I’m going to add another level of granularity to the notes of my website: Zettelkasten.

I think there’s a strong case this will improve my learning and production.

Blog posts are polished, well-researched, peer-reviewed pieces that take 15-20 hours to write. To me, these posts are one long sprouting curve that skinnies as it extends until it is needle-thin.

Chicken scratch is any conglomerate of ideas, the more half-baked the better, that lowers the activation energy to salvage ideas that otherwise turn to dust. They also represent my exposition vulnerable and raw - unproofread, disheveled, but honest. I view chicken scratch more as incomplete fractals that extend in many directions, and may become the kernel for a project, blog post, or research idea.

At the base though, when I’m learning and running through definitions, I’m not necessarily generating anything novel persay, but I would like to re-write some words. After reading Augmenting Cognition, I’ve tried ANKI, and at this time it just hasn’t worked for me. I find myself fatigued looking things up, annoyed I’m re-learning things I’ve seen before, frustrated that nothing seems to stick. The activation of learning something can seem much higher when I read something and think “I know some of these words”, only to spend all my time re-iterating through the past definitions on wikipedia rather than the cool new thing I set out for originally. That’s bad, but what’s worse is going back through old notes and not understanding a bloody thing. I haven’t figured out that one yet.

This is a stab from a different direction at improving meta-learning.

Zettelkastens should be

  • atomic

  • compositional

  • relational (connective)

  • intuitive-based (in my own words, rather than objective)

  • frequent, the most prolific

  • may even be erroneous (intuition-based)

  • adaptable

  • public (some private is fine too) to ensure quality

  • want easy figures and latex/equation writing

  • on a platform you control and can iterate on (optional)

I like to reference chicken scratch in my blog posts, and now can also reference zettelkastens.

I don’t think my goals with learning or writing are to be great, romantic, or polished really. My goal is to be prolific. Every hour, day, week, month, I’d like to be generating zettels, chicken scratches, and blog posts.

Random notes

  • Conrad Gessner used this system in the 1500’s

  • Johann Jacob Moser in the 1700’s

  • Niklas Luhmann in the 1900’s

  • What kind of software out there exists? The old system is shelves and shelves of cards (which is inefficient, yet still more efficient than not having a system)

  • Systems theory essay: Kommunikation mit Zettelkasten

  • I’m always thinking about better indexing. Better indexing means better search. This is a superpower with startling compound interest gains in the long term.

  • A blog exists: https://zettelkasten.de

  • make alfred search only in subfolder for files?

  • wikis and sub-wikis? Why not have one for orgs, groups, etc?

  • start one now

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Kevin Chow
Kevin Chow
Fledging Computer Scientist
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