Zettelkasten Forum


Some beginner questions

Hello,

I recently stumbled across the concept of Zettelkasten through Ahrens' excellent book. It's very appealing to me: I read broadly and have compiled a lot of notes over time, but they've always just sat gathering dust, physical or digital, assuming I can even find them among multiple chronological notebooks or notes apps. As well, I often find that I have a terrible problem with taking too many notes, to the point that sometimes I may as well read the text again.

At any rate, I'd like to attempt to implement my own Zettelkasten. But, I'm a bit confused after reading some of the forums here as well as watching some of the (surprising engrossing?) YouTube videos of people processing texts.

Here's what I think I understand as a general workflow:

  1. I take fleeting notes (marking up a book, making highlights or jots)
  2. I take literature notes (more selective notes on content, but brief and in my own words)
  3. I create permanent notes: upon reviewing my other notes and thinking about how it impacts my own thoughts and research, I create new notes written in full sentences, with sources, as precisely and clearly as possible

I understand from Ahrens' book that Luhmann established links using an alphanumeric system, but that this my be not so necessary using a digital tool because hyperlinking capabilities. Ahrens also mentions maintaining "Index" notes that can help to gather together notes on a particular topic.

So far so good?

Here's what confuses me:

  • I see many references to other kinds of notes, such as "structure" notes. What are these, and what might they be used for?
  • I see a lot of different uses of tags, which I thought were generally discouraged. What's the rationale?
  • There seems to have developed some other conventions that people use, including the use of date and time to create unique IDs for notes. What is the purpose of those?
  • There seems to be some conventions that have developed that I am not sure if they are personal preferences or recommended practices, such as using different character symbols (I'm not sure what they are called) for some notes. Is that another generally recommend practice?

Thanks for indulging my questions. I'm very interested in this method and I am probably over-thinking things, but I'm nervous about creating too many problems for myself down the road and ending up back where i started.

Comments

  • @djdrysdale said:
    Here's what confuses me:

    • I see many references to other kinds of notes, such as "structure" notes. What are these, and what might they be used for?
    • I see a lot of different uses of tags, which I thought were generally discouraged. What's the rationale?
    • There seems to have developed some other conventions that people use, including the use of date and time to create unique IDs for notes. What is the purpose of those?
    • There seems to be some conventions that have developed that I am not sure if they are personal preferences or recommended practices, such as using different character symbols (I'm not sure what they are called) for some notes. Is that another generally recommend practice?

    I use my structure notes initially as an outline of projects I'm working on or a book/article I'm processing/digesting and let the note evolve to a sort of hub center. Sometimes just a list of links and biblo references, sometimes it contains a bit more. They become a way into my Zettelkasten. I use structure notes to in a more contextual way to group notes aorund a reading or project. Most of my notes marked as "Current Work" (5) are structure notes in development. When I sit down to work my Zettelkasten these are the notes I head to.

    If you have good integration of the use of tags in all your other apps and workflows, by all means, continue.

    "Date and time to create unique IDs"
    All note-taking apps do this, though most hide it in hidden proprietary metadata. In a plain text app, you see the UID, it is not hidden. You will use this at some time in the future.

    "I am not sure if they are personal preferences or recommended practices"
    Everything I do is a personal preference and I got all my preferences from all the recommended practices (other people's personal preferences.) I read about in this forum. Take what I say and test it, if it is crap throw it out and look elsewhere.

    Will Simpson
    I'm a Zettelnant.
    Research: Rationalism, Zen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
    kestrelcreek.com

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