- Apr 2023
It is difficult to see interdependencies This is especially true in the context of learning something complex, say economics. We can’t read about economics in a silo without understanding psychology, sociology and politics, at the very least. But we treat each subject as though they are independent of each other.
Where are the tools for graphing inter-dependencies of areas of study? When entering a new area it would be interesting to have visual mappings of ideas and thoughts.
If ideas in an area were chunked into atomic ideas, then perhaps either a Markov monkey or a similar actor could find the shortest learning path from a basic idea to more complex ideas.
Example: what is the shortest distance from an understanding of linear algebra to learn and master Lie algebras?
Link to Garden of Forking Paths
Link to tools like Research Rabbit, Open Knowledge Maps and Connected Papers, but for ideas instead of papers, authors, and subject headings.
It has long been useful for us to simplify our thought models for topics like economics to get rid of extraneous ideas to come to basic understandings within such a space. But over time, we need to branch out into related and even distant subjects like mathematics, psychology, engineering, sociology, anthropology, politics, physics, computer science, etc. to be able to delve deeper and come up with more complex and realistic models of thought.Our early ideas like the rational actor within economics are fine and lovely, but we now know from the overlap of psychology and sociology which have given birth to behavioral economics that those mythical rational actors are quaint and never truly existed. To some extent, to move forward as a culture and a society we need to rid ourselves of these quaint ideas to move on to more complex and sophisticated ones.
- atomic notes
- multidisciplinary studies
- behavioral economics
- Markov monkey
- Research Rabbit
- Open Knowledge Maps
- Doughnut Economics
- visual thinking
- Connected Papers
My biggest realization recently is to do whatever the opposite of atomicity is.
Too many go too deep into the idea of "atomic notes" without either questioning or realizing their use case. What is your purpose in having atomic notes? Most writing about them online talk about the theoretical without addressing the underlying "why".
They're great for capturing things on the go and having the ability to re-arrange and reuse them into much larger works. Often once you've used them a few times, they're less useful, specially for the average person. (Of course it's another matter if you're an academic researcher, they're probably your bread and butter.) For the beekeepers of the world who need some quick tidbits which they use frequently, then keeping them in a larger outlined document or file is really more than enough. Of course, if you're creating some longer book-length treatise on beekeeping, then it can be incredibly helpful to have them at atomic length.
There's a spectrum from the small atomic note to the longer length file (or even book). Ask yourself, "what's your goal in having one or the other, or something in between?" They're tools, choose the best one for your needs.
- Mar 2023
The One Idea Index Card
Some people recommend writing JUST ONE IDEA/quotation per index card. I don’t do this. I use 1 index card per article, and per book chapter. If a book has 9 chapters I write one for each chapter (more of chapter is very dense). via embedded tweet: https://twitter.com/raulpacheco/status/1067406555455389697
I found the format of these Hypothes.is notes to be much more readable than the notes on the same topic in Evernote.
There is definitely something here from a usability (and reusability) perspective when notes are broken down into smaller pieces the way that is encouraged by Hypothes.is or by writing on index cards.
Compare: - ://www.evernote.com/shard/s170/sh/d69cf793-1f14-48f4-bd48-43f41bd88678/DapavVTQh954eMRGKOVeEPHm7FxEqxBKvaKLfKWaSV1yuOmjREsMkSHvmQ - https://via.hypothes.is/https://www.otherlife.co/pkm/
The first may be most useful for a note taker who is personally trying to make sense of material, but it becomes a massive wall of text that one is unlikely to re-read or attempt to reuse at a later date. If they do attempt to reuse it at a later date, it's not clear which parts are excerpts of the original and which are the author's own words. (This page also looks like it's the sort of notes, highlighting, and underlining recommended by Tiago Forte's Building a Second Brain text using progressive summarization.)
The second set, are more concrete, more atomic, more understandable, and also as a result much more usable.
- Feb 2023
The cards would feature between five and 10 items and would be written on both sides in Reagan’s inimitable shorthand.
Ronald Reagan broke the typical rule to "write only on one side" of his index cards. His cards would typically have five to ten items written out by hand.
Given some of the cards I've seen, it seems that they weren't categorized generally and with multiple ideas on the same card they also broke Gessner's other common advice.
Bruno Latour has reflected, information is more malleable when it is not too large(Daston, 2002; Latour, 1986: 19).
- Jan 2023
We know we’re supposed to write one idea per page/card. What constitutes an “idea”? How do I identify what a good idea is? What does an idea that fits on one card feel like?
Here the writer, who doesn't lay out any of the general principles of a zettelkasten practice, automatically presumes one idea per card (presumes it from where? zeitgeist) and then jumps into the question of note size and other semantics.
