Introducing library placement as a note attribute to create order

So I’ve worked on my library for about a year, where I’ve mostly used “How to take smart notes” as a recipe for my Zettelkasten workflow in Obsidian. The major exception is that I’ve skipped the Luhmann ID system for the note titles (23f3 - 23f4 - 23f4a etc…) that Ahren’s recommended, thinking it was unnecessary with a digital system. This means that my structure is created by:

  • Index, that lists the major topics in my library, and links to the most important note for each topic. All notes are directly or indirectly linked to an index.

  • Topic notes, that creates an overview of one particular topic.

  • Links, that defines the relationship between notes. Links is the only attribute in a note that in any way defines relation to other notes.

What I am struggling with is that I quickly get lost in the jungle of notes. I can navigate them, but it is mentally taxing. I do create topic notes, but it is demanding when the topic is spread over a wide selection of notes.

The idea I have for a mitigation for this issue is to introduce a second attribute for relationships: note placement in the library. This would be very similar to the physical location of slip box cards in Luhmann’s Zettelkasten system. This is achieved by using the Luhmann ID system. That is, when creating a new note on a topic, I either place it behind a note with a similar topic (child), I create a new branch on an existing line of thought (sibling), or I create a new series of notes. The Luhmann ID defines where a note is located in this system. (I won’t go into detail on how to write the IDs here). As a result there is now a new way to illustrate the structure of the library, where it would look more like this:

(from Niklas Luhmann-Archiv )

The alternative solution would be to use folders or tags to sort the notes, but in my experience this requires a lot of decision-making while writing, which is distracting, and it becomes very hard to manage after a while. Breadcrumbs is also an alternative, but as far as I know you can’t visualize more than one branch at one time.

With this “location attribute” solution, it requires little decision-making, and it should stay relatively easy to manage. The topic notes are still needed, but I believe I facilitate the creation of these with this solution.

I don’t expect this to be any revolutionary thoughts by any means, but it might help people that have experienced the same kind of issue as me. And I’m interested in hearing if anyone have tried a similar solution, and what their experience was. Or if they found a different simple solution.

1 Like
  1. breadcrumbs can visualize multiple hierarchies
  2. recommend looking up the difference between cataloging and classification (subject and location) as that will inform your decisions on how to label vs where to put things

Pasting the answer here as well:
Thanks a lot!
I realized after writing that post that I sort of just rediscovered what Ahren’s had been arguing for throughout the book - I had just assumed that was because Luhmann worked with a physical slip-box system. But maybe I needed to go trough this process to realize this necessity. Now I’m motivated to put this into a system.
Also, I now see how breadcrumbs can help me maintain the Zettelkasten I envision. So far I’ve assumed that breadcrumbs filled other types of needs, and was more useful for libraries with certain structures to begin with. So I’ll probably hop on the bandwagon :slight_smile: