Thank you very much for your comment, Ryan. Let’s see if I can clarify your questions :-)

This was an interesting read but it seems unnecessarily complicated when it comes to both indexing and linking. If you create a new entry, you have to remember the previous entries that are relevant to ‘link’ them, then go find them and link them all to one another. I could see you missing multiple potential links.

It doesn’t matter if you miss potential links. Luhmann himself didn’t care about interlinking everything that’s potentially related. All you have to do is connect a new note to a few other notes that are most obviously related. It’s the same principle as the idea of 6 degrees of separation: not all 7.7 billion people on the planet are friends of each other, but you still can reach any person from any other by following at most six friend-of-a-friend links. It’s the same with the Zettelkasten. Just keep connecting the most obviously related notes and from time to time also create some hub notes and you’ll be able to reach any note from any other in just a handful of steps.

If you want to get an idea of how this works, just browse Wikipedia. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can get from one topic to a completely different one by just following a handful of Wikipedia hyperlinks.

It’s also worth pointing out that whenever you find a note that’s related to some other, and they’re not yet connected, you can add a link at that time. You don’t have to create all links immediately when you create a new note. You can add new links over time. A Zettelkasten grows organically over time and notes are also organically connected in new ways as time passes.

You may want to check out some of the other comments. At least two other readers had the same question about links :-)

With something like Evernote I can assign broad ideas to specific folders and then more specific tags to each entry. If I’m thinking about ‘in situ resource utilization for Mars’ I can search my entire Evernote for ‘in situ’ or ‘ISRU’ and find every topic about that, if that yields a lot of results I can search for ‘ISRU Mars’ and ahaha, there’s the 4 articles I’ve saved about ISRU for Mars with my own thoughts at the top of the record, the entire web clipped article/wiki entry/reddit thread and then the original link if I want to see if any revisions have been made.

You can do the exact same with the Zettelkasten. That is, if you want, you can put your Zettelkasten notes into specific folders and also store an “entire web clipped article/wiki entry/reddit thread”. I think it’s better to keep everything flat and to not pollute your Zettelkasten with information that you haven’t distilled yourself, but you don’t have to.

As to tags, they are part of the method.

Also note that you can implement the Zettelkasten methodology on top of Evernote. Plenty of people have done that. In other words, you don’t have to give up Evernote if you like it. Zettelkasten is a methodology and not a specific implementation. In that regard it’s similar to getting things done (GTD) by David Allen, which can also be implemented in a myriad of ways and adapted to your specific needs.

A shoe box full of index cards seems chaotic, unsearchable and easily destroyed.

I agree, but plenty of people are still using paper index cards. Examples include best-selling authors Ryan Holiday and Robert Greene and not so long ago Umberto Eco, Martin Gardner, and Vladimir Nabokov used index cards very succesfully. But yeah, I prefer a digital version as well :)

The dropbox system seems quite painful to search 12141352134213-mars-in-situ-resource-utilization-widget-gadget-from-Mars-corp.txt might not find something that has “ISRU” instead of “in situ resource utilization” in the title and both are used interchangeably in documents and by myself.

With the proper tools, you can use regular expressions to look for both “ISRU” and “in situ resource utilization”. It shouldn’t be a problem.

Then of course the index in the drop box isn’t going to also search the body of the entries in the event I mentioned it in an entry that was about something completely different that also had a small section on ISRU.

If you’re using Dropbox, your Zettelkasten just ends up being files on your computer. That means you can search the Zettelkasten files with all the powerful tools available on a desktop computer. For instance, on my computer I navigate my Dropbox Zettelkasten with the same powerful tools that professional programmers use to navigate millions of lines of code distributed among thousands of text files in hundreds of folders. Some of those tools are commandline tools such as grep and text editors such as vim, Emacs, or Sublime. These tools are really powerful for text navigation and there are many more that you can all use to manage your Dropbox-based Zettelkasten. I’m sure some of these tools also have friendly user interfaces for those who aren’t techies.

Thanks again for your comment, Ryan. If you’re further interested in the Zettelkasten methodology, you may also want to check out the Zettelkasten forum.

Science fan, cartoonist, PhD, eukaryote. Doesn't eat cats, dogs, nor other animals.

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