- Dec 2022
Aram Saroyan decomposed a 1968 letter to his father into 195 recto pages containing fragments of the original.
<small><cite class='h-cite via'>ᔥ <span class='p-author h-card'>taurusnoises</span> in (2) Oblique Strategies, a custom zettelkasten for creativity : antinet (<time class='dt-published'>12/14/2022 13:07:14</time>)</cite></small>
- Nov 2022
How Large Is A Note?
Looks like this eternal question is addressed in The Tinderbox Way.
- Oct 2022
On the whole, his efficiency probablyreduced the time required for taking and filing notes to the amountother historians spent in note-taking alone. What he wrote in hisnotes was brief, and yet specific enough so that he saved himself thejob of searching at length for what he had read. His mind was freeto reflect and appraise.
Earl Pomeroy suggests that Paxson's note taking method freed his mind to better reflect and appraise his work. This allows a greater efficiency of work, particularly when it comes to easier search and recall as well as the overall process which becomes easier through practice.
In his delightful autobiography, Memories Migrating, the late John Burrow records his perplexities when this injunction was conveyed to him by his graduate supervisor, George Kitson Clark: ‘I brooded on this. What was a fact? And what made it one fact? Surely most facts were compound. How would I know when I had reached bedrock, the ultimate, unsplittable atomic fact?’
Historian John Burrow brooded over the definition of the atomicity of an idea in his autobiography Memories Migrating (2009).
Individual facts link together into small networks to create context for each other.
TiddlyWiki's philosophy now is that the purpose of recording and organising information is so that it can be used again. To maximise the possibilities for reuse, write or slice information into the smallest semantically meaningful units, and weave them together into narratives.
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
TiddlyWiki's philosophy now is that the purpose of recording and organising information is so that it can be used again.<br><br>To maximise the possibilities for reuse, write or slice information into the smallest semantically meaningful units, and weave them together into narratives.— TiddlyWiki (@TiddlyWiki) September 20, 2022
The first demo of TidlyWiki from 2004 took the ideas of wiki and applied them to fragments rather than entire pages. The hypothesis was that it would be easier to write in small interlinked chunks that could be gradually massaged into a linear narrative
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
The first demo of TidlyWiki from 2004 took the ideas of wiki and applied them to fragments rather than entire pages. The hypothesis was that it would be easier to write in small interlinked chunks that could be gradually massaged into a linear narrativehttps://t.co/v2v6dyL3Oy pic.twitter.com/MJO7tyopr2— TiddlyWiki (@TiddlyWiki) September 20, 2022
Much like Umberto Eco (How to Write a Thesis), in the closing paragraphs of his essay, Goutor finally indicates that note cards can potentially be reused for multiple projects because each one "contains a piece of information which does not depend on a specific context for its value." While providing an example of how this might work, he goes even further by not only saying that "note-cards should never be discarded" but that they might be "recycled" by passing them on to "another interested party" while saying that their value and usefulness is dependent upon how well they may have adhered to some of the most basic note taking methods. (p35)
As is common in the tradition of the zettelkasten, Goutor advises "that each note-card should contain only one item of information, whether a quotation, a summary, or anything else". (p28) He ascribes this requirement to his earlier need for clarity. (cross reference: https://hypothes.is/a/SfWFwENIEe2KfGMbR5n7Qg)
He indicates that while it may seem wasteful to have only one item on each card that the savings in time, efficiency in handling, classification, and retrieval will more than compensate for the small waste.
This sort of small local waste being compensated for by a larger global savings and efficiency can be seen in the design of the shipping container industry as discussed in Mark Levinson's The Box (Princeton University Press, 2008). Was this the exact sort of efficiency mentioned by Ahrens'? (Compare at https://hypothes.is/a/t4i32IXoEeyF2n9jQxu6BA)
The design of Goutor's note taking method is such that each note should have "a life of its own, so that it can stand independently of every other one in the file." (p28) This concept is broadly similar to the ideas of both atomic notes and evergreen notes in related contexts.
Goutor says that a note's life stems from its identity by means of its bibliographic source, its unique content, and its ultimate purpose. Here he uses the singular "purpose" and doesn't explicitly use "purposes" thereby indicating that an individual note can have multiple potential lives in different places within one's lifetime of work. It seems most likely that he may not have thought of using ideas in multiple different locations, but again, his particular audience (see: https://hypothes.is/a/8jKcTkNPEe2sCntTfNWf2Q) may have also dictated this choice. One could argue that it would have been quite easy for him to have used the plural to suggest the idea simply and tangentially, but that his use of the singular here is specifically because the idea wasn't part of his note taking worldview.
- evergreen notes
- note taking affordances
- Jacques Goutor
- note taking
- Mark Levinson
- life of x
- note reuse
- The Box
- atomic notes
- small local wastes in exchange for greater global efficiencies
- group notes
- moveable information
- note sharing
- local vs. global
- global changes
- shipping containers
- note taking advice
- local changes
- open questions
Posted byu/Kshkn16 hours agoRate my idea for a new product
One might suggest that the freedom, flexibility, and customization of these systems is actually an unuseful time suck for many users which only encourages shiny object syndrome. From a design perspective, try starting out building a system that works for you before beginning on design for others. Research and looking at the user interfaces offered by the competition will helpful as well. Which are the most popular? fun to use? Why? What actual affordances do those interfaces and functionalities allow? are they truly productive?
Possibly more productive, what sorts of standards can you leverage to make people's pre-existing notes more useful? Can you take pre-existing stores of .txt or .md files and provide different views or perspectives on them? This will allow people to pick and choose which applications might work with their stores of data to provide different views or perspectives on them. Why reinvent a text editor or tools like Logseq or Obsidian when you can leverage the local stores of data to provide the sorts of services you're not seeing in the broader space? For example, on the "social media" side, there are existing solutions for taking your locally stored notes, putting them into the cloud and displaying them on the web, but the various steps are highly technical and require a relatively large amount of work and admin tax to maintain. A service that allows one to point at their local store of data and automatically host it on a website and keep it synced would be a major boon for the non-technical user.
Separately, Matuschak did not invent evergreen notes. The first clear cut instantiation I've seen in the literature is from Konrad Gessner in 1548, and honestly even his idea really stems from a longstanding tradition of working with commonplace sententiae preceding his work. (see https://hypothes.is/a/uEboYlOwEeykkotYs594LA) Matuschak simply applied the definition/idea of "evergreen" (meaning easily reusable) articles or content from journalism to describe his notes which could be reused in various contexts. (Example: Why rewrite an article on how to decorate and entertain for the holidays, when you can reuse the same article you've been publishing for years, perhaps along with some updated photos?) "Atomic" notes is another variation on this same theme, but is one which underlies the ability to re-use notes in combination with one or more other notes to generate new ideas.
- Sep 2022
There has been much discussion about “atomic notes”, which represents the key ideas from a person’s research on some topic or source (sources one and two). These are not the kind of thing I am interested in creating/collecting, or at least not what I have been doing. A far more typical thing for me is something I did at work today. I was trying to figure out how to convert the output of a program into another format. I did some searching, installed a tool, found a script, played with the script in the tool, figured out how to use it, then wrote down a summary of my steps and added links to what I found in my search. Since I am not doing research for a book or for writing academic papers, the idea of an atomic note does not fit into my information world. However, capturing the steps of a discovery or how I worked out a problem. is very real and concrete to me. I used to know a fellow engineer who wrote “technical notes” to capture work he was doing (like a journal entry). Maybe that is how I should consider this type of knowledge creation.
Andy Sylvester says his engineering type of notes don't fit with the concept of atomic note. A 'how to solve x' type of note would fit my working def of 'atomic' as being a self-contained whole, focused on a single thing (here how to solve x). If the summary can be its title I'd say it's pretty atomic. Interestingly in [[Technik des wissenschaflichen Arbeitens by Johannes Erich Heyde]] 1970, Heyde on p18 explicitly mentions ZK being useful for engineers, not just to process new scientific insights from e.g. articles, but to index specific experiences, experiments and results. And on p19 suggests using 1 ZK system for all of your material of various types. Luhmann's might have been geared to writing articles, but it can be something else. Solving problems is also output. I have these types of notes in my 'ZK' if not in the conceptual section of it.
Vgl [[Ambachtelijke engineering 20190715143342]] artisanal engineering, Lovelock Novacene 2019, plays a role here too. Keeping a know-how notes collection in an environment where also your intuition can play a creative role is useful. I've done this for coding things, as I saw experienced coders do it, just as Andy describes, and it helped me create most of my personal IndieWeb scripts, because they were integrated in the rest of my stuff about my work and notions. Vgl [[Vastklik notes als ratchet zonder terugval 20220302102702]]
In writing my dissertation and working on my first book, I used an index card system, characterized by the "one fact, one card" maxim, made popular by Beatrice Webb.
Manfred Keuhn indicates that Webb popularized the idea of "one fact, one card", (and perhaps she may have helped re-popularize the idea in the 20th century) but Konrad Gessner (Pandectarum sive Partitionum Universalium. Zurich: Christoph Froschauer, 1548) had already advised "A new line should be used for every idea." Since Gessner then says that each line was to be cut up into an individual slip, the ideas are equivalent.
