# Is there a benefit to Luhmann IDs vs. Date/Time IDs?

My thread about the 3 layers of evidence started drifting away from the intended topic, but with great comments. I am going to start a new thread to hopefully match the discussion with the thread subject title. I hope people don't mind me quoting them selectively from other threads.

Here, I hope to discuss just the potential benefits of Luhmann-style note IDs as compared to more arbitrary unique identifiers (UIDs), such as a date/time stamp. Several people said they found they using a Luhmann ID system made their ZK process more useful. My hunch is that it is more useful, but before moving to it, I am trying to figure out why it might be.

@pseudoevagrius , in the other thread, you talked about assigning Luhmann IDs to new notes. You wrote:

I would also note that the decision to give a Luhmann number is more akin to a paper zkn. In a paper zkn you ask: does this note x go before or after note y. This is the question you ask with digital Luhmann numbers in practice.

You say that when you create a new note and add an ID you ask yourself "whether this note x relates to note y." I take it that another way of stating this is simply to say that you ask yourself "which existing note does this new note most closely relate to?" If that is right, then what do you mean by "relates"? It's not chronological. So is it by content? Context? Writing project? Or just whatever strikes your intuition at that time? If it is by similarity of content, thing isn't this de facto a type of hierarchical system (or at least a category/subcategory/sub subcategory system)? If it can be any number of things, then what does that relationship capture that wouldn't be captured equally well with a direct link between notes?

You are right that with an analog ZK you have to figure out where to physically place the card. So I guess another way to think about this problem is: what would the implications be for a paper ZK in which card IDs were simply sequential numbers and all new cards were added at the end? Whatever you would lose in such a system is what you would thus gain by using Luhmann IDs to structure your card placement.

@argonsnorts , I understand that you are just describing your current practice rather than advocating based on a particular theory. I'm hoping the discussion can allow all of us to uncover what lies behind the pros and cons of systems that users discover only while implementing the system.

Have you tried using Luhmann IDs vs. time-date IDs?

I haven't. I started my ZK about three months ago after running into some bottlenecks with my previous notetaking practice. I'm currently using Roam and letting it take care of the unique identifiers, but the IDs are hidden from the user most of the time. I expect to leave for a (Win 10) plain text solution at some point which is why I'm trying to figure out the ID system now.

You also suggested that I was falsely assuming that only hierarchical structures were informative. It's not that I'm assuming that, it's more that it's hard for me to understand how nonhierarchical structures are informative, which is why I am asking about it.

Let me challenge one of your statements. You wrote:

By assigning a Luhmann ID to a new note, all you are doing is establishing a relationship---some relationship, any kind of relationship---between that note and another note, which has itself, in turn, an established relationship (of some kind) with another note. So when adding a new note, you are simply extending a web of relations.
Those relations are not necessarily hierarchical in nature (general-to-specific, or even specific-to-general, as the case may be). They certainly can be hierarchical, one way or the other. But all the system demands is for some relationship to be established between a new note and an existing note. The relationship does not have to be defined or articulated. It can be, but it does not have to be. They are simply relations, and that's it.

I still think there is a gap in the explanation of why Luhmann IDs are useful, which can be shown by substituting "Luhmann ID" with "direct note-to-note link" in your paragraph above. Everything you write can also be said about direct note links, which can be used with sequential numbering. So if Luhmann IDs are different in practice than date/time UIDs + direct links, it must be because they establish a particular kind of relationship between the new note and an existing one that you don't get in other systems. And the question is, what is the nature of that relationship, and how is it different than just a direct link relationship?

It may be the case that assigning a Luhmann ID to a note does not logically, necessarily have to entail a particular relationship between that note and existing note. But if the Luhmann ID system is actually useful, I suspect that figuring out the aspects of this relationship will be what explains why this system is useful and what kind of structure it reveals that is different from a different UID system.

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• I think something that has gone a little unsaid is that a hierarchical (Luhmann style) forces you to place all new notes within a context which is encoded directly in the ID.

Think about it in this way: what information does the ID carry? With a hierarchical ID, you can look at two ID numbers and purely from their encoding tell how related they are. (Of course with some probability etc. etc.)

• @henrikenggaard said:
I think something that has gone a little unsaid is that a hierarchical (Luhmann style) forces you to place all new notes within a context which is encoded directly in the ID.

