What A Seedbox Is and Why It Has Been Valuable to Me

There’s been some positive feedback in the #knowledge-management channel on Discord regarding my usage of a “Seedbox” to facilitate knowledge growth. The idea is incomplete, but I figured I’d share it here, so it can be refined by questioning and, hopefully, of use to someone.

In this post, I want to share:

  • My methodology for capturing ideas.
  • Why the seedbox is a valuable part of that methodology.

Setup

  • Create a /seedbox folder in your Obsidian vault.
  • In the settings, set /seedbox as your location for new notes.
  • In the settings, set “new link format” to “absolute path”.

My Methodology in Brief

Planting

  • Every new idea goes into Drafts (https://getdrafts.com/).
    • I have recently learned that this is also known as “ubiquitous capture”.
  • Every day, I go through the notes I have made in Drafts, either deleting them, creating action steps from them, or adding them to a /seedbox folder in my Obsidian vault.
  • If a note in the Seedbox is proven to be valuable via future usage, then I put a simple note at the bottom: #useful, and a date stamp (for me, something like: u:2020-08-01) and all notes with that hash will come to my attention in the future as candidates to be moved into my permanent notes.

Growing

  • I will go through all notes with #useful tagged about one a week or so. The time frame really doesn’t matter, much.
  • For eace note, I will seek possible other ideas in the seedbox that might be related. I will re-consider the idea, and usually add to it.
  • I will create links from a note in my main body of notes (often a MOC) to the note under curation.
  • Once I am satisfied, I move the note out of the Seedbox, into my main body of notes.
    • I remove the #useful tag: all the note in my main body of notes have proven to be useful, so it’s unnecessary .

Thoughts

That’s really it. It’s an inbox with a nicer name and some methodology around it. :smiley:

Every day, as a habit, I try to look at one note in my Seedbox, and see if it is of any relevance, or may be linked to other ideas.

  • This is a good time/place to try out MOCs
  • Feel free to create MOCs just to think with: I call these “probationary MOCs”, and they’ll help you curate a body of knowledge all at once.

Why the Seedbox is valuable to me, in brief

  • It allows me to create a new note at any time with no fear of “muddling” my curated notes. There doesn’t need to be any analysis paralysis trying to decide how the note should be organized: it doesn’t matter, yet.
  • It creates a natural separation between curated and uncurated knowledge and ideas: if an item is outside my Seedbox, I know it has received at least a baseline of consideration, and I know it has proven itself valuable at least once in the past.
  • When seen in links (e.g. seedbox/I bet I could fly if I really wanted to), I have immediate visual feedback that the idea has not been curated, and should be taken with even more of a grain of salt than my usual ideas.

Methodology Explained… A Bit

In this metaphor, “seeds” are captured ideas. When you put a seed into your seedbox, you are “planting” it, in the hopes that it will grow into an Understanding. The thing is, when you plant a seed, you don’t really know what kind of plant it might grow up to be. Will it bear fruit? Will it be toxic? Will it be pretty? Ugly? You really don’t know! What DO know, however, is that you can’t grow knowledge without these seeds.

So into the seedbox our ideas go. We put them there for all the reasons listed above, but I think the most valuable reason is that it warns us to be careful of our thinking when referencing these ideas.

Let’s say I have the note: “I hate coffee” in my seedbox. It just reads: “Because it’s the worst.”

This is not a good argument for hating coffee, but perhaps it made sense to me at the time, and I captured it. There is nothing wrong with that. Let’s say I am researching caffeine in the future and, after typing [[coffee to start a link, I see my [[seedbox/I hate coffee]] as an option. Seeing this note is prepended with “seedbox” tells me immediately that I should reconsider including this note in other places, without further review.

Perhaps it is years in the future, and I now love coffee! I check that note, and see the poorly-thought-through body. I can quickly tag this note as #discard, noting its irrelevance. As an alternative, I could change the note to “I used to hate coffee” or something along those lines, and keep it around for a chuckle, or link it as empirical evidence to a note on how tastes change over time.

On the other hand, if I still hate coffee, perhaps I now have a stronger argument to add to the body (not that such an argument exists :upside_down_face:), and I’m glad to be reminded that coffee is not an option for me in consumption of caffeine. In this case, I might tag the note with #useful, make some quick alterations on why I dislike coffee, and continue with my research.

