- May 2022
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The last element in his file system was an index, from which hewould refer to one or two notes that would serve as a kind of entrypoint into a line of thought or topic.
Indices are certainly an old construct. One of the oldest structured examples in the note taking space is that of John Locke who detailed it in Méthode nouvelle de dresser des recueils (1685), later translated into English as A New Method of Organizing Common Place Books (1706).
Previously commonplace books had been structured with headwords done alphabetically. This meant starting with a preconceived structure and leaving blank or empty space ahead of time without prior knowledge of what would fill it or how long that might take. By turning that system on its head, one could fill a notebook from front to back with a specific index of the headwords at the end. Then one didn't need to do the same amount of pre-planning or gymnastics over time with respect to where to put their notes.
This idea combined with that of Konrad Gessner's design for being able to re-arrange slips of paper (which later became index cards based on an idea by Carl Linnaeus), gives us an awful lot of freedom and flexibility in almost any note taking system.
Building blocks of the note taking system
- atomic ideas
- written on (re-arrangeable) slips, cards, or hypertext spaces
- cross linked with each other
- cross linked with an index
- cross linked with references
are there others? should they be broken up differently?
Godfathers of Notetaking
- Aristotle, Cicero (commonplaces)
- Seneca the Younger (collecting and reusing)
- Raymond Llull (combinatorial rearrangements)
- Konrad Gessner (storage for re-arrangeable slips)
- John Locke (indices)
- Carl Linnaeus (index cards)
- Feb 2022
Local file Local file
Permanent notes, on the other hand, are written in a way that canstill be understood even when you have forgotten the context theyare taken from.
Integrate this into the definition of permanent notes.
Fleeting notes are context collapse (context apocalypse?) just waiting to happen.
Make permanent notes.
The important part of permanent notes are generating your own ideas and connecting (linking them densely) into your note system. The linking part is important and can be the part that most using digital systems forget to do. In paper zettelkasten, one was forced to create the first link by placing the note into the system for the first time. This can specifically be seen in Niklas Luhmann's example where a note became a new area of its own or, far more likely, it was linked to prior ideas.
By linking the idea to others within the system, it becomes more likely that the idea can have additional multiple contexts where it might be used and improve the fact that context shifts will prove more insight in the future.
Additional links to subject headings, tags, categories, or other forms of taxonomy will also help to make sure the note isn't lost completely into the system. Links to the bibliographical references within the system are helpful as well, especially for later citation. Keep in mind that these categories and reference links aren't nearly as valuable as the other primary idea links.
One can surely collect ideas and facts into their system, but these aren't as important or as interesting as one's own ideas and the things that are sparked and generated by them.
Asking questions in permanent notes can be valuable as they can become the context for new research, projects, and writing. Open questions can be incredibly valuable for one's thinking and explorations.
Make literature notes. Whenever you read something, make notesabout the content. Write down what you don’t want to forget or thinkyou might use in your own thinking or writing. Keep it very short, beextremely selective, and use your own words.
Literature notes could also be considered progressive summaries of what one has read. They are also a form of practicing the Feynman technique where one explains what one knows as a means of embracing an idea and better understanding it.
- progressive summarization
- context shifts
- permanent notes
- Feynman Technique
- context collapse
- open questions
- literature notes
- idea links
- multiple contexts
- topical headings
- fleeting notes
- collector's fallacy
- atomic ideas
- Aug 2019
Context notes are used as a map to a series of notes. A context note that outlines a more complex concept or broader subject, using links to other notes in the process. For example, while I’m reading a book, I build an outline of the things I find relevant, based on my highlights and notes of the book. Each of the outline’s items links to a separate note explaining the idea in more detail, and usually contains the highlighted text of the book.