Zettelkasten notes Somewhere during my Ph.D. I started to use the Zettelkasten style of note taking. For my research this was quite useful. Now in my programmer life after the Ph.D. it is less usefull as I can clearly see that it geared towards academics. What is a Zettelkasten? I’ve written a note on what a Zettelkasten is here. Public notes I’ve setup a link between my Zettelkasten repository and this website.
Backlinks are bad because they do not provide any additional information. Rather they take away in cognitive performance because there is another link you might follow. Rather links should come from a natural flow, because the note builds on a previous note, for example. Or to include an idea from another note. I’ve come to believe that linking keywords within the idea to other notes is a better approach than a list at the bottom linking back and forth.
Notes should be linked, as is the basis of the Zettelkasten idea. However, to effectively link notes try the following: Link to a more general idea. Link to a more specific idea. Link to a related topic. See “tk notes” for when you don’t have note ready to link to. Above is how we used to think about linking notes together. In the meantime we have learned that there is some truth to this manner, but having these as a list at the bottom of a note doesn’t work.
There are a few principles attached to a Zettelkasten: The principle of atomicity: A note should contain one idea, and one idea only. The reason for this is that you want to be able to link to an idea, and not some idea hidden on a card somewhere in the middle. The principle of autonomy: Each note should be self-contained and comprehensible. This includes autonomy from other notes, but also from the sources.
The following image shows when you should start a new note for your slipbox. And what to do if there are similar notes: Start by finding similar notes, if there aren’t any make a new note. If there are notes, but not related, make a new note. Notes related to the topic exist, if these do not fit the idea create a new note but adhere to the keywords. A few notes roughly match: creating a new zettel is a bit too much.