I think this is where the confusion comes from. There is the assumption that Luhmann ID's should be hierarchical. But who said that?

You can definitely treat them as flat structure if you assumed differently. I do that myself as I've said in my other writeup.

If you use Luhmann ID's only as direct, obvious links, then you won't see it as hierarchical anymore.

In my Folgezettel, I don't treat {1a} as "under" {1}, but rather "in direct connection, with highest relevance" to it. It's not an essential feature of my Zettelkasten, by any means, but it helps organize everything.

In short, I argue Folgezettel should NOT be used to indicate hierarchy, but rather for organization purposes only.

Using Folgezettel to create predetermined categories defeats the purpose of having a Zettelkasten in the first place.

• @improveism Just to clearify my point-of-view. I don't mean "hierarchical" in the sense that something is a sub-category or that things "belong" somewhere. Rather, as I understood you, I agree with you that it is to capture the most relevant context (at the time of creation).

It is hierarchical in the sense that it is a tree -- a tree or directed acyclic graph ID might capture the intention better. Hierarchical is the wrong choice of words in this sense.

• @cobblepot Hey man, I think you might benefit from my write-up about Luhmann ID's. But to clarify, that system shouldn't be treated as hierarchical. I introduced a way to solve the "forced" linking problem.

@henrikenggaard I now get where you're coming from. Yeah, it definitely is a tree in the sense that branches are instantly obvious to the user. Some think having a note sequence means hierarchy, though. The existing material online about Folgezettel seems to make this more confusing that it actually is

• @improveism If you argue that the Luhmann-ID don't are treated as hierarchy but as a direct link what can you achieve with the Luhmann-ID what you are not already achieving with direct linking?

I am a Zettler

• @sfast said:
@improveism If you argue that the Luhmann-ID don't are treated as hierarchy but as a direct link what can you achieve with the Luhmann-ID what you are not already achieving with direct linking?

In my case, the moment I stopped thinking about note sequences as hierarchies, it became easier to visualize the flow of connections; I didn't have to go through each note to see all connections inside my collection.

But I have two rules for this to make it work this way:

One, first numbers don't have connections:

And two, Folgezettel is only for the most relevant direct connection.

Inside the notes, I still use UID's in Zettle to link to other notes.

The idea was sparked from Daniel Ludecke, though I found his presentation a bit misleading in a sense that his examples on "1 - System" "1a - Systems environment" were hierarchical.

That said, I find Folgezettel as a helpful feature, not a necessity. It just made visualization easier for me without needing to use scripts or other tools.

• Even though I still consider myself as a Zk newbie, I started to look at the concept and set up my Zk. Naturally, probably like all of us here, I started to read the Luhmann story, thought it was brilliant, and determined I need to set up something similar digitally, incl. Folgezettel. I created about 350 Zettel over the course of 3 years, all neatly numbered sequentially without the Luhmann numbering but textually indicating the parent-child relationship. So nothing as sophisticated as @argonsnorts or @improveism have.

But I was not satisfied. At that stage @sfast was already arguing against it, but I could not understand the real reasons. Eventually I moved away from my Zk and started taking different types of notes but I kept reading articles about the Zk concept, and ended up understanding that in a digital set-up Folgezettel don't make sense because hierarchy in a Zk does not make sense, it inhibits spontaneous exploration and serendipity.

I believe the only reason Luhmann used neatly sequentially numbered Zettel and offshoots is because a physical Zk does not offer the linking flexibility of digital links.

It seems to me that most, if not all, of those who struggle with the Folgezettel concept are new to the Zk system and are influenced by the original grandmaster guru Luhmann. It seems to me that having a dual numbering system (date/time and Luhmann) in the same Zk creates more work, and, when the Zk grows beyond a certain point, more confusion.

Still, I do believe that if someone finds the Luhmann numbering, in conjunction with another numbering system or not, yields better results, why not? At the end of the day it is the same as one person saying an app is fantastic against someone else proclaiming it is useless. Who is right? Both, or neither.

• @Peter I think you have a point there.

More importantly, I don't think there's one right way to create this thing; that makes the whole Zettelkasten experience filled with infinite discovery—both in learning and using it.

Sure, Luhmann ID's in conj. with UID's work for me, but it's because I work faster with it and visualize my notes better.

