Sorry - the second sentence should say “linking too liberally.”
OK, that makes sense.
I still don’t quite know what to make of the graph, i.e. how it can really help. Yes, it shows which notes are interlinked, but so what? What can we do with that info, how does that help us make new discoveries?
You don’t necessarily need to answer that because it is a bit off the OP’s track.
I like your idea of pruning tags. It’s giving me some ideas for how to adjust my link mania.
You mentioned your tags are mostly to abstract concepts. What about your links? Could you give a specific example, contrasting with “perception” or “happiness” tags?
I’m trying to think how this could apply to the history and news OP.
One thing I have in mind is links (to notes, or empty links) should be a question I want to answer, or later a question I think I’ve mostly answered. The link should resemble text I could type into Google or to a source that is readily interpretable. E.g. to use a recent event:
- How big was the explosion in Beruit, absolutely and comparatively?
- What is the impact of the Beirut port explosion on the local economy?
- Is it normal to store explosive materials in a port?
A link to this “idea or question” note would be empty to start, but I’d gradually add transcluded links for reference notes and maybe my own text there. As I answer a question note to my satisfaction, I may adjust the title from a question to a statement. Reference notes can be inputs into multiple idea notes, and small idea notes (e.g. those above) can be inputs into varying large idea notes that are closer to proper reports, e.g.:
- How does the port of Beruit explosion compare with the one in Tianjin China, in both circumstances and impact?
Whereas the tags would be far vaguer - probably not much use on their own, but they help me find obscure notes in the future. E.g.
- Hazardous materials shipping
- Man made disasters
I’ll keep experimenting and see what works - this discussion is very useful for my thinking.
The “perception” and “happiness” links are in my zettelkasten, where I deal with subjects like “Uncertainty”, “Leadership”, “Creativity”, etc. These 3 are what I call “story rivers” (a term I borrowed from TiddlyWiki, although there it means something different). In my case a story river knits together a number of atomic notes into a story. The “knitting” is done with transclusions.
Each atomic note has 1 or more links to other notes in my zettelkasten, and I assign a number of concept
#tags, such as “perception” and “happiness”, that I think describe the content of the note.
When I create a new note and have finished linking and assigning tags to it, I do a filter search for each tag to see if there are additional notes I can link to. It also allows me to assess whether all the
#tags assigned to the new note still make sense or if I should delete/add 1 or 2 more.
That is how I build my network between what have come to regarded as evergreen notes.
I also have another collection of notes, which is more similar to your: I call it my Geopolitical notes, which also includes a number of economics notes because economics is often affected by politics.
I started building that collection before my zettelkasten, so they are not atomic at all: they are long to very long. I use different kinds of
#tags that are separate from the zk ones.
I just started transferring them to Obsidian, and hope to be able to use transclusions for them too. I love transclusions; for me it’s one of the defining features of Obs.
The Geopolitical notes are in a vault that is separate from the zk vault.
Very nice to see your comments here…
It seems we share the same love for Zettelkasten and PKM in general
I used TiddlyWiki for a while…
It’s great but the learning curve is steep and rather long (even for a technical guy as me).
Now I am using Obsidian (just started but such a fan that after a few minutes I decided to become a VIP member), Zettlr (some time already), Joplin (longer) and Sublime Text (longest) to keep my MarkDown Zettels up to date.
Zettlr and Joplin don’t do a good job with large number of files.
I have Vaults with 30k+ (some 80k+) Zettels (Started as a “test”, biut used daily now).
Sublime Text with RegEx works great even on large numbers of files.
Obsidian works great with these numbers too.
The Graph is realy great, alltough for 80k Zettles this will not be very usefull I believe.
My normal Vaults contain 1000 Zettles or less which works great for the Graphs.
Hope to help the community with some insights like you do in the future.
@RikD: hey there, pleased to meet you. No wonder I have not seen your name, you’re new. A reply to some of the points you make.
TiddlyWiki: I was and still am impressed by it. But like you, it was too much for me. After leaving it I always felt a bit, well, silly for not sticking with it longer. Your reaction to it as a tech guy makes me feel more at ease about my decision.
I too tried Zettlr and Joplin, as well as many other note-taking apps, but somehow they did not fulfil my not always well-defined wishes.
