How do you deal with the fear of missing pieces of informations? (Articles, academic researches...)

Greetings,
how do you deal with the original source of your zettels?

When you find an article you grab some information from it and out it in your Zettelkasten, is it?

But what do you do with the original source?
Do you store the whole article somewhere, or do you simply record the link, or what?

I ask because I work a lot with articles and academic papers, so I fear I'd lose pieces of information that may be useful in the future (but not in the present, so they don't go into my Zettelkasten).

On the other hand I want to keep the workflow as simple and frictionless as possible.
I know there is Zotero for academic papers, but I'd like not to have to learn a new software.

I have DevonThink that is great, but I always encounter lot of friction when I store the files in it.

Any help and experience would be highly appreciated.

Thank you!

• I use Zotero with BetterBibTex. It's an application that makes modest technical demands of most users, and it is possible to grow into it if you wish to go further. I think Zotero is very successful in this regard.

As for sources, I try to keep copies in a subdirectory of my Zettelkasten. You could add them to Zotero, but what I do is rename the pdfs etc to the citation key generated by Zotero (with the BetterBibTeX plugin installed). This way the media subdirectory and Zotero are in sync...at least in theory.

One or two sources I wish I had noted are probably lost or will takes ages to find again. As for confronting the unutterable horror of losing references, I suggest exposure therapy. I should consistently read with pen and paper...

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.

• I believe part of the point of the zettelkasten is integrating pieces of information you find interesting but not immediately useful because it’s hard to predict what will be salient in the future (e.g. different project).

So I would include that information regardless. The only downside is it becomes more of a time sink.

• @IvanFerrero said:
Greetings,
how do you deal with the original source of your zettels?

When you find an article you grab some information from it and out it in your Zettelkasten, is it?

But what do you do with the original source?
Do you store the whole article somewhere, or do you simply record the link, or what?

I am a simpleton when it comes to sources - I just have a spot at the end of my zettel where I can insert some text about the source - either 1) a web link (if really important, I save that in the Internet Archive, so that it can be accessed using the Wayback machine, or I save it in Instapaper [and download a pdf from there]), or 2) a normal bibliographic reference that you would type up for books, published articles, etc. PDFs get stored in a directory on my computer with the UUID of the associated zettel in the PDF file name, so I can find it easily later.

I sort of follow the comment by @Nick , in that I attempt to capture everything that I think I will need in my ZK right away. Yes, it can be a lot of work, so there is always a balance between capturing information and being practical about how much time I want to spend on that. I've discovered over the years that any database (and your ZK is a database) is only as good as the information you put into it and how that information is organized (in our case, how it is tagged, linked, etc.). But there are only so many hours in a day and only a portion of those that I want to devote to my ZK.

I do use Zotero for work but not specifically for my ZK. If you have a lot of papers and books to keep track of, perhaps you should use Zotero with your ZK. It is pretty straight forward and easy to learn, and you can use it in as simple or sophisticated a manner as you want (your choice).

• @GeoEng51 said:

I am a simpleton when it comes to sources - I just have a spot at the end of my zettel where I can insert some text about the source - either 1) a web link (if really important, I save that in the Internet Archive, so that it can be accessed using the Wayback machine, or I save it in Instapaper [and download a pdf from there]), or 2) a normal bibliographic reference that you would type up for books, published articles, etc. PDFs get stored in a directory on my computer with the UUID of the associated zettel in the PDF file name, so I can find it easily later.

It makes sense: maybe because I'm used to "hoard" what I find on the web.

Following the comment of @ZettelDistraction and @Nick , I may save the articles and the papers in Zotero as "the final storage".
I mean: I store my findings on Zotero when I've finished to process them.
The idea here is to not lose the context and have it whenever I need it, but also keep my ZK clean.

I sort of follow the comment by @Nick , in that I attempt to capture everything that I think I will need in my ZK right away. Yes, it can be a lot of work, so there is always a balance between capturing information and being practical about how much time I want to spend on that.

Agreed, and academic papers are so dense that you always lose something unless you save the whole paper, that is against the principles of ZK (and all of the other PKMs, I suppose).

