Zettelkasten Forum


Manual (analog) diary vs. digital notes

Probably already discussed several times, anyway: Quci question about how to integrate an analog manual diary into the workflow. Sometimes I am in a mood that I am just not convenient to sit at my PC to write notes. So sitting into the couch, having a tea and just write some thoughts is the only way, I can motivate my self to writing.

I want to have my notes searchable. So the only thing I see, is to retype things at a later point of time.

Benefits: repetition and filtering
Downside: Time consuming, a lot of notes are just uncaetegorized. few good thoughts are hidden in a big mountain of papers...

Any ideas/suggestions about this?
Regards, sbts

Comments

  • maybe my workflow with old notes helps:

    • On each handwritten note a unique number in legible block letters as a signature.
    • I bought a signature stamp years ago and stamped hundreds of notes.
    • Scanning the notes as PDF in DevonThink
    • Run character recognition over it
    • Add keywords for years

    In my experience, the character recognition of the programs has become more and more reliable over the years.
    This makes the notes more and more searchable.

    If needed, I copy the recognized text of individual notes into my current notebook system (Obsidian).

    I only manually add keywords to notes that are particularly important or interesting.
    The signature in block letters (stamp) is always recognized by the character recognition. This creates the link between the scanned version and the original.

    New notes get a signature with current date

    perhaps it helps for your workflow

    Regards rl

  • @sbts
    @rt911 gives some great advice. I've used this technique in the past with some success.

    Nowadays, I use a different approach when working with handwritten notes. First, let's distinguish between that "big mountain of papers" created in the past and the present note. You are correct in seeing the benefit of processing handwritten notes digitally into your Zk as a way to repeat and reinforce your understanding and filter confusion, clarifying your understanding of the critical ideas. These notes can be processed like any paper, article, or book only difference is that you are the author. A new and novel atomic idea can be captured from handwritten notes and transcribed into your ZK, clarifying and filtering as you go. This might be called the act of zettelkasting. Once the handwritten note is captured, it can be tagged, scanned, archived, or, as is my habit, trashed. It doesn't matter as the ideas have been captured.

    Now let's address the "few good thoughts hidden in the big mountain of papers." Many of us have one or two of these mountains. Some of us have whole mountain ranges of paper notes. There is a spectrum of need and desire for the "few" thoughts wandering in the mountains. Each person and each situation is different regarding when and how deeply to mine the mountain of paper.

    I think the past is gone, and I'm too busy with the present to think about old notes. I have enough to do without trying to clean up my past. Spending large amounts of time looking for some possible fragment of an idea in the wilderness of the past (and usually not finding it) feels counter to knowledge building.

    Being stirred by a memory of an idea that is recorded somewhere in that "big mountain of papers" is a bit different. Then you have some inkling of it, and the cosmos tickles you, nudging you towards it. I've found a few gems this way, but it happens rarely. Look briefly and be open to discovery. This is a way to procrastinate.

    I will concede that if you are studying Entomology and you are called to contribute to a research project on Cicadas, and all your Cicadas notes are handwritten, then transcribing them proactively into your ZK would be the way to go.

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

  • @sbts I have a lot of handwritten notes that I've written over the past 5-6 years, all on my iPad. There are several excellent programs that allow handwriting to text transcription - two that I like are Goodnotes and Nebo:

    • Goodnotes is a great program for taking handwritten notes and organizing them into files, with folders, sub-folders, etc. It will transcribe handwriting to text, but the method is a bit cumbersome.
    • If what you are primarily looking for is transcription of handwriting, Nebo is the the way to go. It essentially transcribes on the fly, as you write. It shows both your handwriting and the interpreted text on the screen. You pause occasionally to formally "convert" the handwriting to text.

    I agree with @Will about not getting buried in the past. Focus on creating notes and content for your ZK in the present.

