficient answer :wink:

Metaphors for Zettelkasten
  1. What is your preferred metaphor for Zettelkasten?10 votes
    1. Zettelkasten
      40.00%
    2. Evergreen notes
        0.00%
    3. Mind garden
      30.00%
    4. Second brain
        0.00%
    5. Smart notes
        0.00%
    6. Other
      30.00%
«1

Comments

  • Here are a few gleaned from my ZK. I'm not sure this is what you are looking for? With your drawing skills, you might find something to play with.

    Metaphors for zettelkasting

    1. Desk/inbox/files
    2. Bakery/proofing oven
      • kneading
      • resting
      • fermenting
    3. Garden/germination/seed bed
      • sunlight
      • fertilizer
      • weeding
      • harvest
      • watering
    4. City/Map
      • Exploring The Map Metaphor [[202104020841]]
      • Think of a web of ideas as a landscape
      • The Characteristics Of ZM As A Place-landscape [[202106121922]]
      • Design Vs Emergence - Cities Vs ZM [[202106121941]]
    5. Beer brewing
      • fermenting
      • resting
      • enjoying after the process
    6. Family
      • sister/brother
      • child/parent
      • birth/death in the family ›[[202106070928]]‹
      • graduation
      • prodigal note
      • crawl, walk, run
    7. Rodeo
      • corral
      • resting in the barn
      • breaking a wild horse
      • wild untamed thing
      • out to pasture with the rest of the herd
      • bucking bull
      • parade
    8. Fruit Tree
      • zettel being the fruit
      • bad fruit dropping
      • slow maturing"lie on a spectrum"
    9. Book
      • TOC
      • Index
      • Chapters
      • Book in a series
      • flash to full on novel
      • fiction/non-fiction
      • length of time to curate
    10. Digestion
      • eat
      • taste
      • catabolic process
      • excretion
      • health
      • cancer
      • posion
      • raw/cooked

    Will Simpson
    The quality of our thinking is directly proportional to the quality of our reading. To think better, we must read better. - Rohan
    kestrelcreek.com

  • Shipping container. See Ahrens, How to Take Smart Notes, 2nd Ed p. 49, 52, 175, 199. Of course you knew this...

    Erdős #2. ZK software components. “If you’re thinking without writing, you only think you’re thinking.” -- Leslie Lamport. Replies sometimes delayed since life is short.

  • @Will said:
    Here are a few gleaned from my ZK. I'm not sure this is what you are looking for?

    Thank you for sharing this unbelievable list. Just a formal concept, but also a great resource for thinking with visual metaphors.

  • @Edmund said:

    @Will said:
    Here are a few gleaned from my ZK. I'm not sure this is what you are looking for?

    Thank you for sharing this unbelievable list. Just a formal concept, but also a great resource for thinking with visual metaphors.

    I see the garden metaphore everywhere, but it is kind of lame from my point of view. This one just skips the components and process.

    There are two components in the Zettelkasten : the Zettelkasten itself with its set of notes, the inner organisation, the "box" whatever it is a physical or digital… And the user.

    There are at least two cores actions you can make with your Zettelkasten : integrating new knowledges, ideas, insights, observations and all. And asking the Zettelkasten to find them for you. Input, and output.

    I think you should practice and figure out by yourself, otherwise it would always stay to the superficial state. It should come from you, your insights, the vision you develop. Compare how personal ZettelDistraction's Glatanus, Sfast schemas and Will's list are.

    Will's list is awesome but you won't fully understand it. For example, I recognize the catabolism and digestion input coming from my blog article, I wrote this and it hits Will imagination and I'm sure he made it deeper than mine, because he understands ZK much more than me.

    But maybe we can help you to build ideas. What are your reactions from the metaphores that was shared here ? How do you apprehend them ?

  • Tree of Knowledge.

    This pertains to analog Zettelkasten systems, however.

    Scott P. Scheper
    Website | Twitter | Reddit | YouTube

  • edited April 2022

    Perhaps the shipping hub is a better analogy for the Zettelkasten than the shipping container (Ahrens, 40). The shipping hub illustrates a counterintuitive principle: sometimes a procedure that includes steps that are inefficient to carry out at small scale will operate more efficiently at scale than a simple direct procedure (Ahrens 39). Express delivery companies such as FedEx handle large volumes of packages by sending them to a central hub where they can be sorted, dispatched, and delivered, instead of delivering them directly.