I do use Zotero for work but not specifically for my ZK. If you have a lot of papers and books to keep track of, perhaps you should use Zotero with your ZK. It is pretty straight forward and easy to learn, and you can use it in as simple or sophisticated a manner as you want (your choice).

Indeed I'm not a researcher, but I rely on academic research (along with other findings) for my work and my online content creation.

• edited July 25

@IvanFerrero said:

On the other hand I want to keep the workflow as simple and frictionless as possible.

Like other people, I also use a reference manager. I use the Mac app BibDesk instead of Zotero, but the principle is the same. One of BibDesk's advantages for Mac users is that it saves a metadata file in the Mac filesystem for each reference, so whenever you search your Mac using the standard Spotlight search system, any relevant items in your reference manager appear as separate items in Spotlight's search results, and will open directly in BibDesk when you click on them.

But I review too much information and can't put it all in the reference manager—putting it all in the reference manager would be too much "friction" as you nicely said. For the rest of the material, I put it in what Scott Belsky called (in his book Making Ideas Happen) a "chronological pile": in dated folders sorted by date modified. I was doing this before I read Belsky's book, and then was delighted to find that he had a name for what I was doing: a chronological pile. As Belsky said: "It requires no time to file and sort, and keeps the rest of your space clear of dusty archival materials."

I also do this with bookmarks (favorites) in my web browser: As I'm browsing, I open a new tab for each new document that looks promising. If, as often happens, I don't have time to review and download the relevant documents, then I use the command "Bookmark all tabs" to save the tabs as bookmarks in a dated folder among other dated folders in the browser's database of bookmarks. In addition to a date, I will also include the topic of each folder unless the contents are too random.

So in addition to my carefully curated note system and reference manager for important information, I also have the more "simple and frictionless" "chronological pile" in the filesystem and web browser for less important information. (I should note, however, that it is important to give all files in the filesystem good filenames: usually I just copy and paste full citation info from Google Scholar into the filename: document title, authors, periodical/journal name if applicable, and date of original publication. Unlike in a usual bibliography format, I put the document title first in the filename since that gives me the most info about the file content.)

Post edited by Andy on
• I also use BibDesk on macOS, i.e. my database has BibTeX underpinnings. I'm usually fine with just a record there for proper referencing.

If I happen to have the PDF already and it's not huge, I rename it to the citekey like @ZettelDistraction and shove it into an 'attachment' folder. (I actually drag and drop this into the BibDesk item and configured the app to move, not copy, the file.)

To counter-act hoarding, I try not to download every paper I can get my dirty hands on and just use a reference instead.

Sometimes, leaning into the direction of @GeoEng51, I cite web sources on-the-fly in the backmatter of a note. Using a tip by @sfast here, I generate these inline cite keys with a time stamp. A daily blogger like Seth Godin gets a reference like this and not a BibDesk reference manager entry. For today's post, maybe:

[#20220725nottaken]: Seth Godin: "Paths not taken", 2022-07-25, <https://seths.blog/2022/07/embracing-constraints-2/>


And then I'd use phrases like as Godin pointed out,[#20220725nottaken][] blablabla like I do for "regular" sources.

The route of escalation here:

1. Exists in backmatter only
2. BibDesk reference manager entry
3. BibDesk reference manager entry with PDF of the original

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

• @ctietze said:

To counter-act hoarding, I try not to download every paper I can get my dirty hands on and just use a reference instead.

I'm glad @ctietze commented; I knew that he said in another discussion that he doesn't save original sources, and I was impressed by that, since it's so different from what I do. Whether or not to save sources depends on factors such as the kind of work you do and whether you expect to need to consult the source again in the future but not be able to access it again if it's not saved: this is especially relevant if you are using archival or database documents to which you only have temporary access.

• @IvanFerrero said:
How do you deal with the original source of your zettels?
Do you store the whole article somewhere, or do you simply record the link, or what?

