- Aug 2022
Mere paraphrasing the work of an-other is as offensive as direct copying. The discovery of ma-terials, the research, the oqanization of the material, theplan of treatment, and the literary composition should eachbe strictly the independent work of the student. H e shouldlearn not merely to collect facts on paper but also to as-similate them in his own mind 4then express them interms of his own thinking, while adhering to strict accuracyin the statement of facts.
“I do all my own research,” she said, “though reviewers have speculatedthat I must have a band of hirelings. I like to be led by a footnote ontosomething I never thought of. I rarely photocopy research materials because, for me, note-taking is learning, distilling. That’s the whole essence ofthe business. In taking notes, you have to discard what you don’t need. If you[photocopy] it, you haven’t chewed it.”
I also mentioned Zettelkasten many times in this post, but I don’t do that anymore—I just did a 1-month dry run and it felt tiring. Pen and paper just gives me the bare essentials. I can get straight to work and not worry if something is a literature note or a permanent note.
What is it that was tiring about the practice? Did they do it properly, or was the focus placed on tremendous output driving the feeling of a need for commensurate tremendous input on a daily basis? Most lifetime productive users only made a few cards a day, but I get the feeling that many who start, think they should be creating 20 cards a day and that is definitely a road to burn out. This feeling is compounded by digital tools that make it easier to quickly capture ideas by quoting or cut and pasting, but which don't really facilitate the ownership of ideas (internalization) by the note taker. The work of writing helps to facilitate this. Apparently the framing of literature note vs. permanent note also was a hurdle in the collection of ideas moving toward the filtering down and refining of one's ideas. These naming ideas seem to be a general hurdle for many people, particularly if they're working without particular goals in mind.
Only practicing zettelkasten for a month is certainly no way to build real insight or to truly begin developing anything useful. Even at two cards a day and a minimum of 500-1000 total cards to see some serendipity and creativity emerge, one would need to be practicing for just over a year to begin seeing interesting results.
- Jul 2022
This process has as much todo with taking ownership of ideas as it does with apps.
Too many in the productivity porn space focus on the apps and the potential workflows without looking at the question "why" at all. It's rare that any focus on understanding or actual output.
Finally, new notes should be connected with anexisting note when you add them to your system. I’lldescribe this in greater detail shortly; the point for now isthat linking a new thought to an existing train of thoughtseems to be a key to your note-making system workingfor you. Where does this new idea fit into your thoughtson an issue? Your questions about a topic? Your ideasabout a puzzle you’re working on understanding?Disciplining yourself to make this connection can be abit tough and time-consuming at first. It is worth theinvestment. Without understanding how these ideas thatinterest us fit together, all we have is a pile of unrelatedtrivia.
Writing and refining one's note about an idea can be key to helping one's basic understanding of that idea, but this understanding is dramatically increased by linking it into the rest of one's framework of understanding of that idea. A useful side benefit of creating this basic understanding and extending it is that one can also reuse one's (better understood) ideas to create new papers for expanding other's reading and subsequent understanding.
Perhaps the best method would be to take notes—not excerpts, but condensed reformulations of what has been read.
One of the best methods for technical reading is to create progressive summarizations of what one has read.
At the same time, like Harold, I’ve realised that it is important to do things, to keep blogging and writing in this space. Not because of its sheer brilliance, but because most of it will be crap, and brilliance will only occur once in a while. You need to produce lots of stuff to increase the likelihood of hitting on something worthwile. Of course that very much feeds the imposter cycle, but it’s the only way. Getting back into a more intensive blogging habit 18 months ago, has helped me explore more and better. Because most of what I blog here isn’t very meaningful, but needs to be gotten out of the way, or helps build towards, scaffolding towards something with more meaning.
Many people treat their blogging practice as an experimental thought space. They try out new ideas, explore a small space, attempt to come to understanding, connect new ideas to their existing ideas.
Ton Zylstra coins/uses the phrase "metablogging" to think about his blogging practice as an evolving thought space.
How can we better distill down these sorts of longer ideas and use them to create more collisions between ideas to create new an innovative ideas? What forms might this take?
The personal zettelkasten is a more concentrated form of this and blogging is certainly within the space as are the somewhat more nascent digital gardens. What would some intermediary "idea crucible" between these forms look like in public that has a simple but compelling interface. How much storytelling and contextualization is needed or not needed to make such points?
Is there a better space for progressive summarization here so that an idea can be more fully laid out and explored? Then once the actual structure is built, the scaffolding can be pulled down and only the idea remains.
Reminiscences of scaffolding can be helpful for creating context.
Consider the pyramids of Giza and the need to reverse engineer how they were built. Once the scaffolding has been taken down and history forgets the methods, it's not always obvious what the original context for objects were, how they were made, what they were used for. Progressive summarization may potentially fall prey to these effects as well.
How might we create a "contextual medium" which is more permanently attached to ideas or objects to help prevent context collapse?
How would this be applied in reverse to better understand sites like Stonehenge or the hundreds of other stone circles, wood circles, and standing stones we see throughout history.
- digital gardens
- pyramids at Giza
- progressive summarization
- reverse engineering
- writing for understanding
- contextual medium
- thought spaces
- context collapse
- knowledge scaffolding
- Jun 2022
If we overlay the four steps of CODE onto the model ofdivergence and convergence, we arrive at a powerful template forthe creative process in our time.
The way that Tiago Forte overlaps the idea of C.O.D.E. (capture/collect, organize, distill, express) with the divergence/convergence model points out some primary differences of his system and that of some of the more refined methods of maintaining a zettelkasten.
