Melvin's digital garden

Note taking

My learnings

  • notes to develop lines of thought not an archive
  • siloed notes, not making connections between notes
    • connections are important, many insights are about connecting two separate ideas
  • integrate readings by breaking it down into separate notes, one per idea

Zettelkasten method

  • for developing thoughts, not building an archive
  • used by Niklas Luhmann
  • unique id for each note
    • hierachical numbering
    • does not seem to be used today, instead a timestamp is used
    • debate about note sequence Folgezettel
  • tags, body with links, references
  • links should explain the relationship
  • see Schmidt2018

Evergreen notes

  • atomic
  • concept-oriented
  • densely linked
  • prefer associative ontologies to hierarchical taxonomies
  • write notes for yourself by default, disregarding audience

Manfred Kuehn’s digital ZK

  • found wiki to be the right fit, easy linking and one thought/fact
  • prefer association over hierachy
  • prefer wiki links to using numbered ids
  • Mills’ “On Intellectual Craftsmanship”
  • write in your own words

Beatrice Webb Appendix C: The art of note-taking

  • break up reading into individial cards and rearrange them
  • atomicity: one sheet one subject-matter/event
  • date, source of information
  • finding the best arrangemet of notes is part of the discovery process

How to Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens Bob Doto on Zettelkasten

  • fleeting notes
    • writing in the margin
    • scratch notes
    • to be later converted to one of the following
  • literature notes
    • quotes, pages, bib info
  • main notes/evergreen
    • atomic, own words, linked
    • references lit notes
  • structure notes/moc
    • aggregates notes on a topic
  • index note
    • top level, list of topics/areas


Related literature

  • How to Make a Complete Map of Every Thought You Think
  • Commonplace book
  • Building a second brain, PARA
  • Hack 17, “Write Magnificent Notes”
  • Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method
  • Keith Thomas’s working methods


  • Tiddlywiki
    • needs a plugin for saving locally
    • able to save to github/gitlab
  • Fossil’s wiki
    • self-hosted
    • standalone pages or part of the repo
  • org-mode in Emacs
    • single file
    • org-mode has shortcuts to easily edit
  • org-mode in Vim
    • single file
    • no special support for org-mode
  • custom format in vim

Other tools:


  • earliest note is from 2006-12-29
  • repo with org files started 2014-01-13