Ivan, the importance of a record of the "original source of your zettel" lies on a spectrum between those papers that are academic or that you feel are vital in some way - to ideas for a valentine poem spurred by a music recording. On both extremes, you want to be able to find the original, but in the latter, there'd be much less pain if you lose the connection with the original.

I do all that everyone has suggested to record and capture references. With that preamble to my casual workflow and not being an academician, Zotero is a place I store most things with an ISBN or DOI identifier because it is easy. It took time to develop comfort Zotero, but it has been worth it. Papers with DOI identifiers sometimes come with a PDF copy automatically, but I don't fret or care unless we are talking about a zettel that will lie on the upper edge of the spectrum. These are rare-ish and worth the extra time. Most, maybe 93.4% of the time, I just place a web link or a forum post link. I've been using a pseudo reference manager recently with lots of success. More below.

Which zettelkasting software application do you use?
The /media directory in The Archive is where I store most PDFs; some are stored in Zotero. Mix and match with no rhyme or reason.

Always have a ## References section at the bottom of every zettel. Sometimes just a link to a URL is enough. Sometimes, just a quick note about where you were first inspired to record the idea. I can get anal and save references in various formats like the example below. The police will not come a take my zettelkasting license from me. At least, I hope not!

On the other hand, I want to keep the workflow as simple and frictionless as possible.
I know there is Zotero for academic papers, but I'd like not to have to learn new software.

>

A varied strategy with a light touch eases friction. I'd suggest getting Zotero (free) with the BetterBibTxt add-in. Play with it slowly. Don't depend on it. See how it feels in your workflow. Try using it for one or two references over time and see.

I have DevonThink that is great, but I always encounter a lot of friction when I store the files in it.

In the meantime, DevonThink is a great pseudo reference manager. You want to look at a way to tie DevenThink notes to zettel references. You can place PDFs, and web clippings in DevenThink, then place a link like devonthink://x-devonthink-item://1409F00C-3A99-40F9-8462-5438031E075F in the reference section of the zettel. The exact phrasing would have to be tested, and you want to know the DB id for the DevonThink note, but completely doable. The first reference in the screenshot is of this type. Keyboard Maestro can be pressed into service to quickly and efficiently make these links. One feature of this workflow is that in DevonThink, you could maintain the marked-up document that is easily accessible via the DevonThink url-scheme.

Bear with the article marked up on the left and zettel on the right with the url-scheme link in the ## References. At the bottom of the article in Bear, there is a link to it as it appears on the web.

"A Debate Over the Physics of Time (by Dan Falk)"
https://www.quantamagazine.org/20160719-time-and-cosmology/

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

• Everything I put into my system is also in Zotero, which lets me store the original paper, website, etc with the reference. As I make my notes, I just list the reference in the note as (Smith, 1998) which makes it easy to find the full reference in the future.

• One more comment - Zotero is one of the most intuitive, easy to learn software programs ever. It's not just for academic writing!

• @mlbrandt said:
Everything I put into my system is also in Zotero, which lets me store the original paper, website, etc with the reference. As I make my notes, I just list the reference in the note as (Smith, 1998) which makes it easy to find the full reference in the future.

Do you annotate?
Do you annotate in Zotero then export into your ZK?
Do you spend time to reference all your findings?

• @Will said:

>

you want to be able to find the original, but in the latter, there'd be much less pain if you lose the connection with the original.

I see.
I made a reflection: how many times I felt the need to go back to the original source in the last 1-2 years?

So I'll save the source only for academic papers, because I may need some statistics in the future, but nothing else.

As for the articles, a link to the original source is enough.

In the meantime, DevonThink is a great pseudo reference manager. You want to look at a way to tie DevenThink notes to zettel references.

Honestly I don't know if I'll keep DevonThink.
It's a great software, but it's lot of friction if you cycle around many devices as I do.
Syncing is very slow if you use iCloud: it's not their fault, it's Apple limitations, but I need to be able to store a PDF on my MacBook, open up my iPad while on the go and have it there.
Alas (due to Apple limitations), it happened that I wasn't able to find the PDF on my iPad, or that it took lot of time to sync and being able to read.

