Zettelkasten Forum


Hello - déjà-vu in Zettelkasten?

Dear fellow Zettlers,

This is my first post on the forum, though I’ve been reading and benefiting from your comments and inputs for over four years now: thank you for that!

My name is Erik, I’m an academic in the field of strategy, technology and innovation management. I have two Zettelkasten in The Archive, one for academic and more general non-fiction work (around 1400 notes) and one for fiction work (around 1450 notes).

The question I have for you is about déjà-vu in your ZK. I very regularly make new notes, only to discover, either when I add them to the ZK or much later, that I already made almost the same note at an earlier date.

Does this happen to you? Do you see it as a problem, or as a sign that the topic is important to you? If you notice such double entries, do you not enter the new note, do you merge them, or do you enter the new note specifically as ‘alternative’ to the other one?

Any other insights are also welcome.

Comments

  • The question I have for you is about déjà-vu in your ZK. I very regularly make new notes, only to discover, either when I add them to the ZK or much later, that I already made almost the same note at an earlier date.

    Rarely. It is most often an issue of to shallow processing of the note. My recommendation is to increase the integration by unfolding the thought of the note more and especially create more and more meaningful connections to other thoughts.

    Keep in mind, that I mentioned the word note just once. The focus is on the thought. The ZKM just gives you guard railing. The game of knowledge needs to happen insight them.

    I am a Zettler

  • Oh @ctietze ! He has the same problem than you!

    Hi @erikh and welcome among us ! :)

    I have two Zettelkasten in The Archive, one for academic and more general non-fiction work (around 1400 notes) and one for fiction work (around 1450 notes).

    Sire @Sascha the Grand would ask you : why separate them ? :)

    The question I have for you is about déjà-vu in your ZK. I very regularly make new notes, only to discover, either when I add them to the ZK or much later, that I already made almost the same note at an earlier date.

    I can recommand you to create structures notes in your Zettelkasten and add new notes from structure note : open the structure note, create the link, follow the link which creates a new note and work on it.

    # What make a protein ? 
    
    1.Proteins are heavy mollecules, the biggest bricks, made of aminoacids, the smaller brick : 
    * [[Zettel]] - Amiacids are smaller mollecule produced by… 
    * See [[Zettel2]] for some example, like…)" 
    
    2. Aminoacids are linked together thanks to peptide chains, bigger bricks : 
    * See [[Zettel 3]] for a definition of peptide chain 
    * [[Zettel]] : Collagene is an exemple 
    
    3.They assemble together to make proteins through folding :
    * [[Zettel 4]] explains how it happens. 
    * [[Zettel 5]] shows what structures emerges through folding 
    
    

    Does this happen to you? Do you see it as a problem, or as a sign that the topic is important to you? If you notice such double entries, do you not enter the new note, do you merge them, or do you enter the new note specifically as ‘alternative’ to the other one?

    From times to times, yes :)

    The solution depends on the notes in hand. I had three times the same citation from Dante Alighieri's Inferno from the Divine Comedia, not need for this, so I supprime two of them. Sometimes, they are slightly different, just because of reformulation or better understanding, so I choose one. And sometimes they seem different : i create a third note to analyse that.

    This topic might interest you : How to overcome the fear of forgeting

  • Thanks for the reactions!

    @Sascha so, you see it as a problem. That is it how I've been seeing it as well. I'm working indeed on better connecting the various thoughts, especially on topics that I often revisit. Also to "live more in my ZK" rather than using it as a "deposit for notes" may be helpful.

    @Loni: thank you. I separate because I'm using the academic one for work purposes, which is sometimes also used to show to and/or instruct others. The fiction has no place in that. I'm also using that as "hobby" rather than work.

    I find that in fiction the 'repeat notes' are less of a problem, because the development of a certain story or scene can benefit from having different treatments. The creation of a "third note" to analyze the difference is a great idea. I'm going to use that!

  • @erikh said:
    The question I have for you is about déjà-vu in your ZK. I very regularly make new notes, only to discover, either when I add them to the ZK or much later, that I already made almost the same note at an earlier date.

    Does this happen to you? Do you see it as a problem, or as a sign that the topic is important to you? If you notice such double entries, do you not enter the new note, do you merge them, or do you enter the new note specifically as ‘alternative’ to the other one?

    Hi, @erikh, welcome. We're so glad you uncloaked.
    Yes, I find repetition in my notes. Not with much regularity, but when I do, it triggers a five-alarm fire bell in my head that I can't ignore. Most of the time, these déjà-vu ideas are uncovered while integrating what I think is a new idea into my ZK. I search looking for established ideas to connect only to discover ideas that are the same or so close as to suspect I'm plagiarizing myself.

    Usually, I'll make a prominent link at the head of both notes referring to each other. I can't find an example. Surprisingly, I've had a couple of notes I discovered that were word for word, and I deleted one.

    I see this as a feature, not as a bug. I am pleased and surprised when it happens.
    Of course, I'm old, and my peak cognition is behind me.

    Will Simpson
    “Read Poetry, Listen to Good Music, and Get Exercise”
    kestrelcreek.com

  • edited May 8

    @erikh

    The question I have for you is about déjà-vu in your ZK. I very regularly make new notes, only to discover, either when I add them to the ZK or much later, that I already made almost the same note at an earlier date.

    erikh, please note that this example is outside the standard format presented on the website.

