Zettelkasten Forum


What kinds of notes do you have in your archive?

edited December 2020 in The Zettelkasten Method

Not every note in my archive is the same in kind. I did a quick review of the different types of notes I’m currently using:

  • General “Idea” notes
  • Bibliographical review/annotation (#ƒ)
  • Summaries (#ƒ, loc: 0)
  • Quotes (#ƒ, #cit)
  • Primary source commentary (#λ)
  • Bibliography lists (#bib, .taskpaper)
  • Journal (#diário, 12-digit timestamp numbering)
  • Course planning (#aula)
  • Outlines (#ø)

One type of note I created but then completely forgot to use:

  • Person/contact note

I’ll try to briefly comment on my usage of each kind of notes, describing their particular anatomy.

The most general kind are what in Umberto Eco’s terminology would be “Idea” notes. They have my personal reflections on the subjects I study. I use the YAML header format to store metadata. I number the notes sequentially and I use Keyboard Maestro macros to create “descendants”, and the macros also keep a navigation element conecting anscestors and child notes.

So my most general kind of notes begin like this:

---
title:      'nomina'   
id:         Φ1668  
tags:       #platão
...

△[[1527]]

For bibliographical review, I also add the references to the metadata (keys correspond to a bibliographical database in BibLaTeX format, managed with BibDesk). E. g.:

---
title:      'The theory of recollection'   
id:         Φ1755  
citekey:    Fine1992  
loc:        213-215  
tags:       #ƒ #epistêmê #platão #anamnêsis 
...

When I’m reading an extensive work (a book, for example), sometimes it’s practical to create a summary note linking the individual chapter/topic annotations. This also works as a planning tool to control my reading:

---
title:      'Sattler, B. M. (2020) The Concept of Motion in Ancient Greek Thought: Foundations in Logic, Method, and Mathematics'   
citekey:    Sattler2020
loc:        0
id:         Φ1820  
tags:       #_arist #kinêsis #ƒ 
...

△[[0581]] ▽[[1821]] ▽[[1823]]

Cap. 1 - Conceptual Foundations [[1821]].

Some notes just contain direct quotes:

---
title:      'Descosmologização da Física'   
id:         Φ1731  
citekey:    Menn2019  
loc:        27  
tags:       #ƒ #cit #kinêsis #epistêmê #_arist 
...

△[[1730]]

>  So *Physics* I will deal with ἀρχαί of natural things, not in the sense of things temporally prior to the cosmos which contains all natural things, but with ἀρχαί that are 'first' in some more abstract (causal?) sense; and, rather than numerically single things presupposed by one great original process of coming-to-be, they will be universal types of things presupposed by the many small individual comings-to-be.

The λ-notes are a special kind of files, generated with Tinderbox. I went in more details in Eastgate’s forum (see “Studying classical texts with Tinderbox”). This is how this kind of notes look:

---
id:     Φ1779  
origin: 'tinderbox://TLG/Aristotelis%20Physica/Physica%20I?view=outline+select=1597775921;'  
tags:   #λ
...

##### ἐκ τῶν καθόλου ἐπὶ τὰ καθ' ἕκαστα 184a24

[[1504]]: A. não pode estar dizendo que o geral é mais cognoscível pela percepção. O contraste não pode ser…

Bibliography lists constitute an important kind of notes. They are actually a tool for controlling a research project. I have recently adapted them to be managed with the old and good TaskPaper:

---
title:  'Bibliografia Parmênides e Aristóteles'   
id:     Φ1470  
tags:   #_parm #bib #_arist
...

△[[1420]]

Identificado:
    - Wieland, W. (1992) Die aristotelische Physik @started
        Phys. I não parece pressupor perspectiva especificamente aristotélica sobre o que é um princípio, causa ou elemento, p. 62 [[1638]].
    - Crubellier, M. (2019) Looking for a Starting Point—The Eleatic Paradox Put to Good Use: Physics I 2

Journaling is something I’m experiment with. I’ve described in another post some tricks for journaling using The Archive and BitBar. This is how a journal entry looks like:

    Date: 20 December 2020 16:45
    Tags: #diário

Bye, bye, Day One

Another very useful kind of note are course planning notes. I love to use Curio for visual planning, and I can synchronize items on a list with the class dates on my calendar. But I keep a copy of the syllabus in a note in my archive (with links to notes for the individual lectures), what is very convenient. (In the pre-pandemic non-virtual world I had all my lecture notes with me on my phone or iPad, which I accessed with 1Writer).

---
title:      'Curso POSFIL Aristóteles 2020-2'   
id:         Φ1713  
tags:       #aula #puc  
...

