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Q&A #3 - Some tips on how to write good notes


Q&A #3 - Some tips on how to write good notes

Always think of your future self as if you encounter a different person than yourself.

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  • @sfast Good, short video - thank you.

    I had one thought while listening, which has to do with how I (and others on the forum) take notes. Say I am reading a book (paper or electronic). I keep iA Writer open on my iPad or computer and take fleeting notes as I read. I prefer doing this to highlight text. Within a day or so, I process those fleeting notes into my ZK. My thought is this - by making that intermediate step, I already move in the direction of making the Zettel independent of the context of the original idea, because when I create the Zettel, I am no longer looking at the book; I am working only from my fleeting notes. It's a small point, but it does seem to work for me. I also virtually eliminate the temptation to quote text from the book I am reading.

  • @GeoEng51 You are practicing what I first learned in philosophy and history: Making an excerpt. The excerpt is good when it is way shorter than the original text but contains all relevant ideas, arguments etc.

    I skip this step and go from text direct to notes in my Zettelkasten. However, depending on the difficulty of the text I do still create excerpts.

    Do you have to alter your notes before you put them in your ZK other than dividing the whole thing into separate files?

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast said:
    @GeoEng51 You are practicing what I first learned in philosophy and history: Making an excerpt. The excerpt is good when it is way shorter than the original text but contains all relevant ideas, arguments etc.

    I skip this step and go from text direct to notes in my Zettelkasten. However, depending on the difficulty of the text I do still create excerpts.

    Do you have to alter your notes before you put them in your ZK other than dividing the whole thing into separate files?

    The following process applies when I am reading technical material that is new to me or fairly dense in terms of information content. There are times when I've gone directly from text to zettel, (or directly from thinking to zettel), but I prefer to use the intermediate step, as then I only have to worry about capturing ideas when writing the fleeting notes.

    So, the first step is to create the fleeting notes (or excerpt). You are correct that my fleeting notes are much shorter than the original. I may end up with a page or two of fleeting notes for 20 or 30 pages of text that I read - so the fleeting notes are quite a bit shorter than the original text. The fleeting notes do contain all of I what I consider to be the relevant ideas and essential informaiton.

    The second step is to process the fleeting notes into several zettels. There is some alteration that happens when I process my fleeting notes. For example, I find there is further compression, at least another 50% as I am trying to keep the zettels succinct (and sometimes even pithy). There is also re-organization, as people writing books often repeat themselves or express one idea in several different ways, in different places in their text. There could probably be even more compression, except that I am a bit wordy when I write - a result I think of trying to keep the zettel free of its original context.

  • By the way, in my original (October 17) post, I meant to say that I prefer taking fleeting notes to highlighting the original text (paper or electronic). My original post suggests that I take fleeting notes so that I can highlight them - this is not the case. I've moved almost entirely away from highlighting (the original text or my own notes), and just write the fleeting notes and then process them into zettels.

  • @GeoEng51 said:

    The following process applies when I am reading technical material that is new to me or fairly dense in terms of information content. There are times when I've gone directly from text to zettel, (or directly from thinking to zettel), but I prefer to use the intermediate step, as then I only have to worry about capturing ideas when writing the fleeting notes.

    So, the first step is to create the fleeting notes (or excerpt). You are correct that my fleeting notes are much shorter than the original. I may end up with a page or two of fleeting notes for 20 or 30 pages of text that I read - so the fleeting notes are quite a bit shorter than the original text. The fleeting notes do contain all of I what I consider to be the relevant ideas and essential informaiton.

    This is a challenge for me. I read a lot of literary and critical theory, which tends to be dense and complicated. My process tends to get bogged down in the first step. Perhaps 'bogged down' is the wrong metaphor, but I haven't yet found a way to speed up what is a laborious and time-consuming process as I try and accurately capture very complex arguments and examples. I hand-write literature notes (I guess I'm following Ahrens here who seems to me to conflate fleeting notes with literature notes) and making them shorter, succinct, or even pithy is a constant challenge.

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

  • edited November 9

    I wonder at which point it is relevant to refer to the original source. Is this important for your own purpose or for the purpose of communication?

    Most of the times i think it is not relevant for me whether the information is original or altered. I grasp what i understand and work with that. At this point i am willing to accept any interpretation, misunderstanding or assumption introduced by myself in this step. I am also accepting misinformation introduced by others, based on my believe on its reliability. For this last point, the language used in the text plays an important role as well.

    Referring to the original sources is an important step that i am missing right now. I think a good convention for me to do that would be right before i publish information. At this time i expect myself to have reached understanding on the topic and it would be unacceptable to be confronted with misunderstanding.

    Is the process of checking the origin of sources also covered in Ahrens book, How to take smart notes? I don't have any notes about it.

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

  • I made this commitment when I processed The Perfect Health Diet by the Jaminets. I was very disappointed about their usage of empirical material. The fact that I was enthusiastic about their approach made the disappointment deeper.

    The formal reason is about truth. Any citation is interpretation to some point. I don't trust anybody to make interpretations for me. In addition, it is a severe fault if you want to apply the scientific method.

    I am a Zettler

  • edited November 9

    The formal reason is about truth. Any citation is interpretation to some point. I don't trust anybody to make interpretations for me. In addition, it is a severe fault if you want to apply the scientific method.

    This is true but i think i don't always have to trust knowledge. I don't do scientific work. In my case, productivity and creativity is more important. I want to make mistakes, i want to learn by doing. This is also the reason why i do not want to use a standardized method for my Zettelkasten based on Luhmann. I think this approach is more appropriate for you than it is for me.

    So at times you will see me asking weird questions or doing something unconventional. A problem arises, though, by the time i communicate facts. I have lots of notes that are true, false, deprecated, etc. I don't have time to fact check them all for myself. Knowledge has such a short life it is impossible to keep the pace. Sometimes I am dealing with information that is valid for less than a month. But at least by the time i want to communicate something i can fact check it first.

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

  • when i am reading a book i create one literature note, which is processed into fleeting notes, then permanent notes. With this workflow, i am adding not one but three layer of interpretation to my references. That's a lot of damage. But starting from fleeting notes, these are already opinionated.

    The more complex the structures are in my Zettelkasten, the more opinionated they get. This makes me overconfident about my knowledge. If literature notes can be mixed with my own notes with no problem at all, i need a fallback method for my opinions.

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

  • I think you misjudge. You cannot trust anybody but yourself to have your own agenda on the plate. If you don't go to the primary source you will never be sure.

    The most timely case for that issue is the state of journalism today. You can't trust anything what you read today. Everything is partisan these days. Or take practical things like health and fitness. Even the science is often wack.

    Unless you only take inspiration for fiction writing truth is the most important thing.

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast said:

    The most timely case for that issue is the state of journalism today. You can't trust anything what you read today.

    A journalist wrote today that the sun was going to come up in the east tomorrow.......

  • @sfast said:
    I think you misjudge. You cannot trust anybody but yourself to have your own agenda on the plate.

    Glad to hear concerns. In software development it is usually preferred to fail early, too. This gives me some food for thought. For now i can not improve, but slowly.

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

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