Forte's focus on organizing is dedicated solely on to putting things into folders, which is a light touch way of indexing them. However it only indexes them on one axis—that of the folder into which they're being placed. This precludes them from being indexed on a variety of other axes from the start to other places where they might also be used in the future. His method requires more additional work and effort to revisit and re-arrange (move them into other folders) or index them later.
Most historical commonplacing and zettelkasten techniques place a heavier emphasis on indexing pieces as they're collected.
Commonplacing creates more work on the user between organizing and distilling because they're more dependent on their memory of the user or depending on the regular re-reading and revisiting of pieces one may have a memory of existence. Most commonplacing methods (particularly the older historic forms of collecting and excerpting sententiae) also doesn't focus or rely on one writing out their own ideas in larger form as one goes along, so generally here there is a larger amount of work at the expression stage.
Zettelkasten techniques as imagined by Luhmann and Ahrens smooth the process between organization and distillation by creating tacit links between ideas. This additional piece of the process makes distillation far easier because the linking work has been done along the way, so one only need edit out ideas that don't add to the overall argument or piece. All that remains is light editing.
Ahrens' instantiation of the method also focuses on writing out and summarizing other's ideas in one's own words for later convenient reuse. This idea is also seen in Bruce Ballenger's The Curious Researcher as a means of both sensemaking and reuse, though none of the organizational indexing or idea linking seem to be found there.
This also fits into the diamond shape that Forte provides as the height along the vertical can stand in as a proxy for the equivalent amount of work that is required during the overall process.
This shape could be reframed for a refined zettelkasten method as an indication of work
Forte's diamond shape provided gives a visual representation of the overall process of the divergence and convergence.
But what if we change that shape to indicate the amount of work that is required along the steps of the process?!
Here, we might expect the diamond to relatively accurately reflect the amounts of work along the path.
If this is the case, then what might the relative workload look like for a refined zettelkasten? First we'll need to move the express portion between capture and organize where it more naturally sits, at least in Ahren's instantiation of the method. While this does take a discrete small amount of work and time for the note taker, it pays off in the long run as one intends from the start to reuse this work. It also pays further dividends as it dramatically increases one's understanding of the material that is being collected, particularly when conjoined to the organization portion which actively links this knowledge into one's broader world view based on their notes. For the moment, we'll neglect the benefits of comparison of conjoined ideas which may reveal flaws in our thinking and reasoning or the benefits of new questions and ideas which may arise from this juxtaposition.
This sketch could be refined a bit, but overall it shows that frontloading the work has the effect of dramatically increasing the efficiency and productivity for a particular piece of work.
Note that when compounded over a lifetime's work, this diagram also neglects the productivity increase over being able to revisit old work and re-using it for multiple different types of work or projects where there is potential overlap, not to mention the combinatorial possibilities.
It could be useful to better and more carefully plot out the amounts of time, work/effort for these methods (based on practical experience) and then regraph the resulting power inputs against each other to come up with a better picture of the efficiency gains.
Is some of the reason that people are against zettelkasten methods that they don't see the immediate gains in return for the upfront work, and thus abandon the process? Is this a form of misinterpreted-effort hypothesis at work? It can also be compounded at not being able to see the compounding effects of the upfront work.
What does research indicate about how people are able to predict compounding effects over time in areas like money/finance? What might this indicate here? Humans definitely have issues seeing and reacting to probabilities in this same manner, so one might expect the same intellectual blindness based on system 1 vs. system 2.
Given that indexing things, especially digitally, requires so little work and effort upfront, it should be done at the time of collection.
I'll admit that it only took a moment to read this highlighted sentence and look at the related diagram, but the amount of material I was able to draw out of it by reframing it, thinking about it, having my own thoughts and ideas against it, and then innovating based upon it was incredibly fruitful in terms of better differentiating amongst a variety of note taking and sense making frameworks.
For me, this is a great example of what reading with a pen in hand, rephrasing, extending, and linking to other ideas can accomplish.
When a few of his friends became interested in thetopic, he took eight minutes to progressively summarize the bestexcerpts before sharing the summarized article with them. The timethat he had spent reading and understanding a complex subject paidoff in time savings for his friends, while also giving them a newinterest to connect over.
To test one's own understanding of a topic one has read about and studied, it can be useful to discuss it or describe one's understanding to friends or colleagues in conversations. This will help you discover where the holes are based on the person's understanding and comprehension of what you've said. Can you fill in all the holes where they have questions? Are their questions your new questions which have exposed holes that need to be filled in your understanding or in the space itself.
I do this regularly in conversations with people. It makes the topics of conversation more varied and interesting and helps out your thinking at the same time. In particular I've been doing this method in Dan Allosso's book club. It's almost like trying on a new idea the way one might try on a piece of clothing to see how it fits or how one likes it for potential purchase. If an idea "fits" then continue refining it and add it to your knowledge base. These conversations also help to better link ideas in my thought space to those of what we're reading. (I wonder if others are doing these same patterns, Dan seems to, but I don't have as good a grasp on this with other participants).
Link to :<br /> - Ahren's idea of writing to expose understanding<br /> - Feynman technique<br /> - Socratic method (this is sort of side or tangential method to this) <- define this better/refine
- imitation for innovation
- misinterpreted-effort hypothesis
- idea links
- Tiago Forte
- commonplace books vs. zettelkasten
- behavioral economics
- Socratic method
- writing for understanding
- knowledge work
- testing understanding
- commonplace books
- compounding value
- cognitive bias
- Feynman Technique
- putting in the work