23 Matching Annotations
  1. Sep 2023
    1. Why did the chicken cross the road?

      To get to his zettelkasten on the other side!

      But when he got there, he realized he had forgotten the slip of paper with his perfect evergreen note. So the chicken crossed the road once again to retrieve it. But almost as if it were a jokerzettel, on the way back, a gust of wind blew the slip right out of the chicken's beak!

      The chicken tried to catch the runaway slip, but it kept evading him. He chased that slip all over the farm--through the pig sty, over fences, around the grain silo.

      Finally, exhausted but triumphant, the chicken caught the slip and carefully filed it away.

      Moral of the story: Don't count your slips before they're indexed!

    2. Q: Why did the zettelkasten cross the road?

      A: It didn't because Barbara Tuchman, Nicholas Luhmann, Jacques Goutor, Johannes Erich Heyde, and Keith Thomas all recommend only writing on one side.

  2. Aug 2023
    1. Zettelkasten for Normies: What Normies Really Need to Know .t3_15sqiq2._2FCtq-QzlfuN-SwVMUZMM3 { --postTitle-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; --postTitleLink-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; --postBodyLink-VisitedLinkColor: #989898; }

      reply to u/SunghoYahng at https://www.reddit.com/r/Zettelkasten/comments/15sqiq2/zettelkasten_for_normies_what_normies_really_need/

      u/SunghoYahng, some of your article sounds like a pared down digital version of a commonplace book which allows for links, so it fits into the older zettelkasten tradition, just not into the more Luhmann-artig version on which this subreddit is generally more focused. Perhaps yours is closer to a digital version of the analog commonplace using index cards that Billy Oppenheimer describes having learned from Ryan Holiday and Robert Greene?

      Often people focus too much on Luhmann's prodigious output and then immediately imply or say you should adopt his very specific system without describing what his system did or why it worked so well for him and his particular needs. Very few focus on what it is that they want to accomplish and how they might use his system or the thousands of variations on it throughout history to come to those goals as quickly and easily as they can.

      You commit a version of this sin in your opening lines:

      The content about Zettelkasten is mostly too long and practically useless. The purpose of this text is to write only what normies really need to know.

      Who are these so-called "normies" and what specifically are they trying to accomplish? You don't define either of them, and possibly worse do it in a negative framing. The system you're describing might be a great one, but for whom? What do you expect them to use it for? What will they get out of it?

      Many people talk about the "magic" of a zettelkasten and then wave their hands at some version of a workflow of what they think it is or what they think it should be. Perhaps what we all really need is a list of potential affordances that different methods allow and how one might leverage those affordances. How might they be mixed and matched? Then users can decide what outcomes they wish to have (writing, thinking, aggregation, bookmarking, collecting, creativity, artificial memory, serendipity, productivity, wiki, spaced repetition, learning, time wasting, etc., etc.) and which affordances are necessary within their workflow/system to effectuate those specific goals? Finally they can pick and choose a specific version of a methodology/workflow and either an analog substrate (index cards, notebooks, memory palace, etc.) or digital tool/application (Obsidian, Roam Research, The Archive, etc.) to save it all in. Of course once you've chosen that analog or digital tool, does it actually have the affordances you want or need in actual practice? Are they easy to use? Practical? Do they save you time? Are they simple or over-engineered? What happens when they scale to a year of regular use or even a lifetime?

      As a simple example, many writers would love a seriously good outliner functionality in their system to pull out the materials they want to work with and then appropriately order them for a potential final written output. In practice, index cards on a big table are fantastic for this process while most (all?) current digital tools are miserable at it. And of course once you've gotten the outline you like in an analog space you have to type it all out to print/publish in a final form, something which the digital affordance of cut and paste would make much simpler. Who wouldn't love a tool that could give you all of these affordances, presuming you needed them?

      While we're on outlining, very few talk about the ease-of-use that some professional outliners like Dave Winer's Drummer or Little Outliner have versus some of the more text-editing focused tools like Obsidian which are generally poor as outliners (if you could even call them that) in comparison.

