Zettelkasten Forum


"Zettel" vs "note"

The background is that I can go through it theoretically till my butt falls off. But I think just asking people should give me an acurate picture. Background: Translation of a Quote by Luhmann

Please write a couple of lines about your reasoning even if there is non and it is only a gut decision.

I am a Zettler

"Zettel" vs "note"
  1. Do you prefer "Zettel" or "Note" if talking about a "Zettel" or a "Note"?49 votes
    1. Zettel!
      65.31%
    2. Note!
      34.69%
«1

Comments

  • I find @pseudoevagrius stance compelling. This is different than old-school note taking.

    Will Simpson
    I'm a zettelnant.
    Research areas: Attention Horizon, Productive Procrastination, Dzogchen, Non-fiction Creative Writing
    kestrelcreek.com

  • Having no knowledge of the language or sense of the connotations of the word in any other context, I just came to think of "Zettel" as a "term of art"—a word that has acquired meaning (for me) from use in this community and context, and nowhere else. Also, I just think it's fun to use a German word for something every now and again.

  • I think I agree with what was said before me – for me a "zettel" is a particular kind of "note", the one that's part of a zettelkasten. So "note" is a more general term.

  • I voted for "note" with the caveat that I usually put an adjective with it. Following Sönke Ahrens, I tell others that I have a "smart notes" system, and if they are interested, I'll mention that you will often encounter zettel as well in online searches..

    But in my GTD next actions, it's always "Capture smart note on X".

  • I like Zettel.. because it target this specific kind of note.. also amazes me how German has a word for everything.. :smile:

  • I think "Zettel" is a specific subset of "Note". "Note" can include such as a scribbled phone number or other misc information. A "Zettel" is a note that is

    • deemed worthy of inclusion in one's Zettelkasten (so, for example, my TODO items about a specific project include notes, but are not Zetteln, because they are time-scoped and don't need to be part of my permanent exobrain).

    • formatted in such a way that it works within one's Zettelkasten methodology (usually this just means "Has a UID" but depending on the individual's methods might also imply backlinks, tags, YAML block, etc. ).

  • So. We have three loyal lads and 14 (!!!!!!!!!) traitors who stabbed me in the back. I feel like Jon Snow and you are the Night's Watch.

    inb4: "You know nothing Jon Snow."

    I KNOW THAT HE WASN'T STABBED IN THE BACK. GIVE ME AT LEAST SOME LEEWAY WITH MY EXPRESSION OF MY HURT FEELINGS.

    I am a Zettler

  • What about buffer notes now?!?!?! Are those "buffer zettel"?

    I am a Zettler

  • "Hm I'll just start a discussion in public about a deeply complex idea essential to how I think. There's no way that could lead to an existential crisis! It'll be fine!" :heart:

  • Ah, nevermind.

    312.jpg 40.9K

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

  • notes vs zettel, expectations vs crude reality.. haha

  • Next tuesday, I am reviewing the first batch of slides for the course. I think I will call them neither notes nor zettels but poopoos. Just to fuck with you all. :smiley:


    Ok. For real. Thanks for your insides. Feels great to be part of such a community!

    I think I'll agree that there is not the easy solution that I saw. The difference between a Zettelkasten and an ordinary (primitive and morally false) note taking system is quite there. And your perspective of native speakers trumps my theoretical appraoch.

    So, I make a new proposal:

    When we talk about Zettels we call them Zettels. But the specific Zettels are called "buffer notes", "structure notes" etc.

    Open mic. What do you think?

    I am a Zettler

  • edited March 2019

    What exactly is a buffer note? Something in the inbox of the Zettelkasten that is supposed to be processed / made into a proper zettel? Or something short-lived that is just supposed to help with creating a zettel? In both cases I wouldn't count it as a zettel.

    And why not call a structure note a structure zettel?

  • edited March 2019

    @sfast said:
    So, I make a new proposal:

    When we talk about Zettels we call them Zettels. But the specific Zettels are called "buffer notes", "structure notes" etc.

    Works for me; I don't think it's necessary to keep using the word 'zettel' when the context is clear.

    To be honest, though, the expression "buffer note" has never clicked with me, and I'm not sure I understand the difference between a buffer note and a structure note. Is it that structure notes are more-or-less fixed and relate to a specific publishable/published writing project, while buffer notes are more open-ended? I tend to think of both kinds as ad hoc outlines or tables of contents (ToC's).