For most Zettlers, if Zettelkasten were a money-making machine, following @sfast's and @ctietze's approach for years have already made them a fortune.

I'm not exactly sure if it's Christian who said it, but indeed, the real bottleneck to your tools and your methods would be YOU, the user.

So whatever constraint we have, our methods should, at the very least, loosen it.

• The physical appearance of UID doesn't suggest much about the connections between zettels other then a direct connection exists.

The Luhmann style numbering does. I think that is a distinction worth noting.

When you see them in a note list, and, as a sorted list, they show relationships trails you have defined for your future self to follow; perhaps they are nothing more than markers, breadcrumbs, highlights you use throughout your Zettelkasten. (I see this as the value.)

They stand out and get some attention.

In the Ominbar, I can walk the thought chain using search by typing the Luhmann style numbering with the note list returning the folgezettel list, much like IntelliSense lists.

Does anyone use them consistently with any kind of scale?
How do they hold up once your Zettelkasten hits critical mass?

Are these cool and interesting now, but might they fizzle out over time with extended use?

Does anyone have an extended history and experience using them in a digital Zettelkasten to provide a more long-view perspective?

My simple view is that they are visual cues for thought chains/relationships to revisit in the future. I think it is part of why Luhmann's style number has gained so much interest lately. And @argonsnorts showed us how we might use them. That and they appear to be some hidden gem hiding in plain sight that has been rediscovered, something shiny, new, interesting, and fun.

Use them or not use them there is no right or wrong, which is what is so great about the forum and the Zettelkasten Method.

I am very much interested where Sascha ends up in his thinking. He has the scale and experience that so many of us don't have yet. He has history and experience with the tried and true fundamentals. Very valuable.

These discussions may need to keep simmering as we keep stirring the pot.

• edited March 2020

@cobblepot said:

direct note links ... with sequential numbering

Isn't this also a description of Luhmann IDs? Date/time IDs are also sequential, but the sequencing indexes (points to, references) something outside the system (date and time). The sequencing of Luhmann IDs indexes the system itself.

it must be because they establish a particular kind of relationship

No, it's that Luhmann IDs themselves establish (in the sense of indicate) the existence of a relationship, whereas date/time IDs themselves indicate no such thing. When you use date/time IDs, relationships between notes have to be described through some other means --- like an outline, or a graphic visualization, or a structure note.

Let's say I use date/time UIDs exclusively to start building an archive. (For convenience I'll shorten it to hours and minutes here.)

I write note 0945. I then have a related idea and write 0947. I link to 0947 inside of note 0945. Maybe I even include a backlink from 0947 back to 0945. Fine.

Where is that relationship encoded? Only in the text of the notes themselves. The IDs themselves do not tell me that they are related. Even when put the IDs next to each other in list, they could be unrelated for all I know, until I look in the notes themselves.

0945
0947

By comparison, if I use Luhmann IDs:

{1} 0945
{1,a} 0947

I can see from the IDs that there is an established relationship between these two notes. Just by looking at {1,a} 0947, I know that there is a note {1} to which it is in some way related.

If I have a note with the ID {2,2,a,2,c}, just by looking at that ID, I can infer that a huge web of relationships exists in the archive, of which this note is an extension. If I want to find out something about the nature of those relationships, I can immediately and without the use of any complex apparatus (structure note, outline, graphic visualization) navigate to notes that I know must exist: like {2,2,a,2,b} or {2,2,a,2}. The Luhmann ID in and of itself carries a lot of information about the existence of relationships, and relationships of relationships.

Ok, back to using exclusively date/time IDs. After five minutes I have an idea totally unrelated to either of my first two notes. It will be 0952.

Now my whole archive looks like this:

0945
0947
0952

That's not a very useful list, because it doesn't tell me anything about the internal relationships (or lack of relationships) between the notes.

I could of course create a separate meta-note—a "structure note"—where I could describe the relationships between the notes, and it might look like this:

Topic 1:
0945
0947

Topic 2:
0952

Or, very similarly, I could use Luhmann IDs and have this:

{1} 0945
{1,a} 0947
{2} 0952

An hour later, I have a thought related to note 0945, but is not clearly related to 0947. So I write note 1052 and link to it from inside note 0945. I also have two successive thoughts on Topic 2, notes 1053 and 1054.

