Zettelkasten Forum


Beach bum turns to the Archive. After that...

First note

I feel overwhelmed...empty program, markup, plain text, links.. back links, Alfred.. I just came to make some notes. Sigh. Do I have to learn a new language? I just want to learn to make better notes. Do I give up? Do I perservere? Perhaps do I go to one of the other programs... Happy to pay for software, like the idea of plain text notes tho...

Hi... I'm Marco. A real estate agent from Adelaide. That's in South Australia. I live by the beach. I work out of a cafe. Probably drink too much coffee. I like to read in my spare time.

Came across an article on Medium about Zettel Kasten. I've probably spent 10 hours since then watching videos, reading articles, reading reviews, getting confused, re-watching videos.. they make it sound so simple... Bought the books on taking better notes... read it. Didn't make any notes.. need to get better at that - lol.

So here it is, my first note in The Archive. What next?

Well, perhaps you can tell me what you did next. You know, after you downloaded this program and stared at the screen. What happended? What did you do? Was it scary? intimidating? or did you just make a bunch of notes and realise after that you needed a proper format.. linking... titles, context..

Go on... your turn.

Comments

  • Wish I could help you, but I already had a bunch of notes and turned to Zettelkasten in hopes of greater organisation. That's taking time, but it is happening. My advice would be to make the notes about things you might want to know later and review after 10, 50, 100 notes to see how you might be able to improve structure and linking. I guarantee you cannot think of everything before you start making notes.

  • edited July 9

    IMO Zettelkasten is about knowledge development. Niklas Luhmann, whose zettelkasten system people look to for understanding, was trying to develop a theory of society.

    So a starting point might be explicitly stating what area of knowledge that you want to develop? Then start reading on that area of knowledge and taking notes, such that you start to map out the different avenues of exploration around that area.

    E.g. say that you are mapping out familial relations. It'll start with notes on your spouse, children, parents, siblings and work its way out to notes on grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. By the end you've created a set of notes about all the components of a family. Each of those notes (grandparents, siblings, children, etc) then can become note sequences, fleshing out those specific topics even more.

  • @Nick said:
    IMO Zettelkasten is about knowledge development. Niklas Luhmann, whose zettelkasten system people look to for understanding, was trying to develop a theory of society.

    So a starting point might be explicitly stating what area of knowledge that you want to develop? Then start reading on that area of knowledge and taking notes, such that you start to map out the different avenues of exploration around that area.

    This!

    I am a Zettler

  • @MarcoWenzel Welcome to the forums. Your question is a common one. "What to do next?"
    I think @Jeremy advice is right on.

    @Jeremy said
    My advice would be to make the notes about things you might want to know later and review after 10, 50, 100 notes to see how you might be able to improve the structure and linking.

    Here is what my oldest note looks like.

    Initially, it was just the stuff above the line and as time has gone on I've added the links and tag below the line as this tidbit got integrated into my thinking. So poor where my skills back then, I didn't document the source for this quote and now it is lost to me. Oh well, such are the mistakes of a beginner.

    Next, I went on to make notes on what was interesting to me and that at the time was, of course, notetaking and its value plus I was reading Don't Shoot the Dog! by Karen Pryor. A book on dog training. From the title of the notes, it is hard to tell the difference. Curious the synergy between note-taking and dog training. :smile:

    My advice - Have fun, do interesting stuff, be curious, ask questions, use your notes to really think about how the stuff you read integrates into your thinking.

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

  • @MarcoWenzel said:
    First note

    I feel overwhelmed...empty program, markup, plain text, links.. back links, Alfred.. I just came to make some notes. Sigh. Do I have to learn a new language? I just want to learn to make better notes. Do I give up? Do I persevere? Perhaps do I go to one of the other programs... Happy to pay for software, like the idea of plain text notes tho...

    First - welcome to The Archive (TA) and to the forum. I am pretty new to this as well (about a month), so maybe if I share my newby perspective it will be helpful to you. So here are some initial comments:

    1. Don't worry about Alfred or Keyboard Maestro - you don't need those programs at all to use TA. Those are separate keyboard programs that let you automate a few tasks, created by power TA users who want to optimize their workflow. But I'm doing all my work without them and don't feel the need to use them right now. I'm trying to figure out how best to create a Zettelkasten (ZK) and I don't need to get sidetracked by optimizing my workflow at the moment.
    2. If all you want to do is create notes, then use a program tailor-made for that. I happen to use iA Writer and Bear for note-making; there is also a program called Drafts which is quite good. iA Writer is available on all Apple devices and syncs through iCloud (and also can access files on Dropbox). It also has a split-screen view so that you can write in Markdown and view the results in a parallel screen. Outside of straight note-taking, I use iA Writer to update my TA notes when on my iPad, as there is no iOS version of TA (yet). Keeping my TA files in Dropbox leads to easy viewing of those files in other editors and other devices.
    3. As to Markdown, it is a way to capture simple formatting indicators within a plain text file (e.g., bold, italics, bullets, headings). For example, if you want a word to show up in bold, in the plain text editor you would type two asterisks on each side of the word. It's not difficult and you can use a cheat sheet or a program like iA Writer that automatically inserts the indicators for you. If you use a program that understands Markdown, then it can apply the formatting to your text and show you the result. If not - no worries. Just write in plain text. There is nothing obligatory about using Markdown in TA.
    4. What makes TA different from other plain text editors? It is designed to allow you to create a ZK. If you need to spend any time learning critical stuff, it is to learn what a ZK is and whether or not you are interested in using that method to capture information and your thinking in a holistic manner. I've tried many, many different note-taking programs; the one that came the closest to what I was looking for was Bear. Then I found out about ZK - it fits perfectly with the way I want to capture and organize information. But it took me a couple of days of reading through the introductory material on this web site (go to the Blog and then click on the "Get Started" link) to start to understand a ZK, and then a few weeks of visiting the forum to see how different people are creating their own ZK.
    5. An essential part of a ZK is creating links between different notes (using some kind of unique identifier; TA uses a date/time stamp). This is what allows you to create "paths" between your notes and to tie everything into a cohesive whole (sorry - my poor explanation) So you need to learn about links (and eventually you will want to learn about back-links, although that is not critical right away).
    6. You insert a link by typing CMD-U, which inserts the time/date stamp, and you put that between a set of two square brackets, as so: [[202007091556]]

    For a great introduction to ZK, read through this article. It will take you about 15-20 minutes and is well worth the time:

    https://writingcooperative.com/zettelkasten-how-one-german-scholar-was-so-freakishly-productive-997e4e0ca125

    Hi... I'm Marco. A real estate agent from Adelaide. That's in South Australia. I live by the beach. I work out of a cafe. Probably drink too much coffee. I like to read in my spare time.

    My name is John. I'm a retired geological engineer, living in Vancouver, Canada. Recently I spent 2 years in Melbourne plus have travelled on several other occasions to Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, and Uluru (haven't been to Perth). I love Australia - its peoples, places, animals, birds, etc. If I could afford it, I'd live there a couple of months every year.

    Came across an article on Medium about Zettel Kasten. I've probably spent 10 hours since then watching videos, reading articles, reading reviews, getting confused, re-watching videos.. they make it sound so simple... Bought the books on taking better notes... read it. Didn't make any notes.. need to get better at that - lol.

    I was pretty confused at first, as well. I read and watched videos. It help a bit but not as much as I wanted. Then I just started writing notes. As I did, various things I had read, both on the main ZK site and in this forum, started to make sense. As I wrote more notes, the confusion lessened. It hasn't gone away entirely but it no longer preys on my mind.

    So here it is, my first note in The Archive. What next?

    Well, perhaps you can tell me what you did next. You know, after you downloaded this program and stared at the screen. What happened? What did you do? Was it scary? intimidating? or did you just make a bunch of notes and realise after that you needed a proper format.. linking... titles, context..

    Go on... your turn.

    I just started making notes. I kept them short and sweet, as recommended by various people on this forum, and then after a while started adding a few "extra" lines of text - what you might call note metadata, as suggested by @Will. Then I added links between notes, to follow certain lines of thinking (in my own brain).

    Deciding what notes to write was pretty random at first. But I had some notes (related by subject) in Bear, and revised those to be suitable to use as TA notes (in a ZK). And I was reading a couple of books and articles, and took interesting ideas from them and created notes (not by cutting and pasting quotes, but by summarizing each interesting idea in my own words). Sometimes I'd be lying in bed and an idea would pop into my head, and I'd capture it as a note on my iPad before it disappeared forever. I found that happened more and more frequently - becoming more conscious of interesting ideas to capture in my ZK. Now I have iA Writer open on my phone and iPad all the time, at least one of which is with me, so that I can write down any idea.

    I found after I had accumulated about 100 notes, that several strings of thought were taking shape and that the ZK felt like something more than just a bunch of "sticky notes" on my fridge. It's still extremely rudimentary, but I can see that further effort will yield increasing rewards, which keeps me going on the process. That and reading about how other people on this forum, who have been at this for a lot longer time period, talk when describing how their ZK is structured and how they use it.

    It's very much a leap of faith - you gain some idea of the potential of a ZK, which engenders some hope in your mind. And other people share what they are doing, which supports your desire to pursue creating a ZK. And then you take the first steps and watch to see whether what you are cooking up smells good. Using that analogy, most good cooks are patient, don't mind experimenting, and learn as they go.

    Hope this is helpful. I'd be happy to keep discussing this subject here.

  • Wow, thank you everyone for your encouraging words. It's made my day.
    Right... first step of the journey

  • @MarcoWenzel said:
    Wow, thank you everyone for your encouraging words. It's made my day.
    Right... first step of the journey

    I use my zettelkasten for; everything I learn about graphic design, typography, math and physics; design studio managment; notes I take from non-fiction books; all my plans and projects also written in plain text.

    Main reason is because I have faith in plain text files. They can be opened and edited in any OS, phone, or basic text program. You don't worry about styling other than writing content. It's a really humble format. I use iA Writer, so I can have a html preview of any note that displays images

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