And I envy how you are able to keep your notes organized and clean... ;-)

BTW: you name Keyboard Maestro many times in this forum.
I'm in doubt: I wonder if and how it would ease my workflows.

• @IvanFerrero said:

And I envy how you can keep your notes organized and clean... ;-)

BTW: you named Keyboard Maestro many times in this forum.
I'm in doubt: I wonder if and how it would ease my workflows.

My notes are organized and clean to the extent that I've applied Keyboard Maestro magic to them.

I can't remember if you mentioned which software application you use to support your ZK? What is your primary area of focus with your ZK?

I'm a list maker. So here is a list of how Keyboard Maestro has eased my workflows in zettelkasting. Keyboard Maestro shines in all aspects of computing, not just zettelkasting.
1. making and managing templates ★
4. printing
6. stats★
8. tag management
9. window management★
10. transclusion
11. random note

(★ Used every time I interact with my ZK)

I use PDF Expert Pro to read and markup/annotate PDFs. It syncs quickly using iCloud if PDFs are stored in the PDF Expert folder in iCloud. Slower and spotty if I keep the PDFs in DropBox, but so far, it has not been too fiddly going between multiple macs and an iPad. PDF Expert Pro has annotation and export functions that make it a winner because of how I read and use PDFs.

Pictures are worth 685 words!

This is how I treat most PDFs.
1. Marked/annotated in PDF Expert Pro

2. After annotations are exported to markup I'll use them as a skeleton for starting the note, the PDF is placed in the ~/zettelkasten/media directory, and a link is placed in a note.

3. A PDF link is tied to the Zotero reference. Usually, but I'm not 100% in practice.

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

• I'm sorry for the huge delay: I had several connections issues last week, then I left for vacation...

@Will said:

>

I can't remember if you mentioned which software application you use to support your ZK? What is your primary area of focus with your ZK?

Honestly I don't have specific tools for my ZK yet.

I use several productivity tools and I'm refining my workflows.

My tools are:

• Hazel: for managing files and folders, such as rename and move. I use it to make some task easier: I download a file, or I print an email as PDF and download it, and Hazel rename and move the files accordingly. So I only have to hit 1-2 keys
• Alfred: my love...I use it for many tasks, from searching inside specific websites to adding events or todos, and any other uses

Recently added, my present workflow (still experimenting):

• Instapaper: I highlight the text and export only that text in Markdown format
• Highlights: for the PDFs, then I export the highlights in Markdown format
• Apple Notes: I export all the highlights here, as long with note taking and project management, but still experimenting
• iCloud: when I need to store other files

With this workflow I'm fine with my Mac, iPad and Phone, and all works seemingly and without friction.

And of course I'm always looking for a way to make things better, easier, faster and, most of all, frictionless.

This is why I'm evaluating Keyboard Maestro, though I'm still in doubt: maybe I can make everything with Alfred?

My ZK is focused on registering and digesting what I find along the Web and being able to find the infos when I need them for my content and course creation.

• @IvanFerrero said:
And of course I'm always looking for a way to make things better, easier, faster and, most of all, frictionless.

This is why I'm evaluating Keyboard Maestro, though I'm still in doubt: maybe I can make everything with Alfred?

There have been some posts about Alfred on this forum, although I haven't seen any for a while. But I believe people were referring to Alfred "macros" they had developed and it seemed that Alfred was/is an alternative to Keyboard Maestro. You'd have to search for previous posts, I guess.

• @IvanFerrero said:
Honestly, I don't have specific tools for my ZK yet.

I miscommunicated my question. I was more interested in what Markdown application you use for note editing. Emacs, vim, Textedit, The Archive, ultraNV, VS Code, Zettlr, Evernote, Notion, Obsidian, Roam? If you were to show me a zettel, what app would you open?

This is why I'm evaluating Keyboard Maestro, though I'm still in doubt: maybe I can make everything with Alfred?

My advice to you is not to spend another second on Keyboard Maestro. You are all in with the Alfred magic, which provides plenty of secret sauce.

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