Where do I add these on my "structure note"? Perhaps I could do something like this:

Topic 1:
0945
1052
0947

Topic 2:
0952
1053
1054

This looks very much like the examples of structure notes that I have been able to find. (See here and here.) All that I know from this is that there are three notes related to each topic. There is no indication that any relationship has been established between the notes under each heading. It is also not clear why the notes are ordered in the way they are ordered, or even if they are ordered deliberately at all. And the ID numbers don't give any information in that regard, because they only tell me the time when they were written.

Maybe I could add some structure by indenting [I can't get the indentation to format correctly here, so imagine the dashes are indentations ]:

Topic 1:
0945
---1052
0947

Topic 2:
0952
---1053
-----1054

But how well does this scale up? What happens when I have 10 notes on Topic 1? Do I add sub-headings? Where? And in what format? Do I create sub-structure notes? Where do I keep track of those? I'm sure there are ways of doing it, but I don't know how.

So in the meantime, why not this:

{1} 0945
{1,1} 1052
{1,a} 0947

{2} 0952
{2,a} 1053
{2,b} 1054

I know it can scale up, piece by piece;

{1} 0945
{1,1} 1052
{1,1,a} 1100
{1,1,b} 1104
{1,1,b,1} 1202
{1,1,b,2} 1210
{1,1,b,2,1} 1222
{1,1,b,3} 1220
{1,a} 0947
{1,2} 1200
{1,2,a} 1401

{2} 0952
{2,a} 1053
{2,a,1} 1105
{2,b} 1054

And when all the notes are sorted, the archive is its own structure note.

• @argonsnorts man, you explained it better than ever.

• @argonsnorts : yes, Luhmann's ID system makes those relationships visually clear. But why would you want that in a digital set-up? The whole idea of the Zettelkasten concept is not to just look at titles and inter-relations to decide if you open the note, but to actually open those notes and discover new, unexpected points of view as well as relationships.

Predetermined relationships between notes through Folgezettel numbers unavoidably precludes those unplanned chance discoveries, collectively a.k.a. serendipity.

In other words, Folgezettels in a digital set-up put your thinking in a straightjacket, i.e. it runs counter to the concept of the Zettelkasten.

Having said all that, if you find that using the Folgezettels works better for you then you should use it. IMO you will find that, as your Zk grows, maintaining the Fz system becomes cumbersome, unwieldy, and of little added value.

• @Peter said:

unavoidably precludes those unplanned chance discoveries, collectively a.k.a. serendipity

Using Luhmann numbers does not take away any functionality by which chance discoveries are otherwise made in a digital set-up (search, tags), so how could it unavoidably preclude anything?

cumbersome, unwieldy

Using Luhmann ID takes no "maintenance" at all. Find a note to expand on, link to a new note, and use the next available Luhmann ID in the title. Finished. Where does the cumbersome/unwieldy part come in?

• edited April 2020

@argonsnorts said:
Using Luhmann numbers does not take away any functionality by which chance discoveries are otherwise made in a digital set-up (search, tags), so how could it unavoidably preclude anything?

Like I said, by guiding your thinking. The Luhmann numbers show you a path, and you decide whether that path is interesting or not before you decide to open any notes of it.

That is contrary to the Zk concept, which is one of serendipity, i.e. unplanned chance discoveries. If you don't have those Luhmann paths, so to speak, you would not be encouraged/forced to think along the lines of those paths. Simply the note title lets you decide whether to open it or not. That is much less biased than thinking along the Luhmann paths.

Using Luhmann ID takes no "maintenance" at all. Find a note to expand on, link to a new note, and use the next available Luhmann ID in the title. Finished. Where does the cumbersome/unwieldy part come in?

When you branch off from a branch that's no problem, but when you branch off from a branch from another branch, to the n-th degree you have to make sure you use the right numbering in the Folgezettel series you're editing at that moment. And that certainly takes more time than automatically adding a date/time stamp.

• @Peter said:
When you branch off from a branch that's no problem, but when you branch off from a branch from another branch, to the n-th degree you have to make sure you use the right numbering in the Folgezettel series you're editing at that moment. And that certainly takes more time than automatically adding a date/time stamp.

Actually, I found that finding a suitable link for a new note without Folgezettel set up takes even more time.

BUT this might be different for you and many others, especially more experienced users of UID-exclusive systems—you might already have a workflow that streamlines this linking process, so you don't experience any problems, either.