The Size of Thoughts of 1996.
details that might be of interest with respect to atomic note definitions?
I have found that the "size of a thought" is usually not much larger than 500 words. Nicholson Baker, who has written an essay on "The Size of Thoughts" thinks that "most are about three feet tall, with the level of complexity of a lawnmower engine, or a cigarette lighter, or those tubes of toothpaste that, by mingling several hidden pastes and gels, create a pleasantly striped product." Mine are a lot smaller. It takes between 50 and 500 words for me to express one thought or one idea (or perhaps better a fragment of a thought or an idea, because thoughts and ideas usually are compounds of such fragments). See also Steven Berlin Johnson on his experiences with an electronic outliner, called Devonthink: http://www.stevenberlinjohnson.com/movabletype/archives/000230.html.
What is the size of a single thought?
500 words is about the size of a typical blog post. It's also about the size of a minimum recommended post for SEO purposes.
Nice to see his link to Steven Johnson here as I think this is where I've seen similar thoughts recently myself.
- Aug 2022
Thismeans,uselooseslipsorsheets.Withthemone canmakenotesquite separately,so thateach,nomatterwhatitslength,willbeaunitbyitself.Notes thus separatelymadecan then beput here or there at will;classifiednowinoneway,nowinanother;employed,asfirstwritten,for various purposesin succession.Duplicationofeffort,renoting of thesame matter,maybereduced-especiallybythe aid of cross-references-to a minimum.
sheets / slips
Content addressing is the big little idea behind IPFS. With content addressing (CIDs), you ask for a file using a hash of its contents. It doesn't matter where the file lives. Anyone in the network can serve that content. This is analogous to the leap Baran made from circuit switching to packet switching. Servers become fungible, going from K-selected to r-selected.
Content addressing is when a piece of content has its own permanent address, a URI. Many copies may exist of the content, hosted by many in the network, all copies have the same address. Whoever is best situated to serve you a copy, does so. It makes the servers interchangeable. My blogposts have a canonical fixed address, but it's tied to a specific domain and only found on 1 server (except when using a CDN).
IPFS starts from content addressing.
Content addressing, assuming the intention 'protocol for thought' here, does match with atomic notes type of pkm systems. All my notes have unique names that could as human readable names map to CIDs. CIDs do change when the content changes, so there's a mismatch with the concept of 'permanent notes' that are permanent in name/location yet have slowly evolving content.
“500 and 1000 cards” is a long way before perceiving some benefit. Maybe this is necessary because “mine is more textual and less visual than his [Michalsky’s]”. For me, benefit is visible after approx. 40 new notes, dropped on the canvas of my tool, rearranged and connected.
Thanks for this additional piece of Data Matthias! I have a feeling that some of the benefit will also come down to the level of quality of the notes and how well interlinked they may be. Those doing massive dumps of raw, unelaborated, and unlinked data using services like Readwise into their collections will certainly take longer than those who have more refined ideas well linked. My number is presuming something closer to the former while something along the lines of a tenth of that (an order of magnitude) would seem to fall in line with my current working model. It would be nice to have a larger body of data to work with though.
Historical Hypermedia: An Alternative History of the Semantic Web and Web 2.0 and Implications for e-Research. .mp3. Berkeley School of Information Regents’ Lecture. UC Berkeley School of Information, 2010. https://archive.org/details/podcast_uc-berkeley-school-informat_historical-hypermedia-an-alte_1000088371512. archive.org.
Interface as Thing - book on Paul Otlet (not released, though he said he was working on it)
- W. Boyd Rayward 1994 expert on Otlet
- Otlet on annotation, visualization, of text
- TBL married internet and hypertext (ideas have sex)
- V. Bush As We May Think - crosslinks between microfilms, not in a computer context
- Ted Nelson 1965, hypermedia
- Michael Buckland book about machine developed by Emanuel Goldberg antecedent to memex
- Emanuel Goldberg and His Knowledge Machine: Information, Invention, and Political Forces (New Directions in Information Management) by Michael Buckland (Libraries Unlimited, (March 31, 2006)
- Otlet and Goldsmith were precursors as well
four figures in his research: - Patrick Gattis - biologist, architect, diagrams of knowledge, metaphorical use of architecture; classification - Paul Otlet, Brussels born - Wilhelm Ostwalt - nobel prize in chemistry - Otto Neurath, philosophher, designer of isotype
- wrote bibliography on law
- book: Something on Bibliography #wanttoread
- universal decimal classification system
- Le Corbusier - architect worked with Otlet for building for Mundaneum; See: https://socks-studio.com/2019/05/05/the-shape-of-knowledge-the-mundaneum-by-paul-otlet-and-henri-la-fontaine/
Otlet was interested in both the physical as well as the intangible aspects of the Mundaneum including as an idea, an institution, method, body of work, building, and as a network.<br /> (#t=1020)
Early iPhone diagram?!?