    Multiple-choice question. How does the central repository of interlinked standardized-format notes of a Zettelkasten assist the writer?

    a) It turns the writer into a shipping container.
    b) Without the Zettelkasten, writers would have to ship individual Zettels world-wide directly from their desks.
    c) The Zettelkasten serves as a memory hole for writing projects that go nowhere.
    d) The Zettelkasten introduces eufriction into the writing process (Doto 2022).
    e) It encourages reflection on the important, as opposed to the merely interesting.
    f) It encourages the separation of concerns through "note atomicity."
    g) It provides the writer with a stable collection of notes written as if for publication.
    h) It facilitates schema formation, recall and recombination.
    i) It provides the writer with an all-consuming procrastination tool.
    j) Once the Zettelkasten reaches critical mass, it expostulates with the writer over their writing.
    k) The prolific sociologist Niklas Luhmann claimed that it worked for him.
    l) No one really knows.

    † The notion of eufriction is due to Bob Doto.

    References

    Ahrens, Sönke. 2017. How to take smart notes: one simple technique to boost writing, learning and thinking: for students, academics and nonfiction book writers. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace.

    Clark, Ruth Colvin, Frank Nguyen, and John Sweller. 2006. Efficiency in learning: evidence-based guidelines to manage cognitive load. Essential resources for training and HR professionals. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer, a Wiley imprint.

    Doto, Bob. 2022. Folgezettel is More than Mechanism.

    Lovell, Oliver, and Oliver Caviglioli. 2020. Sweller’s Cognitive Load Theory in Action. In Action Series. Melton, Woodbridge: John Catt Educational Ltd.

    Post edited by ZettelDistraction on

    Erdős #2. ZK software components. “If you’re thinking without writing, you only think you’re thinking.” -- Leslie Lamport. Replies sometimes delayed since life is short.

  • @ZettelDistraction said:
    h) It facilitates schema formation, recall and recombination.

    >
    Yes, this answer works for me. :-)

  • @Loni said:
    But maybe we can help you to build ideas. What are your reactions from the metaphores that was shared here ? How do you apprehend them ?

    I started my Zettelkasten a few weeks ago. It wasn‘t the classic one made from wood, I choose the precious Obsidian to build it up. As I could see it takes me a lot of time to let it grow. My idea was to see it as a garden. And I asked you as experienced gardeners, how to manage my work efficiently.

    Speaking with metaphors you were showing me different options to deal with. Maybe the garden will become a forest, a jungle or just a seed bed.

    To my surprise I got an easy answer: „There are two components in the Zettelkasten : the Zettelkasten itself with its set of notes, the inner organisation, the "box" whatever it is a physical or digital… And the user.“

    So I left all the magic behind, came back home from the forest and the jungle, back home to my Zettelkasten. It’s just a precious box. The one made of Obsidian.

    Thank you for this journey.

  • edited April 2022

    @Edmund said:

    @ZettelDistraction said:
    h) It facilitates schema formation, recall and recombination.

    >
    Yes, this answer works for me. :-)

    Thanks! I updated the post to include references for schemas and cognitive load in the post, but didn't cite them in text -- the citations would go at that line.

    Erdős #2. ZK software components. “If you’re thinking without writing, you only think you’re thinking.” -- Leslie Lamport. Replies sometimes delayed since life is short.

  • @Edmund
    To my surprise I got an easy answer: „There are two components in the Zettelkasten : the Zettelkasten itself with its set of notes, the inner organisation, the "box" whatever it is a physical or digital… And the user.“

    So you choose this picture, and pick a suggestion from @ZettelDistraction :)

    And the one you choose is :

    h) It facilitates schema formation, recall and recombination.

    A good starting point ? From here, you really can work with images and metaphor, because a box symbol can carry anything, and you can keep magic as well if it is your wish to do so :

    • If the vegetal thing talks to you as well, we can think about a box with plants inside compartiment, with a user caring for them. You are a gardener using plants and seeds, with implants to make them grow in other soils ?

    box plant

    • A box with crafting materials ?

    box

    • A box… like this one :

    tableau periodique

    Mollecule are an example of "atomic" notes and combination and re-combination too.

    I hope that ZettelDistraction's references will speak to you as well and make ideas evolve !
    From my point of view, the most important thing here is to make sens for you. From here, you will have plenty ideas of drawings, because the main idea will be yours and you'll have plenty ideas to explore and to develop.

  • I feel comfortable with garden (in all of its parts, non only seeds and plants, but also flowerbeds, pots, fences, paths, benchs and so on) and gardening (the process of design, cultivating, pruning, grafting, planting, wateting and so on). they represent at best the growth, the evolving nature of my notes and my workflow.

    Even better, it's not only a garden but also a kitchen garden and a little orchard (assuming fruits and vegetables metaphors of the output of my process)

  • My Zettelkasten is a bucket of sh*t. I keep on filling the bucket and sifting through it, hoping to find something wonderful and surprising. It's a nasty business ...

    ... which is probably an overly bleak point of view (and not very family friendly). The upside is that sometimes, my Zettelkasten does deliver.

  • The Bureau
    The Syndicate
    The Data Détente
    The Plain Text Junta
    The Hypertext Caucus
    The Mind Bloc

  • @r1tger said:
    My Zettelkasten is a bucket of sh*t. I keep on filling the bucket and sifting through it, hoping to find something wonderful and surprising. It's a nasty business ...

    :)

    I am a Zettler

  • @Loni Thank you for your beautifully visualized thoughts. It’s much easier for me to remember pictures and also the connected concepts. :-)

    From my point of view, the most important thing here is to make sens for you.

    Yes, for sure. But then I have to answer a non-trivial question: What does make sense to me?

    But thinking positively: I will find an answer in 2023 ;-)

  • edited December 2022

    @andang76 said:

    Even better, it's not only a garden but also a kitchen garden and a little orchard (assuming fruits and vegetables metaphors of the output of my process)

    I love the garden metaphor although I‘m not a real gardener. But I’ve already learned that gardening is hard work. Tell me a bit more: What are your preferred tools and workflows for gardening?

    Thank you for sharing.

  • @Edmund said:

    @andang76 said:

    Even better, it's not only a garden but also a kitchen garden and a little orchard (assuming fruits and vegetables metaphors of the output of my process)

    I love the garden metaphor although I‘m not a real gardener. But I’ve already learned that gardening is hard work. Tell me a bit more: What are your preferred tools and workflows for gardening?

    Thank you for sharing.

    Oh, nothing surprising :-)

    I've learned in these months some principles of zettelkasten (at least I think), and I'm trying to use them according to my attitudes, experiences and goals.
    I prefer relying on principles inferred reading experiences of others rather than having an "algorithmic" view of workflow (take an article, do this, then do this, then do this...).

    My preferred principle, my main rake, actually is "don't copy and paste. Dissassemble, extract and re-express according to your point of view instead".

    Other tools are things I think you already know:

    • Trying to do atomic notes (but "atomic" is not the same as "short", for me)
    • Prefer linking over other forms of classification
    • Trying to link your notes (but I think that every link you take has to be thought, there must be a "why" behind every link. I don't like automatic backlinkng, for this reason)
    • notes are not static, immutable, but have to grow over time (for this reason i prefer "evergreen" rather than "permanent", permanent in my language, italian, is a synomim of fixed, static, immutable)
    • avoid automatic tools that make jobs instead of you: automatic linking, automatic classification, automatic summarization, and so on. Building notes, gardening is an hard work, but this effort is the thing that makes you acquire the knowledge. A "perfect" note-set made by another has a little value for you compared with a note-set made by you. The value is in the mental process that you have to do when you apply the workflow process on your texts.
  • @andang76 Not sure how long you've been Zettelkasting, but you've captured some excellent principles!

  • edited January 4

    @andang76 said:

    • Prefer linking over other forms of classification

    Thank you for sharing your list of principles. My question: Why do you prefer linking? What‘s the benefit for you?

    As I‘m a fan of principles, so I’m collecting a long list in my Zettelkasten. Here‘s my favorite link to Zettelkasten principles: https://writingcooperative.com/zettelkasten-how-one-german-scholar-was-so-freakishly-productive-997e4e0ca125

  • @Edmund said:

    @andang76 said:

    • Prefer linking over other forms of classification

    Thank you for sharing your list of principles. My question: Why do you prefer linking? What‘s the benefit for you?