All this Folgezettel vs Hybrid vs UID debate, I believe, just comes down to how fast you can operate on them, as long as you can follow the same principle of linking atomic notes and being able to find emerging topics easily.

• edited April 2020

Folgezettel chains may have its use cases. I understand that it’s helpful to directly see Zettel notes belonging to one Folgezettel chain when sorting by title/name.

That said, I think there are better and more scalable ways, at least when it comes to encoding/indicating relationships. A Folgezettel number doesn‘t indicate why the Zettel notes are related, and what actual topic/relationship it is about. Also, what if there are multiple “most appropriate“ relationships that could be encoded as a Folgezettel chain?

W.r.t. crosslinks, using tools like pandoc scholar, it is indeed possible to indicate the type of relationship for a link (see https://github.com/pandoc-scholar/pandoc-scholar#semantic-citations). Qualified links (aka semantic citations) are truly powerful, and this allows to directly and unambiguously specify why one Zettel note was linked to another. Plus, software can extract this information automatically and display it graphically.

Secondly, structure notes allow to encode all kinds of relationship. You can have multiple structure notes to indicate different relationships. To clarify the relationships, one can add subheadings & comments, use lists for hierarchical structure or even nest more structure notes. IMO, this is truly flexible.

As a software developer, I think that we should strive to parse, process & visualize both, qualified links and structure notes, in useful ways. Longterm, this will probably provide better ways to encode & visualize relationships.

• @improveism said:
Actually, I found that finding a suitable link for a new note without Folgezettel set up takes even more time.

That depends on the non-Folgezettel numbering system you use. I use the date/time system, and with a text expander that is a question of a keyboard shortcut. With Folgezettel you have to do the numbering manually because it has to fit in the sequence.

All this Folgezettel vs Hybrid vs UID debate, I believe, just comes down to how fast you can operate on them, as long as you can follow the same principle of linking atomic notes and being able to find emerging topics easily.

It is probably best to leave it at that. What counts is ease of use and serendipity.

• @msteffens : the Pandoc Scholar app you mention is interesting. I opened the link, then scrolled up and found the example of what is possible.

Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that what Pandoc Scholar does is it creates and adds numbered footnotes to the note. Those numbers also appear as clickable superscript numbers in the text. Is that the right way to read it?

• edited April 2020

@Peter Discussion about pandoc-scholar is probably for another thread (and the website has more insight than I have). I just gave it as an example that there are existing ways to use qualified links, i.e. links that indicate their relationship type. For example, here's a wiki-style link that includes a relationship qualifier (instead of "OTHER-NOTE", insert your usual link ID format):

``````[[refutes:OTHER-NOTE]]
``````

In this example, "refutes" indicates that the thought in the current note refutes/rejects the thought outlined in that other note (which has the ID "OTHER-NOTE"). Others have already thought up an entire set of qualifying properties (see CiTO properties) which could be used.

If more software starts to support qualified links (aka "semantic citations" or however you call them) like this, this would open up entire new possibilities.

• OK, that's clear, @msteffens.
What I was trying to get at is that footnotes are a feature of markdown. I use a markdown note-taking/Zk app, and use footnotes (viz. inline footnotes) a lot.

Your point is that the link relationship qualifier should be visible with the link; one should not have to click to get to a footnote to read the qualifier. Fair enough, I agree.

Md links have the format `[any text you like](path to the note)`, and what you get to see in the rendered version (= Read mode) is `any text you like`.

Since one can put anything one likes between the square brackets, one could put `[refutes: note name](path to the note)`, which will be rendered as `refutes: note`.

I like your suggestion of adding a qualifier to a link when appropriate - I will incorporate it in my Zk work. Md makes that easy too.

BTW, this is not a plea for people to use Md; I evolved to Md after changing note-taking app a few times, and looking for ease of use and portability of notes. It suits me personally.

• @Peter said:
you decide whether that path is interesting or not before you decide to open any notes of it
Simply the note title lets you decide whether to open it or not.

Maybe this describes how you (or others) interact(ed) with notes numbered in this way, but it does not describe how I operate.

In fact, I probably operate in a very similar way to you.

How do you decide when/where to add a new note? Maybe when you are reading a note, you have a new idea and decide to write it down in a connected note. If I am reading note {2,2,a,1} and want to write a related thought, I check to see if there is another note following it. Any existing direct follow-ups will be linked in the note itself. Let's say {2,2,a,1} contains a link to {2,2,a,2}. So I make a link to {2,2,a,1,a} and link to it directly from {2,2,a,1}. And that's it.