(roughly) armchair to do the things in the web of life (Nelson quote) (get full quote and source for use) (circa 19:30)
compares Otlet to TBL
Michael Buckland 1991 <s>internet of things</s> coinage - did I hear this correctly? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_of_things lists different coinages
Turns out it was "information as thing"<br /> See: https://hypothes.is/a/kXIjaBaOEe2MEi8Fav6QsA
sugane brierre and otlet<br /> "everything can be in a document"<br /> importance of evidence
The idea of evidence implies a passiveness. For evidence to be useful then, one has to actively do something with it, use it for comparison or analysis with other facts, knowledge, or evidence for it to become useful.
transformation of sound into writing<br /> movement of pieces at will to create a new combination of facts - combinatorial creativity idea here. (circa 27:30 and again at 29:00)<br /> not just efficiency but improvement and purification of humanity
put things on system cards and put them into new orders<br /> breaking things down into smaller pieces, whether books or index cards....
Otlet doesn't use the word interfaces, but makes these with language and annotations that existed at the time. (32:00)
Otlet created diagrams and images to expand his ideas
Otlet used octagonal index cards to create extra edges to connect them together by topic. This created more complex trees of knowledge beyond the four sides of standard index cards. (diagram referenced, but not contained in the lecture)
Otlet is interested in the "materialization of knowledge": how to transfer idea into an object. (How does this related to mnemonic devices for daily use? How does it relate to broader material culture?)
Otlet inspired by work of Herbert Spencer
space an time are forms of thought, I hold myself that they are forms of things. (get full quote and source) from spencer influence of Plato's forms here?
Otlet visualization of information (38:20)
S. R. Ranganathan may have had these ideas about visualization too
atomization of knowledge; atomist approach 19th century examples:S. R. Ranganathan, Wilson, Otlet, Richardson, (atomic notes are NOT new either...) (39:40)
Otlet creates interfaces to the world - time with cyclic representation - space - moving cube along time and space axes as well as levels of detail - comparison to Ted Nelson and zoomable screens even though Ted Nelson didn't have screens, but simulated them in paper - globes
Katie Berner - semantic web; claims that reporting a scholarly result won't be a paper, but a nugget of information that links to other portions of the network of knowledge.<br /> (so not just one's own system, but the global commons system)
Mention of Open Annotation (Consortium) Collaboration:<br /> - Jane Hunter, University of Australia Brisbane & Queensland<br /> - Tim Cole, University of Urbana Champaign<br /> - Herbert Van de Sompel, Los Alamos National Laboratory annotations of various media<br /> see:<br /> - https://www.researchgate.net/publication/311366469_The_Open_Annotation_Collaboration_A_Data_Model_to_Support_Sharing_and_Interoperability_of_Scholarly_Annotations - http://www.openannotation.org/spec/core/20130205/index.html - http://www.openannotation.org/PhaseIII_Team.html
trust must be put into the system for it to work
coloration of the provenance of links goes back to Otlet (~52:00)
Creativity is the friction of the attention space at the moments when the structural blocks are grinding against one another the hardest. —Randall Collins (1998) The sociology of philosophers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (p.76)
- S. R. Ranganathan
- Randall Collins
- idea links
- atomic ideas
- semantic web
- index cards
- Vannevar Bush
- Michael Buckland
- Herbert Spencer
- Tim Berners-Lee
- Wilhelm Ostwalt
- octagonal index cards
- Otto Neurath
- Universal Decimal Classification
- Emanuel Goldberg
- material culture
- Tim Cole
- W. Boyd Rayward
- materialization of knowledge
- mnemonic devices
- Ted Nelson
- Jane Hunter
- Open Annotation Collaboration
- atomic notes
- Web 2.0
- atomist philosophy
- Le Corbusier
- Charles van den Heuvel
- Herbert Van de Sompel
- Paul Otlet
- Jul 2022
Others have called these“Main Notes” or “Permanent Notes” or “EvergreenNotes”. I called them Point Notes to remind myself thatwhen I write them I should be making a point.
Part of Allosso's definition of point notes: they should be making a point.
(No mention of "atomic notes"?)
I've been thinking about this sort of thing off and on myself.
