Zettelkasten Forum

Establishing Firm Connections Between Ideas

Connecting ideas along varied and novel paths makes them more memorable. How memorable an idea is equates to its meaning. It's an ideas meaning that causes the it to stick in the memory.

With this in mind, I've been updating my linking practices.
Linking broadly is here defined as one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many connections.

Are you approaching linking casually as an afterthought?
I recommend the practice of creating, with your understanding, one or two sentences as a summary and placing it at the beginning of the zettel. This provides a quick look when reviewing the zettel as to its relevance.

  • I already have a summary (subatomic) and I could optionally add a "Link Solidifier" in () directly after the link.

    Connection Note [[202003041443]](explains the importance of knowing why a link was created)

  • These are similar, but the subatomic summary is statically created when the zettel was created, and the "Link Solidifier" is more dynamic when the connection is created.

I have lots of thoughts about the value and practice of linking ideas. I want to start the discussion somewhere. What are your ideas? How do you work with the different types of links? It's funny that we have hundreds of note types but a slim taxonomy of links.

Experiment! Let me know what you think.
Attached is my structure zettel on the topic of "Establishing Firm Connections Between Ideas" and all the first order linked zettel. All in markdown format.

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


  • You have homed in on an underappreciated superpower.

    I distinguish my notes by the status of their links to other notes.

    Naked notes have no links to other notes.

    Lumped notes are linked to other notes but the nature of the link is not specified.

    Ordered notes are linked to other notes and put in some kind of meaningful sequence.

    Clarified notes are linked by either:
    Sharing the same subject phrase or predicate phrase, or
    The subject or predicate of one note generalizes the subject or predicate of the note that it is linked to.

    For me, a note is required to be a single declarative sentence written as a subject phrase first and a predicate phrase last.

    As I ascend from lumped to ordered to clarified notes the quality of my links, and the quality of my reasoning, improves.

  • Hi @Nido,

    I find writing about notes as proxies for ideas in this context helpful.

    I love your descriptions of the process an idea goes through during refinement.

    1. Naked
    2. Lumped
    3. Ordered
    4. Clarified

    I love how you acknowledge that each idea has 'ascension' or progression towards clarification.

    A couple of additional comments.

    1. Ideas/notes start with a blank screen or sheet of paper. "one brave letter must volunteer to go first, laying itself on the line in an act of faith, from which a word takes heart and follows, drawing a sentence into its wake. From there, a paragraph amasses, and soon a page, and the [idea] is on its way, finding a voice, calling itself into being." - The Book Of Form And Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki
    2. I feel that there is a spectrum of clarity here, from lazily and crudely linked ideas to ideas that are a supernova of clarity.
    3. ALL notes are malleable. 93.4% of my notes are below a standard which I would consider clarifying. I have lots of work ahead. I'm getting better. Clarifying ideas is the exciting, absorbing, thought-provoking fun/work of interacting with my zettelkasten.
    4. A currently naked note or one with its connections lumped with little clarity does not make the idea less valuable—this points to how we can review and incrementally ascend our notes toward clarity.

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

  • @Nido interesting typology!
    @Will interesting that you see it as a process and that you aim to bring the other 93.4% toward "clarification"

    I have been working on better and more systematic linking in recent months. Fwiw., a few comments based on @Nido 's typology

    • Naked notes: I've learned to avoid them, because I'll never be able to find them back. This results in making the same note twice (see my maiden post on this forum). If I tag them as "inbox", they just become another inbox, which is - for me - the best guarantee that it will never be done

    • Lumped notes: I make hubs. Whenever two or more notes seem to hang together and/or I expect more to come on a topic, I create a hub, linking to those note. I assume that is what you mean by "nature of the link unspecified"? Although, of course, linking to a certain topic is already a kind of specification.

    In contrast to @Will I am very happy for many of notes to stay on this level. For example, I have been creating a hub on entropy (tag ##entropy to denote the hub, the individual notes have #entropy), but I'm not an expert and I may never create a structure note or a clarified note on entropy. But, I may need the topic for reference in a future project, in which case the hub will be enough, or it will provide the starting point for a structurenote at a future moment

    • Ordered notes: I assume these are structurenotes, or at least initial structurenotes?

    • Clarified notes: this is very interesting. I have assumed until now that a better structurenote (e.g., one that has been used for making a paper or chapter with convincing main argument) gives the clarification. I had not imagined a distinction between ordered notes and clarified notes.

    I have been experimenting, however, with linking notes between topics that are cognitively "far apart". Here, a lumped or even an ordered link made at the moment I saw the light, would likely produce a "huh?" at a future moment. I have been explicitly clarifying why I make the link, as a reference for my future self. Perhaps this is also what @Will means with making a summary at the beginning of a note?

  • Link taxonomy.

    1. Strong Link Association
      Describing why a link is made reinforces the connection. The description might be in the form of an argument or question or an assertion of a more profound fact. This must be spelled explicitly where 'transclusion' is not present. Some zettelnauts even link both notes to a third note explaining the connection. I find the one-sentence summary at the beginning of the note guides me in this process. Most links these days are of the format "Title UUID Summary."

    Here is an example of my process. The highlighted text is the summary sentence from the note.

    1. Medium Link Association
      A mid-level link association can be achieved with the title alone. This requires more skill in tilting than I have available. In some cases, I can see the note title sufficing but probably not ideal.

    2. Low-Level Link Association
      Using the UID as a link does provide a link but one that requires a lot of cognitive overhead to figure out its meaning.

    When I review my note "Link Association Levels 202008222000", I'm reminded that how links are created, the process of finding link candidates shapes how the association plays out.

    Stolen/plagiarized from - @prometheanhindsight's forum post Introductions and some ramblings

    I got curious and created a quick, dirty script to find all my naked notes. I have 626 Naked notes expressing ideas not connected with other ideas in my ZK. Is it bad? In some cases, maybe, but maybe not in others. They are still available for future linking via the full-text search. This represents 21.4% of my ZK. Plenty of work ahead. I want to think I'm better at not leaving notes naked, but who knows? The facts are now spilled out for me to see, and I can not argue.

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

  • edited August 23

    Two link types suffice for my purposes: associations and assholeciations.

    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.

  • Our friend @ZettelDistraction has cleaved to the nut yet again! Just like note types, there is only one association type. Its clarity lies on a spectrum; some are more expository than others. Some link associations are happy being a little muddled or even naked.

    Why do I go off on these tangents? Why can't I put my head down and just do the work of capturing and connecting ideas? Why am I compelled to explain myself? Do I need to see a doctor?

    Thank you @ZettelDistraction

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

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