Some people in the Discord seemed to find this organization system interesting so I decided to go ahead and type up a longer version.
The tl;dr is that I use folders to help me go from source material to synthesis to content creation using what essentially amounts to increasingly lengthy filenames, e.g.
MOC: Egypt → LITNOTE: Women in Egypt by Whoever → ZETTEL: Egyptian Princesses had less work but more prestige than their Sumerian counterparts → ARTICLE: Egypt vs. Sumeria: The Role of Princesses in the Fertile Crescent
(also, if you’d prefer this in video form, check out my interview / live notetaking session with Nick Milo over on the Linking Your Thinking channel where I showcase this process “with the garage door open,” as it were: How to turn your notes into published articles and books using the Obsidian app with Eleanor Konik - YouTube)
The long form is below:
00 Meta 10 Dated Notes 20 Worldbuilding 30 Characters 40 Interests .. 41 Gardening .. 42 Programming .. 43 Video Games 50 RL Concepts .. 51 Indexes .. 52 Encyclopaedic .. 53 References .... Books .... Discussions .... Journals .... Videos .... Websites .. 54 Insights .. 55 Questions .. 56 Synthesis 70 Newsletters 80 Stories 90 Articles .. 90 Meta .. 91 Seeds .. 92 Recurring .. 93 Published
(note, for the full version of my folder layout as of March, see below.
Anyway! To the PKM part. Before I developed this (heavily personalized) system, I read a bunch about Zettelkasten and atomic notes and LYT and all the other stuff that shows up in this community a lot. I like the idea of atomic notes, but, well, a lot of what I personally do isn’t intended for “personal use only” — to me, Obsidian isn’t just a notetaking app for future-me, it’s a beginning-to-end solution for my article and story writing workflow. I’m not an academic (technically? Anymore?) but I do read a lot of academic books, journal articles, and assorted nonfiction things on fairly scholastic topics — I’m the kind of person who takes advantage of my public library’s Interlibrary Loan connections to academic institutions and gets a bunch of textbooks for Christmas every year. I mostly filter the stuff I learn through a worldbuilding lens — I’m a staff writer for Worldbuilding Magazine and have earned actual dollars for my fiction, so I try to take it pretty seriously.
Anyway, this is how I process information from raw “capture” to the “atomic note” stage and then on to “public-facing product.”
- My reading roundups also include things I sought out deliberately for learning, and in those cases I usually create a literature note (in folder
53). My literature notes are comprised primarily of highlights and annotations; after I’m finished reading something, I export the highlights and annotations and then reformat them to have descriptive headings and numerical identifiers (typically based on chapter and page/location) for easier interlinking. I try to always include a note for why I thought something would be useful, so my literature notes tend to be several thousand words along the lines of:
writing emerged around the same time as state-level warfare
some of these interactions were, noupons certainly fought one another long before anyone invented a writing system to record the fact. but the stakes were higher once a city - based government could arm and organize its men to launch an attack on a neighboring community. city dwellers in syria and mesopotamia began protecting themselves behind fortification walls at right around the same time that writing was invented
Interesting that there is this connection between writing and armies but it makes sense. Add to the warfare moc.
The end result is that my literature note, once exported from whatever format I was reading the text in (whether analog or digital), becomes a really, really long to-do list that is easily cross-referenced, transcluded into topical notes (and I’m working on a plugin to do this more easily, too!), etc.
Matching. Once I have a couple of different pieces of information that connect to each other on a particular topic (often from the same literature note, but sometimes I’ll come across something that relates to a different piece of information I found), I’ll create a new note with a descriptive title that makes the statement the references prove and put it into my
56 Synthesisfolder. In most ways, the title is the important part. Then I’ll transclude all of the relevant “academic” notes on that topic so I can see them in one place. If it’s only one or two short things, I’ll leave it alone for efficiency’s sake. But once it’s unwieldy, I’ll start synthesizing things in one of two ways.
Indexes. I find the term “Map of Content” to be pretty … fraught, so I like to avoid it. But I create an index whenever I have a concept that I’ve got a bunch of information about. My weekly research roundup newsletter gets saved off into a specialty folder because of the formal formatting I use, but they’re designed to be narrowly-focused deep overviews of my research on a particular topic, like wool or beetles or aerogels. I write articles for my blog basically whenever I feel like I have an insight worth sharing. I have reference notes and synthesis notes and… well, information gets spread out. So my index notes are a good place to link to information on a topic and summarize what that link contains so I can get an easy, top-down view of my own notes as needed. This is where Obsidian’s search really shines, because sometimes I find stuff I had forgotten about, lol.
If I only have academic sources on a particular topic, though, and there are a bunch of them, I’ll usually create properly synthesized note, although the title is still the most important thing. To be honest, I do this rarely — and usually purposefully (i.e. when I’m specifically looking into something like Mesopotamian clothing), not because I found a spontaneous connection. I find the idea of the “atomic note” to be largely irrelevant to me thus far; I prefer to think of the Zettelkasten ideal as “insights” or “epiphanies” and in terms of what I do, they’re relatively rare and more importantly almost always wind up being fleshed out into an article of some kind — or they’re so short and self-evident that I never get beyond a descriptive title with some reference links as sources.
More often, though, ideas I have wind up in
55 Questions!) because ultimately, I like writing articles. I am a verbose person and I like sharing my thoughts with the world (obviously). So if a thought about history strikes me while reading, and it could be useful for worldbuilding or might be able to find an audience (which is almost always) I usually want it down in pre-production, not languishing in my “notes.” I even have a little “Article & Blog Idea” step file that I use to collect backlinks on literature notes and resonance calendar when I don’t have the energy to create the seed. Then, once I have enough sources or angles for a particular seed to push it to the point where it’s worth tackling — or inspiration strikes — I usually open up a different markdown app, like Writemonkey or Typora, in one window, and my obsidian vault in the other, and then open up all of my relevant notes in Obsidian and start writing, or, secretly, sometimes I use obsidian mobile to dictate a draft using voice text.
Then, once I’m done, I go update the relevant
Anyway I’m not saying this is the best way or the only way or even that you should do any of this, I just figured I’d share so I could think through the whole process and have a place to point people when my “methodology” comes up in conversation.
LMK if you have any questions, I’m around.