This is good stuff. Is a bit rigid for where I am right now but gives me a lot of building blocks to move forward. I’m trying to develop a zettlekasten workflow that fits Obsidian (and me) and the MOC concept (basically a header page) will definitely fit in there once I figure out best form for me.
Thanks @greasemonkey! The MOCs are the key to greasing many sticking points.
Maps of Content fill more purposes than initially meet the eye.
They can be temporary, like a curated workbench you fill with relevant notes.
They can be mostly passive summations of thought on a particular branch of interest.
Or they can be a crucible where ideas can battle it out, forcing you to grind them to their fundamental essence—thinking of their proximal importance to each other and building stronger connective tissue between them. This is similar in essence to what you wrote elsewhere:
I wish you good fortune developing your workflow! Please let me know how everything goes
Thanks for the incredibly useful file, @nickmilo. It’s one thing to read about implementing some structure (heterarchy) into the note system, but it’s altogether another–more powerful–approach to actually swim in the structure. Your example notes are a boon!
Would be neat to be able to make the MOCs as visual / graphical mindmaps that then branch off into Zettels.
@sanfender That’s nice to hear. Yeah it would be cool if the Maps of Content could somehow be viewed as mind Maps too.
The MOCs are key.
Thanks for asking, here’s my quick take. Andy’s “associative ontologies” sound more like tags actually. He links to another note that mentions an “outline note” or “hub” note. Those are closer to zettelkasten .de’s “structure notes”. Yes, there is overlap with “maps of content” (MOCs), but MOCs serve an expanded purpose that outline/hub/structure notes do not explicitly identify.
MOCs are more than just a structure/hub/outline note.
(1) MOCs are incubators. Place notes in there and let them marinate. You can see exactly this use case, upon download of the text files, here: On the process of forging evergreen notes
I have not seen any examples of hub/outline/structure notes used in this capacity.
(2) MOCs are curated workbenches where ideas go to war for positioning. In an MOC, ideas are encouraged to be organized in very fluid ways: by intuition, by priority, in sequence, alphabetically, et cetera. This shuffling of ideas is like having 20 index cards on a workbench and figuring out all their foundational relationships—yet evolving the content on the note cards at the same time.
I will provide the exact use case of this awesome power and link to it »here«. And it truly is awesome once you start using it. I have not seen any examples of hub/outline/structure notes used in this capacity.
(3) MOCs are summations of thought on the topic. As MOCs mature, they can evolve into something closer to a more static annotated Table of Contents (TOC). This is the one use case that I’ve seen for hub/structure/outline notes.
I hope this is helpful in defining the terms, at least from my perspective
Many thanks for the writeup! (I take it that you coined the “Maps of Content” idea? Just for later referencing?)
It may only be because ontology has been a primary concern of my PhD, but when I read Andy’s concepts I thought of them the same way you’re describing MoCs (although I like the actionable orientation you’ve taken). So to me the ideas are equivalent, although I’d deduct “associative” from Andy’s phrase because it is sorta redundant.
It may be interesting to those reading this thread to learn more about ontologies in Information Systems:
As a metaphor for organizing content, using the term “maps” pre-dates all of us. In modern times I think “concept maps” came onto the scene in the 70’s, then mind maps at some time. Of course table of contents has been around forever, so content maps become a natural thing for me. I think my usage of #maps dates back to my early days in Evernote around 2008-09. However, maps of content and more particularly “MOCs” are not terms I coined. To the best of my knowledge, the term was coined by Lion Kimbro circa 2003 in his quixotically ambitious “How to Make a Complete Map of Every Thought You Think”, which was an analog system of exactly what it sounds like. As far as it relates to anything digital, and more specifically in knowledge management, I don’t know of anyone else who has used the term.
Although it’s difficult to wrap my head completely around the breadth of what an “ontology” may cover, I don’t know if I agree. Ontologies seem more static, like they aren’t suppose to continually evolve through stages. They seem much closer to a traditional concept map.