Either way, I have left my note(s) in a better state then they were when I started, have not gone far out of my way in doing so, and have left myself a clue (in the form of hashtags) to go back and take action on these notes in the future.

Conclusion

I hope this helps some of you!

I have really enjoyed this system for quick capture, and no anxiety over where to put stuff. Throw it in the seedbox, do some curation, and see what grows. Then share all your awsome new knowledge and Understandings with the rest of us! :smiley:

– Price

36 Likes

Oh wow, what an excellent post. Well-reasoned and articulated.

So many thoughts… I like the name “seedbox”, it certainly captures the idea and doesn’t carry the connotative baggage of “inbox”. I’m going to test drive it.

I’m SOO happy how you are using MOCs to just think with!! I enjoy the “probationary” descriptor as well. It might not last, but it’s a dedicated space to think in.

It’s really difficult to talk about the benefits of how ideas develop over time. Your “I hate coffee” example is one I’ll return to when I’m trying to explain the value to others.

5 Likes

This reminds me of the zettelkasten but altered slightly. How do you search your seedbox to see if you’ve already written about something? Just standard search function? Also have you ran into any issues with your seedbox getting too big?

That’s a good point… I think it is essentially a zettelkasten. Just… inside another zettelkasten! A pre-zettlekasten? A lower-order zettlekasten? Anyway, I think the main value of it is really in the filtering between it and the main set of permanent notes. A lot comes down to the actions I take when I move the items out of the seedbox and into my “garden”.

How do you search your seedbox to see if you’ve already written about something?

So, the short answer is that I only search for pre-existing notes if I’m working on something I already know is significant. In that case, I rely on, in order:

  • A probationary MOC (which should exist for larger topics, but of course doesn’t always)
  • Text search (which will lead to the creation of a probationary MOC, if I discover many adjacent notes)

The main value, though, is that this process mostly happens at “curation time” not at “capture time”.

Those terms may be self-explanatory, but I guess I’ll expand on them just in case:

  • Idea time: when you are having an idea.
  • Capture time: when you are writing down an idea.
  • Curation time: when you re-visit items and move them out of your seedbox.

It seems to me that, when in capture time, you usually want to move quickly and unhindered. You are brainstorming. All ideas are good ideas. At curation time, you want to organize as precisely as possible, and all ideas are definitely not good ideas. This is the period at which I will do more searching for related ideas, and do work to bring them together.

Also have you ran into any issues with your seedbox getting too big?

So far, the probationary MOCs have kept things from feeling too big at all. In fact, so far it feels like the seedbox is delivering on the ideal of a zettelkasten: becoming more powerful the more stuff is in it. But I will say, that this is 100% reliant on the process of removing stuff from the seedbox. It isn’t meant to sit in there forever. Only until it’s proven it has value. I curate relentlessly, so the seedbox is rarely that large.

2 Likes

Maybe this is of interest?

1 Like

The coffee example messed with my head, but well done thinking through a workflow that works for you!

I’m off to have a coffee and think about it…

1 Like

That is an interesting choice. I also filter but instead a different steps. I filter when first making a note (I don’t copy all the text of a book into my note) and when I retrieve notes for use (some notes in a sequence aren’t relevant to what I’m writing about).

What you are describing almost makes it sound like your seedbox is a zettelkasten, which supports the creation of a wiki (your permanent note collection). Main difference being is I don’t think you create chains of linked notes (e.g. 1a - 1b - 1c - etc…) on a topic within the seedbox itself? Also do you interlink notes within the seedbox?

1 Like

You may well be correct, and I actually would like to examine the process in that light further: a zettelkasten which is supporting the creation of a wiki sounds very accurate to me.

That said, I do link within the seedbox. Quite liberally, really. But I do not create chains of links, like one would expect from a “true” zettelkasten. From within the seebox, I link both inside and outside the seedbox.

This has had some surprising effects, which I have actually found pretty valuable. The result is that I can pull out a significant idea that has proven to be valuable, and that may have many links in it, even though certain supporting portions remain back in the seedbox. This might happen, for instance, with an idea that is practically valuable today, but that is supported by a number of ideas I don’t entirely understand, or haven’t been able to verify, etc…

I am including a visual from my Index note, which is pretty valuable, showing a link that is still within my seedbox. This means that whenever I view the index, I have cause to reconsider that supporting note. That reminder, for me, is often a sort of forcing-function that moves me from reading to reasoning.