    As I‘m a fan of principles, so I’m collecting a long list in my Zettelkasten. Here‘s my favorite link to Zettelkasten principles: https://writingcooperative.com/zettelkasten-how-one-german-scholar-was-so-freakishly-productive-997e4e0ca125

    It's not a specific principle of Zettelkasten, but I've developed this choice viewing some examples of note taking in the Obsidian (the tool I use) community, and I've integrated it in my toolbox.

    At first I've discarded the approach of many folders, one folder for every theme/subject, for example, because of folder drawbacks. I use just a few of them, and more for previous habits rather than for benefits.
    I think that if I restart today an empty Zettelkasten, I could use only two of three folders.
    (In another context, instead, organizing not my zettelkasten but my work projects, I maintain a folder hierarchy, I prefer maintain every project in it own silo).

    Discarding folders and remaining tags and links, I've discovered that using links rather tags for subject/theme organization of my notes, in my case, I have significant benefits.

    In almost all my cases, the subject (for example, "macrophotography") has a note itself. So, in a note that talk about macrophotograpy if my vault, instead of having #macrophotography, I have the link [[macrophotography]].
    So, the subject classification of a note becames a relationship between two notes, instead of a tagging annotation.

    The main advantage of this system is that in my macrophography note I can have content that "represents" the subject itself. For example:

    • I can have a brief intro of what macrophotography is, and a bibliography about this;
    • the journal/outline of my thought process about macrophotography, when every bullet can be or generate a link to other macrophotogaphy notes. I've found that writing my stream of thoughts in an outline into a note, that can become a "subject note", is a powerful thing and let me track the entire process of generating note for a subject.
    • I can organize in the subject note the cluster of links how I prefer instead of having a flat list of links that the tool generates for me if I search for tags, for example. I can reorder links as I like, making groups as I like, and adding some bit of contents near the link if needed.

    My tag substitute, what I call "subject note", is something that other call index note, map of content s, and many other terms I've found around. Is more powerful than a tag, having the possibility of making a content behind the word of the tag.

    Actually I use tags only for tracking status of notes (for example, I annotate a note with #to-complete, #fleeting, an so on)

    Just a final note.
    I feel comfortable adopting this method, because the program I use, Obsidian, is fantastic in link managing tasks. Without its features It could not be feasible.

  • @GeoEng51 said:
    @andang76 Not sure how long you've been Zettelkasting, but you've captured some excellent principles!

    I'm Zettelkasting (and I'm not sure I'm really doing it :-) ) only since october, but discovering it has revolutionized my life :-) and I've spent a lot of time trying to learning more.
    Most of my zettelkasten is about zettelkasten :-)

    Until I discovered it I had difficulties about maintaining effective my process of reading, learning and thinking, overwhelmed by the information overload of these years.

  • @andang76 said:
    Until I discovered it I had difficulties about maintaining effective my process of reading, learning and thinking, overwhelmed by the information overload of these years.

    Yes, creating and using a ZK is an activity that removes a lot of anxiety from my life. I put most of the information that I want to store, access and link in my ZK, and then I just don't worry about where it is or if I can find it.

  • Notes as a Puzzle

    In Theory, the Pictures of Digital Gardens, Greenhouses and Parks are very appealing.
    But practically, working with the Zettelkasten reminds me of jigsaw Puzzles that are a little too big, where the pattern has been lost.

    many disordered Dieces

    The Slips are Pieces of a huge Puzzle
    The huge Picture is made up of many small detailed Pictures.
    No Template to be found.
    Partial Pictures result from the compilation of Slips of Paper under a Theme. (Structure slips, MOC...) Through References/Links, neighbouring puzzle pieces (Slips) can be assigned.
    At some Point, a large Picture is put together from the partial Pictures.

    Strategies when doing a Puzzle

    • Complete the Edges. The Edges result from the "LATCH axes": Local, Alphabet, Time, Categorie and Hierarchy.
    • complete sub-pictures from related parts under one theme

    two big Differences

    • the Puzzle is never finished
    • missing Parts are Tasks for Slip Production
  • I like the quote I've found this evening here: https://blay.se/2015-06-21-living-with-a-zettelkasten.html

    Remember that life in a Zettelkasten is supposed to be fun. It is a joyful experience to work with it when it works back with you. Life in Zettelkasten is more like dance than a factory.

