Zettelkasten Forum

2nd Edition of the book (German) gets rewritten

I decided to rewrite the once finished manuscript of the 2nd edition of the book. This thread will contain some occasional updates. Comment and ask as you like.

inb4: "What about the translation?"

When the German 2nd edition is finished -- and the course -- I will think about the process of translating.

Update 2019-06-19

The introduction is finished and will need only one step of rewriting when the whole manuscript is finished.

I am a Zettler



  • Is this thread an accountability-measure? If so, I'll be watching it ;-)

  • Not really. More for transparency. But I don't mind if you bug me a little bit.. :smile:

    Update 2019-06-22

    Introduced a learning concept as the start of the book: The One-File-Archive. To remove the need for specialized software you will learn the concepts with just one plaintext file. Only after the introduction of all major concepts I will go into different software (and analog) solutions.

    I am a Zettler

  • LIttle progress update:

    The draft for the second edition was finished. Now I am doing restructuring and updating to finish the draft. Then I finally can enter the proof reading stage and soon after that the beta phase.

    Additionally, I added a lot of material for what I call in German "Wissensarbeit". Translation will be "knowledge work" but I am afraid there will be some things that will be confused by the translation. An example is better:

    Apart from the pure Zettelkasten Method I explain what the core of argumentation means: A mechanism to transfer the assumed truth of a set of statements to a second. This is some (light) philosophy of knowledge stuff. I will translate it to what I call knowledge work (constructing arguments) and later demonstrate how it relates to structures in the Zettelkasten.

    I have a minor project that is called "The scientific method for non-scientists" which generates a lot of processes that can be utilised by Zettelkastening. I try to make this overlap productive for the second edition.

    I am a Zettler

  • Ack. If only I could read German. I'm almost tempted enough to try scanning the book through Google translate.

  • @orderinthecourts The course will be in in English. :smile:

    I am a Zettler

  • I read the first edition a few weeks ago when I first got started with the Zettelkasten method and it's really fantastic. Most of the pieces are in the blog or forums but even as somebody who read all of those I still found new insights and it's definitely a much more structured introduction for newbies. Looking forward to the update.

  • @cansar said:
    I read the first edition a few weeks ago when I first got started with the Zettelkasten method and it's really fantastic. Most of the pieces are in the blog or forums but even as somebody who read all of those I still found new insights and it's definitely a much more structured introduction for newbies. Looking forward to the update.

    Thanks for the kind words.

    I am a Zettler

  • Looking forward to reading the new edition!

  • Current state: 51500 words. For a comparison: The first edition was 24000 words in total. This book will be dense and comprehensive.

    My personal problem with many books that are about knowledge work and related topics is that they are seldom instructional. They are mostly books about the problem or a phenomenon, not about solutions and rational implementation. I try to make sure that I put emphasis on writing something pragmatic and not theoretical.

    Now, I am (re-)writing the section about reading. Preliminary outline for this chapter:

    • Introduction

      • What is reading and how do we learn it?
      • Difference between wander and research
    • Types of knowledge structures to look out for

      • What is knowledge in general?
      • Six types of structures
    • Different modes of reading

      • Aesthetics
      • Author's intentions
      • Literary theory
    • Intermediate stop - Reading is researching

    • Marginalia and active reading
    • Barbell Method of Reading

      • Fast reading vs thorough reading
      • Selective Reading
    • Summary

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast this is looking enticing! Where will I be able to buy the book?
    Being Dutch I have basic reading skills having had four years of German language education during high school. Do you reckon with some stretch the book would be readable for me? I can read German newspapers and basic essayistic texts with looking up a word in a dictionary every now and then.

    I am a Zettler, ie 'one who zettles'
    research: pragmatism, 4e cognitive science, metaphor | you can't be neutral on a moving train

  • It should be available on most plattforms.

    Reading shouldn't be a problem. I write very plain and simple. :smile:

    I am a Zettler

  • At the moment, I am writing on the actual processing (which is the second step of the Barbell Method of Reading). New to me: I didn't thought much of it because it seemed natural to me: Processing is done best if you allow the thinking happening inside the Zettelkasten and not bother much about preprocessing outside of the Zettelkasten. You get outside of the Zettelkasten if you try to systemise sources before the processing and inside if you process sources linearly.

