Action tags for emergent structure

I have noticed that there are many different ways of handling development of structure in Obsidian/Personal Management System. Some users have strict structure/note templates from the beginning, whereas other are more inclined to grow it and see their structure (links, structure notes/TOC/MOC etc) to emerge.

I am more in this second group - I am having basic structure of the note and types of notes, however I like when structure is emerging and I can follow it/discover it by making it (not imposing it from the beginning). For this purpose, I try to use “Action Tags”.

Before it, I used “status tags” like #stem #draft #need-to-elaborate etc. But “Action tags” are more fun and help me to lead dialog with my notes. They inform me about what my notes require (in case it is not finished). It also enables unfinished notes as welcomed/alright.

Action tags always start with “A-” E.g. some notes can have #A-TagMe (When I write a note quickly and need to tag it more properly later) and in similar way #A-LinkMe #A-ElaborateMe #A-AddToStructureNote/MOC #A-ThinkMeAgain #A-ContinueFromHere etc.

It also add some playfulness into working with my system.

I do not impose any strict rules on when to action-tag what note. Just when I feel that any note needs more work and I do not have time (capacity, inspiration etc) to finish it now, I action-tag it with some appropriate tag. Thus I am calm that next time when re-visiting it I will see what I intended to do with my note next. Thus I am also calm that my structure will emerge in time. I am also calm that I do not have to “finish” anything and that I can write just very stem of my note - without losing my intention about what to do with this note.

Do you handle it in similar ways? Or how do you remember/mark actions on your notes?


Looks great.
Think I also belong to the second group :wink:

Don’t know about the tagging. Seems you need to manage the thing manually.

IMHO I don’t believe in workflows that need manual management (read adding, moving, removing tags,…in a manual way)
Reason: Seems only few people managed to do this during a lifetime (example Niklas Luhman).

Hence I strongly believe that opening up Obsidian with the API library will enable plugins which will enable us managing these kind of things, and more importantly enable oneself to choose to embrace a plugin or not depending on the workflow that bests fits you.

Bringing me to something I discovered a long time ago: Everyone is different and every workflow is ‘perfect’… for the person using it.

Great research in this area comes from people who managed to create workflows that fit a very big group of people. That approach will always result in a group that has other needs and other ways of working because they see themselves not able to apply an established/researched workflow.

Which is totally fine by the way.

Compared to what most people are trying to do, Luhmann wrote relatively few notes, all with a focus, so manual management helped the reflection which was the core of his process.

From what I know Luhman wrote more than 60000 zettles (notes) and he had indeed no luxury of a computer system.

Don’t think you grasped my point though:
Any system can be good for anyone (and that’s perfectly fine).
No system ‘works’ for every one (and that’s fine too).
Good system/workflows are considered ‘good’ when they can ‘please’ lots of people working in a certain way.
For me the manual management of tags and other stuff to keep my vaults and notes ‘alive’ is not working. No opinion expressed here.

He wrote more than that, but that was over a full working lifetime and he worked diligently with his zettelkasten throughout. When you work out how many he wrote a day, with a full allowance for holidays and other days not worked, it wasn’t a large number.

Grasped it, but wasn’t commenting on it.

This is wrong. Many people use systems that don’t work for them, many systems barely function even with capable, committed people.

That’s true.

I have no opinion on whether manual management is good or ill for any system or any individual. I think it depends on many factors. But I do think that manual management (of anything) can have advantages as well as disadvantages.

Obsidian is more manual than Roam; for me, that difference improves productivity (looking at quality as well as quantity) - but others feel differently. And we might all be right.

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I’m not aware of any Zettelkasten system that doesn’t ‘require’ some management. The extent of the management is my concern. I have employed something similar to the OPs use of tags, especially in light of Obsidian including them in Graphs. Actually, I find it easier to create links between notes (management?) by Tags giving me a heads up on similar thoughts/notes/Zettels. YMMV :wink:

Valid point and totally agree with your ‘extent’-remark.
As someone with a programming background and knowledge of different programming languages and OS-es I am researching on systems and workflows to reduce the ‘management-extent’ to an absolute minimum.
Meanly doing research on very big data/note sets so manual is really not an option at all.
My personal vault would perfectly by manageable with tags and other manual interventions

I agree…especially ‘limited’ interventions.

Agree. Tagging is a difficult discipline to maintain consistently over the long term. Even when the discipline is high, if one adjusts the tag vocabulary over time, or decides to reclassify, the effort can become a great burden.

I admire people who can focus on their tagging discipline and, most importantly, benefit from it. Not a habit for me :sunny:

It’s better, IMO, to maintain references between notes / documents, which is why I prefer solutions like Obsidian.

That’s what I am researching right now.
In my job (banking/financial institution) we use Atlassian.
Tagging systems change (if you want it or not).
Even with a small concept base of 400 concepts it was not do-able to maintain a system of 80-90 tags let alone changing the tag names or structure.
Obsidian would have been great but we started the system (2,5 years ago)…

This makes assumptions about how tags are used. I use tags extensively as a supplement to links. They’re definitely not categorical, they could be impressionistic, and I expect they will change substantially over time. Their advantage is that they are fuzzier and less defined than links. They’re easy to use in any program that can access text and therefore useful in any system wide search. Taking a Luhmannesque journey through notes continually throws these up as possible side paths increasing the possibility of unexpected discoveries.

QED :wink:

Yes, it was/is a bad system and not a sensible way to use tags where fixed boundaries are impossible to maintain, let alone implemented in the same way by different people.
If you’re going to use an inherently fuzzy technique, it needs to be used where fuzziness is advantageous.