Whereas, MOCs have three basic stages in a full lifecycle: (1) curate related stuff (2) have that stuff battle it out (forming new stuff, dismembering other stuff, filling in discovered gaps), and (3) form a mature spatial constellation of ideas for whatever purpose you had (content creation, life-long reference, etc).
I don’t see ontologies as dynamic thinking, growing, and creating tools, whereas MOCs are. But I might not be understanding them fully.
@nickmilo Thanks for the thoughtful responses.
To be clear: I think I have developed a bit of Stockholm Syndrome about ontology, as I’ve spent years studying the application of ontology to information systems at this point… So, I may be irrationally attached to the idea.
Still, I would disagree with the conception of an ontology as a static thing. To be a little philosophical, an ontology simply represents what is real.
If you’re creating an ontology about bird species and their features, it is probably pretty static. Evolution isn’t that quick.
On the other hand, an ontology about your current understanding of evolution and some theories you’re developing based on that understanding would be more fluid. The ontology of your understanding would change to adapt to changes in your understanding.
So, it depends on what you’re representing with an ontology.
I think the relationship to MoCs is this: a MoC, as you’ve defined them, seems to manifest an ontology.
That said, I don’t really like the term “map,” so I may not use it in my own practice. To me, a map is a (usually fixed) representation to help navigate a space—it wouldn’t necessarily contain the kind of qualitative inquiry you’re referring to. I like your notion of a workbench (there’s a kinda related interesting discussion about workspace metaphors over on Mac Power Users here), so I think that suits my tastes more.
Of course, what we call these things doesn’t really matter. It’s still a really great concept and I sincerely appreciate your thinking on it!
Wow, that was a really interesting thread you linked to, many good terms: garage, tools, workbench, incubator, even Lion Kimbro was mentioned, which is impressive. And I must say your perspective is a treasure to have; thank you for this dialogue.
I have some thoughts, especially about ‘maps’, and I hope it doesn’t come across as just semantics.
- Ontologies represent what is real, maps are an interpretation of what is real.
- On a given topic, there should be one ontology, but there can be limitless maps.
- Maps of content float above the note collection, offering an augmented and customized, but non-destructive perspective
- While we will also read our maps, at the heart of the process, we are the cartographers.
‘Ontology’ is a term I haven’t spent time with, so I’m still wrapping my head around it, but let’s go with “simply represents what is real”.
A map is not that aspirational. A map is just an one interpretation of reality. Same goes for MOCs.
My map on “habits” might be accurate and truthful but be completely different than your map on “habits”, which might be equally accurate and truthful. This is just like all the different interpretations that have been mapped for our planet: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_map_projections . This quote jumped out:
Because there is no limit to the number of possible map projections, there can be no comprehensive list.
(As a sidenote, this is why I am skeptical of collaborative knowledge bases. On whose authority are changes made, and what if I like my version and not the group’s that version. But that’s another topic entirely.)
So the analogy of “map” has agency in that it allows for non-limiting interpretations of reality. Am I wrong that an ontology doesn’t have that same flexibility?
Complimentary to that “interpretation” is the second area where the analogy of “map” carries agency: as an augmented layer. Go to Google Maps, search “starbucks” and what do you get? A customized augmented layer that does not change the content it’s overlaid upon. An MOC does the same. It augments the one’s contents.
But who draws the map?
A quote I’d like to address:
a map is a (usually fixed) representation to help navigate a space—it wouldn’t necessarily contain the kind of qualitative inquiry you’re referring to.
Ah, but we are the cartographers! The map makers. And cartographers compile all their accumulated knowledge onto their workbench where thousands of tiny decisions happen in concentration, eventually leading to a unique interpretation of thought: a map.
Interesting perspective, @nickmilo. If I may offer yet another, ehm, view on this matter: I think of MOCs as, you guessed it, views, rather than maps.
To me, a “map” is supposed to be a truthful description of a particular piece of reality. Of course, the description won’t ever be truly objective, because, as you note, we are the cartographers, but it strives to be — unlike most MOCs.