I don't have to go up to look at {2,2,a} or {2,2}, to make sure the new note is relevant to those notes, because those notes do not indicate subjects or categories. They do not govern the contents of whatever notes share those numbers. They do not guide my thinking or force me to think in any way, because I don't have to look at them when I make the new note {2,2,a,1,a}. Those notes are just notes like any other note. In the same way that my new note {2,2,a,1,a} will not govern the contents of note {2,2,a,1,a,2,c}. I will make {2,2,a,1,a,2,c} because it relates to {2,2,a,1,a,2,b}. Period.

• @argonsnorts : OK, if that works for you, that's fine. It certainly is not my intention to talk you out of Folgezettel numbering, I merely explained the evolution of my thinking and why I came to the conclusion that I did.

I'd be interested to see if you are still as committed say 1 year or 2000 notes down the road.

• To me it seems as if examples of "this seems related and I want to put it close" so far do not address the case where you have that idea time and time again over the years for the same note, e.g. because it's just so thought-inspiring.

My point is: all Folgezettel stories sound like very happy stories as long as they contain no more than 2 instances where one wants to branch off. They become mundane and less happy when you want to branch off 3 or more times.

## Example

First time, you can follow up on `{2,2,a,1}` with `{2,2,a,2}`, the next in the (sibling) chain.

Second time, the rest of the sibling chain has grown from `{2,2,a,2}` to `{2,2,a,986}`, and you want to add something "close" to `{2,2,a,1}` again. Well, you can still intersperse a thought between `{2,2,a,1}` and `{2,2,a,2}` by branching off and create `{2,2,a,1,a}`. In some way, both `{2,2,a,1,a}` and `{2,2,a,2}` are both one step away: the former is a step down, the latter a step sideways.

But what about the third time you want to put an insight close? You cannot branch off into another dimension with this notation; there are only siblings and children in the tree of Folgezettel-IDs, aka 2 directions to grow, not three So you have to pick another place that's close enough and not occupied. That could be at the end of the sibling chain, `{2,2,a,987}`. I personally would be kind of bummed by this realization, because "putting things close" only worked for up to two times. `{2,2,a,987}` is pretty far down the list. But then, after all, you may realize that the position in the tree doesn't matter that much anyway, so it's not too bad that this new insight has to be filed at `{2,2,a,987}`. You can still directly link to it from `{2,2,a,1}` to pull it closer, so to speak. It is again just one click away.

The system didn't break down and the world's still good. But it's like the moment you realize with every fiber of your being that your companion has to go to the toilet just like all of us mortals, and that roses really smell like poo-poo-ooh. The absolute sexiness of creating promixity through Folgezettel is thus forever tainted, and it only remains relatively sexy, for now you know that getting the a kick out of it doesn't work for all eternity.

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

• @ctietze haha that took an incredible turn

Yeah, you're absolutely right about the complication that arises when wanting to create more than two direct follow-ups. But you also address it perfectly, noting that any direct follow-ups will be noted in the originating note itself anyway---in this example, note {2,2,a,1}.

To illustrate the problem, a simple list of Luhmann-ID'd notes like the following could be internally related in a whole host of ways:

{2,2,a,1}
{2,2,a,1,a}
{2,2,a,1,b}
{2,2,a,1,c}
...
{2,2,a,1,z}
{{2,2,a,1,aa}
{{2,2,a,1,bb}
{2,2,a,2}
{2,2,a,3}
{2,2,a,4}
...
{2,2a,1,987}

Each of the notes under {2,2,a,1} could be direct follow-ups to it. Or, for example, {2,2,a,1,b} could be a direct follow-up to {2,2,a,1,a}, and {2,2,a,3} could be a direct follow-up to {2,2,a,2}.

In such a case, as you point out, there would be a list of each direct follow-up note in {2,2,a,1} itself.

This was an issue for Luhmann too, and he wasn't consistent in how he branched from one note to two or three follow-ups. Sometimes {2,2,a,1,b} followed {2,2,a,1,a}, sometimes it followed {2,2,a,1}. You could only tell by looking at the notes and seeing how they connect internally.