    There is a theme that underlies much of my reasoning: Everything you do needs to be either robust or antifragile to the complexity and scope of your Zettelkasten. Everything that does not getting better when your Zettelkasten grows is quite a hazard to its longevity and your productivity.

    I gave a chapter for early feedback to Christian. He confirmed the improvement on the first edition.

    I am a Zettler

  • Right now, I am at the point deciding if I am willing to include all of my material into the second edition. The editions are planned out like version:

    1. First edition was just to get the core information out.
    2. Second edition is now a truly comprehensive guide to the Zettelkasten Method and how it is based on the intrinsic nature of knowledge (drawing from analytical philosphy and science theory)
    3. Third edition... why already planning a third edition? There is quite some material that accumulates that entails a big body of theory that is not already tried and tested. I am not sure if I want to delay the next edition further to cover all that material. (normally, a book is based on 150-250 Zettel. 150 for a normal one, 250 for a comprehensive one. I estimate my department on the topic of Zettelkasten to amount to hundreds of Zettel)

    I am a Zettler

  • I am now writing on the good uses of tags. I am really stressing the use of ontological tags (named object tags in this article). It is for the sake of the long game.

    The draft is ca. 60000 words now. It doesn't grow quite because I am deleting a lot of old stuff and re-write it. Growth spurts will come when I am writing new chapters.

    I am a Zettler

  • edited March 2020

    Starting the chapter on "Connection". I finished the preliminary outline for the chapter. Outlining is to me the technique to avoid what someone might call "writer's block". I never experienced writer's block and find the concept very odd: Writer's block is the phenomenon of not writing. It can't be the reason why you are not writing. The sentence:

    I am not writing because I have writer's block.

    translates to:

    I am not writing because I am not writing.

    There are three quotes I really like:

    Just as aliens abduct only people who believe in alien abductions, writer's block strikes only writers who believe in it. - Paul J. Silvia in How to Write a Lot

    Maybe you have writer's block because you don't have a damn thing to say. - Guy Kawasaki1

    It's not that I'm blocked. It's that I don't have enough research to write with power and knowledge about that topic. I always means, not that I can't find the right words, [but rather] that I don't have the ammunition.... I don't have the goods. I have not gone into the world and brought back the goods that I'm writing about, and you never want to solve a research problem with language. -- Sebastian Junger2

    If didn't understand something well, you stumble. So, research it. It holds true for fiction. I plan to back my statement with a public demonstration. I will write a book and let the public watch on how the Zettelkasten Methods unleashes its power. The process is already planned out. It only depends on what I will decide to write. Some projects won't be a good fit because I don't want the public to see what I work on unless it is published as a book.

    Back to topic. Some of the highlights of this chapter:

    • The mechanics behind hierarchies emerging out of flat networks.
    • Why any direct referral (even Folgezettel) can be reduced to direct links. (If I can get the material in time, I will add some research on Luhmann's Zettelkasten)
    • Some preliminary methods to measure connections.
    • Why connections are one of the core traits of a Zettelkasten.
    • A small elaboration on how connections are present in the Zettelkasten and which ones are the most useful

    I try to continue the path of making everything pragmatic. I love theory and will load the book up with some abstract thoughts. But I really hate books when the ratio of actionable knowledge to information in general is to low. It is fine when you need to understand the mechanism behind the actions to make informed decisions. And some fluff is fine to make a book more entertaining. But if you read a book on a topic and you are ready to take action but then you find yourself at a place like "Ok, I am in! But what should I do?" the book is really a waste of your time. I read quite a number of those books and dumped my angry judgment on Christian (sometimes I pitty him for being my friend.. haha). In my opinion (which is a true justified believe.. :wink: ), an author and a reader are in a implicit contract. I get the attention and money, the reader gets useful information that can be tranformed into knowledge with a reasonable amount of effort. I try to honor this contract as an ethical agreement.

    Ok. I don't know how I got to this place but perhaps some reflections on my writing process are helpful for some of you.

