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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Still running with this. For me it’s not knowledge for the sake of management or management for the sake of knowledge. It’s KM for the purpose of understanding and completing my work. To that end I have this work-oriented structure, which happens to be similar to PARA by Tiago Chan.

  1. Chronological work log, with links to work being done each day.
  2. Work is organized by area, and each area contains projects and other notes.
  3. A project is basically written in outline fashion, but organized to describe the product that will be achieved when the project is done.
  4. Within a detail of the product, I may include steps (process) to be taken to achieve that detail. These steps are relevant when I’m working on them, but after they are done, the result is important and details of how I got there can be folded away.

As I work on the project to create the product, I mark things done. (I do not use checkboxes, but I use Ctrl-Enter to mark things.) DynaList is configured to show completed items. Thus when I look at the project outline, I see both the product description and what has been done and what needs to be worked on. When the project is done, everything will be checked off, and I have a complete documentation of the product produced.

When it comes time to change something about the product, I note a detail as “formerly:”, and write a new detail beside it. The detail is Undone so far, and the parent levels all become unchecked as well.

What kind of work do you do Alan?


The best way to take info/knowledge is to have them be organized. This is such a done topic by now. It’s 2021…

Interested in if this Z process is better done in dynalist or obsidian but unsure if you’ve ever done it in both. Just curious

But do not care for this Z process topic. Never understood (or don’t remember) what this Z process was because of how convoluted the writings and explanation of it was, but all this Z process is is a very generic process that most users with basic organizing skills already do in other apps.

  • Notes/projects are fundamentally organized by the end goals (or by topic if you’re storing info for possible future use)
  • Within each collection/set of notes, they’re organized by frequency of usage or topic or one of the many many ways notes can be organized
  • Todo lists can be organized in all kinds of ways, and there’s no good reason for them to be in archival-type of notes. Most people use trello because it is the best for todos. There are many ways to organize. For example, one app can be used for your daily, more urgent todos while your other more long-term todos can be placed elsewhere. Trello (and Milanote, still testing) can do all this - and hopefully some really well-made whiteboarding apps in the long future
  • There are really no good reasons to have a “Chronological work log”. This is just excessive clutter. How info is collected, stored, and organized is done at a frequency and rate that the user decides, not some generic idea/process

Given how generic, and inflexible this Z process is, the preset Z processes that are out there is perhaps one of the worst ways to organize info. There is no one set way notes should be organized.

It’s like someone had too much free time, and had no more practical things to do in life (when there are literally billions of much more urgent and much more pressing needs in this history of humanity for an exorbitant amount of time). And so, they made up some generic process and put a label on it - that somehow users everywhere has to put a label on some strict process, inflexible process, and then market it as a useless business (or possibly academic) idea for users that do not have basic organizing skills.

There’s are so many ways to organized depending on the end goals (or if there are no known end goals) that no users should be limited to only this generic Z process of structuring information/notes. This is exactly why this Z concept/process is a fad that isn’t useful, especially not to users that have basic organizing skills.