I eventually settled on Typora and VNote, both of which I used for a couple of years. After moving away from TW (used it in parallel with the other 2) I discovered Obsidian, and even though it is still in beta, I had this feeling of “yes, this is it”. The rapid development and lively community convinced me quickly to pay up.
I love the customisability with CSS sheets, I love transclusions, as well as the other features.
Re the graph: its usefulness became a bit clearer from comments here - Alexis has made some great observations.
And now there is also the local graph, in addition to the global one.
As for your number of notes, wow, that’s impressive, must represent quite a few years of gathering!
OK, that’s it for now.
I look forward to exchange with you again.
Interesting to hear you have so many notes Rik (well done, that’s tenacity). Most people, myself including, seem to be just starting this habit rather than so far along.
What is the primary subject of your notes? Do you find your note taking different for news and historical factoids?
Indeed the big vaults go back until 2002 when I started keeping things in simple text files.
Gradually changed to MarkDown along the way.
Thx for the additional info on Graphs: certainly useful.
The primary usage of the big vaults is indeed to keep up with historical facts and news in the Financial Industry which is the ecosystem were I work in for the moment.
The smaller vaults are for “personal” use and have a Zettelkasten approach for linking and backlinking.
I also use Feedly to keep up with numerous RSS-feeds which are important for my job and my personal interests. The personal vaults receive the interesting RSS-feeds with some own notes and links so I can keep up with the flood of info there (2000+ messages a day).
Note: This is my job as an Innovation Lead. I do get to spend 100% of my time doing this.
Seems normal you can gather much more information then.
The big challenge until now (THX @obsidian) was to keep it all in good shape. Seems this is indeed “the thing”. That’s the reason why I directly sponsored this community. I love investing in things that I daily use and believe in!
Very interesting, and highly relevant to this threads discussion.
When taking notes on factoids, you make a distinction in reference/literature notes versus permanent notes, as often advocated in Zettelkasten? Are they all literature notes? Do you group notes by source, or by end topic?
Or, more generally, could you describe your average workflow from finding something of interest, e.g. via an RSS article on a historical factoid, to something close to it’s final form as a note in your vault?
These processes are very insightful, but rarely discussed for actual work applications. Appreciate whatever you can share!
That’s not an easy one, and indeed workflows are not often described as they tend to differ from one person to another.
I started a few years ago with the notion of #tags which I do not use anymore and removed them from every Zettle I have in my vaults. MarkDown files are fully text searchable so I don’t see any use of Tags (personal opinion).
Links and Backlinks is another story:
When an interesting topic in an RSS feed passes by I start creating a Zettle with the pure text of the article and all necessary info for finding it back later. Pure copy because unfortunately sites and articles sometimes tend to disappear after a while which leave you with nothing over the years ;-).
Then I start searching other Zettels in all my vaults on keywords I find useful to link to. This purely for enabling me to write comprehensive summaries for our Executive Team and the Board. Sometimes this workflow triggers new Zettels with additional info and thoughts, which is totally OK.
After a while you can see some ‘gravitational’ forces in your graphs going to one direction (or more) depending on the topics you are working on. Sometimes you gravitate away from topics but sometimes they are ‘re-ignited’ years after with the great side-effect you already have great links and backlinks in the .md files.
As said. This works for me. I really don’t have the knowledge of the perfect system and I do a lot of research trying to keep up with PKM. As said it’s my job so I have the time to really focus on this.
Coming from an ICT technical background and having Six Sigma Black Belt and Design Thinking also as additional frameworks I don’t believe in a “one system fits all”-solution.
I really believe great working methods evolve out of using the best of every system you personally belief can be of interest to do the job. That’s what I am trying for almost 30 years now in my career.
I certainly am interested in assembling a framework approach like Zettelkasten meeting the needs of many on the PKM-front. Still 10 years of professional career and hopefully much time after that to achieve this Life goal
@RikD: +1 for 6-Sigma. I did not work as one, but did get closer through Lean. The latter concept is marvellous, can be applied to almost any situation, incl. the private situation. Even when I go through a supermarket I try to do it in a Lean way, and get irritated when my wife goes back and forth because her shopping list is constructed in a haphazard way.
Again, very interesting. I also found #tags low utility, given they grow quickly to a unmanageable size, and the availability of a search function. It’s also good to hear the Obsidian manages a large number of notes well.