    I follow the Barbell Method of Reading for most of the material I review. I read and capture in bulk, processing at a later date. When I process, I keep my Zettelkasten search engine open and actively look for existing Zettels to link any new material. I'm currently processing (like many others on the forum, i.e., see @Will excellent video and @saschaz Field Report #5) the book Effective Notetaking by Dr. Fiona McPherson.

    I capture everything I find of interest, and perhaps I catch too many ideas whose wording is familiar but different, AKA déjà-vu. It takes some time for me to study it in my mind; however, when I come across an idea that ties into an existing thread, I don't process the note much further. Especially threads as engrained in Zettelkasten lore as "Reformulations," or "The principle of atomicity." I have extensive notes on both titles, so I want to tie the new message into the existing thread, providing the new material has nothing further to add. I do this so if I am reviewing the book, at a future date, I won't think I accidentally skipped the passage. If something new exists, the link flows in the opposite direction adding the new note to the chain of notes on the representative topic.

  • @erikh Welcome to the forum! I'm not sure I have a lot to contribute outside of what has already been said, but my experience is that if I make "proper" use of both tags and connections between zettels, this is not a common occurrence. The "if" is a big statement, of course - it requires some hard work at the front end, connecting zettels, and then some ongoing maintenance when new, related zettels are added.

  • edited May 9

    I sometimes repeat a note with variations until I hit on a formulation worth keeping. I built versioning into my system to account for indecision and reformulation. Cycles occur and recur as topics are revisited. I try to make a virtue of necessity and use repeated notes to indicate that a new approach is needed--or as @Sascha says, that I haven't thought deeply enough about the subject, that I haven't advanced in the subject (my biggest flaw I think--at the risk of exposing a vulnerability to the Internet), or that I am not ready, if ever to advance.

    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.

  • Since @Loni tagged me already -- I rarely but still do encounter repetitions. Mostly for, as @Sascha pointed out, shallow notes. Like interesting code snippets that I "filed away" for later, but didn't integrate well into the rest, and/or never actually used.

    So next time I encounter the interesting code snippet and would like to file it away, and then forget to search for similar stuff in my ZK first in order to start with a good connection or even discover existing notes on the topic, then I run into this problem. At least that's the factor I managed to isolate so far. So my note to myself: "When something interesting comes along, first ask the ZK what we know about this. Then start from there."

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

  • @ all: thank you for the warm welcome and the useful tips and reminders. There are indeed many things I know I should do, like proper processing, proper linking and proper tagging, but that either I don’t do enough of, or that drown in other daily activities.

    @ZettelDistraction : you say you built versioning into your system. That sounds very interesting to me as a way to gradually refine arguments. Could you explain how you do that (technically, I mean)?

    @ctietze : so, you start from the ZK, not from the source or from own thought? I had not considered that, but it makes ultimate sense!

  • edited May 9

    @erikh said:
    @ZettelDistraction : you say you built versioning into your system. That sounds very interesting to me as a way to gradually refine arguments. Could you explain how you do that (technically, I mean)?

    First I second @ctietze 's recommendation to query the ZK where a note will fit in. That will save
    some repeated effort. Implementing versioning can be done in various ways. I use my own ID system for this, documented here. One way of implementing versioning is to increment (or decrement) the timestamp portion of the ID only. This will give thousands of possible siblings of a given note. It's probably a good idea to increment the timestamp rather than decrement, but we're all adults and know the tremendous risks involved.

    These IDs combine timestamps with the Folgezettel IDs of Luhmann's system. They can be used in structure notes (what I would call a "local table of contents") or however else one wanted to use them. The point is to see at a glance roughly where they stand in relation to other notes in a directory listing.

    PS. Zettlr version 2.2.5 was slow for what I needed it for, but version 2.2.6 is considerably faster. Not as fast as VS Code, but fast enough.

    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.

  • @erikh said:
    @ctietze : so, you start from the ZK, not from the source or from own thought? I had not considered that, but it makes ultimate sense!

    I hadn't considered to phrase it this way, but I think that's it, yeah. Bad metaphor simile that comes to mind: Similar to how you pick a LEGO brick from a box (the new thing you found) and add it onto the foundation of your existing house (asking the ZK) instead of putting each brick on the floor on its own and wait for buildings to happen.

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

  • @ZettelDistraction : thank you! Your way of doing it gave me an idea of perhaps keeping the
    timestamp the same and adding a suffix to the note title. I'll experiment with that, but I can't really oversee the consequences of either of these approaches. (I'm sure within your system it all fits, but I'm using a more conventional approach)

    The alternative is to create a single "main" note and link the various "versions" to that one, making it into a comparison note as suggested by @Loni

    This is obviously only relevant for notes / thoughts that get improved over time or where various competing thoughts need to be brought together. in my case, for academic writing or for course modules, I have many such cases, where the argument of a note, made at t=1 does the job, but an alternative formulation at t=2 may be better.

    It is of course still necessary to connect and process well, like @Sascha suggested.

    Example: just today I made a new note related to "business model innovation" just to discover that I already had 3 (!) very similar notes with a reasoning about the definition of that term. 1 of them turned out to be a fairly useless duplicate (a "mistake" caused by not enough connection or processing. Two others turned out to be overlapping, with the earlier one capturing the main argument in a certain context (for undergrad students) and later one being better and more comprehensive.

    @ctietze : yes, argument acknowledged, but, following the example above, I was today attending a seminar on business model innovation, and made (on paper) a few notes to be processed into the ZK. Sometimes the lego blocks are being given to you before there is any thought of what to build with them :smile:

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