    (Seems I read somewhere, btw, that German schools don't teach outlining, and as a result outlines are a less familiar concept in Germania than in the Anglosphere. Is that true?)

  • Pirsig's approach using note card categories might be of interest here too, particularly the UNASSIMILATED and PROGRAM categories. (Sorry for the wall of text at the link; the relevant section is about a third of the way down the page and starts, "In addition to the topic categories, five other categories had emerged.") I think Pirsig was feeling his way towards something quite similar to a Zettelkasten, and although he never quite got there, some of his thinking is still relevant.

  • edited April 2019

    I think beyond zettel, which is the basic building block of the method, further details become more personal preference as we all negotiate our own way through. After all, the beauty of this method, and the software, is the adaptability. The rigidity of orthodoxy can stifle creative development if we all become heretic hunters.

    Though I'm a "zettel" user, I've never had any trouble understanding conversations about buffer or structure notes. In fact, I use those terms myself because, as @Eurobubba already said, the context is clear. The most important step is understanding the basic building block, which is the zettel.

    I think the misunderstanding about buffer and structure notes probably has something to do with our different relationships to what our zkns are producing and how. I use buffers as temporary, unorganized outlines of notes. And structure note are outlines with... structure. Basically a TOC. So buffer notes to me are just pre-structure notes.
    I don't think that is exactly how they are described in the blog posts but that is my own approach. Once again, the uniqueness of the word buffer is what gives it its value. Outlines are old school, but buffers are a new tool to me. They give me a way of guiding all my notes in the direction of a project or draft without putting so much pressure on ordering and structuring them on the spot. Buffers for me are a mess. Definitely not a TOC. They more or less just represent the order of the notes as I've encountered them, not the order in the draft or even their inter-relation. They definitely are a different order of note above the zettel.

  • @Eurobubba this is a great anecdote you’ve shared!

    Just to compare my own method:

    My “unassimilated” category is an #inbox tag. This tag usually tells me the note needs another look over for processing into a zettel in its own right before linking to at least one other zettel and being added to an outline. I’m a big fan of incremental processing and incremental learning so the #inbox is where a lot of that processing and re-processing takes place. It’s like a dynamic appendage to the Zettelkasten. It’s technically inside the zkn but just at the entrance.

    I really like the idea of “program” notes and “grit” notes.

    It’s always so helpful to see other approaches to this so thanks for sharing. I guess that’s why I keep coming back here!

  • @Eurobubba said:
    (Seems I read somewhere, btw, that German schools don't teach outlining, and as a result outlines are a less familiar concept in Germania than in the Anglosphere. Is that true?)

    Could be. I am not recalling any of it being teached in school.

    I am a Zettler

  • I think "notecard" is the most accurate translation of "zettel"

  • I cannot undo my vote in the poll, but i would have chosen differently by now. I made a 180 degree turn from a dedicated "Zettel" to a generic note. I think of all concepts that make out a Zettelkasten independent of the set of notes that implements them.

    One concept does not necessarily need to be expressed by a single note, nor need one note be exclusively part of only one of those concepts.

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

  • Zettel seems an appropriate term for the structural unit of a Zettelkasten. I think of Zettel as a subset of the broader term Note, encompassing the specific aspects of a note that is required of the Zettelkasten (that it links to other notes).

  • @Jon said:
    Zettel seems an appropriate term for the structural unit of a Zettelkasten. I think of Zettel as a subset of the broader term Note, encompassing the specific aspects of a note that is required of the Zettelkasten (that it links to other notes).

    Yes, that sounds about right to me. I use the term "zettel" in a really simple way, that is, a "zettel" is a note within my Zettelkasten (which hopefully follows the principles for writing such) and a "note" is any relatively short (0 to 1000 words, or so) bit of prose or point-form material written for a variety of reasons, with a variety of purposes, outside of my ZK. The only exception to that would be the term "structure note", which has a fairly defined meaning when applied to a ZK.

  • edited December 2020

    I do indeed flip back-and-forth between the the two terms, with no shame 😅, but I like the term "zettel". With "note" I would have to make clear that I am referring to a zettelkasten note, if I am indeed talking about zettelkasten, but I can already encapsulate that by merely saying "zettel," instead.