If you would indulge me further, a few more questions:
- It sounds like you have two main types of notes/Zettels - source Zettels of full text articles from original sources, and comprehensive summary Zettels that pull together ideas from different articles. Is that right?
- Do you take notes within your source Zettels, or use them strictly as a repository to reference when writing your summary notes?
- Do you link to and from your source Zettels into summary Zettels, or link between your comprehensive summary Zettels (i.e. do links cross the two categories)? I worry that if I link liberally within source Zettels (which outnumber summary Zettels by orders of magnitude) that the utility of the graph may degrade.
- How do you distinguish your source Zettels from your summary Zettels in Obsidian - archives, folders, naming convention, indices, or not at all? Simply using the search function?
- How devoted are you to the atomicity principal in your summary Zettels?
- Do you tend to revise your summary notes over time, or do you prepare them once in advance of your work obligations that need them and then move on?
I agree that every workflow will differ, and we all need to iterate our own approaches rather than take a one-size-fits-all approach to note taking - I found some aspects of . But, I notice some overlaps in our workflows (I described mine here and here, above in this thread). I’ve had a very limited, but functional, source saving system for years, but have recently been trying to iterate improvements using Obsidian. Your steps have helped give me some ideas to experiment with myself, and that’s why I’m probing more here.
Again, appreciate all your comments!
Aside: we are kindred spirits on this. From one to another, beware pushing efficiency in the supermarket too hard!
Thanks for the warning, you are right. I do take my foot off the accelerator, telling myself that Lean was not really meant for that. It’s possible to drive oneself and those around nuts with it
Sorry for the late reply. Some other issues to solve first
- I “treat” all my Zettles the same. For me (personal opinion) they are all just “concepts”/pieces of information that one day (or not) could be linked to one another.
- I don’t take notes in concept Zettles. They are ‘the source’. Again this is personal. I don’t want to evangelise my personal workflow.
- Links are placed in the ‘summary’ Zettles allthough you could see them also as Concepts when you really want to. Luhman’s workflow seemed to be that he didn’t put more than 3 references to other Zettles in his notes. I tend to go for 5 as a maximum. Links to other concepts can be much higher. Certainly when you are writing research papers. With links I personally refer to what you call Summary Zettles. I would not put more then 5 of those links in one Zettle.
- Indeed search function. Obsidian is the most powerfull (together with Sublime Editor which I personally use the longest now). I literally crashed Zettler and Joplin with my bigger vaults (10k Zettles seems to be the max for both). Zettlr and Joplin do not handle big numbers of files well. The tool litteraly becomes very slow and unusable. Obsidean seems to handle this very well. And no distinction between source and summary as already mentioned. Thinking about how search can help me ‘update’ the source Zettles with internal links between one another. E.g. I have done some research about Company X. I would do a global search for “Company X”. You probably are writing a comprehensive summary article but it would be nice to see that in the Graph too. Therefor you would need to replace Company X by [[Company X]] in the sources Zettles. Not sure if that is a good approach. All advice welcome there
- How devoted? Very as I follow the max link rule of that is what you meant ;-). Try to keep summary Zettles as small as possible. Even after some years of active Zettelkasten research I have a good workflow (even if I say it myself), but I still struggle with some small things.
Hope to having helped you with this.
If not: shoot new questions. WIll try to answer them ASAP.
@RikD: some good points here.
I have been working on my zettelkasten for 6 years, incl. setting it up. I started 1st with Daniel Luedecke’s ZKN3 app, but soon found it too limited, not flexible, and not offering enough features.
I shan’t describe all my travails, suffice to say that I went to Evernote, OneNote, CherryTree, TiddlyWiki, and now Obsidian.
The way Obsidian works, and its features that keep evolving, makes it a real joy to work on my zettelkasten. I also have a different set of notes, with long to very long notes, and even there Obs is a pleasure. And many more useful features are on the way, absolutely mouth-watering.
The reason I say all this is because of the point I want to make: I have noticed that since I started using Obs some 3 months ago, I increasingly think in terms of links. My mind is much more alert to seeing connections between notes, and connections or duplications I had not picked up before.
I even discover relationships between things I hear and see that have nothing to do with my zettelkasten !