Does this make the whole system fall apart? Does this mean some other system is better? I don't know. Better for what? To what end? Not just "better" or "best" in some specific sense---most flexible, extensible, efficient. (Who said efficiency and flexibility is a good thing in knowledge work, anyway?) Or, maybe it takes away some of the sex appeal, as you so artfully suggest. (haha, unbelievable )

But another point: what could note {2,2,a,1} possibly say that it is spawning a thousand direct follow-up notes? It must not be a very "atomic" note . Or else, it is so general that it creates a situation---like the one you describe---that is functionally useless.

• @improveism wrote:
In my case, the moment I stopped thinking about note sequences as hierarchies, it became easier to visualize the flow of connections; I didn't have to go through each note to see all connections inside my collection.

I don't see how you achieve something with Folgezettel that you can't achieve with direct links but rather wrote how you made Folgezettel work in general.

I am a Zettler

• I tried to post about 8 hours ago and got a message "your post must be approved by the moderators". Since both @ctietze and @sfast have posted since then in this thread, I'm guessing the post was lost, so I'll try again. Maybe I need to break it into parts because it was too long.

I see there are actually two related issues here. First, what is the benefit of Luhmann IDs over other UIDs? And second, how does one assign a Luhmann ID to a new note? So:

PART 1:

I actually think we now have an answer to the first question, although that question is more accurately stated as "What is the benefit of Luhmann IDs over other UIDs plus direct links?"

@argonsnorts said re: my claim that "it must be because they establish a particular kind of relationship":

No, it's that Luhmann IDs themselves establish (in the sense of indicate) the existence of a relationship, whereas date/time IDs themselves indicate no such thing.

While you are right that date/time UIDs don't establish links, direct note-to-note links within the notes do. So the benefit of Luhmann IDs cannot be that they allow establishing relationships while other systems don't. BUT, the answer is still hidden here:

@argonsnorts wrote:

When you use date/time IDs, relationships between notes have to be described through some other means --- like an outline, or a graphic visualization, or a structure note.

I think this is the answer. Date/time UIDs + direct links within notes do not allow you to see the existence of note-to-note relationships in the note title (or filename title). Luhmann IDs do.

@improveism 's comment also suggests that this is the benefit of Luhmann IDs:

In my case, the moment I stopped thinking about note sequences as hierarchies, it became easier to visualize the flow of connections; I didn't have to go through each note to see all connections inside my collection.

edit: I see that after I wrote this, @mrsteffens anticipated this idea in a later post:

I understand that it’s helpful to directly see Zettel notes belonging to one Folgezettel chain when sorting by title/name.

And then says:

That said, I think there are better and more scalable ways, at least when it comes to encoding/indicating relationships.

I don't want to muddy this thread more, but maybe @mrsteffens will start a new thread explaining this idea.

• PART 2:

Now for the second question: how does one assign a Luhmann ID to a new note? In other words, what is the meaning of giving a new note a particular Luhmann ID rather than an arbitrary ID?

I'll first clarify something. @argonsnorts asked re: my description of "direct note links ... with sequential numbering":

Isn't this also a description of Luhmann IDs? Date/time IDs are also sequential, but the sequencing indexes (points to, references) something outside the system (date and time). The sequencing of Luhmann IDs indexes the system itself.

When I proposed a system in which "card IDs were simply sequential numbers and all new cards were added at the end," what I meant was that the first new note got UID 00001, the next got UID 00002, etc. So how is the process of giving a meaningful Luhmann ID different from just giving the chronologically "next" ID and using that for linking? The answer is the basis for the benefit of seeing the Luhmann ID, and thus note-to-note relationships, in the note titles.

If I have a note with the ID {2,2,a,2,c}, just by looking at that ID, I can infer that a huge web of relationships exists in the archive, of which this note is an extension. If I want to find out something about the nature of those relationships, I can immediately and without the use of any complex apparatus (structure note, outline, graphic visualization) navigate to notes that I know must exist: like {2,2,a,2,b} or {2,2,a,2}. The Luhmann ID in and of itself carries a lot of information about the existence of relationships, and relationships of relationships.