I too almost immediately thought of Fraidyc.at and its nudge at shifting the importance of content based on time and recency. I'd love to have a social reader with additional affordances for both this time shifting and Ton's idea of reading based on social distance.
I'm struck by the seemingly related idea of @peterhagen's LindyLearn platform and annotations: https://annotations.lindylearn.io/new/ which focuses on taking some of the longer term interesting ideas as the basis for browsing and chewing on. Though even here, one needs some of the odd, the cutting edge, and the avant garde in their balanced internet diet. Would Spring '83 provide some of this?
I'm also struck by some similarities this has with the idea of Derek Siver's /now page movement. I see some updating regularly while others have let it slip by the wayside. Still the "board" of users exists, though one must click through a sea of mostly smiling and welcoming faces to get to it the individual pieces of content. (The smiling faces are more inviting and personal than the cacophony of yelling and chaos I see in models for Spring '83.) This reminds me of Stanley Meyers' frequent assertion that he attempted to design a certain "sense of quiet" into the early television show Dragnet to balance the seeming loudness of the everyday as well as the noise of other contemporaneous television programming.
The form reminds me a bit of the signature pages of one's high school year book. But here, instead of the goal being timeless scribbles, one has the opportunity to change the message over time. Does the potential commercialization of the form (you know it will happen in a VC world crazed with surveillance capitalism) follow the same trajectory of the old college paper facebook? Next up, Yearbook.com!
Beyond the thing as a standard, I wondered what the actual form of Spring '83 adds to a broader conversation? What does it add to the diversity of voices that we don't already see in other spaces. How might it be abused? Would people come back to it regularly? What might be its emergent properties?
It definitely seems quirky and fun in and old school web sort of way, but it also stresses me out looking at the zany busyness of some of the examples of magazine stands. The general form reminds me of the bargain bins at book stores which have the promise of finding valuable hidden gems and at an excellent price, but often the ideas and quality of what I find usually isn't worth the discounted price and the return on investment is rarely worth the effort. How might this get beyond these forms?
It also brings up the idea of what other online forms we may have had with this same sort of raw experimentation? How might the internet have looked if there had been a bigger rise of the wiki before that of the blog? What would the world be like if Webmention had existed before social media rose to prominence? Did we somehow miss some interesting digital animals because the web rose so quickly to prominence without more early experimentation before its "Cambrian explosion"?
I've been thinking about distilled note taking forms recently and what a network of atomic ideas on index cards look like and what emerges from them. What if the standard were digital index cards that linked and cross linked to each other, particularly in a world without adherence to time based orders and streams? What does a new story look like if I can pull out a card either at random or based on a single topic and only see it or perhaps some short linked chain of ideas (mine or others) which come along with it? Does the choice of a random "Markov monkey" change my thinking or perspective? What comes out of this jar of Pandora? Is it just a new form of cadavre exquis?
This standard has been out for a bit and presumably folks are experimenting with it. What do the early results look like? How are they using it? Do they like it? Does it need more scale? What do small changes make to the overall form?
For more on these related ideas, see: https://hypothes.is/search?q=tag%3A%22spring+%2783%22
- cadavre exquis
- combinatorial creativity
- Derek Sivers
- atomic idea links
- index cards
- Lindy library
- experimental media
- atomic notes
- Markov monkey
- media studies
- Pandora's box
- Now Now Now
- web standards
- experimental fiction
- alternate universes
- narrative forms
- Spring '83
- May 2022
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)
The biggest mistake—and one I’ve made myself—is linking with categories. In other words, it’s adding links like we would with tags. When we link this way we’re more focused on grouping rather than connecting. As a result, we have notes that contain many connections with little to no relevance. Additionally, we add clutter to our links which makes it difficult to find useful links when adding links. That being said, there are times when we might want to group some things. In these cases, use tags or folders.
Most people born since the advent of the filing cabinet and the computer have spent a lifetime using a hierarchical folder-based mental model for their knowledge. For greater value and efficiency one needs to get away from this model and move toward linking individual ideas together in ways that they can more easily be re-used.
To accomplish this many people use an index-based method that uses topical or subject headings which can be useful. However after even a few years of utilizing a generic tag (science for example) it may become overwhelmed and generally useless in a broad search. Even switching to narrower sub-headings (physics, biology, chemistry) may show the same effect. As a result one will increasingly need to spend time and effort to maintain and work at this sort of taxonomical system.
The better option is to directly link related ideas to each other. Each atomic idea will have a much more limited set of links to other ideas which will create a much more valuable set of interlinks for later use. Limiting your links at this level will be incredibly more useful over time.
