Post - Zettelkasten

Today I came across the Zettelkasten style of note-taking. Basically, you can think of it as a data structure. The structure is a directed graph with a set of subsets defined by tags. In this manner, there are two measures of “closeness” of an idea or concept to another idea or concept. There is distance between nodes in the graph but then there is also this topological idea based on subsets and sets. I wonder as I fill in this topology and add more tags, what will I learn?

Truthfully, I have always struggled to take notes. I have never been good at it and I think that’s driven by the underlying hardware (my brain) not aligning with the categorical nature of note taking. In traditional note taking, information is siloed, classified and typically dumped into a tree-like structure. So how do we represent ideas like software engineering best practices and language features, surely the distance between these ideas is not large, but typically they are divided into different bins and we have to painstakingly struggle to “choose the correct bin.” The real-world is much more messy than that.

As an example, I’m a fan of the souls series of Tag - Video Games. There is this nifty tool that decompiles the source of those games into Tag - Lua. Traditionally, I’d wonder, where the hell do I store this? I’d lament over which branch of my directory tree this should live. Ultimately, I’d make the wrong decision, because making the decision is the incorrect approach.

Perhaps on a more meta level, the brain is really a connection of neurons. There is a saying that “neurons that fire together, wire together.” The structures that we use for note taking, thinking and analyzing information should facilitate that. They should embrace the mess that is human cognition and leverage billions of years of biological evolution instead shoehorning our brains into some rigid hierarchical box.

I’m really excited to try this new experiment of note-taking1. In general, I hope these notes will cover 3 main areas:

  • Notes attached to resources I have found (website reviews, a quote from a book, etc.)
  • Freeform thoughts (like this post)
  • Distilled principles (Atomic and Autonomous entities)

There is a lot to figure out here, and I plan to enjoy the journey.

  1. I intend for a lot of the notes here to be raw, unfiltered and primarily for my consumption at a future date. I typically take some time to converge on the essence of an idea. By necessity, that means many of the notes here will be incomplete, noisy and inaccurate. If by chance anyone else is reading this and notices an omission or an inaccuracy. Please let me know via my email devonmorris1992[at]gmail[dot]com and I’ll do my best to fix it.