      If you're interested in folgezettel and outlining, you might appreciate some subtleties in Bob's piece: https://writing.bobdoto.computer/folgezettel-is-not-an-outline-luhmanns-playful-appreciation-of-disfunction/

      cross reference https://hypothes.is/a/OhcWSjxyEe6V8DP9P6WNQQ

  3. Jul 2023
    1. But I would do less than justice to Mr. Adler's achieve-ment if I left the matter there. The Syntopicon is, in additionto all this, and in addition to being a monument to the indus-try, devotion, and intelligence of Mr. Adler and his staff, astep forward in the thought of the West. It indicates wherewe are: where the agreements and disagreements lie; wherethe problems are; where the work has to be done. It thushelps to keep us from wasting our time through misunder-standing and points to the issues that must be attacked.When the history of the intellectual life of this century iswritten, the Syntopicon will be regarded as one of the land-marks in it.

      p xxvi

      Hutchins closes his preface to his grand project with Mortimer J. Adler by giving pride of place to Adler's Syntopicon.

      Adler's Syntopicon isn't just an index compiled into two books which were volumes 2 and 3 of The Great Books of the Western World, it's physically a topically indexed card index of data (a grand zettelkasten surveying Western culture if you will). It's value to readers and users is immeasurable and it stands as a fascinating example of what a well-constructed card index might allow one to do even when they don't have their own yet.

      Adler spoke of practicing syntopical reading, but anyone who compiles their own card index (in either analog or digital form) will realize the ultimate value in creating their own syntopical writing or what Robert Hutchins calls participating in "The Great Conversation" across twenty-five centuries of documented human communication.

      See also: https://hypothes.is/a/WF4THtUNEe2dZTdlQCbmXw


      The way Hutchins presents the idea of "Adler's achievement" here seems to indicate that Hutchins didn't have a direct hand in compiling or working on it directly.

  4. Jun 2023
    1. The Zettelkasten method aims to help you forget.

      I would argue that it is more subtle than this. It allows you to forget, but the aim is to allow you to learn, remember, and slowly build.

  5. May 2023
    1. of course I had done a lot of thinking even before I ever used a ZK, but now I can record, retrieve, and elaborate these thoughts easily so that they accumulate over time to something bigger. Now, writing a paper or grant proposal often comes down to concatenating a bunch of notes.
    1. "[What] I like about the [zettlekasten] system is that it's a constant reminder to to make up your mind and to specify what you what you're thinking."<br /> —Sönke Ahrens, [Tinderbox Meetup - May 7, 2023 00:30:36]

    1. Why are folks so obsessed with notes per day? Perhaps a proxy for toxic capitalism and productivity issues? Is the number of notes the best measure or the things they allow one to do after having made them? What is the best measure? Especially when there are those who use them for other purposes like lecturing, general growth, knowledge acquisition, or even happiness?

  6. Apr 2023
    1. Without variation on given ideas, there are no possibilities of scrutiny and selection of innovations. Therefore, the actual challenge becomes generating incidents with sufficiently high chances of selection.

      The value of a zettelkasten is as a tool to actively force combinatorial creativity—the goal is to create accidents or collisions of ideas which might have a high chance of being discovered and selected for.

  7. Mar 2023
    1. zettelkasten

      (free of this context, but I need somewhere just to place this potential title/phrase...)

      Purpose Driven Zettelkasten

    1. "Personal Knowledge Management Is Bullshit"

      reply to jameslongley at https://forum.zettelkasten.de/discussion/2532/personal-knowledge-management-is-bullshit

      I find that these sorts of articles against the variety of practices have one thing in common: the writer fails to state a solid and realistic reason for why they got into it in the first place. They either have no reason "why" or, perhaps, just as often have all-the-reasons "why", which may be worse. Much of this is bound up in the sort of signaling and consumption which @Sascha outlines in point C (above).

      Perhaps of interest, there are a large number of Hypothes.is annotations on that original article written by a variety of sense-makers with whom I am familiar. See: https://via.hypothes.is/https://www.otherlife.co/pkm/ Of note, many come from various note making traditions including: commonplace books, bloggers, writers, wiki creators, zettelkasten, digital gardening, writers, thinkers, etc., so they give a broader and relatively diverse perspective. If I were pressed to say what most of them have in common philosophically, I'd say it was ownership of their thought.

      Perhaps it's just a point of anecdotal evidence, but I've been noticing that who write about or use the phrase "personal knowledge management" are ones who come at the space without an actual practice or point of view on what they're doing and why—they are either (trying to be) influencers or influencees.