Additionaly, a “map” doesn’t feel particularly dynamic to me. Of course, you can say that although the map itself isn’t dynamic, you redraw the it very often so you get a sort of dynamic behaviour from it, but that feels like quite a stretch to keep up with an ill-fitting metaphor.
Views, on the other hand, are inherently personal and dynamic by nature. They can be ephemeral, devised for one-off use to clear some thoughts up, but they can also last for a long time. For me, a “map” is a frozen view, ready to be published.
I like where this is going. I had been trying to import my Dynalist approach into nodal platforms like Roam or Obsidian. I found these quite magical for discovery. There offered an organic methodology that would allow connections to emerge. But I just couldn’t navigate them as I was used to in Dynalist. Maybe it’s possible to combine both, as you argue.
Sorry for the noob question, but where is this file? I’d love to learn about this method.
I can no longer enter the discord link.
@matleonii Hey no worries, we now have the ability to attach .zip files to discourse, so check out the original post above. The download is there now!
thanks a lot for that! By the way, super good work that you did in this file. I’m still exploring it but it already taught me a lot!
Nice! I notice a lot more use of folders in this version. Wonder if any of our discussions contributed or if it evolved organically as need arose. I’ll take a look at the notes later and respond back later! Thanks for sharing.
Hey Rishi, glad you noticed, and yes, you are correct. @cotemaxime 's heavy use of folders made me consider ways I could use their inherently exclusive nature to my benefit.
You had previously asked about “People” as a folder, which seems fine to me. I’m experimenting with other folders for Things that have one clear, overriding description. So along with “People”, I’m experimenting with “Quotes” and “Images” and “Source Notes”.
_pHabits and the
_pMOCs folders are examples of Incubation Folders. They were sort of nice to have, even though I was building my MOCs at the same time; but now they are both gone. Now all of the notes they contained are in my main folder collection. But for the kit, I kept them there as an example, so people could see less dogmatic uses of a note collection.
It’s worth noting in Obsidian, that folders are not as exclusive as in a traditional file system since every note can be linked from anywhere, regardless of the folder.
But still, there is a point of diminishing return. That point is probably when a person tires from having to twirl and un-twirl folders too often. In that sense, I still want to approach folders with a certain caution/reluctance, but I’m not afraid to use a few.
Thanks for the reply. I see your point about finding some balance and not getting carried away by all the folder hierarchy goodness! I was particularly curious about the Resources folder where I also saw one for images. At first I was taken aback by seeing multiple levels of subfolders then I realised that I’ve been facing issues with my one attachments folder myself and wish every note had a hidden folder with all its attachments. Are you using a script to generate subfolders for your attachments or doing it manually?
I was also curious about another thing and wanted to seek some clarification on MOCs. Since our last conversation, I’ve begun setting up a few myself and I was wondering how deep does it make sense to go. Right now, I’ve the main MOCs similar to your setup but less than 10. From my Interests MOC, I link to some of my interests which themselves are MOCs, like a Chess MOC. That in turn, links to other notes like Chess lessons, chess jokes, chess people I follow, etc. Over time, I’ve begun linking my chess lessons and elaborating each lesson in their separate note. This made me think that it could itself become an MOC. But then I realised I’m going too many levels deep perhaps. And after the first 2 or 3 levels, I found it more useful to transclude the notes instead of just linking. This way they become more of a structure more as opposed to an MOC. Have you run into this issue yourself? And if so, how do you deal with it? Again, I still have to check v3 in depth so still asking questions from the previous one.
One last question, I noticed that you were using MOC and TOC as tags. But I didn’t see any description if it’s supposed to be different or just the same.
Lastest thing! I just want to thank you for the entire demo but specifically the quotes MOC was quite useful to me. I was quite confused how to handle quotes since I collect a lot of them. And your idea of using onTopic tags all collected in the Quotes MOC with categories was just a brilliantly simple idea that seems like I’d be powerful in the long run for discovery. Also having those tags in one page helps me relate those tags with quotes so next time I add a quote I can remember existing tags better. Having the tags list in the sidebar isn’t as good. Great work! Highly appreciate it.
Thanks very much for this starter kit!