A Zettelkasten is a note-taking and knowledge management method that originated from the German word for “slip box.” It was developed by sociologist Niklas Luhmann as a way to organize and connect ideas. In a Zettelkasten system, notes are taken on individual cards or slips of paper, each representing a single idea or concept. These notes are then interconnected through a system of numbering and linking.

The key principles of Zettelkasten include:

  • Atomicity: Each note should represent a single, concise idea or concept.
  • Permanent notes: Notes should be enduring and reusable over time.
  • Linking: Notes are connected through a network of links, allowing for the exploration of relationships between ideas.
  • Emergent structure: The organization of notes emerges naturally as connections are made and ideas evolve.

Obviously back in the day, analog zettls were the only way, but now in a digital world we can create zettls that are online.

Wiki vs Zettlekasten

Taken from https://www.reddit.com/r/Zettelkasten/comments/kvroh2/comment/gj2evta/?utm_source=reddit&utm_medium=web2x&context=3

Tags are weak associations. Tagging systems almost always break down because they become very cumbersome at scale – tags have synonyms, nuances in meaning, etc but you’ve committed that X is the tag name and forever more it will be since you’ve tagged 2000 notes with it so far, so now you have made your thinking more rigid and less fluid. It’s an anti pattern in most cases. Even backlinks are weak and often an anti pattern since many people throw a note into their system and link from it to other notes and depend on backlinks to find it from other notes. That’s an anti pattern to avoid, its lazy. Your new note should have forward links from other notes pointing to it because it has a reason to exist in your system, otherwise why did you bother taking the note at all.

Ex: https://zettelkasten.de/posts/backlinks-are-bad-links/

Take a look at Andy Matuschak’s notes: https://notes.andymatuschak.org. Read his notes on Evergreen note taking principles. There is a fundamental difference between them.

Also a “traditional” ZK system has a unique ID for every note, often implemented as a YYYYMMDDHHMM or similar prefix in the title. And they don’t use folders which create rigid hierarchies.

A ZK is not:

  • an encyclopedia or wiki
  • a place to throw content and have the system automatically link for you
  • a rigid hierarchical taxonomy

A ZK is:

  • a methodology for taking notes that can be slow, then fast as you get used to it
  • a method for thinking
  • a method for incremental reading
  • a method for incremental writing
  • a method for spaced repetition in learning
  • messy and scary and intimidating because you feel a loss of control at first, but you get over it able to handle arbitrary types of information in arbitrary topics with an arbitrary amount of interconnectedness

The first and canonical ZK was a physical box containing 90,000 index cards.

Another way to put it:

  • A wiki is a piece of software for knowledge management
  • A ZK is a methodology for knowledge development



Related Notes