      Fortunately it is entirely possible to "fake it until you make it" here, but it helps to have an idea of what you're trying to make.

  8. Feb 2023
    1. I find it very tiring haha. As I said in another comment, processing a single chapter can take me a full day or two. However, I keep reminding myself that I would rather spend a day processing a chapter well, and have literature notes to serve me a lifetime (potentially, at least), rather than reading a chapter in two hours and not remember a single thing the next day. When I REALLY need a reminder of this, I just look at my "Backlog" folder which contains old "notes" that are now pretty much useless: I didn't use a reference manager consistently during my first two years of PhD so there are a lot of citations which are unreliable; I didn't really summarise texts, I only read them and highlighted; I didn't use the cloud for a long time, so I lost a lot of notes; and I didn't have Obsidian, so a lot of my notes are just contained within the context of the place I read them, rather than being connected. Seeing three years worth of useless materials, and knowing that I read a couple hundred of articles/chapters but I have nothing to show for it, that makes me more patient when writing my literature notes now. However I also find it very exciting that I can future-proof some of my notes. I feel like I'm working for my future self.

      A partial answer to note taking why.

    1. Deutsch’s index was created out of an almost algorith-mic processing of historical sources in the pursuit of a totalized and perfect history of theJews; it presented, on one hand, the individualized facts, but together also constitutedwhat we might term a ‘history without presentation’, which merely held the ‘facts’themselves without any attempt to synthesize them (cf. Saxer, 2014: 225-32).

      Not sure that I agree with the framing of "algorithmic processing" here as it was done manually by a person pulling out facts. But it does bring out the idea of where collecting ends and synthesis of a broader thesis out of one's collection begins. Where does historical method end? What was the purpose of the collection? Teaching, writing, learning, all, none?

    1. https://cathieleblanc.com/2023/02/05/choosing-learning-materials/

      Cathie notices that students skip materials about the theoretical "why" of assignments to get to the simpler assignments.

      This seems to be an issue with some in the personal knowledge management space who want to jump into the technology, the terminology, and moving things about without always understanding what they're doing or why. Many end up giving up as a result. Few books provide reasoning behind the terminologies or building blocks they describe to provide the theoretical why. As a result some may figure it out from long, fraught practice, but it's likely that more are not seeing the results they expect and thus giving up.

    1. According to Shulman, "Cargo-cult is a belief that mock airplanes made of manure and straw-bale may summon the real airplanes who bring canned beef. Reverse cargo-cult is used by the political elites in countries lagging behind who proclaim that, in the developed world, airplanes are also made of manure and straw-bale, and there is also a shortage of canned beef."[29]

      "Екатерина Шульман: Практический Нострадамус, или 12 умственных привычек, которые мешают нам предвидеть будущее". vedomosti/ (in Russian). Retrieved 24 June 2021.


      A Note on the Cargo Cult of Zettelkasten

      Modern cargo cults can be seen in many technology and productivity spaces where people are pulled in by exaggerated (or sometimes even real claims) of productivity or the general "magic" of a technology or method.

      An example is Niklas Luhmann's use of his zettelkasten which has created a cargo cult of zettelkasten aspirants and users who read one or more of the short one page blog posts about his unreasonable productivity and try to mimic it without understanding the system, how it works, or how to make it work for them. They often spend several months collecting notes, and following the motions, but don't realize the promised gains and may eventually give up, sometimes in shame (or as so-called "rubbish men") while watching others still touting its use.

      To prevent one's indoctrination into the zettelkasten cult, I'll make a few recommendations:

      Distance yourself from the one or two page blog posts or the breathless YouTube delineations. Ask yourself very pointedly: what you hope to get out of such a process? What's your goal? Does that goal align with others' prior uses and their outcomes?

      Be careful of the productivity gurus who are selling expensive courses and whose focus may not necessarily be on your particular goals. Some are selling very pointed courses, which is good, while others are selling products which may be so broad that they'll be sure to have some success stories, but their hodge-podge mixture of methods won't suit your particular purpose, or worse, you'll have to experiment with pieces of their courses to discover what may suit your modes of working and hope they'll suffice in the long run. Some are selling other productivity solutions for task management like getting things done (GTD) or bullet journals, which can be a whole other cargo cults in and of themselves. Don't conflate these![^1] The only thing worse than being in a cargo cult is being in multiple at the same time.

