- Sep 2023
Hi, I just started to use Zettlr for my thoughts, in stead of just individual txt-files. I find it easy to add tags to notes. But if you read manuals how to use ZettelKasten, most seem to advice to link your notes in a meaningful way (and describe the link). Maybe it's because I just really started, but I don't find immediate links when I have a sudden thought. Sometimes I have 2 ideas in the same line, but they're more like siblings, so tagging with the same keyword is more evident. How do most people do this?
reply to u/JonasanOniem at https://www.reddit.com/r/Zettelkasten/comments/16ss0yu/linking_new_notes/
This sort of practice is harder when you start out in most digital apps because there is usually no sense of "closeness" of ideas in digital the way that is implied by physical proximity (or "neighborhood") found in physical cards sitting right next to or around each other. As a result, you have to create more explicit links or rely on using tags (or indexing) when you start. I've not gotten deep into the UI of Zettlr, but some applications allow the numbering (and the way numbered ideas are sorted in the user interface) to allow this affordance by creating a visual sense of proximity for you. As you accumulate more notes, it becomes easier and you can rely less on tags and more on direct links. Eventually you may come to dislike broad categories/tags and prefer direct links from one idea to another as the most explicit tag you could give a note . If you're following a more strict Luhmann-artig practice, you'll find yourself indexing a lot at the beginning, but as you link new ideas to old, you don't need to index (tag) things as heavily because the index points to a card which is directly linked to something in the neighborhood of where you're looking. Over time and through use, you'll come to recognize your neighborhoods and the individual "houses" where the ideas you're working with all live. As an example, Luhmann spent his life working in sociology, but you'll only find a few links from his keyword register/subject index to "sociology" (and this is a good thing, otherwise he'd have had 90,000+ listings there and the index entry for sociology would have been utterly useless.)
Still, given all this, perhaps as taurusnoises suggests, concrete examples may help more, particularly if you're having any issues with the terminology/concepts or how the specific application affordances are being presented.
- Aug 2023
For context, I don't use a traditional Zettelkasten system. It's more of a commonplace book/notecard system similar to Ryan HolidayI recently transitioned to a digital system and have been using Logseq, which I enjoy. It's made organizing my notes and ideas much easier, but I've noticed that I spend a lot of time on organizing my notesSince most of my reading is on Kindle, my process involves reading and highlighting as I read, then exporting those highlights to Markdown and making a page in Logseq. Then I tag every individual highlightThis usually isn't too bad if a book/research article has 20-30 highlights, but, for example, I recently had a book with over 150 highlights, and I spent about half an hour tagging each oneI started wondering if it's overkill to tag each highlight since it can be so time consuming. The advantage is that if I'm looking for passages about a certain idea/topic, I can find it specifically rather than having to go through the whole bookI was also thinking I could just have a set of tags for each book/article that capture what contexts I'd want to find the information in. This would save time, but I'd spend a little more time digging through each document looking for specificsCurious to hear your thoughts, appreciate any suggestions
First, your system is historically far more traditional than Luhmann's more specific practice. See: https://boffosocko.com/2022/10/22/the-two-definitions-of-zettelkasten/
If you're taking all the notes/highlights from a particular book and keeping them in a single file, then it may be far quicker and more productive to do some high level tagging on the entire book/file itself and then relying on and using basic text search to find particular passages you might use at a later date.
Spending time reviewing over all of your notes and tagging/indexing them individually may be beneficial for some basic review work. But this should be balanced out with your long term needs. If your area is "sociology", for example, and you tag every single idea related to the topic of sociology with #sociology, then it will cease to have any value you to you when you search for it and find thousands of disconnected notes you will need to sift through. Compare this with Luhmann's ZK which only had a few index entries under "sociology". A better long term productive practice, and one which Luhmann used, is indexing one or two key words when he started in a new area and then "tagging" each new idea in that branch or train of though with links to other neighboring ideas. If you forget a particular note, you can search your index for a keyword and know you'll find that idea you need somewhere nearby. Scanning through the neighborhood of notes you find will provide a useful reminder of what you'd been working on and allow you to continue your work in that space or link new things as appropriate.