  • Hi all, thank you for your suggestions. I found the following way now for me:

    I have pieces of paper, that I try to process now very quickly. Every evening I place a maximum of ten onto my desk and start working only, when I have thrown them away. If anything important is in it, just note it in my personal digital diary or send it by mail to my work address, where I would process it accordingly the next morning.

    I also have a diary that I use when sitting down for a calm hour once or twice a week. I just have started to crossread my old books (~1hour or 2 per week) and everything I think it is worth to archive it, I write some keywords with date into my digital diary. Everything that is processed this way gets a small blue dot, so I know that it is digitally archieved.

    What I found out during my ways to work during the last weeks: just talking to my self on the cell phone and run a speech recognition for the 20 minutes on the road has some benefits: I train to talk and I have a good starting point for my notes in the evening. I will follow this approach for the next month and I am curious if this changes something in my workflow.

  • By the way: what software do you suggest to OCR the handwritten notes (scanning from paper)?
    I have no apple systems and would prefer something for debian/ubuntu based linux.

    I had some experience with Windows7 and OneNote in 2012 and was really excited about that.
    Especially with the fast success of DNN(neural network based OCR) I hoped, that this would solve some of my problems. Unfortunately the windows-based-tablet that I bought that time is now completely outdated, OneNote is only available to buy an abo and I am also no friend of storing my notes in an unknown cloud...

  • Thank you also for the suggestion of not spending too much time in the past. Anyway there are some informations that I refer sometimes to, so digitalizing them when I search and access them and colorizing as soon as they are digitalized, is a good solution for me.

  • Hi @sbts,
    It sounds like you have a plan. I'd encourage you to leave old paper notes as much as possible in their native form. Use your ZK to move ahead and progress, linking the paper notes to the digital ZK where appropriate. You'll quickly lose interest and focus if you spend too much of your limited zettelkasting time rehashing and copying old material. You want enough of your time spent basking in the flow of serendipitous discovery of new and novel ideas and connections.

    I know what you mean by training yourself to talk into a phone. I'm trying to get over my inhibitions about talking into my phone. I currently use an audio recorder, and the notes I take this way are the first drafts. I'll listen to them and recapitulate the idea from what I spoke on the phone and what I remember from the encounter.

    Please keep us posted on how your approach to processing audio notes. I wonder how long it takes to get comfortable and skilled in dictating into a phone in public? What software are you using on the phone for recording and dictation?

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

  • @sbts said:
    By the way: what software do you suggest to OCR the handwritten notes (scanning from paper)?
    I have no apple systems and would prefer something for debian/ubuntu based linux.

    One page that curates apps quite nicely sometimes is itsfoss.com, so I suggest checking out their recommendations:
    https://kagi.com/search?q=itsfoss.com+ocr

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

  • edited July 15

    @Will said:
    Hi @sbts,
    You'll quickly lose interest and focus if you spend too much of your limited zettelkasting time rehashing and copying old material. You want enough of your time spent basking in the flow of serendipitous discovery of new and novel ideas and connections.

    My experience with my Zettelkasten is different. There is no discovery of novel ideas. Whatever rises to the level of an idea is either in a note, or not at all. Nothing emergent. There hasn't been the slightest hint of unexpected connections. It's all pedestrian, obvious. Whatever comes out of it is from repeatedly reworking ad nauseum the same tired thoughts, and from filling in the lacunae needed to make any kind of progress. Somehow--this wasn't deliberate on my part--my Zettelkasten has taken on the same self-loathing, the same myopic vision, the same infuriating sieve-like memory, the same tendency to dwell on the unserious and insignificant, the same haywire intellectual compass as its thought janitor.

    For those uninterested in the personalities of file cabinets, the Zettelkasten has reorganized itself according to the iconography of Dante's Inferno--but my "Virgil" of a Zettelkasten is too put-upon to educate anyone and has nothing therapeutic to offer. I won't repeat its reasons--imagine if Marx had that attitude! Perhaps "Virgil" isn't obligated to enlighten anyone. Some marginally less resentful Zettelkasten with some interest in changing the world might condescend to educate others--it's possible. So much for surveying endless, multi-dimensional cognitive vistas. But aside from that, "Virgil" is better than the alternatives.