One of the biggest benefits of the physical system used by Niklas Luhmann was that each card was required to be placed next to at least one card in a branching tree of knowledge (or a whole new branch had to be created.) Though he often noted links to other atomic ideas there was at least a minimum link of one on every idea in the system.
For those who have difficulty deciding where to place a new idea within their system, it can certainly be helpful to add a few broad keywords of the type one might put into an index. This may help you in linking your individual ideas as you can do a search of one or more of your keywords to narrow down the existing ones within your collection. This may help you link your new idea to one or more of those already in your system. This method may be even more useful and helpful for those who are starting out and have fewer than 500-1000 notes in their system and have even less to link their new atomic ideas to.
For those who have graphical systems, it may be helpful to look for one or two individual "tags" in a graph structure to visually see the number of first degree notes that link to them as a means of creating links between atomic ideas.
To have a better idea of a hierarchy of value within these ideas, it may help to have some names and delineate this hierarchy of potential links. Perhaps we might borrow some well ideas from library and information science to guide us? There's a system in library science that uses a hierarchical set up using the phrases: "broader terms", "narrower terms", "related terms", and "used for" (think alias or also known as) for cataloging books and related materials.
We might try using tags or index-like links in each of these levels to become more specific, but let's append "connected atomic ideas" to the bottom of the list.
Here's an example:
- broader terms (BT): [[physics]]
- narrower terms (NT): [[mechanics]], [[dynamics]]
- related terms (RT): [[acceleration]], [[velocity]]
- used for (UF) or aliases:
- connected atomic ideas: [[force = mass * acceleration]], [[$$v^2=v_0^2+2aΔx$$]]
Chances are that within a particular text, one's notes may connect and interrelate to each other quite easily, but it's important to also link those ideas to other ideas that are already in your pre-existing body of knowledge.
See also: Thesaurus for Graphic Materials I: Subject Terms (TGM I) https://www.loc.gov/rr/print/tgm1/ic.html
Article that focuses on how important it is to create links between atomic ideas in a zettelkasten.
- atomic notes
- topical headings
- index links
- note taking
- information science
- hierarchy of notes
- linking ideas
- atomic idea links
- library science
- Apr 2022
2. What influence does annotating with an audience have on how you annotate? My annotations and notes generally are fragile things, tentative formulations, or shortened formulations that have meaning because of what they point to (in my network of notes and thoughts), not so much because of their wording. Likewise my notes and notions read differently than my blog posts. Because my blog posts have an audience, my notes/notions are half of the internal dialogue with myself. Were I to annotate in the knowledge that it would be public, I would write very differently, it would be more a performance, less probing forwards in my thoughts. I remember that publicly shared bookmarks with notes in Delicious already had that effect for me. Do you annotate differently in public view, self censoring or self editing?
To a great extent, Hypothes.is has such a small footprint of users (in comparison to massive platforms like Twitter, Facebook, etc.) that it's never been a performative platform for me. As a design choice they have specifically kept their social media functionalities very sparse, so one also doesn't generally encounter the toxic elements that are rampant in other locations. This helps immensely. I might likely change my tune if it were ever to hit larger scales or experienced the Eternal September effect.
Beyond this, I mostly endeavor to write things for later re-use. As a result I'm trying to write as clearly as possible in full sentences and explain things as best I can so that my future self doesn't need to do heavy work or lifting to recreate the context or do heavy editing. Writing notes in public and knowing that others might read these ideas does hold my feet to the fire in this respect. Half-formed thoughts are often shaky and unclear both to me and to others and really do no one any good. In personal experience they also tend not to be revisited and revised or revised as well as I would have done the first time around (in public or otherwise).
Occasionally I'll be in a rush reading something and not have time for more detailed notes in which case I'll do my best to get the broad gist knowing that later in the day or at least within the week, I'll revisit the notes in my own spaces and heavily elaborate on them. I've been endeavoring to stay away from this bad habit though as it's just kicking the can down the road and not getting the work done that I ultimately want to have. Usually when I'm being fast/lazy, my notes will revert to highlighting and tagging sections of material that are straightforward facts that I'll only be reframing into my own words at a later date for reuse. If it's an original though or comment or link to something important, I'll go all in and put in the actual work right now. Doing it later has generally been a recipe for disaster in my experience.