This all makes sense to me. But I still want to know, what is the basis for you deciding to establish the relationship between two notes? I keep talking about hierarchy because I tend to think that way, and if I assign Luhmann IDs I will likely tend to given numbers based on hierarchy. But I can tell that I will soon run into the problem Ahrens mentions of trying to find the best place for putting the notes. I write about many overlapping topics so one note will likely connect equally well in several places, and I don't want to spend tons of time making redundant backup direct links or structure notes, or time managing tags, just to avoid losing potential connections.

Since others don't seem to have this problem, I'm still trying to get you all to articulate your intuitions about what is driving you to link a note to existing note X instead of existing note Y.

@improveism wrote:

I think this is where the confusion comes from. There is the assumption that Luhmann ID's should be hierarchical. But who said that? You can definitely treat them as flat structure if you assumed differently. I do that myself as I've said in my other writeup. If you use Luhmann ID's only as direct, obvious links, then you won't see it as hierarchical anymore. In my Folgezettel, I don't treat {1a} as "under" {1}, but rather "in direct connection, with highest relevance" to it. It's not an essential feature of my Zettelkasten, by any means, but it helps organize everything.

"Don't you see @cobblepot ?! It's obvious! You make the direct, obvious links, rather than the irrelevant, pointless ones!" But...what makes these links seem direct and obvious to you? Is it possible they would not be direct and obvious to someone else? I tend to make links based on topic subsets that are somewhat hierarchical, and where sibling categories are parallel, like this:

genres of art
--film genres
--literature genres
--theater genres

Now, please DON'T comment "Well, great! Just do it however works for you!" Because my system, as it grows, is NOT working for me, which is why I am stubbornly harassing gently inquiring about how other people think about it.

I just am not seeing how people are branching off notes in ways other than "this note is on a topic that is closest in topic to existing note X". So I am getting the sense that the branches are actually just based on one's momentary intuition or gut instinct about note relationships, which can include a ton of things including existing mental associations, and maybe the benefit is just that Luhmann IDs reflect those existing associations.

• PART 3:
Since I wrote the above posts, there has been more thread activity. So...

@Peter says that when you have a complex Luhmann ID structure, it will be hard to find the right place to place a new note. @argonsnorts says no, it's easy - just "find a note to expand on". Why this disagreement? I think it is this: when I (and maybe @Peter) am imagining adding a new note, I'm thinking of the situation where I have just written notes on a new source and want to incorporate them into my ZK, which I have not started working with that day. But @argonsnorts describes a note being written while working with the ZK, so the location of the new note seems obvious:

Maybe when you are reading a note, you have a new idea and decide to write it down in a connected note.

I agree, in that case it's easy/obvious to decide on a branch. But what about when I start taking notes on a source and these notes relates to many existing notes already in my ZK? How to decide where to put it? That's the issue I have trouble with.

• And finally:

@improveism wrote:

All this Folgezettel vs Hybrid vs UID debate, I believe, just comes down to how fast you can operate on them, as long as you can follow the same principle of linking atomic notes and being able to find emerging topics easily.

@Peter replies:

It is probably best to leave it at that. What counts is ease of use and serendipity.

NO! This is giving up! People (at least me) are talking because they are still trying to figure out how to make this system work best! It's easy to say "hey, whatever works for you" but it doesn't improve anything. If you don't want to engage in this masochistic nightmare with me, then fine, but don't rain on my obsession parade!

• @cobblepot said:
NO! This is giving up! People (at least me) are talking because they are still trying to figure out how to make this system work best! It's easy to say "hey, whatever works for you" but it doesn't improve anything. If you don't want to engage in this masochistic nightmare with me, then fine, but don't rain on my obsession parade!

No, @cobblepot, this NOT giving up. I gave my input, explaining in detail, from different points of view, why I believe Folgezettels are not useful. Everybody has a system that works for their particular use case. The real newbies attach a lot of importance to Folgezettel, as I did when I 1st started - I remember having a discussion with Sascha about it. Some years and a few Zettels down the road and I have had to accept he was right. I also made the point about experience in my comments above.

Now, I can keep hammering my points, which are confirmed by Christian and Sascha, but at the end of the day one cannot transfer one's experience: experience is what it is and can only be acquired by doing it.

Last but not least, you may have heard of the expression horses for courses: that applies to the Zk. There isn't 1 unique way managing one's notes and using one's Zk, esp. with the digital versions.

So, no, I don't rain on your obsession parade, I simply don't think it s useful talking about a subject ad infinitum when everything has been said. But, then again, YMMV, and it's your thread.