○

[💡](curio://Users/brunoc/Google%20Drive/Curio/Cursos/Curso%20POSFIL%202020-2%20Aristo%CC%81teles.curio?ideaspace=D6FBF843-BB28-4FAA-B78F-BB6D0DB10604) 

1. Os Analíticos Posteriores
2. O silogismo científico [[1708]]
3. Conhecimento pela demonstração [[1709]] [[1692]]
4. APo. Apo I 4

I would be very interested in learning what other kinds of notes are being used out there! I hope my account may inspire you.

Comments

  • @brunoc, this is an interesting and creative use of YAML headers. I'm stealing this idea! I've been delineating note types with Letters/symbols prepended to the file names. This has the advantage of seeing the note type in the note list without opening it first. It looks like you use both the prepended symbol method and a YAML header.

    Thanks so much for sharing a deep dive into your workflow. You show many areas where I can improve and show me that I'm on the right path and too lost, off track.

    I, too, am experimenting with journaling with The Archive, but a little differently. I'm thinking of this as a Daily Log DL December 21, 2020 as daily ideation rather than stream-of-consciousness writing. I use Keyboard Maestro to generate these notes from a template and set my 'Context Workflow" window format.

    Bibliography lists constitute an important kind of notes. They are actually a tool for controlling a research project.

    I use ★ Project notes for projects. I have a few Biblio notes linked to book processing, but those are reading lists generated by a particular reading or class.

    When I’m reading an extensive work (a book, for example), it’s sometimes practical to create a summary note linking the individual chapter/topic annotations. This also works as a planning tool to control my reading.

    I'll create a structure note that houses the future book processing, and it goes directly in the inbox, which I, because of mild self-diagnosed OCD, am obsessed with getting to zero. This helps keep personal priorities straight for me.


    I keep definitions in their own note type. Here is a sample of a recent one.

    # Biophilia
       ›[[202012192024]] 
       12-19-2020 08:24 PM
    
    - #definition 
    
    > The biologist Edward O. Wilson coined the word biophilia, “love of life,” to describe the uniquely human trait of being drawn to everything vital and alive.
    
    - Biophilial [[202007140603]] 
    - Stone Age Emotions [[202007202034]] 
    
    ----
    
    **Bibliographical Data:**
    
    - Joe Moran (2018): _First you write a sentence: the elements of reading, writing...and life_  - [@Moran:2018a]
    
    

    For organization and to help trigger memory, I had what I call hub notes.
    These provide a place to hang sudden insights and collections of insights I get for interacting with various media (mostly books and classes.)
    Showing you this lays bare the sum of my current intellectual life.

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

  • edited December 2020

    @Will said:
    @brunoc, this is an interesting and creative use of YAML headers. I'm stealing this idea! I've been delineating note types with Letters/symbols prepended to the file names. This has the advantage of seeing the note type in the note list without opening it first. It looks like you use both the prepended symbol method and a YAML header.

    YAML headers are great because you can make them disappear when previewing the file (with Marked and pandoc, for instance).

    But I don't like to prepend symbols to the filenames. I'm obsessed with a clean reading of note titles (this is one of the reasons for adopting the serial 4-digit identifiers). I don't even use the preview in the sidebar. I liked your idea of inserting a bullet between id's and title's, it certainly helps to reduce the noise. I control the types of notes with certain hashtags (#ƒ, #cit, #bib etc.):

    I keep definitions in their own note type. Here is a sample of a recent one.

    There's Markdown syntax for definition lists, that might provide for better visualization.

    For organization and to help trigger memory, I had what I call hub notes.
    These provide a place to hang sudden insights and collections of insights I get for interacting with various media (mostly books and classes.)

    Do you keep an inbox inside The Archive? It would be interesting if you could show more. I have some Inbox notes mainly to collect information on mobile devices (using Drafts). That's because I can't generate my 4-digit id when I'm not in the Mac.

    I also have a Saved Search for pending items marked #todo tags. Otherwise, TaskPaper is a wonderful tool, I'll try to post something more detailed later.

    Post edited by brunoc on
  • @brunoc said:
    YAML headers are great because you can make them disappear when previewing the file (with Marked and pandoc, for instance).

    I didn't know this—a bonus.


    I see your titles contain hints as to what type of note you see before you open it. Your method is more sophisticated than mine, which is more elementary.


    There's Markdown syntax for definition lists, that might provide for better visualization.

    Thanks for the tip. I'll investigate. The definitions list uses PHP Markdown, and I wonder how Marked 2 and MultiMarkdown play in this space.


    Do you keep an inbox inside The Archive? It would be interesting if you could show more. I have some Inbox notes mainly to collect information on mobile devices (using Drafts). That's because I can't generate my 4-digit id when I'm not on the Mac.