    I think it is true. Zettelkasten is effective because it is engaging.

  • I have a whole note for this :)

    • Zettelkasten as a Cybernetic System was analogy used by Niklas Luhmann
    • Zettelkasten as a Box of Legos
    • Zettelkasten as a Knowledge Exploration
    • Zettelkasten as an Abstraction Machine
    • Zettelkasten as an Academic Idea Tracker
    • Zettelkasten as Plant Breeding
    • Zettelkasten as a Reference Tracker
    • Zettelkasten as Learning Machine

    Here is my note for Zettelkasten as an Abstraction Machine. If you want me to paste a different one from above list let me know.

    Another way to conceptualize a [[Zettelkasten|zettelkasten]] is as an [[Abstraction|abstraction]] machine, whereby you abstract ideas out of a text then use them to create new ones using the copy, transform, combine creative remix (e.g. [[Everything is a Remix]]).

    Step 1: Copy the Salient Information: Read recommended books to understand their ideas and copy the most important Ideas into your notes collection. While books are the primary form of information gathering because they can be the easiest to process (fluid pause/rewind ability), you can copy information from anywhere. I use podcasts as a common source of information for my notes collection.

    Step 2: Create Generalizations through the Process of Abstraction You can either combine a set of ideas to reach a higher abstraction, which would be like following themes across many different fields. Or you can combine concepts and ideas to come up with new ones. A basic example of this would be to write out the sales pitch for a television show you love in one sentence. Do this twice, than write a third sentence that is a combination of the previous two sentences. An ingenious real life example of this is how Gunpei Yokoi combined "withered technology" to make Nintendo what it is today.

    Step 3: Transform the Concepts and create variations of them. ==Unfinished==

    Step 4: Combine the Concepts to create even newer variations. ==Unfinished==

    Step 5: Test and Evaluate the New Concepts after having created a bunch of new combinations, you have to test the ideas for their quality. ==Unfinished==

  • I think that maybe not Zettelkasten itself, but "zettelkasting" practice of people brings something from program developing theory, also.
    It's too early for me for theorize about, but when I create notes I feel the same forces that I feel when I design/develop.

    The first thougths that come in my mind:

    • Atomic notes ===> Single Responsibility Principle
    • Well made atomic notes enable reuse ===> well thought objects/modules enable reuse
    • Try to writing concept-oriented ==> try to find the right abstractions
    • Note linking ===> object collaboration in Object Oriented paradigm
    • Bottom-up writing ===> TDD

    Also It hit me a phrase of Andy Matushak in his garden: "titles are like APIs". I agree with him. Good title for notes has the same importance of good interfaces in development. It represents the way used for make relationships with other notes.

    I think that I'll develop this idea further in future.

    This post become also a note in my box, in the meantime :)

  • Baltimore, in the US, recycles old apartment buildings. That provided me with an apt metaphor for my flavor of Zettelkasten.

    https://www.economist.com/united-states/2021/02/18/baltimores-abandoned-homes-are-being-recycled

    My Zettelkasten is a warehouse containing parts of buildings in various phases of deconstruction. A lot of the contents of my warehouse consists of boards, bricks, gutters, and the like. These are what many call 'atomic notes.' (I know, the metaphors are multiplying and mixing here.)

    But of equal importance are sub-assemblies, like windows in frames, marble steps, and fireplaces. These combinations of atomic notes into molecules, are atomic claims assembled into arguments.

    So, if I want to create a new structure, I take the claims and arguments, and fit them into larger, novel combinations.

  • @rl911 said:

    Notes as a Puzzle

    ...

    many disordered Dieces

    ...

    Strategies when doing a Puzzle

    This reminded me of a metaphor I've been using here and there: "Movable Text[fragments]".

    Like movable type made printing so much more efficient, the Zettelkasten allows to prepare small pieces and play with their order and combination. Something a bound note-book cannot do, for example.

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

  • Love the LEGO blocks idea. With the building instructions as "structure notes".
    Not so sure about the puzzle: a puzzle assumes that there is some large, final design, an overall picture. Also with a puzzle the pieces only fit together in a single way.

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