    Live long and prosper (which means: Get Corona but with mild symptoms. The best of all outcomes)

    1. ↩︎

    2. Tim Ferriss (2016): Tools of Titans. The Tactics, Routines and Habits of Billionairs, Icons and World-Class Performers, Great Britain: Penguin Random House. [p. 421/422] ↩︎

    I am a Zettler

  • edited March 2020

    Examples, examples. Why is it that only the users create examples when they think about the actual methodology itself?

    Luckily, I am a user myself and give many examples (and bad examples haha) from my own work. That is what I do at the moment. Creating real-world examples to avoid leaving the solid ground of practical advice spiced with theoretical explanations instead floating in the theoretical world with little practical value. But the temptation.. I have quite a number of Zettel with highly theoretical content about the principles and deleted 800 words of me flying in the platonic sphere department named "Zettelkasten theory".

    I am asking myself at the moment: Am I pragmatic enough with the reader's intention to know how to do it or am I talking too much about principles? Are there enough examples and concrete dos and don'ts?

    Preliminary top-Level headings (translated from German) with some content notes:

    1. Introduction. Knowledge and knowledge work. The Zettelkasten Method as applied theory of knowledge work.
    2. Foundations. Didactics with One-File-Zettelkasten. Create zettel. Connect Zettel.
    3. Knowledge Work with your Zettelkasten. Research. Reading. Processing. (14,196 words at the moment. Comparison to the first edition: It was 25000 words total!)
    4. Improving your Zettel. Writing Zettel well. Giving good titles. Making right tag choices. Connecting done right.
    5. Advanced Methods. (no good Translation. German: Vertiefungen) Structure and Structure Zettel. Layering. Using Images. Complexity and managing it. Self scaling of the Zettelkasten. Maintenance.
    6. Yielding hoards. Writing with your Zettelkasten. Using Outlines. How texts emerge from your Zettelkasten. Reverse knowledge flow. Collaborative writing.
    7. Choosing Software. General thoughts on software and the method. The Archive. Texteditors, Wikis. Bibiography Software. Inboxes.
    8. The Greater Context. Knowledge work and your daily/weekly schedule. Measuring your knowledge work. The goal of knowledge work. The Zettelkasten and Deep Work. Zettlekasten method for.. personal knowledge work, students, academics, fiction writer.
    9. Zettelkasten theory. (This could be cut from the final manuscript). Measuring your archive. Collecting data (complexity, connectivity, depth of connection, cardinality.

    There is still time to nudge me in a direction you want. I am dedicated to the second edition in German. But when it is finished I will get the English translation process going (still figuring out what model is right for me). So, you have some chances to nudge this project in a direction you want. :wink:

    Post edited by sfast on

    I am a Zettler

  • Thank you. Please publish an English version in ebook format. I would pre-order it or buy it as soon as it would be available. I would not buy the paper printed format.
    thank you.

  • If you deem it useful I'd love to be a volunteer beta reader.

  • @sfast said:
    Examples, examples. Why is it that only the users create examples when they think about the actual methodology itself?

    Can you elaborate on what you mean, or what you'd like to see?

  • Count me in with any format. In fact, I'll take them all. Paper. audio, youtube and electronic. This is really geeky stuff. Stuff I crave. I'm already salivating.

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

  • @Massimo_Curatella It depends on the process. But I am notorious for not publishing my books in ebook-formats. :smile:

    @argonsnorts said:

    @sfast said:
    Examples, examples. Why is it that only the users create examples when they think about the actual methodology itself?

    Can you elaborate on what you mean, or what you'd like to see?

    Anytime, I read on the topic knowledge work whatever that means, I encounter the following: The majority of authors are not known for doing something with the system. It is quite similar with so-called "success-coaches". Most of them are successful as success-coaches. :smile:

    I want to improve on that issue with two things:

    1. Make heavy use of real examples from my own work.
    2. Write a book using the Zettelkasten Method in public (approx: Make every Zettel public that is relevant to the project as I write them)

    @Will I hope all the saliva will be put to good use. :smile:

    Approaching the end of "Connecting done right". Wrote about why direct links are the method a Zettelkasten will come alive. Explained how proximity of Zettel emerge. Explained how link context works (demonstrated with real world examples of course) and much more.

    Draft is re-approaching 60000 words. Was down to 53000 after a big cut of older material.