    I keep my index in The Archive as a saved search at the top of my saved search list. The screenshot below shows the structure note I'm building based on reflections on the book 'First you write a sentence' and a few of the rough core atomic notes still not satisfactorily factored into my archive. There are also a couple of active ★ Projects. Solitude Hub is a refactoring I'm attempting after noticing that I had 50 notes with ideas generated from several sources. I was inspired by something here on this forum. When I get time to work in my archive, I go to this saved search first.

    What more might you like me to show?

    I also have a Saved Search for pending items marked #todo tags. Otherwise, TaskPaper is a wonderful tool, I'll try to post something more detailed later.

    You use #todo, and I use #inbox. We likely use these tags for about the same purpose.

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

  • Broadly speaking, I have notes about things, and then I have notes about topics that group the notes about things together. I keep contact info in another place, as I do keep some work-in-progress project notes and research pieces. I don't have all of my personal knowledge management items in there.

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

  • Having pursued the Holy Grail for just over thirty years, with monotonously regular uptake and abandonment of all sorts of systems, I am slowly coming to the conclusion that (for me) simplicity is king. So basically, my archive just has things I might want to remember (which is partly a hangover from when I used nvALT). No headers -- I don't want the clutter, and they don't help me with anything much. Just text and hashtags, plus links. Most of my systems in the past had me spending more time on the metadata than actually using the notes. And the metadata never got used for anything. But I'm an expert on displacement activity.

  • My ZK holds insights from books, films, music, artists, and art techniques. I try to keep the ZK content cohesive; sometimes notes and project reference materials of the GTD type make their way in.

  • @MartinBB We must come from the same extended family (or maybe just the same generation). I relate strongly to what you are saying. I could never find the energy to maintain complicated databases and metadata, although they both have their place ;)

  • @GeoEng51 said:
    @MartinBB We must come from the same extended family

    Well, I gather that all Europeans can trace their lineage back to Charlemagne!

  • The only type of note that I asign a metadatum are my structure notes. "##Ü1" or "##Ü2". The distinction is a historical residue. I treat all structure notes the same.

    I used to have quite some "types" in the past but in the end I didn't use them at all. I just create spaces for ideas and my thinking (notes or structure notes) and develop content. I think my Zettelkasten developed itself from something similar to starcraft with a lot of rules to chess with less and finally it settled with the body of rules similar to Go.

    So, in practice all the knowledge about the Zettelkasten Method is very simple.

    I am a Zettler

  • edited December 2020

    @ctietze said:
    Broadly speaking, I have notes about things, and then I have notes about topics that group the notes about things together.

    Interesting. We could say this is a formal or structural classification. I think another type of classification criteria would be in terms of input and output. Notes such as bibliography or reference lists, on the one hand, course planning, writing outlines, on the other, are the "edges" of the system – if you think your notes as a system of information you collect from the world, and as means to contribute to the world.

    Post edited by brunoc on
  • edited December 2020

    @MartinBB said:
    Most of my systems in the past had me spending more time on the metadata than actually using the notes. And the metadata never got used for anything. But I'm an expert on displacement activity.

    That's indeed a good point. I use bibliographical metadata because it's a professional obligation. For the tags, I've been more successful in using them to relate notes to concrete projects (not so much to classify subjects or topics), to differentiate kinds of notes, and to mark "actionable" items (things #todo and identified #bib’liography to collect). Metadata should, I think, be used with a purpose, not merely as uninterested "descriptions". Otherwise, keeping them become, as you rightfully say, a waste of time.

    To elaborate more on that, differentiating kinds of notes also have no value without a practical perspective. They are only meaningful, I think, if you have particular workflows connected with the differentiation, that is if they are a reflection of certain concrete activities (such as, in my case, planning classes, collecting bibliographical material, studying texts etc.). In this respect, "Saved Searches" was a great innovation of The Archive, a very helpful feature, by the way.

    Post edited by brunoc on
  • @sfast said:
    So, in practice all the knowledge about the Zettelkasten Method is very simple.

    This reminded me of the concept of "need for cognition" ( see psychology.iresearchnet.com/social-psychology/personality/need-for-cognition/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Need_for_cognition). I suspect there is a bit of a tendency among those with high need for cognition to look for complexity and engage in it when it is not necessary. Hence perhaps my tendency to get bogged down with metadata and definitions instead of working on the actual material I have. I am moving towards simplicity, but slowly.

  • @brunoc said:
    Notes such as bibliography or reference lists, on the one hand, course planning, writing outlines, on the other, are the "edges" of the system – if you think of your notes as a system of information you collect from the world, and as means to contribute to the world.

    I love this way of thinking. Invest in systems to the degree that they allow you to "collect from the world, and as means to contribute to the world."

    I want to abandon systems or modes of note-taking practice that don't support this way of thinking and adopt those that do.