There have been a few instances where a half-formed thought does get seen and called out. Or it's a thought which I have significantly more personal context for and that is only reflected in the body of my other notes, but isn't apparent in the public version. Usually these provide some additional insight which I hadn't had that makes the overall enterprise more interesting. Here's a recent example, albeit on a private document, but which I think still has enough context to be reasonably clear: https://hypothes.is/a/vmmw4KPmEeyvf7NWphRiMw
There may also be infrequent articles online which are heavily annotated and which I'm excerpting ideas to be reused later. In these cases I may highlight and rewrite them in my own words for later use in a piece, but I'll make them private or put them in a private group as they don't add any value to the original article or potential conversation though they do add significant value to my collection as "literature notes" for immediate reuse somewhere in the future. On broadly unannotated documents, I'll leave these literature notes public as a means of modeling the practice for others, though without the suggestion of how they would be (re-)used for.
All this being said, I will very rarely annotate things privately or in a private group if they're of a very sensitive cultural nature or personal in manner. My current set up with Hypothesidian still allows me to import these notes into Obsidian with my API key. In practice these tend to be incredibly rare for me and may only occur a handful of times in a year.
Generally my intention is that ultimately all of my notes get published in something in a final form somewhere, so I'm really only frontloading the work into the notes now to make the writing/editing process easier later.
Reviewing The Original of Laura, Alexander Theroux describes the cards as a “portable strategy that allowed [Nabokov] to compose in the car while his wife drove the devoted lepidopterist on butterfly expeditions.”
While note cards have a certain portability about them for writing almost anywhere, aren't notebooks just as easily portable? In fact, with a notebook, one doesn't need to worry about spilling and unordering the entire enterprise.
There are, however, other benefits. By using small atomic pieces on note cards, one can be far more focused on the idea and words immediately at hand. It's also far easier in a creative and editorial process to move pieces around experimentally.
Similarly, when facing Hemmingway's White Bull, the size and space of an index card is fall smaller. This may have the effect that Twitter's short status updates have for writers who aren't faced with the seemingly insurmountable burden of writing a long blog post or essay in other software. They can write 280 characters and stop. Of if they feel motivated, they can continue on by adding to the prior parts of a growing thread. Sadly, Twitter doesn't allow either editing or rearrangements, so the endeavor and analogy are lost beyond here.
- atomic notes
- combinatorial creativity
- The Original of Laura
- Vladimir Nabokov
- card index for writing
- Hemingway's White Bull
- tools for creativity
- Mar 2022
maybe i need to explain that i changed the way i write in rome a little bit 01:23:42 because i um use the blocks as um individual notes so that 01:23:55 the page can become what in the traditional center cast might be a note sequence and if two notes are directly related i might just add another block 01:24:07 because you still have the granularity with the block references um a question would become part of that note sequence and 01:24:19 [Music] they are just a part of the writing itself so i don't have a special question page 01:24:33 i have a lot of questions within the ongoing dialogues and sometimes 01:24:44 um there are the ones that turn into a project and um so they are on top of my mind and um they 01:24:59 might move into the uh shortcut section because i just want to jump right back into that the next day 01:25:13 but there is no sophisticated system to deal with questions they are just part of it
Sönke Ahrens uses block references in Roam Research as zettels (or atomic notes), but puts them into larger pages almost as if he was pre-building larger project pages, as described in his book.
- Feb 2022
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.
- Dec 2021
I think smaller projects that are faster to build are better for research in this space. Building many smaller projects rather than large ambitious ones have helped me because I avoid getting too attached to one particular idea or product, and with smaller-scoped prototypes I can try many more iterations against the same question or problem. It also lowers the barrier to entry to try more risky ideas – “I’ll try this for a weekend” is much easier than “I’ll have to shift my schedule the next couple weeks to fit this in; is it worth that?” A culture of shorter, more atomic projects will also encourage everyone to break down large ideas into smaller ones that are individually testable, which I think is a good practice regardless of whether those ideas are for a product or an experiment. On the other hand, cycles that are too short obviously run the risk of keeping us from trying more ambitious or complex ideas.
Atomizing projects and research ideas is very similar to the idea of the atomic note.
If useful things can be turned into re-usable building blocks, then it can be easier to build and design larger and more complex systems out of them.
- Aug 2021
Another theoretician of the index card system, the German sociologist Niklas Luhman, whose so-called "Zettelkasten" (slip-box) has achieved independent fame in Germany, used to talk about this first analytic step as "reduction for the sake of [building] complexity." 
Luhmann used the idea of "one card, one fact" as the first step of "reduction for the sake of [building] complexity."
Historically reducing things to their smallest essential form or building blocks makes it much easier to build up new complex things from them.
Examples of this include:
- Reducing numbers to binary 1 and 0
See Luhmann, Niklas (2000) Short Cuts. Edited by Peter Gente, Heidi Paris, Martin Weinmann. Frankfurt/Main: Zweitausendeins), p. 33.