I read Minto’s article a while back and my basic reaction was the author fundamentally misunderstood the entire point of a Zettelkasten.
This sounded like a direct solution to the problem I had tried to overcome with spaced repetition. I did not need to stuff my notes back into my birth-brain to make them useful, not if I could somehow organize them so that they functioned as a second brain (as a popular self-help course puts its). What if my note-taking system could think for me?
That last line is key: What if my note-taking system could think for me?
Answer: It can’t.
This romantic idea needs to be squashed. The Zettelkasten doesn’t “think for you” it enables you to think more deeply. That’s a huge difference.
It sounds like the author fell into the Collector’s Fallacy – collecting and linking between things that may be useful rather than thinking deeply about them and adding links where warranted. A zettelkasten is not a wiki, it is not an encyclopedia, it is not a dumping ground. It is a place for curated thought.
He seems to get the fundamental point at the end of the essay, and I’m sure by that point he would appreciate Luhmann’s statement regarding the effort of work needed in the zettelkasten:
The Zettelkasten is much more effort and time consuming than writing books.
But because of that effort Luhmann also reported that writing books was relatively easy because he had so many things to write about. It wasn’t that the books “wrote themselves” but he would “ask” the zettelkasten for topics to write about and would be bombarded with ideas and theories and new lines of thought – all of which he had written into it gradually over the years._
All the zettelkasten does is shift the intellectual effort leftward in the process. Attempts to eliminate that effort will result in a failure but that is not the fault of the system.
I too am pleased to see the growth not just of the files, but of my ability to ask questions, read things critically, make useful connections OUTSIDE of Obsidian.
Yes! I discovered this almost immediately as well.
The tool (Obsidian) and the method (for me, a zettelkasten-style approach) establishes a structure in which we can organize our thoughts, and that extends beyond the written note.
The more we adopt the tool & method the more we trust it, and the more it begins to shape our thought processes as we seek to pre-screen new info to find ways to incorporate it into our trusted system. This leads us to become more analytical overall.