The first time I read about a Slipbox was in Robert M. Pirsig’s book Lila: An Inquiry into Morals, and Ryan Holiday’s “Commonplace Book”. Both of their systems are centered more around categories, and random access, and less about linking ideas, like Luhmann’s Zettlekasten. All three systems feature atomicity.
Lila was essentially a sequel to Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. In this book, Pirsig describes his slipbox system, which he kept on cards in drawers aboard his sailboat. His topics, categories and subcategories aren’t really important, because this is something you need to invent and find for yourself.
But he did talk about some of his meta categories, which are very interesting. And these could be implemented into any note-taking system.
Robert M. Pirsig’s Slipbox System:
[UNASSIMILATED] - cards which aren’t integrated into the network yet. This was basically his inbox. I like the idea of having an explicit tag for this, to indicate to yourself that you mean to assimilate the note. (Rather than an implicit lack of connections or keywords.)
[PROGRAM] - this was his main meta category. His own personal commentary on the system as a whole. He would keep ideas and instructions to himself about the system, and about things he wanted to reorganize. Each slip was an instruction for how to deal with the rest of the system. Each note in this category was also an individual atomic slip, so he could still sort, reorganize and link this category as well.
[CRIT] - This was a safety measure. Sometimes he’d wake up in a foul mood and want to destroy things, thinking his ideas were terrible. So instead of trashing notes, he used CRIT to write down all his complaints about the notes. Then he could review when he was calmer.
[TOUGH] - These were slips that seemed to say something of great importance, but he couldn’t think of what topic to include it in yet. Note that this is separate from UNASSIMILATED. UNASSIMILATED was his rough inbox for any new scraps of ideas.
[JUNK] - Things he had written down before that seemed high quality, but now seemed like junk. If he found duplicates, he would throw away the extras, but otherwise nothing got deleted. He realized JUNK is a working category! Some slips never got reincarnated from this category, but some of the ones that did were some of the most important ones he had. In Tiago Forte’s P.A.R.A. this could almost be thought of as the ARCHIVE. It isn’t a trash bin!
I hope someone finds this useful. I actually forgot about Pirsig’s system until I began moving my physical index cards into Obsidian!