If it helps to reframe the long term scaling problem of over-tagging, think of a link from one idea to another as the most specific tag you can put on an idea. To put this important idea into context, if you do a Google search for "tagging" you'll find 240,000,000 results! If you do a search for the entirety of the first sentence in this paragraph, you'll likely only find one very good and very specific result, and the things which are linked to it are going to have tremendous specific value to you by comparison.
Perhaps the better portions of your time while reviewing notes would be taking the 150 highlights and finding the three to five most important, useful, and (importantly) reusable ones to write out in your own words and begin expanding upon and linking? These are the excerpts you'll want to spend more time on and tag/index for future use rather than the other hundreds. Over time, you may eventually realize that the hundreds are far less useful than the handful (in management spaces this philosophy is known as the Pareto principle), so spending a lot of make work time on them is less beneficial for whatever end goals you may have. (The make work portions are often the number one reason I see people abandoning these practices because they feel overwhelmed working on raw administrivia instead of building something useful and interesting to themselves.) Naturally though, you'll still have those hundreds sitting around in a file if you need to search, review, or use them. You won't have lost them by not working on them, but more importantly you'll have gained loads of extra time to work on the more important pieces. You should notice that the time you save and the value you create will compound over time.
And as ever, play around with these to see if they work for you and your specific needs. Some may be good and others bad—it will depend on your needs and your goals. Practice, experiment, have fun.
- Niklas Luhmann's index
- commonplace books vs. zettelkasten
- topical headings
- relevance tagging
- Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten
- descending into the particular
- sparse indexing
- Jul 2023
Isn’t it too much time and energy consuming? I’m not provoking, I’m genuine.
reply to IvanCyb at https://www.reddit.com/r/antinet/comments/1587onp/comment/jt8zbu4/?utm_source=reddit&utm_medium=web2x&context=3 Asking broadly about indexing methods in zettelkasten
When you begin you'll find yourself creating lots of index entries to start, in part because you have none, but you'll find with time that you need to do less and less because index entries already exist for most of what you would add. More importantly most of the entries you might consider duplicating are likely to be very near cards that already have those index entries.
As an example if you have twenty cards on cultural anthropology, the first one will be indexed with "cultural anthropology" to give you a pointer of where to start. Then when you need to add a new card to that section, you'll look up "cultural anthropology" and skim through what you've got to find the closest related card and place it. You likely won't need to create a new index entry for it at all.
But for argument's sake, let's say you intend to do some work at the intersection of "cultural anthropology" and "writing" and this card is also about "writing". Then you might want to add an index entry for "writing" from which you'll branch off in the future. This will tend to keep your index very sparse. As an example you can look at Niklas Luhmann's digitized collection to notice that he spent his career in the area of "sociology" but there are only just a few pointers from his index into his collection under that keyword. If he had tagged every single card related to "sociology" as "sociology" in his index, the index entry for it would have been wholly unusable in just a few months. Broadly speaking his entire zettelkasten is about sociology, so you need to delve a few layers in and see which subtopics, sub-subtopics, sub-sub-subtopics, etc. exist. As you go deeper into specific topics you'll notice that you branch down and out into more specific subareas as you begin to cover all the bases within that topic. If you like, for fun, you can see this happening in my digital zettelkasten on the topic of "zettelkasten" at https://hypothes.is/users/chrisaldrich?q=tag%3A%22zettelkasten%22. The tool only shows the top 50 tags for that subject in the side bar, but you can slowly dig down into subtopics to see what they look like and a bit of how they begin to overlap.
Incidentally, this is one of the problems with those who tag everything with top level topic headings in digital contexts—you do a search for something important and find so much that it becomes a useless task to try to sift through it all. As a result, users need better tools to give them the ability to do more fine-grained searching, filtering, and methods of discovery.
- Mar 2023
You need to be on top of your index. This is your main navigation system.
This is a major drawback to this method and the affordance of sparse indexing using Luhmann's method.