  • I propose to call it "Abstracted Decontestualized But Connectable Thought Rendered Independent From The Context But Still Readable That You Can Write On Paper Or On A Technological Device".

    Of course, we could create an acronym for it to easily remember it:
    ADBCTRIFTCBSRTYCWOPROATD.

    I think it would take very little time to memorize it with a memory palace or 3-6 days of spaced repetition.

    Keep up the good work with your ADBCTRIFTCBSRTYCWOPROATDs!


    • I'm a ADBCTRIFTCBSRTYCWOPROATDer
  • @Jon said:
    Zettel seems an appropriate term for the structural unit of a Zettelkasten. I think of Zettel as a subset of the broader term Note, encompassing the specific aspects of a note that is required of the Zettelkasten (that it links to other notes).

    I voted for Zettel for this exact reason. To me a Zettel meets certain criteria, not only linking to other notes, but also (and for me - moreso) that its written with the principle of atomicity in mind.
    Notes are the things I write down that I think are useful/interesting/need to be remembered or discussed in the future. Essentially a fleeting note using Ahren's terminology.
    In my mind, Zettel's are created for a specific purpose, and written around a specific set of criteria.
    I could be wrong though...


  • After reading some of the above comments, it looks as if I will be expanding my existing Zettel Note on the subject.

  • With respect, I think y'all have it backwards. The important word is not "Zettel", but "Kasten." That is the key to the system and the brilliant insight Luhmann was able to exploit in devising his system.

    First, as an American (and, more particularly, a Californian), I must object to the casual use of "slip" in talking about the Zettel. "Slip" and "slip-box" are British English; as you know, George Bernard Shaw remarked that America and England were separated by a common language. So, here. In American English, it is a piece of paper. We understand "slip of paper," of course, but it would not likely occur to an American to say it. At the most, we might say "a little (or small) piece of paper."

    That is not really the point. Looking at actual pictures of Luhmann's Zettelkasten shows that it is simply what used to be called a card catalogue; more broadly, a card file index. They used to be a prominent feature of libraries. They included what we now call metadata about publications. They also had call numbers (in America; shelf numbers elsewhere) that were used to get the book. Sometimes, the book was fetched by a library employee. Now, some call it the UID. Same idea, same purpose, same occasionally-odd result. And, if you got to go into the stacks where the books were shelved, the same serendipity could lead to interesting discoveries.

    Simply, Luhmann's flash of brilliance was to see that his own reading and thoughts constituted his academic library, and his work involved gleaning what he could from those sources. Since he created the sources, which were always his own thoughts based on his reading and thinking, he could use the results directly in drafting his writings, which is why he was so productive. The Zettelkasten is just his own, personal card catalogue, where he gathered his research material. The key to success was the reference system he devised, just like the Dewey decimal system used by American libraries, and whatever similar reference system is used by libraries elsewhere. The main thing is that each research item has a unique identifier that allows it to be located as desired.

    I say that Kasten is the important word, rather than Zettel, because it was the fact that the material--notes, files, cards, little pieces of paper, matchbook covers, whatever--was all together in one place and available for research and thinking that made the difference. Luhmann was not the first to write notes down compulsively, nor to keep them; he did figure out a system for finding them when he needed or could use them.

    Luhmann's success was that he saw clearly what was right in front of him, and he understood how to take advantage of it. (The essence of genius is to not look surprised when the lightning strikes.) In his system, there are three important steps: capture, corral, and ride. And if the horse wants to run away with you, let it. You never know when it might stumble across a gold mine in the desert. Yippie-ki-yay, Cowboys!

  • What @Ut-opinor said.....Brilliant!

  • i am unable to find any reputable source that is using the word "Zettel" in their English texts. I've seen it in couple of places around the net used only by forum members or bloggers.

    "Zettelkasten" and "slip box" at least made it into Wikipedia for the English article. Not a reputable source, but being an encyclopedia that should at least facilitate its usage.

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

  • First, as an American (and, more particularly, a Californian), I must object to the casual use of "slip" in talking about the Zettel. "Slip" and "slip-box" are British English; as you know, George Bernard Shaw remarked that America and England were separated by a common language. So, here. In American English, it is a piece of paper.

    Technically, "here" is Germany. :)

    I am a Zettler

Sign In or Register to comment.