      If you go the digital route, be extremely wary of shiny object syndrome. Everyone has a favorite tool and will advocate that it's the one you should be using. (Often their method of use will dictate how much they love it potentially over and above the affordances of the tool itself.) All of these tools can be endlessly configured, tweaked, or extended with plugins or third party services. Everyone wants to show you their workflow and set up, lots of which is based on large amounts of work and experimentation. Ignore 99.999% of this. Most tools are converging to a similar feature set, so pick a reasonable one that seems like it'll be around in 5 years (and which has export, just in case). Try out the very basic features for several months before you change anything. Don't add endless plugins and widgets. You're ultimately using a digital tool to recreate the functionality of index cards, a pencil, and a box. How complicated should this really be? Do you need to spend hundreds of hours tweaking your system to save yourself a few minutes a year? Be aware that far too many people touting the system and marketers talking about the tools are missing several thousands of years of uses of some of these basic literacy-based technologies. Don't join their island cult, but instead figure out how the visiting culture has been doing this for ages.[^2] Recall Will Hunting's admonition against cargo cults in education: “You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for $1.50 in late fees at the public library.”[^3]

      Most people ultimately realize that the output of their own thinking is only as good as the inputs they're consuming. Leverage this from the moment you begin and ignore the short bite-sized advice for longer form or older advice from those with experience. You're much more likely to get more long term value out of reading Umberto Eco or Mortimer J. Adler & Charles van Doren[^4] than you are an equivalent amount of time reading blog posts, watching YouTube videos, or trolling social media like Reddit and Twitter.

      Realize that reaching your goal is going to take honest-to-goodness actual work, though there is potential for fun. No matter how shiny or optimized your system, you've still got to do the daily work of reading, watching, listening and using it to create anything. Focus on this daily work and don't get sidetracked by the minutiae of trying to shave off just a few more seconds.[^5] In short, don't get caught up in the "productivity porn" of it all. Even the high priest at whose altar they worship once wrote on a slip he filed:

      "A ghost in the note card index? Spectators visit [my office to see my notes] and they get to see everything and nothing all at once. Ultimately, like having watched a porn movie, their disappointment is correspondingly high." —Niklas Luhmann. <small>“Geist im Kasten?” ZKII 9/8,3. Niklas Luhmann-Archiv. Accessed December 10, 2021. https://niklas-luhmann-archiv.de/bestand/zettelkasten/zettel/ZK_2_NB_9-8-3_V. (Personal translation from German with context added.)</small>


      [^1] Aldrich, Chris. “Zettelkasten Overreach.” BoffoSocko (blog), February 5, 2022. https://boffosocko.com/2022/02/05/zettelkasten-overreach/.

      [^2]: Blair, Ann M. Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age. Yale University Press, 2010. https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300165395/too-much-know.

      [^3]: Good Will Hunting. Miramax, Lawrence Bender Productions, 1998.

      [^4]: Adler, Mortimer J., and Charles Van Doren. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. Revised and Updated edition. 1940. Reprint, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972.

      [^5]: Munroe, Randall. “Is It Worth the Time?” Web comic. xkcd, April 29, 2013. https://xkcd.com/1205/.


      Recommended resources

      Choose only one of the following and remember you may not need to read the entire work:

      Ahrens, Sönke. How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers. Create Space, 2017.

      Allosso, Dan, and S. F. Allosso. How to Make Notes and Write. Minnesota State Pressbooks, 2022. https://minnstate.pressbooks.pub/write/.

      Bernstein, Mark. Tinderbox: The Tinderbox Way. 3rd ed. Watertown, MA: Eastgate Systems, Inc., 2017. http://www.eastgate.com/Tinderbox/TinderboxWay/index.html.

      Dow, Earle Wilbur. Principles of a Note-System for Historical Studies. New York: Century Company, 1924.

      Eco, Umberto. How to Write a Thesis. Translated by Caterina Mongiat Farina and Geoff Farina. 1977. Reprint, Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press, 2015. https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/how-write-thesis.

      Gessner, Konrad. Pandectarum Sive Partitionum Universalium. 1st Edition. Zurich: Christoph Froschauer, 1548.

