The Zettelkasten method (continued)


In my last post, I mentioned that the core of the Zettelkasten [Zk] system is the use of links between notes. I used a "language-games" note to illustrate how to access any note from and index file following different pathways. In passing, though, I made reference to "sub-indices", but did not elaborate on the concept. I want to remedy this here to pre-emptively answer a possible objection.


Since our filenames are unique strings of numbers and do not tell us anything about the note's contents, we need an entry-point to access any note. So we begin with an index file. In my personal implementation of Zk, the index initially contained a list of links to a bunch of miscellaneous notes. Some were about philosophy, others about mathematics, Linux, literature, etc. Naturally, some notes were more interrelated because of their subject-matter, and their links were grouped together and separated from the rest by blank lines. This is the start of providing some structure to the Zk. As the index grew and navigation became more difficult, I created a sub-index, i.e. a "note" whose contents are just links to notes that are strongly interrelated. My first sub-index was titled "Philosophy". When a sub-index in turn grows too big for easy navigation, it is practical to create another sub-index (e.g. Mathematical Philosophy).


The practicality of this solution, however, is limited---Too many indices and your notes will get "buried", in the sense that they will lie in too-deep a level for easy navigation. There is a happy medium between, on the one hand, a cluttered index and, on the other, too many levels that impede easy access. Where this happy medium lies is for the Zk's creator to determine. No hard rules can be given here.


Now, someone may object that in creating sub-indices we are going back to categorization and recreating the main problem of popular notebook applications. My answer to this is that with the use of unique URLs, this is really a non-issue. There *is* some categorization in the Zk, but it is very loose. Provided we do not go crazy and create levels and levels of sub-indices, our categories can be very broad. Moreover, if a note belongs in different categories, its URL can be simply copied to as many places we feel that it needs to be. Thus the problem of categorization does not arise.



What should go into a Zettel?


Here are some tips on *what* you can/should include in each note:



(Continued in part 3)


Back to the Index



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