Questioning some Original Zettelkasten Practices
Like many, I'm attempting to build my personal Zettelkasten using a computer and software tools. As my tiny practice starts to evolve, I starting to question some of the practices that are central to the paper version.
The core value in any form seems to be small atomic notes that are interlinked allowing for discovering relationships, chains, and threads that hadn't previously been noticed. Additionally, I've been reminded as I spending time thinking to write my notes the very act of reframing in your own words makes an idea your own.
Practices in question:
- Dates as IDs instead of names
- IDs can't be changed
- Links must be bidirectional
IDs are derived from dates - In the original paper/index card version unique IDs were key because you needed a way of avoiding collisions. I.e. one ID pointing to two different things. In addition, unique IDs helped organize the cards for faster retrieval. In the world of computers and filesystems collisions are avoided because we can only have one file of a given name per directory. Lookup/retrieval is instantaneous on a computer. Date IDs are really annoying because they don't tell you anything about the content, names give you a hint as to the content. I give you: 202001191122 vs KingmanFormula,
IDs can't be changed - yet in the world of software development renaming things is a key habit we discover the name doesn't quite fit the purpose - we rename it. Often called: Rename Method (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rename_method) and Rename Class - in most development environments these are implemented with automated tools. In text/markdown files this is called search and replace.
Links are bidirectional - Does this make sense? If I'm looking at the KingmanFormula and I wonder what links to it - I search all files in Zettelkasten that have the text KingmanFormula.md.
The Talking Head's were right - Zettel users: Names make all the difference.
What paper practices have you found that deserve a rework in the digital world?