Knowledge Management

I am going forward with an attempt to make all my notes organized, bit by bit. My inspiration for how to clean it up comes out of Zettelkasten (ZK), something that Obsidian users are highly fond of, but I feel like I can do this better within DynaList.

What I’ve learned is that ZK is really just a large collection of small notes with links to and fro, and each note captures a small topic. So if the topic is X, then under X you summarize, create maybe a table of contents, but then you link to details from within that table of contents. And you also link to reference information. And if somewhere else you talk about X, you simply link to X.

To make this work in a tool like Obsidian, you get sophisticated naming patterns to create uniquely named notes My_Particular_X so that each note about X can link to the right My_Particular_X and not some other thing that also is named X. Or more often the name will be some coded string that was devised simply for the purpose of linking to that note.

Now in DynaList, every line gets an URL. You can link to that URL freely. And that line is the parent level of an outline which can be a ZK note. A note about X. So as far as I can see, there’s no need for artificial naming schemes. You just name things clearly (but don’t fret about unique naming codes), link directly, and use search or tag search and links and backlinks to find stuff.

And to make this work, all you have to do is create topical nodes in DynaList, and under these organize notes and links (or folds) to details. The details don’t have to be in the outline hierarchy then, but they can be when it’s convenient.

I must have heard the word Zettelkasten 5000 times over many years of productivity tool chat rooms , and I’ve read dozens of “what is Zettelkasten” results, and I honestly have no clue what it is still. It’s tags, it’s a card catalog, it’s numbers? I’ve never seen a topic written so expansively about yet nothing explains it. I think the reason none of it makes sense to me is that I never lived in the 1950’s when a physical card system was useful - I jumped right into filterable databases that instantly do a much better job. I just ctrl-F a topical word in dynalist and it filters all my writings into a new pseudo-list on that topic. Zettelkasten predates the concept of hyperlinks on the WWW, which I feel make Zettelkasten obsolete in that everyone’s already super used to intensely interlinked notes, just browsing wikipedia. Getting me to understand the benefit of zettelkasten is like getting a python programmer to understand the benefit of fortran. It’s just so hard to read abut it without screaming theres a better way. Maybe some day the benefit of zettelkasten will click with me but today I am oblivious.

It’s very true that it started as index cards and very true the subject is rarely communicated clearly. The numbering scheme people talk about a lot, I am convinced is completely irrelevant to the modern day because computer systems do that in the background. The tagging thing is a huge debate, but at bottom I think it’s merely a matter of when you click the tag, hope (plan) that you don’t get 1 million results. Tags need to be precise so you find what you need, but also simple so you can use a tag. But that’s probably nothing to do with the original concept as I don’t think the guy even used tags.

So if you stop talking tags and numbering, what’s left:

  1. Short topical notes. [though in DynaList, short may expand to long].
  2. Links from the short topical notes to detailed subtopics.
  3. Links back to topical notes. Which you might forego and use tags instead if it’s easier.

Which yes is very Wikipedia except that they lost the concept of notes being Short.

Me, I wasn’t linking everything together and I was confused what the organizing structure should be until I reread the website again for the first time in a long time. Then this light came on.

So if you say you’re already doing this, then you’re ahead of me.

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Luhmann had a complex tagging/id scheme whose purpose wasn’t just linking. It was also organizing. cdaenau1a comes before cdaenau1b and that’s before cdaenau2 and all of these are after cdaenau1.

The point is these notes are not in random order, but in a hierarchy. The tagging scheme was a paper implementation of this:

  • Note 1
    • Note 1a
    • Note 1b
  • Note 2

Small cards gave the ability to insert notes into a sequence. The ids gave a way to cross-reference notes.
That is what Luhmann was doing.

And guess what? That’s DynaList. A million short notes arranged in a hierarchy and any one can link to any other.

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