Zettelkasten Forum


Tags vs. Zettel links

I'm struggling with when to use which? What's your process?

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  • edited March 4

    Links > Tags

    Linking in the first place requires you to elaborate why you linked two notes together. Perhaps it was an analogous connection. Perhaps it was direct. Still, this is a reminder that two notes are connected.

    Tags show potential "relatives" so to speak. But just because they are under the same topic doesn't mean the ideas are connected directly. Anyway, you should always use tags to make finding the new note easier in the future.

    Sharing my newly found knowledge.

    I write about unconventional self-improvement advice at improveism.com

  • For the time being I settled on using a small collection of tags as "major topics" (should be similar to Luhmann's different sections in his Zettelkasten). When I add an unconnected Zettel, I tag it with one of my topics. However, ideally I find an existing Zettel that can link to my new one so it doesn't need a tag. Once I have a bunch of Zettels on a certain topic, I create a structure note that links to all related Zettels and becomes the only tagged one of the bunch.

  • edited March 4

    @improveism said:
    Links > Tags

    Linking in the first place requires you to elaborate why you linked two notes together. Perhaps it was an analogous connection. Perhaps it was direct. Still, this is a reminder that two notes are connected.

    Tags show potential "relatives" so to speak. But just because they are under the same topic doesn't mean the ideas are connected directly. Anyway, you should always use tags to make finding the new note easier in the future.

    This, exactly. And it again reminds me why I keep fixating on David B. Clear's emphasis on elaborating the connections between notes (I don't recall Ahrens stressing this particular point).

    In his enumerated list of "The Zettelkasten principles," Clear uses points 4 and 9 to emphasize why this is important:

    1. Explain why you’re linking notes: Whenever you are connecting two notes by a link, make sure to briefly explain why you are linking them. Otherwise, years down the road when you revisit your notes, you may have no idea why you connected them.

    2. Add connection notes: As you begin to see connections among seemingly random notes, create connection notes, that is, specific notes whose purpose is to link together other notes and explain their relationship.

    I suspect doing so helps in the drafting process by developing/prototyping arguments and conceptual structures that build upon one another and can be sustained across a range of topics/ideas. Clear also mentions "outline notes" that capture a "sequence of links to other notes, putting those other notes into a particular order to create a story, narrative, or argument."

    In my own ZK (1500 notes+), I fear I've not done nearly enough to establish firm connections between notes. Often I assume I'll remember why I've linked notes, but realize on returning to the links that my original thinking is hazy if not impossible to reconstruct. Adding an intermediate "connection note" (to use Clear's terminology) that elaborates and thoroughly explains the linkage between ideas increasingly seems to be a crucial but under-emphasized part of what makes the ZK magic happen.

    Started ZK 4.2018. "The path is at your feet, see? Now carry on."

  • edited March 4

    @toddgrotenhuis said:
    I'm struggling with when to use which? What's your process?

    Currently, I use tags and linking to express an estimated relevance.
    This is my own process and I use it for no other reason than I can remember it.
    Non-structure notes, from least associative to most associative
    1. Tags
    2. Backlinks
    3. Links at bottom of Zettel
    4. Inline links

    Adding elaboration makes this all moot and this is where I'm headed.

    @improveism said:
    Links > Tags

    Linking in the first place requires you to elaborate why you linked two notes together. Perhaps it was an analogous connection. Perhaps it was direct. Still, this is a reminder that two notes are connected.

    Yes, I want to do more of this, iterate to get better, linking with elaboration. Software applications don't provide nudges to elaborate on linking and much of my linking has proved sloppy in that I sometimes can't remember my reasons for the link months later. This can only get worst. Memory fades.

    @nistude said:
    Once I have a bunch of Zettels on a certain topic, I create a structure note that links to all related Zettels and becomes the only tagged one of the bunch.

    I've only tried this for the first time this morning and am pleased with the results. We'll see, how this plays out over time.

    @Phil said:
    In my own ZK (1500 notes+), I fear I've not done nearly enough to establish firm connections between notes. Often I assume I'll remember why I've linked notes, but realize on returning to the links that my original thinking is hazy if not impossible to reconstruct. Adding an intermediate "connection note" (to use Clear's terminology) that elaborates and thoroughly explains the linkage between ideas increasingly seems to be a crucial but under-emphasized part of what makes the ZK magic happen.

    Thanks for the refresher via Clear's article. I had initially resisted the idea of an intermediate "connection note" but am coming around as I now see that we are not necessarily talking about a 3rd, intermediate Zettel, but in most, maybe all cases we are talking about a few phrases elaborating on current state of mind, context, reason for comparison, etc. added next to a link. A link by itself, next to a link with elaboration, would seem impoverished. I'm going to try and 'note' my thoughts behind linking, at least some of the time. I can’t see using this in every situation but this is a tool to add to my zettelkasting tool kit.

    Thanks.

    Post edited by Will on

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

  • @Will said:
    I'm going to try and 'note' my thoughts behind linking, at least some of the time. I can’t see using this in every situation but this is a tool to add to my zettelkasting tool kit.

    That's how Sönke Ahrens describes Luhmann doing it: adding an intermediate Zettel with explanations only when the link wasn't clear enough.

  • Late to the party, but I'd like to point you to a post by yours truly from ... what?! 2015?!? :open_mouth: That's 5 years already, jeez. It's this one: https://zettelkasten.de/posts/kinds-of-ties/

    You can think of tags as indirect connections, while links are explicit and can be annotated. They are stronger. So utility(links) > utility(tags) in the long-term when you want to work with your notes, because links always establish a 1:1 relationship while the set of notes matching a tag can explode over the years, rendering them unwieldly; but links aren't the same as tags and serve a different purpose, so don't throw tags out of the bathwater :)

    Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

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