1 Like

This is very interesting.

For me the recurring conflict during my final PKM design process revolves around the difficulty to implement a wiki like structure combined with the vitality of a zettelkasten.

Until now I planned to do most of the processing in Notion inside my media vault, transferring the results as evergreen notes into Obsidian.

As I see it, the approach you both are discussing here provides an additional layer and opportunity for a more dynamic processing and chaining notes inside the seedbox without breaking the unlinked mentions function for the system outside of it.

I do like the Idea of a zettelkasten inside a zettelkasten a lot and I think that’s pretty much exactly how I will implement it.

The metaphor and the terminology of a “seedbox” is really nice as well.
Guess I will adopt that.

Thanks!

1 Like

@ipalindromi, this is brilliant and creative. I feel like I found another real gem in the Obsidian forums.

Also, the coffee illustration really explained the process and workflow and bought your concept together for me. Well done!

I have found times when I want or need evergreen notes. Times when a wiki approach would be better suited. There are times when I really want to use UID’s and a zettelkasten approach, and others when I prefer not to have UID’s. With so many choices, I often experience option paralysis, unsure how best to proceed.

Your seedbox ideas may have opened the possibility of somehow mixing these together in the same vault for me.

I love how you used what is already available and thought about it differently.

You can always tell when you come across a great idea when it just makes sense, and all the pieces fit together and appear to be obvious with a name that perfectly matches the concept.

Thank you for sharing. Please continue to share as you develop and expand your ideas or develop new ones.

I look forward to seeing more posts and comments from you.

Bravo!

6 Likes

For me, the value of this Community is really on display with this thread. I came on board with Obsidian a few months before the OP started this thread. Since then I’ve been building my understanding of “Whatever” (I really don’t like to be pigeonholed by the word Zettelkasten. I think Obsidian is SO much more). With the entries of @Wet and @Mike, the thread came to my attention. Thanks to all for their ideas. I’ll be digesting this for a while.

6 Likes

I’m on the exact use case as you but Notion seems to be going in a completely different direction from what a good PKM system looks like.

Don’t you feel there is a lo of friction between capturing, reading, and then processing the note in Obsidian? That is where I’m most troubled because Notion doesn’t favor writing that much.

Notion is great for more static approaches to PKM (wikis, FAQ, etc…), but is slow compared to Obsidian, and backlinking is a pain in the ass. Unless a good workflow comes from both API’s I’m inclined to start favoring Obsidian, although my Notion system is much more robust.

1 Like

Yes, for the PKM use case Obsidian has definitely several major advantages.
I use Notion mainly as “Life Operating System”, essentially as task manager and for different databases. That’s where it really shines.
It also comes with the opportunity to automatically import highlights from articles, kindle books etc. via Readwise.

My workflow is usually structured like this:
I read a book and mark whole paragraphs which I find important or interesting.
These paragraphs are then automatically imported into my “Media” database in Notion.
I then further process the content inside of Notion by marking the text more precisely and writing the information down in my own words.
These writings are then transferred to Obsidian for further processing.

My main problem with Notion as PKM is that, as you already mentioned, it’s rather slow and the linking / backlinking is not comparable to Obsidian.
I don’t have an issue to use them side by side. Both have things they’re exceptionally good in, which the other one is missing. The single manual step to transfer the notes from Notion to Obsidian causes rather little friction and keeps the PKM quite clean, which I think is pretty important.
But yea, if you’re not looking for a Task / Project management tool, there’s really no point in considering Notion over Obsidian.

If you haven’t yet, check out August Bradley’s Youtube channel. It’s the best Notion content around.

Yeah, I’ve followed August for a long time. I implemented his system to a T, but it is very convoluted, just because Notion has no API yet. My measurements, health KPI’s, etc… come from my Withings scale, my Apple Watch, and so forth.

Having to manually input all of them, all the time is very tiring. The same happens with habit-tracking. TickTick for example is miles ahead in that area. I do not see why I have to keep maintaining a system that is sub-optimal and might get a revamp in the next couple of weeks. I have taken a break from Notion until the API is released.

The one thing that matters for LifeOS is having a process, which I already have. Let’s hope the API is released, as promised by Cristina Cordova last week.

1 Like