Apps for my knowledge processing workflow
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!
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