Zettelkasten Forum


Apps for my knowledge processing workflow

Hi there!
I've been revisiting my workflow and my use of apps when it comes to knowledge processing in the past weeks and have come to a temporary (and still not entirely perfect) setup using the apps Zotero, The Archive and OmniOutliner. I would like to share it here and would be interested in hearing if anyone has suggestions for some things that I'm still not happy with.

Here it is:

I import all the resources that I think are useful for topics / questions / projects I am working on (or probably will be at some point) into Zotero. The resources either have been recommended to me by someone I trust or I've already had a (quick or more extensive) look at them and considered them as useful. I add them to my Zotero library somehow, actual files are then automatically copied into a folder in iCloud.

When I engage thoroughly with a resource, it usually is for one of the following purposes:
1. Understand what the resource as a whole is about (goal, central claims), where in it I can find what (structure: parts and their purposes) and get everything out of it that is interesting for me.
2. Scan the resource just for information that is relevant to a particular question I have.

In case 1, when I read a book, watch or listen to a talk, etc. I take notes simultaneously with OmniOutliner. The goal of this note-taking is to capture the goal and structure of the book/talk/etc. and within this structure record all the statements/thoughts of the author that seem relevant to me. The notes are supposed to reflect the structure of the source and the intention of the author as well as possible, I don’t try to fit it into my thought structure yet.
It is quite important to me that the app I use for this has outliner functionality, because I often need to reorder and fold/unfold things when my understanding of the structure of the source changes. I add the OmniOutliner notes as attachments to the sources in Zotero, they are then also stored in the already mentioned iCloud folder for Zotero items.

Using the source-notes created in the previous step, I then create notes for my Zettelkasten (or change existing ones) with The Archive. My Zettelkasten is supposed to contain notes with my current views on / best understanding of things. Most of them (ideally all of them) have a specific question as a title, e.g. "What is the best way to grow tomatoes?", "How to set up a farm?", “What is happiness?”, ”What are the world's biggest problems?", "What is intermittent fasting?" and so on. Most of the questions are related to other questions, which is represented by links to other notes. Some questions are very complex (e.g. "How to set up a farm?") – they will contain links to various more specific questions and thereby be "higher-structure" notes. Others will be very specific (e.g. "What are good elements for a morning routine?") and contain almost no links to other notes. When I process an interesting thought from a source-note, I either create new question-notes in The Archive or change the content of existing ones. Here I often copy&paste items from the OmniOutliner file into The Archive. I cite sources that are very helpful in explaining or further exploring controversial or hard-to-understand thoughts in the note. (Zotero creates a citation for me that I can paste into the Zettelkasten-note.)

In case 2, I don’t make a source-note for the resource, but just add the relevant thoughts to the corresponding question-note in the Zettelkasten directly.

Two things I’m not happy with yet:
- Ideally, I would create footnotes to resources that I cite in Zettelkasten notes which are then not shown in text, but at the end of the note. The Archive doesn’t support that yet. Is that planned?
- OmniOutliner files are not .txt or .md files, but I would quite like to save the resource notes in plain text instead. Does anyone know of an outliner app that stores its files as .txt or .md? The crucial features for me are the possibility reorder list items per drag& drop and to fold/unfold text. Would this be a future option for The Archive as well?

Would be interesting to hear your opinions!
Vinho

Comments

  • Hi Vinho,

    a) Consider reading texts with more specific agendas. It enriches the note-taking by forcing you into different perspectives. The "search for items"-mode works for me very well.

    b) I am not sure if I understood you correctly. But you can use the multimarkdown footnote-syntax.

    c) It is a very likely future feature of the archive. :smile: My recommendation for the app: Emacs (org-mode)

  • Hi Sascha,

    Thanks a lot for your reply!

    a) I already do something similar to what is mentioned in the article you linked (my element list would just be slightly different), just didn't mention it above since I thought it would have gone a bit too far. But I agree, it's very helpful to look for these things. A thing you could add to your list, is an "Explanation". You can think of an explanation having a similar structure to an argument (separation between what is supposed to be explained and what is explained with), but there are many different theories of explanation in philosophy of science.

    b) I understand that you didn't understand what I mean from what I wrote ;) What I mean is, that I would like to add the footnote inline (so I don't have to scroll down and up again during my workflow), but actually see the footnote only at the bottom of the page when I read the note (so it doesn't distract). This would be done in an html-preview of the file, but isn't done by The Archive (and probably every other text editor I know, but most of them at least have a preview option for reading – FSNotes does that in a quite user-friendly way).

    c) That would be truly awesome!! And I'll look into Emacs in the meantime.

    Thanks again!

  • a) I use the concept of Bateson: Explanations map one tautology onto another. From this perspective explanations are models or theories. :smile:

    b) Ah. I don't think there is a possibility that a plain text editor could provide such a feature.

  • I haven't heard of that concept yet, but with my concept of "tautology" (which is the only one I've heard of studying logic and philosophy of science for 5 years) it can't see how it makes sense. Tautologies (sentences that are true for logical reasons, like "I am 33 years old or not 33 years old") neither need to be explained nor are they able to explain anything.
    So I wonder what he means...

    If I see a broken vase in front of me, wonder how it broke and then my roommate tells me that he threw it against the wall in a fit of rage – would you call that explanation a theory or a model? Seems a bit artificial at least...

  • (We've gone a bit off-topic, I know...)

  • @Vinho said:
    b) I understand that you didn't understand what I mean from what I wrote ;) What I mean is, that I would like to add the footnote inline (so I don't have to scroll down and up again during my workflow), but actually see the footnote only at the bottom of the page when I read the note (so it doesn't distract). This would be done in an html-preview of the file, but isn't done by The Archive (and probably every other text editor I know, but most of them at least have a preview option for reading – FSNotes does that in a quite user-friendly way).

    Have you tried using Typora? It's a text editor that renders the Markdown & if you set it as your default editor for Markdown files, it's easy to get to from the Archive (right click on note -> "Open with External Editor).

  • https://monoskop.org/images/c/c3/Bateson_Gregory_Mind_and_Nature.pdf

    See: Section 9.

    (Offtopic is fine. It is your thread and you are responsible of getting out of it what you want.)

    Example: Imagine you want to explain to me ecology. You say to me: "You fucking idiot. Ecology works like a good ol' factory. There are feedback loops, stocks etc." At this point, I am a bit suprised by your rude tone but I'll accept it and your explanation. If you abstract from it you could also explain to me ecology by mapping it onto a abstract mathematical model. So there are two self-contained models that map onto each other. Either the ecology model works like a ol' factory or the ol' factory works like an ecology. Here the tautological aspect comes from.

    (Hoping I didn't mess anything up. I read "Mind and Nature" 10 years ago.)

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