    Please keep us posted on how your approach to processing audio notes. I wonder how long it takes to get comfortable and skilled in dictating into a phone in public?

    In New York City, you will occasionally see individuals on the street, some of whom could be mistaken for writers, unselfconsciously dictating into their recording devices.

    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 delayed, sometimes indefinitely since Life is short.

  • edited July 15

    @ZettelDistraction Oh my! I'm not sure if you are being tongue-in-cheek or serious. I hope the former. Otherwise, it sounds so dreary. Is there no spark of newness or insight?

    I must admit that I often "re-discover" what I already knew or what someone else already knows (the Ecclesiastes syndome - "Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before"). Regardless, realization of an idea on my own part is no less satisfying. And I hope that some of my children and grandchildren will get to similar realizations, being convinced that their lives will be more satisfying or "better" because of it, or at least, that they will know enough to avoid some of life's traps. While the Preacher may well be right, it's not her or his life I am living, but mine.

    But then, I may be operating under the mistaken idea that I actually have "agency" or "free will" :wink:

  • @GeoEng51 said:
    @ZettelDistraction Oh my! I'm not sure if you are being tongue-in-cheek or serious. I hope the former. Otherwise, it sounds so dreary. Is there no spark of newness or insight?

    Not from linking items in the Zettelkasten, no. Whatever is new comes from solving problems and thinking about about them outside the Zettelkasten. If anything is worth retaining, I'll keep it. But following links doesn't seem to lead anywhere interesting.

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

  • edited July 17

    @GeoEng51 said:
    Is there no spark of newness or insight?

    I must admit that I often "re-discover" what I already knew or what someone else already knows (the Ecclesiastes syndome - "Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before").

    With the exception of mistakes, nothing new or surprising jumps out from my notes, since I was their author. Linking notes makes it easier to spot certain repetitive and less productive patterns. That's useful, but it's too soon to be surprised. In a few years I will have forgotten enough.

    I'm not concerned about locating "the" optimal place to make connections--there are several places. Crafting links with military spec proleptic annotations capable of withstanding the animadversion of imagined adversaries has its place, but telegraphic notes with enough to reconstruct an argument work better for me. The advice in Ahrens to write Zettels (the "permanent notes" that aren't "literature notes") as if for publication might be inefficient.

    None of this is a criticism of anyone who does see unexpected connections, or of anyone else's practice.

    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 delayed, sometimes indefinitely since Life is short.

  • @ZettelDistraction Thanks for the thoughtful response, which has helped me to understand your initial comment better. And it's got me thinking more about where my "aha" moments and insights occur - mostly 1) when I am comparing/contrasting different concepts, to find how they overlap or relate to one another (and the more different their context, the better), and 2) when I am problem solving (as you mentioned). One's ZK can be a tool in that process. Sometimes they also occur when finding connections between what appear, at first, to be disparate ideas.

    I've gotten to the age now when I'm starting to forget things that I "knew". The knowledge doesn't disappear all at once - it comes and goes, like a tide. If I can't remember something, wait a while - it will come back. So I'm using my ZK as a means of capturing ideas at high tide, for reference during low tide :smile:

  • @ZettelDistraction said: My experience with my Zettelkasten is different.

    My experience with old notes and records is similar.
    For the reactivation of once laboriously learned and later lost knowledge (use it or lose it), old notes are always surprisingly effective.
    If you have them and can easily find them when needed!

    But I also see the problem with the loss of time and energy when dealing too intensively with the
    "big mountain of papers" @Will . (nice visulaization)

    My approach is to use the old pieces of paper like a source as a dataset in read-only state.
    In read-only state to not accidentally waste too much time with maintenance of the old stock.

    The indexing is the task of the computer and I trust in the better and better performing algorithms for the recognition and indexing of data.

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