Some Fun with Randomness and Context
I was reading Luhmann's text on Communicating with slip boxes and how he expects spontaneity and surprise from his Zettelkasten. Some on this he gets through re-discovering links he put between notes, but others come from the materiality of having a paper archive, for example sing other notes while browsing for the note he was looking for, seeing each note in its sequential context, etc.
Depending on how your Zettelkasten is set up, these contexts are more or less present in your archive. Often in digital contexts, we see only the information we search for and not its context. Compare for example a Wikipedia entry with an entry on a page in an encyclopedia with other entries nearby (certainly a way for me to discover new topics growing up).
Anyway, I found two ways of introducing some randomness and context.
The first is finding and listing random notes. I use Emacs and there are some people who wrote scripts to bring up random files from a folder, but I found it to be enough to open a fuzzy search for files (same as you have in Sublime text and Atom) and then just randomly hitting 3 numbers. Since my UIDs are in the format of "201902181755", I almost always get between 1-5 hits of notes. This number would for example match "9 1 5" or "0 2 7". If you get too many, use 4 numbers and if too few just hit 2 numbers. Works great to re-discover stuff. Plus points for rolling 3 T10 dices to get your numbers instead.
The second method is a context script I wrote in bash that takes a UID as input and lists for the following with the help of the search command ag:
- Links to file
Searches for the UID in the archive an list hits.
- Before and After
List 3 files before and after in the Zettelkasten order
ls|ag -C3 $uid
- Mutual links
For each link it finds in the file, search and list other notes that has the same link
- Mutual references
Same but for Zotero citations @authorYEARtitle
What other suggestions do you have to include in the script to provide context?
I put the script on pastebin here, but will put it on github eventually together with some other stuff.
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