      Goutor, Jacques. The Card-File System of Note-Taking. Approaching Ontario’s Past 3. Toronto: Ontario Historical Society, 1980. http://archive.org/details/cardfilesystemof0000gout.

      Sertillanges, Antonin Gilbert, and Mary Ryan. The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods. First English Edition, Fifth printing. 1921. Reprint, Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1960. http://archive.org/details/a.d.sertillangestheintellectuallife.

      Webb, Sidney, and Beatrice Webb. Methods of Social Study. London; New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1932. http://archive.org/details/b31357891.

      Weinberg, Gerald M. Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method. New York, N.Y: Dorset House, 2005.

  9. Dec 2022
    1. “I started my Zettelkasten,because I realized that I had to plan for a life and not for a book.”5

      from Niklas Luhmann, Niklas Luhmann Short Cuts (English Translation), 2002, 22.

  10. Oct 2022
    1. To be able to trustone's own experience, even if it often turns out to beinadequate, is one mark of the mature workman. Suchconfidence in o n e ' s own experience is indispensable tooriginality in any intellectual pursuit, and the file is onetool by which I have tried to develop and justify suchconfidence.

      The function of memory served by having written notes is what allows the serious researcher or thinker to have greater confidence in their work, potentially more free from cognitive bias as one idea can be directly compared and contrasted with another by direct juxtaposition.

  11. Jul 2022
    1. Beyond the cards mentioned above, you should also capture any hard-to-classify thoughts, questions, and areas for further inquiry on separate cards. Regularly go through these to make sure that you are covering everything and that you don’t forget something.I consider these insurance cards because they won’t get lost in some notebook or scrap of paper, or email to oneself.

      Julius Reizen in reviewing over Umberto Eco's index card system in How to Write a Thesis, defines his own "insurance card" as one which contains "hard-to-classify thoughts, questions, and areas for further inquiry". These he would keep together so that they don't otherwise get lost in the variety of other locations one might keep them

      These might be akin to Ahrens' "fleeting notes" but are ones which may not easily or even immediately be converted in to "permanent notes" for one's zettelkasten. However, given their mission critical importance, they may be some of the most important cards in one's repository.

      link this to - idea of centralizing one's note taking practice to a single location

      Is this idea in Eco's book and Reizen is the one that gives it a name since some of the other categories have names? (examples: bibliographic index cards, reading index cards (aka literature notes), cards for themes, author index cards, quote index cards, idea index cards, connection cards). Were these "officially" named and categorized by Eco?

      May be worthwhile to create a grid of these naming systems and uses amongst some of the broader note taking methods. Where are they similar, where do they differ?


      Multi-search tools that have full access to multiple trusted data stores (ostensibly personal ones across notebooks, hard drives, social media services, etc.) could potentially solve the problem of needing to remember where you noted something.

      Currently, in the social media space especially, this is not a realized service.

  12. Jun 2022
    1. Luhmann’s zettelkasten use case .t3_vlape5._2FCtq-QzlfuN-SwVMUZMM3 { --postTitle-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; --postTitleLink-VisitedLinkColor: #9b9b9b; } I was just thinking… I wonder what Luhmann’s use case for his zettelkasten was. By this I mean, was his original use for it for knowledge development, then his papers/books came as a successful bi-product? Or was his original intention to use it to actually write books/papers in the first place… Does anyone have any insight on this?

      When asked by Bielefeld University to report on his research projects, Luhmann famously replied:

      “Theory of society; duration: 30 years; costs: none”.

      In this there is a tremendously large nod to his zettelkasten to permit this work to be done.

      Though technically at the current price of $11.78 for 1,000 index cards on Amazon right now and a total of 92,000 cards, Luhmann should have better budgeted 1083.76 for the paper not to mention the cost of pens and pencils.

      Luhmann, N. (1997). Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft (2 vols). Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Suhrkamp. Published in translation as Theory of society (2 vols.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press 2012–2013.

    1. Luhmann remarked that, when the Faculty of Sociology at Bielefeld University, newly established in 1969, asked its professors to report on the research projects they were working on, his reply was “Theory of society; duration: 30 years; costs: none” (Luhmann, 1997, p. 11).

      “Theory of society; duration: 30 years; costs: none”

      Quote from

      Luhmann, N. (1997). Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft (2 vols). Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Suhrkamp. Published in translation as Theory of society (2 vols.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press 2012–2013.