    @brunoc said:
    They are only meaningful, I think, if you have particular workflows connected with the differentiation, that is if they are a reflection of certain concrete activities (such as, in my case, planning classes, collecting bibliographical material, studying texts etc.). In this respect, "Saved Searches" was a great innovation of The Archive, a very helpful feature, by the way.

    The Saved Searches" in The Archive is an underdeveloped feature. I think it is one of The Archive's superpowers.

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

  • Guilty as charged! I confess.
    I have a high quotient for the need for cognition (NFC).
    I have a high quotient for solidarity.

    What follows is glaring evidence of my NFC.

    @MartinBB said:
    I suspect there is a bit of a tendency among those with high need for cognition to look for complexity and engage in it when it is not necessary. Hence perhaps my tendency to get bogged down with metadata and definitions instead of working on the actual material I have. I am moving towards simplicity, but slowly.

    Thanks for the links and kicker about the need for cognition (NFC). I've added this to my #mental-models hub as I can see where it will help me in the future.

    This is a scale, and note-takers would tend towards the more active parts of the scale. Even here, it is variable, and some of us push the boundaries of what others consider pathological.

    This is connected with the mental model of curiosity. To be curious about the world is to want to 'cognitize' experience—a closer look at what is meant by cognition.

    cog•ni•tion

    1. The mental process of knowing, including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment.
    2. That which comes to be known, as through perception, reasoning, or intuition; knowledge.
    3. Knowledge, or certain knowledge, as from personal view or experience; perception; cognizance.

      The American Heritage® Dictionary

    This sounds a lot like being curious about one's experience.

    The key is noticing this tendency in oneself and modulating it to your circumstances. There are opportunity costs in indulging in one's need for cognition. Simplicity is a state of mind that is also on a spectrum. What I once thought complex is now simplistic. And visa versa. This wants more exploration hence my need for cognition.

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

  • @Will said:
    Guilty as charged! I confess.

    I hope I wasn't charging anyone! :)

    With my background in psychology, I usually use the term "cognition" in a somewhat more restricted sense. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology:

    "Cognition n. The mental activities involved in acquiring and processing information ... A cognition is an item of knowledge or a belief." (p. 140).

    One important point about cognition is that there are many automatic processes that we are normally unaware of because they operate below the level of consciousness. For those who are interested in looking into this in greater depth, there is a book by John Bargh called "Before you know it", which summarises many years of work on automaticity. The man seems to have had a lot of curiosity to satisfy!

    Another author who is well worth delving into is Jerome Bruner, who was involved in the "cognitive revolution". I treasure this observation, made in his 2004 article "Life as narrative":

    "Philosophically speaking, the approach I shall take to narrative is a constructivist one—a view that takes as its central premise that 'world making' is the principal function of mind, whether in the sciences or in the arts."

    I think it is a pretty good description of what many of us are up to. Not just seeking and finding, but constructing.

  • @MartinBB said:

    @sfast said:
    So, in practice all the knowledge about the Zettelkasten Method is very simple.

    This reminded me of the concept of "need for cognition" ( see psychology.iresearchnet.com/social-psychology/personality/need-for-cognition/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Need_for_cognition). I suspect there is a bit of a tendency among those with high need for cognition to look for complexity and engage in it when it is not necessary. Hence perhaps my tendency to get bogged down with metadata and definitions instead of working on the actual material I have. I am moving towards simplicity, but slowly.

    So, you're saying I am dumb? :D

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast said:
    So, you're saying I am dumb? :D

    On the contrary, I think it requires a superior intelligence to detect the operation of cognitive biases and mitigate their effects!

    Oh dear. I think I've just been guilty of self-congratulation :)

  • @MartinBB said:

    @sfast said:
    So, you're saying I am dumb? :D

    On the contrary, I think it requires a superior intelligence to detect the operation of cognitive biases and mitigate their effects!

    I'd say more that it requires wisdom. But I can't claim any credit. I went into the same complexity trap as anybody big time. My only advantage is that I have a headstart of on decade of practice.

    Oh dear. I think I've just been guilty of self-congratulation :)

    Who isn't? Secretly, we all are our biggest fan. The only difference between people is that some admit it and some don't. :)

    I am a Zettler

  • @sfast said:

    @MartinBB said:

    @sfast said:
    So, you're saying I am dumb? :D

    On the contrary, I think it requires a superior intelligence to detect the operation of cognitive biases and mitigate their effects!

    I'd say more that it requires wisdom. But I can't claim any credit. I went into the same complexity trap as anybody big time. My only advantage is that I have a headstart of on decade of practice.

    Oh dear. I think I've just been guilty of self-congratulation :)

    Who isn't? Secretly, we all are our biggest fan. The only difference between people is that some admit it and some don't. :)

    Great minds think alike ;)

    frohe Weihnachten!

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