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast said:
    @Will I hope all the saliva will be put to good use. :smile:


    Oh no! It's getting all over my keyboard and the wife is considering it a biohazard. ;)

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

  • Draft of Connection done right is finished. I am approaching the end of the first half of the book. Now the word growth will increase more because I will delete less and less of the old draft. Moved some of the points to the chapter about structure.

    I love the discussion and re-emerging of the Folgezettel-Technique. Quite nice fodder for my canons to make the case for Structure Zettel. Thanks a lot.

    Next step: Creating the outline for the chapter on structures. The draft is growing and developing fast. I have created quite a number of Zettels that will be incorporated in the later chapters.

    I am a Zettler

  • Still outlining "advanced methods". But as a byproduct a blogpost emerges: "Understanding Hierarchy by translating Folgezettel into Structure Zettels" (title may change)

    When edited by Christian and me it will be up in the upcoming days/weeks.

    I am a Zettler

  • I will have to invest some time in this chapter on Structure in the Zettelkasten. As the discussions about the Luhmann-ID re-emerge, I am indecisive how to carefuly open this chapter.

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast said:
    I will have to invest some time in this chapter on Structure in the Zettelkasten. As the discussions about the Luhmann-ID re-emerge, I am indecisive how to carefuly open this chapter.

    "Warning, there be Dragons here" seems apt...

  • Back on track. I got delayed because my dog was sick and I am a weakling when it comes to her. My girlfriend's nickname for her is "second wife"..

    Structure and Structure Zettel are now approaching 7000 words. I am using the opportunity to introduce the concepts of "topic", "entity", "sequence" and other patterns. I realised that it is quite easy to lose track on what you are really trying to achieve. Nobody wants to fiddle with Zettels. We want to understand and create knowledge. It is all about arguments, models, writing texts etc.

    I need to make sure to always refocus the book (and therefore the reader and me) on the actual matter: How to make knowledge work happen. Not: How to fiddle with files and links.

    This afternoon and some of tomorrow will be used to finish my edition cycle of the online course. I feel the need to switch topics.

    Practical tipp for writing books with the archive: Create a saved search that will return three Structure Zettel:

    1. The outline of the book.
    2. The Structure Zettel that deals with the topic and all the relevant models, concepts etc.
    3. A research file in which you dump thoughts that you need to unpack later.

    Example for a dumped thought:

    Es gibt eine Möglichkeit verschiedenen Dateien die gleiche Adresse zu geben. Das bedeutet, dass sie technisch gesehen ein Zettel sind.


    It is possible to assign multiple files the same ID. Technically, those files are the same Zettel.

    • If you have a new thought create a Zettel.
    • Put the link on both Structure Zettel.
    • Delete link from the outline if you used it for writing. Optionally: Tag to mark that it is used for your book.

    Picture of that sucker who tanked my productivity:

    I am a Zettler

  • edited April 2020

    @sfast thanks for sharing your deep knowledge of knowledge building both here and on the Zettelkasten youtube channel. I watched the "Wanderley #2" video last night and it is a game-changer. I can see were my titles are so lame and I've been lazy. I vow to improve. Thanks for the tips.

    Thanks for sharing the "Second Wife" photo. She looks so sweet. You showed me yours, so I show you mine. His name is Zivon.

    Post edited by Will on

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

  • Great photos @sfast and @WIll. 👍👏❤️

  • @Will, a chocolate lab. Awesome dogs. If you don't know him: Stonnie Dennis has one of the best YouTube Channels on dogs and he is quite a proponent of labs ("All dogs wanna be labs, and all labs wanna be black").

    Zivon is quite a name! And funny fact: I think we had a similar naming strategy. My dogs name is "Lëini" which is the Low German nickname for Helena (my grandma). Dogs deserve real names.

    Everytime I see a lab, I am envious. My girl is just a character. Super fast, super agile, super intelligent, super brave, high endurance, quick recharge. But at the same time like a malinois who never learned obedience (she is a rescue from romania and lived her first year in a cage). At least, she has a very strong bite inhibition.. haha. Quite a journey to get her to listen.

    Writing a part on sequences. I get it now why this Folgezettel thing is re-emerging: Sequences are epistemic tools but not knowledge structures. Anytime something needs to be sequencial and linear sequences show their value (writing, explaining, some thinking, etc.).


    I am a Zettler

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