I have not tried to analyse the reason(s), I am just happy to have got to what I would describe as the next level of “relationship awareness”, which I believe (perhaps wrongly, perhaps not) is due to Obsidian.
Totally valid point you’re making here.
The more you use the Zettelkasten approach the better you get at it. Luhmann seemed to be an absolute example of that.
I do believe Obsidian is certainly a positive enabler, offering you all the tools and gimmicks that make it possible to “see” links and other connections.
That will set you to make more Zettles and your second brain will become bigger and bigger and will help you become as good as Luhmann in creating new content.
I am still very far from that point. Certainly working towards that.
Great to see some likeminded souls who are trying to reach this goal too.
Hope Obsidian will definitely become the number one tool achieving that!
Thanks again - all interesting comments to consider. I’m tinkering with my own note taking approach and will report back as I have anything new/innovative to offer.
My observation, from my own habits, is that getting into Zettelkasten it is easy to pile up tons of material quickly, which may not be processable ever (if one keeps collecting at that pace). As a result, most of my deliberate thinking on how to use Obsidian, including for analyzing trends in economies, markets, geopolitics, are around the idea of sustainability of the practice:
- Do these habits make work towards my professional writing obligations more productive and insightful, or are they creating additional archival work that is merely additive rather than multiplicative?
- Can I maintain this practice for a couple hours a day, for years? How enjoyable is the process itself, relative to my earlier systems of gathering information, generating insight, and composition?
- What is the optimal amount of source (literature) notes to gather daily within Obsidian vs just reading and moving on? Your comments on scaling of search are useful in helping understand Obsidian’s strengths as a Markdown archive vs other options.
- What about daily creation of true Zettels, my own original creations (whether long or short)? Do I optimize summarizing anything I can each day, and assume serendipity will occur to make that eventually useful? Or create Zettels (short compositions) that are very goal oriented towards weekly/monthly reporting, and again assume value will amass over time via linking and search? How much do I focus on editing old Zettels versus merely linking to them from newer Zettels that expand on old ideas?
- Those last few bullets could be summarized to: Will I dread opening Obsidian because I see so many “in process” notes in my backlog, many eventually orphaned? Or instead get bogged down trying to write only a few notes per day that are more certainly useful long term?
Again all valid remarks.
My “Archive” vault is created and maintained automatically so no “daily stress” there. You could argue if this is a good practice. I tend to lean towards “Yes” as the information often isn’t retrievable on the WWW after a few years and the search capabilities of the source is rather questionable ( )
For your last bullet:
I (personal opinion) would go for writing whatever comes up in a daily-note. The workflow that I try to maintain is overviewing the notes and
[[linking]] interesting stuff to new Atomic Notes (mentioned in the thread about block linking’. Those atomic Notes (read Zettles) do not need to have “content” yet. But if you can already fill them with the general idea that is great.
The graph directly gives you on idea on the “orphenage” status. Question for me is if “orphanage” is good or bad (look at my comment on gravition towards something or away from someting overtime).
What I am going to be experimenting with is the Obsidian option of the random note. That creates a random “stroll” through your second brain which sometimes could spark new thing (and sometimes not which is great).
Thanks again for your insights. This is really a great community to be in!
Some thoughts from me on archiving articles.
I don’t have a job were I need be able to read and categorize so many articles as you guys.
However I work in IT and am a geek in so I still read a lot.
As RikD (I think) mentioned it can be quite a problem that content on the internet just disappears.
It doesn’t even have to be that many years.
Since I noticed this being a problem for me I started to use my Wallabag instance (think Pocket but selfhosted) in the reverse way.
I read an article and then send it to Wallabag for archiving.
When I take notes I try to link to the article in my Wallabag instance.
This way I should always have a readable version of the article (if Wallabag was able to get it) and Wallabag will store the original link for me.
A problem for is that my Wallabag server is something that I have to keep running in order to be able to read the articles.
Which might not be possible in the long run.
I’m therefore currently thinking about an automated approach which would let me send articles to Wallabag and then exports them to Markdown, Plaintext, HTML or whatever other plaintext format I could use that would make sense.
Another thing I experimented with is storing the websites directly as a HTM or HTML file but that doesn’t work so well on mobile and I’m not sure how well those files would work in a future browser.
IMO something in plaintext would be the best and most future proof.
Linking to all those articles, well that’s a whole different topic.